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Lawrence English * Monolog & Subheim * Pinkcourtesyphone

Monologue & Subheim - Conviction

Cruel Optimism


Can ambient music be politically or socially engaged? Raising the question is answering it: yes, of course.
But if you’re in doubt consult Lawrence English – and his latest album release in particular.
Cruel Optimism could hardly have been released at another time-frame than the current, I think.
And although English tries all he can to focus on the ‘optimism’, things are not looking too good. ‘Cruel’ has taken over – almost.

Cruel Optimism is a confronting, hard-hitting album, and not exactly easy listening. But, contrary to some others in the ‘power-ambient’ scene who enjoy turning up all amps up to eleven and leave it there or even try to stretch it up to twelve, Lawrence English never forgets that a real story needs dynamics.
Tension and release.
Suspense can be a lot more frightening than horror.

Cruel Optimism “meditates on how power consumes, augments and ultimately shapes two subsequent human conditions: obsession and fragility.[…] A meditation on the challenges [of current times] and an encouragement to press forward towards more profound futures. This record is one of protest against the immediate threat of abhorrent possible futures.”

Unlike many of his previous projects, this album is a result of interchanging ideas and perspectives of many other artists. Among the many collaborators on this album are Norman Westberg (guitar), Tony Buck (drums), Brodie McAllister (trombone), Heinz Riegler (guitar), Chris Abrahams (piano), Mats Gustafsson (saxophone), a choir of Australian Voices, and many others. But you’ll probably have a hard time to distinguish their particular contributions, because they all have been subjected to English’ musical vision.
A vision that tells us that the future may look grim and dark, but it’s our own inescapable responsibility to make the best of it.

Also on Spotify

Monologue & Subheim - Conviction


That last sentence above is also a seamless introduction to Conviction, a collaborative work from Monolog (Mads Lindgren) and Subheim (Kostas Katsikas).

Conviction is dark and heavy yet full of light and hope, expressing the closing of important chapters and the beginning of new ones”

Monolog and Subheim are both Berlin residents. The atmosphere of the city has been a source of inspiration: “Berlin’s night sky, the urban scenery, faces and places, action and reaction, the calm before the storm as well as the storm itself.”

The ‘ambience’ of this relatively short album (5 tracks, 24 minutes) is provided by Subheim mainly, Monolog‘s drum rhythms and slow basslines make sure that we don’t lose connection with earth and the Berlin cityscapes. The thundering rhythms from the first tracks slowly dissolve until, in the closing track Colorful Flight we finally drift away into more etheric dimensions.

Also on Spotify


Taking into account ....


The music of Richard Chartier in his Pinkcourtesyphone disguise is usually rather dark, but never without humor. But that does not mean the music is to be taken lightly… humor can be a serious matter!

The music bears reference to music from The Caretaker, Angelo Badalementi, William Basinski and stuff like that. But this namedropping like this is a bit offensive, since it could also be the other way round: Richard Chartier himself is a reference artist… top shelf when it comes to experimental electronic music. 

Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Richard Chartier and Pinkcourtesyphone show different aspects of the same personality.
Pinkcourtesyphone is a more emotional, dare one say musical side of his work. Dark but not arch, with a slight hint of humor. Amorphous, changing, and slipping in and out of consciousness.”
There have been many collaborations with diverse artists like Cosey Fanni Tutti, Kid Congo Powers, William Basinski and dutch harpist Gwyneth Wentink. 

Taking Into Account… is a solo project, a set of “new coded messages of sumptuous distant drones and glacial orchestral heartrendings” are “poised and polished slow motion pulsations tug at your emotions (but only a portion of them)”.
One that comes with slightly ominous instructions: “Please don’t hang up. This call is important. You’re coming with Pinkcourtesyphone… leave everything… it’s getting late.”
Unnecessary instructions, by the way, because once you start listening it’s impossible to hang up.

(Trivia detail: dedicated readers/listeners may recognise the samples in Reference Point Intermission 1 and 2: the original Reference Point was generously submitted as one of the track for last year’s Ambientblog Anniversary Collection)

Also on Spotify

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Atom TM; Pinkcourtesyphone & Gwyneth Wentink; Chihei Hatakeyama & Corey Fuller; Hakobune

Apsidal Motion


Uwe Schmidt, alias Atom™ (not to mention the hundreds of different aliases he operates under) releases the second of the Texturen (Textures) series. At least I hope it’s gonna be a series, because Texturen I was a great work, and Texturen II is as good – if not even better.
This second part of Atom™‘s “minimalist, ambient magnum opus, airdrops you into a void of undulating sonic modulation with nothing but the dream of silent huskies for company”.  The “maestro of harnessing non-repetitive repetition takes that to a psychedelic extreme, constructing a smooth, digital crystal within the stereo field.

With a relatively simple setup (using only a Roland D-50 and a Quantec Yardstick), Schmidt proves again that he’s a true wizard of sound.
The piece starts with a drone based on sub-low frequencies so thick that you can almost lie down on it (so be sure to listen on a set with some serious speakers!), a minimalist drone with subtle shifting patterns to concentrate upon. Later in the piece (from around 22 minutes) the music breaks away from the drone and modulates into different textures, some of them humming – and pulsating – like large industrial machines. Before closing, the low frequencies almost make your ears feel like in an aeroplane rapidly descending. And then, at 54 minutes, it suddenly stops. Too soon.

It is hard to believe that this soundscape is created by the same guy that released the unforgettable albums of Senor Coconut, but it is…. you simply cannot underestimate the genius of Uwe Schmidt.


I only recently found out about this album, which was released in january of this year. Which means that – no surprise – the physical edition has sold out by now. I still want to mention it because the digital version remains available, ánd because of the rather unusual combination of ambient drones and harp.

Richard ‘Pinkcourtesyphone‘ Chartier teams up with Dutch harpist Gwyneth Wentink for this EP-length (19 minutes) piece called Elision. Wentink is an internationally acclaimed harpist, who performed audio-visual versions of Terry Riley’s In C and Simeon Ten Holt’s Canto Ostinato (one of the greatest and most performed Dutch modern classical/minimal compositions) – among many other activities.

Elision means ‘the omission of an unstressed vowel or syllable in a verse to achieve a uniform metrical pattern’, so this particular piece is not only about what is played, but also about what is left out. Her harp sounds different – sharper? brighter? – than usual, because she is playing a triple harp: a replica of a harp from around 1600 made of 3 rows of strings instead of the commong single row.
Her (improvisation) is craftfully manipulated and merged with Pinkcourtesy‘s drones ‘under and over a hazy sonic shroud of worn romance and phobophobia.”


More minimal drones from the prolific Chihei Hatakeyama, this time in collaboration with Corey Fuller (one half of Illuha).
plays pipe organ on three of the four tracks, and an analog MS20 synth on the fourth. His droes are wrapped in Chihei’s soft guitar drones and together they weave a very – very – relaxing sonic blanket.
Euphotic, by the way, refers to the uppermost layer of a body of water that receives sufficient light for photosynthesis and the growth of green plants.’

Apsidal Motion

Also released on Chihei Hatakeyama’s White Paddy Mountain label is Apsidal Motion: Hakobune‘s latest title in his extensive discography.
It is a single 42 minute minimalist drone, ‘inspired from such beauty of a starlit sky of Nigata (country side of Japan)’, created (as usual) with electric guitar sounds transformed to unrecognisable floating drones.
There’s not much happening, but that is intentional: the music intends to pull the listener ‘into some sort of long dreamtime’.
Physical orders also include a bonus CDR with a 21 minute liveset from Nishiwaki.

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Pinkcourtesyphone; Triac; Chelidon Frame; Max Corbacho

Future Terrain

Three Themes

“Music for wine time”… which, according to the titles of the first two tracks Afternoon Theme and Evening Theme, covers the afternoon as well as the eveningBoth themes are extended (23 minute) and revised versions of work from 1997.
The third track 62000 Valentines (envelope version) is the extended version of a track that previously appeared on A Ravishment of Mirror.
The first two tracks are perfect if you’re in a ‘Basinski state of mind’: endless loops of a single simple phrase, showly shifting the background into the foreground, almost unnoticeably changing – like the light during wine time.
62000 Valentines 
is different: the sound of a vinyl runout-groove gradually gets accompanied by a very deep (Thomas Köner-like) drone background that slowly becomes unavoidable and all-encompassing.

Also on Spotify

Discogs lists a few acts under the same name – in a diversity of musical fields – , but this particular Triac refers to the Italian trio consisting of Rossano Polidoro (laptop, also known from TU M’), Marco Seracini (piano, synth) and Augusto Tatone (electric bass).
Days is their second album, and their debut on the Line label.
Their work explores “the relations between sound/space atmosheres and natural elements” – in this particular case by means of “dazzling yet smooth distant drones that almost hover in the air. The sound of the slowest moving picture and subtle flickering lights beyond it”.
Starting out with a ‘classic’ drone (almost like the drone of an Indian raga) the next days explores different drone variations, some lighter (Day Three), some darker (Day Six) – but without losing the reassuring calmness of pure timeless beauty.

Also on Spotify

Chelidon Frame
The first album by Alessio Premoli (Chelidon Frame) (exploring “sounds, noises, drones and minimalism, from an ambient point of view”) shows an interesting diversity in sound: from incorporating musique concrete to ‘circular guitar riffs’ and electronic drums and speech manipulations in ‘Cosmic Hypnosis’. His contributions for IFAR (Institute for Alien Research) “question some of the modern visions on concrete music”.
The longest track (11 min) on this free download album is Antarctica: “The white loneliness of one of the last deserts approached through the waves of a deep blue ocean.”. This particular track was chosen as part of a ‘sonic ambulation project’ “” in the 2014 fifth Marrakech Biennale: it was broadcast inside the city taxis “to give the opportunity to experiment a different view of the sonic ambient of the city.”
Remembering my brief experience with Marrakech taxis, that must’ve been quite some alienation experience!

Also on Spotify

Future Terrain
“Ultra low, extended bass tones and organ-like massive sound waves flowing in a continuous, dark, pitch black loop”.
Future Terrain is offered as a Name Your Price download, but only for a limited time. It was created to listen at a low (‘subliminal’) level, but things may possibly start to shake uncontrollably when you play it loud.

Splendid Labyrinths

The 58 minute futuristic sci-fi landscape was created as a ‘by-product’ – parallel emerging tracks – at the sessions for Corbacho‘s  new full album Splendid Labyrinthswhich will see its release on May 15.
The six long tracks of Splendid Labyrinths (73 minutes) are considerably less dark than Future Terrain, but the stretched layers of ‘space music synths’ are indeed a good place to immerse yourself in and get lost.
This is the follow up to 2012’s Ocean Inside, and continues Corbacho’s search for “new harmony structures and calm spaces”. 


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Pinkcourtesyphone – Description of Problem

Line eg 03

Richard Chartier – composer, sound artist, designer, LINE label curator – has released over 30 critically acclaimed albums under his own name since 1998, building himself an unrivaled status in the ‘reductionist’ electronic sound art field.

As Pinkcourtesyphone, he has released released music since 2012 with a somewhat different angle – the alias giving him some space for a slightly ‘looser’ approach:

“Pinkcourtesyphone is a more emotional, dare one say musical side of his work.
Pinkcourtesyphone is dark but not arch, with a slight hint of humor.
Pinkcourtesyphone is amorphous, changing, and slipping in and out of consciousness.
Pinkcourtesyphone operates like a syrup-y dream and strives to be both elegant and detached.”

Description of Problem is Pinkcourtesyphone’s fifth full CD album, and though it is presented with the usual relativisation, it will probably haunt you and your dreams for a long time.

The atmosphere is set by Chartier’s soundscapes (which are perfectly mastered by Stefan Betke, a.k.a. Pole). He (Richard Chartier) “monitors the call, offering the sounds of chiffon rustling, the buzzing void of messages never received, and the fey wonder of calculated desire and boredom.”

But the list of vocal collaborators “who join Pinkcourtesyphone’s party line for obsession and revenge musings and ache all down the wires” is what makes this album a definite classic.

Spoken word and musings are contributed by no less than William Basinski, AGF (Antye Greie-Ripatti), Cosey Fanni Tutti (Chris & Cosey, Throbbing Gristle, CTI), Kid Congo Powers (Gun Club, Cramps, Bad Seeds), and Evelina Domnitch.

At times, it’s as if the spirit of Nico hovers around (maybe partially due to the use of German language).
From the very first minutes this album grabs you, and it doesn’t let go until it finished 68 minutes later, loosening its grip with the cinematic string pad chords of “I Wish You Goodbye”, with Evelina Domnitch.

Still, the first thing that may come to mind after that is “I want more … everything … maybe too much”

(Darkroom version)
with Kid Congo Powers

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Pinkcourtesyphone; Inventors of Aircraft; Julien Demoulin; An Moku; Esa Ruoho

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.

Elegant & Detached


Pinkcourtesyphone – Elegant & Detached
I had not realised until now that Pinkcourtesyphone is actually Richard Chartier – sound artist and curator of the LINE-label (more about that later).
This is the second full release from Pinkcourtesyphone in 2012, together with “Foley Folly Folio”. Compared to the works he releases under his own name, the Pinkcourtesyphone obviously gives room for some more playful, associative and humorous soundscapes, or “much more open to accident, failure, surprise and emotional/ironic juxtaposition of things” as he stated in the Headphone Commute interview. But that does not mean these soundscapes should not be taken seriously: they are very adventurous and cinematic, so this 70 minute album is a delightful pleasure to listen to.
“The callers voice whispers a wistful yet false love-letter to the cinema of aesthetics from a distant place concerning the things you did… and things you need to have done.”

Inventors of Aircraft

Inventors of Aircraft – Where the Light Stops
For those of you that like their physical releases packed as luscious hand-made artwork, Time Released Sound offers a wealth of limited and exclusive releases. This Inventors of Aircrafts (Phil Tomsett) release is their latest to make you drool. But fortunately it’s not just the package that’s impressive…
“The album was inspired by the atmospheres of old abandoned train stations in remote parts of England. Part reflection on the decline of the British Rail Network since privatisation- whether for good or bad an era of British culture and industry was consigned to history – and part imaginative speculation of what stories these now forgotten places might tell.”


Julien Demoulin – Shine EP
25 minutes of soft, warm, introspective guitar-based ambience, available both on tape and digitally. Featuring collaborations from Andria Degens (aka Pantaleimon) as well as Damian Valles. Four relatively short tracks are somewhat of an introduction to a beautiful soothing 23 minute “Song To Help You Sleep”.


An Moku – Mononocle

The literal translation from the Japanese “Anmoku” is “tacit, unsaid, implicit”, conveying that an idea or thought cannot be put into words but is subconsciously understood. An Moku is also the musical alias of Dominik Grenzler from Poland.
” The intention of “MONONOCLE” is to make new structures out of captured sounds by remixing them. The result sounds almost like a kind of beats, altered violin synth sounds or vinyl scratches. Sometimes like a female voice whispering incomprehensibly or even like coal-shoveling down in an old scary mine! It is like listening to repeating sounds in different ways without recognising the source sound.”
More than half of the Mononocle album is taken up by the 45 minute soundscape called “Stockwerk”. An Moku’s own blog contains a track-by-track description in The Making of Mononocle”.

Esa Ruoho

Esa Ruoho – On The Hangar of Spaceship Earth
Of all five releases mentioned here, this is definitely the most ‘spaced out’ one – as the title and the cover image may already have indicated.
Esa Juhani Ruoho is a Finnish artist that also operates under the Lackluster alias, among other. On The Hangar of Spaceship Earth presents 77 minutes of rather fierce electronic soundscapes. No quiet floating around in space on most of them: Spaceship Earth is definitely under heavy repair.
These soundscapes are designed to play loud, but at the same time they are subtle compositions. Ruoho avoids the trodden paths paths and chooses his own way to move forward.
And more good newsis that this is a FREE download from the Mahorka netlabel!
Mahorka may be worth checking out in more detail: since this Esa Ruoho release on July 10, 2012 (Nikola Tesla‘s birthday) another 12 releases already have followed!

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