Tuesday, September 22, 2009

MDAC010 - Monthly Discerning Audio Chart, September 2009

This month I have managed to listen to plenty of music and soundscapes, of which I shall share with you all in hope that I might spread the good word of this excellent material! It's been a month where my eardrums have mostly been stimulated by the warm fuzz of the Ambient drone...I am still lacking internet access at my house and so I have to check the computers at work for new releases and download/burn them at my parents house. Typically, I will take 4 CDs to the house and scour the netlabel world for new or interesting material. Then, it's back to mine for extended listening over a coffee.

For the first two tracks, I have selected my favourite two cuts from an old Nick Luscombe CD I bought this month. The first track 'Zeus' on this CD had me hooked with its cinematic hooks set at a leisurely pace. It so delicately fuses instrumentation over a superb rhythm and it will soon become theme to whatever journey you take.

MAKI MANAMI - "Moon Palace"
Also on the same Nick Luscombe track is this superb mood piece by. It is an intelligently arranged soundscape featuring a lovely piano performance. It starts off playful and laidback before taking an epic and cinematic turn. It is the closing track on the CD and ensures this mix goes out with a gentle bang. The only thing is, you may have some trouble tracking this down. A reason to purchase this mix compilation if ever there was one! It's a superb track.
ENNIO MAZZON - "The Possibility Of Joy"
After we were blown away by Ennio Mazzon's 'Muffled' release on Audiotalaia, we are now able to download this short follow up release on Resting Bell. We loved muffled because it was power ambience that dropped to interludes of shimmering beauty and delicacy. This territory has been further exlpored with his new work 'The Possibility Of Joy'. It opens with 'Numbed Feet' which starts off so atmospheric and eerie, before giving way to slightly muffled tones and variations that keep this short opening track interesting. 'De La Lutte' is a shorter piece again featuring playful and elegant tones draped in a bed of gentle muffled noise. '26 Of September' opens with glitchy treated sound grains giving way to those brief moments of bliss we have come to associate with Ennio's work. Last but not least, with 'In A Year', the album is concluded in line with the prevailing theme. The final track opens with a bed of noise and glitched drones, giving way to shimmering tones from time to time.
This is a pleasant and short album that further illustrates the sheer talent and thoughtful sound design that Ennio Mazzon is getting a name for.
You may also be interested to know that Ennio has just started a new CD-R label called Ripples Recordings, visit: http://ripplesrecordings.webs.com/
OFFTHESKY - "Subtle Trees"
Almost everyone who is a regular downloader of netlabel ambient/drone/sound design works is familiar with Jason Corder who's main project is Offthesky. All Offthesky releases are absolutely stunning and delicately put together. His work 'Subtle Trees' is by no means a new album; somehow, it slipped the net. Corder releases at such a prolific rate, that this is no crime! There is so much Offthesky material to download that you can be forgiven if you miss out. Just be sure to eventually track back and check his discography for bits you have missed! I missed 'Subtle Trees' and what a mistake that has proved...This is now actually one of his favourite pieces of work to date! It opens with an absolutely wonderful piano piece 'Enter Off Colour Tear' - this is such an excellent piece of music. Quite often, an album will draw you gently in as the artist chooses to position the most minimal or sparse composition as the opening track. Other artists opt to select an opening track to really draw the listener in - and that's what Jason has done with this. First impressions stick - just stick on track one and you will feel compelled to immerse yourself in this stunning world of sound he paints.

DOWNLOAD FOR FREE: http://www.offthesky.com/works.htm (scroll down to 'Subtle Trees' on Rope Swing Cities)

TLON - "Acoustic Lazy Dolls"
As I mentioned, I've been scouring the netlabel world and burning CDs of albums I am yet to be blessed with in my collection. Here is a classic release on Autoplate by TLON that was originally released back in 2002 on Canadian label Oral. I've featured some TLON tracks in old mixes in the past, but never stumbled accross this gently unfolding album that is simply full of tone and subtle motifs. The write up reads that it is derived from a selection of pieces by Jon Hassel and Brian Eno. TLON's Jean-Sebastien Roux cooks up a feast of intelligent sound design by warping recording takes of some of his favourite records beyond recognition. It is not straight up ambient music as it veers away from longform drones in favour of loops and samples re-arranged in a minimalist dubby form with occasional percussive elements.
This really is an absolutely superb album. It comes highly recommended.

LOMOV - "Holzwege"
After being so impressed with TLON's 'Acoustic Lazy Dolls', I delved further into Autoplate territory and downloaded this album by Lomov. Lomov's Axel Bergk also produces dance oriented electronica, but as a fan of Ambient and experimental forms of electronic music I am more interested in the territory he explores in 'Holzwege'.
The album opens with a delicate forest song featuring a new-age style electronic instrument composition. Typically, I can often find the use of such instruments a little irritating at times - but the delicacy of this track does draw me into listening to the rest of the album and it sets the scene perfectly. The rest of the album slowly edges forward, deeper into the forest and explores a huge array of sound texture all interspersed with deep soothing dronescapes.
Another superb Autoplate release from the archive.
SUNDUMMY - "Mighty Voids Collide"
In the early 2000s, Sundummy released a string of Ambient drone projects that attracted a lot of attention in the netlabel scene. With 'Mighty Voids Collide', I have only just discovered the material of Sundummy and I have enjoyed soaking into these soundscapes and drifting off to nowhere. There's not a high level of detail in these drones, but effects and sound processing motifs are not necessary on this album. The subtlety lies within the drones as they expand and change shape as you listen. The compositions are often quiet, mid-length and vary in tone from light, to dark to a complete nothingness.
PETAL - "The Last Season"
Our friends at consistently top-notch Ambient netlabel Earth Mantra have recetly released this album by Petal. It is a concoction of acoustic compositions and murky, noisy drones. An album of sheer darkness with pulsing, dischordant, non-directional noisy dronescapes is not my cup of tea personally as they lack direction and detail.
So, with this one, it opens with a peaceful acoustic composition of a laidback, melancholy nature. This gives way to an album interspersed with more of these little acoustic pieces and darker, drone pieces. It is this juxtaposed album ethos that makes it all so effective. It is so beautiful! It is amazing how wonderful a couple of minutes of melancholy acoustic music can sound when it follows a wash of dark drones and noisy static sounds.
The final track is what fully won me over to this album - 'We Never Spoke Of The Plans We Never Made'. One final acoustic piece to leave you smiling and feeling relaxed, satisfied and introspective.
STROM NOIR - "Kueyen"
German netlabel Resting Bell have a reputation for releasing an unpredictable array of experimental electronic music artforms. Here, Emil Matko has created a beautiful drone album
under the project name Strom Noir. 'Kueyen' throbs and swells between a wash of drone tones; at times dischordant and at times shimmering a lightness this album is a constantly interesting listen. Parts of the soundscapes are straight up dark ambience of the ghostliest kind and parts feature a murkiness that hides optimistic hints of light Ambience. There is always an underlying depth of darkness, sinister tones and noisy static to this record. But the sheer variation of sounds and those occasional silent, lighter moments will entice you to soak into this one.

SLEEPING ME 'Lamenter'
Finally on this list of discerning audio, we have a superb album by Clayton McEvoy who operates as 'Sleeping Me'. The album 'Lamenter' opens with gentle acoustic guitar work which opens out to include a swelling bed of light ambient drones. The album moves forward and creatively with more of the same - Ambient music evolved purely from the use of a guitar, further treated in McEvoy's studio. There are many moments of melancholy, many moments of beauty and many moments that induce an introspective emotional state. It is an excellent short album/E.P that is strongly recommended.

Friday, September 11, 2009

AGCD037 Spheruleus "A Vision Obscured"


  1. A Hindered View
  2. Augrun
  3. Clouds
  4. Blurred Perspective
  5. Opaque
  6. The Redundant Filter
  7. Time Stands Still
  8. Time Fades
  9. A Silent Collision
Artwork based on the painting "Mgla Wiosenna (Springtime Fog)" by Stanislaw Witkiewicz, from a public domain photo on Wikimedia Commons at commons.wikimedia.org

Many thanks to my brother Stuart for providing me with the original guitar sample for the track 'A Hindered View'.

I have spent a long and slow six months tweaking the third Spheruleus album and finally it has all been tied up and released on the Earth Mantra netlabel.
The album is called 'A Vision Obscured' and I have given only the title names away as hints to what the album is about; it is up to the listener to supply a story of their own as they listen to these works. This may sound a little thin as an album concept - maybe it gives way to thoughts that I may have rushed the concept? This couldn't be further from the truth. I've spent more time than usual thinking about 'A Vision Obscured' and the whole theme fits the album perfectly.

Each individual has hopes, dreams and objectives...and achieving these are seldom plain sailing. In fact, most of the time it requires hard work, dedication and focus on that objective to weather the wealth of troubles that can stand in your way. Many will simply give up - drowning in a sea of obstacles that gulf their first vision of hope.

In terms of letting on how this relates to me, I don't think it is necessary to go into detail at all. I would rather let the theme of the album, the foggy, melancholy sound content and the beautiful artwork conjur up thoughts of how this all relates to you personally.
If you stay alert and focussed, you will see this perfect vision for yourself. If you allow the deep murky obstacles to take hold of you, they will obscure your vision and you will sink to the depths, never to achieve your goal.

Friday, September 4, 2009

MDAC009 Monthly Discerning Audio Chart, August 2009

August has been a month that has posed a heavy restriction on my ability to source new or previously undiscovered music for my listening pleasure. I have just moved into a new home and establishing internet access has been somewhat difficult, to say the least! So this month, the chart will be themed largely around tracks I've had in my collection for some time and around new CDs I've ordered online. As is often the case of late, I'm pressed for time...so slightly shortened reviews/blurbs will accompany each piece!

HAROLD BUDD & BRIAN ENO "The Plateaux Mirror"
This classic Ambient/neo-classical album from 1980 by two heavyweights in the genre is an absolute must for any fan of Ambient music. Budd's Mellow piano compositions resonate peacefully over Eno's sound design.

This is a varied Ambient/Electronic/Experimental live album that pairs multi instrumentalist Ian Boddy with Ambient heavyweight Robert Rich.

NEST - "Trans Siberian"
This is a track from Nest's self titled album that I've had on my iPod for quite some time. The whole album is one of the finest netlabel releases I've ever heard, and if you haven't already been enjoying this classic, then you'd be advised to head over to the link below to get a copy. Delicate piano compositions are draped exquisitely over some sublime sound design. Nest is the collaboration of trained pianists Otto Totland (Deaf Centre/Type Records) and Huw Roberts (Serein). Interestingly, Serein has just undergone a rehaul by Roberts, and you can check on his label's progress here: http://www.serein.co.uk/
DOWNLOAD (and enjoy) 'Nest': http://www.archive.org/details/ser013

NRVNET - "Music For Sunrise"
Quite often, I will scour the backcatalog of Nrvnet's Hydrogen Cafe blogspot mixes and listen to an hour of relaxed, introspective music. 'Music For Sunrise' has a wonderful earthy feel to it, fusing beautiful classical pieces featuring strings, piano and many other instruments. Having just moved into a new house, there has been much hard work needed - particularly in the garden. What better soundtrack to listen to than this, whilst removing unwanted foliage? DOWNLOAD: http://hydrogencafe.blogspot.com/2007/07/music-for-sunrise.html

Despite having strong tendencies towards Ambient, experimental and acoustic/organic musics, I must never forget that my routes in music date back to Deep House music. Some days, nothing else will suffice. I will often flick through my many records, turn the volume up on my amp and listen to some excellent House records that I've collected over the years. And here, a true classic, Soldiers Of Twilight dates me way back to when I was a mere infant to the world of music. This has been an all-time favourite.

GOLDMUND - "The Malady Of Elegance"
What record collection could be complete without this timeless classic? 'The Malady Of Elegance' is Keith Kennif's (also known as Helios) finest hour thus far, in my opinion. This delicate piano soundtrack is so unbelievably beautiful. Glimpses of obvious piano melody are punctuated by eerie, playful drones and gentle noises that leave you hanging, longing for the next note. I've stuck this one on a few times in the background and just allowed it to fill my house with its pleasant yet eerie charm.

DARREN HARPER - "Time Forgotten"
Thanks to Earth Mantra, a label I am pleased to be associated for my projects as Spheruleus, we are introduced to Darren Harper, with this piece called 'Time Forgotten'. Earth Mantra have really cranked it up of late - churning out release after release of quality Ambient music, all under creative commons and we're approaching their 100th edition to the catalog. Number 94, 'Time Forgotten' lets you just sit back and float blissfully away, just as good Ambient music should. This one is special, and will likely feature in my list of top Ambient releases of the year - like many of Earth Mantra's material... DOWNLOAD:http://www.earthmantra.com/release-detail.php?id=94

ARTICOLOGY - "Eternal Now"
The last Articology release on Earth Mantra 'Haven', out at the beginning of this year has been featuring on my playlist ever since and has been a true classic for me. Now, with 'Eternal Now', Brit Dale Humphries has managed to keep things consistent and at this high level. This album is so shimmeringly beautiful - it is certain to become a true classic in my record collection and sit rightfully beside 'Haven' as an excellent follow-up. DOWNLOAD: http://www.earthmantra.com/release-detail.php?id=87

Intelligent sound design fusing electronic effetcs, ambient drones and a gently epic piano composition make this track Broadway Project every bit a compelling listen. I've been listening to a lot of electronica featuring the piano of late, and this is certainly a stand out piece.

As I mentioned, I've spent much of the month looking through old classics and forgotten tracks. I am utterly ashamed to have forgotten this masterpiece! Partridge and Budd are in fine form here with this track 'Through The Hill'. It will have you sipping your coffee with a smile on your face, slumped back in your chair, in awe of this wonderful piece of music...just as I have been doing so over the last few weeks!