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The National Pool * Andrew Sherwell * R Beny

National Pool

National Pool


“Only 100 copies survived”.

If you still weren’t convinced by the package, with the text in untranslated Russian language, the Farewell Message from the intro leaves no doubt: these are recordings from a past era, when “even enemies recognized that in our country [Russia] for the first time in history a society is built that is in a strong alliance with the future.”
The proud and successful era when the “moon stations made their incredible flights! The atomic icebreaker was put into operation and the construction of the world’s largest nuclear power plants is successfully happening.”

It’s hardly surprising that those were times that this strange and somewhat alienated music was composed by an unnamed “U.S.S.R. ambient composers alliance” to “equip our Cosmonaut comrades with these sounds. They intent for solo space travels, mind sharpening and concentration.”
This release breathes Retro in every tiny detail: from its release format (cassette – the digital download has all of its analog tape hiss too), its enigmatic cover, its liner notes about Russian past time space travel successes.

It’s a beautiful and convincing analog retro sound, but doubt creeps in. Would the Russian composers alliance (or anybody else, for that matter) really be able to create sounds like these in the late 50’s? Seems doubtful. Listen to the recordings of this era’s most progressive acoustic experiments as created by the Philips NatLab composers and you’ll hear the difference.
From there, it probably doesn’t take long to realise that the structure of the pieces is that of more contemporary electronics. And it fairly easy to find out that The National Pool is a somewhat enigmatic Electronica-Rock/Ambient outfit with Bradley White as its single band member (although not of his/their releases are mentioned on Discogs, they can be found on Bandcamp).

Infraction Records did an impressive conceptual job with this release, where every detail is worked out perfectly. But it’s not  ‘just’ the concept that works: the music is great too. Timeless, enigmatic, quiet, and somewhat out of this world.
It may still take some time before we people can travel into space personally, but in the meantime this is perfect to pretend we can.
Ánd it will definitely help sharpening your mind and concentration‘!

Andrew Sherwell - Orthodox Tales


Tracks covered in a hazy mist of hiss, noise and crackle – as if the music comes to you from long forgotten times. Or from far away: this album is inspired by the tales of Andrew Sherwell‘s grandfather, who travelled the Balkans, Central Europe,the Caucasus and South Russia during the turmoil of the inter-war period.
And told bedtime-tales of these adventures to his grandson Andrew: tales of the people he met and their folk tales, of days lost in endless forests, of nights camped out on a sea of grasslands when the frost was so hard that his blanket twinkled in the moonlight, as brightly as the myriad stars above. He told of feasting with mountain goat herders and with Orthodox Bishops, of shape-shifting shaman and of beautiful Princesses, of demons and of angels in human form.”
Andrew would slowly fall asleep while his grandfather lowered his voice, drifting away into his own fantasy versions of these strange and magical lands.

Andrew Sherwell perfectly captures these moments in sound and is able to transfer this to the listener. Sounds from a mysterious faraway world, images from somewhere in-between reality and imagination. Somewhat tensive, yet also very attractive.



Saudade is a Portuguese word describing: “a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return. […] It was once described as ‘the love that remains after someone is gone’, or a ‘memory of something with a desire for it'”

Usually saudade is associated immediately with Portuguese music, but R Beny (real name: Austin Cairns) shows that this feeling can also very well be conveyed using cassette tape loops, modular synths, a Novation Peak (synth) and added field recordings from California.

On this Dauw release (you know them by now – the cassette releases with the Belgian label’s characteristic bright-coloured artwork) Beny re-creates “forest drives, coastal cliffs, lost loves, aged memories like light gleaming through the trees.” The cassette version is sold out by now, but the digital download can still help you find out how Saudade may feel.

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Various Compilations

Music For Elevators

The end of a year is a popular moment to release a (label) compilation. Sometimes to look back, sometimes to look ahead…. and sometimes just because it’s compilation time. Here’s an (incomplete!) overview of some recent compilations presenting hours (and more hours) of listening pleasure.

Illuminations II


Dronarivm kicks off with this New Year Charity Compilation. No less than 30 track and almost three hours of music, priced ridiculously low to begin with… but of course you will want to pay more because of the amount of music, ánd because the profits go to 4Paws for Ability, an organisation that ‘enriches the lives of children with disabilities by training and placing quality, task-trained service dogs.’
(You can also donate directly of course, but why would you when you’re offered a batch of quality music in the process?)

The thirty artists presented here show why Dronarivm has become one of the most important labels in the ambient/experimental electronic genre. It’s an impressive array of which I will only mention a few names: Aaron Martin, Bruno Sanfilippo, Loscil, Jacaszek, Machinefabriek, Endless Melancholy, Legiac, Offthesky, Olan Mill, Sven Laux, Anne Chris Bakker, Antonymes, Giulio Aldinucci, Pleq, Hakobune, Pausal Chihei Hatakeyama. And that are just 17/30.

Even more impressive is the fact that all these tracks are exclusive – they have not appeared on earlier releases before. So this is what we call a ‘no-brainer’!
If you missed the first (2017) edition of Illuminations with another 28 tracks, you can still download it. It is a Name-Your Price release, but I strongly suggest to double your donation for Illuminations II. Simply because.


Tranquility 8


On a somewhat darker note, we find #8 in the From Here To Tranquility series on Silent Recordscurated and founded by Kim Cascone. Not specifically an end-of-year release, by the way, but edition 8 in the From Here To Tranquility series.

This edition ‘addresses the pervasive darkness we find in the world today’, and does so with 80 minutes of contemplative soundscapes with a retro-touch by Scott Gibbons, Kris Force, Chris Meloche, Dead Voices on Air, Michal Seta, Pragma, David Metcalfe, Legion Of Green Men, Aume, Meterpool, Mike Rooke and David Lee Myers.
Not the most familiar names perhaps, and the music can be quite different in nature (a quiet atmospheric field recording track by Chris Meloche can easily be followed by a rather aggressive noise track from Dead Voices on Air), but you can simply count on Kim Cascone’s experience in selecting quality sounds.



Not exactly a year-in-retrospect compilation, but an album to celebrate the twelve years of existence since Yann Novak relaunched his father’s record label Dragon’s Eye Recordings. The ‘steel’ in the title is ‘named after the traditional eleventh anniversary gift (due to miscalculation and a love for the cover art by Jake Muir)’.

‘variety of styles, processes, practices, techniques, and most importantly points of view’ is presented in this Name-Your-Price download featuring unreleased tracks by artists that recently released work on the label. Such as: Steve Pacheco, Tobias Hellkvist, Robert Crouch, Yann Novak, Jake Muir, Fabio Perletta, Geneva Skeen, Mark Kate and wndfrm.

78 Minutes of sheer minimalist joy.

Rusted Tone Sampler


Rusted Tone Recordings does not look back to 2017 because it did not exist in 2017. It is a new independent label, curated by James Armstrong‘specialising in ambient, drone and experimental music’.

Judged by this introduction sampler the label will definitely be worth keeping an eye on: it introduces artists that will be releasing albums on Rusted Tone in the coming year.
Think: Darren Harper, James Osland, Wil Bolton, Green Kingdom, Spheruleus – along less familiar names like Gallery Six & Oblivia, Net, Kepier Widow, Saltings and Kevin Buchland.
Suffices to say this introduction succeeds in raising interest for the label!

This, too, is a Name-Your-Price download if you want. But please keep in mind that proceeds ‘will go towards supporting physical releases and sustaining Rusted Tone Recordings.’

Grenzwellen I


A somewhat different beast (and with that I mean considerably less ambient) is this massive compilation supporting the German radio show Grenzwellen,  hosted by Ecki Stieg and broadcasted on Radio Hannover.
Grenzwellen started in 1987 so it exists for more than thirty years now! It can be heard every wednesday for three hours starting at 9 pm CET via the Radio Hannover livestream.

But even if you can’t listen to their show this compilation is a great introduction to the music that can be heard on this show. Almost 4 hours of all kinds of experimental/electronic music in a mix of well- and lesser-known artist. I won’t mention them all, but here are just a few of the names that I recognise: Giulio Aldinucci, Gabi Delgado, Ulrich Schnauss, CEEYS, Marsen Jules Trio (with a 15 minute string version of Étoiles de la Nuit), Bersarin Quartett, Bartosz Dziadosz, Hecq, Arovane,Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Sven Laux, Sankt Otten, Markus Guentner, Richard Chartier, Hotel Neon. 31 Tracks, and most of them previously unreleased.

Grenzwellen host and compilation curator Ecki Stieg advises to play the compilation in its entirety: “please listen in the order given. Don’t use the random button!.”

Music For Elevators


And, while on the subject of massive compilation projects this one cannot stay unmentioned. Only recently I became aware of a series of (free download) releases by the Mahorka netlabel called “Music for Elevators.A nice reference to many ambient “Music for …” releases,  as well as to ‘Elevator Music’ – which is usually referring to anonymous ‘Muzak‘.

The first edition of this series was released way back in 2002, followed by Vol. 2 in 2005, Vol. 3 in 2007, Vol. 4 in 2012. The three-part set Vol. 5, which is said to conclude the series, was released in 2017 (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

You can still find the complete set online: the first four editions can be found on (free downloads), the three-part Vol. 5 on Bandcamp (Name-Your-Price).  So that is quite an impressive batch of unknown music to discover. Unknown – because in the tradition of netlabels, Mahorka presents the work of artists that are largely unknown – with the occasional exception depending on how ‘deep’ you are into the scene.

“You are on board for a pushing all kinds of boundaries trip through what ambient music can be and what can be ambient music.”
‘Ambient’ is not a very strict definition here, probably ‘experimental electronic’ would have been a more appropriate label. There are quite a few tracks that would probably scare the hell out of any ordinary citizen who got stuck in an elevator. But in a collection like this, everyone will find a lot of sounds to his/her liking!

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Ken Camden; Sense; Purejunk; Seabat; 70 Years of Sunshine

Krank 180

‘Electronic music’ sound design is often searching for ‘new’ and (if possible) previously unheard sounds.
But others prefer to look back – back to the time when electronic music was a new frontier to be crossed, the time when the sounds of (analog) electronic music was automatically related to space travel.
Here’s a roundup of some new retro sounds.

Ken Camden - Space Mirror

On this second release for the Kranky label, Ken Camden “allows the listener to be suspended in a gravity free environment”.
You may not immediately recognise it, but his ‘vessel of choice’ is the guitar, electronically modified into pulsating loops and sequences that “could be a soundtrack to an epic 60’s science-fiction film, or a long forgotten grade school educational film strip explaining how humans would be living on Mars early in the 21st century”.
“Back to the Future” is simply the most appropriate description here!

Ken Camden – Antares

Sense - The Dream

The darker droning of the first first tracks do not immediately reveal it, but when the sequencer patterns slowly begin to surface it’s clear that Adam Raibeck also draws his inspiration from the rich history of electronic music. The view of the future is considerably darker here, yet for Adam “this album is about the constant realisation of ‘reality’ and the ‘dream’…”
At the time of writing, only 12 physical copies of this limited release are still available. But luckily the download version will remain after that.

Sense – Nonlineareally

Pure Junk - Dreamachine

(*) Release date – september 9, check Pedigree Cuts label website for details.
Including this album in a ‘retro overview’ like this particular post does not exactly do it justice, since it does not ‘just’ draws its inspiration from the past.
This album is as eclectic as the music of the artists that Tim ‘Purejunk’ Handels has shared the Crammed Disc label with in the past: artists like Hector Zazou, John Lurie, Fred Frith but also Carl Craig, Kevin Saunderson and Juryman clearly left some of their inspiration for him to use.
Flowing from retro-style synth sequences to melancholic piano intermezzo’s and warm guitar tracks, this albums offers “Sixty minutes of pure, unadulterated daydreaming, a stream of consciousness, ranging from pure and awe inspiring musical imagery to dark and mysterious ethereal realities. The sounds are musical alpha waves and sensory soundtracks, each coming from a different emotion, from a different place”.

Purejunk – Aural Evolution (Mute)

Scattered Disc

With the opening sounds like a soundtrack from a Hollywood multi-million-dollar production, NYC ambient duo Seabat introduce their ‘full length space opus’, claiming your full attention.The cinematic reference is clear, since their inspiration comes from filmmakers Tarkoswsky and Kubrick and ‘cosmic synth pioneers Vangelis, Tangerine Dream and Cluster’.
Name-dropping is always dangerous, especially if you drop names like these, but Seabat live up to their claims, taking ‘the listener into the cold reaches of outer space – where the views are awe-inspiring and beautiful, but ultimately inhospitable to humanity’.

70 years of sunshine

From Outer Space right back to you Inner Conscience: celebrating the 70th anniversary of Dr. Albert Hoffman‘s accidental discovery of the effects of LSD in 1943.
70 YEARS OF SUNSHINE is the follow up of 1993’s remarkable 50 Years of Sunshine” compilation, once more compiled and curated by Kim Cascone.
Judging by the numbers alone, he probably should’ve wait another five years to make the jump from 75 on to 100, but listening to this album album I’m glad he didn’t.
To be honest I have no experience in using LSD (and no desire to do so), but these two albums (divided into ‘Ascent‘ and ‘Descent‘, obviously) clearly are an enjoyable auditory equivalent to a psychedelic acid trip.
Kim Cascone 
has managed to build an incredible line-up, with contemporary artists as well as some firmly rooted in the history of psychedelica. Too much to mention, so just a selection: Legendary Pink Dots, Andrew Liles, Makyo, Chihei Hatakeyama, Rafael Anton Irisarri, Rapoon, Mystical Sun, and a host of (for me) unfamiliar names.
“Consider ’70 years of Sunshine’ to be a much-anticipated software update. One that will hopefully make your auditory operating system run smoother and more colorfully.”

Legendary Pink Dots – Don’t Worry Dear, I’ll be Holding Your Hand

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