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Matthijs Kouw * BJ Nilsen

Matthijs Kouw - Obscurum

Matthijs Kouw - Obscurum

MATTHIJS KOUW – OBSCURUM PER OBSCURIUS  Also on Spotify

Operating under his own name as well as MVK and Swerve, Matthijs Kouw (his second name is Vincent, hence the V) has released music since 2011. Solo work as well as collaborations, works for dance, film theater and installations. Most recently, he focuses on long-form drone pieces, often in collaboration with Radboud Mens (follow-up albums of 1 are about to be released).

Obscurum per obscurius is a latin phrase that can be translated as ‘(explaining) the obscure by means of the more obscure’. A well-chosen title for this collection of investigations of ‘obscure’ (or mysterious) drones. Drones that ‘were composed over an extended period of time through a laborious and intensive practice, in which moments of creative inspiration and creation, fraught with possibility, have ultimately become obscured in the final work presented here’.

Sometimes, a subtle rhythm seems to emerge from the depth: in Untitled 3 I can’t help to hear a pulse that sounds like an offbeat reggae rhythm guitar. But this is an exception (and hardly anything you will want to dance to): most of the material presents otherwordly gazes into deep alien sounds, found by Matthijs Kouw trying to explain ‘the riddles of matter involved the projection of yet another mystery, namely the alchemist’s own gaze and approach, into what was to be explained’.


BJ Nilsen Focus Intensity Power

BJ NILSEN – FOCUS INTENSITY POWER  Also on Spotify

Swedish (but now Amsterdam-based) sound artist BJ Nilsen may be primarily associated with his albums using impeccably recorded field-recordings, but his albums were always more than just ‘archival sounds’: by careful re-arranging and subtle manipulation he investigates ‘the sound of nature and its effect on humans.’
For Focus Intensity Power, however, the main sound sources are not exactly ‘natural’ but strictly electronic. Maybe the difference is not that great after all: electronic sources, hums, buzzes, clicks and radiation are an unavoidable part of our aural daily environment.

Nilsen recorded the album during a short residency at the Willem Twee Electronic Music Studio in Den Bosch, where he must have felt like a child in a candy store among all the anachronistic analog sound devices and vintage synthesizers (such as the legendary ARP 2500 modular synth pictured here). As the liner notes say: ‘he exchanged his wax rain coat for the white laboratory mantle.’

Focus Intensity Power reflects his improvised sessions using modular synths, tone generators and test and measure instruments collected in this studio. The album is filled with  a ‘red thread of analog pulse, droning waves and subtle and surprising noise interventions’.
According to Nilsen there is no underlying concept to the record, but for the listener it’s not very hard to find one. This is the sound of machines talking to us in a strange language, a language we can hear but barely understand. It is a sound to get lost in completely – if it weren’t for the fact that Nilsen accentuates the machines dependency by suddenly ending a track, cutting it off as if he flips a switch.

If you are remotely interested in the nature of electronic sound, in the very soul of electronic devices, this is an album to investigate.

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Jana Irmert * Thomas Ankersmit

Jana Irmert - Flood

Jana Irmert - Flood

JANA IRMERT – FLOOD  Also on Spotify

It’s no use to try to find a better description of this music than that from Tobias Fischer on the liner notes for this album, so I’ll take the easy way and just quote him:

‘Inspired by Chyngyz Aitmatov‘s dystopian novel The Mark Of Cassandra, Jana Irmert has created a metaphoric world of billowing harmonic clouds, gently crackling sounds and abstracted field recordings. All three parts of the album are marked by perpetual subtle shifts, memory turning into an imperfect compass: you can walk through the music in all directions without ever passing the same point twice.
Inside this world of concrete sounds and pure abstractions, of organic timbres and alien noises, all sense of perspective is lost: what is far can seem close, tiny sounds suddenly appear enormous.’


Flood is Berlin-based sound and media artist Jana Irmert‘s second full album, following up 2016’s End of Absence. It is divided in three parts: Standing On Breaking Ice, Silence On A String and The Sound Of The Universe Spinning, but can in my opinion best be enjoyed in one continuous session.


Thomas Ankersmit

THOMAS ANKERSMIT – HOMAGE TO DICK RAAIJMAKERS  Also on Spotify

If you’re interested in the history of experimental electronic music (I add ‘experimental’ since nowadays the ‘electronic music’ genre seems to refer to a dance genre not particularly covered on this blog), sooner or later you’ll encounter the name and work of Dick Raaijmakers. He was an electro-acoustic researcher  working in the Philips Natlab research center (his Kid Baltan alias is in fact Dik Natlab reversed), producing some of the very first electronic (pop) music in the late 50’s and 60’s, and assisted Edgar Varèse in assembling the famous Poème Électronique for the 1958 Expo. He also co-founded STEIM: STudio for Electro-Instrumental Music. In his book The Method, he describes how motion, cause and effect and their perception are interrelated.

It is exactly thát which is clearly demonstrated in Thomas Ankersmit‘s Homage to Dick Raaijmakers: ‘With his homage Ankersmit re-contextualizes Raaijmakers’ ideas about electric sound, composition, and spatial experience’.

Ankersmit‘s advice is NOT to listen with earphones (which I ususally do), but on speakers, and relatively loud, because of the inner-ear phenomena triggered by the sinus waves from his Serge synthesizers. “With this phenomenon, the listener’s inner ears actively generate sounds that don’t exist in the recorded signal, and which can change with a small movement of the head.”

The effect (also explored in detail by Jacob Kirkegaard on his Labyrinthitisis indeed spectacular. The sound changes with every movement of the head or a change in position, and is partly dependent on the acoustics of the room it is played in.
I literally checked if (and why) there was sound coming from the back speakers of my surround set… but of course there was none: this is a stereo recording. Still it sounded to me like it was a full surround sound set!
Homage to Dick Raaijmakers feels like a physical experience. Which is also why this piece may not be to everyone’s liking: it requires a dedicated listening session and fully takes control of the environment. Not exactly your average ‘ignorable background ambient’ set, but a very rewarding and fascinating aural experience …

 

 

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Snufmumriko * Arovane & Porya Hatami

Organism Evolution

Snufmumriko

SNUFMUMRIKO – DRÖMBOKEN

Snufmumriko is the somewhat inexplicable alias of Swedish producer Ingmar Wennerberg.
Dromböken – his third full album since 2015 – is best translated as Book of Dreams, and indeed the album breathes a dreamy atmosphere. Not the cold isolationist kind that you’d probably expect from a Scandinavian act, but a warm sound in which you can immerse yourself comfortably.

Dromböken “explores an ethereal landscape of dream where the past meets the future and joy wrestles with a sense of pain and loss.”

The warm synth washes, drones and field recordings are completed with subtle IDM and dub techno rhythms, as to keep you awake and alert. It is exactly the combination of sounds that is needed to make this album stand out from the multitude of current ambient releases.
Experiencing this Dream Book can be as refreshing as a good night’s sleep!


Organism Evolution

AROVANE & PORYA HATAMI – ORGANISM_EVOLUTION   Also on Spotify

I don’t think a better title could have been found for this collection of tracks merging Musique Concrête with Electro Acoustic experiments.
Though each of the (23!) tracks are created using “techniques like modular synthesis, granular synthesis, spectral processing, granular synthesis, resynthesis and resonator/modal synthesis”  they manage to evoke  a feeling that you are listening to a highly amplified recording of complex organic lifeforms. It’s as if you stick your microphone deep into, say, an anthill and listen to what that sounds like (I only refer to the auditive experience, not the tactile!)

I suppose these electro-acoustic experiments are far beyond the concept of  ‘music’ for most listeners – but the detailed production creative complexities are a feast for everyone interested in (more or less complex) electro-acoustic soundscapes.

Organism_Evolution is the follow-up to Organism (released in January 2017). Both albums share (almost) the same cover art and musical concept, thus can easily be seen as one project. That is why Karl Records  also offered these titles as a 2-CD set for a limited edition, but as far as I can see this is sold out by now. But don’t let that discourage you to check out the digital version(s)!

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ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ/PANTHEON Records

May box set

As music became digital and distribution lost the need of a physical medium, a strong counter-reaction also grew: the need to be able to ‘hold’ something, to collect items, enjoy its beauty and perhaps be satisfied with the idea that you have found something that others haven’t.
The return of interest in vinyl albums may be the simplest form to fulfill that need (strongly pushed by the record industry that recognized a chance to regain their position in the market they were so afraid to lose).

But, especially in the niche market that is ambient/experimental music where releases are mostly very limited, a number of ‘labour-of-love’ DIY-labels emerged that handcrafts the artwork of their releases with such unbelievable detail that each release – vinyl, CD, cassette or even USB sticks – becomes a piece of art in itself. It’s not always easy to say if in these cases the artwork supports the music of if the music is an ‘extra’ to the package.

Some of these labels have gained a cult-status among followers which means that their releases are often sold out on pre-order alone on the very same day they are announced.
I’m not sure if ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ Records (or the Pantheon label, which may be easier to remember) has already gained such a status and dedicated following; I had not heard about this label until recently. But one look at their release-package is enough to recognise the passion these releases are packaged with. Individually, or in stunningly beautiful wooden box editions.

ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ Records / Pantheon is based in St. Petersburg, and run by Tim (PiedPaper, Microphones in the Trees who also runs the blog) with his wife Mila.
Below is their release batch for May, a great example of what you may expect from their releases (the header photo shows the boxed editions):

Pantheon Records May Box Set + Bundle


Rhucle A Little Long Day

RHUCLE – A LITTLE LONG DAY

Rhucle (Yuta Kudo from Tokyo) may very well be the most familiar name from this batch: his discography covers almost 50 albums since 2013!
The eleven tracks (61 minutes) included on this ‘Little Long Day’ are like a walk in a Japanese garden (some might even say this is ‘a walk in the park’).
There’s water flowing from every corner, the atmosphere is that from a long and sunny day.

“Using synthesizers, field recording, piano and many other sampling sources he creates a vivid slow-paced ambience full of nature sounds and sparkling resonances.”

Strongly advised for “Passive Listening”: playing this music in the background while relaxing on a summer evening and/or starry night, preferably (but not necessarily) in a green garden.


eugenekha

EUGENEKHA – THREE MONTHS

Perfectly timed in this May Set is this album dedicated to the three months of summer: June, July and August.

EugeneKha (Evgenij V. Kharitonov, from Moscow) was a completely unknown artist for me, so I was surprised to find out that his discography boasts over 145 albums (!).
His work is multi-faceted in more than one way: apart from being a musician and sound artist he is also a poet and author of numerous literary publications and books.
He actively developed and popularized a musical aesthetic of lowbit (low bitrate), and thus became known as “The father of Russian Lo-Bit”.

The music on Three Months is not an example of that lo-bit – on the contrary! This is a widescreen ambient joyride created with a multitude of synth workstations as well as acoustic instruments like jew’s harp, flutes, ocarina, didgeridoo and percussion. Ánd field recordings, of course… it’s summer, after all.

“It has many different moods and details, spanning from rhythmic tribal ambiance and field recordings all the way do deep organic drones.”


Abyss

POOL OF LIGHT – ABYSS

Pool Of Light is Anton Bogdanov – originally from Russia but now living in Shenyang, China. Pool of Light is in fact the translation of the Chines characters 光淵 (which Google Translate poetically converts to ‘glimmerdeep’!). All tracks on Abyss have Chines Characters as a name, translating to Burn, Memory, Circle, Dim and Abyss.

Three long tracks, alternated with two short ones, where Bogdanov creates layered drone landscapes using guitar drones and traditional Chinese instruments like bows and Zhongruan (a chinese tenor lute).

The “trancendental journey which brings plenty vivid images to mind” is far more intense than Rhucle’s garden walk mentioned above (especially in the longer tracks), and thus requires a more dedicated listening session. But it’s a rewarding trip, “opening doors to a peaceful contemplation”.

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DreamScenes – July 2018

DreamScenes CZ

An extra dreamy July edition.

With, apart from the usual new releases, a fragment of Robert Kroos‘ Brainwave Set as performed in june as part of RAAR (Rotterdam Art And Radio)/Varia.

Tracklist:

  • 00:00 DreamScenes – Intro (Susanna)
  • 00:05 Kajsa Lindgren – The Garden (fragment)
    Womb, 2018, Hyperdelia
  • 03:30 Snufmumriko – Drömmer I Juli
    Drömboken, 2018, Lagerstaette
  • 08:18 Les Horribles Travailleurs – Keizersrande 4 (ft. Anja Kreysing)
    Off Track, 2018, Esc.Rec
  • 11:15 Robert Kroos – Brainwave Set, Live at RAAR @Varia 2018 (fragment)
    Unreleased Live Recording, 2018, unreleased
  • 18:46 Memum – Illuminate (feat. Anna Marjamäki)
    Confidence, 2018, Unperceived Records
  • 24:00 Agnes Obel – Stretch Your Eyes (Ambient Acapella) (fragment)
    Late Night Tales: Agnes Obel, 2018, LateNightTales
  • 25:32 Julien Boulier – Accord Etendu
    A Film Not Yet Made, 2018, Time Released Sound
  • 27:03 J. Peter Schwalm – AUUA
    How We Fall, 2018, RareNoise
  • 32:00 Stephan Mathieu – In Them A Giant Diverted Himself
    Trace. Recordings Of Entropic Systems 1998-2018, 2018, self-released
  • 37:02 Gluid – Inbetween
    Off Track, 2018, Esc.Rec
  • 42:08 Eximia – Day One
    Visitors, 2018, Cryo Chamber
  • 47:40 Colin Stetson – Mothers & Daughters
    Hereditary Soundtrack, 2018, Milan
  • 50:23 Wolfgang Mitterer – Beethoven – Intermezzo
    Nine In One, 2018, Col Legno
  • 53:44 Bart van Dongen & Richard van Kruysdijk – One
    One, Two, Three, Four, Five, 2018, Opa Loka
  • 58:56 DreamScenes – Outro (Dean Hurley)

Play this edition on-demand from the Concertzender website.

OR:
stream it from Mixcloud:

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Lockwood & Kubisch * Vantzou & Bennett (CV & JAB)

Vantzou - Bennett

Inaudible

ANNEA LOCKWOOD & CHRISTINA KUBISCH – THE SECRET LIFE OF THE INAUDIBLE

Gruenrekorder is a German label “promoting soundworks and phonography. Phonography considers nature/the environment as an acoustic experience, loaden with musical sounds”.
I don’t think a more fitting label could be found for the release of The Secret Life Of The Inaudible, the double CD set by Annea Lockwood and Christina Kubisch. The recordings can be categorized as ‘field recordings’ but it’s not as easy as going ‘into the field’ and ‘press record’ (most good field recordings aren’t, by the way). And both these artists have been around since the beginning of these kind of sonic explorations (Annea Lockwood was born in 1939, Christina Kubisch  in 1948). Both are legends in their own fields, the true first generation of sound artists.

The pieces on this album are soundscapes created using these recordings of the (usually) inaudible. Lockwood and Kubisch “decided to exchange sound materials and left it open to the other what to choose and how to mix it into a new composition”.

“Annea’s sound material was coming from sonic ultra and infra ranges and was speeded up or shifted down in order to become audible, my [Christina’s] recordings are analog and were made directly on site in different cities. The sounds we use are all strange and powerful and they go together as if they were especially made for this collaboration.”

For the listener, the soundscapes open up a completely new world. A world you didn’t know you were part of, and sounds that you normally would never be able to hear. As an example, Wild Energy begins with a recording made by the SOHO spacecraft: 40 days of solar oscillations (acoustical pressure waves) sped up 42.000 times, and ends with ultrasound recorded from the interior of a Scots pine tree.
Other sound sources include volcano tremors and gas vents, earthquakes, VLF chorus waves and whistlers, bat sounds, etc (Annea Lockwood‘s input) kinds of electromagnetic waves (subway station, server room, power station, shopping centers in various cities, seismic research centers,  the countryside during a thunderstorm after electricity had broken down, etc (Christina Kubisch‘s specialism).

The result is a fantastic journey into uncharted aural territories.  Hearing the sound of all these frequencies also raises the question what effects they might cause on the environment, and on ourselves:
“Until now what kind of influence the sources of these normally hidden waves have on us is not much explored. It is up to the listener to find out more about it.”


ANNEA LOCKWOOD – WILD ENERGY (with BOB BIELECKI) (excerpt)
 


CHRISTINA KUBISCH – BELOW BEHIND ABOVE (excerpt)


Vantzou - Bennett

CHRISTINA VANTZOU & JOHN ALSO BENNETT (CV & JAB) – ZIN TAYLOR’S THOUGHTS OF A DOT AS IT TRAVELS A SURFACE  Also on Spotify

Christina Vantzou‘s new album No. 4 has just been released (more on that later this week), but this collaboration with John Also Bennett is very well worth checking out also.

The ten tracks on the album were created from material that was recorded on occasion of the completion of one of the black and white wall drawings by Zin Taylor.
Each track corresponds to a specific section of the “particularly ambitious 90-meter panoramic wall drawing”, but the tracks are seamlessly sequenced to form one single 42 minute composition in 10 parts. Each of these parts has a somewhat different atmosphere and energy, “rarely lingering too long in a fixed formation, like Taylor’s nuanced mini-murals”, yet the album is strikingly coherent.
There’s a beautiful interplay of the synthesized sounds versus the more naturalistic – the sounds may come from different sources but behave like friends, not counterparts.

The music is “played with an air of otherworldly detachment, as though such beauty was materializing purely of its own accord.” The resulting album demonstrates how engaging electro-acoustical music can be.

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Claire M. Singer * Ben McElroy

Songs Of Iceland

Fairge

CLAIRE M. SINGER – FAIRGE  Also on Spotify

Fairge (meaning ‘ocean’ or ‘sea’ in Scottish Gaelic) is a 21 minute composition for organ, cello and electronics written and performed by Claire M. Singer.
The piece is commissioned by the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam (the city’s oldest building, now a museum), and was written especially for its remarkable Ahrend and Brunzema organ. “As every organ is unique, the piece will differ on other organs but that’s what makes writing and working with the organ so fascinating.”

Fairge builds up slowly, starting from the sounds of the breathing organ pipes, then introducing an almost shy cello accompaniment gradually gaining confidence and moving to the foreground. Getting stronger and louder (like ocean waves in a storm) – a massive and impermeable sound dominated by the sound of the church organ – ‘a lush harmonic backdrop against the harmonics and melody of the haunting cello’.
The sound of a church organ in full power can make man feel humble and small, and so does this ‘expansive soundscape full of intricate textures, rich overtones and powerful swells.’

The wind through the pipes of this organ can be precisely controlled using mechanical stop action. When the piece ends – the ocean storm retreats – one can hear the last breaths of air leaving the church pipes: the powerful dominance gone and replaced by a feeling of uncertainty that creeps back in together with the surrounding silence.


Songs Of Iceland

BEN MCELROY – SONGS OF ICELAND

Ben McElroy has never visited Iceland himself – the inspiration came from the stunning photography by Natasha Edmondson.
‘He hasn’t laid out a clear concept for this short EP. Instead, he’d prefer this to be open to interpretation as you draw your own conclusions.’

It may not be Icelandic folk music, but still the stripped-down minimal folk presented here, on this 15 minute free (Name-Your-Pice) download from Audio Gourmetconjures images of desolate but beautiful landscapes like the one on the cover image.
Sometimes close to traditional instrumental folk music, at other times drifting away into more abstract minimalism: Ben McElroy cites Pauline Oliveiros, Sharron Kraus and Ralph Vaughn Williams as some of his influences and all these can somehow be traced back to this music.

It’s a refreshing step away from the ordinary, a new sound with deep historical roots.
After these 15 minutes I just wanted to hear more like this.

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Orphax & Machinefabriek * Hüwels & Clay * Federico Mosconi

Weerkaatsing

Weerkaatsing

ORPHAX & MACHINEFABRIEK – WEERKAATSING

The dutch title isn’t easily translated. Reflection comes close but doesn’t quite cover it.
But the cover image reveals what this album is about: two artists interacting on each others work, bouncing the ball back to each other and creating new pieces along the process.

The starting point for this album was their mutual respect. To call it a collaboration album would not be entirely true: two (of the three) tracks on this album are a remixes of each other’s music.
Orphax (Sietse van Erve, Amsterdam) remixed Machinefabriek‘s Stofstuk into Reflectie.
Spiegeling, 
on the other hand, is Machinefabriek‘s remix of Orphax’ De Eerste Dag.
Completing this album is the title track Weerkaatsing, which is a completely new piece. Not a remix, but a ‘real’ collaborative work.

Drone-based electronics, but not the static kind of drones… there’s a lot happening in these 43 minutes. The original sound is enriched with many tweaks and twitches, adding details that weren’t there in the first place (such as the string section in Spiegeling).

Ever-changing –  yet with a consistent overall atmosphere…  Weerkaatsing is one of those collaboration projects where the whole is absolutely a lot more than the sum of its parts.
1 + 1 = 3.


Unintended Space

STIJN HÜWELS & DANNY CLAY – AN UNINTENDED SPACE

Stijn Hüwels is a Belgian musician that is not only known for his own minimalist music (created using processed guitar, loops and field recordings), but also as curator of the famous Slaapwel Records label – promoters of Sleep Music with a critically acclaimed discography of handmade CD(r)-releases.

Danny Clay (from San Francisco), on the other hand, describes himself as a Composer/General Noise Maker who’s projects “often incorporate musical games, open forms, found objects, archival media, toy instruments, classrooms of elementary schoolers, graphic notation, digital errata, cross-disciplinary research, and the everything-in-between”.

So there you are: merge Stijn’s quiet and introspective guitar and voice with Danny’s interacting (but also introspective) turntables, sine waves and celesta, and you’re in for a sonic treat.
A very calming and undisturbed treat, for most parts.
The slow-paced (14 minute) 3.25.2016 (I), for example, has a background loop that could come from a William Basinski album (but without the degradation), and is covered in warm guitar layers and gentle glockenspiel-like bell sounds.

An Unintended Space is the duo’s first collaborative project, on which they worked for a year. The tracks are titled by the dates they were considered finished (I assume): between february 2016 and march 2017.


Federico Mosconi - Colonne Di Fumo

FEDERICO MOSCONI – COLONNE DI FUMO  Also on Spotify

Eight ‘smoke columns’ created by Federico Mosconi from Verona, Italy: “undefined and changing soundscapes as the figures drawn by smoke”. 
The opening track Notturno introduces sounds of distant thunder, while the album merges field recordings with Mosconi‘s guitar playing and live recordings into a beautiful dreamy set of lush ambient soundscapes.

Creating ambient music is not the only thing Federico Mosconi does: he graduated in guitar and multimedia composition at the Conservatory of Verona and has played solo as well as in orchestras, chamber ensembles and the electroacoustic improvisation sextet Cardew Ensemble.
Colonne Di Fumo is his second full album, following Acquatinta from 2014.

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Dronny Darko * Phonothek * Dead Melodies

Abduction

Abduction

DRONNY DARKO – ABDUCTION  Also on Spotify

If you like your soundscapes dark and haunting, full of suspense, Dronny Darko (from Kiev, Ukraine) will definitely fulfill your needs (as will most of the releases on the Cryo Chamber label).

Abduction is described as “merging the lowercase and minimal genre with a strong science fiction element.”
“Lowercase music”, Darko
 explaines, is a minimalistic sound art that “amplifies acoustic objects and paints collages with them. Those are sounds that we almost cannot hear with a naked ear. Something like the hum of the domestic sound system, ants rumbling, plants growing,  etc.”.

The result of this process can hardly be called ‘minimal’: it’s an overwhelming and irresistible plunge into the deep unknown, where “throbbing bass layers croak and groan under the pressure of whirling machines that buzz and hum.”


Phonothek - Red Moon

PHONOTHEK – RED MOON   Also on Spotify

Phonothek‘s second album for Cryo Chamber (the follow-up of last year’s Lost in Fogcontinues “the theme of the inevitable death of our planet”.
So here’s the image to keep in mind when you listen to the track Last Melody:

“A sad lonely trumpet echoes between ruined apartment complexes. The ground is dry and dusty, nothing grows here. Where once laughter of children lingered, now only the creak of broken swings remain. The earth is dying. The chosen got on the ships, but not you.” 

The Georgian duo (George Shamanauri and his wife Nina) mixes many genres without losing the desolate atmosphere: there’s dark ambient (obviously), but also David Lynch-like dark ambient-jazz – with a leading role for  the trumpet.
The latter  will not surprise you knowing George was (is) the principal trumpet in the Tbilisi State Opera Orchestra, the Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra and the Georgian Philharmonic, as well as a participating member in many other ensembles. Nina also studied at the Tbilisi State Conservatory, and continues to work in different projects.

For their work with Phonothek they developed a clear conceptual sound, one that isn’t usually taught at conservatories (though conservatories in Georgia might be different, I don’t know about that).
Their soundscapes are one of the most adventurous examples of ‘dark ambient’ soundscapes you will be able to find.
“It brings the sound of the old world to life as it shines light on the new and dying one.”


Dead Melodies

DEAD MELODIES – LEGENDS OF THE WOOD   Also on Spotify

Dead Melodies  (Tom Moore, UK)  come from the same stable: it’s his first album for Cryo ChamberBut it’s not a ‘debut’: over eight years Moore has released ten albums, EP’s and a large amount of collaborations making anything from dub to folk to ambient”.

With its lush field recordings and reverbed guitar, the musical approach is somewhat different – possibly taking its inspiration from English (foggy) landscapes. At least, in the beginning of this album.
There’s a ominous undercurrent in the music, and the eeriness soon takes over. Titles that tell tales of Crows and Blood, Devil’s Hill, the Hooded Nine and a Malevolent Rising will probably already have told you to stay on guard.

“The damp morning dew forms translucent drops on the knee-high grass. Whatever was out there last night seems gone but the birds are not yet singing and the animals still hiding.”
How’s that for  creating an atmosphere?

But rest assured (spoiler alert!): the last track is titled  Beautiful Coalescence. So no need to worry too much.

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Svarte Greiner * Franz Kirmann * Loren Nerell

Moss Garden

Moss Garden

SVARTE GREINER – MOSS GARDEN

Svarte Greiner is the solo project of (Deaf Center’s) Erik K. Skodvin. The music on his latest release was originally composed for an installation by Marit Følstadand is presented in two tracks: The Marble and Garden. With 21:53 and 19:20, the tracks have the perfect length for a vinyl release (there is no CD release planned, only vinyl and download) – but for those of us more digitally inclined some of the nostalgic crackles and pops are included in the mix.

The two slow-paced soundscapes are rather gloomy and dark.
In The Marble “a feeling of weightlessness covers the ground while empty space surrounds you in an embracing yet uneasy way. Time gradually illuminates several stages of light and dark before revealing a desolate wasteland filled with electric organisms”.
The suspense is intensified in the first half of Garden, with its increasingly loud metallic blows. When the drone of undertones slowly decays and morphs into its overtones, the nightmarish feeling retreats and peace returns. Somewhat.

This is soundscaping at its very best and perhaps even most intense.
Or, as the Miasmah promo text states so beautifully: Svarte Greiner‘s approach is ‘like the word Teriffic’s amelioration: developing from Terrifying over Intense to its modern understanding in a little more than two centuries – a metamorphosis re-enacted within a single recording.”


Franz Kirmann Elysian Park

FRANZ KIRMANN – ELYSIAN PARK

For his third album (and second title for Denovali), Franz Kirmann (one half of Piano Interrupted) uses sonic material that was created for his soundtrack of “Hyper Trophies” – a 2012 multimedia installation by Berlin art studio Zeitguised.
Using all kinds of sound sources (‘fragments from YouTube recuperated advertising, mangled pop samples, speech synthesis programs or digitally recreated ethnic instruments’), Kirmann creates an environment that is “made of ‘sonic junk’ that may feel abstract or alienating but also vaguely familiar”.

While all the pieces are rather abstract, without any traditional structures, ‘forcing the listener’s attention to focus on the physicality of the sound rather than any melodic, harmonic or rhythmical content’, there are two balancing extremes: calm on one side, harsh on the other. But all are crossing the line between the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’.
Ultimately, Elysian Park reflects the search for a better, more peaceful place.

Also on Spotify

FRANZ KIRMANN – SCAVENGER


Venerable Dark Cloud

LOREN NERELL – THE VENERABLE DARK CLOUD

To protect myself from overload, this blog focuses on new and recent releases, and skips re-issues (sometimes with pain in my heart).
But there are exceptions, and this is one.
On the other hand, one could argue that this is a NEW release, since the original 1999 release with the same title only featured 4 tracks with a total length of 22 minutes. AND it has been long out of print!
This 2016 edition, however, is 69 minutes long and is extended to eight tracks. AND it’s available!

What may be even more important is that none of these tracks show any sign of age. This is classic fourth world ambient music, merging Indonesian Gamelan sounds with electronic soundscapes.
Loren Nerell, who has a master’s degree in ethnomusicology, reveals that the album titles comes from the translation of Kyai Mendung, the name of the UCLA Javanese gamelan ensemble. In the belief of Animism, everything has a soul. It is thought that the spirit of the gamelan ensemble resides in its largest gongs. 

“What would it be like to be a soul or spirit inside a gong? You would not think in human ways but maybe in gamelan tones. This album is how I imagine it would be to be that gong.”

If you ever experienced the sound of a full gamelan orchestra you will probably not find this a strange thought at all. The sounds of the gongs, as well as their specific scales and tuning awakens a mysterious awareness on a subconscious level. It is beautiful to listen to, but for western ears it also seems to come from a different, incomprehensible world.

Loren Nerell is capable of connecting these worlds, crossing different cultures and opening the mysteries of the gamelan orchestra for western listeners without denying the culture it originally came from.

Also on Spotify

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