Back on track here at this bloggy thing! I’ve received notice of some real gems in the last little while, and by real, I mean really shiny! This is a selection of fine new ambient music and one interesting not-so-ambient release. All of these are very, very good. All of ’em. There’s so much good music out there these days, it’s kind of mind-blowing. God bless the democratization of the Interwebs, allowing these fine people to put their music out without begging some douchie big label for attention. Did I get off track there?
Anyway, read and follow the links:
I love interesting and ambitious music, and this fits the bill. Hines has produced a real labour of love here, a dystopian sci-fi concept album that mixes elements of electronica, ambient, prog-rock, even prog-metal in a very serious suite of songs. Remember Paul Kantner’s Blows Against the Empire? Not a new concept but one always I’m willing to read or hear re-presented — we can’t have enough warnings about our impending doom! After an intro that somehow reminds me of Tool, he goes right into prog-metal territory with the big power chords of “Ark”, which also mixes in some great cosmic synths. This gives way to full-on, ultra-compressed thrashy metal on “Engine Test”. There’s more to the album than big riffs, though, as Hines shows adeptness at avant garde electronic sounds on “Headway” and beautiful post-rock vibes on “Waking from a Static Dream” (take note, Porcupine Tree fans!). All of this music is rendered with supreme confidence. I LOVE to see this kind of artistic ambition realized and suspect a lot of progressive rock fans will enjoy this album.
Magnetic Wind – Asleep Next to You
Asleep Next to You is a three-track album on Free Floating Music of hazy ambient, what I guess they might call “light” ambient, which to me just means that the aim is to make as much heavenly beauty as possible…to max out the bliss! Well, with the sweeping, soaring pads of this recording, Magnetic Wind has produced a wonderful entry into this field. This album could be taken as one piece, since there’s not much variety in the sounds, but frankly, as a long-form piece, I wouldn’t change a thing about the forty minutes of this recording. The sounds are as celestial as anything I’ve come across — just beautiful.
Here’s a very impressive pair of grand dark ambient albums. Beneath is several long pieces that vary from big-ass slabs of noise (track 1) to the creepy and mysterious (track 2), to grandiose (track 4, with its stentorian recitation of the poem “Ode to Remembrance” from WWI) to heavenly walls of cathedral organ (track 5). Huge, huge music, very well-rendered. The Passing is different, being a concept album about human actions in destroying our environment. Again, not a new topic, but one that must be introduced over and over again until we learn our lesson. And Negative Spectrum does an excellent job of telling the story through sound, each track matching well with its title. Again, the music is dark, melancholy and disturbing ambient, but because there’s a sonic story to tell, amongst the weird noises and metallic drones we get such pieces as the mournful and melodic “The Passing” and the cosmically spacy (with whale sounds!) “Dark Neptune Utopia”. So this isn’t just for dark ambient aficionados, but also for anyone who enjoys a story painted through music. Two really solid releases and I look forward to more.
Joseph Curwen – Cyclopean Stones
Not only did this act capture my heart with a name taken from Lovecraft (and piece titles too!), for my love of eldritch, cyclopean things is well known, but in fact Joseph Curwen’s music is the perfect accompaniment to reading about those horrible Elder Gods from the crawling chaos! OK, in case I’ve lost you, what we have here is some really killer dark drone ambient. There’s a lot of that music about these days, but that doesn’t mean everyone does it well. Joseph Curwen gets that tone just right, the minimal, echoey, cavernous slabs of drone with mysterious metallic swells and high-pitched overtones. If you liked, say, Lustmord’s The Place Where the Black Stars Hang, then you will go apes–t for Cyclopean Stones. This is a real journey into black madness, weirdly soothing and disquieting at once. I like this very much and you will too, if you have any interest at all in drone or dark ambient.
Dylan Raine – Defining Light
Here’s a nice two-track album, part of the proceeds of which go to an animal charity (guinea pig rescue). Lest you think that’s not a serious charitable idea, don’t try to tell me that, because I’m a card-carrying froth-at-the-mouth animal hugger/rights advocate, and all beings deserve our support and charity. OK, now that’s out of the way — Raine’s album is a very promising release. The longer track, “Journey Into the Light”, is a combination of new age sounds, field recordings, and a pleasant classical-style female vocal. While the piece will appeal to fans of new agey acts like Deuter, Rudy Adrian and Jon Jenkins, there are a few slightly atonal touches in there as well to keep things a little edgier. “Forest of the Innocents” is equally delightful in the same way, a veritable fantasia of forest sounds and light, airy synths, as sylvan as can be. Good cause, great music, you can’t go wrong here.
I’m totally blown away by both of these releases, which are on two different labels and represent different facets of Monochromie’s music. Enlighten Yourself While You Sleep is ambient sound art, and right from track one, with its walls of static, chirping upper-register guitar and gentle chord progression, it grabs you by the soul. Fans of Helios, Parks, et al (including Toronto’s own Orbit Over Luna, mayhaps) will love the emotion dripping from these uh, we used to say grooves — these bytes? For this is a very emotional, almost sentimental set of tunes. In a good way, though. Colors in the Dark is in a similar vein but the sources are different, this album being mostly a collection (with the exception of a few tracks) of piano-based pieces. So all you Budd-ites out there start drooling. I’m making a piano album myself right now, so I really appreciate the indefinable emotional quality that only this instrument seems to possess. Monochromie does an excellent job of composing simple, moving piano pieces then combining them with subtle ambient and sound art elements. This is not an easy craft to perfect, but this album achieves that goal as well as anything I’ve heard. Pick up both of these albums!
Christopher Alvarado and Ari Porki – Menagerie of Clouds
Menagerie of Clouds is kind of an IDM release, by which I mean it has beats. Lots of ’em. The beats are of the hypnotic, psychedelic variety. My references on beat-y things may not be as up to date as they could be, but I think this release will appeal to fans of acts like Carbon Based Lifeforms, Solar Fields and Biosphere. I say that because despite the rhythmic elements, this is very much an ambient release, and all that the beats do on the pieces that have ’em is make things groovy as well as tranquil. Opener “New Beginning” in particular has a great hypnotic loop. Underneath the beats are some really great washes of pad sound, mysterious booming and echoing noises and some field recordings (do I hear gulls?). Hence, this album is a great combination of IDM influences with the best of modern sound art. A complete listening experience, just as such an album should be.
Fires Were Shot – Pieces of the White Sun
Fires Were Shot has produced a great album of “guitarbient”, and we all know that the guitar has great potential as an ambient instrument. This act uses all the guitar’s capabilities, from chiming sounds borrowed from dream pop and shoegaze to the hum and pop of the cable itself as it’s inserted into the axe. The result is a really pretty ambient/post-rock hybrid. There are some lovely and moving pieces here, such as the uplifting “Scattered in the River” and the sweet reverbed acoustic guitar/field recording combo of “Now Showing an Orange Setting”. But basically I’ve listened to this a few times now and there’s nary an unengaging track to be found. The playing itself is excellent (I’m a guitarist, you see, so I know). If you love the extended capabilities of the guitar or just a great ambient listening experience, snatch this one up.