It’s hard to believe, compared to this time last year, how many dang submissions I’m getting. I’m starting to lose the personal touch, so if you have sent something and didn’t hear from me, it’s because I’m drowning over here. But I’m plugging away at my listening.
As always, this latest batch of listening has revealed several treasures, mostly in the ambient genre and many of them free to own and enjoy. Check ’em out.
Skywriting – In Fields
My nasty, frigid February was lightened by this glistening, uplifting slice of pure ambient joy. Nature field recordings are mixed with post-rock-inspired, slightly distorted, mega-reverbed ambient washes, ruminative, clean guitar picking and pulsing but subtle bass buildups. Sort of like Helios sans beats or Sigur Rós without rhythm section or the chirping pixy dude. The lazy, summery beauty of a track like “Streamers” is quite irresistible to all but the hardest of hearts. And this wonderful recording is free! I see a number of releases on the act’s Bandcamp, so don’t delay, go get this and listen to the rest.
Everyday Dust – Somnium
This is a pleasant EP on Sparkwood Records of hazy sound art/post-rock, though there are more genuine chord changes and little melodies amongst all the staticky, metallic sounds than we often get from such acts. Each track is a melancholic, tense little gem, characterized by that hazy background roar, with pretty synth chords and textures weaving in and out. Good for Tim Hecker fans, people like that who like a little noise with their beauty. A nice, immersive listen, and also pay what you can at Bandcamp. A must-try for ambient listeners.
postmoderndisco – Soundscapes
From my hometown of RobnDougFordVille (if you don’t know what that means, where you been?), we have a talented new artist in the ambient/IDM field. This unassuming but funky little EP combines post-rock guitar with some very dramatic synth textures and classy beats (“Mist”), and some glitchy beats as well (“Nocturnal”, “Robots in Space”, good for you Alva Noto fans) and even a field recording to boot. A pretty cool IDM (yeah, I hate that term too) release from an artist I hope to hear a lot more from as her career progresses. This too is pay what you can. Remember, when I talk about Toronto, I’m saying it’s good despite being from there, not because of it.
Robert Farrugia – They Glistened Sharply Through Morning Dew
This rather prolific fellow keeps releasing stuff and I keep reviewing it. Pavlovian response, I guess. But when it’s of such a consistently high standard, what am I to do? Farrugia’s combination of ambient and post-rock sounds is always beautifully rendered. This album is a little less post-rocky than the previous ones, being based more on ringing piano tones over classic but very current-sounding ambient backgrounds, but some of that chimy guitar makes appearances as well, and also some spoken-word vocal samples. As always, it’s pay-what-you-can and all very accomplished, so if you haven’t tried Farrugia’s work yet, don’t delay.
M. Persson Sounds – Strange Skies MMXIV
From the lovely Free Floating label, which always pleases, we have a re-release of an album from 2007 (I think?). I actually have the original too (it was on the Lunar Flower netlabel) and have enjoyed it quite a few times over the years. The album’s been fully remastered and expanded quite a bit, so if you missed it the first time around, do not miss it now. Strange Skies is classic “light” ambient based on billowing, cushiony pads, but despite the airyness there’s a slightly dark, sorrowful emotional undertone to this recording that is very appealing. This is certainly up there with the best classic ambient around these days, on a par with the work of Altus, Phillip Wilkerson and the late Lucette Bourdin, to give you an idea of what we have here.
Juleah – Entangled and Entwined
This is our only “rock” album so far this month, a very cool collection of vintage psych-pop sounds through a nineties dream-pop lens. Listeners will recognize the influence of Mazzy Star in the reverby, chiming guitar chords of “The Verge” (and the lady singer’s fine, restrained voice), but with some added cool synthy sounds to provide extra trippiness. The groovy “Neverending Swell” is redolent of the grooviness of the Jefferson Airplane, while “Magic Vineyard” is a nice slice of acid-folk, and “The Sixth and Seventh Moon” has a nice early Krautrock feel in addition to a West Coast vibe, and “I Sway Enchantedly” reminds me of the early, pre-mega fame jams of The Verve. This is a very fine album of neo-psych for all you modern hippies out there.
Vintage Cucumber – Yoki Style
Now this is a trippy one! The fancily-named Vintage Cucumber has created a magic carpet of vintage Krautrock electronica sounds that seem to draw a lot of inspiration from the earliest recordings of Amon Düül II (“Mondsucht II”, “Das Mönchsgebrabbel” and more) and the classic era of Can (“Im Garden Eden”), as well as mid-seventies Tangerine Dream, Cluster and Neu! (“Alles in Butter 78”). Cool beats, German vocal samples, acid rock guitars and vintage synths are everywhere on this thing. In other words, this lengthy album is fucking good! VC does not make a single wrong move here — this is a Krautrock lover’s delight and a stunning re-creation of one of music’s finest scenes.
Lee Rosevere – Farrago Zabriskie
With all due respect, this sounded a little gimmicky at first — netaudio veteran Rosevere merged some of his tracks with those of another musician, Chris Zabriskie, for this release on his Happy Puppy label. However, I listened anyway because I know that Rosevere is a great ambient musician. Good thing I did, because this is remarkably successful. I surmise that most of the textures I hear are the work of Rosevere while the melodic elements come from Zabriskie’s stuff, to generalize. The result is some lovely, spacy ambient indeed. You can’t even tell it’s the blended work of two musicians, except on the last track, which features some parts that jar a bit (intentionally, I’m sure). The finest for me are the tracks where melodic piano elements are set against a backdrop of celestial synths (check out “Ciro”). A free release and really good!