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Seabuckthorn * Jeff Pearce * Art Patience

Seabuckthorn - Turns

Seabuckthorn     Seabuckthorn - Turns


The limited edition cassette I Could See The Smoke (now sold out, I assume, but still available as a download) is as impressive as it is short. In its 23 minutes (for 6 tracks) length, Andy ‘Seabuckthorn’ Cartwright paints a scenical view that is expressive and quietly ambient at the same time.
His acoustic guitar techniques of finger picking and bowing,  ‘combined with various open tunings to form a well curated mixture of approaches’ perfectly matches the vision of the new Dead West series of the Lost Tribe Sound label: ‘focusing on music built for exploring and soundtracking your environment, whether you’re deep in the middle of lush woodlands, or just laying back at home with rested eyelids’.

“Cartwright wields his weapons wisely, choosing a minimal, yet powerful arsenal made up of various twelve string guitars, a well-worn resonator guitar, and deep accents of percussion.”

In line with the Western Skies Motel ‘Settlers‘ release earlier this year, the album invokes a feeling of almost lost folk tradition. But despite its ‘folky’ sound, the music defines its own tradition. Tagging it is a difficult task – Americana, British Folk, modern classical, drone: it’s all there and it’s none of that, too. (And usually this is a sign of something special.)

The ideas from the tracks originated whilst on tour throughout Europe, and were recorded and mixed in no more than two weeks after returning to Bristol.
“I opted for a threatening, even apocalyptic EP title. I thing most of the songs can offer up a tranquillity to counteract the gravity of these uncertain times, a calm inside the eye of a storm.”

Also on Spotify
Turns is the full album immediately following up the I Could See The Smoke EP. It further explores the direction named ‘American Primitive, modern classical’ solo guitar music, performed on various twelve string guitars, a resonator guitar and various percussion.
“Fellow friend of rustic orchestration” William Ryan Fritch plays double bass on three of the tracks.

The 10-track 40 minute album is “seamlessly transitioning between hypnotic long-form pieces, minimal harp-like ballads and the primal stomping world-builders that have become Seabuckthorn’s calling card.”

Jeff Pearce Follow The River Home


I’m usually very wary of music that is primarily tagged ‘new age’. It’s hard to explain why exactly – but who feels it, knows it. But a tag is just a tag, and music should be listened to without prejudices, shouldn’t it?

Jeff Pearce has operated in the ambient/new age community ever since 1993. The guitar is his primary instrument, floating in ambient textures of processed guitar sounds.

Follow The River Home has that warm and pleasant atmosphere of returning to a place you have longed to be. A place that feels like home, even if you haven’t been there before.
Most of the tracks are around four minutes in length, presenting Pearce’s soft and warm guitar themes.
Gathering Stars is an exception to the rule: there are no recognisable guitars in this ambient textured piece that gently floats around for over 20 minutes.

Also on Spotify


Art Patience


The “File Under: New Age, Healing” will probably scare away many ‘serious music’ listeners. But hardcore experimentalists are clearly not the main target audience of Heart Dance Recordsa ‘new age’ label by definition.  The Recognition operates in the same vein as Jeff Pearce’s album, aiming to ‘to create music that would help people from all walks of life, lifting up the listener, while inspiring a sense of contemplation and relaxation’. No more, but certainly not less!

The harmonica rarely occurs in ambient music, but the instrument lends itself very well to a combination with the gentle electronic ambient music that is – on this particular album – created by John Herrera. 

Art Patience (that’s his name, by the way, not an alias) has a life-long experience playing the harmonica, an instrument firmly rooted in Blues music. He pushed the (R&B) limits by playing with pianist Scott Cossu,  with whom he toured for nearly 20 years.
And now, he ‘incorporates his skill and knowledge of that genre to blend it with New Age nuances and textures to create a one of a kind album which reflects travelling across the country through the Badlands, the Deep South, gentle forests with the sounds of nature, and more.’

Art Patience – Winds Of Change

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The Sound of Zen: Chihei Hatakeyama

Hatakeyama - Desert

There’s a steady and unstoppable stream of releases by Chihei Hatakeyama, on his own White Paddy Mountain label as well as on other labels.
A short roundup of some of his recent releases: 

Hatakeyama - Desert


Dronarivm‘s last release for 2016 is a great example of the Zen-like calm of Chihei Hatakeyama‘s music.
Soft drones, the sounds of half-sleep, balancing presence with absence. Being somewhere while at the same time not being there…
The sounds you hear seem detached from its source: it’s hard to imagine that this is ‘the sound output from a guitar anp and the speaker.’
Recording in the basement of a studio – or, in his own words: “worked underground in the bottom” –  Chihei wanted to create images of the sky.
This “theme of desert and sky” is perfectly captured by the album cover photo by John Fowler.

You’ll have to tie yourself to your seat before listening to this album to prevent yourself from floating away through the window.

The Fall Rises


The Fall Rises is Chihei Hatakeyama’s second collaboration with Hakobune (Takahiro Yorifuji).

The two use their Stratocaster and Les Paul guitars to produces unhurried waves of sound “with excellent overtones […] hidden harmony with depth” that “reverberate slowly with chord like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine.”

With their roots firmly in Japanese culture, it’s no real surprise that these “songs with a sadness and beauty, such as feel the coming of fall” have the refreshing atmosphere of a Japanese garden.

Also on Spotify

Crepuscular Grove


Talking of a Japanese Garden is a good link to continue with this album and venture quietly into The Crepuscular Grove.
Opitope is the ongoing collaboration project of Chihei Hatakeyama with Tomoyoshi Date. For this album they worked together with Asuna (Naoyuki Arashi).

The trio’s ambient sound textures are created with acoustic and electric guitars, analog synthesizers, homemade instruments and (lots of) found sounds and field recordings. This means the sound is somewhat more complex compared to the meditative drones of Chihei’s solo work, but is definitely has the same “nostalgic, idyllic atmosphere.”
Which is even more enhanced by the track titles: enigmatic English translations from the Japanese like Tiny Worms Wriggling Under The Light Shines  or The Lake Was Opened When Came Out Of The Grove At Dawn. 

Coastal Railroads in Memories


OK. One more Chihei before it’s time to drift off into the void. Or maybe becáuse it’s time to drift into the void.

The music on this album is inspired by “his memory of a view of the sea from (a) train that runs along the coast”, which explains somewhat enigmatic album title.
It must’ve been a peaceful trip judging from these five pieces (the title track being the longest with 16 minutes, the others around 7-9 minutes each) and their poetic titles like Butterfly On The RiverSide Big Stone or Sleeping And Listening On The Beach. 

As on most of his albums, the soft guitar is Chihei’s main instrument, embedded in processed sounds of piano and vibraphone. Chihei stresses the fact that the result was mixed on an analog mixer, not using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).

Also on Spotify

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Tetherdown; Cyril Secq/Orla Wren; Gamardah Fungus; Luke Howard;

Gamardah Fungus

Tetherdown - First Flight

Tetherdown is a new trio formed by Anne Garner, James Murray and Mark Beazley (Rothko), and this is their … ehhh … First Flight.

Anne and James created one of my favourite albums from 2015, so I was somewhat surprised to hear them taking quite a different direction with Tetherdown. Not very different, though: it’s just that First Flight contains no ‘vocal songs’ like Be Life, but there’s the same subtle, dreamy treatment of sounds… Four pieces – each around the 10 minute mark – of unprepared improvisations that “emerged unforcedly in a single setting and is presented here exactly as played without edits of overdubs.”

In a way, the interplay of Mark (electric bass), James (processed guitars) and Anne (Flute, Keyboards and vocals) remind me of the very early ‘Cosmic’ improvisations of Tangerine Dream (Zeit and Atem era) – though that comparision clearly fails when you listen to them both. (I don’t really know why – I guess it’s the use of the flute and some of the guitar sounds that triggered my memories).

It’s a true Flight indeed… and if this is what this trio is capable of producing without preparations or expectations, I really hope that more of these flights will follow!

Also on Spotify


Strikingly bright recordings of acoustic strings played by Cyril Secq (member of Astrïd), backed by subtle electro-acoustic processings by Orla Wren (Tui). That is the setting of this unique setting: “a duet between acoustic strings and processing, field recordings, edits and organic arrangements. The tunes woven together and untwine again as branches shaken by the wind”.

Cyril Secq‘s guitar parts were recorded earlier, for a solo project that was never released. Orla Wren took them as a starting point for his processed electronics which remain modest and calm, strictly serving the purpose of the bright atmosphere of the guitar pieces.
Although they never played together in real life, the music sounds as if they are really interacting with each other.
Refreshingly different!

Also on Spotify

Gamardah Fungus

Artemisia, Bryophyta, Beladonna, Mandragora, Hypericum“each track is named for a herb which can both heal and harm”.

Ukrainian duo Gamardah Fungus (sound designer Igor Yalivec and guitarist Segey Yagoda) delve deep into their grandparents’ folkore and wisdom of herbal healing practices to find the inspiration for this soothing (I almost wrote ‘healing’, but I guess that’s a word better avoided) album:

“Using herbal concoctions our grandfathers were able to treat any disease and even bring up a dying man on its feet. Also, they were able to do the opposite – bring anyone to dementia, injury or another disease.”
Listening to the peaceful improvisations, there’s no need to fear for the latter. After all, the duo’s name Gamardah Fungus “refers to a substance made according to ancient recipes of natural herbs and minerals to help you open your mind to the universe. Not a drug, but an elixir of wisdom.”

Maybe because they’re from Ukraïne (with, in Igor’s own words, “an experimental music scene that is still poorly understoond and remains something unusual for the most listeners over the world”), or maybe it’s the setting of the guitar improvisations with the field recordings background, but their music sure has a unusal pleasing atmosphere.

Luke Howard - Forgotten Postcards

Luke Howard is a composer/pianist from Melbourne, Australia, whose debut solo album ‘Sun, Cloud’ was nominated for the 2013 Australian Music Prize that year.
Forgotten Postcards is his fifth solo album.
The opening track, Homeless,  and the closing title Shift are noteworthy for the way he transposes short repetitive themes using the full range of the keyboard. From the lower register to the upper, and back again, and before you realise it the slightly melancholic theme has anchored itself in your subconscious.
It is the perfect soundtrack for shifting through a box of forgotten postcards, which will bring back forgotten memories.
I guess it will also do so even if you do not have a box of forgotten postcards yourself.

Also on Spotify

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Jonathan Kawchuk; Stijn Hüwels; Frédéric D. Oberland; Thomas Ragsdale

Dear Aaucaria


“The natural world is perfect. I go to great lengths to reflect that in my work”
Jonathan Kawchuk “has been living and recording in natural environments across Europe, North America and Asia. He has played back and re-recorded his compositions in the forests of Norway, the Pacific Northwest, and Indonesia in order to try to steal a bit of their natural beauty.”
That would suggest that that North  is full of environmental soundscapes. But in fact it isn’t. This album presents eight post-classical experimental compositions, performed on acoustic instruments. You will have to listen véry closely to hear the environment of the Jostedal National Park in which the tracks ‘were played back and rerecorded’. 
Kawchuk has previously worked with Ben Frost and Nico Muhly, as well as being an assistant sound technician for the Philip Glass Ensemble. This experience can easily be felt in these pieces, in which he avoids all too obvious choices of post-classical chamber music to present a surprisingly different set.

Six Pieces for Guitar

This Japanese mAtter label release from Belgian sound artist Stijn Hüwels is available in two editions: one containing a CD and 7″ single (edition of 50), and a standard CD release.
The CD version has six untitled pieces, created using processed guitar recordings. Hüwels’ work ‘is often characterized by a profound fascination for minimalism”, and so are the pieces on this album: ‘soothing guitar waves, dreamy looping technique and ghostly sounds that might sound melancholic and meditative to the first listener, (but) might have different, even divergent associations for the next one, depending on the identity, mood, age, experience and even geographical location’.

Stijn Hüwels – Untitled IV

Peregrinus Ubique

‘Peregrinus’ is classical latin for ‘foreigner’, ‘ubique’ translates to ‘everywhere’.
open door. An invitation to wander. Six moments to pause, to drift to travel with the soul intention of loosing oneself.”

Frédéric D. Oberland (French composer and multi-instrumentalist) presents six ‘Scenes’mixed into one continuous sequence.
With the guitar as the main instrument, his music “transcends specific genres, building an organic and cinematic voyage that can be both epic and subdued, bleak and powerful.”

The CD-set also contains a 44 page photozine with a fascinating set of black & white photos.

Dear Aaucaria

A short (17 minute) but very beautiful (‘bittersweet’) EP with a special dedication: it is a tribute to Reverend John Grahamaka Araucaria – a popular crossword maker for The Guardian.
Thomas Ragsdale (also known as Worriedaboutsatan) ‘became fascinated with Graham’s life and work, and especially the devotion he instilled in his followers, who were told the news of his condition through clues in his final puzzle.”
The physical version of this release is beautifully packed, and includes a crossword puzzle printed on a postcard with nostalgic clues to decipher the track titles.

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Autistici; Aidan Baker; David Cordero; Markus Guentner

El Rumor Del Oleaje

David Newman – also label owner of Audiobulb is a composer from Sheffield, UK, releasing his own work as Autistici – the name ‘represents this fascination with tiny sounds and the power they have to overwhelm the central sensory experience’.
Temporal Enhancement
, his eighth full CD release, presents six tracks with a wealthy variation of ‘broken sounds’ assembled into abstract ambient soundscapes.
‘A sonic exploration of the perception of time’.

“Temporal space in between each sound populates the narrative of present and past. The brain relies on memory to bring order and meaning to the sequence and to notice changes across the passage of time. […]
Autistici works on the premise that the true and final experience of any sound belongs in the mind’s ear of the listener.”

Also on Spotify

Aidan Baker - Ecliptic Plane

“As a solo artists, Aidan Baker explores the deconstructive sonic possibilities of the electric guitar as a primary sound source.”
Ecliptic Plane – the title referring to ‘the Sun’s apparent path or orbit around the Earth, as seen from a terrestrial perspective’ – is a live-to-2-track recording of ‘multi-layered guitar loops slowly evolving and gradually changing through the course of their repetition’.
There are six segments, all different in nature and expression – but they are sequenced seamlessly and so are best listened in one continuous session.
I was quite surprised to learn that this was a direct recording of a live-performance! It’s an impressive and beautiful set, exploring different ranges of sounds between subtle and massive – from calm to (almost) frightening.

El Rumor Del Oleaje

DAVID CORDERO – EL RUMOR DEL OLEAJE [release date: 15-01-16]
For El Rumor Del Oleaje (‘the rumor of the seas’), David Cordero travelled to the beaches between Bizkaia and Cadiz (from the North to the South of Spain), to record the different sounds of water. These sounds became the starting point of this album:
‘All of us confront the sea in different ways, being that not all of the waves are the same.’
Seas can be dangerous and frightening, but Cordero focuses on its healing effect: ‘the feeling of being at peace with myself and isolation. to render through these songs the healing impact the waves have on me when I face them.’
As a result, this is a very peaceful and ‘sunny’ album.

The sound of waves and water are the inspiration to subtle musical compositions, most for a full ensemble acoustic setting featuring piano, bass clarinet, french horn, double bass, (like La Caseriá – San Fernando) others (near the end of the album) for more synth oriented textures and loops (Gaztelugatze – Bermeo).
‘This album is an invitation to travel to the seashores and start the adventure of looking at the sea as if it were for the first time, surrendered to a lonely and magical fascination’


Theia is the name of the (hypothetical) planet that supposedly collided with Earth around 4.533 billion years ago – one assumption is that the debris gathered together around Earth to form the moon.
That’s a beautiful thematic starting point for Markus Guentner‘s newest album: a double (opaque) vinyl release on A Strangely Isolated Place.
“Drones build upon swathes of light, cut by an ever-present sense of fear. The distant shine of stars puncture a pitch-black canvas, as a force gathers momentum and intensifies”.
There are more than enough quiet moments, but as the album progresses the atmosphere gets darker and more ominous. But the sound palette remains subtle: it never becomes the ear-shattering noise you might have expected with a theme like that.
Rafael Anton Irisarri mastered the album, and also appears (as The Sight Below) on one track (Baryon). 

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Monochromie; Visionary Hours; Peter Grech; Northumbria; Mogano


Behind Black Clouds

The word Monochromie refers to one single colour, but Behind Black Clouds is in fact a very colourful album: an album with lots of different sounds and atmospheres. “Dark or luminous, hor or cold, wind or earth – attentive ear will detect them all.”
Wilson Trouvé 
(from France) is also a virtual artist: “This also reflects on the way my music tells specific stories. It is no different than clay, dust, paper, colors, paint or inks.”
Behind Black Clouds is his fourth full album as Monochromie, and his third for the Fluttery Records label.
Different kind of pianos play the main part on the album, in melodic, romantic, as well as more abstract arrangements. But sometimes the piano makes place for other instruments like metallophone or melodica, bright synths, drum synths or samples from street recordings. Or even sheer noise, like in Noise.


Footfalls Echo

The opening track Stillness of the Violin sets the mood: it shows exactly what the title implies.
But right after that the instrumentation changes completely, although the mood on this album stays very gentle. The diverse acoustic instruments (strings, guitars, flute and clarinet) are mixed using ambient reel-to-reel tape delay effect and also using slowed down or reversed recordings.
Together with producer Richard Formby (Spectrum, Mogwai, Dakota Suite, Jazz Butcher), Hayden Berry (Visionary Hours) has created a unique blend of analog sounds on this third album that is released on Hibernate Recordings in this handmade edition of 100 (which, as usual, is quickly selling out).

Peter Grech is an artist without a label, considering himself “the audio equivalent of a small local farm, hopefully supplying tasty sonic carrots”.
Judged by the tasty carrots he serves on this self-released album, he shouldn’t be without a label for long … but if he does, we’re lucky to have Bandcamp access his music.
Sung of the Black Canyon is a 50 minute descriptive soundtrack inspired by a wilderness hiking journey he made in the United States, each of the seven parts ‘intended as stages reminiscent of the journey’. It may be a personal notebook this way, but for other listeners it’s an inspiring soundtrack for their own imaginary fieldtrip.


From Canada comes this duo called NorthumbriaJim Field and Dorian Williamson, creating ambient drones with guitar and bass as the main instruments, largely improvised and often recorded live. Helluland is their third full length album, “much more conceptual and introspective but still unmistakeably Northumbria in scope and sound”.
With the guitar creating the main layers it sounds as if Robert Fripp is  always near: Fripp and Eno are mentioned as one of their main influences. But the guitar is not looped like in most Frippertronics – the themes are played improvised on the spot. There is a close relation to the Canadian landscape, the Baffin Island (to the left of Greenland) more specifically, which was discovered by he Norse Vikins over a thousand years ago.
“(The Canadian Arctic) must’ve seemed like Jötunheimr to them, the mythical lands of the giants in Norse mythology. The landscape of Baffin Island i so unbelievably primordial and massive …. we really wanted to try and evoke the feelings, feats and wonder these adventurers must have felt.”


Second release from the brand new Berlin-based Arboretum  label is aptly named after a tree and dedicated to the Tree of Life from ancient civilizations. It’s a balanced set of brooding rhythms, electronics and ritualistic references to Eastern mythology by using instruments such as the dilruba.
Mogano (Marco Berardi) is obviously deeply fascinated by ancient cultures and musical practices, but at the same time manages to create a futuristic dubby beat – inescapable and atmospheric.
Sycomore is released as a four-track vinyl 12″ also including a remix of “Annunaki” by (Samuel) Kerride. Included is a download code that also includes the digital bonus track Dukkah. 


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Disproduction – Whorl: A LoopDiary Selection


Some 40 years ago, Fripp & Eno redefined musical history with the guitar/tape loop experiments of “No Pussyfooting” (1973) and “Evening Star” (1975).
The result of their experiments with sound and setup were previously unheard and still count as one of the major moments of the history of experimental music (that time, it wasn’t called ‘ambient’ yet).

Recording and production techniques have of course changed a lot since then. Looping is no longer done with analog tape glued together, but using electronic devices much easier to control.
It takes away sóme of the magic sometimes….but there are surprising exceptions, too!

Being a big fan of these Fripp & Eno loop-based recordings, Disproduction (David Hodnett), however, has managed to re-create a comparable atmosphere with his guitar improvisations, various effects and recurring delays.
His experiments were created in the form of a musical diary (originally recorded between 2005 and 2009) which can be found on his four extensive “Loopdiary Archives” albums. That’s a massive set indeed, and may be a bit too much to begin with!

Whorl – A LoopDiary Selection presents a seven track (50 minute) selection of remastered tracks taken from this musical diary.
The cover may suggest something dark and gloomy, but it’s safe to say the music is about the opposite: is creates a calm, quiet and peaceful atmosphere. The loops and effects are carefully placed, avoiding the pitfall of ‘just’ stacking endless loops on each other.

This music clearly refers to Fripp & Eno’s work, but it’s not simply a copy: they worked with a different set of rules that were in a way restricted by the limited analogue possibilities of their time. But Whorl – A LoopDiary Selection” definitely is a respectful tribute that can easily claim its own place.

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Steiner; Andree+Mason; Listening Mirror; Yann Novak; Stenbit

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!

Steiner - At of From a Distance

A remarkable cover that includes a remarkable album. Steiner (Stijn Hüwels from Belgium) has previously self-released a few albums, but this is his first for a ‘real’ label. Seven tracks blend in to one continuous, cinematic 35 minute mix.

His smoothly layered guitar sounds are the center of these soundscapes which are “fed by diverse, sometimes contradictory, sources of inspiration, such as nocturnal city walks, the progress and loss of time, routines and improvisation, swimming in the morning and impressions of Japan.”
Please note that the physical release will be a limited edition of 50 handmade CD’s only! Pre-orders start january, 31.

Steiner – A Longing for Repetition (V)

Call, Response


Also on Spotify
The title refers to the way David Andree and Josh Mason collaborated in creating this album: recording material to magnetic tape (!) that was then sent to the other to record an accompaniment in real time with the original recording. The result of this approach is that the sound closely resembles a live performance. The use of magnetic tape, its hiss and its distortion, adds to that live-feeling, and also recalls some of the works from William Basinski.

David Andree + Josh Mason – Winter Into Spring, Further than First Thought

The Heart of the Sky

(Expanded and Remixed CD Edition)
Originally released in 2011 as a cassette-only release that was quickly sold out at that time and left the music included on it very hard to find. Jeff Stonehouse has wisely decided to re-release this characteristic beauty as a full CD version including three extra remix tracks (by Wil Bolton, Sleeper and Radio 9 respectively). And rightly so, because this album features some of the finest trademark Listening Mirror sounds: sparse guitar chords embedded in a densely layered environmental soundtrack.
“Mixtly Sleeps” features the seductive, whispering vocals of Alicia Merz akaBirds of Passage (who accidentally also presents her new album “This Kindly Slumber” on Denovali Records this week).

Listening Mirror – The Words Just Won’t Come (Sleeper Remix)

Yann Novak - Snowfall

Winter has still not really started here where I live, so it’s not too late to prepare. This dronescape by Yann Novak may help. It’s a 60 minute extract from an original 6 hour audio-visual presentation, “exploring the hushed stillness and isolation sometimes experienced during a snowstorm”.
Referring to a ‘snowstorm’ might suggest loud noises and whipping cold wind, but in fact almost the opposite is true – so I would prefer ‘after’ instead of ‘during’ for the description. The sound does have the same kind of quietness one experiences when the world is covered with thick layers of snow.
A fascinating, slowly shifting soundscape that manages to keep the attention full for the full hour (and possibly also for the full six hours too)

Yann Novak – Snowfall (Excerpt)

Stenbit - The Fall


Also on Spotify
A bright and sparkling sound, as colourful as the image on the cover comes from the Värmland studios in Sweden, home of Stenbit (Stefan Andersson). This is his sixth full length release, some of which can be found on his Bandcamp page. But not this particular one: you’ll have to find it on iTunes, Beatport or Juno this time.
But it’s worth tracking down, since this “composer of ambient landscapes and library music” definitely knows how to create impressive atmospheres in the 8 tracks of this album which are all present a slightly different angle of ambient music, yet match perfectly.

Stenbit – Arriving

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Eivind Aarset – Dream Logic

Dream Logic

Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset will probably be known by many of you, just for his contributions to the music of artists like Nils Petter Molvaer, Arve Henriksen, David Sylvian.

When reading about his new solo album, the combination of some details made it clear to me that this was a release to look forward to:

First: it is released on the ECM-label.
Second: it is co-produced and co-composed by Jan Bang
Third: it’s title is Dream Logic” 

The title of this album is well-chosen indeed:
“With its drifting planes of sound-texture, built from layers of processed guitar, sometimes supported by subliminally-throbbing bass, and its otherworldly ambience, it attains an almost hallucinatory quality, underlined by its avoidance of stressed time.”

The guitar may always be the starting point, but from there the processed effects and added samples create a dark, yet sometimes also comforting atmosphere, developing and expanding the emotional core of the material”.

These fascinating soundscapes Aarset and Bang create together, are also proof of their invaluable contribution to the works of the artists they have worked with in the past.

The eleven tracks vary in length (from under two minutes to over seven) as much as in dreamlike atmospheres. The colour of those atmosphere ranges from lovely green to pitch-dark black; and the images are clear at some times but mysteriously hazy at others.

“The beauty of Decay” , the album’s closing track (featured below), is a respectful dedication to the Fourth World Music of Jon Hassell.

It’s almost impossible to classify this music because it surpasses any genre definition. It may be classified as impressionist jazz, electronic experimental soundscapes,ambient – or all of those.  

But whatever genre it may be filed under, many (if not most) visitors of this weblog will definitely favourite this album.


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Machinefabriek – Secret Photographs

Secret Photographs

Actually, I did send a mail to Machinefabriek thanking him for sending me this album, but also explaining him that I would pass on mentioning it – simply because I do not want to fill this weblog with alternating reviews of the same artists over and over again. 
(And there’s quite a lot of Machinefabriek on ambientblog already – just do a search to find out).

But I forgot Rutger Zuydervelt is one of the very few extremely prolific artists that manage to find an interesting angle for almost every new release.
Secret Photographs is no exception to that rule. It somehow crept up on me, I kept returning to it because the album seemed to reveal new details with every listen.

Secret Photographs is a 75 minute long album, divided in three parts: the center piece subtitled “Colour” and the other two “Black and White”.
This refers to the story behind the music, which is the original (“unhurried”) soundtrack to a movie about the photographs of Alvin Karpis, once ‘public enemy number one’ for being a notorious bank robber, and the longest serving prisoner of the Alcatraz penitentiary.

None of that part of his life is referred in the music, however. Secret Photographs is about the photographs Karpis made in the last years of his life, after he moved to Spain in 1973. The film (which is still in the making) consists of still images, slowly dissolving one into another. And for that, this album  is the perfect soundtrack.

At first listen, the opening track sounds extremely minimal; it seems to be no more than a single, almost continuous chord. But in the backgound, there’s a lot going on. This may only become clear when you focus on what seems to be the background “hiss” (headphone listening may be preferred to hear all details).
This, somewhat familiar, tape-like hiss, and the ever changing background rumble act like a a time-machine transferring you into the past (the early seventies, that is).

It also suggests to ignore the first impression, and keep searching for the image behind the original image.
The Colour’ of Part Two is different from the ‘Black and White’ pieces: it starts with a clear and (again) unhurried guitar theme that slowly unfolds and, over the course of 32 minutes, gradually dissolves into the background.

It may be ‘barely moving’, yet nothing stays the same for long. Intriguing….as always!


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