Fall Music Preview ~ Ambient & Drone

When we started to receive fall music announcements early this spring, we knew something special was in the air.  By the time summer started, we already had enough for an article.  Now we have enough for five.  The brand new season is jam-packed with amazing music, and you can read all about it right here, plus previews and links!

For most of the northern hemisphere, 2018 brought the hottest and most humid conditions in recent memory.  Those with AC found themselves in an odd quandary: stay cool and drown out the sounds of peaceful music, or enjoy the tranquil tunes and sweat.  Now that the temperatures are cooling down, we can rediscover our love for ambient music; and as the nights grow longer, renew our acquaintance with drone.

Whether you’re feeling wistful about the end of summer or excited about the beginning of fall, we hope that you’ll find your personal soundtrack here.  On behalf of A Closer Listen, we wish all of our readers a happy autumn!

Thank you to Jeremy Bye for the cover photo, taken from his personal archives!

Rich’s Pick (Ambient):  bvdub ~ Drowning in Daylight (Apollo, September 14)
Many artists are consistent and many are prolific, but few are both.  bvdub is among them.  Drowning in Daylight is yet another magnificent opus, a four-track excursion into seas, skies and the nature of the heart.  For those who are fast enough, it’s available as a double album on clear vinyl.  Bonus points for the remarkable cover art!


Rich’s Pick (Drone):  Tim Hecker ~ Konoyo (Kranky, September 28)
One of the best albums of fall marks a return to form for one of our favorite composers.  Thanks to the participation of gaga ensemble Tokyo Gatkuso, Konoyo (The World Is Over Here) shifts fluidly between ambient and drone, offering original textures at every juncture.  Listening to lead track “This life,” one feels the same sense of excitement produced by Ben Frost’s By the Throat.


Calm, Peaceful, Tranquil, Sedate

William Basinski + Lawrence English is a match made in heaven, and Temporary Residence is the lucky label.  Selva Obscura is the most relaxing album you’ll hear all year, and if you don’t believe us, it’s already streaming in full.  There’s a bunch of purchase options, but I must say I’m really liking that grey vinyl ~ the perfect shade for a cloudy day scored by two of the world’s finest ambient artists (October 12).  Also on Temporary Residence, Janek Schaefer honors Robert Wyatt by constructing a new work from fragments of Cuckooland on What Light There Is Tells Us Nothing, along with seven other compositions (October 19).  The Dauw and Eilean labels are joining forces once again for Dialog II, a pair of albums pairing artists across the roster.  Intriguing matchups include Machinefabriek + offthesky, The Humble Bee + Josh Mason, øjeRum + The Humble Bee and more.  Look for the twin release on September 9.  Of similar appeal is a new edition of a classic Antonymes album on Fluid Audio.  The License to Interpret / Re-interpret Dreams is fully remastered, with new mixes from Christoph Berg, Olan Mill, Ian Hawgood, Ben Chatwin and more, served up in exquisitely detailed packaging (September 8).


Sarah Davachi‘s prolific year continues with the meditative Gave in Rest, inspired by the church music of choirs, organs and bells.  She began to think of such music as she performed in cathedrals, appreciating their resonances and the stillness of the times before and after her performances.  Ba Da Bing Records calls it her “masterpiece” (September 14).  piano and coffee records is one of our favorite label names; we’re still hoping they’ll make t-shirts!  In the meantime, the label is releasing Klangriket‘s 4-track solo EP Tjärn.  While it’s appropriate to find piano on the release, one will more often encounter synth, chime and other electronic textures.  The track “Björk” is surprisingly sedate and seems to have little to do with the performer (September 28).  We also like the name Seasides on Postcards, another new label now preparing its second release.  Daniela Orvin adds synth to piano to create an atmosphere worthy of the name; Home will appear on October 19.  Piano and orchestral instruments play a role in Luca Formentini‘s Scintilla, a meditation on the border between private and public.  At times, the album even borders on modern composition (October 24).  The Kasper Bjørke Quartet folds piano, cello, viola and violin into its compositions, producing a feeling of intelligent tranquility.  The Fifty Eleven Project is out October 19 on Kompakt.

A similar approach is taken by Streifenjunko, who mix soft electronics into their trumpet and sax, or the other way around.  Like Driving will be released November 2 on Sofa, preceded by a bold 16-minute track.  Fender jazz bass forms the basis of Distant Fires Burning‘s For The Love Of … The instrument is processed and manipulated until barely recognizable.  A series of remixes adds another layer to the production (Audiobulb, September 12).  Tapes and Topographies have been extremely prolific this year; Insomnia Drones is their third album of 2018.  As expected, it’s slow and measured, and makes an effective sleep aid (Simulcra, September 14).  The always reliable Students of Decay label returns with Daughters of Time, from Blue Chemise (Mark Gomes).  The album shimmers like the edge of a lake at sunrise (September 7).  Looped guitars produce a subdued sound on Leaving Shore, a quiet release from the appropriately monikered Rest You Sleeping Giant (September 1), while processed guitar lies at the heart of Wounded, from solo artist White Feather (September 2).  Mathijs Leeuwis builds Galibier around the languid sounds of pedal steel: very relaxing, like a late summer evening (November 1).  Dakota Suite, Dag Rosenqvist and Emanuele Errante have teamed up for a new collaboration.  what matters most is half vocal, half instrumental, and completely emotional.  The video “Now That You Know” is slow, lovely, and exquisitely filmed (Karaoke Kalk, September 14).

The aptly-named Serein label has become a reliable source for hand-picked, beautiful music, and the upcoming album from Max Ananyev is a perfect extension of their sound.  Water Atlas explores the nature and different forms of water, and is promoted by a gorgeous video with light voiceover, as seen below.  The lead single “Night Path and Snowfall” provides a perfect entry point (September 14).  The label’s roster continues to grow with Hibernis, the duo of John Hughes & Lindsay Anderson.  Middle of the Meds was introduced with a double-A single and interactive video last month, and the complete album will be released on October 19.


New age synth is the order of the day for Omni Gardens, a one-man act from Oakland whose purpose is to inspire meditation through the use of peaceful tones.  West Coast Escapism is out September 28 on Holodeck.  On the same label we find Future Museums‘ Rosewater Ceremony Part II: Garden of Solitude.  The album is indeed a sequel, as the title implies; the first part was released earlier this year.  If anything, this installment is even more chilled than the last (October 19).  London trio Albecq expresses a love for Brian Eno on their debut album A Distant, Guiding Sun.  This synth-based work glides slowly from piece to piece and exudes a sweet tone (September 7).  Moog mates with Space Echo on Broken Chip‘s Maybe Sometimes She Haunts, which turns out to be the artist’s first full-length work after a steady string of singles and EPs (Flaming Pines, September 12).  Ursula LeGuin collaborator Todd Barton continues the story of The Kesh on the long single track Multum in Parvo, composed using the Buchla and homemade instruments (Blue Tapes, October 5, pictured above right).  Looks can be deceiving, as is proven by the cover of Debit‘s Love Discipline. What looks to be a songstress EP is actually a “choir of synths,” creating slightly unsettling atmospheres inspired by Erich Fromm (Quiet Time, September 21).  Ipek Gorgun‘s Ecce Homo contains some rough edges, but all in the service of a higher cause.  When one hears the organ, one thinks of cathedrals, and what might be happening there apart from Sunday morning (Touch, September 7).


Ambient Electronic

Ocoeur‘s Inner is billed as less piano-based and more synth-based than prior works, but fans should not be alarmed.  The strings and pulsating electronics are intact, smoothed out to create a friction-free experience (n5MD, September 7).  The label’s following release comes from Tangent, and adds a good number of soft beats yet still manages to hold on to the ambient tag.  Approaching Complexity is out October 5.  Northcape + Obfusc rework each other’s compositions on the Reprojected EP (Sun Sea Sky, September 4).  Also on the border of ambient and electronic we find Inner River, whose lovely self-titled album follows a course from “Floe Flow” down tributaries and on to the sea (Atomnation, September 28).  And Heinali fans can look forward to a new album on October 12, when Iridescent is released on Injazero Records; the first single, “Rainbow Folding,” is gorgeous.


Experimental Ambient

René Aquarius presents the soundtrack to a series of sculptures by Ajla R. Steinvåg on the installation-based Transmutation. The primary inspiration is “the process of metal particle accumulation in the human body” (Moving Furniture, September 6).  Another multi-media project comes from Nat Evans, who releases Flyover Country on September 20.  This quiet, pensive project will coincide with a tour.  Håvard Volden uses field recordings and electricity as the baseline on some of his recordings, which sway from soothing to crinkly; Space Happy is out October 5 on SOFA.  Working with both organic and electronic elements, Jonas Kasper Jensen stretches strings to create slow, undulating drones.  According to Marcus Döller, Within the Temporal Existence is meant to “create intensification” through sound (Clang, September 28).  A new quartet of releases on Room40 also exults in the elongated.  Olivia Block‘s 132 Ranks is the audio copy of a six-channel installation featuring white noise, sine tones and organ clusters, originally playing alongside Block herself.  M Geddes Gengras‘ Light Pipe is a double-disc, two-and-a-half hour excursion that took years to write.  Layer after layer of light undulation washes across the sound field, eliminating time.  And on The Space InsideVanessa Tomlinson delights in exploring the possibilities of the tam-tam and solo bass drum.  Also on Room40: Julia Reidy‘s Beholder (pictured right) extends not notes but patterns, investigating the properties of repetition and gentle change.  The three female-fronted albums will be released on September 7, followed by the Gengras album on the 15th.

Dark Ambient

James Murray‘s Falling Backwards was inspired by a sharp childhood memory of the artist purposely falling backwards, again and again, as a means of expressing control.  The irony works its way into the music, which is never menacing, yet never quite at ease.  It’s a faithful read on the emotional malaise of the current era (Home Normal, September 14).  Mathieu Lamontagne studies the limitations of shelf life on the moody Obsolescence Programmée.  Fortunately, there’s a physical edition (Polar Seas, September 21, pictured right).  “Devotional awe” is the tag for the upcoming album from Ensemble Economique.  The artist was inspired to write Radiate Through You as a response to cruelty in the aftermath of loss (Denovali, September 28).  Two collaborative years are included on Drekka‘s Examinations: 2016-2018, which includes masses of field recordings, organic instruments, drone and voice, and even one track recorded at Iceland Airwaves.  It may be a somber set (especially “Call to Prayer”), but the spirit of collaboration keeps things aloft (Bluesankt, September 14).  Siavash Amini tones things down a bit on FORAS, which is more nuanced and quite a bit softer than TAR, despite periods of noise.  The music suits the topic of how sorrow is expressed through space (Hallow Ground, September 7).  On the same day the label is releasing the self-titled album from This Is Where, a trio formerly known as ANS and led by Swans’ Norman Westburg.  Attilio Novellino‘s A Conscious Effort is a decidedly dark affair, as one might guess from the x-rayed skull on the cover and titles such as “Satan Is Always Happy.”  Guests such as Witxes (electronics) and Alex Vatagin (cello) keep the music balanced on the edge of the abyss (Midira Records), October 5.  And it’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally being treated to a new Murcof album this fall.  As fans of the artist are aware, autumn is the perfect time to enjoy his music.  Lost in Time tells intertwining stories of a dark and frigid journey; the disturbing video offers a sneak peek (Glacial Movements, September 28).


Another of fall’s best albums comes from Giulio Aldinucci, building on the strength of last year’s Borders and Ruins.  Disappearing in a Mirror is an investigation of identity, personal and communal.  Replete with mulched strings and an sense of drama, the set is riveting in its cumulative power (Karlrecords, September 21, sample below).  Aldinucci is also one of the remixers on dziadosz/mreńca‘s remastered Mirage, along with Spheruleus and Sven Laux.  The EP was originally released on Taâlem and the new version is appearing on Whitelabrecs September 1.  Spring Break Tapes is preparing a treat: a double cassette album from Amulets and Bus Gas.  The tapes come with a collection of die-cut inserts that can be rearranged to form a number of different cover images (September 21, sample left).  William Fowler Collins embeds military drums and polyrhythms in the appropriately titled Field Music; part of the fun is attempting to find the buried treasure (SIGE, October 19).  High aura’d teams up with ASAMA on Oil Pourer; this will be the first release on the former’s Noble Rot Recordings (mid-September).  And MMMD has landed the score for the “medieval terror” film Hagazussa – A Heathen’s Curse.  The movie was released this past May, but the score will be out September 14 on Antifrost.


Portals Editions will be releasing a solid trio of releases this fall.  Maria Horn‘s Kontrapoetik is a fascinating response to Christian misogyny through the lens of a “satanic feminist cult.”  The drones are deadly, rife with righteous anger (October 19).  Roberto Crippa mixes noise and beats into the sonic mulch on SELENIC; and Mats Erlandsson processes and layers a cornucopia of sounds on Hypodermic Letters, producing “a sorrow beyond sorrow” (September 21).

The Skull Defekts are dead; love live Saturn and the Sun.  This new duo takes a different tactic, with four extended tracks bordering on electronic dance without crossing over to the light side.  In Love With the Extreme is an apt name for an album recorded without compromise (iDEAL, September 21).  Everything on the Cyclic Law label is dark, so it’s no surprise that A Wound of Body follows suit.  Common Eider, King Eider is already prepared for early sundowns, as the album is released on September 7.  One album track even boasts our season’s favorite title:  “We Sing Over These Bones So That They May Rise Up And Run Away Into The Night.”  Deru returns with the pensive and occasionally angry Torn in Two, an album with a powerful visual presence.  This release won’t cheer anyone up, but with some luck it may motivate them to change the world (Friends of Friends, October 19).  The Solemn- Torrid- Symbol- may be billed as ambient, but it sure sounds like drone.  On this triple album, Al Vomano evokes the power of myth, in particular the goddess myth associated with volcanos.  “Kilauea” is a particularly timely track in light of the recent eruptions on the Big Island (October 1).

Coming tomorrow:  Fall Music Preview ~ Modern Composition!

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