“Planktos” is a series of musique concrète works, divided into five movements and running almost four hours in total. It’s an exploration of electroacoustic sounds, predominantly drones, hums and pulses, with a stretched out and mesmerising slow attitude and a lot of long, low, bass tones- but it’s not electro-ambient or pure drone, and there are melodic layers, arhythmic percussive sounds and some sharper electronic twists and glitches along the way.
Some of it is two-tone electronic, that gradual rocking between two pitches that feels like being lulled to sleep by a robot- the end of the first part of movement 1 typifies this, and there are smoother more slow-breathing-like waves to be found as well. Acoustic instruments make appearances that feel somewhat like cameos, such as the sparse harp-like melody in movement 2 part 1, and parts are nothing less than melodic, including the haunting and Ligeti-ish movement 2 part 4.
At times there is a decidedly Radiophonic Workshop feel, prompting unavoidable subliminal feelings of watching alien worlds in black-and-white- movement 1 part 4, or the anti-gravity spaceship landing of movement 3 part 2, being examples, and the sudden synth wash nine minutes into movement 4 part 4 could hardly be more Peter Davison-era Doctor Who if it tried. The curious alien monkey noise (I think from manually tweaked sine oscillators) that pervades several parts becomes something of a recurring theme. This isn’t always comfortable- the squealing tones at the start of movement 2, and the tinnitus-tingling high tones at the end of it, are both of the nails-down-a-blackboard type that some listeners will grind their teeth in discomfort at, and the insectoid sounds towards the end of movement 3 might not sit nicely with certain phobias either, invoking thoughts of creatures much weirder than the jellyfish in the artwork.
Movement 3 is not industrial per se, but there’s certainly an increased sense of activity initially, distant rumbles and pneumatic tones that feels like business, and this makes the contrast with the purer melodic sections (e.g. the end of movement 3 part 1) feel like more of a relief, in a positive way. Curiously, the warm melodic aftermath and persistent monkey-like noises in this end up throwing up comparisons with Future Sound Of London works, despite the alleged genre mismatch.
Although movement 5 has the label ‘Ocean’, and certainly has its squelchy expansive but high-pressure feel, for me it’s movement 4 that most reflects the aquatic artwork, with part 1 a particularly bubbly and wet-sounding piece with some distant whalesong-like noises. But the sense of alienation persists, with a texture that’s more gelatinous than oceanic, and continued glitching and grasshopper-like scratching. “Calming sounds of the sea”, this certainly isn’t.
The movements are broken into pieces of varying lengths (not counting the 2-second pauses between movements), though many of these pieces could easily have been broken down into far more and smaller chunks too, with parts like movement 3 part 4 arguably a series of related vignettes. But broadly, each movement is 40 minutes and could standalone as its own independent work, if you wanted to consider it a ‘five for the price of one’ musique concrète multipack. With enough imagination, you could regard the five movements as a long sci-fi journey, travelling between different alien planets and the deep space inbetween, but in more sonic-specific terms the progression or order in the five movements is less obvious. While each certainly has its own character, or perhaps is better described as having its own priorities, it does feel as though you could drop into these movements in any order for equal impact.
Over the course of nearly four hours, it is an engrossing journey and it certainly has the capability of switching your headspace and mood entirely. It’s not overtly chillout music, nor is it routinely calm, yet it has some of the same heart rate lowering and entrancing effects that the best of such music can offer. Indulge yourself in a long dive into this collection that’s neither one thing nor another, and see how you feel when you come out the other side.
The self-titled debut release of Cernichov was actually recorded some time ago - between October 2017 and April 2018 - but got recently discovered and reissued by limited edition specialists Cathedral Transmissions from the UK (whose version is already sold out as of today).
It's 5 tracks, developed as the first collaboration from Bruxelles based David Gutman (who also releases experimental ambient and improvised music as Drawing Virtual Gardens a.o.) with Torino based Marco Mazzucchelli, are too refreshing to be called Dark Ambient.
There is constant movement, transformation and a sublimity in the use of sounds which makes it easy to listen to this as a whole. None of the tracks outstays it's welcome, in fact my favourite is even the longest one "Dissipated Poets".
The well constructed and mastered pieces are drones - painting a mood picture which is open to individual interpretation. As such they actually work as ambience too and very well.
As of now Cernichov are working on their second Album which should appear later this year and is definitively something to look forward to.
“Field Works: Ultrasonic” is the work of Stuart Hyatt, but with guest contributors on every track, it almost steps across into being a various artists compilation. Hyatt’s musical tone persists throughout however, giving a consistent backbone, which is primarily warm pads and drones with subtle atmospherics, as exemplified by the track “Torpor” with Ben Lukas Boysen. The result is a chilled out work where the guests bring the breadth.
This is normally a fairly straightforward fusion. Mary Lattimore’s harp on “Silver Secrets” or Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s piano (I think) on “Night Swimming” are given centre stage and allowed to play out, sometimes in loose and abstract fashion, sometimes in gently repeating and evolving patterns, with gentle reverb easing their tone into conjunction with the pads underneath.
Some pieces have a little more energy, such as “Sodalis” with Kelly Moran which adds a gently rolling bass pattern, or the surprisingly EDM-like pulsing synth of “A Place Both Wonderful And Strange” with Noveller. But for the most part, this is relaxation music.
It’s also a concept album about bats, incidentally, and claims that it could be “perhaps the first-ever album to use the echolocations of bats as compositional source material”. For the most part you wouldn’t notice this, and while there’s certainly a sense of nocturnal calm, there’s not a lot of audible connection with what you’d conventionally think of as bat sounds, save for a few book-ends that briefly open or close pieces, and the unexpected spoken-word poetry of final piece “Between The Hawthorn And Extinction” which gently explains why bats are a cause, without proselytizing.
“Echo Affinity” with Taylor Deupree is a notable exception, the soft clicking sounds playing well against romantic piano, and their appearance at the start of “Music For A Room With Vaulted Ceiling” with Christina Vantzou is strongly reminiscent of the Alex Paterson style of ambient, in a very good way. “Night Vision It Touched My Neck”, with Felicia Atkinson, is perhaps the only truly ‘bat-centric’ piece, a curious call-and-response between bat sounds and light piano noises- though the tinnitus-tickling high-pitched tones of “Indiana Blindfold” might in fact be an album *for* bats, rather than about them...
It’s a sonic comfort blanket, soft and thick and large, but with enough detail and eventfulness to keep a more active listener’s attention as well. It’s even suitable for people who are scared of bats! It’s been available digitally for a couple of months already, but physical copies are available from July 26th.
This album if the follow-up of last year's "Enormous Components of Motor Unit vol. 1" and marks a little change in style; while the first part was rooted in the song form, this one is mostly instrumental and more experimental in nature. Here the lyrics seems to have a less prominent role and the focus is on the construction of a sound which is catchy but not easy listening.
The solid beat of "Raccoon and an owl" introduce the listener toward something that as experimental as danceable while "Totem" is close to a field recording experiment. The first proper track of this release, "The shades", oscillates between a minimal framework and awkward and elaborated intermissions. These oscillations continue along the flow of the release and maintain high the listener's attention as every track has something different from the others. The last three track, "Crumbling under the feet of angels", "Not be translated" and "Gain more clarity", close this release creating a sort of experimental pop song.
While in the first volume the two poles of this form were separated, in this volume a real hybrid is presented to the listener as the album progresses, and this marks one of the most personal release of the year. Truly recommended.
This LP from Robert Millis is a reflection on the fact that early shellac and wax cylinder records were fleeting novelty items, and decidedly temporary, at odds with the long-term collectivity and adoration that they inspire in some today. The source material is predominantly the surface noise and hiss from old records, but with a large helping of atmospheric and melodic ambient sounds to provide meat as well. Due to the deliberate artifacting, it was mastered twice, once for vinyl and once for digital, with apparently very different results, so I should say I’m commenting on the digital version here, where a lot of the crackling sounds feel almost electronic, like sci-fi locust noises, and not old but rather surprisingly new and clean.
The real composition, if you like, is actually the slow glass-like melodic elements that run underneath the noise, while old shellac recording material as found sound is sometimes more of a cameo than the central focus (final track “Lament (I Always Hesitate)” sums this up in barely one minute). On the first side of the LP is a single 20-minute piece “Samsara” which is extremely spacious, almost barren, but with slow changes in this fragile tone keeping a dynamic going, while the second side contains six shorter pieces with a bit more diversity. Pieces like “Matters Of Court”, are generally a little more traditionally composed, bordering at times on abstract symphonic, with some beautiful string work, while “Further Evidence To The Contrary” is an interesting little piece from the softest edge of glitch work. The fragile tones return with the almost-choral atmosphere of “Only Here For A Short While”, before being interrupted very abruptly by an old spoken-word recording, and for contrast, the almost inaudibly low drone of “Theories Of The Lower Twelve” wanders into sonic space that old vinyl could never get anywhere close to reproducing.
As love letters to old shellac and vinyl go, this one is rather obscure. But as an experimental ambient work that eats up the ambitious challenge of merging vinyl found sounds with some absolutely gorgeous melodic elements, it’s rich and impressive.