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Steve Roach & Robert Logan; Phonothek; Erik Wøllo & Byron Metcalf

Second Nature

Second Nature

Second Nature is part of a set of two distinctively different albums released simultaneously.
Biosonic, the twin album, focuses on ‘elegant futurism: a labyrinth of bio-electrical rhythmic pieces mixed with passages of deep drifting textural magnetism’, while Second Nature is filled with ‘romantic minimalism: nuanced, sparse, ambient-atmospherics and processed-piano tone paintings’.
In short, they both serve quite a different mood.

In a way, it’s a meeting of two generations and Anglo-American cultures: 28-year-old (England-based) Robert Logan has been a fan of 61-year-old (American) ambient performer Steve Roach ever since he was 13 years old.

From these two albums, Second Nature is my favourite because of it’s dreamlike tranquility; the way Roach‘s vintage analog synths, live looping, mixing and effects processing merge with Logan‘s (processed) electric grand piano playing.  The 70 minutes of music are divided in four tracks: two long (22/32 minutes), and two relatively short (8-10 minutes).

Lost in Fog

“Recommended as a companion for sleepless nights”…. I’m not sure about that, personally, since the overall sound of this album is rather dark and might not really help you to feel comfortable enough to fall asleep. But if you have no desire to fall asleep soon you might very well enjoy its companionship: it’s a fascinating cinematic sound indeed, created using, vinyl crackles, echoes, bowed strings and horns.

Phonothek is a (‘male/female’) duo from Georgia, Europe (further details unknown); their sound is recognisable European in its resemblances to names like Bohren & der Club of Gore, Kilimanjaro Dark Jazz Ensemble and their music revealing influences from the experimental artists recording for the Crammed/Made to Measure series.

Like ‘new age’, ‘dark ambient’ is a dangerous label because it may scare away some listeners, the tag evokes possible prejudices about dolphin sounds (in the former) or monk chants (in the latter).
Don’t let such a prejudice misguide you: there’s none of this here – and you would definitely miss out of a great atmospheric, David Lynchian ambient-jazz album.

Also on Spotify

Earth Luminous

Speaking of genre tags: Erik Wøllo usually operates at the lighter side of the ambient spectrum (and I deliberately avoid the use of ‘new age’ here since that doesn’t really do justice to his music).
The Norwegian composer/musician has been active since 1980, covering a wide range of styles, from rock to jazz to ambient music.
On this album, he pairs his widespread synthscapes to the tribal percussion of Byron Metcalf, who’s career spans over 40 years and many different genres. Ambient music devotees may know his name from his work with Steve Roach.
Metcalf‘s beautifully recorded ‘shamanic’ rhythm patterns add a steady, earthly beat to Wøllo ‘s ethereal, floating ambient – “a sound flowing freely along with the currents all the time balancing the dark with the light.”

Also on Spotify

Star's End 2015
This hour-long live-set, originally recorded for the Star’s End radio show on Philadelphia’s WXPN, shows a somewhat different side of Erik Wøllo.
On his Silent Currents series (which are all live-sets for Star’s End, by the way), Wøllo explores the more abstract, minimal side of ambient soundscapes.
This is ‘classic’ ambient, firmly rooted in the ambient music of the seventies’ (but without the sequenced arpeggio’s)

“I think the interesting things happen below the surface where everything has a slow, suspended character. Like a deep river flowing unnoticed, motion happening in the undercurrents, or tidal water flowing in the opposite direction of the top flow.”

Also on Spotify

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Steve Roach; Erik Wøllo; S.E.T.I.; As Lonely as Dave Bowman

Etheric Imprints

With a back catalogue boasting more than 100 releases since 1982, Steve Roach is one of the great Masters of ambient music. His output is immense: there are 6 releases mentioned on Discogs for 2015 and we’re only halfway through the year. It is also very diverse: his earlier work inspired by the likes of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and Vangelis, often returning to the sequencer based Berlin-school and modular synths – but also tribal rhythms inspired by the natural beauty of the southwest of the United States… and everything inbetween.
Etheric Imprints offers four long highly introspective tracks – ‘focusing on the essential elements of sound, silence, tone, and time-altering forms; peeling away the surface layers to reveal the subterranean strata beneath.’
The opening title track, with 29:42 also the longest track on the album, has a beautiful deep grand piano sound ‘responding to an expansive electro-acoustic environment’ immediately reminiscing the best of Brian Eno‘s installation works. On the subsequent tracks, the piano slowly retreats to make place for more dissonant notes, but the overall sound remains etheric and totally immersive.


I have no idea why this is called an EP, because with the total length of 43 minutes it is longer than many other ‘full’ albums.
Possibly Erik Wøllo calls it that because he doesn’t consider this to be a ‘full’ album, but rather a collection of improvised experiments using guitars and a collection of chained pedals and devices, later enriched with sequenced synthesizer and percussion elements.
But whatever the reason, Echotides feels like a complete full album to me – and a rather nice and relaxing one too!
“The whole idea of the project was to create a sustained and free floating selection of tracks built upon interacting fragments of sound and processed textures, all blended together and forming a constant morphing endless flow.”

SETI - Companion

S.E.T.I. is Andrew Lagowski‘s personal Search for ExtraTerrestial Intelligence.
The Geometry of Night
 was S.E.T.I.‘s second full album, released in 1996. It now gets a double-cd-rerelease paired with a brand new ‘sister album’ called Companion.
Both albums are loosely related thematically yet quite different in nature. Geometry of Night has that typical late 90’s sound & feel, more beat-oriented,  and more light-hearted than Companion, that has no beats and presents more abstract spacey soundscapes. Some of them (like Roxs 42Bb and Rr Caeli Cataclysmic Variable) quite frightening because they sound like recordings of extra-terrestial lifeforms trying to reach out for us.
Play loud for maximum effect!

S.E.T.I. – Roxs42Bb

As Lonely as Dave Bowman

The project name, the album title, the track titles: everything in this project refers to Kubrick’s ground breaking sci-fi masterpiece 2001 – A Space Odyssey  (1968). ‘Monolith is a soundtrack for the final four months of Dave’s journey to Jupiter.’
2001 was (and still is) unique because of the stilistic choices made to represent life in space: no blasting spacecraft motors (‘in space, there is no sound’), and lóóng sequences, seemingly without much action, depicting the slow weightless life. This timelessness is carefully represented in the Monolith soundtrack, especially in the closing track A Long, Dark Corridor Filled With Lights. A Memory. And Then A Bright Room With Air., which is over 40 minutes long. It immediately recaptures the movie’s unforgettable closing scene.
As Lonely As Dave Bowman (Sam Rosenthalaka Black Tape For a Blue Girl side-project) creates a fully electronic revision of the soundtrack. In that, it diverts from Kubrick’s own choices: he didn’t use electronic music or the soundtrack but deliberately chose orchestral acoustics such as the Richard Strauss waltzes as well as the frightening choir music from György Ligeti.
Like the movie that inspired it, Monolith requires a certain mindset to be fully appreciated: ‘droning space, wordless drift with long suspended passages… the album touches the edges of isolation and glacial solitude, with a discernible warm human core.’
Available as a digital download album on Bandcamp, but there’s also limited Kickstarter-funded physical editions available.

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



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.”

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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!


Lauki - 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

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).


Monuments of Exstasy

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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