On Medicina, long-active Barcelona musician and sound artist Alex Alarcón, aka Sustainer, plunders keening and swooning string samples to create an ephemeral hauntology that’d certainly go well with a Saul Bass opening titles sequence. The swirling loops, generally sourced from obscure easy-listening records, through sheer repetition become something else entirely, draped with tension and romantically-flowing evocation of memory. Capturing these brief windows of dramas in music that is generally so forgettable, Sustainer creates a nostalgia for waiting times and moments in transit– he even included a field-recording of an elevator ride, as if to drive the idea home! It is most definitely worth mentioning that this project, begun around 2014, represents Sustainer’s first foray into sampling. The forty-eighth point on the Eilean map is pretty lovely stuff, and sure to go down as easily for you as it did for I.
Environment(s): Watching films inside on a rainy day.
Conjoining Currents: Ambient, Sound Collage, Hauntology, Shenzou by Biosphere
Label: Eilean Records
(New Album Review) Black Spring & Miles Cooper Seaton- West of Will & Cvrst Patience / Adige (for Luigi Lineri) [Split]
Black Spring are a three-piece band based out of the Milton Keynes, England and curators of Monocreo. Sound artist Jonny Hill sings and handles guitar along with synth, tapes, and mixer. Ryan Mawbey plays drums, homemade instruments, and found sounds, while Simon Wright generally takes charge where synth, keys, and samples are concerned. Miles Cooper Seaton was a crucial member of now near-legendary experimental folk groups Akron/Family and The Angels of Light, now hanging out in Italy plotting fantastic new works. And, well, West of Will & Cvrst Patience / Adige (for Luigi Lineri) is Black Spring and Miles Cooper Seaton’s fantastic split C48, now out on Monocreo– a release that explores deep soundscaping with firebranded soul. Let’s take a look-see, shall we?
On the A side track “West of Will and Cvrst Patience”, Black Spring seem at first to abandon the driving post-punk/no wave influenced pulse seen on their excellent “Golden Ghost/No End” tape and their fine debut split with The Engineer. A dingy thud and scampering shots and kicks in the dark from drums and piano throw us uneasily into the moment. A growling electronic drone rises steadily, nodding us into ashen stasis until it slowly disintegrates– we’re still under the impression we should hunker down for something wholly ambient and abstract when piano chords and fractured melody, eyelids still heavy, come to the surface and change the vibe. A spare, insistent beat starts, followed by a voice calmly singing-reciting a pair of lines again and again like a mantra…”All my time, spent in line/Distant light plagues my eyes”. As keys and ebbing guitar swell, Black Spring push us toward something shrinking on the horizon. The electro-acoustic soundscape has become a fragile folk song of the twilight. It is a ruinous beauty worthy of later Swans and the tail end of Coil’s Musick to Play in the Dark Vol. 2 that Black Spring evoke here– something delicate but ironclad in its resolve, a necessary precaution for the hard ground where it grew, the grim, hyper-planned urban environment of Milton Keynes. This powerfully emotive first half is impressive enough on its own, but there is yet more to contemplate…
For “Adige (For Luigi Lineri)”, Miles Cooper Seaton took as his inspiration the work of Italian poet, sculptor, and historian of sorts Luigi Lineri, well known in recent years for his collection of stones found by the river Adige in Northeastern Italy. The stones and their ambivalent shapes, which he believes suggest ancient designs dulled by time, Lineri tells us, tell stories on their own. In tribute to this esoteric project, Seaton fashions droney, slow synth melodies layered in soft, yawning rays. Seaton’s inspiration intuitively follows from recent experiments in what he calls “Functional Music”, which builds on Seaton’s conviction that ambient-leaning, open-ended music to which the listener can ascribe a narrative or meaning freely fulfills a deeper social purpose. The piece strays into the territory of Alio Die and Oöphoi’s deep-listening cosmos with that selfsame unmistakably organic feeling. As “Adige” ebbs and flows, you get the sense of a catalog of histories that is anything but impassive, filled with a deep reverence for the past and the mystery of life. This is fine stuff that should be, along with Seaton’s songwriting-oriented collection Phases in Exile (available in physical form exclusively in Italy, unfortunately), required listening of the year for anyone in search of immersive mind-manifesting sounds. Cooper’s ambient offerings doubtless mean even more coming from an artist who’s deliberately chosen to walk paths even less-worn than the ones that gave him his break.
Let this one take you down jagged and uncertain paths for a while, if only to see where you will take yourself.
Porya Hatami is a musician and sound artist based in Sanandaj, Iran– I first got interested in this fellow’s work through a listen to The Garden, which impressed me for its sensitivity and the intuitive approach towards its concept. Phone to Logos, his new album for Audiobulb, should most definitely be among any ambient fan’s must-listens of the year. The impetus for this collection’s release was an invitation from Audiobulb to compile unused odds and ends that would illustrate Hatami’s evolution as an artist. The 13 tracks collected here include collaborations with Tomotsugu Nakamura, Arovane, and Artificial Memory Trace.
The pieces on Phone to Logos take a while to arrive, yet maintain a certain familiarity and warmth. Unlike his Iranian contemporaries in the Tehran scene, who tend toward the synth-ier side of things for their cosmic melancholy, Hatami usually takes a very minimal approach, frequently using field-recording in his work and finding a cumulative glitchy poetry in carefully manipulated acoustic sources more than synths (there’s a lot of diversity in his work, though– the floaty, Steve Roach-esque journey Arrivals and Departures, for example). As Phone to Logos progresses, you see how the textures become more obscured and distanced, and the stories manifest an exchange between reality and illusion. There is a stillness and organic effulgence to be found particularly in earlier efforts like the fragmented, wind-worn melodies of “Pomegranates” and “Parachute”, and though this thread continues through the years, on tracks like “One Way”, “QM_Interrupted” and his collaborations with Arovane and Artificial Memory Trace, you can see Hatami experimenting with sound design to create atmospheres deliberately unreal. It’s a worthy collection from one of my favorite contemporary ambient sound artists… I hope you’ll snatch it up!
Environment(s): Green hills and rocky cliffsides.
Conjoining Currents: Ambient, Electro-Acoustic, Minimal, Federico Durand, Sawako, Human Being by Tomoyoshi Date, the films of the late Abbas Kiarostami
RVNG‘s Valve/Valve (Revisited) single is a collaboration between Portland sound design duo Visible Cloaks and Japanese experimental pop duo Dip in the Pool. Or, rather, it’s a single consisting first of a collaboration between Visible Cloaks and Dip in the Pool vocalist Miyako Koda, reading a spoken word section from her solo album Jupiter, then the four altogether for the “Valve (Revisited)” reassembly, on which Koda sings. Though Dip in the Pool were after all a pop-oriented group, the playful, warm textures on display here suggest an affection for ambient-leaning Japanese composers most known for their activity in the 80s, like Hiroshi Yoshimura and Midori Takada. There’s something poignant about the nascent recognition characters like Yoshimura and Takada have been getting– who would have suspected that crate-digging obsessives would eventually resurrect sensibilities so delicate and unassuming as theirs? The second half of the single is where it’s really at, with Visible Cloaks offering spare, slinky production touches perhaps borrowed from modern club music as much as worldly art-pop– a comfy backdrop to Koda’s contemplative delivery. A collaboration that just feels, you know, inexplicably perfect…hopefully there’s more like this on the way!
Environment(s): VR vistas of pastoral graphics.
Conjoining Currents: Sound art, Digital sound design, Ambient
On his debut recording for Paris’s Quanta Records, Correspondances, aἰών (aeon) forges chilly, metallic electronica with nonetheless more of a bounce and punch than more-avant-garde offerings from avenues like Raster Noton or Subtext’s output. On “Noun” and “Chemins Secondaires”, for instance, the textures give off a warm glow. Glitches touches have a hazy aura. There is a constant exchange going on here– it manifests in transitions from gliding, hissing noise to driving, clanging electronic rhythms. Correspondances evokes alien dread and transfixion, but its author’s approach generally goes the route of smudged, expansive ambience rather than that of crushed, crushing repetition. The colors bleed to celestial effect, the tracks flow from episode to episode like concrete music…it’s techno soundscaping with many tricks up its sleeves. It’s tough to pigeonhole. But hey, if you are still on the fence, then perhaps it would push you over to know that the mastering job was undertaken by none other than Rashad Becker. Check it out, right now!
Environment(s): Winding metal stairways.
Conjoining Currents: Experimental techno, Minimal techno, Ambient techno, Electronica
Label: Quanta Records
Genkai, off Richard Chartier’s fantastic LINE imprint, is the second collaboration of Haruo Okada and Fabio Perletta; as before, Okada acted as field-recordist, collecting material for manipulation, with Perletta forming a composition out of treatments of those materials. The result, which could best be grouped in the much-maligned and ambiguously-defined company of “lowercase”, is perhaps “difficult” in the sense that it will resist a listener approaching with overt expectations. In its highly tactile passages of susurrant ambient noise, articulate percussive taps and rustles, and long stretches of near-silence it becomes something admirable for the patient smoothness of its beauty, despite its open-ended organization. Submerged drifts and ebbs give the impassive sense of inner deliberation from time to time, but for the most part Genkai is devotedly quiet stuff. Okada and Perletta’s work here sates abstract sonic pleasures– rain on rooftops, shoes crunching through dry gravel, the good stuff that’s hard to explicate, in other words. It is undeniably something deliciously beautiful on the whole, as well as one of the most accessible releases I have ever encountered in this vein. Here’s hoping this one doesn’t slip under your radar…
Environment(s): Shingle beaches. Moss gardens.
Conjoining Currents: Lowercase, EAI, Kim Cascone, Richard Chartier.
Hugely prolific sound Italian sound artist Cristiano Deison continues to advance the legacy of collage isolationists like Maurizio Bianchi and Robert Turman into the realm of digital sound design with the dark and lovely Any Time Now, off Under Many Feet of Concrete, released mid-September. Deison has been an active member of the international noise community for over 15 years, but if you have been keeping up with his work as of late, you may have particularly made note of the industrial carnage of winter 2015’s Nearly Invisible, his collaboration with Gianluca Favaron, and the ghostly pulse of In The Other House, with Mateo Uggeri (one of my favorites of 2015). Deison’s newest is an entrancing head-trip in which digitally time-stretched sound, vinyl crackle, enveloping ambient synths, and couched acoustic glints in the dark are all fodder for a soundscape shrouded in a staticky, distancing mist.
The droney sound collage of Any Time Out seems an often oddly-calming dive into the deep-end of violence and pathology. Morbid, sampled noir-chatter is just as much a constant presence as the slowly reverberating breaths of their diaphanous backdrop. The standout tracks are without a doubt the two “Motionless” pieces, in which frequent collaborator Andrea “Mingle” Gastaldello’s cautious, exploratory piano lines and spacious synths flesh out cold urban scenes further embellished by Israel Martinez’s field-recordings. Ennio Mazzon even shows up to add some glitchy touches to the brief respite of “Blissfull Moments”. This one is absolutely stellar stuff– a masterstroke from a staple of the Italian underground.