Have you been feeling anxious, worried, fearful or agitated lately? Are you ready to embrace some music that’s calm, restive, peaceful, relaxed, bucolic, tender, gentle and mild? These adjectives describe a state of mind that is difficult to achieve yet always in demand. The best ambient music carries us to this soothing home, where our worries drift away like wisps. While locked in, we can still access the oasis of the mind.
William Basinski ~ Lamentations
(Temporary Residence Ltd., November 13)
40 years of tape loops ~ an entire career ~ are poured into this heartfelt well of grief. What has become of us? How did we arrive at this place? The pandemic has exposed every crack in society, but it didn’t cause them; we’ve been decaying for years. Basinski is the perfect artist to tackle such a subject, and he does so in a definitive manner. This is our pick of the season not only in Ambient, but overall: a future classic that draws from the past for inspiration.
Home Normal is back with a full slate of releases for the back half of the year. Chronovalve‘s Light appeared in August, and the label will continue to release quality albums on a monthly basis through the holidays. Next on the schedule is Silent Vigils‘ restive Wake on September 22, the third of a trilogy, followed by anthéne‘s spacious collide (October 20), James Murray & Mike Lazarev‘s Suññatā (November 17) and Pleq + Hakobune‘s remastered, remixed Adrift (December 10).
On the heels of its Home Diaries series, Whitelabrecs has also announced its fall docket, which began a few days ago with the soft, classical guitar of Max Ananyev‘s Midday ~ a wise choice as the lead video says farewell to summer with straw hats and slow dancing. In its wake will follow albums from Zoltan Fecso, Glåsbird, The Inventors of Aircraft and a collaboration between Glacis and Gavin Miller.
The new Laaps imprint (from the curators of Eilean) continues its game of exquisite corpse with new albums from Joni Void (October) and Foresteppe (November). The opening notes of Void’s set connect to the closing notes of Valance Drakes‘ Freedom Is Its Own Kind Of Salary. We’ve gotten to know Hush Hush Records as an electronic label, but given the name, we should have known better. The label offers a pair of softer sets this September: Ground‘s Correspondence finds its partner in post-rock (September 11), and will be followed two weeks later by Juha Mäki-Patola‘s thoughtful, unhurried Breath. Constellation Tatsu‘s fall pairing includes Loris S. Sarid‘s curious yet intriguing Music for Tomato Plants, a soft synth excursion that just may make those stems grow; and Anthene & Andrew Tasselmyer‘s chordal Progressions (September 22).
Porches, Couches and Chairs
Edoardo Cammisa‘s Flux is “music for contemplating nothingness,” meant to be played so low that one can hear the sounds of the outside world: as ambient as ambient gets (LINE, September 11). Zither, sine waves and sampled choir are all Marta Forsberg needs to create New Love Music, and the world could certainly use a little more love right now. This minimalist piece began as an installation before weaving its way into the outside world (warm winters ltd., October 16).
Ocean Moon‘s Crystal Harmonics already possesses the moniker and title of peace; with music like this, one need not pay for a mountain retreat (Be With Records, November 6). Peaceful piano and guitar soothe the soul on 1, the simply-titled debut album from The Lizard Point, due September 25 on Hidden Shoal. Easy listening with Moog may be too new age for many, but Originalitos makes perfect palm tree music. Frankie Reyes throws in the wind and waves at no extra charge (Stones Throw, October 23).
We’d normally expect to place Olivier Alary and Johannes Malfati in our Modern Composition section, and throughout u,i hints of that genre bubble to the surface. The difference is that the project is VOIP-based and ambient in tone, exploring the sonic connections of disconnection. As such, the album offers the experience of a virtual diary, especially relevant in a time of social distancing (FatCat/130701, September 25). On the sparkling Mada Kokoni Iru: Original Soundtrack Recomposed, Takuma Watanabe, Félicia Atkinson and Akira Rabelais combine talents to reconstruct the score for the short Japanese film まだここにいる ” (I’ m Still There). The results seem like a brand new entity (Impartmaint Inc., September 4).
The inspired pairing of Phil Tomsett & Aaron Martin yields a lovely, sorrowful album. The Sound of Someone Leaving is out this September from Fluid Audio, an imprint known for its distinctive limited edition packaging. If the subject matter seems too sad, think of a college student leaving home; still bittersweet, but less heart-rending than a breakup or a death. The IIKII imprint continues its run of limited editions art books and albums by pairing the photography of Yamamoto Masao with the restive music of Akira Uchida. Sasanami is out September 28, available as a bundle or as separate components.
Our cover image is taken from Daniel O’Sullivan‘s Electric Māyā: Dream Flotsam and Astral Hinterlands, an attempt to “rebrand library music for the 21st century.” The music ebbs and flows of waves of atmosphere, and is one of three in the new VHF stable (October 23). Jonas Kasper Jensen‘s Plasma in DEX Garden refers not to the plasma of COVID-19 treatments, but to blockchain plasma, which promises “everlasting bliss” (Clang, October 23).
We tagged Hugar‘s last album post-rock, so what in the world are they doing here? The Icelandic duo composed a languid, ambient score to The Vasulka Effect and landed a major contract with Sony Music Masterworks. While not what fans expect, the album may draw a whole new (quiet) crowd (October 2). The same holds true for Erik K. Skodvin, whose work is normally found in our Experimental category; his score to Anbessa is heavy in mood, graced with film samples, and quieter than the preview implies. Side B is a treat: a series of field recordings embedded in locked grooves (Miasmah, September 25).
Spirituals is a new offshoot of the Phantom Limb imprint, dedicated to instrumental ambience. It’s a good thing they told us, because the name and title connote dark, propulsive music. Pram of Dogs‘ Matter – Anti is dramatic, but not frightening, making use of tape loops and cinematic surges (September 18). There’s also an ambient artist named Spirituals, whose For Those You Love Who Are Tormented Or In Pain (Part II) is an emotionally well-timed sequel to its 2016 predecessor (Doumen, September 29). Similarly spiritual, yet seemingly without religion, is The Agnostic, from INVH (Mark Van Hoen and Zachary Paul). The album is an investigation of mysticism, available in deluxe packaging from Time Released Sound (September 4).
Honne (本 音) is the Japanese word for a person’s true feelings and desires. David Cordero‘s album of the same name draws upon experiences and new friendships to paint a love letter to the nation (Dronarivm, September 4). Using a name recalling Jeff Mills, Waveform Transmissions returns with V. 3.0-3.9, a sequel to earlier works on Astral Industries. The music sounds like flotation (September 25). Memorybell‘s minimalist Solace relies on repetition to distort time; notes are looped and painted with a pointillist brush (Hidden Shoal, October 2). Motorpig sounds like the name of a punk band, but Teaching a Fish to Fly instead chooses to combine guitar with radio frequencies (Elan Vital, September 5).
What Season Is It Again?
Nowhere, Middle Of is Michael Scott Dawson‘s debut album, influenced by field recordings, old cassettes and the landscape of the Canyonlands. The album boasts a perfect cover for the season: a serendipitous sign (We Are Busy Bodies, October 16).
A snowy landscape decorates the opening video of Vision Eternel‘s For Farewell of Nostalgia, jumping the calendar a bit but matching the label’s name (Somewherecold). The physical edition contains a short story about falling in love too fast; we’ve all been there and can only hope that the composition was therapeutic (September 14). Also on the label we find Federico Balducci‘s Cadet de l’espace, whose rocking opening track is not indicative of the set as a whole; the majority is guitar-based, sci-fi ambience (September 11). flica‘s Tapsskog is a winter-themed EP: a bucolic take reflecting the safe and cozy side of the season (Schole, September 25).
Completely tilting the hemispheres, Max Greening‘s Draft in Spring, is a “meditation on automation” offered with an art print, suitable for framing (Serein, October 2). The name The Green Kingdom connotes spring, as do the wrapping, title and overall sound of Springhill. This year, we keep forgetting what day it is; it was only a matter of time before the seasons followed (Hidden Vibes, September 14). As we look forward to spring 2021, we can also enjoy Spring Story, although the title makes sense once we realize that Schmo (not to be confused with Shlohmo in our Electronic section) hails from Perth, where the flowers only only now starting to bloom. This nostalgia-tinged album is due September 18 on flau.
The cover of Tatsuro Murakami‘s Between rests on the border of summer, as well as that between sea and sky. This makes sense in light of the title, which in Japanese connotes an empty space or interstice. The first half of the album is inspired by video art, the second informed by poetry, while the set splits the difference between Brazilian and Japanese patinas (La Petite Chambre, September 9). Pinkcourtesyphone‘s Leaving Everything To Be Desired delves into several disciples (cha-cha, anyone?) to weave a fascinating web. The album is informed by insomnia; for those who can’t sleep, soft intrigue awaits (Room40, September 25).
The mesmerizing wordless vocals of Andrée Burelli (pictured right) are informed by Greek and Turkish music, although De Sidera is dedicated to the culture and natural beauty of Sardinia, where the album was recorded ~ and ironically the album is released on American Dreams (October 16). After seven albums, Miki Yui is still having fun and going strong. Aperio! (April!) is an electro-acoustic work, packed with texture and implication (Hallow Ground, September 25).
Sophia Loizou‘s Untold is part of a multi-disciplinary project that also includes a poetry book and a half-hour digital bonus. Loizou explores the relationship between nature and technology, using computers to modify the sounds of the animal kingdom while adding her own, lyric-free voice (Houndstooth, September 25). Also on Houndstooth is a pair of single-track, half-hour albums from Guy Andrews, released two months apart but meant to be played back-to-back. Permanence is an electronic, drone-minded work, while [MT][NT][ET] is its more ambient-minded cousin (September 16 and November 11).
Sometime releases lie so close to the border that we’re not quite sure where to put them. Electronic ambient and ambient electronic sit less than six feet apart, but they’re not breaking any rules. Joel Shanahan‘s Frozen Clock Hovering begins with the question, “When will this all end?” The music flits from ambient to drone to electronic pulse, the mood from somber to cautiously hopeful (Ratskin, September 4). Inspired by the writings of Haruki Murakami, bvdub‘s Wrath & Apathy returns voices to the fold following a brief, all-instrumental foray. The album contains four side-long tracks, languidly stretched across Coke bottle vinyl (n5MD, September 18). Joel Muller revisits his Damm alias to present Nautical Dawn, a September foray into ambient techno from A Strangely Isolated Place; expect pretty vinyl!
Jon Brooks returns on aqua-colored vinyl with Applied Music Volume 3: Land and Sea, inspired by “the golden age of electronic library music.” This is the third release on Brooks’ Café Kaput label, released in conjunction with Belbury Music (September 3). Meanwhile, Field Lines Cartographer‘s The Spectral Isle is pressed on “seafoam and rust splattered” vinyl, inspired by the legend of the disappearing island Hy Brasil (Castles in Space, September 25). Both artists will appear on The Layering, a timely compilation from A Year in the Country, along with Vic Mars, Grey Frequency and more. The diverse set considers the layering of time, earth and belief systems (September 22).
Castles in Space will follow Field Lines Cartographer with Concretism‘s Dick, the score to an animated detective short, this October. Nowhere Island continues the nautical theme, as Coral Club‘s tropical pieces reference tides, waterfalls and islands (Not Not Fun, September 4). The same day, Not Not Fun releases V. Kristoff‘s Sydra, an “aquamarine odyssey” inspired by water clocks. It’s so hard to let go of summer!
Former rapper nubo shifts gears entirely on the appropriately titled Nu Vision, whose themes embrace a sense of global unity and inner peace (Western Vinyl, October 9). Near the Parenthesis‘ Intervals rests right on the border between genres, anchored by peaceful piano (n5MD, October 15). A Lily returns with Sleep Through the Storm, which is all about surviving this age of anxiety. First single “Endless Jasmine” is a good start (Bytes, October 16). Felix Rösch‘s Mya EP dedicates each track to a different extinct species, from the quagga to the Baiji dolphin. The subject matter is heartbreaking, but the timbres are warm, suffused with piano and strings (SilentGreen, October 9).
Marta De Pascalis splits the difference between ambience, electronics and experimentalism on Sonus Ruinae, an excursion into tape loops and active synth (Morphine Records, September 7). Moog, Buchla and other vintage synthesizers inform Jonathan Fitoussi‘s Plein Soleil, a landscape-inspired set on Transversales Disques (September 11). Micah Frank‘s Noontide is a pulsating synth excursion, filled with segments that border on drone (Puremagnetik Tapes, September 22). A more space-like vibe permeates of1000faces‘ Astronomica, the first of the new Monomyyth trilogy (September 25). Mad Science Lab‘s The Outer System may be accompanied by didactic videos, but we really need science right now. If the release helps to restore a sense of sanity, all the better (September 18).