Tell from the grass
评语：For over twenty years, Brooklyn’s T. Griffin has been composing atmospheric film music. To date, he has around fifty feature-length scores to his credit, as well as five solo albums and many other collaborations. More recently, Griffin provided the soundtrack to the 2020 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Boys State and the Academy Award-nominated Life, Animated.
On June 11, The Proposal releases as a limited art edition on Constellation and acts as the original score for Jill Magid’s film of the same name. Described as ‘an art-world docu-drama that traces a cryptic and meditative path around the legacy of Mexican architect Luis Barragán, raising questions of intellectual property, appropriation, reification and obsession along the way’, The Proposal’s soundtrack is able to stand up on its own, even when the film’s imagery is revoked and completely severed.
The music is high quality in terms of its composition and engineering, but it also excels in its diverse instrumentation. Fretless banjo, guitar, percussion, keyboards, field recordings, and samples are aligned and in perfect symmetry with its electronic instrumentation. Add to this an excellent cast of contributors, such as Matana Roberts, Jason Ajemian (Helado Negro, Jaimie Branch), Jim White (Xylouris White, The Dirty Three) and Sophie Trudeau (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and The Proposal is a very strong soundtrack. The ambient opening is as light as they come, but a deafening, booming bombast of percussion is just a track away, and it develops into a deep flirtation with jazz.
The electronic sonar blips of ‘Manufacture’ provide stability as more electronics come and go, shifting and swaying in ultra-bright, strobing patterns and displaying all of a rainbow’s colours. At this point (just three tracks in), the music has already proven itself a genre-less and diverse expanse, capable of chameleon-colours and effervescent lighting. Barragán used colour in interesting and irregular ways, accentuating the beauty of the natural environment; he believed that his buildings were places of serenity, places to evoke emotions and sensations, and amplify inner experiences, fantasies, and nostalgia.
The music’s diversity may represent the differing episodes in Barragán’s life, but it also reflects his architecture, which explains the bloom and the flamboyance of its musical colours. Experience shines through, as The Proposal is capable of switching it up, going between introverted and subdued ambient, intricate classical guitar, and striking electronics. The entire record is a balance between these more introspective, quieter elements and more outgoing, excited moments, but both extremes are passionate flare-ups of expression. When combined together, living under one soundtrack, they add so much more to its music and its vitality. Like his architecture, The Proposal overflows with life.
评语：Même Soleil is a new release from IIKKI, consisting of a dialogue between French musician Frédéric D. Oberland and French photographer Gaël Bonnefon. The collaboration was initiated by IIKKI in December 2019 and concluded in June 2021.
On Même Soleil, and as in previous IIKKI incarnations, image and sound coalesce, but the joining of the two mediums produces so much more than the sum of their own parts. When they meet at the intersection, you can expect the two contrasting artforms to explode in a fiery collision. This record offers up a spicy dialogue, a deep and pervading contrast between light and darkness, the two differing genders represented through its music and photography.
Même Soleil sees multi-instrumentalist Oberland in fine form. The music spirals into an uninterrupted stream of complexity, high detail, and originality; an ongoing battle between heaving dissonance and harmonic breakthrough. Despite its sketchy underworld, Oberland concentrates on narrative and drives the music forward with a real sense of momentum, keeping it on a barely-visible road that’s been littered with effects pedals and dark-glowing synths, but also infused with jazz-inspired, sharp-edged horns. Grainy, broken-up recordings of discussions and arguments on late night TV are beamed through and broadcast via the music, signalling the hour of midnight, and there’s no doubt that Oberland’s music favours the dark.
On this record, the aim was to ‘merge mystical visions of the unconscious and the absurdity of an apocalyptic present in a sensory whirlwind’, and Oberland’s music goes deep enough to encounter those exotic regions and inner psychological temples, as well as its outer world and its interactions with it. The two mediums strain against one another, and this can be felt as much as heard, a living tension existing between the brilliance of daylight and the infinite bliss of a night sky.
评语：Dau, the moniker of UK ambient musician Phil Self, is about to release his solo debut, Zed Zed. Arriving via Phantom Limb’s new sub-label imprint Spirituals, which promotes ‘high grade, emotive ambient and experimental music from emerging artists from across the world’, Zed Zed is a beautifully-crafted and intricately-woven record, utilising classical chamber orchestration and blending it with an ambient core.
Self is involved in many other projects, from the UK instrumental sextet yndi halda to performing in the live band of folk-rock singer-songwriter Will Varley. Self also runs the Isolation Choir, a non-profit initiative for the elderly and the vulnerable, where musicians and non-musicians alike are invited to contribute remotely to pieced-together ensemble performances (the first video of which caught the eye of Brian Eno, who was so moved by the performance and the compassionate message behind the project that he offered his services for the second).
Zed Zed features bowed guitar, reed organ, and voice, but Self also includes recordings of water bowls, falling rain, and sounds from his kitchen, which produces a warm, comfortable, and homely atmosphere, adding degrees of personality and intimacy within the familiar environment of home. The human qualities of empathy, kindness, and care are literally at the centre of the music, a point at which it can brightly shine, and it also reflects Self’s own personality, the music acting as a conduit for his inner kindness.
The music unravels with patience, slowly developing and building upon itself. Perhaps most importantly, Zed Zed is free of computer processing; digital editing and computer interference is rejected. The record is entirely acoustic and proud of the fact, featuring real-time performances and nothing but acoustic instrumentation. A deep ambient heart beats within its music, which is all the more evident in the dulled harmonic resonance of its water bowl. And along with the sound of dripping water, reverberating gongs help to produce calming sensations and feelings of immense relief. With graceful movements, the music never seems to put a foot wrong.
‘Sundowning’ closes the album as an overlapping family of lean, slanting strings provide the last flares of light. Even with the sunset and its representation of ending and finality, the music’s message is one of enduring beauty, optimism, and appreciation, retaining its grace right up until its end.
评语：Originally sourced from a single, three-minute composition performed by a 22-piece string orchestra in Budapest, Clara is loscil’s meditation on light, shade, and decay. The recording was later ‘scratched and abused to add texture and color’, and its orchestral samples continually morph, their original appearance on the verge of being unrecognisable. In spite of its contained origin and the supposed restrictions placed on its source material, Clara is an incredibly spacious, nebulous record. Coming from the Latin word for ‘bright’, Clara is able to shine like a shifting haze of dim light even among its creeping shadows, which are always near and always plentiful. Even with such an impressive back catalogue, Scott Morgan’s long-standing loscil project continues to surprise and enrich.
Melodic droplets form and cycle around in the dense atmosphere, appearing to be quite graceful, dancing in the air. Morgan’s music has always encouraged and promoted a sense of slow-but-continuous movement, and that unstoppable momentum can be heard within Clara. It naturally envelops, spreads, expands, stepping out of its original recording, moving past its confinement, and morphing into incredibly expansive, deeply-textured and immersive music; its Universe advances from a single point of origin, the original recording providing inspiration and acting as the root of its dark tree, providing nourishment and sustenance to the music as it grows and matures into an electronic-etched adult. ‘Orta’ continues with patience and care, its deep-diving textures swimming in murky tonal waters, and closing track ‘Clara’ is a magnificent finale, beaming out from sublime depths. Morgan never puts a foot wrong, making Clara one of the most cohesive and impressive loscil records in recent memory. Clara is out May 28 on Kranky.
评语：Andrew Tasselmyer recorded Piano Frameworks (Disintegration State, May 21) during 2020’s eerily quiet winter, when masking-up was an essential requirement, Covid police were on patrol and roaming the streets, and nations were caught in the repetitive cycle of lockdown after lockdown. Nine emotive ‘frameworks’ make up the body of the record, its music extending and stretching to the max. A fluid, water-like sound is enveloped in the damp lamination of reverb, its notes bending without any real skeleton, musculature, or definitive form, but still providing a series of glowing harmonies, which, at first, feel anchored and secure. As the music progresses, though, the harmonies begin to decay, and impermanence is a major theme of the record.
Piano Frameworks is also an album of rediscovery, in both the unlimited musical potential of the piano when used as a tool for sound design, and in the rediscovery of musical freedoms, such as the breaking of boundaries and the deconstruction and gradual erasure of genre classifications. Possibilities are always there, ready to be explored, extending beyond the normal field of vision and beyond the horizon, and on Piano Frameworks, Tasselmyer taps into the great unknown with rejuvenated music. This is somewhat contradictory, as the music here is full of life amidst its decay and eventual death, and the record is almost a celebration of the lingering life that’s contained within its dying notes. The record does feel like a rejuvenation, but, as Tasselmyer says, ‘I wanted to give it an overall sense of impermanence. The pianos, the tape machines, and even the cassette that the music is printed on will inevitably degrade, be replaced, or fall apart. It’s all prone to decay’.
Saying that, the music does feel alive, and maybe that’s down to its acceptance of the inevitability of its own decay. Tape machines and other physical equipment will break down, but music can wear away, too. Acceptance is the reason why Piano Frameworks feels and sounds so free and so alive, even as its notes begin to crumble and unspool.
‘Outgrowth’ actually feels like it’s shedding old skin, somehow evolving itself, rather than receding into the distance and reverting back into a silence it once called home. Although the notes are flagging and frayed at the edges, they’re still able to gleam, and the light, syncopated, and shaky rhythm is an injection of vitality; the music will not surrender.
The music will one day fall, returning to silence, but it will do so with a brave face, basking in the light of a glorious victory rather than succumbing to its own weakness and frailty.
The tones are impermanent, like everything else, and they’ve come to accept the fact that nothing lasts forever. But that’s not a reason to give up, and, on the contrary, the music makes the most of the moment, in both potential and quality. Tasselmyer is an old hand at ambient composition, and experience drips from every piece of music: light-infused ambient layers fill in the surrounding areas, adept at expanding the sound, while the piano gently rolls on. Decay doesn’t stop, and it can’t be reversed. There’s no anti-ageing cream to fill in the gaps, or any make-up to conceal its true character, and with tracks like ‘Made New’, the contrasts are there for all to see – that, in spite of its slow death, a part of it is being reborn, making something new, with every ushered breath and every ushered note. The music continues to fade out until the entirety of its sun goes down, but this isn’t melancholic or bittersweet music; it’s as if it already knows that better things are waiting
评语：On Reaching Ends, Part Timer (John McCaffrey) presents listeners with a collection of nine reflective songs. Running in at just over half an hour, it’s perfect downtime music. The instrumentals contain post-rock signatures, but they lean towards the ambient spectrum. Hints of experimentation hide within, too, with paper-creased lullabies and the lightest addition of playful, bright-eyed electronics.
The guitar provides a selection of sleepy, late-afternoon melodies, which are permanently bright in tone. Nothing is out of place or overstays its welcome; everything has been trimmed to near-perfection, and it just feels right. Despite many of its songs coming in at a standard three minutes, there’s plenty of room for the music to expand, and they never feel dimmed in spite of the slim cut. Brevity allows the song to brightly shine. Each song is distinct, fully-fleshed, and mature, harbouring a unique personality while sharing a commonality in the kindness of its soul. McCaffrey is extremely talented when it comes to providing an accurate emotional picture and the state of the music’s current mood. His instrumentals are capable of saying more than vocal, lyric-based music.
The songs gleam and radiate with their own spirit-warmth in spite of (or because of) its compressed lifespan. The title track is a drop-dead gorgeous knockout. In this song, the stirring string arrangements feel slim, despite their many numbers. Notes drip from the strings of the guitar, too, and all of the pieces fall into place naturally. At just over two minutes, it says enough, does enough, and even goes beyond, saying more in the space of two minutes than many say in ten. The lengthier ‘Final Form’ is beautiful and tender, as young and as a fresh as an infant. In this song, the splayed piano is joined by a light percussion – barely a brush against the sides of its soft piano – and the whole track feels like precious cargo; it contains a moment that can never be captured again, but one that remains in the heart forever, never dying or seeing decay. The perfect mixture of piano and strings, while also adding a gently-smudged background of ambient air, sees the music through. It’s reassuring, soft, and, above all, a slice of kindness.
Various Thoughts and Places
评语：Various Thoughts and Places is the debut full-length album from ‘t Geruis, and it sees the Belgian musician seeking to find symmetry and balance between beauty and the broken, as well as exploring their complex relationship. Melancholia and nostalgia – which so often go hand-in-hand – linger in the gaps between brokenness and beauty, and the two frequently overlap. Musicians have always found creative inspiration in those feelings, and the Portuguese word saudade sums it up nicely, as no other word comes close to describing the lingering ache of loss or change. Saudade is a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for something or someone that one cares for and loves, and it comes with the knowledge that the object of longing might never be had again. This feeling permeates the music of Various Thoughts and Places.
The loops are coated in loose, unwinding spools of hiss and light interference, which envelops the melody and its phrase, but the background rustling also provides some kind of comfort, wrapping up the music like a protective layer of cotton. The loops are deep within their own thoughts, stuck there, unable to escape and, sometimes, seeming to reflect the ill-lit caverns of memory, degrading in the process, ageing along with the minutes. But beauty can be seen in decay, and there’s no doubt that these rusting melodies are beautiful, the music putting on that special dress once again, looking in the mirror at its sublime fabric of notes – slightly worn and frayed after all these years, true, but still able to contain the essence of its memories and moments.
Perhaps they are places we have actually been, feelings we have actually felt, or visions we have truly laid eyes upon. Or perhaps, as the mind often does, maybe they are simply an illusion…a false recollection, an embellishment of the past. Existing in that zone between what is real and what feels real
Some of its songs are broken, but they’re not idle or permanently downcast. They’re trying to repair, regrow, and reclaim some vital part of themselves, a part lost to time, age, or broken through a negative experience. On ‘Where Birds Resonate’, the sounds thrum like wings, seeking to rebuild a broken nest and make straight a composition of cluttered thoughts as a steady, melodic loop plays on; it becomes rhythmical as well as melodic, digging deeper into its thoughts to concentrate on the task at hand. Most of its melodies are coated in dirt, rising up as if out of a tape-grave, its melodies emanating from a mouth that’s forgotten how to speak and a voice that can’t sing anymore. Muddied incoherence is a significant feature of the music. It tries with desperation to recall an essential recollection or an image of a longed-for person, and the struggle to paint an accurate picture is audible in its tense, caged loop.
As they walk, the loops splinter, changing slightly before reverting back to their old selves, but there are glints of remembrance and the sunshine it can bring. Birth and eventual decay make up the order of things; they’re the most natural things in the world. Some of its loops are quite elegant and balletic, safe in the knowledge that beauty can exist in any single moment. It’s reassuring to know that memories can be stored up in the heart, and they can provide warmth during a long night. But nothing is permanent. While the loop may try to cling on, decay is clearly setting in. The wrinkles are appearing, its tonal-skin is sagging, the grey in its hair becomes more prevalent. Music, like the mortal shell of the human body, must eventually bend to the inevitable. And the music is okay with that.
评语：Mixing improvisation with artistic predetermination, Enter Outside’s music has been designed for the outdoors. Chimes and cassette tape are relatively recent additions to Ned Milligan’s calming compositions, but on this EP, Milligan venture into new territory and extends his musical scope by incorporating a singing drum. The title can be interpreted multiple ways – as a directive, a suggestion, or an invitation. The suggestion aspect fits well with the record’s spontaneity, welcoming nature, and freedom, which can be found in improvisation. Pre-composition is the polar opposite of improvisation, and it’s more susceptible to narrowing the music; it doesn’t have the flexibility of improvisation. Sometimes, the black stave lines can morph and twist into the vertical steel bars of a prison cell. In this EP, improvisation and pre-composition are blended together, restriction meeting expansion. However, the inclusion of a singing bowl leaves the door open for a more inviting kind of music.
Sounds from the outside fill up and expand the music, which opens with the patter of steady rain. The sky is pregnant, and its close-range thunder acts as a contrast to the soft, clinking chime-kisses, which overlap and crossover at differing intervals. The thunder doesn’t disrupt, though. It’s an essential part of nature and it’s invited to become a vital element in the overall sound design, uniting with the cleansing, open sound of chimes and serving the exact same purpose as the chimes in clearing the air, albeit in a physical rather than a musical capacity.
The outside environment isn’t a mere plot point for the music to latch onto – it’s an essential part of the experience. You could argue that the music is already outside, and not on the cusp of entering the outdoors, as most of the EP was recorded on a rural porch in Maine. Milligan’s additional processing took place post-recording, but rural stillness, and an afternoon washed in rain, permeates the music. The outdoor environment seeps in and absorbs everything else, until the music becomes a living, breathing thing. Milligan’s photograph gradually becomes apparent, the edges and corners becoming complete. You become fully absorbed in the outdoor environment, transported to a porch in New England. The door is open.
评语：Water will always follow the path of least resistance, trickling along and naturally finding the easiest course. It does so effortlessly, without thought. Of course, life is rarely like that…but somehow, things usually have a way of working out for the best. Relationships may turn to ash and dreams may be broken, but life has a way of (eventually) settling down. Glorious things await, and they wouldn’t have been possible without heartache or pain. Even at the lowest ebb, there is always hope, and accelerated growth is possible after experiencing pain. From ground level, what looks messy and blinded by fog can look crystal clear from a bird’s-eye view. Battle-worn, the heart can recover and be all the stronger for its experience.
The pandemic has been a ripe blossom for creativity, even at a time when the rest of the world experienced stagnation, confinement, and death. In 2020, music, creativity, and the arts in general all grew with the advent of lockdowns and the absence of light. Matt Robertson’s ‘Enveleau’ (Subtempo, April 30) finds envelopment, peace, and ultimately gratitude in and among its surroundings, be it in the solitude of lockdown or out in the open. No matter where you are, you can be thankful for where you’ve been planted.
Robertson’s ambient sound and subtle, flexible electronics combine with organic techno to produce radiant and effervescent music. It’s benefitted from being in and enjoying its own surroundings; you get the feeling that Robertson loved every minute of creation and recording, pouring it all into every tweak and tonal transmutation. Rhythms are crisp, lean, and in great shape, but there are also jaw-dropping ambient vistas to gaze upon, such as the sublime ‘Syntropic’, which features glowing sunset synths and a glorious, expanding atmosphere. The music doesn’t have to work hard to make things happen; it naturally follows the path of least resistance. It should be like that with the right person, too. You won’t have to work so hard to be happy when you find them. It will just happen. Like Enveleau, life is smoother when you go with the flow.
评语：After over five years, ‘Lambda’ sees David Cordero return on Home Normal. Over the years, the label has consistently put out quality content, and Cordero’s quiet, deeply melodic music makes for a perfect fit, featuring an array of subtle ambient-electronics which, when played back, create an introspective world of narrow and shy sounds. Despite its introversion, the tiny melodic fragments are still able to say something…and they say it with great power. It isn’t minimal music, but it is minuscule.
Understated, humble, and selfless, its ambient heart is brought closer to the surface, and it’s able to be seen more clearly because of these qualities. Nothing else masks the music – looping melodies are able to develop even through their repetitive nature, and their echoing tails of reverb and reversals aren’t obscured by anything else. As the record progresses, a pale light begins to seep through, similar to the first tint of the sun on the horizon, and the breaking of a new dawn. The music begins to open up, responding quickly to its lightening atmosphere, and sounds of nature fall upon the album, an abundance of life picking up on the wake-up call of a new day and responding in kind with a new song and a renewed vitality. At other times, clear bells sit alongside quiet loops.
Perhaps the word that best describes this record is muted: in tone, tonal colour, and atmosphere. Its world has been diluted, but quietness should not equate to a feeling of inadequacy when compared to louder types of music. All too often, quieter music is left in the corner, but it’s just as capable of producing a knockout, emotional moment to equal its louder brothers and sisters. Although quiet, Cordero’s music is of a high intensity, and musicians must be careful not to confuse an increase in volume with an increase in intensity or emotional force. Cordero says everything that needs to be said, and that’s a sign of excellent music.
评语：Icelandic composer Eydís Evensen’s debut LP, Bylur, releases on XXIM Records – Sony’s new imprint for post-classical and post-genre music – on April 23. She comes from the remote Icelandic town of Blönduós, and Iceland has left its imprint on her sound. Evensen grew up listening to a diverse selection of music, ranging from Tchaikovsky to Led Zeppelin. While storms raged outside, she found peace and connection through music. Classically trained, her plans to become a professional pianist were put on hold as she moved to New York to pursue a modelling career. But despite this, the piano remained the love of her life, and a piano was never far from her side. Bylur was largely written during this period in her life.
Bylur is Icelandic for ‘snowstorm’, and the piano’s notes resemble a flurry of snowfall. Each note hangs suspended in the white-drawn air, seconds before they touch the ground. Composed of thirteen pieces, and containing additional strings, brass, and electronics, Bylur is evocative of Evensen’s Icelandic home. Despite New York being thousands of miles away, the piano drew her back once again, and her gentle, stirring music places home at the centre of its heart. This is also due to the record being recorded and produced at Reykjavik’s Greenhouse Studios, further imbuing the music with the gravity of the nation and its essence.
Snowstorms can be a beautiful, quiet sanctuary, but they can also promise swirling blizzards, and those can leave surroundings blind, keeping the rest of the world out of sight. Bylur’s music is largely peaceful and serene, tucked snugly indoors, its world in a state of near-silence as the snow continues to fall. The piano is able to remain light and agile, even among the presence of strings, which, instead of weighing down on the piano and adding a heavier atmosphere to the music, actually help to lift the piano higher, almost reversing the fall of its notes, as if caught in a sudden gust, sweeping its snowflakes upwards and taking them to another, unexpected place. Her music is played with love and care, and this is especially evident when vocals emerge on ‘Midnight Moon’. Sung in English but still containing the depths of an Icelandic snowstorm, the vocals fit in perfectly beside its balletic notes. Although the music is as cold as January, the light notes are able to offer glints of a warmer sun.
评语：Distant cymbals are left to thrum, emerging from a dark and eerie cold spot on ‘Raze’, which kicks off James Welburn’s new LP, Sleeper In The Void – a record that also has the honour of being Miasmah’s fiftieth release. Its shadow-filled beginning soon rises into a beast of a track, where primitive, animalistic rhythms rock against a wailing wall of noise. Cold seeps into the record, filling every nook with frostbite and a numbing, unrelenting surge of raw power, delivering punch after punch until only dead muscle remains.
Sleeper In The Void has an insatiable appetite, and it feeds on its music in an almost lustful way, ripping gristle and distorted meat from its body and splattering its surroundings in overdriven debris. On the techno-bitten ‘Falling From Time’, the beat strikes over and over again, hard, while still managing to construct a tiny, spritely melody, which emerges halfway through the track. Something sick and poisoned lies within its nocturnal notes, aggressive but not necessarily violent.
Welburn’s textures sit at the centre of the record’s all-powerful vortex. At every turn, tidal drones deliver shocks to the system and the drums kick with black belt accuracy and consistency. Welburn’s explorations into decaying textures unearth queasy, dark discoveries, and the music of Sleeper In The Void lies close to the ground, its face almost covered in specks of soil. This dark, fascinating atmosphere has also been crafted with the help of Tomas Järmyr (Motorpsycho, Zu, Barchan), Hilde Marie Holsen (Hubro Records), and vocal artist Juliana Venter (W/V, Phil Winter), who all step up and help to shape its shadows. The scrunched-up, garbled vocals seem to struggle against the onslaught on closer ‘Fast Moon’, where the propulsive, toxic beat virtually spews its tonal acid onto the street.
The textures swirl, building skyscrapers out of clouds, seeming to endlessly morph in a place out of time and an uninhibited space, but they’re also strong enough to feel like tough bone; the skeletal beat helps the tracks to stand out, define them, and make them feel like stable constructions, capable not only of standing but of running.
评语：Memory and Motion is a longform work from the Brighton-based ambient artist Ian Hawgood. Originally stemming from a long and memorable summer eleven years ago, Memory and Motion contains the scent of a season, the year being 2010, and a personal milestone in Ian’s life. In August of that year, Ian performed alongside his wife at the Immersound event at The Others, London. They had wed earlier in the summer, and they had just arrived in the UK, returning from an Indonesian honeymoon to celebrate with friends and family before travelling back home to Japan. The longform piece, which clocks in just shy of twenty-eight minutes, was created in preparation for the set and recorded while the other artists were sound-checking.
Unintentionally or not, the music of Memory and Motion has morphed into something else: music to recall a specific, treasured moment in someone’s life, a single memory forever captured and documented through its music. Like a photograph, it can be savoured and returned to throughout the years, and it sounds as fresh as it did on day one.
As indicated in the title, two parts make up the music. Memory is mixed in with the blurred motion of travel, and the fatigue of jet lag is imbued with animated celebrations. Although memory is prone to erosion, with some recollections turning into inaccuracies, embellishments, or becoming stuck in a cloud of fatigue to rival a red-eye flight, the ambient music is clear in its minimalistic form. Composed of gongs and slim ambient waveforms, Ian’s music produces calm and introspective tones while also containing a fizzle of excitement and the recollection of better days.
评语：The Wind is a peaceful retreat, a meditation on the natural world, and a call to act on the threat of climate change when inactivity and tepid response has become a disturbing norm. The Wind also details the ancient tale of a saint who carried the wind to an airless French valley, and in a similar way, Balmorhea’s debut release on Deutsche Grammophon (which releases April 9 on CD, vinyl, and digitally), is swept up in the air, too. It’s music for the planet, and a timely reminder of Earth’s fragility.
People all over the world are reconnecting with nature and finding solace, rest, and peace in her arms. But The Wind also contains the sounds of Earth. Prayer flags can be heard flapping in a breeze, and piano, pipe organ, harmonium, double bass, wind chimes, and guitar are all a part of its gentle-but-stirring sound. Guitars remain light and airy, and a swooping vocal pulls the music to all four corners of the globe.
The Texas-based duo of Rob Lowe and Michael A. Muller have created protective and quiet music, and the protection of the environment and the opportunity for renewal slips into the title tracks, too. ‘La Vagabonde’ is named after the catamaran that Greta Thunberg travelled on while crossing the Atlantic. Towards the end of the record’s completion, Lowe discovered a translation of the Otia Imperialia, a thirteenth-century compendium containing descriptions of marvels and miracles. Lowe was drawn to the tale of ‘The wind which St Caesarius shut up in a glove’, wherein the archbishop of Arles carries the sea breeze to a desolate valley and releases it to make the area fruitful and healthy. The same ethos can be felt in The Wind, with its life-renewing and reaffirming philosophies attaching themselves to its ambient music.
评语：Never The Right Time (Modern Love, April 16) is Andy Stott’s first release since 2016’s Too Many Voices. In the years since, the world has experienced seismic change, but Stott’s innovative approach is still as sharp as ever. Never The Right Time includes a host of almost-love songs. Halfway to becoming romanticized but still embedded in the thorns and false comfort of nostalgia, its pre-heated electronic slush sits well with a three a.m. haze. Andy Stott is an expert at crafting a cocktail of warm techno and fizzing mutated pop, but Never The Right Time is a record of renewal, risen spirit, and the overriding power of music as a vehicle for change.
All of the tracks flow seamlessly together, and its electronic webwork creates an intimate musical encounter, emanating strong degrees of club-heat while it continues to roll forward. The humane feel to the album’s songs – softer, warmer – allows a feeling of fragility, openness, and vulnerability. The songs could snap at any moment, and some of them do. ‘Repetitive Strain’, for instance, with its rhythmic palpitations and dense melodic strobes, cuts off without warning, its lifeline severed.
On the whole, Never The Right Time has an unfailing warmth at its centre, and the drums still have an energetic snap to them, despite a noticeable melancholia, which drapes itself over the record. It’s hard to move on from something of that magnitude without being pulled back into the tragedy; it can’t easily be forgotten or erased. The Coronavirus pandemic had something to do with this, of course, as Stott found himself in a state of pause. However, growth was occurring even in the stasis. The massive life changes and general turbulence of 2020 triggered a newfound purpose and an explosion of musical creativity, and Stott used it as a force for positivity, directing his flow of thoughts and taking back some semblance of control when nothing else could be controlled. The virus was an outside event which took up the mantle of dictator, changing billions of lives and inflicting suffering on millions, either directly or indirectly.
Together with Alison Skidmore’s warm vocals, the record took on a different form and shape, quickly becoming more human and empathetic, even though it was electronically designed. The record’s emotional messaging ensures a ferocity that’s every bit an equal to a techno-bred, monstrous onslaught – just inhabiting a different body, with a key shift in its tone and mood. It’s slower, more thoughtful, and warmer – perhaps even more appreciative of what it’s been through – while still elevating Stott’s musicianship. Radiating melodies blur with Alison’s vocals, but some of the tracks have more of a bite to them, such as ‘Answers’, which rewinds the clock and serves up healthy slabs of bass-beef.
The black belt beats are still supplied, but it’s the warmth of the record that literally shines through. Containing some innovative angles and surprising emotional hits, Never The Right Time has released at the perfect time, and it never misses a beat.
G_D's Pee At State's End!
评语：G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! sees the return of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, a band who not only create music for the end times, but whose music acts as an important document in which the current and ever-hastening decline of civilization is noted. Its notes are scrawled in tags of bitter graffiti. The Canadian experimental post-rock ensemble deliver four episodes of doom, desperation, and despondency, but a surprising beauty is mixed in with the record’s volatile emotions. After a year of continual fear, and living under a literally asphyxiating plague of death and disease, the band have let loose without abandon on their latest record. Their music has gone to a dark place before, but it’s necessary to travel there, and to understand.
Haunting and elegiac, every note sounds as if it’s a count – all of those unnecessary, avoidable deaths resulting from Covid, tallied up one-by-one, each note reflecting a lost life and a growing anger. Amid all the suffering, uncertainty, political U-turns and wars on how to wear a mask (or even if a mask should be worn), GY!BE are in attack mode, and that’s good news for listeners. After the last twelve months, their fire-scorched riffs and smudged funnels of noise somehow take on more of a meaning and more relevance, making the sound all the more powerful.
Revolving around opportunities for reflection and damning indictments fired at leaders of so-called enlightened governments and their ongoing militaristic values, the music is a controlled inferno, but it always feels as if it’s going to further erupt. The powers-that-be continue to wage wars and sell outright lies to their populace, despite claiming to be beacons of justice and freedom, and the band’s music channels this anger into a deluge of vicious noise and raging instrumental riots. Those fearsome guitars could easily take the form of fire-sputtering Molotov cocktails, shield-shattering projectiles being thrown at the police, or slung grenades in a war-torn battlefield.
‘A Military Alphabet (five eyes all blind)’ seemingly refers to the intelligence-gathering and sharing alliance of the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and the moral bankruptcy of Western democracies is always at the forefront of their music. Other pressing issues are also in evidence. Apocalyptic vibes dominate their slate-grey, ashen music – pressing issues of climate change, modern paranoia, CCTV and the data gathering of personal information, social credit systems, and, one can imagine, the recent discussion on Covid passports. They all lead to one thing, and one direction: total control over the population. Post-rock can be both triumphant and bleak, but GY!BE have always been trendsetters in the genre, saying what needs to be said via instrumental methods and means, punching harder than words ever could. Soaring (or screaming?) guitars are left to walk abandoned streets, and sirens open up ‘Fire at Static Valley’, creating their own music of hurt and emergency. A high voltage thrums through its notes as it does a pylon, and while the ensemble’s worldview is out in the open and the music is smeared in realism and heartache, it also glimmers in the glory of unhindered beauty and truth. As such, it’s an epitaph for those who have gone to a better place and a sad statement on modern life, but they still rock as hard as ever.
评语：‘Sheltering Sky’, from Mt Went, is the latest record to appear on Lost Tribe Sound’s ongoing Fearful Void series. The debut project from Andy Cartwright (Seabuckthorn) and Dave Anderson (Von Braun) features low-hanging, melancholic guitar and male vocals, which both converge to produce ashen indie songs with plenty of bleak melodic fuel to fan its lyrical flames.
Sheltering Sky was recorded eleven years ago, back in 2010, when the two friends lived in the same UK town of Witney, Oxfordshire, and perhaps surprisingly, the album has never seen a proper release. In 2018, Cartwright returned to the album to clean it up, but this also had the effect of refreshing the project. The two friends realised that it was about time for a sequel, and Lit Way Down is the result, which also appears as part of the Fearful Void series.
The murky and downtrodden acoustic songs of Sheltering Sky rise up like smoke, its minor-breathing, overcast mood not being totally gloomy but feeling plagued. Much like the UK, light avoids them. Lead single ‘Respectable Prostitute’ adds dulled rhythmic palpitations to its potent blend of guitar and voice, while ‘Ember Wildly’ is populated with off-colour and slightly dissonant notes, which ring together and overlap to create a slanted, dark atmosphere. Even entrenched in trouble and anguish, it’s still beautiful, and there’s a cosy feel to the music – although it’s capable of traveling down darker, scarier paths.
The slow, tired strumming of an acoustic and a wounded vocal is all that’s needed; these songs are stripped-back, cabin-in-the-woods affairs, with a darker approach that so befits indie / alternative / folk. Despite the stripped-away atmosphere, there’s plenty of meat on the music’s bones thanks to the depth of the guitar and the strained emotions that crawl out from the voice box. Well worth checking out!
评语：Endless, Shapeless effortlessly creates an electronic, ambient, and post-classical landscape, where swirling, emotionally-charged melodic fragments are met with a soft ambient breeze. At first, electronic clusters are gently inserted from time to time, but an electronic sound soon finds more of a presence, driving some of the tracks forward with nothing else to back it up. However, there’s always some kind of melodic pause after an electronic storm, where a piano will enter, or a softer orchestration will come to the fore.
What could feel like a cluttered collection of sounds actually feels like a connected whole, as all of its sounds come together as one. The styles of electronic, ambient, and post-classical music already share similarities, so there isn’t anything jarring or out-of-place here. Of course, this is also down to Ian Nyquist’s considerable skill at blending these elements together. An expert in any artistic endeavour knows when to add and when to remove, when the time is right to increase and when to decrease, and Nyquist’s music is almost balletic in its push-pull motion.
As silk dances in a breeze, so too is Endless, Shapeless born with a beautiful, flowing momentum, and it’s made all the more powerful for its quiet, understated movements. Feeling reserved in its classical influences and expansive due to its ambient and electronic makeup, the music thrums against the air like a butterfly’s wings, the musical elements of tension and release magnetically drawing together and then being dragged apart. In some instances, the tension is such that one can almost hear the music ripping itself apart, its atmosphere pulsing wildly before being pulled back into its electronic shell. But any pressure is eased with ‘Sanctuary (Epilogue)’, which is a calming ambient piece. At its end, everything is as it should be.
评语：On Chorus (Dusk/Dawn), Taylor Deupree uses a single eurorack synthesizer oscillator to recreate the dawn chorus. The dawn of spring is also the death of winter – snow is melting, the days are longer, and the evening is skylit once more. At its heart, Chorus (Dusk/Dawn) is a record of optimism and positivity, of looking forward and embracing change. In fact, it not only embraces the eventual seasonal shift, but looks to speed it up, attempting to hurry it along. At the same time, Chorus develops as patiently as one would expect from Deupree. Here, however, he aims to speed up time rather than stop it in its tracks.
Every summer, the dawn chorus surrounds his New York studio. Both calming and relentless, its music is made up of crickets, katydids, and cicadas, and Deupree recreates the song, and the atmosphere, with an astonishing likeness, made all the more impressive due to its synthetic production. The natural world morphs into the artificial. Sound emerges from winter’s silence as the digital recreates and supplants nature.
Chorus is a response to Deupree’s immediate natural surroundings, as well as an imaginary recreation of a brighter season. It waits in anticipation of the real thing, a dawn which isn’t quite there in the real world, as it’s still in the process of ripening. Accompanying the artificial insects are a series of lilting, drooping sine waves, which are gently inserted and smoothly smear the rest of their music. Even among its ambient groundwork, a sense of urgency lingers. The music feels like a gentle push, and that isn’t something one would normally associate with Deupree’s work. This is something of a change in both theme and execution, while still offering ambient music of the highest quality.
评语：The debut release on the new String and Tins label is also the first in a new artist series entitled ‘Stills’. The project asked composers to create a piece of music in response to a self-selected work of art exhibited in the Tate Britain gallery, London. This task came with a question: if each respective artwork represented a still from a scene, what would the score sound like?
The first release, Stills 01, features three pieces of music, which all revolve around acoustic instrumentation and textural experimentation. On this release, the work of three British artists are in focus. The paintings in question flow from ‘high classicism, haunting surrealism, and architectural abstraction’, and composers Jim Stewart, Simon Whiteside, and Joe Wilkinson have the honour of interpreting these individual scenes.
The choral glory of ‘Annunciation’ is immediately evident, robed in majesty, standing upright, a jewel of light pouring forth. But as the piece progresses, the music breaks loose from tradition, diverting itself away and expanding its horizons, and its light shines ever brighter because of it. This is the first real hint of experimentation in the record, slowly leaning into something more abstract and falling away from its tighter beginning.
This piece sets the scene for the rest of Stills; the other two pieces come to realize that they can be themselves, form and paint their own interpretations of a scene without them being any less valid or authentic, and that’s liberating. Strings and piano remain constants in the mix, and they give the music space for growth; the more experimental sections are always able to sneak through a gap in the stave and find new angles. Stills 01 is an excellent introduction to a new label, a place where art, inspiration, and individual perception are all able to merge.
评语：Chihei Hatakeyama’s ‘Late Spring’ is a placid ambient dream. The music is kind and unfolds as gently as fresh blossom, draped in deep, synth-washed tones and shimmering, reverb-drowned electric guitars. Subdued melodic loops and deeper undercurrents of drone are to be found within its cathedral-like, sunken vaults. Some of its music could’ve come from under the water, lost, like Atlantis, to its murky, textural sea. Some notes gleam dully in the depths, while others are able to sparkle with more clarity and light, clinking together thanks to the sharp, crystal-like electric guitar.
Chihei found inspiration in the beauty of circular motion within landscape, nature, and the changing of the seasons, but Late Spring is also designed to project the impression of an old film, and its music does seem to float from scene to scene, the rainy loops naturally taking on a circular motion.
Throughout its lengthy creation (Hatakeyama began working on the record in 2018 and finished it up at the end of 2020), the Japanese ambient musician took another look at the recording process, choosing a new amplifier and microphone set-up to further strip back and simplify the sound. Hatakeyama used one kind of instrument for each track, one only using synth and another featuring only electric guitar, and this has also helped to differentiate the tracks. Some of them recline in watery graves, but others are more open to the faint glimmer of sunlight. What’s never in doubt is the beauty on display, eternally evidenced in both nature and in Chihei’s ambient music, which continues to flow in a never-ending, circular motion. Just like an ambient waterfall, the loop is both complete and never-ending.
评语：For Us Alone is the new album from Alaskan Tapes. Toronto-based musician Brady Kendall infuses his ambient music with a deeply calming essence, which, as strange as it may sound, ties into his previous musical life as a drummer, when he began his music career back in high school, listening to the metal bands he grew up with – “screaming stuff…as heavy as you can get”. Ambient music may seem far removed from percussive punchbags, but perhaps it’s closer than one would think; it’s all about context. Kendall found his musical fix in drum and bass, and then fell into the more relaxed, atmospheric, and fluid sub-genre of liquid drum and bass, with its harmonic ambient backdrops and lush, fleshed-out synths. As such, his Alaskan Tapes alias feels more like a steady(and completely natural) evolution rather than anything out of leftfield; nothing is dislocated or out-of-place.
“Alaskan Tapes started off as downtempo electronic music, where I consciously made the decision to take out drums. I had always started my writing with drums and built everything else around them. I just really wanted to be able to focus on something else. I wanted to make something that wasn’t as relaxing or chill, but instead something that was intimate.”
Drums make up a key part of For Us Alone, but they’re used in moderation, despite a vague post-rock vibe, which runs like blood through the veins of its tracks. Shimmering guitars, deep-rooted basslines, and crushing drums are able to anchor the piece, and the album was written in three groups of three, with three songs featuring drums (one in each suite). The music feels both spacious and connected to the overall rhythm (like that long ago liquid drum and bass). The rhythm feels solid and reliable rather than jittery and unstable, making it a powerful beast upon which a single track can ride. The minimal atmosphere ensures that its ambient textures are allowed to float freely, even when bolted to the drums, and a magical, ethereal quality shines through.
Kendall understands ambient music, and the songs are free enough to include and absolve any mistakes, as ‘mistakes cause textures and allow the depth to exist in order to make the listening experience more honest.’ For Us Alone is able to mirror and convey something of the human condition, as its imperfections add personality and heart to its music.
评语：Sébastien Guérive’s new Omega Point is a cinematic soundscape – something that resembles a soundtrack to a recently rediscovered sci-fi noir thriller. The album oscillates between moments of tranquility and pure suspense, balancing the two fairly well but always keeping the listener wanting a bit more. The album starts out with a track that builds – and it not only builds in suspense, tension and amplitude but it also lays the foundation for the rest of the album. What follows are tracks that embrace dualities – dark and light, ambient and upbeat, minimalist and detailed.
Sébastien Guérive’s experience with acoustical instruments is apparent throughout the album – although Omega Point is comprised of mostly synthesizers it’s apparent that the timber and texture were obsessed over to achieve a color rich in harmonics. Although the album does have an 80s sound throughout, it never crosses that border being too processed or artificial, opting for the more natural and organic approach.
评语：Polish musician Zaumne (Mateusz Olszewski) constructed Elevation from pieces of ASMR poetry, homemade field recordings, and samples of natural phenomena. Releasing on Poland’s Mondoi label, Élévation takes in quotes from Charles Baudelaire’s volume of French poetry, The Flowers of Evil, as Zaumne aims to ‘elevate the soul and consciousness’.
Initially recorded for the WET (Weird Erotic Tension) community, Zaumne’s four tracks explore erotic aspects of the environment and our intimacy with other beings and objects. Zaumne concentrates on physical space, but emotions are also explored, and there’s a crossover between the two – intimacy is evident in its whispered, close words and its eerie melodic undercurrents, but emotions also naturally filter into the spoken word.
The same can be said of the violent thunderstorm and the patter of rainfall, which collects in deep puddles on ‘Poison’, the first track on the record. Rain is often tied to emotional distress or depression, and the subdued, clanking melody feels as dark as a depressive episode. Similarly, thunder raises the drama, so the natural, physical world always has a bearing on an individual’s emotional state. This would be subjective, but weather patterns have become ingrained in the collective psyche, associating a deluge of rain with a dreary day.
Spine-tingling intrigue is set against a backdrop of interesting and cavern-cool melodies, which chime and ring out dully, and the rainfall is similar to the whispered, barely-there words, as both are close enough to touch; the intimate coming into greater focus. The male voice can be just as intimate and expressive as a feminine voice, and the two are married here, taking it in turns to read. Emotions, sensations, and moods impact on and influence the physical world and how we subsequently interact with it. They shape perceptions, and therefore behaviour. Everything is connected.