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Markus Guentner * Max Corbacho

Nocturnes II

Markus Guentner - Empire

MARKUS GUENTNER – EMPIRE  Also on Spotify

The disclaimer, as usual, is that the vinyl version edition has sold out quickly (note: see last remark below).
There’s no CD edition of this A Strangely Isolated Place release, so if you missed the earlier announcement you’ll have to do with the digital download or streaming options. But don’t let that fact withhold you, because Empire may very well be one among the most engaging ambient albums you’ll find this year.

About half of the tracks on this album (4 out of 7) are Markus Guentner solo performance tracks, exploring “sometimes sinister, but always majestic territories with his unique manipulation of looping drones, textures and gradual atmospheres.
These tracks are alternated with collaborations with different artists: Julia Kent (cello), Tom Moth (harp, known from Florence and the Machine), and bvdub. Their different instrumental input does not break the atmosphere of the solo tracks – on the contrary. It is as if the course of this album is meticulously planned to tell a story, like a book or a movie. This is what makes the album is interesting from the first to the very last minute and can best be heard in full in its original sequence.
With the input of his collaborators, Guentner manages to avoid the ‘sameness’ many ambient albums suffer from while at the same time telling a coherent story that involves many emotions. Sometimes dark and sinister, exploring emptiness, but also melancholic, exploring rays of hope and even joy.

“Be it physical, scientific or mythological, Empire draws on the ebb and flow relationship the Earth has with the deeper, unknown space around us.”

I usually try to avoid overly exaggerated qualifications about albums, since all is subjective and in the ear of the beholder. But I dare say this a landmark album. One for the history books.
Ánd at the same time one of which the physical edition sold out in two weeks after release date… I suggest ASIP to start considering a re-press.

(note: shortly before publishing this a few last copies have become available again on Bandcamp and Juno… so don’t wait too long).


Nocturnes II

MAX CORBACHO – NOCTURNES II Also on Spotify

If you enjoyed 2017’s Nocturnes, here’s the follow-up for extended nightly explorations. On this second part of the trilogy dedicated to “a new world, hidden before the sunset”, Max Corbacho presents seven tracks of atmospheric soundscaping – “sound meditations” that “burn slowly, like the light of a distant star, illuminating a breathing, ghostly landscape”.

To make sure the atmosphere was right, Corbacho thoroughly tested them:
“During the creation process, in my checks during the recording, mixing and mastering, I submerged myself in the quiet meditation and silent isolation of the night in the middle of nature to verify the effect by myself each time I completed a piece or made a change.”

Perfect for nocturnal listening of course, but a great pleasure to listen to in the daytime, too:
Nocturnes II can be enjoyed at a background level, accompanying the listener’s daily tasks, or in a more active listening at a high volume creating a powerful and visceral experience.”

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James Murray * Michael Begg * Finglebone

Daubigny - Landscape by Moonlight

Eyes to the Height

JAMES MURRAY – EYES TO THE HEIGHT

James Murray is the label owner of Slowcraft RecordsHe is also the one that created the music of Anne Garner’s bewitching album Be Life, one of my personal favourite albums.

As a solo artists, his albums are always a surprise, because you’ll never know what to expect. Murray is always exploring different styles of electro-acoustic and experimental music: “switching things around when the time feels right.”

Eyes to the Height
, his seventh solo album, is “a ten chapter story reflecting the fragile beauty of life and loss, memory and function.”
It’s labeled ‘modern ambient’, but in fact it rises above a genre tag like that.
With the use of rhythms without losing the ‘ambient’ touch, this album manages to create a delicate balance of ‘pop’ and ‘ambient’ where many others have failed.

There’s a great attention to every detail: in sound production as well as in composition. The album is fully instrumental, but each of the ten pieces feels like a complete “song”.
Wouldn’t it be a nice experiment to create a vocal version of this album using these tracks? There are a lot of albums with instrumental versions of previously vocal tracks, but I’ve never seen that done the other way around.
It’s fun to think about where that would lead to. But let’s be clear: I don’t want to suggest that  something is ‘missing’ on this album. On the contrary!

There are only very few people capable of creating ‘quantum ambient’ music: music that is ambient and isn’t ambient at the same time.

Also on Spotify


A Moon That Lights Itself

MICHAEL BEGG – A MOON THAT LIGHTS ITSELF

In 2016, Michael Begg was commissioned to compose music based around the 19th century painter Charles François Daubignywho is considered an important precursor of Impressionism.
The music was performed in september at the Scotland National Gallery, by Michael Begg accompanied by cellist Clea Friend. After this performance, Begg completed the work in his studio.

A Moon that Lights Itself is dedicated to the work of Daubigny, who painted his nocturnal scenes from his  boat studio. It is conceptually linked to the invention of the phonautographthe earliest known device for recording sound, by Edouard-Lean Scott de Martinville in the same period (years before Edison’s phonograph!). The first ever recording of a human voice was Au Clair De La Lune.

That is a lot of conceptual background information, I know. But it helps to get the feel of this album, its atmospheres, and explains the reason for the ghostly Au Clair De La Lune theme in the track The Birth Of Modernism. 

You can trust Michael Begg to come up with a haunting album that matches this concept in every detail. Overall, the music is dark, like nocturnal music should be. But it’s not a darkness to be afraid of. It’s a darkness to dwell in… just imagine you’re drifting in a boat on a quiet lake, watching the night sky and the moon, and trying to capture that in painting.
Or in music.


Sunlit Plumes of Dust

FINGLEBONE – SUNLIT PLUMES OF DUST

Whitelabrecs (one of Harry Towell’s outlets of experimental electronic/acoustic music) rounds off its first year with this release by Finglebone, aka Adam VarneyAn album crossing the thin lines between folk/post-rock and electronic ambient. Adam’s finger-picking guitar adds a refreshingly bright sound to the imaginary landscapes, creating an “introspective world inhabited by the gosts of memories, the looming spectre of death and the passing of time.”

But it’s not a ‘dark’ album at all: the guitar strings, soundscapes and found sound mix is expressing “melancholy, reverie and the feeling of alienation.”
It’s a very personal album, “loosely based on Adam’s experience caring for his Grandfather during his final weeks. He witnessed how dementia would render him silent, lost in his own mind, but then release him back into reality.”

All but one of the eight tracks are instrumental pieces around 3-4 minutes in length. The exception to this is the 12 minute track Blazing Golden Sun, which features a poem by James E.M. Smith, “Grovely”, describing the local woods where Adam spent many hours as a child.

As usual for Whitelabrecs releases, the physical CDr edition has only 50 copies which will probably be gone soon.  

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