Posts Tagged ‘Atmospheric’

Edinburgh born Kendall based artist Celestial North has shared ‘Yarrow’, a haunting atmospheric ‘botanical’ soundtrack.  For fans of Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds or Sigur Ros, this reflective and meditative piece gently sways with a wash of pianos and sighing melodies. It’s a tantalizing other side of Celestial North’s artistry and a teaser for her album released later this year. 

Watch the video for ‘Yarrow’ here:

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She says of the song:  “I often think in ‘music’. My thoughts are usually awash with colours and sounds. I was sitting trying to meditate, or contemplate, beside the yarrow patch in my garden. I was finding it difficult to articulate how I was feeling and started to feel a bit frustrated. I decided to sit quietly and start again. I realised that I didn’t really have any words to write down as such but I did have a tune playing in my head. I decided to record this tune on my piano and added some other elements that I felt benefitted the song — a bodhran drum, a choir, the rustling of the yarrow patch and the roses recorded from my garden and some simple electronic sounds.  This botanical soundscape is representative of how I felt whilst I was sitting with the yarrow and the tune played on the piano is the tune that was playing in my head whilst sitting with the plant."

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Christopher Nosnibor

Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More is such a quintessentially post-rock album title: without hearing a note, it evokes the spirit of 2003-2006 or thereabouts. On listening, it’s perhaps not as overtly post-rock as all that – it’s not a slow-building crescendo-fest with chiming guitars like Explosions in the Sky or even lesser-known acts like And So I Watch You From Afar, but with ties to legends in the field, it is every inch of that milieu, with ‘the cello of Rebecca Foon (Saltland, Set Fire To Flames, Silver Mt Zion) and the marimba of ex-Godspeed You! Black Emperor percussionist Bruce Cawdron at its core’.

It’s been a full five years since their last album, 2017’s Mechanics of Dominion, and during this time the Montreal-based collective have been doing what, it seems, the Montreal post-rock scene does best – detaching themselves from the world and conjuring magnificent, magical soundscapes that offer a conduit to planes of pure escapism.

Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More presents a rich sonic tapestry that incorporates a broad range of elements. The press released makes mention of ‘emotive chamber works using threads of post-classical, post-rock, Minimalism, neo-Baroque, jazz, pop and a wide array of folk traditions’ as being Esmerine’s palette.

‘Blackout’ opens the album with a soft, elegant piano draped with brooding strings that’s graceful, subtly emotive, and easy on the ear. ‘Entropy: Incantation – Radiance – The Wild Sea’, the first of the two-part ‘Entropy’ suite is a nine-minute journey through atmospheric ambience, where one treads with trepidation, uncertain of what may be hidden in the shadows. There’s an aura of ancient mysticism that echoes before eventually, the track refocuses toward a driving prog rock finale.

The beauty and joy of such a work is that while there are undoubtedly inspirations and emotions poured into the compositions, such wide spaces without words offer the listener a vessel into which to empty their own experiences and interpretations, and as such, a piece like the seven-minute ‘Imaginary Pasts’ with its lilting piano, roiling drums, and textured guitar work which trips out into hazy space offers so much scope for the listener to invest and reflect upon their own imaginary pasts. Such invitations to meditate on life and to journey into inner space are extremely welcome when life is so relentless.

Despite the title seemingly alluding to a sense of nostalgia, Everything Was Forever feels more like a work that creates its own space in time, rather than reflecting on a time past. Three of the four final tracks are under three minutes each in length, and as such, are almost dream-like fragments, and the listener finds themselves wandering through chiming bells and rippling notes that dapple like sunlight through trees in a breeze on ‘Wakesleep’, before ‘Number Stations’ guides the way not towards the light, but through a murky sonic swamp or eerie echoes before taking its final magnificent form, and reminds us that, ultimately, nothing is forever, and everything is just a fleeting moment in the scheme of eternity.

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Last month, Mat Ball (BIG | BRAVE) announced his first full-length solo album, Amplified Guitar, arriving on The Garrote on 1st July on all formats.

Today he shares the entrancing and moving video for second single, ‘To Catch Light III’. Filmed and edited by Joshua Ford at The Garrote HQ in Illinois using the most simple elements, this video presents a remarkable visual analogue to the economy and elegance of the music and provides an astounding physical account of the sound.

Having recently stood transfixed watching Ball wring notes from his guitar and similar setup while on touch with BIG | BRAVE, this video is both mesmerising and representative of that experience. Calling to mind the expansive guitar workouts of Dylan Carlson’s solo work, ‘To Catch Light III’ hints towards and album that’s rich, textured, immersive.

Watch the video here:

Recorded at Hotel2Tango by Godspeed’s Efrim Manuel Menuck, Ball performed each of these beautiful songs in a single take. Plucking, strumming, bowing, or just slowly moving an electric guitar of his own construction in front of an array of amps, Mat Ball managed to expertly coerce some very deeply moving music from very little. 

Additionally, Mat Ball shall release a book, Accidents (with orders via www.thegarrote.com and Bandcamp). Operating as a visual analog to the Amplified Guitar LP, the work in Mat Ball’s book Accidents is also based on chance: chance in discovery, chance in process, or chance in accidental results. Whether found at rest and documented in that natural/untouched state, or assembled/touched by Ball’s hand, the aleatoric element in each piece is vital. First edition limited to 100 copies.

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Photo Credit: Stacy Lee

Rocket Recordings – 10th June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

International Treasure is the second album from the ‘collaborative collision’ of Steve Davis, Kavus Torabi, and Mike York. And, of course, much has – and will – be made of the Steve Davis factor: he may have kept his musical interests largely under wraps during the lengthy heyday of his snooker career, but the fact is that he’s long been a fan and supporter of ‘interesting; music, and this is a musical unit that stands on the strength of its work – and its work is (utopia) strong.

As the accompanying notes explain about the origins of International Treasure, ‘All three musicians here found themselves operating outside of their comfort zones – Torabi’s purchase of a guzheng (a Chinese plucked zither) led to Shepherdess’s lambent allure and York’s spectacular and evolving array of pipes and wind instruments contributed just as much as his ruthless editing. Davis meanwhile, whose speciality lies in rich tapestries of modular electronics, sums up their relationship in characteristically self-effacing fashion: “I see myself as a strong midfielder, or a centre back. Kavus and Mike are like the Lionel Messi or Ronaldo of the equation, and I’m setting situations up for them”.

Davis’ application of an extended football analogy is amusing in context, and one suspects it’s an intentional slice of drollery. The music itself is not amusing – as in, there are no chuckles to be found here – but instead is intensely focused, with magnificent results. There’s a tangible sense of an intuition flowing between the three of them on this album as the sounds ebb and flow and weave and quaver, the elongated drones and meandering organs melting together like a stream of butter.

There are some odd samples – probably animal, rather than vegetable or mineral – flow together into a soft mass, with no hard boundaries, no distinct edges… ‘Shepherdess’ is spacious, meditative, but shifts over time to emerge as a more pulse-based modular synth work, and ‘Disaster 2’ brings all of the various elements together perfectly, as well as bringing together ambient, post-rock, and folk. It’s a beautiful and uplifting experience, and one which acknowledges the pains, trials, and tribulations of life, how it may not be possible to function all day every day.

There’s something soothing, even soporific, about the slow, mellifluous tones that drift together smoothly, seemingly effortlessly, to coalesce into some form, however cloud-like and abstract, to create International Treasure. Even when deep, resonant notes hang like the slow decay of a chimed gong, as on the title track, the darkness is always tempered, by light.

It’s not ambient and it’s not Krautrock – but International Treasure finds the three musicians drawing on elements of both to conjure something magical, something mystical. The final track, ‘Castalia’ is a calypso party party, and if it at first feels somewhat at odds with the rest of the album, it’s worth bearing in mind that the album exists at all because the players are keen to explore different terrains and territories. And explore they do: International Treasure mines many seams, and excavates a wealth of listening pleasure.

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After being involved with Heilung for two years, and more recently with the worldwide-acclaimed movie The Northman as songwriter and actor, Jonas Lorentzen decided to focus on his own musical expression, based on a reimagination of Nordic Folk and spiritually driven music. The result is Nebala, spearheaded by Jonas Lorentzen, but assisted and graced by powerful talents such as Sebastian Gainsbourough (Vessel, The Northman, Manchester Collective), Kjell Braaten (Wardruna, Origami Galaktika) as well as non-musician minds assisting in the conceptual development, Doctor Mathias Nordvig (Professor of Pre-Christian Religion at CU Boulder) and Philosopher Naina Gupta (University of Kingston).

Nebala unveils today the new single ‘Ant Mér Sjalfri Þér’, a song about unfulfilled love, desire and longing consuming us. It refers to the myth in which Wōdan sought the Billingas magwia, the Maiden of the Fleeting Moment. In this myth, love and desire are ripped away from the ones who have let themselves be consumed. The artist also releases a new video, a short film in which the songs ‘Ant Mér Sjalfri Þér’ and ‘Laþu’ merge to create ‘The Eternal Child’.

Jonas Lorentzen comments: "This is the entire art film as we originally intended. A story about a man trying to come to grips with his own demons and desires. Inspired by mythology and Jungian archetypes."

Watch the video here:

Using traditional frame drums, lyre, tagelharpa, Tibetan singing bowls, and throat singing, Jonas Lorentzen has developed a unique Indo-Nordic sound for Nebala that toys with timescapes, soundscapes, and cultural boundaries to bring you back to the primordial experience of music itself.

He comments on the album: “When you let yourself be taken by desire and lust, you will be consumed by what the ancient Germanic peoples called Laþu. The ancestor of our modern word “to let,” laþu suggests giving into natural desire and emotion. When Wōdan sought the deepest knowledge of the cosmos he had to brave the dangers of the deep caves in Hnitbjörg and let himself be taken by the desire of Gunlaþu, the forceful goddess of the underworld.”

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28th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

While physical formats for music may not be especially popular these days, there really is no substitute for holding an article in in your hand. It’s not just about the artefact or the possession – although increasingly, I feel that actually ‘owning’ your music seems like a sound move as acts pull their music from popular platforms – particularly Spotify – and acts who no longer exist cease to maintain their websites and BandCamp profiles and their works simply disappears. Nothing is permanent, but when it comes to things which are virtual, their ephemerality is even more pronounced. This is a long way to coming around to saying that the CD for Abrasive Trees’ new single is magnificent as an item, and it’s very much a fitting way to present the musical contents, and with three tracks including a remix of ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ by Mark Beazley (Rothko), it’s a proper 12” / CD single release, the likes of which are sadly scarce these days.

I don’t just love it for the nostalgia: this feels like a proper, solid package in every way, and ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ is very much cut from the cloth of sparse, minimal shoegazey post-rock, which provides the backdrop to a stirring spoken word performance before spinning into a slow-burning extended instrumental work. It builds and it broods, the atmosphere growing denser and tender as the picked guitar lines unfurl and interweave across a slow, strolling bass. A reflection on life and death, earth and afterlife, it’s a compelling performance, and the words would stand alone either on a lyrics sheet or as a poem. From there, it’s a gradual, and subtle journey that culminates in a crescendo – that’s strong, yet restrained.

B-side / AA side ‘Kali Sends Flowers’ is moving: again, it’s understated, and yet so very different, spinning a blend of post punk – even hinting at the gothier end of the post-punk spectrum – and psychedelia that in places hints at Spear of Destiny in the way it’s sparse yet rousing. It’s one of those songs that simply isn’t long enough, and that demands for ‘repeat’ to be hit immediately to keep it going.

Mark Beazley’s remix of ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ accentuates the atmospherics, and while it retains the rhythm – and if anything it highlights the beef of the bass – and is generally quite respectful in its treatment, and somehow expands the vibe and introduces a more ambient feel, while at the same time shaving over a minute off the time of the original. It’s an interesting – and I mean that positively – reworking, and one that most definitely brings something fresh to the track, rounding off what’s as close to a perfect EP as you’ll hear all year.

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DARKHER are now premiering the bitter-sweet video single ‘Love’s Sudden Death’ taken from the beloved Northern English doom act’s sophomore album The Buried Storm, which has been chalked-up for release on April 15.

The black and white clip ‘Love’s Sudden Death’ was filmed on location at Long Dike Moor, which lies between Hebden Bridge and Haworth in West Yorkshire – and is also very close to Top Withens, the moorland that inspired the Brontë Sisters’ novels and poetry.

Watch the video here:

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Photo: Catherine Pogue

Metropolis Records – 4 February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

For years, I’ve had the rage. There is, after all plenty in this world, this life, and no doubt beyond, to rage about and against. iVardensphere focus that rage through sound rather than verbally, through an album that articulates darkness and tension through the language of sound.

‘A Whimsical Requiem for the Fey’ is appropriately titled; being a breezy, neoclassical assimilation of light-as-air plucked strings and soft, accessible melody. As such, it does nothing to prepare the listener for the instant plunge into the darkest of depths brough with the growling churn of ‘The Maw’, which features Jesse Thom. But it’s on the title track that the album really hits its stride. Tribal drums dominate a gloomy soundscape, weighted with dense bass tones, but also the portent of soaring vocals. And while the jagged strings add to the tension, the drums simply build and build and batter your very being. This isn’t rage, it’s the unleashing of vengeance via the hammering of the soul.

The individual compositions are each dramatic and powerful in their own right, and the attention not only to the details of the arrangement, but the sequencing of the album stands out, and the ambition is clear without the explanation that this is ‘a sweeping, cinematic album, equally suited as the next evolutionary step of iVardensphere, and as the film score to a post-apocalyptic motion picture.’ It’s dark, stark, and atmospheric, and thunderous rhythms evoke ancient mysticism, and scenes on barren hilltops and sweeping moorlands; tribal rituals, burials, spiritual ceremonies of great import. And there are moments when those rhythms step up, pounding harder and more intensely, so as to be all-encompassing.

As the accompanying notes outline, ‘Traditional percussion from all corners of the world, Taiko, Surdo, djembe, timpani, and more are deftly intermixed with all manner of sourced percussion sounds. Hammers and anvils, slamming doors, even the sound of a dumpster being kicked are sampled and folded into the sonic melange.’ We’re in Neubauten / Test Dept territory here, but there’s a subtlety to so many of the compositions that go beyond these comparisons too: the graceful sweeps of ‘Indomitus’ stray from anything industrial towards progressive / post rock territories, and Seeming’s vocals are almost rock.

The electronic elements are remarkably restrained in the main, with only occasional incursions, such as the bending blasts of bass on ‘Varunastra’ (which features Brittany Bindrim’s vocals); elsewhere, ‘Draconian’ brings the drones, and a low, serrated throbbing. Then, it also brings glitchy danceable beats, which evolve into another crashing assault that batters away relentlessly.

Then there’s the straight-ahead thump ‘n’ grind of ‘Orcus’ and the mournful trudge of ‘The Age of Angels is Over’; these tracks conjure very different atmospheres, but in the way the album unfolds, they develop a sense of significance. If ‘Sisters of the Vipers Womb’, with Brien Hindman’s vocals, seems a little too cliché in its sinister stylings, it sits in the broader context of an expansive and immersive work that has a trajectory through ever-changing moods, and to powerful effect.

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3rd December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

If there’s ever been an emerging theme across music of all genres in the last year and a half, it’s isolation. Yes, if a global pandemic has achieved one thing, it’s brought everyone together in their feelings of isolation.

And so it is that we learn that the tracks on Graceful Isolation ‘address the feelings of isolation and coming to terms with new norms that the past year has brought. The title is derived from the fact that over the course of the album, none of the collaborators were ever in the same room.

One could counteract that in creating an album featuring numerous collaborations (notably Kimberly Kornmeier of brooding orchestral electro goth act Bow Ever Down on vocals on three songs, but also a slew of remixers), Dave McAnally has been far from alone despite being forced to work in physical isolation, yielding an album that demonstrates that distance is no object and geography is a state of mind, even if it is no substitute for proximity.

‘Poison My Skin’ makes for an atmospheric opener, with stark, minimal synths and drum machine providing a cold backdrop. ‘You’re never gonna touch me again’, Kimberly croons in a detached, robotic monotone, with subtle hints of Siouxsie, while giving voice to the thoughts that have echoed around my head that there are likely many people I have seen, heard, and been in the presence of for the last time in my life. I don’t miss the office, I don’t miss the people I used to work alongside in that artificial, uncomfortable, unnatural space, and yet… well, none of us expected that way of life to be curtailed, and certainly not in the way it was, an instant switch-off. March 2020, on being told to go home to work, I never anticipated being away more than a few weeks. And here we are… people have moved on; people have left; people are no longer with us. It’s been a long and painful couple of years.

‘All the Pieces’ and in particular ‘Impossible Dreams’ are stripped-back and sparse in their arrangements – not quite demos, but certainly skeletal, with stuttering drum machines providing the brittle spine to the songs. The lack of flesh on the bones is integral to the appeal here.

‘Drowning in the Past’ and ‘Illusions’ are tense, queasy in their taut atmosphere. McAnally resumes vocal duties, and said vocals are pegged low in the mix, compressed, accentuating the dislocation and distance. The former pegs a particularly expansive guitar solo to some nagging synths and comes on like a proggy James Ray, and it’s some good shit if you’re on the market for dark, gothy electropop.

My only niggle – surprisingly or perhaps not so much – would be that the thirteen tracks on the album consist of only five individual songs, and with three mixes of ‘All The Pieces’ slap bang in the middle, in addition to the original version, plus three versions of ‘Drowning in the Past’ it’s does get a little bit repetitive, and it may have worked better as an EP and a remix EP rather than a full-length album in its own right. Put another way, I’d play the grooves off the EP, but would probably only spin the remixes every now and again – not because they’re poor remixes, but because the original cuts hang together so well, it feels like a fully-realised document that requires no adornment.

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By Norse – 26th November 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Hildring is the second album by Wardruna vocalist Lindy-Fay Hella with musicians Dei Farne. It’s been a long time in the making, with ‘Taag’ dropping as a single back in the summer of 2020. But what is time when the world is off its keel and the world is spinning at a different pace, one so rapid we’ve lost touch with our innermost selves? Lindy-Fay Hella and Dei Farne connect with a past world, a time before technology: not necessarily a more primitive time, but a time in which there was a closer connection to earth and nature, and also to the inner self, the core spirit.

‘Hildring’ is the Norwegian word for mirage, and it’s fitting, for despite the solid, tribal percussion that dominates the sound, paired with solid, chunky basslines, the remaining musical elements are fleeting, flitting, mellifluous, transient, impossible to grasp a firm hold of.

That isn’t to say the album is all airy atmosphere and no substance: quite the opposite, in fact, there’s a sturdiness and density to the richly layered compositions, and it’s a very fine balance of the seemingly separate elements, namely the solid, and the ethereal and airy. The drumming is immense, ribcage-rattling, rousing. There is a wonderfully rich, earthy quality to Hildring. In keeping with Wardruna’s quest to explore Norse cultural and esoteric traditions by delving into ancient history and mythology, so in this collaborative project Lindy-Fay Hella continues that focus. The sound is modern, but the album is deeply evocative as echoes of the ancient resonate forward through every note, and you feel the aura of generations past around your being as you listen. It resonates in ways beyond expression, beyond lived experience. It’s deep, and it’s powerful, and strikes a resonant chord from the off with the percussion-led title track, where soaring vocals and a driving bass melt together amidst spacious waves of sound, and it sets the bar and the form.

In something of a shift from the overarching style, ‘Insect’ feels rather more overtly electronic, with skittering glow-worm flickers flitting hither and thither, but it’s still packing a rare emotional intensity.

‘Compositionally, ‘Briising’ is minimal; drums, bass, sweeping, droning synth, and incidental cymbals accompany a balanced, inwardly-focused vocal performance. There’s a menacing, growling vocal that is again otherworldly, and if not scary, then unsettling. ‘I return to fire’, he repeats in a dark, gravelled monotone.

‘Taag’ goes big on the expansive sound, and it’s sweeping, immense, immersive. It’s bordering on the grandiosity of post-rock, and propelled by urgent drumming. Elsewhere, the sparse, looping synth of the appropriately-titled ‘Otherworld’ is relentless and resonant.

Throughout, Lindy-Fay’s vocals are outstanding, and the album showcases her remarkable vocal dexterity. Often light and airy and floating and soaring above all layers of human perception, Hildring is magical, mystical, beautiful, majestic, and powerful. There, I managed to not to use ‘epic’!

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