Erik K. Skodvin – Flare
The album as a whole bears the hallmark of someone who is not experimenting per se, but has a VERY CLEAR VISION of what is to be achieved at the end of the creative process. This record did not happen by accident, nor could it. I’d be curious to find out where and how it was recorded, as it has a really strong character of sound.
It is mentioned fairly regularly on articles on the net that this record represents a “friendlier” side to the artist, and is “only moderately dark”. I’d suggest to maybe not taking that statement at face value, as it is by nature pretty brooding, heavy and pensive. Those of you familiar with his work would not be surprised by what is on offer here, but those coming to it for the first time may find that it is not quite what they were expecting.
In saying that, it is a work of some considerable skill, and those not afraid of a few cobwebs and shadows will find the musicianship on offer rewarding. A perfect cinematic accompaniment to someone lost in the desert at night.
Piiptsjilling – Wurdskrieme
Wurdskrieme is one of two new releases from Piiptsjilling, a quartet that is formed of Jan and Romke Kleefstra, Mariska Baars and Rutger Zuydervelt. The name Piiptsjilling (pronounced ‘peep-chilling’) is Frisian; a language which Jan Kleefstra uses for the poetry he reads to accompany the improvised sonic worlds that the remaining three members create with guitars, effects, loopers and the voice…
In March 2010 the band took to an intensive 2-day improvised recording session with the goal of creating nothing more than beautiful, challenging music. The session resulted in two-and-a-half hours of material which was mixed and edited into two separate albums. Did they succeed with their simple goal? Yes. Yes they did.
Piiptsjilling’s first album, self-titled and released in 2008, was a fairly post-rock induced affair with weeping guitars and suppressed desperation by the bucket-load. This time around, the post-rock influence has disappeared and the guitars, at times, are used as a percussion instrument in a prepared- style à la Keith Rowe on tracks such as the graciously atmospheric Sangerjende wyn and Utsakke bui
Arkhonia – Trails/Trace
Arkhonia’s “Trails/Traces” fulfils the much promised, but seldom delivered, remit of large portions of ambient music – “to take the listener on a journey”…
From the deep rumblings of the album’s opener to the final decaying notes and crackles of its closing track, all manner of mood-shifting experimentation directs (and occasionally derails) the listener along a sonic path that is at times unnerving and, at others, warmly welcoming.
Each piece leads neatly into the next and one would not suspect that this album was assembled from material produced over the span of the last decade – the production values on display in the oldest pieces are qualitatively indistinguishable from the most recent and all are invested with a luscious, finely honed depth of texture.
Conventional song structures are eschewed and supplanted by morphing, reverberating assemblages that, whilst never sounding instrumentally “organic”, appear to have been grown rather than written. Tellingly, the only track which appears (slightly) more conventionally musical is a remix/reworking of a live recording taken from a Liondialer release on the same label. Even so, the Blade Runner-styled epic futurism of ‘GDLadyburn’ never exactly bursts into pop hook territory – its brooding, expansive synths and onslaught of widescreen ambience conjuring up neon-lit, midnight cityscapes more readily than falling back on the gentle pastoral stylings of so many other acts operating in this musical sphere.
Boduf Songs – This Alone Above All Else In Spite Of Everything
Mat Sweet is rather good at creating a true feeling of isolation, and this is definitely true of the new record; the feeling of being lost in a dusky forest, wandering aimlessly, surrounded by nothing and with nothing guiding you; everything within TAAAEISoE is carefully placed to invoke this feeling. However, I feel that what lets the album down, only twice in its duration mind you, is the choice of percussion elements Sweet uses for tracks Absolutely Null and Utterly Void and They Get on Slowly. I felt that with the sense of space that the other instrumentation gives to the tracks, juxtaposed by the restricted closeness of the voice, the percussion is somewhat clumsily thrown in the middle with little thought about the plain it occupies.
The album as a whole has a considerably more electronic influence than previous releases as electric guitar is favoured over the acoustic and everything appears to be slightly more processed, more fabricated and the world of sound that Sweet is creating takes as much focus as the lyrics do. This can be heard in the smaller sounds hidden layers down in the mix and even in the way that the whispering breaths pan through the speakers. It’s certainly no secret that Mat prefers the single microphone set-up and this can be heard in previous releases but here it’s a little more obscure.
Peter Broderick – How They Are
The new album from Peter Broderick, How They Are, is the result of an enforced convalescence during the recording of another. It’s an exercise in concise, direct simplicity, and is one of the best arguments against overproduction you will ever hear. As mentioned, whilst Broderick was recording his forthcoming album he was forced to take a number of months off to recover from complications from knee surgery. The record fully tracked, enforced inactivity prompted a creative burst separate to the project at hand, a number of songs worked up from words to music.
Due to the relative simplicity of the material, it was then all tracked in ONE DAY in a studio in Portland, Oregon, put down live to tape after Broderick was well enough to return to activity.
The results are amazing in a number of respects – the musicianship is incredible, with some quite moving piano work. The vocals are strong without being overwrought. The production has character in spades – lots of shuffling and clunking around before and after takes, and a reassuring hum from the tape flows through the album, segueing the tracks together. The instruments are captured cleanly with a lot of natural sounding reverb, and in some instances you can seemingly hear the fingers on the keys and the strings.
M. Ostermeier – Chance Reconstruction
M. Ostermeier has had a busy year; we’re only 8 months in and he’s already released two records and is about to release his third, Chance Reconstruction…
His first two releases Percolate and Lakefront released on Parvo Art and Hibernate respectively had a definite style and feel that portrayed itself clearly throughout. However, Chance Reconstruction immediately feels more ripened than its predecessors and also feels like an album in which Ostermeier wanted to push the boundaries of what he had learnt making the first two records. This results in something which is non-definable by such a word as ambient or classical or any combination of the two.
Chance Reconstruction is an atmospheric affair; bathing the listener in brooding textures and wavering piano motifs. As is the general style of Ostermeier his compositions are laden with carefully placed field recordings that tie the melodic motifs to something more tangible (is that the clanging of a radiator I hear?).
What Ostermeier is always best at though, even if it is not immediately noticeable, is his sense of texture and rhythm. His first release Percolate was full of glitches and sputters from more traditional percussion techniques, however, when he moved on from these elements the sense of rhythm still remained, and that is in part due to Ostermeier’s ability to utilise granular field recordings that add a definite movement which, of course, was the role that the percussion played in previous releases.
Seaworthy & Matt Rösner – Two Lakes
Two Lakes is the brainchild of Seaworthy (Cameron Webb) and Matt Rösner, an audio study of water ecosystems on the South Coast of Australia from April 2010…
The two sound artists spent days at the two coastal locations of Lakes Meroo and Termeil using a variety of microphones, then manipulated the results and added layers of instrumentation recorded during breaks in the field. The instruments listed as being used are acoustic and electric guitars, ukulele and electronics. On the last day of the trip, with the experience of the recording process still fresh in mind, rough arrangements were created from the field recordings and improvised sets. Rosier then took these arrangements back to his studio in Myalup – a small coastal town on the opposite side of the Australian continent – to mix and finalize the production.
The results are strikingly original – I can honestly say that I have never heard anything like this before. It sounds as though multiple layers of field noise have been used in some tracks (“Meroo Sedgeland Pt. 1”), and different improvised musical parts have been combined also. Common themes do run through the tracks, so there is consistency to them, but the way it is presented is diverse and challenging.
Padang Food Tigers – Born Music
Padang Food Tigers, better known as Spencer Grady and Steven Lewis from Rameses III, follow up their EP from this year, Go Down, Moses.
Born Music is a somber and meditative collection of enigmatic field recordings, mixed with sparse and elegant instrumentation. It’s themed well, with the tones of the recordings consistent throughout. The guitar and banjo have a great thump to them, and on the whole feels considered and assured.
The sound of running water in the title track starts proceedings, with some banjo and piano gently bringing up the rear. The sound is strong and fades in and out cleanly.
The next track “Rise Before the Rain” is a clever follow on, the suggestion of hiss or rain behind the ambient instrumentation sounding like a continuation of the water tones of the first. The mood of the piece is fantastic, with great guitar tones sliding across the speakers.
“Every Heaven I’ve Ever Seen” is a great collection of organic tones, with marvelous recording character – some well caught string swipes and shuffle in the middle balance out the ambience of the piece. The rise and fall is hypnotic, with a number of hooks to latch on to.
“Corpse Light Breaker” changes tone with a solitary piano to start, then some dueling banjo and guitar. The tones of both are captured with great precision, with a child singing out in the background at one point. Great stuff. A metallic drone hovers at the tail end, a lovely counterpoint to the earthy background hiss.
Rafael Anton Irisarri – The North Bend
New album “The North Bend” released on the Room40 label sees Irisarri fully realise the sound hinted at on the “Reverie” mini album; focusing heavily on textures and drones. The classical sound is still there (appearing on one track) but it’s more refined and subtle and is shown mostly in the melodic development and subtle textural elements of the tracks. It’s that melodic aspect that makes this album so warm and vivid, overflowing with imagery. Each track on the album paints a picture and tells a story, unravelling slowly and carefully to reveal its complete depth. It’s hard for me to imagine exactly what this audio postcard looks like that Irisarri was going for; I’ve never visited the states and I’m not a Lynch fan, but I can imagine my own version of it incorporating the same ideas and influences but from areas of the world that I am familiar with. That’s what this album has in abundance; familiarity in the sounds. It’s like the feeling of remembering something heart warming from the past that you had once forgotten about, be it a person or a place and looking back at a photo or postcard to remind yourself.
Accurately describing the music on this album is difficult. It’s not that it is extremely abstract; it’s more to do with the overall feeling. Plenty of artists have intertwined classical elements with drone orientated ambiance (Eluvium springs to mind) but none of them have captured this bleak yet someone uplifting sound that Irisarri has conjured. There are big textures and big melodies here and lots of development that many artists in the drone style fail to create. With every play through I discover another element hidden under the grain and the haze and it makes me want to go back to hear it again, and again until I discover another layer of hidden wonder.
Murralin Lane – Our House Is On The Wall
Our House Is On The Wall is the debut release from Swedish duo Murralin Lane. While the project is new, Murralin Lane’s David Wenngren is no stranger to the scene. Recording solo as Library Tapes for Kning Disk and Home Normal he has established a loyal following with his piano-based experimentalism where he puts texture, distance and longing to good effect in its melodic, grainy ambiance. Murralin Lane is Wenngren’s latest project which was formed in 2009 when he paired up with partner Ylva Wiklund and set aside the piano to take on new, collaborative audio explorations. Instead of the trademark piano that Wenngren has become known for, Murralin Lane thrives on highly distressed, lo-fi beauty formed by a more process intensive creation. Wiklund supplies vocals, (sometimes recorded through a mobile phone for effect), that are as pretty as they are creepy, adding an otherworldly sense of fragility to the dark and melancholic compositions made of noisy, tonal layers that sound as though they’re on the verge of breaking apart.
Recorded in the wee hours of the morning, Our House Is On The Wall pushes the boundaries that 12k has set with its tactile, electro-acoustic, ambient minimalism, touching on the label’s occasional forays into more pop territory yet bringing something decidedly darker to the table.
Full information on the above top 10 can be found here: