This new 5 track EP from Adrian Nicholls' project Glove Of Bones is a tricky melange of samples, basslines, dubby lo-fi hip hop beats, structured ambience and concept.
The semi-naive colourful cover art indicates the surprisingly optimistic mood in midst the chaos of changes related to the year of the rat (as per the Chinese zodiac) as in "Hip Metal Rat", the Age of Aquarius and Aztec Myths on the circles of creation and recreation, hence the title track "Fifth Sun".
The current turmoil of events leaves no one entirely unaffected and here The Glove Of Bones with the aid of t.r. hand or vica versa steer through the waves of changes showing love, care, passion and the will to find the positive aspects and possibilities. Detailed soundwork, well crafted rhythm constructions and layers of well used samples without getting lost in the abstract.
I currently hardly make a day without listening to this at least once (26 Minutes total length is not too long here), especially as the concluding track "Cusp" tops it off with a beautiful hypnotic sequence paired with a women narrator and an unusual delayed upbeat which qualifies to me as one of the highlights of this year.
'Full Of Life' is ambient guitarist/composer John Gregorius's 3rd release on the Spotted Peccary label. Sorry I missed the other two, so this album is my only frame of reference for the artist. According to the label promo sheet, 'Full Of Life' "...is a free-flowing, sincere set of compositions brought to life by the time-honored ensemble of guitar, bass and drums, all richly augmented by synth ambiences, electronic beats, and ambient guitar atmospheres. Moody and elegant, the album's melodic passages and tonal textures guide the listener on a delightful discovery of painted vistas and unfolding beauty." Yes, that's typical label flavor text, but what are we really listening to here? I'll get to that in a moment. First I should mention that Gregorius moved from his home in Southern California to the Sonoran Desert of Tuscon, Arizona (a place I've actually been, albeit briefly), after finishing his last album, 'Still Voice' in 2016. I imagine that kind of change really has an influence on one's outlook, as well as on their creativity. It must be an introspective, quiet and peaceful sort of effect that sets in after awhile. Such is the music on 'Full Of Life,' or life in the slow lane.
To be perfectly honest, I didn't much care for the album after the first couple of listenings. To me, it sounded generic, and too similar throughout. I could almost hear it being used as background music for The Weather Channel when no commentators were present as the screen flashed forecasts, temperatures and weather icons. I guess I wasn't really listening though, because after that, something happened that really made me like this album. The simple themes John was exploring just somehow broke through and massage the happy places in my brain. Yes, there is a degree of homogeneity running through the twelve tracks that clock in a little under an hour, but I think that's more due to the instruments and sounds used than the compositions. You can't really say that opening track "The Expansive Sky" with its downtempo shogazer atmosphere sounds anything like the Enoesque "Early Reflection" with its elongated ambiences and sparse melodicism.
Where melodic themes are presented, they are simple, but there is still a degree of wonder in that simplicity. Listening to the title track ("Full Of Life") I'm reminded of Pat Metheny, and how he could take something fairly simple and make it sound rich and complex. (And you know, Pat did occasionally have an ambient side in his music.) Sometimes other musical elements appear, as on "Path Of Renewal" with violin and cello (courtesy of Kayla Applegate) playing the main theme while Gregorius fills in the spaces between. What initially struck me as "guitar noodling" is actually very adept but discreet soloing. And yes, there are ample examples of shoegaze atmospheres, such as on "Blanket of Stars" where gauzy guitar swirls in the piece filtered through the light streaming through echoey panes. There is also a definite emotional quality to 'Full Of Life'. Halfway through "Winds Of Change" when the sparse ambient section gives way to the fuller portion with the fingerpicked ostinato chords over a simple beat and some backing strings you could imagine Nick Drake (if he were still alive) singing a plaintive melody over it. "Wellspring" sounds like a pop song for a low key pop band, and there's a good chance that if a decent one had come up with this they'd have had a hit. Kimberly Daniels' wordless vocals on "Monsoon Clearing" are so subtle you're likely to miss them in the first listening of the album, but they do add quite a bit. It's little touches like this that make 'Full Of Life' extraordinary. It all ends fittingly enough with the amelodic elongated ambient piece "Rincon Fading Light" and here once again I'm reminded of Brian Eno. When you can amalgamate your influences into something that is a cohesive whole and yet sounds like no particular one as Gregorius does on this album, then you really have something.
This is a compilation with current music from Turin to support musicians and listeners equally. Delete Recordings first digital only release after a series of limited tapes + download due to the current crisis.
Some of this tracks like Enrico Degani's Acoustic Guitar Piece "Perfect Prison", Naturmorta's experimental ballad "Meaning Of Reality" as well as the dramatic Ondalunga Instrumental and "Ouroboros" (the snake that bites it's own tail) by Luca Purum Nihil directly reflect the general mood of these past months; loss of the everyday routines and it's safety, isolation, insecurity, unexpected changes & doubts and fear.
Ramon Moro's "Mediaval Ballad" is reminiscent of the darkest age of the plague, perhaps intended as a funeral march to accompany the lost. Paul Beauchamp's "River Of Gold" works nearly as an continuation of the same theme - dripping electronic sounds in an electronic river. Flowing somewhere - but the Gold is hard to find nowadays.
The final 3 tracks by Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo, Lo Dev Alm and Selfimperfectionist with DsorDNE take a look into a brighter future yet to come with exotic soundscapes and electronic movements. "These Days" as final track with its swirling sequences and a decent tech-house groove is a perfect outlook to better days to come.
This collection is dedicated to the spirit of the city and it's lively music culture, of course mastered in Turin (at O.F.F. Studios by Marco Milanesio, like all other Delete releases). I would happily listen to a Volume 2 as I would jump in the Golden Dolphin whenever the chance comes along.
João Vairinhos has a past as drummer in hardcore, doom and drone bands and projects in the portugese underground, as have both his guests who add Synthesizers.
All tracks of his solo debut EP lean towards a cinematographic monumentalism. Rhythms come and flow into epic parts of electronic walls of sounds but a certain bleakness and industrial wasteland feel can't be denied.
He uses his experience and imagination to build up tracks for maximal impact, none of them is below 8 Minutes in length without being too long.
Especially the title track “Vénia” (Bow), the only one spiced up with a few vocal samples and an astonishing clear melodic sequecence appearing is impressing.
His music is fearless, powerful and pictoral - not very far away from Scorn or Coil in some ways, which is a good thing.
Atmosphere is key on Volans-1800, the second album from Switzerland’s Ian Mason. At 18 years old, Mason’s musical palette already incorporates ambient, drone and noise music and elements of avant-garde classical, all fused together with what Mason calls a “punk rock attitude”.
The electronic soundscapes are bleak, dark, brooding and otherworldly. Samples of string instruments provide minimalist melodic or chordal interest and tension, and spacey sound effects creep in and out.
Mason has a very strong grasp of harmony that would put a lot of far more experienced noise / ambient producers to shame. His use of musical intervals to create tension and resolution is admirable and lends a journey-like quality to the music that can sometimes be lacking in works from this type of genre.
Through the five tracks of varying lengths - all titled simply Volans-1800 with a Suffix denoting the track number - the droning unease continues and follows peaks and troughs. There is a sense of chaos, mystery and even the reverence of contemporary classical music within the deep tones. There are some truly magical moments. “Volans-1800, Pt Four” features a descending drone section which made me want to either throw up or grab on to something for dear life.
On occasion Mason’s relative lack of experience shows. The intention of using the string samples is ambiguous. Are these meant to be electronic / “keyboard” sounds (in which case the sounds could be made to be more robotic or lo-fi) or are they meant to sound like real acoustic instruments (in which case actual string players or a much more fine-detailed approach to programming and effects could be employed)? They don’t quite sit in either category and this can jar a little.
Album closer “Volans-1800 Pt. Five” is very different. A drumless psychedelic Stooges-esque wig-out; here we get to witness Mason’s rock influences. As the song disappears I am left not entirely satisfied with this musical journey, but equally aware that this album shows a great deal of promise, talent and creative drive.
Ian Mason says “Volans-1800 is my sound”. It certainly captures a moment, and it lays bare Mason’s determination to create idiosyncratic and challenging music. Mason’s sound will no doubt continue to twist and change. He can go in any direction he wants to. And he probably will. Watch out for him.
Volans-1800 is out now on streaming platforms including Spotify and Bandcamp.