This is a couple months old but I’m just getting around to sharing it. Please be gentle, I’ve only been playing guitar for a few months. I’d surely occupy the lowest caste in Dinotopia.
Put out last year by eilean rec., who also put out Wil Bolton’s latest, Lake Mary’s And the Birds Sing in Chorus First is a treat from start to finish. While his earlier releases blend his guitar work with sustained drones, this release reflects a more stripped-down approach, which could have something to do with the fact that each track was recorded in a different place as the artist traversed the US. Lake Mary is the performing name for Chaz Prymek, who has been releasing music under the Lake Mary moniker since about 2010. The location may have been different, but Prymek’s masterfully contemplative playing remains solid throughout. I’ve been listening to his earlier releases, like There are Always Second Chances in the Mountains and Canopy/Mardotsha which add drone-y experimentation to the mix and they are also excellent. There’s also a live set on his Bandcamp where he performs with the Ranch Family Band, and it’s pretty neat to hear how those sounds are constructed in a live setting. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody who reads this regularly that this ticks a lot of boxes for me, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.
This track from The Sea and Cake’s Sam Prekop is just as undeniable as The Sea and Cake are at their best. It comes from his second solo release, Who’s Your New Professor put out by the good folks at Thrill Jockey in 2005. Though it predates the modular synth sounds that dominate his most recent releases, like 2015’s The Republic, you can hear some of those beautiful tones percolating through his earlier solo work.
As I mentioned in a previous post, The Sea and Cake went on hiatus around 2004, and Archer Prewitt and Prekop both released solo records soon after. It’s interesting to listen to Who’s Your New Professor alongside Prewitt’s album Wilderness. Maybe I’m trying to shoehorn something here, but these albums shed light on what each guy brought to The Sea and Cake. Though Wilderness was Prewitt’s last solo output to date, Prekop has continued to record on his own in addition to reuniting with the rest of The Sea and Cake. Another great solo record of his is Old Punch Card, which is full blown synth goodness. I was lucky enough to see Prekop live when he performed at Hausu Mountain’s birthday party a few years ago and it was a real treat. To get a sense of what the set up looked like check out this live video from 2011. Prekop also did the cover art for the most recent release from Good Willsmith entitled Things Our Bodies Used to Have. Good Willsmith are a great group who I’ll have to write about at greater length because Doug, Max, and Natalie create some really beautiful jams and they are also beings of pure wonderful light.
So often when writing these I look up an artist that I’ve really been digging but don’t know much about and find a wealth of releases to dig through. While that is always a pleasant surprise, there’s a part of me that kicks myself for not finding them sooner. I’m pleased to announce that this is the opposite case. Sojourn North comes off Sabbatical’s debut, Sundown, which was put out on the label Love All day in January of 2016. Of course the result of finding a group this early is that there is not much information on them, so this comes from the description by the label:
Recorded over a six year period, Sabbatical’s Sundown germinated in the cracks that separate the disparate moments of a life, and found its rhythms nursed in the openings that emerged between other projects. In those spaces – periods of exception from the flow, journeys, downtime, lacunae – Sundown waited for its creator, gathering energy, until it grew to become the centre point around which Sabbatical’s other activities would begin to orbit.
Cheers for usage of the word lacuna! Love All Day has only put out a few releases, including a cassette from Panabrite, but those who are interested in warm, synth-driven ambient drones should keep their eyes on them and Sabbatical in the future.
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.
A few years back a buddy of mine turned me on to Antn Hrkwk and unfortunately for everyone around me I find myself trying to hum these melodies (poorly) almost involuntarily. It’s only fitting that such idiosyncratic music should have an equally idiosyncratic process behind it, and Antn Hrkwk doesn’t disappoint in that department either. His work consists of pre-recorded material chopped up and stitched together using Final Cut Pro, an application typically used for video editing. Truly the grooviest type of Frankenstein’s monster. Thoroughbred was released on vinyl by Life’s Blood records and is available on his Bandcamp site. His first release, Mutually Assured can also be found there and it’s also a delight. For physically-minded folks you can snatch a CDr from the netlabel Recycling Records, who specialize in this type of experimental re-use of recorded material.
The driving force behind the drum/noise project BEAST is Daniel Menche, though he is often accompanied by Joe Preston and John Haughm. Both Menche and Preston have been active in the experimental scene in the Pacific Northwest for many years. Menche has released a ton of material under his own name, much of it based in field recordings and other ambient noise. He recently put out a split release with William Fowler Collins on Sige Records. Use of natural recordings in Menche’s work goes all the way back to his earliest releases, although the processing techniques have shifted over time. Preston appeared on some of the earliest releases from Earth and Melvins and contributed to one of my favorite records of all time, Altar from Sunn O))) and Boris. Not to be outdone, Haughm is a member of Agalloch and has a few split releases with Matthias Grassow, another favorite here at Orion’s Bastard.
Nossa Bova comes from Bröselmaschine’s self-titled debut, but is also featured on the excellent Soul Jazz Deutsche Elektronische Musik 2 compilation. Their debut was produced by Rolf Ulrich-Kaiser, who was an influential music critic and label owner in 1970s Germany and who also produced Tangerine Dream’s Zeit as well as Sergius Golowin’s debut record, which was featured as a track of the day a few weeks back. Like Golowin, Bröselmaschine’s founder Peter Bursch was a folklorist who has published a number of books about German folk music as well as guitar instruction books in Germany. Despite vocalist Jenni Schuckes really making the tropical vibe here, she only appeared on this album with the group and as far as I can tell didn’t record anywhere else, which is a shame. I’m gonna take another opportunity to plug that Soul Jazz comp because it is really excellent.
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.
Stellardrone is the musical pseudonym of Lituanian composer Edgaras Žakevičius, who began making music in 2007. Cosmic Sunrise comes off his second release Sublime released in 2010. He began recording in his late 20s, and though he has amassed an impressive slate of releases and has made all of them available for free both on Bandcamp and the Internet Archive under a Creative Commons license. His most recent release was released under the same arrangement, although it is connected to the netlabel Energostatic Records. As somebody also recording music and releasing it for free, it’s cool to see someone producing such high-quality work as an enthusiastic amateur. The current of astronomy and space exploration run through his work, which makes me wonder if his day job involves professional stargazing, in which case, he has put together a heck of a soundtrack. He composes primarily on the computer, and it seems to be a bedroom project of sorts, though there are pictures of him playing online. If you enjoy this piece, I’d encourage you to listen to the rest of his material, especially A Moment of Stillness.