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Ian Hawgood & Friends – Wolven (A Modern Reinterpretation)



In its relatively short existence (almost 4 years), the Hibernate label has presented us with many beautiful releases and positioned themselves as one of the most important independent labels at the very centre of the ‘ambient’ music scene. Or – since it’s increasingly difficult to use the word ‘ambient’ as a genre definition: music “both abstract and melodic but always with a hint of melancholy.”

The Hibernate label kicked off in 2009 with a release that set a high standard immediately: Wolfskin“, by Ian Hawgood – well-known for his own music as well as from the labels he curates: Home Normal and Koen Music.

Hibernate and Koen Music (KoMu) now present a 2-CD set revisiting the original “Wolfskin” release, called Wolven – A Modern Reinterpretation”.

As the slightly changed album and track titles suggests, this is not merely a ‘cover’ album of the original. The tracks take their inspiration from the original album, which “referenced a series of nightmares Ian had as a child, focussing on elements of dreams and violence by marrying beauty with the harsh.”

Wolven does not just portray the original recordings from Wolfskin in a different light – it also takes another look at the concept of dreams and nightmares. This time, the album strives to literally tread the pathways in Ian’s dreams – not without its terrifying moments along the way but always accompanied by a comfort pillow to keep you from harm.”

On the first CD of this 2CD set, Aaron Martin‘s cello takes center-stage and sets the (rather dark) mood. Embedded in layers of organ, keys and guitar fed through various tape reel machines, and mixed in with interpretations by Dag Rosenqvist, Spheruleus, Pillowdiver, y0t0, and Hakobune, the music easily and almost naturally shifts from ‘post-classical’ acoustics into abstract electronic soundscapes.
With “The Dance”, it takes off with exactly the same chord that concluded the original Wolfskin album – sticking close to the original concept and atmosphere, but at the same time a completely different, new, approach.

For the second CD, Brock Van Wey (aka bvdub) chooses a different approach. His characteristic bvdub sound creates a different, somewhat lighter atmosphere: three extremely long (24 – 32 minutes each) tracks with layers upons layers upon layers of (stretched and dubbed) samples, slowly accumulating – somehow his music always makes me feel as if my head (as well as the room around me) is filled with sound until there is not a empty space left….

If you know the original Wolfskin album, it is of course interesting to compare the details from these tracks to their original sources. But it is not necessary to know the original album to fully appreciate this new reworking, as it presents an inspiring set of different kind of contemporary ‘atmosphere music’.

Hibernate is releasing the physical 2CD-version, while Komu offers the digital download version of the album.
The release date is set for May, 19.


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Time Released Sound: the Chocolate Box series


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

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


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.



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


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.
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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McDougall + Sasajima; Hydrophones; Francisco Lopez; Pleq a.o.


In the Shortlist sections, I will mention some of the albums that I enjoyed listening to, but couldn’t find the time (or the right words) for a “full” review for. Still, I think they deserve your attention: use the links to find more info and hear previews.


James McDougall & Hiroku Sasajima – Injya
Using environmental sounds from Australia and Japan, McDougall and Sasajima create a new virtual world by rearranging and manipulating the original recordings. Their carefully crafted collages manage to maintain the ‘natural’ feeling of the recordings yet at the same times creates a non-existent landscape that is fascinating to listen to. One of the best environmental soundscapes I know.


Various Artists – Hydrophones
Using only (publicly available) recordings from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), carefully manipulating the underwater sounds of ships, earthquakes, “air guns”, whale sounds and some unknown sources, this free download includes three immersive sub-aquatic ambient soundscapes created by Michael Hendley, Beau Finley and Keep.


Francisco Lopez – Untitled (2009)
When a double cd-album with 14 tracks (all called ‘Untitled’, with only numbers to distinguish them, ranging from 2 to 20 minutes) opens with a recording of a loud snore, you know you may be in for some surprises. Francisco Lopez approaches the sounds of this world like watching it through a microscope. Even the tiniest detail may sound massively impressing. This is sound art at its most abstract – obviously not for everyone, but very rewarding when you’re open for it. “What is real, what is masqueraded, transmuted? Can we believe our ears at all?”

Pleq and Lauki

Pleq and Lauki –Perceiving Perspective
Released on a limited C30 cassette, Pleq (Bartosz Dziadosz) and Mike Lauki “combine forces once again to document the delicate middle ground between modern compositional structures and widescreen ambient soundscapes.”
Absolute standout track is Lauki’s – “Deconstruction (Pleq Remix)”, with a beautiful solo violin part played by Heike Grafe.Let’s hope these tracks will also be made available as a digital download once the cassette release sold out (which will probably be quite soon).

Time and Language

Pleq, Hiroku Sasajima, Spheruleus – Time and Language
This album was released on vinyl at the end of 2011, but can also be downloaded digitally for just a few bucks. And it’s definitely worth doing so, because these four tracks contain a beautiful blend of “Hiroki Sasajima’s field recordings and drones, carefully adapted by Pleq with the addition of gentle drones and glitching textures, with Spheruleus weaving in subtle acoustic sounds using his instrument collection”.

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Interesting Collaborations


In the Shortlist sections, I will mention some of the albums that I enjoyed listening to, but couldn’t find the time (or the right words) for a “full” review for. Still, I think they deserve your attention: use the links to find more info and hear previews.

Night Blossom

The Beautiful Schizophonic & Yui Onodera – Night Blossom
The Beautiful Schizophonic 
(Jorge Mantas, Portugal) and Yui Onodera (Japan), two renowned sound artists,  continue to refine their collaborative work that started in 2009, with “Radiance”. 
Immersive, yet restrained, beauty. 

Woven Tide

From the Mouth of the Sun – Woven Tide
From the Mouth of the Sun is the name of the first project of Dag Rosenqvist (Jasper TX)  and Aaron Martin. Just mentioning these two names should raise your interest!
“Out of the charred embers of dusk Woven Tide emerges with an incandescent glow. Each glimmer cast by the sustained notes of ebony keys, the taut strings of the cello, and the rampant buzz of guitar lights our way, gives us hope, brings us into the dawn of a new day. As From The Mouth of the Sun, the duo act as our torchbearers, scrawling messages along the walls of an elongated cave, toiling through the decayed remnants of fetid matter to create eight illuminating pieces.”

Time & Language

Pleq, Spheruleus, Hiroki Sasajima – Time & Language
Cross-continental collaboration of Pleq (Poland, glitch electronics), Hiroki Sasajima (Japan,Field Recordings) and Spheruleus (UK, Acoustic Instruments).  
Hiroki Sasajima’s field recordings and drones are carefully adapted by Pleq with the addition of gentle drones and glitching textures, with Spheruleus weaving in subtle acoustic sounds using his instrument collection. Together, three far-flung sound artists have created a short and beautifully cohesive selection of moods.”
Limited 180gr. vinyl edition; but also available as digital download.

Windy and Carl

Windy and Carl – We Will Always Be
Not exactly a ‘one-off’ collaboration, since Windy (Weber) and Carl (Huttgren) perform as husband and wife since about 1993. Although their back-catalogue is quite extensive, this is their first release since 2008.  Carefully crafted guitar-based drones. Don’t let the vocal opening track and the sustained distortion in the closing track (19 minutes called “Fainting in the Presence of the Lord”) catch you off-guard: there’s a lot of beauty inbetween…

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Pleq, Spheruleus & Various – "A Silent Swaying Breath"

Pleq Spheruleus

When they decided to work together on a charity fund-raising album “for those that has beenaffected by the recent unrest that ravaged cities across the country” (referring of course to the recent UK riots), Pleq (Bartosz Dziadosz) and Spheruleus (Harry Towell) chose a different approach.

Instead of asking fellow artists to contribute a complete track, they teamed up with SoundFjord (UK Sound Art Gallery), and started asking their (immense) network of ‘artists, musicians and the general public’ to contribute just a short (under one minute) sample for this project.
Then they started working on these samples, creating this one hour album with twelve full length tracks.

That must have an hell of a job, since the list of contributors adds up to about 75 names, and quite a lot familiar among them, such as Hakobune, Isnaj Dui, Inventors of Aircraft, Lauki, Marco Lucchi, Petri Kuljuntaustaa, Mystified, Offthesky, Porzellan, Robert Curgenven, Savaran, Simon Whetham, Steve Roden, Wil Bolton….I could go on for a while, but the full list is available on the Bandcamp page.

Though in fact they are the actual creators, Pleq and Spheruleus don’t take full credit for it, listing it under “Various (Artists)”. But they have done a remarkable job creating such coherent, homogenous tracks from this “eclectic selection of field recordings, samples, spoken word pieces and instrumentation, creating momentous emotional landscapes for the listener, delicate, tender moments and most of all, a yearning tumult of haunting quietude: a silent, swaying breath.

This album is available as a digital download only.
For only 3.99 GBP (EUR 4,65/USD 6,40) or preferrably some more you don’t only download this amazing “compilation”, but also help support the following charity organisations:

No reason NOT to download it!

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Various Artists – Just a Moment


Just a Moment

The Japan Earthquake and the Nuclear Disaster following it seem to have vanished from the media radar completely.
Which is strange enough, since the effects of the latter will be felt for decades (at the very least), and it’s unlikely that the people that were directly affected bu the earthquake have recovered from the disaster by now.

There have been some heartwarming beneficial releases by ambient/experimental artists until now, most notably the “Kanshin” and “For Nihon” albums. But for causes like this, there’s never ‘enough’ that can be raised for those that have suffered.

So, Harry ‘Spheruleus‘ Towell  teamed up with Bartosz ‘Pleq‘ Dziadosz  to curate another compilation in support of those affected by the Japan March disaster.

Just a Moment is released through the Audio Gourmet label, originally specialized in the short 15 minute  ‘coffee/tea break’ EP editions.

With a playing time of over one hour, this album is way too long for your coffee/tea break or your lunch break even. But the special thing about this album is that it contains contributions by 60 artists, thus limiting their contribution to about one minute length – which means that a selection of this album will fit any break you like!

The diverse selection of artists and music cannot, strictly spoken, be called “ambient” in genre. But for most of the artists included, ‘ambient’ is basically not the right genre definition at all. This might as well be called the “new acoustic experimentals“, the “slow movement“, or the “nouveaux impressionistes” – whatever you prefer. 

I’m not even beginning to name-drop here, if you check the contributors you’ll find many familiar names on the list, and hopefully some new names too.
Their music on this contribution is diverse but fits together very well.
It’s a pleasure to listen to these tracks playing randomly. And, because of the short time span of the tracks, this album also may succeed as a soundtrack library for future film directors.

PLEASE do me (and of course not only me) a favour when downloading this album: pay more than the 2.99 GBP minimum requested.
Your donation will go to those that were victim of the Japan earthquake, via Ian Hawgood (of Home Normal fame), who’s wife is currently working directly with some of the people affected. 

With 60 artists on a single album, it’s impossible to choose one single example…so just browse through the Bandcamp sound samples below:

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In the Bleak Wilderness of Sleep


Bleak Wilderness of Sleep

Apart from releasing music as Spheruleus, Harry Towell also curates the Audio Gourmet netlabel, well-known for their now 40+ releases that all can be downloaded for free from Bandcamp (or from when the Bandcamp credit runs out, but in that case I’d suggest donating a few dollars to keep them running).

Apart from these “tea/coffee-break” EP’s (all of them somewhere around 15 minutes in length), Audio Gourmet also has released a few full length albums (such as “Hidden Landscapes”). 

“In the Bleak Wilderness of Sleep”  (released may 2011) celebrates the first year of Audio Gourmet existence. And considering the contents of this compilation, Audio Gourmet has definitely found their place between the yop netlabels in the ambient/electronic/soundscape field!

“In the Bleak Wilderness of Sleep” presents a thoughtful and coherent selection of soundscape artists. 
Among them are familiar names like Francisco Lopez, Bartosz Dziadosz (a.k.a.Pleq), Michael Trommer, Small Things on Sundays, Spectra Ciera and (of course) Spheruleus.
Some of them were featured earlier on Audio Gourmet, others are new to the label.

The dark and almost inaudible beginning of the opening track ‘Pushing through Gray” (by Michael Trommer) sets the perfect tone for this collection,“curated and ordered to purposefully induce a state of sleep. Starting off minimally, gradually gathering tone and atmosphere, the experience goes on without ever boiling over or reaching a crescendo. Parts of the album are light and restful whereas traces of it tread darker territory. All in all, the imagery that the album conjurs sits perfectly as a soundtrack to the dreams one experiences during a nights sleep.”

The twelve tracks (73 minutes) on this album merge perfectly without suffering from too much ‘sameness’, indeed suggesting a ‘sleep cycle’ in sound. Avoiding the obvious ambient music cliché’s, this album is a great collection of contemporary Sound Art.

Either asleep or awake, this is an impressive birthday celebration from the label that grew up so quick!

As usual for limited releases like this, the physical edition has sold out quickly (only 7 left at the time of writing). But luckily, digital downloads edition will never run out!

Natalia Noelia Siebula & Bartosz Dziadosz – Ótta og kvíða

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Spheruleus – Forgotten Outland


Forgotten Outland cover

Apart from running his excellent Audio Gourmet netlabel (check their beautiful compilation album Hidden Landscapes” if you didn’t already), Harry Towell a.k.a. Spheruleus also releases his own music on different labels. 

Resting Bell  netlabel recently released his latest short (23 min) three track album called “Forgotten Outland“. 

Forgotten Outland has the sound and feel that has become a trademark for Spheruleus’ work, and yet it sounds different from his earlier recordings.

The music is inspired by the rural Lincolnshire surroundings in which he lives. String instruments (guitar and zither), sounding like a peaceful windchime, are embedded in a background of other musical sources (vibraphone, bugle, keyboard, harmonica, trumpet, violin) and field recordings.

So that may explain the ‘Outland’ , but what about the ‘Forgotten’

For this album, Harry Towell  wanted the instrument samples and field recordings to sound loose and degraded,  to “offer a faded insight into times gone by when the farmland thrived. Just like the physical state of the farm itself, the record sounds timeworn, warped and a shadow of its former self.”

You probably won’t hear many artists describe their latest album as ‘a shadow of its former self’, still that’s exactly what the charm of this album is – and that’s a positive note! 

Like the many other excellent offerings from Resting Bell, this is a free download, so no reason to hesitate!

Spheruleus – Wilting Bounds

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