Posts Tagged ‘ambient’

SUSS

There’s a sense of cosmic wonder built into the sinews of Suss’ latest LP, High Line. The veteran NYC band blends a mix of ambient textures with a high plains country crawl that slices Bruce Langhorne with Barn Owl for a trip down an otherworldly rabbit hole. The album has a hermetic magic to it, lonesome, melancholy, but all consuming and engrossing in a way that seems to transcend more than just just feelings. Like a great work in sound design, Suss’ album seems to be narrating a journey, a wander through mystic corridors that’s beyond this plane. The songs ache with the hollowed marrow of driftwood — a life leeched by the sea and left to burn up in the sun – yet the discarded pieces of pulp have tales to tell, a world left behind in their sunbleached bends. High Line is an album marked by erosion and exfoliation, something that seeks to sink deeper into the strata beyond the dip of the horizon.

The band slinks from mirage to mirage, never explaining but always beckoning with a silent wave of the hand for the listener to follow deeper. It’s as if some truth might be uncovered over the next ridge, but there’s always a next ridge. Somehow when the glare recoils we’re left only with ourselves alone in a parking lot wondering if it was all shimmer and shine, or if those epiphanies were tangible and touchable. It doesn’t matter in the end. We’re changed and the sun sets a few degrees to the North from here on out. New maps are forged while the rest of the world sleeps. The album is the band at their peak, feeling out the lay lines of a new and dire era. For those who can see the cartography, this one’s gonna be a stunner. The rest will just hear the wind rustling and wander lost.




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ARP – “Voices”

Following on the success of his 2018 album ZEBRA ARP’s Alexis Georgopoulos put together a live ensemble to play Mexican Summer’s 10th Anniversary. The live setup netted a great response and Alexis and the band wound up in the studio working out an album with a five-person ensemble combing through material from the previous album and exploring new avenues in atmospherics and dub. The first track from the new Ensemble LP finds ARP diving through the kind of haunted ambiance that drew Georgopoulos to the sparse, yet affecting works of Finis Africae. It’s a slinking, saturated track, slicked with moss and seeping through the rocks. The new LP is out November 15th. It’s a new side to the ARP story and sounding pretty good at that.



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Fabulous Diamonds – G.B.H.

This is not a band I’d expected to return to the fore. It’s been seven years since Melbourne duo Fabulous Diamonds issued their sorely overlooked Commercial Music. They’re still crawling through the murk, turning creeping menace into dub-flecked ambient anthems. “G.B.H” is lost in a miasma of haze, pulling bits of twisted John Carpenter synth through a fog of fear and doubt and dread. The band has always threaded the outskirts of pop, finding doors in that no one thought to explore. This album sees the band jump to A L T E R, who are quickly making an imprint picking up all manner of experimental impulses at home and abroad. The band’s last was actually the subject of Ripley Johnson’s Hidden Gems, feel free to check that here. The new LP arrives September 20th.



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Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – “Joy”

Another haunting track from Jefre Cantu-Ledesma tips off his third release with Mexican Summer. After contributing interstitial magic to their upcoming surf compilation, the artist goes deep into aching drones after his brush with shoegaze on On Echoing Green. The fuzz is wiped away, replaced by a crispness that can’t be shaken. Several of “Joy’s” tones tiptoe in the background, with the main melody sighing heavy with an unseen tragic turn. Cant-Ledesma has long been a frontrunner for ambient ache, but this is him at his least obfuscated, his most present vision of rippling melancholy that’s hard to shake. The track prefaces his upcoming LP Tracing Back The Radience, out July 12th.



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Tengger – “See”

Today there’s another dip into the languid pools of Tengger’s upcoming album for Beyond Beyond is Beyond. The drone-prone family band’s sound is build on synths, harmonium and toy instruments but its all works out to some serious bliss bath excursions to another temporal plane. The band’s music is intertwined with their travel and “See” is no exception, taking its name from a particularly affecting morning hike.

The band explains that “the title “See” is from German language, “der see”, which means lake. (so it’s a bit of a play on words, see der see… ^-^;) When we were doing the Shikoku Pilgrimage (ed note: a multi-site pilgrimage of 88 temples associated with the Buddhist monk Kūkai on the island of Shikoku, Japan), one day we visited one shrine and one temple in the morning, near from one huge lake called Mannoike Manno Lake. We were watching the sunrise on the lake for quite a long time. The music of “See” is from that moment. We set the title of the track to “Mannoike” at first but changed it to “See”… seeing nature’s variations, when we did the Shikoku pilgrimage.”    

Pretty much the entirety of the band’s upcoming LP, Spiritual 2 evokes this kind of commune with nature and it should appeal to fans of Cluster, Emeralds, or Tangerine Dream. Dip in and take a listen below.



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Mary Lattimore & Mac McCaughin

While there’s barely a raised eyebrow at the thought of Mary Lattimore helming a collection of neo-classical minimalist compositions there’s a bit of an ear perk when Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan gets thrown into the mix as well. The pair have teamed up for a collection of movements called New Rain Duets, with Mac helming the synthesizer as a foil to Mary’s poignant plucks. The pair are working in an Eno womb of sound – appropriately evoking the grey-skied sighs of the album’s title. There’s a feeling of cabin fever, bone chill brooding, and eventually a resigned despair to the record. The pieces, set against actual field recordings of rain, begin by lapping at the windows of the soul in a deflating drizzle, rather than wild torrents of sound. There’s isolation vibrating between the notes, a yearning to connect doused by nature’s icy fingers.

As usual Lattimore’s playing remarkably pulls the heart from its chest and massages an ephemeral ache into every inch. As the record wears on, though, MacCaughan’s synths become less subsumed into the walls and reach a rising panic- the feeling of isolation, fear, and anxiety pushing aside Lattimore’s emotional balms. The caged demeanor moves from home windows to car windows, with the rain slicking the streets and a storm lacquering danger onto every minute. There’s still that unmistakable pang of sadness – the feeling that if you can just get through this deluge it’ll all work out all right. In the throes of the second and third movements, the light of exit doesn’t seem so close, however.

I’d love to say that the fourth movement brings a feeling of peace, but its more relief. The gnawing of anxiety and inertia is left behind in a long sigh, but the break in the downpour only seems to leave the world damp and dour. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking record, that doesn’t let the listener off easy. While its an unexpected output from these two musicians, its nonetheless a masterfully constructed chrysalis of pain and panic.



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Bitchin’ Bajas / DSR Lines – The Encyclopedia of Civilizations Vol 2: Atlantis

Abstrakce Records continues their series of tonal explorations of ancient civilizations. Following the first installment from April of last year which saw Jonas Reinhardt and Jürgen Müller (aka Norm Chambers in full ‘80s synth mode) attempt their take on the cradle of Egypt, the series moves from myths to legends with DSR Lines and Bitchin’ Bajas exploring the lost civilization of Atlantis. As might be expected watery synths rule the day here, at least as pertains to DSR’s side of the split. Working through improvisations on Buchula 200 and Serge Systems synths, Belgian artist David Edren nails the shimmering quality of underwater sounds. This could work handily as a high-minded backdrop to an oceanographic exploration doc, though its just as easy to imagine “Panorama” or “Lineage” as the environmental ambiance of an advanced and submerged people. With “Deluge” Edren scratches through the serenity to add a feeling of rising anxiety – cracks in the glass, tectonic swells or the encroaching poisons of the surface perhaps. Whatever the worry, Edren makes it feel real and immediate, like a civilization running out on their years of solitude and preparing to fight for their way of life.

Cooper Crain and crew take a slightly different tack on the Bitchin’ Bajas side. Rather than capturing the feeling of life from the Atlantean side theirs drops instantly into a burbling scientific haze, capturing the whirring instruments of exploration searching for the legends that pockmarked their illustrated children’s compendiums. There’s a sense of swelling depth – present here through increasingly felt throbs of bass that undercut the sparkling wonder of synths capturing dazzling dials and flashing lights that wouldn’t be out of place in a ‘70s sci-fi epic. The Bajas nail a Kosmiche sense of wonder that’s just as liquid and dazzling as their counterparts on the flip.

Together the two sides make up a gloriously deep and inviting environment that nails its goal of evoking otherworldly enclaves under the ocean. Doing the listener one better, Abstrakce goes for high marks with packaging, adding letterpressed sleeves and a thick booklet exploring the myths of Atlantis for reference. All in all a gorgeous piece that’s proving exactly why the large format is worth the price of admission – physical and tactile to its core.




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Matchess – “Of Freedom”

Whitney Johnson has been carving out niche for Matchess over the last few years with stints on Trouble in Mind, Digitalis and Monofonous Press. Her works are dark, meditative, and shielded from the outside world with a protective barrier of noise and a haunted hum. As might befit her collaborative work on albums for Circuit des Yeux, Bitchin Bajas and Plastic Crimewave Sound she’s not afraid to push herself to the edges of accessibility for sounds that reverberate through the mind and body on a tuning frequency set to shudder. Though Grouper comparisons might come fast and easy with Johnson’s work – the two artists both share a delicate core surrounded by an intricate storm of sound – on “Of Freedom” there’s more than just haze and haunt. The song clips along on a compressed air beat buoyed the sighs of strings, leaving Johnson’s voice to ricochet around the speakers in a delicately disorienting fashion. The track closes out her engrossing new album Sacracorpa which is due out July 27th on her old stomping ground at Trouble in Mind. If you’ve been missing Matchess up to this point then this might be a good time to start paying attention.



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Les Halles

Two years on from his equally diaphanous record Transient, French ambient artist Baptiste Martin returns with a new collection of air-cooled bliss. This time he’s moved out of the solely practical realm and into building his works via samples – bumping up his arsenal with Slovikian fujara flutes, PVC panpipes and a library of chimes. While this all sounds like it could devolve into a drug store impulse buy New Age CD on paper, in practice Martin is working much closer to the spiritual realms of meditative divination rather than the “free with incense” version. His compositions not only tap into the ether with a rippling calm, but his stacked drones sparkle with a complexity that makes them just as interesting to pick apart as they are effective at blocking out of the world around.

Part of the constructed quality of his meditations stems from Martin’s insistence that he’s building landscapes free from human hands. The pieces are all labeled as either Horizon, Distance or Mirage and each category conjures up a corresponding sonic simulation – with the Horizon pieces creating a palpably close feeling and Distance and Mirage working their way further from scope and into formless abstractions respectively. The artist has been steadily building a repertoire over the years with an excellent bounty of labels (Constellation Tatu, Noumenal Loom, Carpi) but his work with Not Not Fun seems to find him reaching new peaks. Highly recommended for those looking to melt away some of the sludge of 2018, but seconded for those of you who appreciate ambient’s shimmering sway.



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Cool Maritime – “Sharing Waves”

Cool Maritime blends the rippling strains of Kosmiche with the mossy, woodsy intimacy of field recordings. In the video for the title track off his upcoming LP, Sharing Waves, Sean Hellfritsch builds the perfect scene, utilizing his “lunchbox” modular synth in the hazy morning woods far from the concerns of the rest of humanity. The track, like the bulk of Cool Maritime’s work, is reflective and peaceful – a virtual volume knob for the screaming world outside clamoring for attention. The LP, his second for Leaving Records, promises a full-time dropout from the din, but in the meantim this is a nice little respite from mounting angst.

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