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Various Various

Homework Year 1

A selection from the many label compilations that were recently released – looking ahead at 2017, looking back at 2016, or maybe even looking back at the last 15 years:

anticipation of an uncertain future

ANTICIPATION OF AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE

The near future of 2017 may be unpredictable on a worldwide political scale, but fortunately this 40 minute (9 track) compilation of recent and upcoming Preserved Sound releases is reassuring: there will always be great music to take a break from everyday absurdity!

Artists include Visionary Hours, Aaron Martin, Richard Youngs, Max Ananyev, Endless Melancholy, Poppy Nogood, Adrian Lane, Ales Tsurko and CovarinoIncorvaia.
A wide range of instrumental genres show all kinds of beauty this label has to offer. There’s influences from ambient, folk, improv,  jazz, post-rock, neo-classical and experimental electronics (the Ales Tsurko track [Grusha] uses regular expressions to generate music from random Wikipedia articles!)

Generously offered as a Name Your Price download.


Illuminations

ILLUMINATIONS

I am not sure if all tracks from this massive Dronarivm compilation are previously unreleased, but the subtitle “The New Year 2017 Free Compilation” suggests so.
But even if they were previously released, only the most dedicated label addict would recognise all of the 28 tracks on this two-and-a-half hour compilation.
The collection is presented without any notes but a quote from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Illuminations VI‘:
“… The colours proper to life deepen, dance and detach themselves around this Vision in the making…. .

Currently, Dronarivm is one of the experimental ambient genre’s most important labels, and the line-up of this collection shows why: Olan Mill, Giulio Aldinucci, Autistici, Spheruleus, The Green Kingdom, Offthesky, Aaron Martin, Dag Rosenqvist, Elegi, Legiac, Maps and Diagrams, Strom Noir, Wil Bolton, Enrico Coniglio, Christopher Bissonnette, Porzellan and Bartosz Dziadosz  – and that is only about two-third of the contributors!

Generously offered as a Name Your Price download.


Home To Wander

HOME TO WANDER

Home Normal looks back to 2016 with this 11-track (58 minute) overview featuring tracks they ‘were lucky enough to release in 2016’.
It’s a kaleidoscopic overview of the versatility of this quality label that cannot be pinned down to one style but always guarantees a journey into adventurous new paths.

Artists include David Cordero, Altars Altars, Giulio Aldinucci, M. Ostermeier, Ian Hawgood, Stefano Guzetti Ensemble, Isan, Asuna, Stijn Hüwels/Dudal and A New Line Related.

Generously offered as a Name Your Price download.


Homework Year 1

HOMEWORK, YEAR 1

In an ascending order of track count and playing time, this compilation comes last.
52 tracks that fill up seven (7!) hours and 40 minutes! And, apart from that, áll of the tracks are new and previously unreleased.

The concept of this overview is a bit different: is doesn’t look back to 2016 only, or looks ahead at 2017, but it celebrates the 15 years of existence of the Taâlem label. And they do so in a special way: asking every artist that ever had a release on Taâlem to contribute an unreleased track that was recorded or finalised in 2016 – so it’s all brand new music, not a retrospective!
The list of contributing artists is not complete: some of the artists could not be retraced, others have stopped making music, etc. But the result is imposing enough as it is!

Due to the label’s nature, the music is more abstract and experimental than usual, presenting a lot of sound experiments, field recordings, musiqe concrête and industrial soundscapes – so it’s also the most ‘hardcore experimental’ compilation in this short list. But the tracks are thoughtfully arranged: playing the collection feels like complete overview of all corners of experimental electronics and ambient music.

I cannot mention all of the 52 contributing artists here, so I’ll randomly pick a few familiar names: Aidan Baker, Mathieu Ruhlmann, Emerge, Yui Onodera, Tobias Hellkvist, Encomiast, Simon Whetham, Fabio Orsi, Strom Noir, Pleq/Lauki, Philippe Lamy, Enrico Coniglio, Yannick Franck and Jeff Stonehouse.

And the best news, once again: generously offered as a Name Your Price download.

 

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Ian William Craig * Serein (Various) * 130701 (Various)

Orbital Planes

Ian William Craig - Centres

IAN WILLIAM CRAIG – CENTRES

Ever since William Basinski transformed the sound of deterioration into sonic art, it has become part of the experimental mainstream – along with distortion and carefully arranged clicks and cuts.
Although I am old enough to recognize the nostalgia of analog hiss and vinyl crackle, I often get confused hearing intentional sounds that I have tried to avoid for a large part of my life (and for a large part of my budget). Too often, the result is that too obvious presentation of imperfection simply becomes irritating.

But, like Basinski, there are also artists that take things to a completely different level. Ian William Craig is one of them.
He’s a trained operatic vocalist with a beautiful voice, an orchestral composer capable of writing heartfelt arrangements that could easily become anthems for a whole generation. If only …
Play his music for an unprepared audience and eyebrows will definitely be raised!

“(Centres) was created using a mixture of sources – synthesizer, Hammond organ, guitar, accordion, wire recorder, loop station, Craig’s array of re-purposed tape decks and “cassette choir”. The songs were created manipulating tape loops through two or three decks at once to create strange deteriorating delays with different colors.
“Everything was manipulated through my customized tape decks,” explains Ian. “The most common hack is putting attenuators on the heads to keep them from functioning properly, and then running a loop of tape through so the sound builds and builds and spills over. Sometimes the same tape loop goes through two or three decks at once to create strange deteriorating delays with different colours.”
Continually honing and pushing this process, the album shows a quite brilliant attention to textural detail. Morphing, swirling, scouring, shimmering, it continually expands and contracts around you.”

Centres is Ian William Craig‘s ninth album (!), his third official release (and his first on the 130701 label). Compared to his earlier work, there is a bit more emphasis on song structures – the vocal arrangements (like in Purpose (Is No Country) and Arrive, Arrive) are moments of rest in the sonic sea of decaying sentimentality.

To demonstrate the impact, compare the albums opener Contain (Astoria Version) – a 10 minute piece with an anthemic instrumental second half that most artists would’ve probably placed as a climactic album closer – with its introvert counterpart closing the album: the ‘campfire arrangement’ (solo vocals and acoustic guitar) of Contain (Cedar Version).
Same song – different parallel universe.

Craig pushes ‘the beauty within degradation and deterioration’ to an extreme level. Só extreme that it becomes the aesthetic of the fundamentally distressed. It’s not an easy listen, because it requires full attention. The listener cannot simply ‘consume’, but has to work to uncover the beauty underneath.

Ian William Craig would probably be capable to write and perform the near perfect pop song. But why would he? Perfection is boring – true beauty is found in imperfect details.

Also on Spotify


Orbital Planes

VARIOUS ARTISTS – ORBITAL PLANES & PASSENGER TRAINS VOL. I

Some of you may remember that the Serein label started out as a netlabel way back in  2005, giving away a lot of music for free. (Check this Folio Broadcast if you’re interested in a mix of Serein music from 2005-2007).
After the label founder Huw Roberts teamed up with (Deaf Center’s) Otto Totland to form the near-legendary Nest, things got serious and Serein re-emerged as a ‘real’ label. (I don’t mean to imply that netlabels aren’t serious, of course: what I mean to say is that with the Nest release, Serein must’ve realised that they were giving away gold for free. )
The label “predominantly focusses on crossover ambient styles”, but refuses to limit itself to any one genre.

This is perfectly demonstrated in this compilation, presenting 75 minutes (16 tracks) of “the finest Serein selections”. It’s a wide range of ‘crossover ambient’ styles, that somehow perfectly match together.
Intended to soothe you during your daily commute – “making your journeys as pleasurable as can be” – but of course it can also be enjoyed from the comfort (and relative safety) of your home.

A beautiful selection of (all new?) tracks from artists that have worked with Serein before but also some names that are new to the label: Otto A. Totland, Brambles, Ametsub, Benoît Pioulard, Strië, Donato Wharton, Yui Onodera & Chihei Hatakeyama, Olan Mill (and this is not the complete list!).
It will make you look forward to the upcoming Serein releases.
Ánd to Volume II of this series!

Release date: August 19, but can be pre-ordered here.



STRIË – 87 BILLION SUNS


 

11into15

VARIOUS ARTISTS – ELEVEN INTO FIFTEEN

130701 started as a Fat Cat sublabel 15 years ago: the label name is in fact the date it came to life with the first Set Fire To Flames album.
Since then, it has become one of the most influential labels in various areas of modern classical music – home to many influential and, by now, well-known artists.

After a three year hiatus the label re-emerged at the end of 2015, and now it celebrates its 15th anniversary with this impressive compilation of unreleased work by some of their familiar artists while at the same time introducing some new names.
Eleven tracks – as you might have guessed from the title – that prove the power of the label curators: there’s a range of modern classical styles – from melancholic piano compositions to abstract string drones – but also some tracks that fall outside of this categorisation yet perfectly blend in.

All tracks are exclusive and previously unreleased, which instantly turns this into a not-to-be-missed release for fans of Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Hauschka, Dustin O’Halloran, Set Fire to Flames, Sylvain Chauveau. Ánd for the ‘early adopters’ that are already familiar with Ian William Craig, Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, Dmitry Evgrafov, Resina and Olivier Alary.

The album title might as well have been Sixteen into Fifteen, since it comes with an added bonus called “New Blood” – presenting 5 extra tracks by artists that have recently published music on 130701 or will do so in the near future: Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, Dmitry Evgrafov, Olivier Alary, Ian William Craig and Resina.

The limited CD version of this bonus were distributed in UK indie stores but quickly sold out but is now a free download with every purchase of Eleven Into FifteenIt can also be obtained separately – but in fact I cannot think of a good reason why you’d want to do that when you get it for free with the Eleven…  compilation.



OLIVIER ALARY – YANGTZE

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More Various

Abscence

Abscence

ABSCENCE
Abscence offers a unique chance to explore the electronic/experimental scene from Iran.
Usually, a statement like that triggers a search for a political context, or for elements from the cultural heritage. Something that doesn’t happen when the artists come from the western world (like the Discovery compilation, below).

When writing about art from the middle east, western media often  ‘places artists exclusively within the political context presented by the mainstream media, and only shows you the day-to-day politics of governments in the region. This biased approach means artists’ works are only interpreted in relation to a reduced conception of the political context. By seeing things this way you only have a handful of artists addressing certain issues with enough exaggeration to be newsworthy.
It would be terrifyingly ignorant to think that day-to-day politics in Iran has no impact on artists, but on the other hand it is too simplistic to see the wide range of artistic practices of Iranians though this narrow context.” 

This compilations, curated by Arash Akbari, presents Iranian artists that, as Siavash Amini states in his introduction, ‘are the voices who choose to be absent from the news and the musical mainstream in order to express the complex range of emotions and ideas which make up our lives.’
This music, so far removed from what is called ‘mainstream’ represents ‘an endless world of exploration and experimentation, a life of vast possibilities and new forms of cultural and political resistance’. This way, it’s hardly very different from experimental music all over the world: which goes to show that music knows no borders .


Discovery 1

DISCOVERY 1
Soft Recordings presents a 40-track (3 hours and 50 minutes!) compilation album that is free to download.
A really huge set, with some familiar names and a lot of new artists to discover.

“Discovery series aims to promote new artists and sounds in the experimental music community; including ambient, drone, electronic, noise and modern classical genres.”

This means there’s a lot of variation in the tracks so you probably have to compile your own subset with the tracks you like. But even then, chances are you still have a tracklist as long as 2 CD’s!


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Marconi Union; Sequence 8; Amongst Myselves; Aquavoice; Looped Exodus – shortlist –

Sequence 8

In the Shortlist sections, I will mention the albums that I enjoyed listening to, but couldn’t find the time (or the right words) for a “full” review for.
Still, I definitely think they deserve your attention, with ór without extra words!

weightless

MARCONI UNION – WEIGHTLESS (AMBIENT TRANSMISSIONS VOL. 2)
This album is possibly one of the most succesful albums never released.
Its remarkable history started in 2011, when Marconi Union were commissioned to collaborate with a sound therapist from the British Academy of Sound Therapy and write a piece of ‘relaxing’ music which would be scientifically tested for it’s effectiveness. “Weightless” was tested by scientists at the Mindlab Institute and when their research was made public there was an instant and intense media reaction, with many newspapers, radio stations and television shows picking up on the claims that “Weightless” was “the most relaxing song, ever!”. One national newspaper even warned motorists not to listen to the track while driving. Weightless was even named as one of the “Inventions of the Year” in Time Magazine.”
Marconi Union never commented on any of these claims, not even when views on Youtube started to climb into over ten million (!) views. They just worked on different tracks, “all sonically linked, but each had it’s own character, much like the different faces of a geometrical shape.”
The six tracks are presented on this new album, which clearly don’t need any scientifical testing to prove its effective relaxation capabilities!


MARCONI UNION – WEIGHTLESS Part 4


Sequence 8

VARIOUS ARTISTS – SEQUENCE 8
[FREE Download]
The eighth -and last- edition of a massive series of download-only compilations – each of them containing over three hours of music. (So collect them all for a full 24 hour sequence of ambient-experimental electronics).
Compared to previous editions, the tracks on this Future Sequence compilation are relatively more calm, ‘focussed inward’. No less that 28 contributions on this album, with a lot of familiar names as well as new artists to be explored. Compilations like this are a highly recommended way to start exploring new artists, especially since it’s a free download for now (but probably won’t stay free forever).


Amongst Myselves - The Past cover
AMONGST MYSELVES – THE PAST IS ANOTHER COUNTRY
Amongst Myselves (Steve Roberts), has dedicated his work to all the classic ambient artists that inspired him since he first heard the works of groups like Tangerine Dream (at the time of “Atem” and “Alpha Centauri”).
His seventh full album release is dedicated to the work of Conrad Schnitzler.
Despite all references to the classic artists of ambient music, his music sounds far from ‘retro’. On the contrary, perhaps: “The Past Is Another Country” presents a great selection of dark soundscapes – “a new direction in composition which leaves more melodic pieces behind and explores more experimental landscapes.”


AMONGST MYSELVES – DARK PLACES, WINTER SHADOWS


Nocturne

AQUAVOICE – NOCTURNE
Cover and title promise music as dark as the night, which is precisely what Tadeusz Luczejko (Aquavoiceoffers. But “dark” does not necessarily mean ‘scary’:  “Nocturne is full of “dreamy, low-key and soothing ambient textures – songs a bit darker and colder than before where one can find inspirations taken from Scandinavian art.”


AQUAVOICE – NEBULOUS DAWN


Looped Exodus

LOOPED EXODUS – PRELUDE FOR REPEATMODUS
Self-released (“100% homemade + artwork”) by Geerard Labeur (Amsterdam) a.k.a. Looped Exodus. Nine untitled pieces full of contemplative electronics, recorded with lo-fi intimacy, that indeed work best when played in repeatmodus on a relatively low volume.

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Peter James, Wil Bolton, Tomoko Sauvage, Five Pieces, Elements 01

In the Shortlist sections, I will mention some of the albums that I enjoyed listening to, but couldn’t find the time (or the right words) for a “full” review for. Still, I think they deserve your attention: use the links to find more info and hear previews.

Landfall

Peter James – Landfall
Well-balanced, deep and extremely relaxing drones on this 25th Relaxed Machinery release.
“I’ve always considered landfall to be a part of a journey, not the final part, or the start, just a part of it …. Not now. Not then. Just sometime, somewhere, someplace. “

Under a Name...

Wil Bolton – Under A Name That Hides Her
Combining drone backgrounds with environmental sounds and sparkling guitar themens, Wil Bolton manages to create music that sounds every bit as fresh as the cover image indicates.
“He wanted to create something that sonically presents his nostalgia, sounding submerged or decaying, as if heard through a veil the way memories and images become distorted over time. The album title ‘Under A Name That Hides Her’ is a quote from ‘The Space of Literature’ by Maurice Blanchot and is a reference to the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.”
(Vinyl album; release date May 16)

Ombrophilia

Tomoko Sauvage – Ombrophilia
Actually a (vinyl-only) re-release from the 2009 album, but very much worth checking out for then it was easily missed. 
“Ombrophilia is a collection of sound experiments I made with porcelain bowls filled with water between 2006 and 2008. Inspired by Jalatarangam, traditional Indian instrument, I started to play the ‘waterbowls’ with wooden spoons and metal wire. Since I immersed hydrophones in them, I have tried various ways of resonating the bowls without touching their surface : flicking, stirring, waving and dripping water… I also inserted thin layers of field recordings I made in South India, notably in beautiful Mylapore of Chennai.”

Five Pieces

Various Artists – Five Pieces 
All contributing artists (Listening Mirror, Antonymes, Quinn Walker, Widesky and Wil Bolton) were asked to create a soundtrack based on a provided piece of artwork. The album presents over one hour of floating ambience, all within the same style but with different colouring (like the artwork). 
Also available as a free download from archive.org, but since that one is a somewhat lower bitrate, AND because all proceedings go to animal charity, I heartily suggest downloading it from BandCamp.

Elements 01

Various Artists – Elements 01
Huge (and free!) 35-track compilation presented by Future Elementsa site focused on ambient, shoegaze, postrock, dreampop, indie, drone & electro-acoustic and experimental music. Which is exactly what is presented on their first label release. Some familiar names (like Good Weather for an Airstrike, Pleq, Umber and Kylie Bobby Dunn) , but a lot of surprising new names to explore too.

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