Happy 2014 y’all! Well, December is hell, as we all know, so I didn’t get in a post of new material during the month due to a lack of time to listen. So I will do my best to make up for it with two in January. It might be doable. Sigh.
Anyhow, I’ve been wading through figurative piles of submissions and there’s a ton of good stuff. Here’s the first batch from the fall and early winter. Some really lovely music in here, perhaps the finest selection yet!
Dead in Sacramento – Over the Fiery Wall of the Horizon
This four-track EP is some excellent post-rock/ambient of the uplifting variety, with chimy bits and sparkly sounds. The first track has some quite lovely guitar work, while the second presents an effective wall of slightly distorted sound art. “The trees were dark in color” is another very pretty guitar/ambient noise piece, while “Beneath the red eye of the sun” contains a nice little piano melody. Though this is tranquil, there’s definitely a happy vibe to this album that I quite enjoyed. Fans of Manual, who I wrote a long recent piece about, or Helios will enjoy this beautiful album.
Francesco Giannico and Theo Allegretti – Flow Signs
This is a piano ambient album, and we like those over here. Not only that, but it’s a very, very good example of such. Flow Signs mixes minimal but quite well-structured piano pieces with nocturnal-sounding field recordings and gentle ambient sounds. Some tracks bring to mind the recent work of Sakamoto (such as his albums with Alva Noto), being more abstract, while others (“Lazy Afternoon”) resemble the prettier post-rock pieces of Eluvium (but just as good!). There’s even a bit of experimentation, such as on the more avant-garde “Where is the Oracle”, which contains musique concrète elements. This is a great example of piano-based ambient music/sound art that in many moments reaches the heights of beauty, so if you like that, you should not miss it.
Jack Taylor – Healer
This short-ish modern ambient album is very ethereal indeed and has a special melancholy mood to call its own, being inspired by the ocean. The first track has a reverby haziness that matches the best of Stars of the Lid, while the second is sparse and more sound-arty, with field recordings and bell-like sounds — good for you 12k-loving folks. The third movement is more noise sound art, a wall of gently roaring ambiance, while the fourth is the most experimental, an almost mechanical-sounding drone. While Taylor plays around effectively with these different styles, the recording definitely sounds like a coherent whole and a complete listening experience. Very well done and “name your price” at Bandcamp.
Jowie Schulner – Emotronic Diary
Schulner’s 60-minute opus is a very interesting album. While it will certainly appeal to the IDM enthusiast who enjoys Solar Fields/Carbon Based Lifeforms/Aes Dana, that sort of thing, there’s also a curiously vintage feel to the album that’s redolent of older acts like Jean Michel Jarre, Wavestar or eighties Tangerine Dream. Me, I like those things just fine. Hence, this album’s beats are not cluttered and claustrophobic, more spacious, classic, driving sounds that augment the nifty vintage lead synth sounds and sequenced rhythms. I hear “emotronic” is a thing, but I don’t really keep up with weird genre names. All I know is this is some tasty classic melodic instrumental electronic pop music, good for the dancefloor but also for close listening.
Domenico Canino – Hypnos Hypnos
This single long synth piece taken from a live performance is a very beautiful spacy drone that goes through a few permutations along the way. The closest reference I can make is to the work of Canino’s late countryman, the renowned Oöphoi, in his more melodic recordings. The mood is light, sunny and tranquil — a lovely achievement.
Oh Halo – Remixed
Oh Halo is a New York-based post-punk/dream pop-type band that has recently come to my attention because Charlie Nieland of Her Vanished Grace is a member. I’ve not heard the music that has been remixed, so I guess this is kind of an ass backwards way of coming to their tunes, but hey, remixes are a thing unto themselves, so there’s no reason why I can’t recommend this based on its own merits. I don’t like it when people remix things DJ-style, but this stuff is quite classy and not dancefloor-oriented. “Arthur Martha” features a stentorian thumpy beat redolent of early 80s post-punk. Vocalist Julie Dicterow has a very strong voice. Most of the remixes keep with the dream pop/vintage synth-pop template, fortunately. I particulary like the “In the Cathedral” mix. If the actual album these songs were taken from is as good as this implies, I’ll have to pick it up! If you like IDM beats and dream pop, then you will like this selection, which is “name your price” at Bandcamp and a good intro to this group’s particular vibe.
Zenjungle – Circles
Circles is a three-track EP-length recording of very moody, evocative ambient music with some great melodic elements as well, including some saxophone parts that Jan Garbarek would be proud to have played. There’s also a very effective use of woodland and vocal field recordings mixed with piano on the lengthy second track, which also has some fine post-rock guitar textures. The repetitive, minimal piano chords and the waves of hazy sound create a hypnotic mood. The piece does, however, go through a few nice, subtle shifts of mood where the energy ebbs and flows. “Circles 3″ is some lazy guitar-based sound art. Yet another “name your price” jewel that I hope you will all check out — a really good recording.
Altus – Sleep Theory Volume 2
Altus doesn’t need to submit music to me or anyone else — we all know how great his stuff is. But I thought I’d point out this second installment of his Sleep Theory series anyway. Altus makes some of the best classic space/symphonic ambient around, and for some reason he still offers it all for free. The dude’s a freaking humanitarian! The Sleep Theory music is as you’d expect, drifty, calm and trance-inducing beauty, like billowy clouds of innocent virtue transporting you to — oh, the hell with it. I’m not a poet. This is really great ambient music, and if you’re not on board the Altus train yet, you should hop on immediately.