Posts Tagged ‘Kranky records’

Kranky – 18th February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The thirteenth Pan•American for album for Labradford’s Mark Nelson since 1998’s eponymous debut is a magnificently mellow affair. Written and recorded in isolation in the summer of 2020, it’s billed as ‘a suite of solo guitar instrumentals accented with lap steel, harmonica’, and it feels contemplative, and evokes in some sense the strangeness of the time.

In many respects, the summer of 2020 feels like a dream that happened a lifetime ago, and it’s sometimes hard to credit that it even happened. Lockdowns began around the globe around the middle of March 2020, and with them came an air of unreality. By the April of 2020, it’s recorded that around half the world’s population was under some form of lockdown restrictions. The world seemed to have literally stopped; everything was on pause. Admittedly, it was more paused for some than others. For many, lockdown meant being unable to work as all but the most essential services and provisions were shut down. It was a strange spell which demanded rapid adjustment; many had to adjust to reduced income and time on their hands, highlighting the eternal dichotomy of being time-rich or cash-rich – although under capitalism, those who generate the wealth rarely have the luxury of choice. And so to find days stretching out ahead of them without the daily grind, people found new things to do, new ways to be.

We didn’t all have the luxury of time: the balance tipped. The ability to home work and home school collided to create an explosion of stress and relentless activity while in a state of elevated pressure. All of this simply goes to show you can’t have it all, and you can’t win. I found myself struggling to reconcile numerous articles about ‘the great pause’ with my own experience of barely having time to piss while the whole family was living, working, and schooling under one roof for months on end.

But for all that, there were some good times, times outdoors, times spent on walks, flying kites, and throwing frisbees in fields, occasional moments of downtime reading a book with a cold beer in the back yard.

The Patience Fader feels like a soundtrack to these moments, and the tile feels like an encapsulation of that slow-creeping tension that said that however pleasant those moments of calm, they would be but brief, and all too often, thoughts would creep under the door to slowly gnaw at that tranquillity. The gnawing isn’t a part of the album’s listening experience, which is soothing, sedate.

Nelson’s guitar twang, bathed in reverb, hangs in space and suspends time as each note pauses and reflects on its direction, on what it means, on its purpose. You feel as if you’re watching the notes drift out into emptiness, street and paths bereft of people, roads bereft of traffic. ‘Harmony Conversation’ encapsulates the sedate mood, an almost lazy-sounding drifting leisurely and you can picture basking on a balcony looking down through a heat-haze at the stillness of it all on a hot summer’s day. It’s nice, and it makes you wish you were there.

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Kranky Records – 28th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Over the course of two decades and fourteen albums, Scott Morgan, under his Loscil moniker, has created a body of work which has probed myriad different directions within the electronic / ambient field. While his previous works have explored minimal arrangements and the application of difference source materials such as field recordings, none has been so intently focused on rendering a limited range of course materials in the most varied ways possible – which is precisely what Clara does, taking the same source material and seeing just how far it can be taken in different directions.

The accompanying text explains the process in detail, describing the album as ‘a stunning meditation on light, shade, and decay, sourced from a single three-minute composition performed by a 22-piece string orchestra in Budapest. The subsequent recording was lathe-cut on to a 7-inch, then “scratched and abused to add texture and colour,” from which the entirety of Clara was sampled, shape-shifted, and sculpted. Despite their limited palette, the compositions summon a sense of the infinite, swelling and swimming through luminous depths. Certain tracks percolate over narcoleptic metronomes while others slowdive in shimmering shadowplay, sounding at times like some noir music of the spheres’.

In some respects, then, Clara is a remix album, in the sense that some remix albums stretch and deviate so far from the original material that the song being remixes becomes unrecognisable, and one begins to question the extent to which the track is the work of the original artist and the extent to which the credit for its creation belongs more to the remixer. This may all be Morgan’s ‘own’ work but at what point does the source material become buries beneath the reworking? Perhaps what’s most remarkable about the album, considering its origins, is just how…. Normal, how smooth it sounds, as opposed to being a fucked-up mess of crackle and pop, hiss and static. I had anticipated scratches, abrasion, mangled noise, clicks, pops, something approximating the sound of a Brillo pad being applied directly to the microphone. But no.

‘Lux’ introduces the album in what feels like familiar territory: long, slow swells of strings flattened out into partial abstraction, smudging the definitions that stand between orchestral and ambience to forge sounds that have become almost the standard form in contemporary ambient. And this indeed the form for the album as a whole.

It’s no criticism to observe that Clara sounds like Loscil: Morgan is a master in the field of contemporary ambient, and has a supreme ability to sculpt slow-shifting soundscapes that are eternally intangible, unreachable, yet immersive in their soft clouds and vaporous drifts. ‘Lumina’ has some softly bouncing bubbles rising and eddying around in a soothing sonic foam that’s slow and gentle, while the ten-minute ‘Stella’ floats past almost imperceptibly.

Nothing about Clara is going to raise the blood pressure.

The track titles all refer to light and luminosity, and instead of scouring the ears and the soul, Clara recreates the warm glow of a log fire burning down to embers, or a dimmed bulb late on a summer’s evening after the sun has faded from the sky, leaving a purple-hued sky in its wake. ‘Sol’ slows and dissolves down to a low, pulped-down pulsation, from which in its mist emerges a rippling loop of rippling mellowness that hints at the abstracted ambience of Tangerine Dream.

Even in the face of the most broken, damaged of source sounds, Loscil smooths the edges and renders them something else, and something other, by a process of softening, of melting into abstraction. Clara is a magnificent work of transformation, of distancing, whereby the end product emerges in an entirely different sphere from that which begat it.

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Kranky – 16th August 2019 (rarely)

Increasingly, I’m finding a need for ambience in my life. We live in an extreme world, and in that context, a barrage of extreme metal and heavy-duty industrial makes sense – because release. We all need catharsis, an outlet. You’re never going to get that from Ed Sheeran so I can only assume his fans are so numb, so oblivious, so distanced, so disconnected, so braindead that the hell that is modern life simply doesn’t register with them.

This morning, feeling somewhat stressed by life and battling with some flatpack assembly to a soundtrack of sit 90s dance tunes and tannoy hollering being blown through my window from the Race for Life event with its start at York Racecourse, just up the road, I decided it was a good time to check out – a shade belatedly – Loscil’s latest offering.

Equivalents is what you might call quintessential contemporary ambient. The compositions are formed with layers of broad, soft sounds that sweep and drift and swish and drone, eddying abstractly to soothing effect. But there are tones and textures which break the soft, vapour-like surfaces and disturb the tranquillity: not brutally so, not to violently or abrasively as to damage the atmosphere, but sufficient to prick the listener’s senses back to attention as stuttering disturbances interrupt the delicate flows.

These moments shift the album – which I’m playing at sufficient volume to drown out the pumping beats from the racecourse wafting through the window – from background to foreground, and do so in a way that isn’t jarring.

It’s the subtleties and timings of the changes that highlight Loscil’s skill as a musician. Equivalents is more than the perfect antidote to modern life and noise stress: it’s a wonderful album.

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Loscil - Equivalents

Kranky – 23rd February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Tahoe is the second album from Northern California producer Fred Welton Warmsley III in his solo guise as Dedekind Cut. It’s named after the mountain lake town where he now resides, and it’s fitting that an album of such grandeur should relate to a vast expanse of natural beauty. For all the ruination mankind has inflicted on nature, however badly we as a species have damaged and decimated resources and scarred the landscape, hunted species to extinction and generally fucked everything up, the fact remains that nature will always win.

Over millennia, ice ages haves come and gone, mountains have emerged and heatwaves have created new deserts. We may have all the television, cars, space stations and satellites, but nothing man-made can protect against a volcanic eruption, flooding, landslides, mudslides, avalanches, blizzards, wild fires, earthquakes and tsunamis.

The eight compositions on Tahoe are centred round drifting, wafting drones and soft-edged, vaporous tones. It’s as ambient as the breeze, as the rippling of water in a slow-moving river. It’s the sound of drifting clouds, of tranquillity. Tahoe is an album of space, of distance, of earth and air.

It’s on the album’s three longer tracks, each of which extend beyond ten minutes that Tahoe reveals the full extent of Warmsley’s attention to detail and nous for texture ad layering. The second of these, ‘MMXIX’ picks up the pace and accentuates the dramatic tension, and it’s surge and swell arrives quite unexpectedly after the mellowness that is the title track. It’s overtly beaty – shuddering, juddering, thuds hammering dense and muddy through a bassy cyclone and booming low-end notes that hover into the abyss dominate – and the piece is just more up-front overall. Contrasts abound and the textures become more prominent as the track progresses, with skittering melodies and twittering notes flitting in all directions. The third, ‘Hollow Earth’ stretches our dark rumbles over turning air and a sense of foreboding over twelve and a half minutes, with interweaving lattices of aural contrails providing the core tone of the piece.

For all of its space, the exploratory sonic expanses conjured by soft, sweeping tones, and for its cinematic softness, Tahoe is not an ambient album. It is not background or wallpaper. It’s an engaging, detailed and in places gripping piece of work. It’s really quite something else.

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Dedekind Cut – Tahoe

Kranky will be releasing the alluring debut full length, Precious Systems, from New Orleans trio MJ Guider (led by Melissa Guion) on July 15th.

An ambitious ambient-based record which gazes out in to subterranean pop and sunset electronics, Precious Systems contains great emotional and sonic depth and is sure to make a lasting impression on devotees of subtle grandeur.

Surreal, inspired and intriguing, the washes of bass and selective, expertly employed mixing techniques of Guion are what defines this first foray in to the album format, having previously impressed with the Green Plastic extended play cassette in early 2014 on the Constellation Tatsu label. These are songs that exist in a wholly contained sound environment, minimal yet lush, spare yet saturated, and most importantly, entirely compelling.

Stream ‘Lit Negative’ here:

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