“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.
The third Vinyl release by Form & Terra Records with 4 tracks by 4 artists on this one; loosely 4 to the floor if you like wordplays..
"Celluloid Pony" by Peter F. Spiess is the first track and rightly so, a swinging techno house track with a beautiful swirling sequence which could go on much longer for my liking. Spiess is the most experienced producer here leaving the listener wanting more.
This is followed by Cie with "Wolkenburg", a track with nearly 8 Minutes to go and for my taste at least 2 Minutes to long as I miss a progression here. This obviously needs to be listened to loud in a club late at night where this electro house groove can easy be used as a slow burner in an endless mix.
Turning this Vinyl Only release over virtually - Prakash from Gran Canaria with a deep house orientated track with some funky oldschool sounds does not hurt nor impress me either. Finally Markus Funke takes a chance to dive into dub techno territories with "Levissima", a lengthy relaxed conclusion of this Get Together.
This might well represent the current state of dance-floors and clubbing all around - a bit directionless safe play by most participiants but at least something's going on.
Established Israeli singer-songwriter and film composer Zoe Polanski, with help from producer Aviad Zinemanas, offers up a very lush nine-pack of leisurely dream pop with a shoegazey but generally optimistic feel. Slow instrumental patterns blending synths and acoustics roll quietly along, while Polanski’s reverb-laden vocal wafts like a cloud over the top. “There’s nothing violent about these musical flowers”, as a proper music journalist might say.
Though the term ‘ambient’ is referenced a few times, most pieces have a relatively conventional pop structure, like the folky radio-friendly “Pharoah’s Island”, the more synthpop-leaned “The Willows”, or the bright and almost naive-sounding lullaby-like “Ya’ar Bein Olamot (Forest Between Worlds)”. Even the more ‘out there’ pieces, like the nicely Tangerine Dream-like arpeggios and slow build of interlude piece “Humdolbt Current”, always have a rhythm at their heart, even if it’s a very mild one.
Highlights include the nicely infectious “Closer”- which, thanks to the slightly heavier percussion and faster tempo, is rather upbeat by this album’s standards- and by contrast, the more mesmerising simple patterns of “Slopes”. The purposeful synth chords of “Bubbles” hint at a little more attitude, but it’s a mood that seems to pass quickly.
I do have a sense that I would probably connect to the emotive vocals a little more if I could more confidently make out what the lyrics were. The treatment is so dreamy, so effect-laden and stuff, that sometimes vocally it feels like a string of loose vowels or Enya-style wordless vocalisations. Anyone who wants to really connect emotionally to the story side of this release might need a lyric sheet.
Polanski has been a supporting act for acts like Swans, Tame Impala and Alessandro Cortini, and you can see why that arrangement would work well. Lacking the cut-through melody, distinctive character or hooks that would make her steal the show, Polanski’s music is liable to remain the warm-up act, though musically it might be more appropriate to call it the cool-down act. But what a beautifully measured and refined output it is.
Mystery surrounds the artist known as Chiang Valley Liberators, whose new album - And Then Everything Changed - is an experimental electronic affair encompassing the influences of noise, ambient, drone, and industrial music. There is little information about the person or people behind the project, the intentions of the work, or even about which part of the world it originates from. I listened with an open mind, not knowing what to expect and piecing together my impressions of this album.
The first track - “Lightning Stations” - runs at over 10 minutes and is centred around a compellingly dark drone. As mysterious as the origins of the project itself, this piece seems to immediately drop us on some unknown and bleak planet, or a desolate dystopian future. The tone and intensity of the deep and otherworldly soundscape subtly varies, and samples of various recognisable sounds gradually emerge in a series which includes old-fashioned army fanfares and talking dolls. It is captivating, evocative and filmic.
“Addiction”, the second track, again features a droning backdrop, but we are now in post-industrial territory and there is heavy dub influence in the electronic drums and effects. The leaden, grinding, and purposeful beat is augmented by samples of shouting men. The use of the stereo field is impressive, with futuristic beams of glassy synth noise and dub reverbs bouncing all over the place but never distracting from the drive of the sinister underlying beat. Again, the single-note drone is the only harmonic or melodic feature here, but the texture, dynamics and rhythmic emphasis are constantly moving so as to hold our attention.
“SAND 7” has a more delicate, somewhat ethereal, touch and sounds like a tropical rainstorm on another planet heard from the shelter of a strange cave. The manipulation of noise and samples to create atmosphere is very impressive and highly effective.
“Summer in the Dark” features a steady four-to-the-floor kick drum beat but, again, everything is infused with an alien quality. Aggressive stamping sounds processed with a queasy reverb contrast with delicate ambient synth melodies. Yet again, a deep, enchanting and unrelenting drone flows underneath the whole affair. The calm and tranquil sounds are mixed and processed to feel close, while the tense and abrasive ones sound further away - a technique which makes this piece feel like a safe haven amidst chaos and destruction.
The album closes with “Devoted To You”. At nearly 15 minutes, this piece completes the construction of an album which opens and closes with its two epic-length pieces. As with the first track, percussion and strong rhythm is largely eschewed in favour of a soundscape approach. Again there are some samples of speech (I could make out “they gave me an electric shock and it destroyed my memory” amongst the largely unintelligible words). However, this track avoids the bleakness and tension of previous ones. It features a repeated rising two-chord synth pad pattern which seems to be designed to relax and soothe like a lulling dream. Although this pattern continues for the full duration, the piece maintains interest due to subtle and clever variations. This soft and comforting piece is a somewhat unexpected but very welcome way to close the record.
On a cerebral level, I suspect that some political or historical themes or at least cultural allusions of this album might have passed me by. Nevertheless, the emotional experience is highly engaging and the technical construction is expertly executed. If you enjoy dark and rich synth textures and if you like albums which take your mind somewhere else and need to be appreciated as a whole then you may well greatly appreciate And Then Everything Changed by Chiang Valley Liberators.
And Then Everything Changed is available now for download and streaming and will be released on vinyl on 27th August 2020 on Corrosive Growth Industries.