Phill Niblock – Touch Strings

Though he’s not the only one working in this musical area (think of Eliane Radigue, her ‘Trilogie de la Mort’ especially, or Alvin Lucier with his ‘Music on a Long Thin Wire’), I can hardly think of anyone creating drones more ‘minimal’ than Phill Niblock does.

Phill Niblock (born 1933) has a vast catalogue of compositions exploring the essence of sound by asking the listener to zoom in almost indefinitely and forget about time. To the casual passer-by, the music may sound like it’s only one endless chord and if you don’t have the right mindset you’ll probably get extremely bored soon. But if you let the sound grab you, you’ll hear the subtle nuances and interplay of the interacting waveforms.

Kleefstra/Bakker/Kleefstra – Wink

If you’re a collector that likes to have your music on a physical CD, times are rapidly getting harder. Especially in the ambient and experimental genre, where more and more releases are handmade do-it-yourself releases in extremely limited editions.

Take Wixel’s 2009 project, for instance: one CD every month, every edition physically released in the number of days of that particular month (but at least these are later rereleased in simpler packaging and available as digital downloads too). Even a relatively ‘big name’ like Thomas Köner releases his latest CD ‘La Barca‘ in a limited edition of 600 copies only.
By the time the news of a new release reaches you, chances are the album is sold out and unavailable physically.

Such is the case with Wink, the new album by Kleefstra / Bakker / Kleefstra.
Although I thought I acted quickly, my handpainted CD (!) and handpainted cover bears the number 90 – of only 100! So I guess it’s sold out the moment you read this…

So what’s the use of this blogpost then?

Dub Jay: AMFM

Ambient musician Warren Sulcs, known to some under the name Dub Jay, created this album about a year ago. But finding a record label for his music proved increasingly difficult, as most ambient musicians can probably confirm.

So after a while he decided to just share the album to those interested.
And I really think this album is interesting enough to be heard – so you may grab your chance and listen to it too!

Beautiful Companions: Dakota Suite

The End of Trying

‘The End of Trying’ is not a ‘typical’ Dakota Suite Release. Unlike most Dakota Suite albums (except 1999’s Navigators Yard) it is fully instrumental, with Chris Hooson, David Buxton and Colin Dunkley playing piano and David Darling playing cello.
The latter fact may indicate the mood of the music on this album: it is extremely delicate, heartbreaking melancholic music.
A ‘classic’ release that immediately struck me when I first heard it in the beginning of this year.

The track titles indicate the overall mood of this music: How Could You Let Me Go, Things We Lost Along The Way, All The Love I Had Was Not Enough, A Quietly Gathering Tragedy, and not forgetting “Een Langzaam Lekkende Wond‘ (A Slow Leaking Wound) which reminds us of the fact that Chris Hooson lived in Holland for quite a few years.
This beautiful sad music is clearly not meant to brighten up your day. But it might soothe your sadness with rays of hope shining through empathic, understanding themes and fabulous cello sounds. 

‘The End of Trying’ is one of the most beautiful albums I have heard this year, and it even gains strength with the companion CD that was released shortly after the release of the original: “The Night Keeps Coming In”.

Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto: UTP_

UTP cover

The short ‘Bartók pizzicato‘ string punches from the opening track, Attack, may give the impression that this is gonna be one of those uncomprehensible and almost unlistenable (to my ears, anyway) retro-avant-garde string compositions. But ‘Attack’ is an appropriate title: it brings the listener off-balance and thus make him more perceptible for the well-balanced, ‘Utopian’ music directly following this opening piece.

UTP_ (short for Utopia) was commissioned by the city of Mannheim (Germany) for it’s 400th birthday in 2007. Ryuichi Sakamoto and Carsten ‘Alva Noto‘ Nicolai (who partnered on Vrioon and Insen before – both highly recommendable albums) team up with Ensemble Modern.
Ensemble Modern is a chamber ensemble specialising in playing modern compositions. They performed work by Frank Zappa, Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Steve reich, Olivier Messiaen, and many more.

The Notwist – Sturm O.S.T.

Although The Notwist generated a storm of hyped attention when releasing their Neon Golden album in 2002, that was never the music for me. And neither for this weblog, since it’s nowhere near ‘ambient music’.

My local record shop retailer recently insisted I’d listen to their recently released “Sturm” (Storm) soundtrack.
And right he was (Thanks Willem!)

Thomas Koener – La Barca

Thomas Köner started his musical career in relative obscurity. His first four albums were release on the Barooni label (from Utrecht, Holland!) – you’ll have a hard time finding these and if you do, be prepared to pay for it. Even the Mille Plateaux re-release of two of them (Teimo/Permafrost), is very hard to find nowadays.

In his work, Köner explores the ‘soul of sound’, and he’s not afraid to use remarkable sources.
He treated cymbal sounds to the extreme and unrecognisable (Nungatak Gonggamur, 1990), or even the dusty crackling of an old 16mm film (Unerforschtes Gebiet, 2002). There will probably be no musical sounds as deep as his Daikan (2002).

But in using his sources, there’s always a delicate space left for silence and stillness, which gives his music a Zen-like feeling of eternity.
If you ever want to experience a feeling of floating in indefinite space, listen to Thomas Köner’s music!

Stephan Mathieu & Taylor Deupree – Transcriptions

Those of you familiar with Stephan Mathieu’s beautiful album ‘Radioland‘ (2008) will probably find this follow-up equally interesting.

The concept is more or less familiar: using analog (found) sounds to create immersive layers of ambient electronics, using a process technique that makes the end result sound very ‘natural’.
And it’s exactly that what makes Stephan Mathieu’s music stands out compared to others.

Olafur Arnalds – Found Songs

Found Songs initially was conceived as a download-for-free internet-only project: 7-songs in 7-days.
But obviously the response was such that these songs, covering just over 20 minutes, are now releases in physical form too.
“From Twitter via Flickr to Traditional Record Stores”.

In fact, that feels a bit like if these songs did not really exist until they were released in the form of a 10″ vinyl limited edition, or as a Digisleeve limited CD edition.
Hey, we’re the online digital generation, aren’t we? Why bother with physical releases?