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Sven Laux * Dead Melodies




Last year’s Paper Streets on the Dronarivm label was probably the first encounter with the music of Sven Laux for many listeners (myself included). But Laux has created music since 2003, and his discography extends to no less than nine albums, more than 25 singles & EP’s, and numerous appearances on compilations. So there’s a back catalogue to check out!
But before going back in time it’s best to stay in the present with this new album Schachmatt (‘checkmate’) on Whitelabrecs, Harry Towell’s limited editions label. (‘Limited’ meaning: the physical edition has already sold out by now). Here, Sven Laux further explores his ambient paths, with lush orchestral pad arrangements and a widescreen production.

Each track bears the name of a different chess player (Fisher, Spasski, Karpow, etc.): the inspiration for this album came from watching a movie about chess (it remains unknown which movie exactly), where each player had a different strategy. This is reflected in the tracks, “each one playing out along a different path, each with its own characteristics or game plan, if you will”.
This does nót mean that the tracks are completely different. On the contrary – they are a perfect match together.
After all, even when high-level chess players have a completely different strategy and follow a different path, in the end they all play within the set of rules of the game called Chess.
The same is true for Laux’ music on Schachmatt.



Exactly one year after Legends Of The Wood, Dead Melodies release their second album for the Cryo Chamber label. Or maybe ‘his’, since it’s only one person: Tom Moore from the UK. And it’s the second release for Cryo Chamber, but the fourth full length release (in two years).
From Cryo Chamber we’ve come to expect the darkest of the dark ambient, always with a widely cinematic production.  The Foundations of Ruin opens with a somewhat classical piano piece, but in the second track the music and atmosphere takes a spooky turn. After all, the narrative of this album is that “we are exploring the ghostly ruins of a once stately manor”.

“Something definitely feels wrong here, but with hours till dawn and the relentless storm wailing through the surrounding trees, the will to survive the night defeats all reason to fear this shady forgotten sanctuary.”

With its ghostly piano hidden in thick layers of fog, this music is as chilling as a captivating ghost story or a frightening game soundtrack. You do not need much imagination to almost notice the temperature drop a few degrees and to “feel a familiar chill running down your spine.”

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Dictaphone * OMRR * Ghost and Tape

Ghost and Tape - Var

Dictaphone April 70

DICTAPHONE – APR 70  Also on Spotify

Five years after Poems From A Rooftop (on Sonic Pieces) and even 15/11 years after their initial releases on City Centre Offices, suddenly there’s an unexpected new release by Dictaphone (not to be confused with the Dictaphones from the Dale Cooper Quartet).
APR 70 is released by Denovali – who (as the often do) celebrate the new release by also re-releasing the previous titles.

The trio (Oliver Doerell electronics, bass, guitar, Roger Döring – sax, clarinet and Alex Stolze violin) have been working three years on this album. Their unique and unclassifiable sound is immediately recognisable: it is the combination of instruments that perfectly matches the genre-defying arrangements. There’s a clear jazz-feel, but it is not jazz. And it’s the same for ‘ambient’, or ‘experimental’, or ‘improv’. It is all of that and none of that at the same time: ‘Dictaphone always want to create something that was missing before.’

‘It feels as if each of the uncountable layers of which the intricate arrangements are made has just the right amount of contrast to be visible, but there are only very few moments where one of the elements noticeably dominates the others. The cool jazz bits, analogue flourishes, hypnotic rhythms and refined electronics feed a dark serpent-like creature meandering in ever-changing morphologies through shapeless landscapes.’

Remarkable sonic poetry – and definitely one of this year’s most interesting releases!



The colourful cover image – by Francisca Pageo – is a promising statement: expect something else, something different from the usual. This is not your average ambient soundscape.
The adventurous Dronarivm label broadens its territories with this release by omrr – the somewhat strange stage name of Omar El Abd from Caïro, Egypt.
Not much is known about omrrapart from the fact that Eilean Rec released his previous album Music for the Anxious in 2016. Before that there were a few self-released titles in 2014 and 2016.

Combining many different genres into such a bright, light-hearted, mix-up ‘based on glitch, noise, micro-sounds, sampling and field-recording’ is quite an achievement. Not often is ‘experimental’ music so ‘accessible’ at the same time without losing its fresh weirdness.
I’m not familiar with the experimental music scene in Egypt at all, but if omrr‘s music is representative it’s a great start to to dig deeper into that local scene.

Ghost and Tape - Var

GHOST AND TAPE – VÁR  Also on Spotify

In the old ‘Norse’ language, the word Vár means Spring. Releasing an album with a title like that (and a cover like that) at the end of October accentuates the coldness of the current months but also help us know that we can look forward to another spring coming soon!

Heine Christensen (Ghost And Tapereleased his fourth full album (since 2010) on the Home Normal label – a fitting place for his intricate and detailed work.

“Inspired by and a tribute to Nature, in all its wonderful chaos, pure and forceful with mystifying, beautiful patterns”.

The description of Nature also neatly fits the music on Vár: as fresh as a new spring. Fragile, but strong at the same time – optimistic about the new start and the promises it hides.

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Andrew Heath * Sonmi451 * Sven Laux




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


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


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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