Elsewhereness revisited is an occasional feature documenting the drift at the margins: ambient gasbagging, ’tube-d, ’cloud-ed, and ’camp-ed up, complete with companion mix, Elsewhereness revisited #4.
Gailes is Benoît Pioulard, late-period ambient mode engaged (cf. Sonnet, Stanza, Thine), and long-time student of decay, sustain & release, Rafael Anton Irisarri—guitar-y, synth-y, studio savvy. Previous dronership, solo and duo (Orcas), doesn’t quite prepare for the sheer chthonic heft of debut, Seventeen Words (Ba Da Bing). More enveloping than prior communions, no surprise to hear it was composed and recorded while weathering a withering winter squall, fall-out from which adorns it; in a hunker-down bunker of stunned stasis after a snowstorm extends to whiteout “Requiem For An Airport Television Newsreader” and “Surface Variations In The Snowfall” are all thrumming chorale and steepling upsurge, and “On Distant Fields” memory-snags an old refrain, harnessing tape hiss to distend its heartstring-tug and ghost vox.
Velleite aka Sean Kase, emerges from a Cleveland hideout with weapons of mass distraction—a bc goodie bag of Dark Money Brought Me Here, Unblurred Variants, Agency Capture, Disputed Boundaries of the Kármán Line, and Composure Burning Through Rumination In Ultraviolet. Electra glides in blue of bowed guitar, sparse chronostases of cello and piano stills, slowly dissolving into motion; all swells and billows, some starry as of the Lid (mid-), as sounds resound from ground to aether. ‘Velleity’ is defined as ‘the lowest degree of volition, a slight wish or tendency’—an apt signifier for this maker of shy lowlight vignettes.
Yann Novak‘s inquiry into ‘presence, stillness and mindfulness’ via ‘the construction of immersive spaces, both literal and figurative’ resumes on Ornamentation (Touch). There’s a conceptual riot goin’ on as he ‘resists modernism’s problematic relationship to race, class and labor,’ to ‘decouple contemporary minimalist sound work from this historical precedent.’ Say it ain’t so, Adolf. That’s Adolf Loos of Ornament and Crime, 1908 manifesto depicting the desire for ornamentation—of architecture, body, objects—as a primitive impulse, with proper evolution of Western culture reliant on its removal from daily life. Uptight Herr Loos equated it with the degenerate, though his examples—tattoos, fashion, style, painting—‘predictably fell along divisions of race and class, coding modernity as the next outward manifestation of white, capitalist patriarchy’ (says here). Nuff critical theory—howzit sound? Faulty field recordings with clunky disrupts, lo-fi ‘phone grabs, flakey frequencies—difficult sounds forcing forsaking of familiar reductions for more dynamic increments; minimalism, modernist warts and all, ‘sound art’ with its conceptual slant, are nodded to, but at a remove from their conventions as ‘a meditation on beauty, labor, and aesthetics.’ Drone deal.
Shimmering Moods has a new trio, though a decent debut from user_ambiguous, who apparently ‘enjoys a deep, diverse and rich history under other better-known guises,’ Whispers Of A Dream, suffers blurb blight: ‘In an increasingly chaotic world, the soft and pensive sound of user_ambiguous is a comforting and much-needed reminder that there is another way.’ (yawno) ‘Balance is a rare commodity today, a luxury rather than the necessity it should be;’ (it persistzzzz) ‘[…] sonically restores some equilibrium to our hectic lives. Inspired by the natural beauty of the environment close at hand and the complexities of the human experience’ (you still there?); thankfully, our guide to Multi-mission‘s Field Of View errs towards the prosaic with ‘fleeting images of space as viewed through the small portholes of a spacecraft. The viewing area changes constantly as the vehicle drifts aimlessly through the cosmos. Each soundscape represents a different thought a voyager might have as they peer out into the abyss,’ before descent into dippy drivel (not the music)—which, like mayo, I’ll hold. Best of the batch is Murkok‘s So Little Music, which gratifyingly speaks for itself.
Minnesota’s Sunset serves Sangam‘s Purpose—a slow release of spectral elegies under heavy vaporwave influence that genre tag creep somehow allows to end up ‘Ambient.’ Chilly drones, hypnagogue loops, future-past electronics—think 2 8 1 4 (whose label, Dream Catalogue, hosted Sangam’s You Forget This) with Burial-esque urban twilight; synth wooze, saturation flutter, haunted fields, harnessed to doleful cyberspace oneirics. Manc man Sangam also brings Until to Sea of Clouds—electric blue minimal-ody in midnight drift like some vaporwave Budd/Eno (cf. The Pearl), recalling Tetra System’s Forgotten Time‘s ‘fishvapor’ (‘…recovered from a shipwreck off of the coast of the pacific ocean, June 10th 2094—a mix of original music and samples, released by the artist known as Sangam’). Also on SoC are Dyb (Argentina) with Coral and Off Land (US) with Out World, ‘crafting an entire virtual world through uplifting synth pads, pulsing drones, intricate textures and various field recordings, resulting in a very peaceful and introspective listen full of wondrous moments’ (more, and less, interesting than that sounds), ‘floating in an immense tranquility. Trapped in the thickest darkness. Leaving the underworld to fade into the meaninglessness of dreams.’ (do you read this guff? Ed.)
Hirotaka Shirotsubaki‘s Wet Petals (Naviar) is all ‘soothing melodies, field recordings and otherworldly guitar atmospheres […] a recreation of memories from fragments of sounds: it draws inspiration from nature and moods, bringing back impressions from days gone by,’ prefaced with poetry: “The beauty of gentle and quiet rain on wet flowers: that is the scenery I saw on a Sunday morning when I was a child and I still remember. Inspired by the beauty that such nature and the landscape brings to memory, I continue to make music.” The Kobe tone-smith’s drones, classical and ambient elements gracefully waft by in remote neo-Basinskian idiom. “Downstairs” sets the tone, as timbres evolve organically commune in airy upwellings, “Your Shadow”’s guitar hanging aether-bound, and “Hydrangea” radiant throughout with a late dip into dissonant euphony.
Ecstatic match-makes Italian industrial noise don, Maurizio Bianchi, and mystic Serb synthesist, Abul Mogard, for a split release, serving as a testament to electronic music’s transcendent and transportive energies. Not obvious bedfellows, they’re brought together in a shared desire for the suggestive abstraction of raw current and its capacity to generate rich and uncanny emotional responses. Bianchi brings a vaporously occluded “Nervous Hydra,” ‘sunken, desiccated harmonic structures and warped greyscale tones rinsed with ET radio signals and distant percussion that recall the sound of embers landing on tinfoil or snow.’ (boom-blurb) Mogard steals the show, though, with the glacial calm of “All This Has Passed Forever,” wistful Farfisa organ and Serge modular blending with field recordings in a plangent paean of widescreen appeal to his days on the factory floor attended by the drone of heavy machinery.
Polish live ambient collective, How To Disappear Completely, put out Void Vision a set of tracks from a single live session recorded on location in open fields over one night in ‘Nightscapes Sessions’ recorded live to 2″ tape, various instruments directly to (heavily worn out) VHS and reel-to-reel tape, all perceived silence and audio deformations honored as unhidden intention.
Mark Nelson (Labradford, Pan·American) and Robert Donne (Labradford, Aix Em Klemm) reunite for a second full-length as Anjou. Epithymía further pursues the remit of their s-t debut through a liminal space of mesmeric synth drift; all shadows and fog, veiled melodies swim up then pulled down by the undertow, as before, ‘a bass-filled cauldron of drone and hazy head-filling rumbling […] stark and austere but dynamic, its elements shift like ice floes; colliding, sinking, and smashing into pieces, directed by some mysterious but entirely captivating design.’ (igloo-‘view)
Italy’s manyfeetunderconcrete hosts Francesco Giannico for Deepness, which, we’re told, is ‘not intended like a scientific album, there is only you and the sea,’ in a ‘humble and charming attempt to reconstruct an unlikely acoustic bio-marine chronotope through a collaborative mode, involving different people… … using sea audio samples from all over the world to discover the soundscape of the sea,’ manipulated by Giannico into suggestive audio-vignettes wrung from his head’s space-time continuum.
Constellation Tatsu‘s Winter Batch 2017 comes late to the table, comprising three: UV Sea from LA-based Forest Walker, whose work focuses on deconstruction of mythologies of sound. On Dockweiler Beach from Ana & Ina, we find writer Ashley Hoffman and visual artist Ian James evidently with ‘an established psychic connection’ from a combo of the former’s writing and guidance with the latter’s synth comps, as they ‘seek a transcendence carried forth by non-gendered angels with six packs, goofy love poetry carved in sandstone, and a techno Utopian society with guaranteed income and equality’—says here. Meanwhile Soda Lite aka Alex Last channels ‘the vibrant agency of natural worlds’ (yeah, baby) on In Eco.
The music of Sana Obruent, drone/ambient project of Paul Lopez, who lives ‘somewhere in California,’ is purportedly recorded live, ‘at night and in total isolation.’ Wooo! Deep in Königs Wusterhausen DE, Blackjack Illuminist hosts this Prince of the Air, ‘a sentimental record in which memories seem to swirl through hallways and become the listener’s own.’ Tone-setting “Semper Et Valete” fills the room with ‘the kind of melancholic darkness that turns your life into a state of wake/sleep.’ Chronostatic fantastic.
Tape Loop Orchestra back with a blissed-out hour-long flight of string-driven ambient fancy suffused, in line with its EVP theme, with ghost traces and phenomenological overlays. Some may see EVP as a richly syncretic area where parapsychology, metaphysics and suchlike intersect, forming potential communication bridges to other dimensions; even for naysayers who think it’s a refuge for weirdoes tuning into voices in their heads, it may serve as a suggestive screen for the musical matter—to project as they will. It’s acousmatics a-go-go, the what and how becoming ever more disorientating. Instrumental Transcommunications outfolds a gauzy tableau of samples from Raymond Cass, among others, woven with signature emotive synthetic cumulo-nimbus into micro-symphonic reductions.
Loess may seem to have gone the way of the glaciers and all but vanished but Clay Emerson and Ian Pullman’s loose aural silt has been slowly accumulating, now making up new album, Pocosin. Guided by environments they live in, Loess has a strong focus on sound source and character. Ambient in spirit, tracks typically feature a percussive element, fostering ‘a feeling of build and collapse via production techniques that seek to blur boundaries between melody, rhythm and sound.’ Their s-t debut (Nonresponse, 2001) put them on the map, followed by a chapter of Toytronic’s 3D Concepts, an installment in n5MD’s 7ransparen7 series, then Wind and Water (n5MD, 2006), reflecting relocation to the Pine Barrens, cemented by Burrows (2009), a comp of previously unreleased material, rare singles, and a few newies. Their signature lonely sound stays around, as do spare beats, fragmentary melodies, and distressed loops, ‘reflecting a collective anxiety and optimism.’
Latest set of Delicate drone work from Forest Management aka Chicago-based John Daniels is a personal inquiry, dealing with the sudden death of a friend; a reticent telling of experiences, opportunities and plans unrealized—in hindsight, never meant. A way of mediating grief, with a presenting sadness, through which, however fleeting, the gift of memory is preserved.
Head Dress with Bodies of Water on Belgium’s Audio. Visuals. Atmosphere. ‘While the tide turns the sand churns. Multiplying waves and a shifting terrain turn in an unknown direction. Modulated verses and mapped emotions ascend in quick succession. Dressed to conceal, the given compositions span out and drift without losing their grip. […] colours new regions with its choreography of electrical wiring.’ Winsomely sulky.
Strange Rules hosts scuzzy romanticist Dominic Coppola (& Angelo Harmsworth), previously frothed over in ER #3, for nifty 4-tracker Cordial‘s fuzzy elegiacs. Touted by SR as ‘noise ambience romance,’ it’s all this and more. The ever more prolific UK label also gives Zen Zsigo (aka Cremation Lily) space to stretch his ‘washed up loops’ (SR clearly know le mot juste) over Windowpane, Acid‘s two long-form tracts ‘twixt pastoral and cosmic.
‘Brooding fictions in discrete sound spaces. Memories, visions, eroded philosophies. Tragedies in a few words. A childhood of barren escarpments, livid skies, homeless wastes, unknowable geography. Forgotten beauty. Every memory, a sand castle. Time and sound distorted, transmuted.’ Clocolan‘s Nothing Left To Abandon (enpeg) resounds with well-trodden Boards—for One on Twoism types that think Music Has The Right To clones.
Belgium’s taâlem released homework – year 1, the first in a series of end-of-year comps of unreleased tracks recorded/finalised during the year by as many of the label’s artists as possible. Inspired by Opus 1, a 1992 cassette comp from cult 80s French label, les nouvelles propagandes, featuring inter alia brume and internal fusion, idea being to release tracks by the same artists every year; sadly no other edition came. Thus conceived, each artist with a taâlem release over the last 15 years was asked to contribute an unreleased track produced in 2016, resulting in a total of 52 for this 1st edition. Most were still active, and while some had changed project name, some come out of retirement for the occasion, others had vanished, or had no time, or lost contact or given up music. One to stand proud is Tomonari Nozaki with Faded violet.
Eight Ersatz yrs have seen 4 albums and 3 EPs—IN (2009), with Pärt, Górecki, Eno and SotL influence, Lydia (2010) and Amateur Kakorrhaphiophobia (2014) joining the ambient thread with strands from psych and prog rock, minimal techno, Taoist literature and experimental noise. Their Hints of…, missed mid-2016, calls for catch-up: bearing eponymous traces ‘of emotions, of feelings, of states,’ it’s an album of suggestions inspired by a challenge to Ben Johnson and Jim Cornick from Brian Records founder, Jimlad, to record four 2-minute songs using two instruments each. Early experiments foundered, but cutting room floor scraps finally assembled themselves as nine new tracks. ‘They wilfully failed. And I am so glad they did. The sketches became songs, became a narrative, became a thing of wonder and of joy.’
Last, Զուգահեռներ (yep, Զուգահեռներ!), a thrilling mini-album of Ambient under heavy post-industrial techno manners from Armenian mysterions Cloistral for Swedes, offworldcolonies ltd. Լքվածություն (այլ տարբերակ)!