Wil Bolton – Wishing Well

Wishing Well exemplifies Wil Bolton’s hypnotic blend of guitar, synths, and field recordings, looping, and other effects. I had to pick one track, but this whole release is pure ambient pleasure. Wishing Well comes from Bolton’s most recent release, February Dawn put out by elian rec. as a CD. In addition to recording music, Bolton also contributes site-specific sound art works for places like the Tate Modern Museum in London. Though I couldn’t find a video for any tracks on February Dawn, he has released videos in the past on his Vimeo page that are as blissfully beautiful in image as the audio work which accompanies them. In addition to his solo work he has ongoing collaborative efforts with Lee Anthony Norris under the name The Ashes of Piemonte and Phil Edwards under the name Ashlar. You might be too late to snatch up the CD release of February Dawn, but I’d encourage you to give the whole album a listen.

Oren Ambarchi ‎– Sagittarian Domain

Oren Ambarchi began playing jazz in his native Australia in the mid-1980s as a percussionist, active in the free jazz scene in Sydney. At a session he began messing around with a guitar and from then on it has become a staple in his solo releases and live performances. He described his relationship with the instrument in an interview with Australia Adlib:

I picked it up and starting hitting it with drumsticks and using it in whatever way I wanted to use it in, and one thing led to another. I’m glad I wasn’t trained. I’ve always loved rock music, I grew up listening to pop and rock, so that was in my mind, but I’ve also been interested in electronics. I never wanted to learn to play it properly, it was an object as much as an instrument.

The drive to integrate other electronics with his guitar works and an overall interest in experimentation can be heard on one of his early releases from 1999, Insulation. A shared interest in improvisation and experimentally-driven approaches to composition has led to collaborations with many notable experimental artists like Keith Rowe, Otomo Yoshihide, Jim O’Rourke, and the drone doom duo Sunn O))).

He has collaborated with Sunn O))) on a number of occasions beginning with Black One in 2005. The story goes that Stephen O’Malley was DJing in New York and played Ambarchi’s track Corkscrew and it set off the fire alarm at the venue, prompting O’Malley to reach out and insist on a collaboration. Ambarchi described the artistic relationship between himself, O’Malley, and Greg Anderson–the other half of Sunn O)))–in an interview with Wire magazine:

It’s great being able to work with Stephen and Greg and in some ways doing exactly what I would do in a solo context. However with Sunn O))) I get to do it in a completely different context, to a different audience, and using a much bigger backline. Since I’ve been working with them my solo work has become much slower, lower in the frequency spectrum and much more physical, especially when I perform live. Since I began working with Sunn O))) I’ve learnt a lot about sound pressure, resonance and feedback and how pleasurable it can be to bathe in physical soundwaves.

Sagittarian Domain was released in 2012 on Editions Mego. He’s joined on the release by cellist Judith Hamann, violinist Elizabeth Welsh, and violist James Rushford. You can read more about Ambarchi’s work on his website or peruse his extensive discography on Discogs.

Empty of Shadows

 

I stumbled into some deep, dark drones yesterday and before I mucked it up by trying to tweaking it I thought I’d share. I’ve been pushing myself to do more improvisation and less painstaking messing around on the computer, which sort of seems like a rationalization for laziness in retrospect but it’s pushed me in a lot of good directions and made me better understand the tools at my disposal. It’s free (as are all my other releases) and I’d encourage you to download it in as high quality a format as you’re willing because it’s an improvement over the stream and grab the best pair of headphones you’ve got. Enjoy!

H. Takahashi – Pearl

Pearl kicks off the excellent second installment of UK-based label Where to Now’s minimal ambient series Where to Be, which invited artists to

create works of total ambience, incorporating the idea that the power of the music presented is in that which is barely there, embracing space, silence, cyclical repetition, and minimalism. The music is to help us function – it’s music to work to, to sleep to, to help us find a sense of space and oneness within a world that is increasingly wild and untameable. [sic]

I am obviously not the only one to have taken notice, as the cassette pressing of that release is sold out, though if you can I’d recommend taking a listen and purchasing the digital version. A bit earlier in 2015 he released Sea Meditation through the label Entertainment Systems, which promises “practical audio solutions to everyday living,” which is available on cassette on their Bandcamp site.

Siavash Amini – Fading Shadows of Dusk

Fading Shadows of Dusk is the lead track off Flaming Pines’ upcoming compilation of experimental music by Iranian artists. It comes from Siavash Amini who also released an LP, Subsiding, with Futuresequence (aka the good folks who brought you Madeline Cocolas’ debut). I’ll admit I was drawn to this based on the extensive coverage of Iran in recent months, but Amini, in an essay introducing the collection, offers an interesting counterpoint to that impulse:

The tracks collected for this compilation are a perfect example of art that is not “newsworthy”. And in this way they act as a gateway to the ignored and overlooked landscape of experimental electronic music in Iran. It is helpful to listen to all of the pieces in this compilation in contrast to the established language of what is now an Iranian musical mainstream. This Iranian mainstream is not that disconnected from the global mainstream, and the philosophy, politics and the lifestyle this manifests. The mainstream in Iran is not only what the government endorses but it also consists of very shallow imitations of various musical genres, cleared of any signs of cultural or political resistance, backed and released by private labels and companies.

The artists presented here, including myself, are people who are constructing our musical language as part of our lives – a project which is no less of an experiment than the music itself. We are the voices who choose to be absent from the news and the musical mainstream (and in some cases from the city of our birth) in order to express the complex range of emotions and ideas which make up our lives, as honestly as we can.

The compilation is slated for release in February and is available for pre-order on Bandcamp. In addition to the digital release, it will be released as a CDr with the first 30 receiving a poster.

Symphonies of the Planets

The artist of the above track is in part the Voyager space probes themselves, who collected the raw electromagnetic data from space which were edited into the sounds you hear. The five disc set was released by Laserlight in 1992 and has been out of print for some time now, though it’s possible to hear all five discs on Youtube.

From the liner notes:

This unique series of recordings (5 volumes) is created from Original Voyager recordings of the electromagnetic “voices” of the planets and moons in our Solar System. Although space is a virtual vacuum, this does not mean there is no sound in space. Sound does exist as electronic vibrations. The specially designed instruments on board the Voyagers performed special experiments to pick up and record these vibrations, all within the range of human hearing.

The data that was collected was then further edited to make it a bit more pleasing to the ear than the raw data likely would have been, but the source of the signal itself is still signals from space, which is in-fucking-credible. The liner notes continue describing the sources of signals present in the recordings:

1. From the interaction of the solar wind with the planet’s magnetosphere, which releases charged ionic particles within a vibration frequency in an audible range (20-20,000 Hz).
2. From the magnetosphere itself.
3. From trapped radio waves bouncing between the planet and the inner surface of its atmosphere.
4. Electromagnetic field noise within space itself.
5. From charged particle interactions of the planet, its moons, and the solar wind.
6. From charged particle emissions from the rings of certain planets.

In 2012 the Voyager I probe became the first scientific instrument to leave the boundary of our solar system and, remarkably, still receives commands and transmits data back to NASA. It communicates using the Deep Space Network which is run by NASA and operates facilities around the world for communicating with Voyager and other exploratory and scientific tools in space. NASA has plans to continue using the Voyager probe until 2025, when it will stop producing enough power to continue communication.

The Voyager probe has another interesting connection to music. Unsure what they would find, researchers attached a golden record to the spacecraft in case another intelligent life form should encounter the probe. The contents were selected by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan and were meant to serve as a sort of time capsule of life on Earth. It featured greetings in 55 ancient and modern languages, recordings of natural sounds like surf breaking on the beach, crickets chirping, a wild dog, and a tame dog. It also featured a selection of music from around the world, including part of the Brandenberg Concertos, Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode, and a sampling of Indonesian gamelan (which I’ve mentioned elsewhere). Interestingly, Sagan originally attempted to have “Here Comes the Sun” added to the record, which the Beatles supported, but EMI blocked because, and I’m just speculating, they’re lifeless monsters who would probably make aliens pay royalties for playing it on their superstructures. The record also had images on it representing mathematical definitions, the color spectrum, a nursing mother, and others meant to show life on Earth. More information on the contents of this record can be found on Wikipedia.

This track is the third in the series and if it grabs you then I highly recommend checking out the other installments. I snagged it a few months ago and would be happy to post any other info from the release notes if people are interested, though admittedly they are a bit sparse.

M. Geddes Gengras – Magical Writing

M. Geddes Gengras has been active in the experimental scene in Los Angeles for a number of years, releasing material under his own name as well as the moniker Personable. I initially heard this release in excerpted form on the Umor Rex compilation Collected Works Vol. 1 (The Moog Years), though the above represents the full cassette. He works primarily with a combination of modular synthesizers and other non-modular electronics, though he does play bass with Warm Climate. He is also active on the technical side of releases, producing albums for the likes of Sun Araw and Antique Brothers and mixing/mastering releases from Plankton Wat and LA Vampires (with whom he also performs).

Along with Sun Araw, Gengras founded the label Duppy Gun. The label came about following a trip to Jamaica to record an album with the reggae group The Congos. The dizzying blend of dub, dancehall, and Gengras/Sun Araw’s array of experimental electronics is definitely worth checking out on Duppy Gun’s Youtube channel. If you’d like to hear more of Gengras’ experimental works like Magical Writing, check out his Bandcamp.

Mathias Grassow – Meditation Waves

Mathias Grassow has been recording synthesizer music since the mid 80s, where he drew inspiration from fellow German groups like Popol Vuh and Tangerine Dream and began recording a meditative blend of New Age and Krautrock. His first release, At the Gates of Dawn, came out on cassette in 1986. In addition to synth he also records with flute, guitar, and other electronics and while live performances are rare, they are crafted to create an immersive experience.

In this kind of music it’s very important, to have a nice place to play – not normal locations, but more places like a church, caves (remember my ‘Lanzarote concerts’) and open-airs.

I tried to find some pictures of those concerts but was unable to find any, but this video of a performance seems to capture the spirit nicely. In fact a recent concert of his took place at a retreat in Germany where all the guests had just completed a ten day vow of silence! While much of his output consists of solo works, he has released collaborations with Agalloch member John Haugm and Closing the Eternity in addition to projects like Nostalgia and KarmaCosmic. Most if not all his discography his available for streaming/purchase on his Bandcamp page. Those interested in physical releases should head over to Discogs.

Celer – Ceramic Foam Party

This track by Celer comes from the period where the project comprised the husband and wife duo of Will Long and Danielle Baquet-Long, who recorded under the name Chubby Wolf. After Baquet-Long passed away in 2009, Long has continued to record under the Celer name and also runs the Two Acorns label.

The couple began releasing cassettes themselves in 2004, with each packaged in hand decorated artwork like this packaging for a compilation bundle of multiple releases housing mini CDs, a standard CD and a 7″ single:

exterior of Brittle

interior of one package

The CDs, mini CDs, 7″ came in their own enclosure and were held together with string. According to Hard Format (also the source of the above images) this was one of the last designs Danielle made. While Celer’s packaging has perhaps become more standard, the number of releases per year has remained consistently impressive: Celer has had at least three releases every year since their founding, with thirteen full length releases and singles in 2009 alone. Those interested in hearing more and purchasing digital and physical releases should head to Celer’s Bandcamp, where much of their output is available for streaming and purchase.

Eluvium – Zerthis Was a Shivering Image

Lambent Material was the first output of Portland-based ambient composer Eluvium (aka Matthew Cooper), which was released by Temporary Residence in 2003. Temporary Residence is perhaps best known as the label for Explosions in The Sky (aka the music you inadvertently wept to while watching Friday Night Lights). In addition to sharing a label, Eluvium also collaborates with Explosions in the Sky guitarist Mark T Smith under the name Inventions. In 2009 Temporary Residence put out a box set collecting nearly all Eluvium’s material from 2003-2007 entitled Life Through Bombardment vol. 1. If you’re like me and only know about this recently, the fact that they sell for an average of 200 bucks is a big bummer. However, the second installment in the series is set to ship in December 2015 and it’ll only set you back a cool 150! His output varies from solo piano material which draws from more traditionally classical material like Erik Satie and Chopin to noise-infused drones reminiscent of Mathias Grassow and Coil’s Time Machines. Eluvium’s most recent solo release was January’s Pedals/Petals with an EP from Inventions entitled Blanket Waves coming this month.