This month, I've been busy with work and Christmas preparations yet somehow, thank goodness, I've still managed to unearth yet more exceptional music from artists and labels across the globe...too busy to write ALL of the reviews though!!!! They will follow soon...
RICHARD SKELTON - "Landings"
First up, this one came as a suprise for me when I stumbled across this new release from Richard Skelton. I knew he'd been building up to another release after having read about it online, but I expected to hear about it a bit more before it actually came out! Immediately, I hit the 'buy now' button and ordered this 2 X LP album excursion of electro-acoustic and modern classical genius. Thankfully, I managed to get my order in quick enough to secure my free bonus CD-r of 'Riftmusic' too!
My record decks had been unplugged and relegated in favour of using the four-way extension to meet the lighting demands of our Christmas tree...I made sure I could hook them back up again, poured myself a cup of coffee and sank into this stunning album by an absolute giant in the modern classical scene. Skelton's whole package of mournful, melancholy instrumentation recorded in and around the West Pennines and presented in beautiful, understated cover artwork is something that makes me physically unable to resist purchasing any of his material.
LE LENDEMAIN - "Fires"
A couple of months back, Library Tapes teamed up with British cellist Danny Norbury who's also only recently released his debut album. In 'Fires', the delicate piano-based dusty instrumentation of Sweden's Library Tapes is perfectly complimented by Norbury's beautiful cello playing and we have a big modern classical album which for me, is one of the biggest releases of its type this year. I've been listening to some older Library Tapes material of late and it's broadly a dusty collection of piano based material deliberately dressed up as forgotten and antiquated. I've also listened to the afore mentioned Norbury album a lot recently. With 'Fires', the two come together and craft some of the most breathtaking modern classical music you're likely to have heard this year. From the very first few notes of opening 'Fiore', you know you're in for something very very special indeed.
DIRAC - "Emphasis"
This four track release by Austrian trio Dirac is one I have been playing heavily all month. Across the net, it has been described as drawing influence from ambient and drone genres, the electrio-acoustic scene and also, it shows glimmers of jazz. Throughout these four slow, minimal and gently unfurling tracks, this selection of influences will become apparent. The opening piece features a very subtle linear drone with carefully drawn out detail to lull you to a meditative state. Next, the palette is varied with some blurred jazz guitar played in languid fashion with gentle sprinklings of simply gorgeous piano notes and rattling field recordings and dismembered percussion. Third, in 'Bantu', we have some drone and electro-acoustic elements bubbling away from the offset with delicately balanced accent sounds from various sources. This is my personal favourite track of the album. Then finally 'A Rest In Tension' closes this masterpiece with a shimmeringly beautiful ambient drone piece.
This album is a very minimal take on electro-acoustic music and it is not for the impatient listener. Give this album plenty of time to express itself and you'll realise just how superb it is. It may be minimal, but there is a wealth of detail to explore throughout the entire album.
HILDUR GUDNADOTTIR - "Without Sinking"
More wonderful modern classical music here, from the young and talented Icelandic cellist Hildur Gudnadottir. The scene is rich in talent hailing from Iceland with the likes of Johann Johannson and Olafur Arnalds to name but a few. In 'Without Sinking', Hildur has sculpted a mysterrious masterpiece to elevate her name amongst this growing roster of talent. She plays the cello and explores a range of deep, misty and sinister sounds that she can lift from it and arranges it all in this otherworldly fashion. At times, the instrument is used to create ambient drones that linger, slowly fading and at other times it is played with more vigour to give a more epic sense to the listener. My personal favourite is 'Aether' and it features what is presumably a guitar based opening and delicate accents again derived from her instrument of choice. It sums up an album that doesn't just do one thing - it ebbs and flows and is full of varying tone.
SOLO ANDATA - "Fyris Swan"
With a long awaited follow up to this album only recently out on 12k, you'd expect me to be raving about this Australian artist's recent self-titled release. But, it reminded me about their older work 'Fyris Swan' available on the same label and released back in 2007. I went back to 'Fyris Swan' and have been bowled over so much by the sheer magic in this album that I haven't really even had chance to listen to their new project!
Solo Andata are a huge part of the electro-acoustic scene in the way that they fuse a multitude of sound sources from instruments and field recordings into playful, melodic melodies. It is easy to see how and why they are so revered when we look at 'Fyris Swan' and think of the sheer talent that was required to make that album - a whole two years ago! Solo Andata are destined for big things in years to come...I'm off to check out their 2009 release!!!
LIBRARY TAPES - "Hostluft"
THE GREEN KINGDOM - "Twig and Twine"
I've been a fan of The Green Kingdom ever since I got into Ambient music. Increasingly, I am keeping a close eye on the electro-acoustic scene and I think that it is with The Green Kingdom's early netlabel releases that I am to attribute my first interest to the genre. This year, with Twig and Twine, we are treated to a delightful melodic album of electro-acoustic songs accompanied by subtle drones and field recordings.
At times, these drones take centre stage for the slower, moodier pieces and at others, the gentle guitar melody takes the limelight. This album is delicately balanced from start to finish and I believe this could well be their very best material to date.
INVERZ - "Slow"
The Phantom Channel label has been going from strength to strength throughout the whole of 2009 and now with this 13th release, we're approaching what could be an even better second year for the label. The closing release for this successful year is from Greece's Inverz and what a treat it is.
JACOB NEWMAN - "No Midpoint To Infinity"