Fall Music Preview ~ Ambient

Genre blends are on the rise, as heard in this season’s slate of ambient releases. Many of these are threaded with folk, electronic and experimental music, which produce attention in new markets.  This being said, today’s preview covers the calm end of a deep lake.

Photography courtesy of Holly Holdredge Bangert at Holdredge Images.

Rich’s Pick #1:  Various Artists ~ Place Language
(Fluid Audio, September 30)
Those familiar with Richard Skelton’s work are likely familiar with Robert Macfarlane as well.  The author’s book Underland has been making waves all summer, and now his masterpiece Landmarks has its own score.  Place Language begins with the glorious glossaries of that volume, then offers beautiful expansions on linguistic themes.  Twenty-eight artists participate, including Skelton, Hammock, Ian Hawgood, Kate Carr, curator Hotel Neon and more.  All proceeds benefit the War Child Charity.  It’s time to get registered for that mailing so you don’t miss out!


Rich’s Pick #2:  Minor Pieces ~ The Heavy Steps of Dreaming (Fatcat, October 4)
The name is new, but the players are not.  Ian William Craig teams up with Missy Donaldson on this ambient folk album, replete with acoustic guitar.  And not just any folk album, one of the best we’ve ever heard, putting him in the rare company of artists such as Alicia Merz, cracking our instrumental-based site despite the vocal approach.  Quality is quality, as these uplifting lyrics and gorgeous vocal performances prove.


Want more of this type of music? Japanese vocalist Akaihirume may remind some of Craig, in a guest appearance on Carl Stone‘s Himalaya. The album blends styles from ambient to folk to hip-hop, with a world music vibe (Unseen Worlds, September 20). Marielle Jakobsons (Date Palms) and Chuck Johnson join forces as Saariselka, producing an ethereal folk painting on the nature-centered The Ground Our Sky (Temporary Residence, October 18).  Another possible tour partner for Minor Pieces is Mára (Faith Coloccia), whose faith-based exhalations celebrate motherhood and the possibility of transcendence.  Here Behold Your Own is out September 13 on SIGE.  Matteo Uggeri mixes vocal, instrumental and field recording on The Next Wait, dedicated to his daughters and featuring a Black Flag cover (Grey Sparkle, September 10).


The Quiet Stuff

LINE is leaping into fall with two new releases on September 6.  Pinkcourtesyphone and harpist Gwyneth Wentink merge skills again on when she had no mirror… she watched her shadow, a contemplative release that delves into ideas of self-image.  The self-titled Six Microphones comes from designer/composer Robert Gerard Pietrusko, and “explores the mutually constitutive relationships among sound, space, and audience.”  The music began as an installation, and is now released in partnership with Counter Audition. Chogori‘s Lake is an improvised release with double bass, guitar and synth, and would normally fall into our Experimental category, save for the fact that it’s so relaxing, meant to remind listeners of “a warm late summer evening by the lake” (Less Records, October 11). The same holds true for PIP, a trumpet / guitar duo who produce a restive patina.  Possible Worlds is out September 27 on SOFA.  Hollie Keniff offers sunlight on The Gathering Dawn; we hope the mesmerizing This Part of You finds a dock (n5MD, November). Drifting in Silence is a perfect name for an ambient project, this one midway through its second decade.  Away is the artist’s latest transportive set (Labile, October 25).


Balmorhea’s Michael A. Muller is making his solo debut with Lower River, a more sedate affair than his work with the band.  The lead single is placid, though the actor in the debut video is anything but (Beacon Sound/1631 Recordings, October 25).  Orphax has been performing Live Circles for a few years now, inviting audiences to “lose track of time and space.”  It’s easy to see how this might happen, given the mood of this extended piece (Moving Furniture, September 13). Inspired by a trip to Asuka, Chihei Hatakeyama came home to produce Forgotten Hill, a gentle tribute to burial grounds, stone chambers and a Buddha in a rice field (Room40, September 20).  Strangely, a second autumn release also references rice fields; on Going Home, Ai Yamamoto uses field recordings to create a sonic photograph of her home, and by extension, all homes (Dragon’s Eye Recordings, September 20).

Outdoor Meditations

Since when do raucous punk rockers record meditation albums?  Katherina Bornefeld manages to complete the yin to her yang on Angeltalk, which exposes her other career as a sound healer (The Daydream Library Series, September 27).  H. Takahashi applies his brand of “Pulse Minimalism” to Sonne und Wasser, dedicated to the slow growth of plants (Where to Now?, September 27).  TROVA‘s tranquil Littlelwaf Linden was sparked by the scent of the Little Leaf Linden Tree, and is preceded by the shimmering single Silver (TMP, September 20). Meanwhile, Marc Barreca‘s The Grey and the Green reverses the name of a song by New Model Army and finds its inspiration “in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains” (Palace of Lights, September 27).  Tapes and Topographies‘ Ubiquitous Clouds has a sound to match its cover and title; it’s soothing in all the best ways (Simulacra, September 13).  Nullhøyde offers a two-track tribute to the Arctic, spacing out his sounds to match the sights of the landscape (September 6).  Shasta Cults explores the music of the Buchla synth on Configurations, another example of the instrument’s recent rescue from obscurity and continued popularity (Important, September 13).  For a more classic use of the synth, check out Important’s vinyl version of Elaine Radigue‘s 1971 opus Chry-Ptus (October 11).


Past Inside the Present went on a quiet tear this summer, releasing a surprising amount of new music.  Benoit Pioulard‘s May/Atra is a combination of old and new, a reissue of four sold-out tracks with the addition of four unheard pieces (September 10).  The Warm Jets‘ Here We Come is an Eno tribute album of sorts, featuring thoughtful guitar and a shoegaze vibe (Somewherecold, September 15).  Toby Wiltshire was dually inspired by the death of a loved one and the birth of his daughter; the mixed emotions come into play on the melancholic Surfacing (September 20).  øjeRum has released an average of an album a month this year, all on different labels; we think it’s time to slow down!  Nevertheless, there’s yet another album on the way: 7 Sjæle (Midira, October 11).  Pergola‘s Bird Visitor is the soundtrack to the short film of the same name, a gentle persuasion of guitar, shruti box and more.  The concurrent release is September 13 (Yellow K/Good Soil).  Shruti box can also be heard on KochiWil Bolton‘s tribute to the Arabian Sea.  The album features field recordings captured at Fort Kochi Beach in South India (Audiobulb, October 23).  Space and sound inform Remo Seeland‘s multi-continental Hollow Body, which studies the manner in which the body reacts to subways, crowds and wide open spaces.  Guests include Norman Westburg and Reinier van Houdt (Hallow Ground, September 13).


Electronic Ambient

This category is mirrored by Ambient Electronic; the order of words indicates the dominant quality of these split works.  Two retrospectives on Empire of Signs gather unheard electronic ambience along with classics:  Inoyama Land‘s Commissions: 1977-2000 and Masahiro Sugaya‘s Horizon Vol. 1.  Each release showcases the meditative sounds of these famed Japanese composers, and will be available on September 20 and October 11.  Lightbath collects four years of modular synth on Selected Public Works Vol. 1-4, although calling this a “performance video” is a stretch.  The tapes will be out on September 27 and October 10.  Don’t be fooled by the name worriedaboutsatanBlind Tiger is more soothing than scary (save for “There Is No Bonfire”).  The set gets more involved as it progresses, moving to rhythm in the finale (This Is It Forever, October 4).  Old tapes, cheap LPs and YouTube videos are turned into mulch in the laptop processors of Jonathan Scherk and Daniel Majer, yielding engrossing sound collages on It’s Counterpart (Faitiche, October 4).


Små Vågor‘s 4 is a peaceful set, intended “for the hours between midnight and early dawn.”  The percolating album is released on Flora & Fauna on September 20.  Petra‘s Aunis is inspired by the geological formations of Nisyros (Greece).  The recording pairs the artists who are known separately as Anenon and Bed (Injazero, September 20).  Moog shares space with piano, nylon steel and field recordings on LC01, a warm offering from Low Chord (Other Songs, September 6).  Adriaan de Roover shifts from soft blankets to percussive beds on Leaves, released on the label of the same name.  The album honors nature and family, and includes a quiet nudge on climate change (October 11).  Synth wakens the roosters on Side Tracks (the title referring to the fact that one track fills each side), a peaceful set from the duo Georgia (Métron Records, September 6).  Florian T M Zeisig translates voice and percussion into currents on the curiously-titled ZZZZZzzzzzz. Some tracks drone while others pulse (Anòmia, September 6).  Electric Capablanca‘s intriguing Puzzles & Studies is a blend of influences, which range from “Italian midi classical (to) imagined mitteleuropa ambient” (Kit Records, September 13).  Dylan Henner‘s Caribbean-influenced Storm Brother in the Dusk features the steel pans of Fimber Bravo and an island vibe.  The music is a reminder that it’s always summer somewhere (Phantom Limb, September 6)!

Richard Allen

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