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Andrew Heath * Sonmi451 * Sven Laux

Soundings

Soundings

ANDREW HEATH – SOUNDINGS  Also on Spotify

Soundings is released almost simultaneously with Lichtzinhis collaboration with Anne Chris Bakker, who also makes his appearance on a few tracks (Winter on Noorderhaven and Happenstance).
So it is no coincidence these two albums are alike in their contemplative atmosphere.

Soundings is a remarkably long album (9 tracks, 95 minutes – the last two tracks are bonus tracks that not on the CD-version but are included in the download that comes with it) for which Andrew Heath is inspired by ‘the quiet sounds of people within interior spaces – footsteps, talking, even whispering – the sound of voices that are often rendered so faint and that are buried so deep that they become unintelligible, simply leaving a trace of speech.’
The found sounds and field recordings are embedded in soothing musical textures, ‘set against quiet piano phrases and shimmering electronic treatments.’

The soft piano sounds and patterns on some tracks (Speedwell Blue, Happenstance) more than once reminded me of those on Brian Eno’s 1-1 (on Music for Airports). Quiet, contemplative, generative motifs that perfectly fit the surroundings.
But, unlike Eno’s generative projects, Heath‘s music is not intended to be ‘ignorable’ (‘… as well as interesting’). Each track has a different instrumentation, and solo instruments (like the cello played by Stéphane Marlot, and the clarinet played by Bill Howgego) are clearly placed in the foreground. Some details are presented much louder than the accompanying sounds, giving extra dynamics to the soundscapes.

Together with Lichtzin, this album is definitely one of this year’s personal favorites. Sometimes described as lower-case music, but I clearly prefer to use capitals for releases like this!


Panta Rei

SONMI451 – PANTA REI

The prestigious Eilean Rec label’s releases are referring to a map with 100 points – ‘each point is associated to a number. Each number to a release. Each release will fill an area on the map around one point, giving it colors, relief & details. Once 100 releases are done, the map will be full, the label will end.’
Eilean have released a continuous string of great releases, so seeing that this Sonmi451 release was numbered #99 scared me a bit. Are we close to completeness?
But fortunately the release numbers are not sequential; they refer to a specific point on the map. If I’m correct this is the 63rd release so we can expect some more before it’s over… phew!

The Eilean map is an imaginary one, but Bernard ‘Sonmi451‘ Zwijzen’s (tenth) album is also dedicated to  ‘the rivers and streams, crossing the exquisite mountain-landscape of the Alps and Dolomites in the beautiful region of Southern Tirol.’
Like these rivers and streams, Zwijzen’s music is refreshing and bright – ‘exploring the inner aspects of sound and stillness, the cracks and loopholes that exist between sounds.’
His unique choice of instruments and sounds (like the harp and the whispered vocals) have become his trademark sound, a sound unrivalled.

Another pearl in the collection of the label as well as in Sonmi451‘s discography!

Sonmi451 – Brenta
 

(Oh… and to avoid disappointment: with this particular concept the label has become very popular among collectors, so the sad news is that the physical editions sell out in no-time. As did this one: sold out even before the release date. But the digital download remains).

 


Sven Laux

SVEN LAUX – PAPER STREETS  Also on Spotify

Berlin-based Sven Laux is an ‘artist, composer, sound designer, musician, DJ and film addict’ and all of this  skills can be heard on his latest Dronarivm release Paper Streets.

The ‘organic, neo-classical journey heard through a cinematic lens’ presents a large-scale symphonic sound that, on close listening, seems to be performed by an artificial orchestra. Which is no surprise of course, since Laux has created electronic music since 1998 ‘after discovering a talent for meticulously sampling and looping audio.’
The string arrangements seem to reach you from within a dream – that alienated feeling even strengthened by the subtle sound details in which the virtual orchestra is embedded.

‘The artist’s work bares a sense of detachment & reflection that usually occurs with the passing of time.’
In this I feel this music is related to that of Field Rotation, Bersarin Quartett and maybe A Winged Victory For The Sullen. It’ll definitely appeal to the same audience. But in fact Sven Laux does not need comparisons like that at all: he claims his very own spot – one that will become a reference point for others probably soon.

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Sonmi451 * Machinefabriek /+ Banabila * Legiac

Crumble

Alice

SONMI451 – ALICE

From Belgium comes Bernard Zwijzen‘s Sonmi451named after one of the main characters in David Mitchell’s novel “Cloud Atlas“.
Ever since 2005 Sonmi451 produced a steady stream of albums (some of which you may already know from this blog).
Alice is his 11th full album, this time self-released and available from Bandcamp only.

With a title like this the association is obvious and that is confirmed by titles like I Didn’t Know That Cats Could Grin or How Queer Is Everyting Today. Step into the wondrous world of Lewis Carrol’s Alice In Wonderland to enjoy a beautiful and colourful world where not everything is what it seems.

The tones are soft and warm, the music is adventurous yet without threats. A place you will want to dwell in, especially with the Japanese ‘Alice’ (soft whispered fragments from works of Haruki Murakami) guiding you through the enigmatic and colourful landscape to make sure you don’t accidentally step on something delicate and vulnerable.


Macrocosms

MICHEL BANABILA & MACHINEFABRIEK – MACROCOSMS

Their fourth collaborative album shows Michel Banabila and Machinefabriek in a playful mood, somewhat less abstract than on their previous album Error Log.
Macrocosms radiates the joy of swapping sound files and surprising each other in turn with an unexpected twist of the material: field recordings from the Biala Woda nature reserve in Poland, musique concrête, noise, ambient, ‘fourth world’ samples, ‘Holger Czukay style’ sped up guitars, and whatnot…

“The overall theme deals with the macro and micro – how incredibly tiny and insiginificant we become when zooming out, and how wondrous small worlds can be found within ours when zooming in.” 

Michel and Rutger are a perfect pair: two giants of Dutch experimental music, combining the best of many worlds. Abstract experimentalism, cinematic romanticism, impressionistic environmentalism… it’s all in the details that merge into a recognisable trademark style and manages to surprise with every new release.
Also on Spotify


CrumbleMACHINEFABRIEK with ANNE BAKKER and EDITH KARKOSCHKA – CRUMBLE

The first few minutes of soft strings and electronic are a misleading introduction. After three minutes the music suddenly turns into a frightening bombardment of noise particles that lasts for more than 10 minutes. Only if you brace yourself you will hear the details within that sonic storm.
At the end of that sequence – almost unheard from the back of the noise wall – a new theme is introduced. The storm dies down, and is followed by a calm section featuring spoken words and poetry by Edita Karkoscha. The piece ends with an even calmer part where violinist Anne Bakker takes the lead.

Rutger ‘Machinefabriek‘ Zuydervelt has worked with Anne Bakker before (memorable releases like Deining and Halfslaap), but Crumble is quite different in nature and concept.
This is not an ‘easy’ piece to listen to; it requires full attention before it releases its rewarding secrets.
I have been wondering what Machinefabriek was actually trying to achieve here, with the dramatic turns and the enormous contradictions within one single piece.
I thought of the (unintentional) conceptual resemblance with Irreversible, Gaspar Noé‘s unforgettable movie that starts with a shocking climax and from there tells its story in backwards, reverse-chronological, order.
The movie’s tagline: “Time destroys everything” –  ultimately, everything will start to crumble.


Legiac

LEGIAC – THE VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT

Roel Funcken (core member of Funckarma and prolific Dutch musician, producer and DJ) has teamed up with Cor Bolten (member of the legendary Dutch art-wave band Mecano) to form Legiac.
This their third release: preceded by Mings Feaner (2007) and The Faex Has Decimated (2015, parts of which were recently remixed on this album).
The Voynich Manuscript has found a home on the Dronarivm label – a quality indication in itself.

Legiac‘s soundscapes are described as ‘mildly glitch-infused, modular explored sounds, weaving in ambient textures, field recordings and vast soundscapes.’
The title(s) are taken from a 15th century hand-written and illustrated codex – a mysterious text that raises a lot of unanswered questions about its content. You’ll have to use your imagination to link the music to tis 15th century mystery, because it’s not exactly mediaeval music you’re listening to. But they are mysterious in their own way.
The Voynich Manuscript combines 21st century soundscapes with subtle retro analogue sequencer sounds, merging the skills and experience of two prolific and experienced experimental artists.

Also on Spotify

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Sakamoto-Illuha-Deupree; Chihei Hatakeyama; Lauki; Sonmi451; Roach-Metcalf-Thomas

Mist

Perpetual

RYUICHI SAKAMOTO, ILLUHA, TAYLOR DEUPREE – PERPETUAL
When you listen to this improvised set for piano, guitar, pump organ and synthesizer, it is hard to believe that these four musicians never played together before.
Ryuichi Sakamoto, Taylor Deupree and Illuha (Corey Fuller and Tomoyoshi Dale) only met each other just a couple of days earlier, on the occasion of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “Forest Symphony” installation celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media.
“‘Perpetual‘ is presented in three movements that traverse from soft layers of synthesizer and processed guitar, to open, airy sections of prepared piano and silence, to finally coming to rest in a most hauntingly delicate lullaby of lonely piano, crackling found objects and field recordings and tones suspended like mists.”

Also on Spotify

SAKAMOTO, DEUPREE & ILLUHA – PERPETUAL, MOVEMENT 3


Mist

CHIHEI HATAKEYAMA – MIST
If there is one musician capable of creating an aural equivalent of mist, it must be Chihei Hatakeyama.
The music on “Mist” – “inspired from such beauty of fog-like phenomena which reflexts the thin light to fine mist” – has the same comforting isolation a thick layer of mist surrounding you can sometimes have. 
The album’s closing track, “Nangoku” was originally created for a 24 channel PA system installation for extra immersion. But for those without a 24-channel home sound system, the stereo version on this album also does a great job!


CHIHEI HATAKEYAMA – SPHERULITE


Lauki - Thaw

LAUKI – WAITING FOR THE THAW
(Mikel) Lauki is probably a familiar name due to his collaborations with Pleq.
“Waiting for the Thaw” is his third solo album (the first two ( 69º54´S​​-​​135º12´E and GEA ) are available in digital format only).
It’s not only perfectly titled for the time of year – the end of winter- , but it’s also an album where Lauki’s ‘weakness for contemporary classic music, generative art and the aesthetics of the digital error’ blend perfectly into a perfect soundtrack.
The music is inspired by the classic Mauritz Stiller film Herr Arnes Pengar” (“Sir Arne’s Treasure”, 1919), a Nordic tragedy in which “the frozen atmosphere that envelopes the plot, the scandinavian winter, gets its own role.”
That is not just true for the movie but definitely for the soundtrack too!


Limbic System

SONMI451 – THE LIMBIC SYSTEM
The 50th release on the Time Released Sound label is a new one from Sonmi451, a.k.a. Bernard Zwijzen.
The limbic system is a complex collection of brain structures, “supporting a variety of functions including adrenaline flow, emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory, and olfaction (sense of smell).” On this particular set, the overall emotion are calm, friendly and warm – ‘a melodic and crystalline set of electronically treated ambiance’.
And with an omnipresent soft japanese female whisper.
As with most TRS releases, “The Limbic System” comes in two limited editions: the deluxe “Case File” edition (70 copies) and the standard version (150 copies).


SONMI451 – LIMBIC CORTEX


Monuments of Exstasy

STEVE ROACH, BYRON METCALF & ROB THOMAS – MONUMENTS OF ECSTASY
Combine the synth layers of Steve Roach with the frame, shaman and bass drums of Byron Metcalf and the didgeridoo and percussion of Rob Thomas, and the result is a hypnotic ‘tribal ambient’ set that is indééd an impressive  ‘monument of ecstasy’!
“Byron’s drums and percussion fuse with Steve’s hybrid grooves, array of analog modular, virtual analog synths and mixing enhancements; Rob’s serpentine didgeridoo weaves aboriginal textures and otherworldly voices, adding ancient layers to the trio’s flows and soundscapes.”

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Time Released Sound: the Chocolate Box series

TRS

I can’t really decide if I should consider Time Released Sound primarily an art or a music label.

I can drool when watching the incredible (handmade!) art that is created for each initial release. Carefully handcrafted, with regards to every detail, but consequently they also carry a price tag that seems to aim at art collectors more than the average music lover.

These special releases are always very limited and often quickly sell out. Luckily for those of us not fast (or rich) enough, Time Released Sound often immediately re-release these titles as a standard 5″-CD with a regular picture sleeve.

Below are some of the highlights of the latest batch: theChocolate Box” series. This, of course, refers to the Deluxe packaging of each individual title. Check the website for more details about that: I’ll leave out the notes about the packaging and will just focus on the music.


Four Peaks

SONMI451 FOUR PEAKS
Bernard “Sonmi451” Zwijzen 
may very well be one of the more familiar names in this batch of artists. 
Four Peaksrefers to some of the mountain peaks of the Alps and Dolemites (“which, closer to home as they may well be, are still unreachable in reality for most of us…”).
The four peaks (Eiger, Grossglockner, Matterhorn and Tre Cime Di Lavaredo) are conquered in just over 35 minutes of beautiful, crackling atmospheric sounds.
However much I love the soundscapes, I found it a bit hard sometimes to find the thematic relation from the music to the titles – especially with the japanese (or korean?) spoken word samples on Grossglockner.
But in fact I would not be surprised at all if there turned out to be a Grossglockner replica somewhere in Japan..


Sonmi451 – Grossglockner

Quietus Gradualis

PLEQ/SPHERULEUS – QUIETUS GRADUALIS

On “Quietus Gradualis” (“Quiet, Gradual”, but you probably guessed that), Pleq (Bartosz Dziadosz) and Spheruleus (Harry Towell) join forces in creating two slowly unfolding tracks, each twenty minutes in length.
Spheruleus’ “guitar meanderings and pseudo stringed ambiance” is subtly layered in Pleq’s “slightly crunchy and somewhat droney top coating” .
Like on their earlier projects, this duo deliver some adventurous soundscapes with a spontaneous, improvisational feel.

Sinneplakken

KLEEFSTRA, PRUIKSMA, KUITWAARD, KLEEFSTRA – SINNEPLAKKEN

In recent years, Jan (poetry) and Romke (guitar) Kleefstra have become internationally known as the nucleus of many different projects, performing with a lot of different artists (such as Machinefabriek, Peter Broderick, Greg Haines and many others).
Though each of the setting for their work is different, their music is immediately recognisable for its dreamlike improvised soundscapes and for the soft whispering (frysian) poetry spoken by Jan Kleefstra.
For Sinneplakken, the Kleefstra’s team up with Sytze Pruiksma (percussion) and Christiaan Kuitwaard (guitar).
Compared to earlier Kleefstra projects, Sinneplakken has a rougher, unpolished feeling, steeped in those shorter days and longer nights of mysterious northern climes”.


Kleefstra (x2), Pruiksma, Kuitwaard – Oanspielt

Rezo Glonti

REZO GLONTI – THE DIARY OF THE SECOND OFFICER

While all artists mentioned above may be familiar, the name Rezo Glonti was new to me.
“The Diary of the Second Officer”
is in fact the first release of this Georgian sound artist.
Its sound is refreshingly original and different – in concept as well as in the sounds itself.
Glonty
manages to link analog synth sounds to contemporary glitchy soundscapes, and relate environmental to electronic.
His sources include recordings from his own travels and visits to Batumi, Singapore, Kagoshima, Istanbul, Lagos, and a small Georgian village called Chibati.
But it is not ‘just’ environmental field recordings we hear: Glonty acts as the ‘second officer’ himself, guiding us through locations that may sound vaguely familiar but at the same time alienated and otherworldy.


Rezo Glonti – Kagoshima

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Sonmi451 – Ruis

Ambientblog


ruis

The Slaapwel  label, specialised in music to fall asleep to, is becoming more collectible with every release.

The previous (six) releases were all very beautiful (package ánd music-wise) and perfectly fitted the purpose they were created for: dozing away quietly, listening to music that is ‘interesting and boring at the same time’.

Among the previous performers were Peter Broderick, Greg Haines, Machinefabriek + Soccer Committee and Jasper TX. (check [here] for some Slaapwel-reviews on ambientblog.net).

This seventh release in this remarkable series is this one, called “Ruis” by Somni451.

Ruis” literally means ‘Noise‘ which suggests about the total opposite of the music it contains: 32 calm minutes, slowly building but without climax. The basic piano layers resemble the sound of Brian Eno‘s Neroli, though the composition here is more repetitive than generative.

Ruis” is like a comfortable bed: the lower region drones and chords carry you like a comfortable soft mattress, while the higher note sequences fold around your head like a pillow.
When playing music like this, you’d almost wish for insomnia…

Somni451 is the alias of Bernard Zwijzen from Hasselt, Belgium. He has been releasing electronic music under this name since 2005, mostly on the U-cover label.
If, like me, you wonder about the alias, his website helps:
“Sonmi451 is a character from David Mitchell’s novel “Cloud Atlas” who works as a slave-robot in an underground dinerplace, in a society called Nea So Copros in the distant future. It’s quite a sympathetic humanoïd, who’s aspiring efforts to become enlightened are brutally oppressed by a totalitarian, consumer-driven regime.”

Like all previous Slaapwel  releases, Ruis is beautifully packed in a handstamped cardboard cover including a print designed by Louis Reith.

Though printed in a larger edition (500 copies this time), the physical release will probably sell out quickly (leaving only the digital download).  So, like label owner Wim Maesschalk said: “don’t sleep over it for too long…”

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