Music Reviews

Bethan Kellough: Aven

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 02 2017
Artist: Bethan Kellough (@)
Title: Aven
Format: CD
Label: Touch (@)
Rated: *****
The first stone for this enchanting output got laid on the occasion of Touch Conference at South of Sunset area in Los Angeles, one of the appreciated meeting that Touch recently organized to focus listeners' and followers' to some branches of sonic research (including of course the one by the artists in its rosters, some of whom took part in these events in order to help newbies to learn some techniques as well). British composer and sound artist Bethan Kellough (formerly known as Bethan Parkes) attended the one I mentioned above after having joined the touch Mentorship Programme in 2015. The "concrete" sounds you'll listen in this precious sonic gemstone got collected during some journeys in Iceland and South Africa together with some big names of this branch of sonic exploration. She grabbed the noises coming out of a fence in South Iceland by means of a contact microphone in the days when Chris Watson and Jez Riley French were holding the Wildeye sound recording workshop, while the ones she grabbed during the Sonic Mmabolela residency with other two big names of this branch of sonic explorations like Francisco Lopez and James Webb got taken by a Soundfield microphone hidden under some bushes in the Savannah while a storm was approaching. What makes the listening actually engaging are the delicate and powerfully evocative musical insertions by Bethan: this inventive woman managed to highlight the mysterious power of nature by some breathtaking melodic lines she mostly made by the violin she played since her childhood, when she started getting involved in Scottish traditional music, classical music, rock violin and free improvisation. The melodic parts got added on the occasion of the conference I mentioned above, and that guided choice managed to turn the sonic canvas of field recordings in two special natural sets into a powerful musical poem. Highly recommended listening experience.

Mirko: LP1

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 02 2017
Artist: Mirko
Title: LP1
Format: CD + Download
Label: Room40
This is a confident and rich collection of ambient textures from Cut Copy’s studio engineer and programmer Mirko Vogel. Initially begun as an escapist while-on-tour project, it has evolved into a broad collection of warm synths, reverberant hums, and stretched-out acoustics that certainly doesn’t break new ground but which is moulded with an exemplary quality. The overall tone is mostly mellow, often melancholy, sometimes sinister, sometimes reflective, and reflects Vogel’s further work in film and TV soundtracks.

The album is largely relaxingly bass-light, with exceptions. “One Hour”, for example, has a distant subbass-line that’s like listening to house music being played in a basement while you’re on the second floor, while opening track “Glass” has an acerbic strong bass synth cutting straight through in a way that rather misrepresents the album as a whole.

“As The Morning” has a more acoustic feel that brings real guitar and piano sounds to the fore, while “Bow” as the title suggests achieves similar responses from plaintive strings. The glitchiness of “Agassiz Rift” is more disquieting than it perhaps ought to be, soothed by the casually bleeping arpeggiators of final track “Night City Landing”.

There are nine pieces that are strong in their own right, but at times there is a slight shortage of coherence between the tracks- it feels more like nine standalone pieces or excerpts rather than one flowing fifty-four minute work; though I would also dare to say the same about some of Brian Eno’s most famous and revered ambient albums so it certainly isn’t a deal-breaker. The second half of this album is more consistent than the first, but the quality bar is never dropped. This is what professionally-made ambience sounds like.

Yellow6: Merry6mas2016

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 31 2017
Artist: Yellow6
Title: Merry6mas2016
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Records (@)
Alright so January 31st may be a little late or exceptionally early to be reviewing a Christmas release, but this “Merry6mas” compilation is about as festive as a brick wall. This package of unreleased or rare Yellow6 tracks is, like a dog, for life not just for Christmas. Specifically, it’s for chilling out deeply at the end of the day, because it’s 84 minutes of mellow, plaintive, reassuring sound space. Casual guitar strumming is deeply washed in thick effects and atmospheres. Four-chord patterns loop round at a sedentary pace.

There are 8 pieces, most around the ten-minute mark, all fully-formed complete works; this isn’t a “scrapings from the studio floor” compilation. Each one has a unique pattern but they’re all in the same sonic ballpark. The extremely distant drums of “dry#1” aren't enough to break the soporific mood, while the faintly twangy “Father” does sound a little close to what you’d get if you paid Mark Knopfler to make an ambient album in a day.

Despite being ordered alphabetically, they segue very neatly as a coherent album, with the more sorrowful “Window Through The Grey” and “Zooday” wrapping things up rather beautifully.

In a way the noodling of tracks like “Passing Thoughts” could be seen as self-indulgent, but when in the right frame of mind, you’ll be very forgiving of that and happy to go along for the ride. Maybe it’s bathtime music, maybe bedtime music, maybe cathartic, but it’s worth having this in your music library.

Mrako-Su: Путь В Белое

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 29 2017
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Artist: Mrako-Su
Title: Путь В Белое
Format: CD
Label: Black Mara (@)
Rated: *****
The short liner notes of this release state that "is dedicated to the loss of human nature […] for another condition in the lunar Winter" and so there's large margin for the interpretation of this complex vision of dark ambient. The structure of this release is a juxtaposition of drone mainly generated with wind instruments, like flute of didgeridoo, and percussions so there's a sonic link with certain folk, or ritual, traditions.
The opening track, "–––-–--––- –-––", is a long soundscape at the crossroad between ambient and certain ritual music as the wind instruments have a key role in the composition. "–––--" is based on an equilibrium between sound and silence while "–--––- ––––" juxtaposes elements in sequences so it's more like a journey while the previous track was closer to a building. The sustained tones of the first part of "––– –––--– –––-–– ––-–" introduce a second part where sound events beats time. When it seems that "–––––" closes this release with a drone, a rhythmic part introduce the flute melody which ends the track.
As a release with a certain sonic personality, it sounds different with the majority of dark ambient releases based on a certain numbers of clichés and the search for moments of disruption of the plain surface which is the image of this genre makes this release an oasis in the desert. Truly recommended for fans of the genre.

Matt Christensen: Prowl

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 27 2017
Artist: Matt Christensen
Title: Prowl
Format: CD + Download
Label: TVEI (@)
Matt Christensen’s relatively short solo offering “Prowl” is six polished pieces of high-end sparse ambient electronica in what’s now something of a classic style- echoing pianos and FX, fluid warm chords and tones, crisp lightweight digital percussive sounds and occasional bleeps. Principally the result is ambient, in the “if you like The Orb, you’ll like this” way.

Each track offers one new element into the mix. The title track “Prowl” is among the more upbeat offerings, initially offering acid house-like noises and playing with pace, as different layers shift in time, slowly overtaking one another. “Crasenim” adds faintly glitchy gated synths that drip sound like water off a growing stalectite. “Mountains Of Fire” stands out as the most minimal, “llull me to gentle sleep” music with a softly dark underside, that flows into “Spending It” where light organic rhythm patterns plug away while the ambience floats on top. “Junk Test” adds a gentle arpeggiator and a kick drum-like sound so muted it’s like you’re only listening to its echo, with short track “In Force” a soft outro.

It’s a lush sound, and a neatly segued collection of pieces that form a very coherent 36-minute whole. It’s not revolutionary, but it’s got quality in spades and is certainly worth of attention.

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