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Max Ananyev * Danny Clay

Water Atlas

Water Atlas


Serein may not be the most prolific label in the field (this is their second title for 2018), but when they release a new title you can be sure it is worth checking out. They combine quality control with a broad-minded view which means that each release bears new surprises and spans different genres.

Water AtlasMax Ananyev‘s first full album for Serein (his earlier two albums Communication and The Way To The Ocean were released by Preserved Sound) – for instance, can be labelled as an ‘ambient’ album for most part of it. But it breaks away from the usual constrictions of the genre by using acoustic instruments in a somewhat more ‘jazzy’ setting. A refreshing sound, different without breaking the atmosphere.

In his liner notes, St. Petersburg based Max Ananyev refers to the two words in the title:
“Water is always something mysterious, detached. Water has stirred the imagination of people. It erases civilisations from the face of the earth, is a panacea for mortal wounds and a portal to another world.”
An Atlas “awakens fantasy, lures you with the unusual landscapes of distant countries, invites you on a certain journey”. Places “you will never see in your life. Be you even the most fearless traveler or richest traveler. But these places can always find life in a person’s imagination.”

On Water AtlasMax Ananyev aims to take you to mysterious places hidden deep in your own imagination.

Danny Clay - Periphery


Periphery is the fourteenth release in the Slaapwel Records series, a now near-legendary Belgian label that is dedicated to‘music to fall asleep to’ and presents it releases in endearing hand-stitched covers. The label is now curated by Stijn Hüwels, who previously collaborated with Danny Clay on An Unintended Space– so it’s no big surprise that Clay is the next artist to this series.

What ís somewhat of a surprise, however, is the musical content of this edition.
Due to its conceptual nature, previous editions in the Slaapwel series were mostly of the soothing ambient / droney kind; electronic as well as acoustic. I simply expected Clay would continue this tradition set by previous contributors like Machinefabriek, Steinbrüchel, Greg Haines, Peter Broderick, Sonmi451, Simon Scott, The Boats and Gareth Davis (among others).
The four versions of Periphery (each one a different realization of the same score), however, present soft modern-classical chamber music scored for flute, cello and piano, with Danny Clay adding the ‘tones’.

It still perfectly fits the Slaapwel concept, especially since the score is repeated in slightly different versions. It is ‘sleepy’ music, based on unraveling “a simple tune Clay heard at his grandparents’ church as a child, leaving remnants to drift among each other and the original to loom as a kind of vague feeling at the edge of the senses”.

Periphery is not intended for active listening, it’s most rewarding if you just relax and let it flow. You might fall asleep in the process – never mind. But perhaps you won’t: like most of the other Slaapwel releases the music is a bit too beautiful to waste it by falling asleep…

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Capac * Strië




Their 2015 album was called Sea Freeze. Capac was a quartet then and the music was much more ‘poppy’ than ‘ambient’.
The follow-up album takes its title from a 1804 poem by Robert Couper: ‘Winter Morning’, and “comprises ten interpretations of the coldest traditional winter music in the form of dark drone and atmospheric ambience”. Four of these come in the form of short interludes of which the titles spell In – The – Bleak – Midwinter.
So maybe you’d best fetch an extra sweater before listening to this album….

It is a beautiful kind of cold, however. Describing it as dark drone and atmospheric ambience falls short, because the album presents different styles not limited to those two. There are (post-)classical instrumentals (especially in the harpsichord interludes), spoken word reciting fragments from the Winter Morning poem, and a captivating vocal arrangement on Lyke-Wake-Dirge.

CapacGary Salomon and Stuart Cookstays away from trodden paths and create their own original sound. AND an original physical edition too: the Deluxe Combustible Edition!

“A fire log with a metal plate hidden deep inside. After burning the log, among the ashes you will find your metal plate revealing instructions to access the original constructions of the traditional pieces of music, prior to their deconstruction. Destruction, after all, is a form of creation.”

The log edition is completed with an A4 print, a postcard, a 20 page booklet with sheet music and liner notes, and an exclusive track unavailable elsewhere.
Of course this edition is extremely limited and it’s definitely gone by now – but don’t let that stop you from listening to this remarkable release



Perpetual Journey is the fourth full album release by Strië, but it is the first on which she reveals her true identity: Strië is Polish composer and producer Olga Wojciechowska (which is her true name – she sometimes also uses Iden Reinhart).

Her second album for the Serein label is a kaleidoscopic array of styles one flowing naturally into the other:
“You feel the influence of contemporary modern classical music but without the airs and graces, she flirts with the notion of beat music, without ever introducing beats, there’s an infatuation with sound design and a vintage tone which brings to mind some of the best musique concrète.”

Perpetual Journey is inspired by Laika, the stray dog sent into space by Soviet Russia in the 50’s to prove that a living passenger could survive being launched into orbit. Only in 2002 it was revealed that – contrary to earlier official reports – Laïka had died from overheating within a few hours.
Laïka’s story is compassionately told and reflected in the titles like Test For Ability, Unseen Weight, To Never Return Home and of course the title track Perpetual Journey.

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Olivier Alary * Selffish


Olivier Alary


Fiction – Non-Fiction may be Olivier Alary‘s debut album under his own name for the Fat Cat / 130701 label, but that does not mean it’s his first work. The French (now Montreal-based) composer has previously released music as Ensemble (on Aphex Twin‘s Rephlex label, among others). Those releases grabbed the attention of Björk, for whom he later worked as a remixer and co-composer.

Fiction – Non-Fiction is a compilation of previously unreleased work for film soundtracks he composed in the last five years: music for China Heavyweight‘, ‘Up the Yangtze‘, ‘Jo pour Jonathan‘ and Corbo‘. In addition to this soundtrack material, there are two variations of the minimalist Pulses: one for percussion and one for wind instruments.

Coming from soundtracks mainly, it’s no surprise that the music is highly cinematic – especially since Alary can work with large ensembles, film orchestras, a string quartet, saxophonist (Erik Hove), pianist and arranger Johannes Malfattiand many, many other musicians.

The result is a lush, organic sound – and a remarkable variation of styles: piano solo pieces (Arrivée, Qin), modern classical compositions (Juanicas, Canon, Flooding), polyrhythmic minimal music (Pulses), pieces on par with the best of Johann Johansson and Max Richter. Ánd even some real ambient drone pieces like Khaltoum – and (my personal favourite track): Epilogue, closing the album with a floating choir slowly fading into silence.

The desolate album cover image may suggest otherwise, but the music on this album represents many different moods and styles. Definitely one for the list of favourites!

As a bonus, here’s an exclusive track for you to enjoy (nót included on the album).
Piscine is a short track in line with the other ambient pieces on the album:


(Note: The Bandcamp link below is for the digital version only. For physical editions click here)



There are only a few releases on the Serein label every year, but íf they decide to release a new album it’s a safe bet it ‘s worth investigating!

He She Them Us is their first title for 2017. It’s the debut release of the oddly named ‘Selffish‘  (Andrejs  Eigus from Riga, Latvia). His  debut for Serein, that is: Selffish previously released two full length albums on the Thinner netlabel in 2002 and 2004, which can still be downloaded from

The inspirations for He She Them Us  came from the countryside around the city of Riga, where Andrejs often went to find solace in its stillness and beauty, and where he recorded the field recordings that he later used to recreate these moments of reflection.
“Each time I went to visit a secluded corner of nature outside my hometown, I usually felt a strong desire to produce music. Especially when hearing the sounds again at home.”

Like many other releases on Serein,  He She Them Us is a hard to categorize because it merges many different things. There is plenty of ambience, field recordings and electronics (the label info recalls music from labels like Mille Plateaux, Raster Noton and City Centre Offices). On top of that there’s the carefully balanced live instrumentation (grand and electric piano, double bass, bowed strings, saxophone and guitar) adding a jazzy, warm, and loungey touch. and played with a perfect sense of detail.

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Various Various

Evidence of Intense Beauty

Evidence of Intense Beauty


The Audiobulb label succesfully proves the existense of intense beauty with the release of this compilation of ‘pioneers in the field of ambient microsound and modern classical’, each selecting a track that ‘represents their conceptual sense of beauty’.
Among the list of contributors are Clem Leek, Wil Bolton, Sawako, Taylor Deupree, Autistici, Richard Chartier, Ian Hawgood, Marcus Fischer, Monty Adkins, Antonymes, Listening Mirror (to name only a few) .

Paul Dresher once said that human attention and counsciousness works by “holding onto a certain amount of familiarity, and then introducing a certain amount of newness. “‘ When the familiarity and the newness are balanced, the experience may be one of intense beauty.”

“Beauty” is different for everyone of course, it’s in the eye of the beholder. But this music is specifically targeted at an audience that “actively engage with music and who want to be taken on a journey”.
“Each track takes the ingredients of minimalism coupled with a strong sense of tonality to produce a slowly evolving narrative.”
And for that audience, this equals beauty indeed.

With a clear conceptual vision like this, the  17 tracks (98 minutes) are not only ‘evidence of intense beauty’, but also proof of the label’s consistent quality.

Also on Spotify

 Tranquility 6   Tranquility 7


If you were into ‘ambient’ music in the 90’s, you’ll probably know the Silent (Records) label. If you discovered the genre later, you SHOULD know about the label, because it was hugely influential and set many standards in experimental electronics. Its founder and curator, Kim Casconeleft the label in 1996 to work as a sound designer for Thomas Dolby’s Headspace organisation. Without him, the label slowly disappeared until it finally shut down in 1998.

Early 2016, rumours emerged that a ‘renaissance’ was to be expected. One important part of this resurrection is the dedicated Silent Channel webstream on the famous Soma FM internet radio station, playing selections from the Silent catalog.
Another is the release of these two compilations: part 6 and 7 of the From Here To Tranquility series. Part 6 (16 tracks, 104 minutes) is available in a 2-CD version or digital download, while Part 7 is a download-only release because with its 24 tracks running 165 minutes it’s simply too massive for a physical edition.
Both editions are divided in a Light Disc and a Dark Disc, which is some indication about what atmospheres to expect.

“We shade our ambient in sound colors light and dark. Signals in and out of the calm and stillness of what is left unsaid. Treasured roadmaps. Coded experiments. We retouch the mindset of the past and turn to the future.”

The ‘renaissance’ collection simply picks up where the label left, with a lot of references to the original 90’s experimental ambient style while at the same time looking forward into new directions.
Although it is divided in two editions, it feels to me as one huge collection that immediately places the Silent label back in the forefront of experimental ambient music.
Welcome back, Kim!

Also on Spotify

Also on Spotify

Where Words Fail Music Speaks


A sad cause triggered fund-raising charity release: it is intended to help cover the cost of treatment of Ania Mehring, who was diagnosed with Sarcoma Synoviale, an exceptionally malignant tumor.
Ania is the wife of Maciej Mehring, founder of the Zoharum label – a label regularly featured on Ambientblog. Santa Sangre Magazine curated this massive 7 1/2 hour compilation (digital download-only obviously), for which many friends and related artists provided a previously unreleased track.

There are many obscure performers (at least for me) on the list, but many well-known artists too: Robert Rich, Biosphere, Troum, S.E.T.I., Machinefabriek, Phurpa, Cindytalk, Alio Die, Mathias Grassow, Dirk Serries and Celer – the latter closing the album with a beautiful warm and comforting 59 minute track called The Rest Remembered.

The majority of the 62 tracks are (experimental) ambient and drone tracks. Understandably, this is not a happy-go-lucky playlist: most of the music is dark and ominous, with a range from quiet calm to deafening noise. There’s a section of industrial and ‘neofolk’ tracks too. This set may seem a bit of an odd detour from the ambient selections – but they are clustered together (track 17 – 32) so they can easily be isolated to a full album – a collection within the collection.

Even if you probably won’t like all of it, there’s enough material to select a few hours of fascinating music for everyone (well, almost everyone). That’s a good enough reason to pay EUR 9.99 for this set. An even better reason is knowing that you support a good cause buying this album: help Ania get her necessary treatment and help her get better!

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

Orbital Planes

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


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.





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.


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Nest – Body Pilot


Starting out as a netlabel, distributing free releases such as the original Nest EPSerein took an unexpected sudden turn and resurfaced as a ‘standard’ label. 
Re-Told”  – a remastered version (with additional tracks) of the original Nest EP – was their incredible “initial”release and immediately set themselves a difficult high standard.

Re-Told was immediately and widely recognised as a classic release and got sort of legendary status for all those that found it. (To modestly illustrate this: the short review from 2009 has been on top of the ‘most read’ ambientblog list ever since).

(Only) Three other releases have followed since this initial masterpiece – and then, finally, a new Nest release calledBody Pilot”  was announced.

For those that did not know yet: Nest is Huw Roberts (Wales, Serein label owner) and Otto Totland (Norway, of Deaf Center fame). They have crafted a unique combination of acoustic piano and electronic ‘sample manipulation’ with additional field recordings. 

There are quite a lot of releases in this musical area, crossing over electronic sound art with acoustic post-classical romanticism – but what distinguishes Nest from a lot of other contemporary artist is their ability to create a delicate balance. Their music is sweet – but never too sweet.

To illustrate this: the opening track ‘Stillness’, with its quiet introvert piano theme, is quite different from Koretz’s Meteor, which is mainly electronic and starts with a a SF-like tension that is almost threatening. 

Roberts and Totland are not only mastering delicate balance, but also ‘restraint’: the piano parts are effective but modest, and the release only clocks 20 minutes (four tracks).

This may be the only downlside if this release: however fine they are, these delicate 20 minutes only leave us wanting for more.
So let’s hope that it won’t take another five years to see the next Nest release! 

Body Pilot” is released as a 10″ EP, as part of the Serein Seasons 10″ vinyl series. Limited to 500 worldwide – only a few copies left so hurry if you want the physical copy. For those that prefer digital, the music is also available in digital download format (MP3 as well as lossless FLAC). 

Nest – The Ultimate Horizon

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Olan Mill – Pine

Olan Mill is the name of the duo (Alex Smalley and Svitlana Samoylenko) presenting Pine, the long-awaited second release of the british Serein label.

Serein started out as a net-label a few years ago. Following the succes of their Nest-release they reformed completely, and re-released their greatest succes as “Retold” – one of the most praised (re-)releases of 2009/2010. (BTW – the Serein website does not mention it, but most of their netlabel releases – including the original NEST EP – can still be found on

Following up a release like that is not an easy task. But Olan Mill lives up to the expectations, without simply ‘copying’ the Nest success formula.

Olan Mill “A Heavy Leg Cycle” from Pine (2010)

Pine” is a relatively short album (10 tracks, 35 minutes – which nowadays seems to become a new sort of standard for CD length).
Few instruments were used in this recording: piano, violin, pipe organ and guitar. The sounds are not always easily recognisable as such, because of the reverb of the church they were recorded in (or maybe because of the post-processing).
Most of the tracks are somewhat more ‘abstract ambient’, which makes “Pine” stand out from the flood of recent post-classical ‘chamber music’ releases.
Still, the compositions are clearly romantic by nature, and the moments the piano (or violin) part takes its place in the foreground, it is immediately clear that Olan Mill are Nest “label-mates”.

If you favoured Nest‘s Retold, or if you enjoy anything from Olafur Arnalds to Stars of the Lid, Olan Mill‘s Pine should take a prominent place on your want-list.

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Nest – Retold


The Serein netlabel was founded in 2005 and released quite an impressing batch of quality ambient and electronic music. In 2007, Serein released it’s ‘flagship title’: the Nest EP.

Nest is the collaborative project of Otto Totland (Deaf Center; Type Records) and Huw Roberts (Serein Label owner).

The beauty of their music was quickly recognised, the blogosphere caught on and the EP was features in a lot of favourites-lists that year.

Then, early 2009, the Serein site closed down.

With the response to the Nest EP (and the other releases too, by the way, let’s not forget those!), Serein decided ‘to explore some commercial avenues’.

So here’s the good news: Serein’s rebirth will be a fact when Retold will be officially released on january 31, 2010.

Retold is a full cd completing the six tracks from the original EP (including a revised version of Cad Goddeu) with five new tracks of equal extraordinary beauty. Wheatstone , the track previewed here, is one of the new tracks.

Nest’s purpose is “to produce beautiful music free of pretense“.
In doing so, they have created a CD of impressively pure art.

You may be wondering what has happened to all the other great music Serein made available between 2005 and 2008? Well, in fact all music is still downloadable from This includes the original Nest EP so if you can’t wait till januari you can have your preview here.

But be sure to make Nest your starting point for exploring Serein by downloading some of the other titles too.

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The Inventors of Aircraft – Unknown Language


The Serein netlabel once again lives up to their expectations. With their latest release, ‘Unknown Language’ by The Inventors of Aircraft, the label now offers 17 free album downloads. All of which are quality ambient music, albeit in different styles.
The latest one (#17) is “Unknown Language” by “The Inventors of Aircraft”.

As you may notice, that’s ‘Aircraft’…not ‘Aircrafts’. In fact, there’s only one ‘Inventor of Aircraft’ called Phil Tomsett.

The artwork of this release does not provide very much information, but checking out reveals some of the binay code displayed.

“These obscure symbols lend themselves well to the music, for ‘Unknown Language’ has very definite leanings towards the world of science and indeed science fiction. The album has a vast, almost monolithic sound that builds relentlessy. On the track ‘Passing’ it is not difficult to imagine that the title may be a reference to some gargantuan satellite, a slow paced yet immovable object casting a shadow over some desolate alien landscape far below.
The pieces meld into one another flitting between earthy and organic soundscapes to more overtly electronic and droney pieces.”

(release info)

Compared to the NEST release, this music is more electronic, although the occasional clicks and pops definitely give it a “natural” feeling.

I can heartily recommend downloading it. As I do for all other Serein releases.

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Nest – Nest

Ambient music collectors no longer visit the local record shop to find the latest releases. Most of the times, the titles are not even stocked. Still, the genre is lively and growing bigger than it ever was. Not through the ‘old’ distribution channels and brick and mortar shops, but through the internet mostly. This weblog only covers a small tip of the iceberg of the music available.

There are quite a lot specialised webshops online (if you got any tips for readers to share, please use the react link below and share it with us), and there are a lot netlabels that release the music – purely out of passion for it.
Sometimes for a small fee (a direct support of the artists), but often for free. And if you think that ‘free’ music must be inferior hobbyist music, here’s the proof that it isn’t:
try the Serein netlabel. And especially try their NEST release.

Nest is the collaborative project of Otto Totland (Deaf Center / Type Records) and Huw Roberts (Serein). If you want names to compare: their music sounds like music from people like Harold Budd, Goldmund/Helios, Murcof and even Biosphere (on this track featured here: Cad Goddeu).

It’s beautiful atmospheric and it’s feel is more organic than electronic.
With netlabels offering music like this, who needs record companies??

Nest – Cad Goddeu

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