Posts Tagged ‘Ambient’

Miasmah Recordings – MIALP037 – 25th November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Svarte Greiner is in fact Erik K Skodvin. But identity is mutable, and on Moss Garden, Skodvin explores the mutable identity of sound in space. And by space, I mean both in terms of the spatial creations of soundscapes, and outer space: through the former, Moss Garden evokes the latter.

The album contains two side-long tracks. ‘The Marble’ creates a slow-moving sonic expanse of drifting ambience. Crackles of static create minor interference in the smooth surface which extends over light years of distance. It’s a journey of infinitesimally gradual transition and glacial, galactic expansion. Everything moves in suspension, slowly, moving in its own dense molecular soup.

‘Garden’ begins with a crescendo and works backwards, tapering off into near-silence before beginning to grow at vegetable pace. There’s no specific purpose to this elliptical reference to Andrew Marvell, but listening to musical explorations so overtly background affords the mind space to wander, and it’s always a source of amazement what thoughts and recollections venture to the fore when given the room to surface at will. Sitting back in a dimly-lit room with a large measure of something strong, this is the perfect sonic immersive to lift the listener out of the humdrum and into another dimension.

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Svarte Greiner – Moss Garden

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Someone Good – 1st September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

David Toop enthuses over Haco as ‘weightless, not so much a voice from heaven but a voice that swirls in liquidity, water spirit…’ In this, he probably gets as close to capturing the essence of Haco’s music as its possible. It’s a challenge for any writer when presented with sonic abstraction: how to render the intangible tangible, and at the same time convey the experience of sound in words?

The music on Qoosui is not easy – and in fact almost impossible – to pin down. An analogy to catching a cloud is close, but not right: the seven pieces exist in a state somewhere between liquid and vapour, and flow in multiple directions seemingly simultaneously. Rippling synths slowly bubble as wash aquatically on ‘Kusul’, and paves the way for a sequence of amorphous, drifting compositions which drift and tether. Crystalline shards cut through cloud-like washes on ‘White Letter from Heaven’, and Haco’s voice is seemingly not of the human body, transcendental, and not of this world.

This is, in many respects, the source and heart of Qoosui: inspired by spirit voices, Haco becomes one. The medium is the message on every level.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/224449651

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Gizeh Records – 13th October 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Otto Lindholm is based in Belgium. More pertinently, he plays double pass and is an electronic producer. Divided into four colour-inspired, long-form movements, the press release informs us that Alter takes off from Lindholm’s previous work (a self-titled album released in 2015), and ‘pushes the already abundant palette of sounds even further’. It also references Greek chamber-doom merchants Mohammad by way of a touchstone, but suggests that Lindholm’s latest may focus more attention on textures and melody.

Alter is very much a slow burn, to the extent that it crawls from the speakers with the first track, ‘Fauve’, which starts low and slow and gradually burrows deeper, with a long, low, resonant bass throb providing the undercurrent over which tremulous strings brood and sweep. ‘Lehener’ is sparser and more tentative-sounding, exploring more the space between the sounds, as the notes pulse and decay. The bass rolls in by stealth, before a range of sounds, all attenuated to different tones, textures and frequencies, as well as modulations. The notes rub against one another as they shift in different times and spaces.

At ten and a half minutes, ‘Alyscamps’ is the album’s longest piece, and Lindholm explores dark spaces through shuddering sonic shapes in slow collision.

The final composition, ‘Heliotrope’, is perhaps the most conventionally ‘orchestral’ of the four, and the one which offers the lightest of mood, with bowed bass and strings combining to create a delicate and graceful feel. But there’s a magnificent fluidity about Lindholm’s compositions, and these moments of levity emerge but briefly from the sombre atmospherics, before being subsumed into shades of grating dissonance.

The structures may be obscure, but there is a definite sense of form lurking behind the shape-shifting ambience of Lindholm’s work. And through those near-subliminal structures, which tease at the senses and inch into the subconscious, Lindholm achieves something which reaches beyond the listening experience and into another realm altogether.

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Otto Lindholm – Alter

13th October 2017

James Wells

This the first CD released by drøne, a collaborative project featuring the pioneering Mark Van Hoen and Mike Harding (not the 80s comedian also known as The Rochdale Cowboy). The accompanying text informs us that ‘Mappa Mundi traces and describes audio surrounding and occupying the planet earth’. In fact, the album comes with one hell of a write-up, which quoting at length is instructive:

Workers toil in smithies, call signs and chants-at-prayer reveal attempts to order the chaos, which always remains one step ahead. Post-lapsarian for sure, but smoke signals and drums have morphed into the ‘bing bong’ of the attention-grabbing, mind-polluting PA system. The coded simplicity of the whistle (“Start!”) has evolved into a more deliberate attempt to control rather than inform by explicit, structured language. Announcements have become commands; signs bark orders. Thus ‘no’ becomes a powerful rejection, rather than merely a preference; and no-ers are more easily to spot… “You’re going the wrong way”! (To which the only sensitive and mature response is: “Good!”)

Call signs, IDs, audio sigils and signatures all combine to describe a polluted, confusing atmosphere which threatens to leave us powerless and bewildered. "Decipher the sounds and you win the game! First prize is, guess what? You get to take the audio poison! Congratulations! You’ve lost!”.

As for the actuality, there’s perhaps something of a disparity. Because ultimately, not a lot happens on Mappa Mundi. It crackles and fizzes, clicks and pops, humming and droning along the way. But it’s largely quiet, unobtrusive,

The album’s five movements, with a total running time of thirty-five minutes, are mastered as a single continuous track, at least on the advance digital. On the one hand, it’s frustrating, but Mappa Mundi is an album which is best experienced in a single sitting, uninterrupted. And it is an experience, albeit an uncomfortable one.

Drøne - Mappa Mundi

Clang – 29th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s probably a press release somewhere, but I should probably just listen and lose myself in this. Endless Undo is a work of infinite subtlety, layered and detailed. It is, of course, the result of meticulous editing, a restive mind working and reworking, doing and endlessly undoing in order to achieve moments of microtonal bliss.

Böhm’s field is, ostensibly, the space between ambience and beat-propelled electronica: the compositions are rhythmic at heart, and while there are distinct and definite beats, they’re rarely dominant, and are often subdued, restrained or otherwise bouncing agitatedly in the background.

‘Heissenberg’ is built around bleeps and whistles, crackles drones and some swampy avant-electro percussion, and creates an enticing atmosphere without disclosing even a fraction of the range of the album as a whole.

‘Liub’ goes scratchy and glitchy against clanking electronica, explosive blasts of shuffling, processed beats and while it’s paired back and sparse on the surface, there is a lot going on: ‘Dezembur’ bumps and scrapes, bumps and scrapes its way through tremulous fear chords and dramatic yet understated piano. Glass tinkles and chimes while a single picked note hangs in the air for an eternity, swelling before a slow decay. It segues into the dense swell of ‘Klicker’, which builds to a bubbling, bassy groove which is far from ambient, bit so swampy as to be submersive.

There’s a definite arc to Endless Undo, and while it may only contain five tracks, over the course of its thirty-five-and-a-half-minute running time, Böhm may not exactly develop a sense of narrative, but does build upwards in solidity and intensity before the sparse, crystalline ‘Madeira’ turns in on itself to bring the album to a delicate yet moody close.

There’s a sense that Endless Undo is an album about potentials: the end product is simply the version the artist has settled on after a relentless tweaking and adjustment. It could have been a very different album. But then again, perhaps not, but we will never know.

Volker Böhm – Endless Undo

Room40 – 1st September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

In certain circles at least, Tony Buck requires little to no introduction as the percussionist of longstanding Australia purveyors of avant-jazz trio The Necks.

Unearth is an immense departure in many respects, not least of all in that it not a percussion-led composition. His first solo work, recorded over a number of years, is an expansive, long-form piece spanning some fifty-one and a half minutes.

It’s a quiet, unsettling composition, with layered sounds building and overlapping, dark rumbles and drones juxtaposing with vague clattering incidentals, hisses, scrapes, hums, drips, plops and thuds.

Around the fifteen-minute mark, conventional instrumentation emerge, with ratting percussion, sonorous bass notes and picked guitar strings drifting across sampled voices and fragmented field recordings. However, it’s clear that the tension isn’t about to break any time soon, and nor is Buck about to unleash a square slice of rock tunage. Plinks, plonks and rattles shade across creaks and yawning ultra-low bass which hangs dense and heavy in the air.

There is a transitory moment of graceful musicality around the half-hour point, where chiming guitars and irregular, delicate percussion combine to create a subtle passage that’s ethereal, atmospheric and pure post-rock. And here comes the build: cymbals clatter and crash in a rising crescendo; gongs boom, and a tempest of sound rises as if from nowhere, as the treble of electronic bleeps cut through the evolving cacophony.

Things to settle into a less disturbing, less abrasive roll of swirling ambience thereafter, with chanks and chinks trembling over skittering sinews of sound stretched over weary, low-end drones which crawl and scratch.

Nothing about Unearth is easy or accessible, although Buck’s grasp on the slow-evolving dynamic of the longform composition is abundantly clear as the gradual transitions flow s effortlessly as to be unnoticeable.

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Tony Buck -Unearth

Macaque Records – 21st August 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Gilman Mom is the musical vehicle for Dominic Francisco (which has a star quality of its own). As Dominic explains, Manifest Destiny ‘plays heavily with texture and field recordings melding with emotional chords and words in attempt to convey my mental transformation from a vulnerable state to a confident one’.

The text which accompanies the release is almost uncomfortably direct, and it seems appropriate to quote in full:

I want it to feel like a troubled night walk of self-reflection that blossoms into realization.

This album isn’t for you so much as it is for me. I needed a way to document my circular thought process. Around and around until I stumbled upon developments. It’s not for everybody but it’s what I felt in my head when I thought about you for so long after that night. Nature surrounded me almost perfectly as this unfolded; you left me in the rain and by the time that storm ended I had found myself again. With this piece I want to remember who I was and how I got here. However fragile we were and unfit for each other, I gained so much insight into who I am from what was us. With your inadvertent help I’ve entered a state of definity. This is my journey to that place.

It’s clear from this that Manifest Destiny originates from an intensely personal place and one feels almost voyeuristic by simply being in its presence, without even listening to it. Should you listen to it? It sounds more like a work of therapy following a sequence of breakdown and recovery. Is it even intended for the ears of the casual listener?

In contrast to the write-up, the music the album features is uncomfortably indirect. Rumbling piano, distant discord that rolls like thunder way, way off, an unsettlingly sparse piano and muttered vocal snippets, the words inaudible, congeal into a dense mass of sound which offers little by way of shape, form, or tangibility.

At times barely there, eddying arabesques of synth contrails surround distorted, hushed vocal snippets, the actual words unintelligible. Gloopy tremors shiver amidst subaquatic hums and bubbling drones. Clicks, clatters and muffled extranea ebb and flow in the sonic swamp.

Any sense of linear progression, narrative flow, or emotional shift over the sequence of the album’s eleven tracks is difficult to determine: it feels more like a murky sonic miasma, slowly pulsating through a fog of introspection, apart from the glimmers of light briefly afforded by ‘Fool’s Gold’ at the mid-point. This is in no way a criticism: as an experience in ephemera, a vague allusion to sequence of events and emotions largely unknowable, the context matters less than the recordings themselves. And these are deeply atmospheric, sparse yet subtly immersive compositions, which exist in a realm of detachment, a world between worlds.

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Gilman Mom - Manifest Destiny