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Aaron Martin – Touch Dissolves / Adam

Touch Dissolves

Touch Dissolves


For each new release, the french label IIKKI matches a visual artist with a composer. The resulting art is always published as a combined hardcover book and disc (vinyl or CD). So the most obvious thing to do is to listen and watch both together and find out what the relation is between the music and the images. But, according to IIKKI, the book can be also watched alone, and the disc can be also listened to alone. So the parts (book, discs, download) can also be obtained separately.

For their sixth edition, the music is created by Aaron Martin, and the photography by Yusuf Sevinçli. As usual, pictures speak louder than words so I can best leave it to this visual introduction:



I cannot really tell if this Touch Dissolves is a ‘collaboration’ in the sense that both artists worked together in creating this release. I assume that Sevinçli’s photos already existed, and that they helped inspire Aaron Martin to create the music to go with them. But either way, the result is a dialogue: it becomes a dialogue the moment you listen and watch together.

As always, Martin‘s cello arrangements are very cinematic, and they fit the black and white pictures perfectly. The music is a rewarding listen on its own, too, as is watching the pictures.
But – as with all IIKKI releases – the true ‘added value’ lies in combining both.



And since we’re talking about the music of Aaron Martin, I might as well suggest to check out this soundtrack for William Armstrong’s short film Adam too. It’s a very short soundtrack: the seven parts take only seven-and-a-half minute and that includes two bonus tracks.
In fact I prefer to think of this set of fragments as one single track, since basically the parts are all variations on the main theme. In this way, Adam  is a demonstration of Aaron Martin‘s skill for writing catchy soundtrack themes.

Of course, this is not a full album – and it is priced accordingly: it is a Name-Your-Price download.
And – by the way: the short movie by William Armstrong, a documentary about the life-changing diagnosis of Adam Voigt and how he dealt with it can be seen below and downloaded for free from Vimeo



“You know every wave is different, and it’s up to you to choose how you wanna ride it.”


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Clarice Jensen * Joana Gama & Lúis Fernandes * Pitch & Splitter Orchestra

Clarice Jensen

Clarice Jensen


Clarice Jensen is not the first and certainly not the only person that “expands and confuses the familiar sound of solo cello through the use of effect pedals, multi-tracking, and tape loops recorded at variable speed”. But when the artistic director of the  American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) releases her debut album on the Miasmah label, extra attention is required. Especially when that album opens with a piece composed in collaboration with Jóhann Jóhannsson, with whom she collaborated and toured from 2009 until his death in 2018.

Her music is not about displaying virtuosity, but about restraint – “to fill the void with what [the listeners] find in their center of stillness” – which of course is a different kind of virtuosity in itself.

bc (the track composed with Jóhansson) is a relatively ‘simple’ piece displaying “the startling effect subtle changes have on conventional elements across many repetitions, employing the simple devices of a two-octave c-major scale and a three-chord loop.” It is followed by Cello Constellations, written for Jensen by Michael Harrison, scored for solo cello and 25 multi-tracked cellos and sine tones.

The second half of the album contains the two-part title track For This From That Will Be Filled, composed by Clarice Jensen herself, soliciting ‘both meditation and disorientation’ in using drones, long loops and the sounds of New York’s Grand Central Terminal accompanying the processed cello.

The music on this album is originally written for an audio-visual live performance with Jonathan Turner, stills of which are included in the album artwork. Excerpts of Jonathan Turner‘s videos for these performances can be found on his VIMEO page.

Gama - Fernandes


It starts with a knock. A kind of ‘Poltergeist’ knock, with increasing reverb. Immediately the atmosphere is as eerie as the track title “Neither Flesh Nor Fleshless”. From there, ‘the music swells and breaths’ , with ‘atmospheric layers of strings, percussion and horns’.
It is the striking start of At The Still Point Of The Turning World, the album that got its title from T.S. Eliot’s poem Burnt Norton. The opening track seamlessly flows into Perpetual Possibility, which introduces the dialogue between piano and electronics. the atmosphere slightly changes but won’t loosen its grip on the listener.

“It is a record of restless motion, lilting and pulsing with a sense of gentle determination. Born out of a period of mutual loss, the works carry a bittersweet sentiment. Bitter in the
sense of loss; sweet in the sense of lingering memory and influences recognised of those departed.”

Joana Gama, Portuguese classically trained pianist and researcher, and Luís Fernandes,  electronic music artist also known as Astroboy, met in 2012, and have released work as Quest in 2014. They have also made the soundtracks for a number of prize-winning short films. At The Still Point Of The Turning World was commissioned for the Westway Lab Festival 2017.

Exploring “the timbral connections between piano and electronics”, combined with José Alberto Gomes’ orchestral arrangements performed by Orquestra de Guimarães, results in a captivating spectrum of contemporary classical music. Or New Music. Or Post-classical electronics.
Oh well, words seem to fail me here.
Never mind, just listen to the way the atmosphere slowly evolves from the eerie opening chords to the completely different atmosphere of Lucid Stillness and Shaft Of Sunlight. 
You’ll be amazed.


Drones are often performed by single or just a few instruments, electronic or acoustic. It’s not often a drone piece is performed by a full orchestra (unless, perhaps in the moments before a performance starts, when the orchestra tunes their instruments).
The Pitch quartet teams up with the 19-person Splitter Orchestra to perform the 60 minute Frozen Orchestra (Splitter) on a variety of acoustic instruments combined with electronics, turntables, oscillators and reel to reel tape machines.

Splitter Orchester

The title for this piece could hardly have been chosen better. The frozen piece feels like the musical equivalent of a movie still. But this does nót mean that nothing changes for 60 minutes, it changes in the same way the the ice caps on the earth’s North and Sound pole change: slowly. Very slowly.
” ‘Frozen’ indicates a very slowly moving field of harmonic relationships consisting of so-called pitch sets, which are augmented by noise sets, that is, nonperiodic sounds organized in equivalent relationships. The score guides the group through various defined states of frozen surfaces where each player makes individual choices from a set of intervals or noises and thus constantly shifts harmonic weight and textural quality.”

Around 25 minutes into the piece, the orchestra retreats and environmental recordings and electronic sounds take the stage. The sound spectrum is somehow turned inside out – without realising it the listener has been transferred to a different universe. When the orchestra returns, it is hard to tell the difference between the acoustic and the electronic sounds.

A performance like this may not be to everyone’s liking. But once you’re in the right – frozen – state of mind the effect is incredible. When the music stops, it’s hard to tell if it lasted 60 seconds, 60 minutes or maybe even 60 years.

[ambientblog edit]

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Ian Hawgood/Danny Norbury * Aaron Martin

Faintly Recollected

Faintly Recollected


Ian Hawgood, owner/curator of the Home Normal label, starts off 2018 with a collaborative release with Danny Norbury. Hawgood is providing the ‘decayed tones’ to accompany Norbury’s ‘swirling cello’. It is not the first time the played together, but it is the first ‘official’ full length collaborative album.

Faintly Recollected should be heard as one single uninterrupted 33 minute track, even if on the album it is divided in seven parts. It is a very calm and subdued piece, with the soft processed Hokema Sansula kalimba tones and ambient loops colouring the background for the melancholic cello themes. Even with this relatively short length, the album creates a feeling of timelessness, a moment of introspection.

“This is the music for everyone who wants to enjoy the quietness and calm of hidden moments.”

Aaron Martin Room Now Empty


Ian Hawgood also did the mastering for Aaron Martin‘s new solo album on the Preserved Sound label. A ‘memory-based’ recording, where Martin “tried to layer meanings in the music and titles, so that a single clear-cut reading of the music isn’t possible.”

There are definitely some effects used on this recording but still the album sounds like it’s completely acoustic.
The cello is the main instrument in most tracks, giving the album its characteristic melancholic atmosphere. But apart from cello, Martin also plays electric and acoustic guitar, bass, roll up piano, concertina, ukulele, singing bowls, lap steel and voice.
The (eleven) tracks are recorded in a detailed yet unpolished way which gives the feeling that they are performed right next to you, in your own room, just for you yourself alone.

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Monty Adkins – Borderlands


After “Fragile.Flicker.Fragment” (2011), Four Shibusa” (2012) and Rift Patterns” (2014) (all of which I heartily recommend listening), Borderlands” is Monty Adkins‘ fourth consecutive album on the Audiobulb label.
Before that, there were three earlier releases  – on Crónica, Radio France and Empreïntes Digitales  (as Mathew Adkins on the latter).
And from his website discography we learn that another digital release is to be released in March this year!

Quite an impressive catalogue that is, especially given the exceptional quality of all these recordings. Each has its own style, instrumentation and context and yet all have the distinctive ‘Monty Adkins sound’ – music “characterized by slowly shifting organic instrumental and concrete soundscapes”.
An unparallelled match between electronic and acoustic sounds, between the ‘natural’ and the ‘synthetic’.

Borderlands” presents a single 37 minute piece, commisioned for Totum One“: a 360° audio visual laboratory installation, “exploring virtual worlds using 3D headsets and new ways of hearing sounds.”  The installation is based on a text by Deborah Templeton “that explored liminal states of consciousness”, but this text is not present in this instrumental recording.

IOU - Totum One

The sound that visitors experienced at the installation will probably have been quite different from what you hear here, because  visitors had “tablet computers so that they could send a graphical satellite on a journey between 3-D “planets”, each of which emitted a soundscape – for example, the sound of streams and running water.”
These added sounds and effects are not included in the basic recording presented on this album.

While the music of Borderlands” was created to embark on a sonic space trip, the music has absolutely nothing to do with the usual kind of space music associated!
The heart of the piece is the sensuous multitracked cello playing by William Mace, subtly supported by unobtrusive electronic details and accents that slowly move (somewhat) to the foreground while the piece evolves.

The composition ‘comprises of six interludes and six extended panels, each comprising twenty-eight short melodic fragments. Each panel uses the same fragments to form new melodies and harmonies.” – but for the listener it feels – and can be enjoyed – as one single uninterrupted piece.
A piece in which every single detail has its place, a piece that conveys that everything is as it should be.
A very, very comforting piece.

MONTY ADKINS – BORDERLANDS (fragment: first panel)

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Black Elk – Sketches I -V

Black Elk

With core members Ian Hawgood (electronics), Danny Norbury(cello), Clem Leek (piano), and Tim Martin (Maps and Diagrams, electronics), Black Elk could be regarded as a post-classical/ambient “Supergroup”.

In 2012, their first albumSparks was released, a beautiful collection of atmospheric tracks in various styles.

For their recent Japan tour (december 2013) a collection of “Sketches” was assembled on five different (CDR) albums, containing outtakes, unfinished tracks, live performances and … sketches!

The physical album set was released in a extremely limited edition (50 each), with added vintage kodachrome/ektachrome slides. But don’t bother about these, because obviously these have sold out completely.

Fortunately, the download versions are still available!

The ‘Sketches’ are not only ‘just’ unreleased material for the original“Sparks” album: Sketches I, “Sketches II and Sketches IIIalso contain unfinished tracks for the (upcoming) album “Anchor”, and ‘work in progress’ sneak previews for the (also upcoming)Danny Norbury & Ian Hawgood album.
Sketches IV
is a set of unreleased tracks that didn’t make it to the final“Sparks” edition for various reasons.
Finally, Sketches V concludes the set with a 33 minute improvised live set recorded in Hebden Bridge (UK) in 2010, performed by Ian Hawgood, Danny Norbury and Antony Harrison (synth, guitar, laptop).

The acoustic sounds of piano cello is a perfect combination with the electronics and other processed sounds. There’s “classical”, or “post-classical” music, there’s ambient soundscapes, there are composed themes and improvised sets ….
Most music is relatively quiet, sometimes interspersed with some controlled noisy distortion. Track times can vary from a few minutes to over 40…
Enough variation to keep you interested for the full 3 1/2 hours of this 5 album set.

Which only goes to demonstrate this is a “Supergroup” indeed!

Sketches I

Sketches II

Sketches III

Sketches IV

Sketches V

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Aaron Martin + Christoph Berg – Day Has Ended

Martin Berg

With only a few releases, the relatively new Moscow-based label Dronarivm found its status as one of contemporary ambient music’s most important labels.

With the release of Day Has Ended“, with Aaron Martin and Christoph Berg contributing four tracks each, that status is definitely confirmed – if not enhanced.

Both Aaron Martin and Christoph Berg (who is also known as Field Rotation) are composers renowned for their work crossing the borders of ‘ambient soundscapes’ and ‘post-classical’ music. With the cello as their main instruments, most of their music breathe a sad yet beautiful melancholy.

The track titles and cover image of Day Has Ended immediately sets the atmosphere:
“This is quiet, intimate music, interfused with daylight and covered by a soft mist of evening dreams. This album spans the course of a day until the point where night falls.”

It is a ‘split’ CD, which means that Martin and Berg did not collaborate in creating these tracks, but both perform all instruments on their own half of the album. Clearly they knew what kind of album they were aiming for, since there is no clash in style or content – both halves of the album complete each other in describing the course of a single, calm and quiet, contemplative day.

“The first part, created by Aaron Martin, is a water-colour, cool and delicate. The twinkling sun reflected itself in a slow river, transparent silvery clouds sparkle and brush the heads of drowsy trees. The closer to the middle of the album, the lower goes the gentle shadow, saturating.
In the second part – Christoph Berg’s one, water-colour turns into gouache. The sound becomes more full, more sensuous, it comes in waves, like breath of a sleeping man.
Just close your eyes, be all ears and you’ll feel – the night is not silent. Sweet tune of twilight and darkness full of echo, humming blue, vague voice of the strings and clear gleaming of bright stars in a velvet sky – that is the night.”


Also on Spotify

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Ian Hawgood & Friends – Wolven (A Modern Reinterpretation)



In its relatively short existence (almost 4 years), the Hibernate label has presented us with many beautiful releases and positioned themselves as one of the most important independent labels at the very centre of the ‘ambient’ music scene. Or – since it’s increasingly difficult to use the word ‘ambient’ as a genre definition: music “both abstract and melodic but always with a hint of melancholy.”

The Hibernate label kicked off in 2009 with a release that set a high standard immediately: Wolfskin“, by Ian Hawgood – well-known for his own music as well as from the labels he curates: Home Normal and Koen Music.

Hibernate and Koen Music (KoMu) now present a 2-CD set revisiting the original “Wolfskin” release, called Wolven – A Modern Reinterpretation”.

As the slightly changed album and track titles suggests, this is not merely a ‘cover’ album of the original. The tracks take their inspiration from the original album, which “referenced a series of nightmares Ian had as a child, focussing on elements of dreams and violence by marrying beauty with the harsh.”

Wolven does not just portray the original recordings from Wolfskin in a different light – it also takes another look at the concept of dreams and nightmares. This time, the album strives to literally tread the pathways in Ian’s dreams – not without its terrifying moments along the way but always accompanied by a comfort pillow to keep you from harm.”

On the first CD of this 2CD set, Aaron Martin‘s cello takes center-stage and sets the (rather dark) mood. Embedded in layers of organ, keys and guitar fed through various tape reel machines, and mixed in with interpretations by Dag Rosenqvist, Spheruleus, Pillowdiver, y0t0, and Hakobune, the music easily and almost naturally shifts from ‘post-classical’ acoustics into abstract electronic soundscapes.
With “The Dance”, it takes off with exactly the same chord that concluded the original Wolfskin album – sticking close to the original concept and atmosphere, but at the same time a completely different, new, approach.

For the second CD, Brock Van Wey (aka bvdub) chooses a different approach. His characteristic bvdub sound creates a different, somewhat lighter atmosphere: three extremely long (24 – 32 minutes each) tracks with layers upons layers upon layers of (stretched and dubbed) samples, slowly accumulating – somehow his music always makes me feel as if my head (as well as the room around me) is filled with sound until there is not a empty space left….

If you know the original Wolfskin album, it is of course interesting to compare the details from these tracks to their original sources. But it is not necessary to know the original album to fully appreciate this new reworking, as it presents an inspiring set of different kind of contemporary ‘atmosphere music’.

Hibernate is releasing the physical 2CD-version, while Komu offers the digital download version of the album.
The release date is set for May, 19.


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Cello + Laptop – Parallel Paths


Parallel Paths

Cello + Laptop first got my attention with their beautiful track, “The Hunt”, featured on the Escala 2.3compilation.

This Spanish duo, consisting of Sara Galán (Cello) and Edu Comelles (Laptop) have now released their full debut album on the Envelope Collective label (“The label that is always slipping in the fold of the wave”).

Parallel Paths easily exceeds the (high!) expectation I had based on the single track I knew from Escala 2.3.

Cello + Laptop. As a name for a duo, it sounds a bit sterile, somewhat unemotional.
It is also an accurate description of what you’ll get: Cello and Laptop.

But a cello is nót an ‘unemotional’ instrument. It can sound almost human, it can sing, wail, but also scream and squeak. It can sound sad and melancholic, but also threatening and frightening.
Being a computer, a laptop does not have such ‘human’ associations, though of course that entirely depends on the one programming/playing it.
These two instruments seems to be conceptual opposites, maybe that’s why they perfectly match for sonic explorations like this.

Galán and Comelles both master their instrument, and have refined their interactions playing live on various occasions.
The cello often takes the lead, and its sound is accompanied (sometimes shadowed) by a delicate mix of electronics and field recordings (recorded throughout Spain and in Edinburgh).

Though the album cover may indicate otherwise, there is not just ‘darkness’ and ‘gloom’ on this album: there is room for beauty and optimism too – most notably in the ringing bells on the opening of Wanderlust.

Aptly titled, Parallel Pathsis like a walk through a variety of landscapes, where every different road shows a completely different perspective, and every turn reveals details you had not noticed before.

Available as digital download and as a limited (black) CDR. The CDR version includes a download link to a 24 minute live performance in Cello + Laptop‘s hometown (Valencia).


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Hildur Gudnadottir – Leyfdu Ljosinu


Hildur Gudnadóttir ‘s latest release on the Touch label features two tracks:  the 4 minute introduction (“Prelude”) and the 35 minute title track: Leyfdu Ljósinu” . 

The track division seems is somewhat artificial, since the “Prelude closing chord seamlessly introduces the start of the main title track.
This recording is in fact a “live” recording (with no audience present. which means no distractive audience sounds).
It’s “just” Hildur performing over her multi-track recordings – no “post tampering” was applied afterwards.

Hildur’s main instrument still remains the cello. The Prelude is a cello solo performance, but as soon as the main track starts there’s a sudden change of mood when the cello retreats and it’s Hildur’s voice that is layered to slow angelic whispers – seemingly taking inspiration from Brian Eno’s classic “Music for Airports” as well as more recent Grouper recordings. The main difference is the way the tension slowly rises.

Leyfdu Ljósinu takes the time it needs to develop.   Gradually, a different atmosphere creeps in, and after about 15-20 minutes the cello reclaims its place center-stage and the tension starts to rise to an inescapable climax in the end, sounding nothing like the start.
A solo-performance with a full scale symphonic effect!

Leyfdu Ljósinu  is Icelandic for ‘Allow the light’ – but I’m not really sure if the light is coming in or if it is forced to retreat.

Apart from the physical CD-release, Touch also offers this album on a 2GB USB stick featuring a surround version by choice (4-channel, 5.1 with bass management or 5.1 with full LFE).
The performance recording was made using ambisonic microphones, so this multichannel version will probably enhance the recording environment surroundings (of the Music Research Centre of the University of York).

The USB stick version comes in a Hildur handmade paper cover.  Oooh.. talk about tempting!

Hildur Gudnadottir – Leyfdu Ljósinu (fragment)


Spotify– (Also on Spotify)

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Various Artists – Herfsttonen


As the musical part of the “Landtonen” festival in november 2009, “Herfsttonen(Autumn Sounds) celebrated the local district of “Okkenbroek“, near Deventer (in Holland).

This may sound as if it is interesting to local citizens only.
Not true! – That would mean the large part of the world would miss this great project!

The three compositions presented here are very different from each other, but they are linked by the theme, and by the environmental sounds of Okkenbroek. This album deserves to be heard out of the local context, too, because it is dedicated to preserving the kind of rural life that may disappear all too quickly.

Some sound samples include people speaking in the dutch northern dialect, but even if you don’t understand a word of what they say you’ll understand they achieve heavy tasks by working together closely, by not losing their humour…but you’ll also get a glimpse of some of their fears, too. (In the beginning of the Gluid track there’s a woman asking “Er is toch niks ernstigs gebeurd, valt nog mee hè?” (“It’s nothing serious, I hope? Is it?)

Paul de Jong‘s “Okkenblues” introduces Okkenbroek (“Groot hè?” – Big, isn’t it?) with a striking violin-cello-guitar composition Greg Haines – style. The middle part of it has a beautiful musical effect: it’s like the music slowly dozing off while the image of citizens accomplishing a heavy task becomes sharper slowly (they’re obviously putting something in place, maybe the big vase especially created for this Landtonen festival). When the work is done, the music kicks back in to return to the beautiful theme.

MiaMia is a poet combining her work with soundscapes and video projections. She walks through the Okkenbroek landscape as if in a dream (“We always tend to forget our dreams // There’s always the morning coming inbetween” ). Her murmuring voice in the soundscape turns Okkenbroek into a haunting abstract landscape.

…Which is quite different from the view presented by Gluid, a project by Bram van den Oever accompanied by Cello and Vibraphone for this occasion. This track starts with some dark undertones, but definitely ends optimistic and lighthearted. If comparisions are needed: this reminded me of some of the impressive music coming over from Iceland (like Mùm, Sigur Ross or Amina)

Unfortunately, the album is only slightly over 32 minutes long. But it’s enough to leave you with the feeling you have been to a peaceful place vaguely familiar. And you will probably not forget about your visit to Okkenbroek.

So here’s my advice to foreign visitors: next time, forget about Amsterdam’s Red Light District and take some time to visit Okkenbroek and its surroundings.
And if you’re not coming over to Holland, just visit Esc.Rec Records to a grab a copy of this album – which may prove to be one of the most adventurous dutch releases this year!

Okkenbroek - church

Okkenbroek – Short Walk

Note: this track only features some fragment from the three parts of Herfsttonen.
You can hear more on

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