Tuesday, May 25, 2010

MDAC018 - Monthly Discerning Audio Chart, May 2010

Obviously this month I've been particularly busy setting up the Audio Gourmet netlabel - which has posed me with an issue for when writing my reviews each month...should I include reviews about E.Ps released on my label in this section? I've thought long and hard, and decided not to do so, since an element of promotional bias will start to creep in and that's not why I write about music. So, here are ten albums/E.Ps/mixes that I've particlularly enjoyed listening to during May.

TALVIHORROS - "Music In Four Movements"
I have known for a few weeks that I would eventually have to sit down to write a review about this magnificent record. I've wrestled with how I can best do it justice for much of the month and it would seem that I am not the only one. If you take a look around the internet, this record out now on Hibernate is getting a lot of deserved attention. And rightly so - this really is a stunning piece of work.
Talvihorros is the project pseudonym of Ben Chatwin and he uses an array of instruments to form the backbone of his work that covers a range of experimental frequencies. The concept behind 'Music In Four Movements' is to provide a musical exploration of studies Chatwin carried out on suicide, particularly drowning, capturing the essence of the thoughts and feelings one might have had whilst embarking on ending their life. A bleak, doom laced concept for an album, but those of you that like your ambient on the lighter side, don't be put off. For this record, despite its obviously daunting theme has plenty of empowering and deeply atmospheric moments. It is at times positive and triumphant amongst all of the murk and gloom.
Most of the tracks that make up these four movements are longer-form, yet not linear in structure or direction. The music of Talvihorros is constantly changing, evolving - full of twists and turns to serve as a truly immersive listening experience. Never does it become a predictable listen, even after having listened several times. The depth of this record is indescribable and I believe that in 'Music In Four Movements', we have a true classic that people will look back on and smile about for decades to come.
One thing is for certain, it is because of magnificent music like this that I am happy to continue my existence on this planet. An album that comes with my highest recommendation.

KYLE BOBBY DUNN - "A Young Person's Guide To Kyle Bobby Dunn"
Spread over two discs, 'A Young Person's Guide To Kyle Bobby Dunn' is an epic and immersive ambient album of the highest quality. Four tracks on the first disc will be pieces familiar to those who purchased 'Fervency', released last year on Moodgadget. The rest of the material are works by this talented New York based ambient music composer, written at around the same time as 'Fervency'.
Dunn arranged for a selection of classical musicians to record for this album and then set about his process of digitally retreating these takes into an environment of soundwashes and delicately crafted drones. The whole album is beautifully restful stuff and will take quite some time for the listener to get to grips with. It is full of charm and requires time to truly get to know it as a whole, which is one of the truly wonderful things about this type of music. The record is mostly quiet and unobtrusive, gentle and softly paced - it is easy to just slump back and daydream whilst listening to these works. My personal favourite piece has to be 'Empty Gazing' - the orchestral rearrangements in this piece epitomise the slumped-back listening state you'll no doubt adopt throughout your listen to 'A Young Person's Guide To...'. This is a stunning collection of some of the very best ambient drones I have heard for some time and you'd be a fool to miss out on this - at just £9.50 for the two discs! Head over to LowPoint now to check it out: http://www.low-point.com/LP033.html

Another excellent release from the ever consistent Under The Spire label; here we are treated to a three track E.P from a relatively unheard of artist. That is what has been so fantastic about Under The Spire as a label - label owner Chris has been selecting a blend of established artists such as Rameses III, Zelienople and Jasper TX and releasing their work alongside new and relatively unheard of talent. Here with Padang Food Tigers' release, we have a record in the latter category.
This painfully short E.P is evidence that there is still a wealth of superb artists emerging in the scene and things are as healthy as they have ever been. 'Go Down, Moses' opens with the title track , which fuses field recordings with banjo and piano composition. Secondly, 'Wandering Souls' is the track that was originally posted on Under The Spire's Soundcloud account and is a track that sums up the overall demeanour of the E.P - short, sweet and breezy. Closing the record is 'Corn Stem King', my personal favourite piece. More delicate, relaxed instrumentation with an ending that closes using environmental field recordings.
This is just how I like my music - raw and acoustic with the subtlest of electronic treatment. I've been enjoying this all month and if there are any copies left lying around - I strongly suggest you get one purchased. I wonder whether the Padang Food Tigers will be releasing a full album...?

HESSIEN - "Hessien E.P"
May has seemed to be the month of the E.P - I started my Audio Gourmet netlabel, purely focussed on releasing short E.Ps and there appears to be quite a lot of shorter records out at the moment. That said, this eponymously titled excursion by Hessien has been floating around since the beginning of the year and it's only since learning of its existence courtesy of a Fluid Radio that I've downloaded my copy.
Hessien are a duo from Australia and England respectively and have other releases out of equal quality, such as the brilliant 'Skurjn'. Much of their work is available for an attractively priced download from their Bandcamp site or a physical copy can be obtained through Hand Stitched.
The E.P itself flows superbly as a whole and is absolutely full of tonal texture and carefully woven detail. Glitchy vintage crackling and subtle electronic effects punctuate genrle drones and electro acoustic guitar melodies. This is wonderful stuff - short, sweet and very listenable indeed. It would be very silly to miss out on this one...

OLAN MILL - "Pine"
Serein as a label has had a recent overhaul and moved away from its netlabel roots. It is now a full label, releasing at a slow and steady rate to allow each record to fully sink in. First up, spearheading a big year for the label was Nest's 'Retold' and next is this wonderful collection of modern classical ambient pieces from Olan Mill.
'Pine' is a record full of cinematic soundtrack moments; epic and beautifully paced throughout, it is simply breathtaking. To create these film-score like compositions, Olan Mill's Alex Smalley and Svitlana Samoylenko used piano, violin, pipe organ and guitar. This is so delicately crafted, that I believe it is going to be talked about for some time and is likely to be a classic in many a playlist. Despite its short timeframe of just 35 minutes, it just seems to hang suspended in time and will leave you feeling utterly refreshed. What a stunning debut from this pair of musicians...a must buy for all.

OFFLAND - "Anniversary E.P"
After particularly enjoying Offland's last release 'The Commute', I was excited to see that this 'Anniversary' E.P has recently come out on Resting Bell. For this release, Tim Dwyer has ditched the longerform piece style used in 'Commute' in favour of this collection of short works capturing recordings made at his wedding.
This capturing sound process is something that I have long been interested in as a sound designer myself. I find it fascinating that you can record a selection of sounds and then have these saved permanently to preserve that timeframe and environment permanently to trigger nostalgia over future listens.
This is at its most powerful for the person making the recording and for those present, as they will be able to distinguish what the different sounds represent.
For those not present at the time of the recordings on this E.P, we still have a collection of ambient pieces that are a relevant listening experience to enjoy - each piece is accompanied by drones and soundscaping to add an extra listening dimension. More great music from Resting Bell and more from Offland. Download here:

HAROLD BUDD and CLIVE WRIGHT - "Little Windows"
Harold Budd has become one of the instantly recognisable figures in ambient music over the years and is famous for his work with the likes of Brian Eno and Robin Guthrie. Here with 'Little Windows', we've a delightful album of many depths, showcasing Budd's work alongside Clive Wright. The album itself is the third part of a trilogy and only one of the tracks is a full collaboration between the two artists. The rest of the album is split between tracks from each artist and it showcases their own individual talents at creating experimental ambient music. Budd has the last three tracks reserved for his minimalist piano compositions that he is so revered for. The main ingredient to this album is the fact that each artist is allowed to express themself individually, which creates a varied palette of sounds for the listener to indulge in. It never becomes samey and is literally full of interesting tones to get your ears round.

OFFTHESKY - "Du Soleil"
Resting Bell have been consistently putting out top quality netlabel music for a few years now and this seems to have intensified over the last couple of months. Release after release has been absolutely spot on - it seems they can do no wrong.
Here we have a re-release of works from the prolific and immensely talented sound designer from Kentucky, Jason Corder. Under his OffTheSky moniker, he has won many fans and admirers over the years and is widely regarded as one of the top sound designers in the world.
This record features some material from an earlier release and is accompanied by a collection of remixes towards the end. The level of attention to detail from Corder is as meticulous as ever - over the course of this record there is just so much to listen to! Drones, dound washes, instrument manipulation, clicks, crackles, noises, field recordings, weird vocals and effects. Despite this level of detail, the works still retain a beautifully immersive feel - hazy, dreamy and at times, otherworldy. It is easy to get lost and ignore the wealth of detail that Corder has painstakingly woven into this record. This is astonishing ambient sound design and the fact that it is free makes it all the more unmissable.

ANDRES KRAUSE - "Move Ground"
Because of its expense, I rarely buy vinyl these days. This is one of the main reasons that I gave up DJing in fact and I felt that simply buying CDJs just wouldn't be the same. Still, I've always loved vinyl and have my turntables set up permanently.
Despite the general expense putting me off, something really drew me towards this record by talented German sound designer Andres Krause, packaged in beautifully designed sleeve artwork. I think in fact, the combination of this stunning artwork, the audio samples on various websites and the write ups all helped clinch the sale. There is an air of mystery about the whole thing that really intrigued me.
Once the record arrived, I stuck it on the platter and allowed the Cologne-based environmental sounds to emanate he room. Field recordings are used an awful lot these days in ambient sound design - but what really has me interested is when they are used to transform the lsitener to a far away environment and give me the sense of actually being there. Krause uses his recordings to do just that.
Whilst field recordings provide the focus for much of this excursion, they are accompanied by the gentle hum of ambient drones used tastefully throughout. This record will have you going back again and again...for years to come. Its subtletly is its appeal...

Despite my blog entry earlier in the month, I thought I'd give this superb mix from the Lowlight Mixes a few words as I am very grateful to Dave for his consistent support of my works as Spheruleus.
This mix is centered around field recordings and environmental sound recordings with vague musical interludes. The mix will transport you slowly to many a far away environment, through subtle tonal moments and occasional drone washes. Another excellent mix from the Lowlight mixes...download here:

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Lowlight Mixes - Thru The Field

Another wonderful mix from The Lowlight Mixes here:


The mix is in the field series - a collection of mixes based on field recordings and recorded sound.
In the mix, Dave has selected a couple of older Spheruleus pieces as well as a new piece featured on the Rust E.P. He also closes the mix with a track from Darren Harper's Momentary E.P, also on the Audio Gourmet Netlabel.

Check it out!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

NEW!! Audio Gourmet Netlabel

Hello all! I have been exceptionally busy this week - I've only gone and set up my own netlabel haven't I?
I guess this has always been on the cards and a direction I've been increasingly heading towards for some time now.
The main thing that makes the Audio Gourmet netlabel a little different is its release concept:

"To showcase a collection of short albums and E.Ps that can be listened to in full during a standard working tea-break."

Each Audio Gourmet netlabel release will be no longer than fifteen minutes and not much shorter than fourteen. As it says above in the label mission-statement, this has been set so that listeners can download quickly, and listen to the works of talented ambient artists and sound designers all within the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee and have a slice of cake. Many of you will yearn for a refreshing listening experience on occasions when you simply don't have the time to sit down and listen through an entire album-long release. So, let the Audio Gourmet Netlabel be your portal for that quick recess period, and may you feel refreshed and inspired after listening!

The other benefits of this label include:
  • Quick upload process - means I can get an E.P uploaded during a lunch-hour. Should be two or three releases out a month at the very least.
  • Short timeframe means artists are able to get an E.P made quicker than a usual release.
  • Gives artists a window to maybe try something different or collaborate as an experiment
  • An artist can supplement a full album release with a free E.P to promote their main project. Could serve as the 'bonus material' accompanying E.P
  • I will do everything I can to promote the artist - the release section will include a 'further reading/links' header, which an artist can supply me with information on anything else they want to promote and also links to biographies, discographies, other releases and general information. I want to build a community and support as many different individuals interested in the ambient music scene as possible.
So there you have it - head over to the netlabel site on the link above, and download its very first release: an E.P from myself, under my Spheruleus guise...