Spring Music Preview 2021 ~ Ambient and Drone

Over the course of the week, we’ll be bringing you nearly 300 albums to peruse: the initial salvo of what will eventually be thousands of spring albums.  We do this because we are fans first, and reviewers second. Three times a year, we’re proud to present the most comprehensive instrumental music preview on the planet.  Between seasonal previews, we post samples of upcoming releases on the page of the same name. We also suggest that readers check our More Music Sites page (formerly Links) to discover sales sites whose Coming Soon pages are updated daily.

We suspect that you will use this as a shopping list, as we do.  You probably won’t want to buy a few ambient albums a day for the entire season (though you could), but hopefully we can point you in the direction of a few to purchase this spring.  We are living in an era of unprecedented musical wealth ~ so please support these artists in any way you can.  And now, the first of this week’s five spring previews!

Rich’s Pick:  Lea Bertucci, A Visible Length of Light (Cibachrome Editions, April 16)
Incorporating field recordings from the coast to the prairie, Lea Bertucci investigates the sonic and societal landscape of a nation in tumult.  Ideas of displacement, lockdown and social unrest come into play as the artist strives to take inventory of severe change, while wandering the wide open spaces that suggest stability.  Alto sax, flute, bass clarinet and organ all find homes here, a possible metaphor for the American immigrant experience.

 

Soft and Springlike

We’re happy to hear Anne Guthrie return, and on Gyropedie she’s joined by the sound of frogs and running water: a perfect spring pairing (Students of Decay, March 26, pictured right).  Flowers Bloom, Butterflies Come is the latest offering from IIKKI, pairing the music of Observatories (Ian Hawgood and Craig Tattersall) with the photography of Miho Kajioka.  As always, the book and music are available separately or as a pair (March 25). Rain, butterflies and the open sea all find welcome niches on Chihei Hatakeyama‘s Late Spring, available April 7 on Gearbox Records.

Slowcraft Records returns with Your Voice in Pieces, a gentle affair written to honor the arrival of spring.  Landtitles plants a variety of instruments like seeds in the sonic ground; in tracks like “Geranium,” “Collecting a Garden” and “A Vaulting of Colour,” they poke their heads above the dirt (April 2).  Soothing piano is found at the center of We Dream of Eden‘s Deeper Still.  The album welcomes spring with titles such as “Shades of Green,” “Rain Drops” and “Shapes and Trees” (Echoes Blue, April 9).  “Fern Moss” is the most springlike title on Halftribe‘s Lucent Forms Traveling, but the full album conjures images of slow, steady growth.  Hidden Vibes is offering both regular and deluxe editions (March 26).  But what if one lives in the Southern Hemisphere, or doesn’t want to leave the cold?  We recommend Maya’s Night by Isik Kural, whose twinkling sound decorate tracks like “January, February” and “Winter in a Cassette.”  Kural’s last album was titled as flurries, so we detect a theme (Audiobulb, March 31).

 

Tape Loops and Other Nostalgia

Nikolaienko “opens up the tape loop library” for Two Rings, a gauzy tumbling set on Faitiche.  The result is the aural equivalent of a fading photograph (April 16).  Christopher Royal King (This Will Destroy You) enters the loops business through a long-distance collaboration with Nico Rosenberg.  Música Para Nuevos Tiempos revels in static and reaches for the stars; violin bears the emotional weight (INNI, April 2).  SL Walkinshaw‘s Tape/String album incorporates the sounds of children, waves, birds and guitar, and is meant as a “refuge from the tumult.”  Those who hope for an early summer will find it here (April 9).

Next for the Home Normal label is David Cordera‘s Lambda: {λ}, which includes contributions from Miguel Otera and Pepo Galan (May 1).  The album will be followed by Hawgood | Hüwels | Murray‘s Day Falls on June 17.  Lost Tribe Sound continues its Built Upon a Fearful Void series with debut albums from ‘t Geruis (Various Thoughts and Places and Sailcloth (Woodcut).  The shoegaze loops of the former can also be heard on last October’s Que tu es belle, au revoir en douceur, while a hearth-warmed cut from the latter can be heard on the sampler.  The label will also release two vocal-themed works from Mt Went (Seabuckthorn’s Andy Cartwright and Von Braun’s Dave Anderson) on April 9.

 

Floatation Devices

Low Altitude‘s Skyward borrows a line from Bowie (“Floating in a Tin Can”) and seeks to reproduce the feeling of floating in space.  The sci-fi Moog album is out April 30 on Much Bigly!  An Moku‘s Less has a calming influence, proceeding from tracks such as “Crushing Waves” to land on “A Better Tomorrow” (Puremagnetik, April 13).  Jennifer dips into new age with two side-long tracks on Sincerely, conceived as a “gift to a grieving friend” (Whited Sepulchre, April 30).  The label will then follow this album with Mark Trecka‘s Acknowledgement on May 28, where waves of piano crash against synthetic shores.  With only three tracks in 80 minutes (including one 42-minute piece), one expects Memorybell‘s No Anchor to suspend time; and so it does.  It’s okay to fall asleep while listening; one may awaken refreshed (Hidden Shoal, May 7).  (Somewhat) famous for performing with a bottle of cupcake sprinkles at the 2018 Oscars, James McAlister returns with Scissortail, a series of slow reflections that honor his roots in soundtrack work (37d03d, March 26).  Neurosis’ Steve Till goes all ambient on The Emptiness Swallows Us All, but while the vinyl pieces are cheerful shades of red and blue, the title indicates he hasn’t deserted his dark side (Neurot, April 30).

Claire Rousay collaborates with visual artist Dani Toral on the expansive a softer focus, whose tracks straddle both ambience and auto-tune.  The album investigates the corners of the brain as they pertain to memory and emotion, while a special edition (albeit expensive) includes a hand-made ceramic whistle.  This is Rousay’s 20th release of the past year; she’s now approaching Celer / øjeRum levels, with no signs of slowing (American Dreams, April 9).  The brain is also the subject of Ben Glas‘ Noise for Quantum Listening, which alternates between white noise, electronic pattern and lullaby (Focused Silence, April 9).  As a father, Forest Robots is interested in the effects of the past year on parenthood.  Amongst a Landscape of Spiritual Reckoning is a perfect title for our time.  The album is a meditation on the cycles of nature and the spirit (Wormhole World, April 2).  It’s been a while since Nettwerk Records has been on our radar, so we’re happy to hear about their release of the new Alaskan Tapes album.  For Us Alone continues the artist’s exploration of serenity and space, and is introduced with the single One Thousand (Mighty) Voices (April 16).

 

Electronic Ambient

We’re always on the lookout for great titles, and “And The Snow Decided To Stop Falling And Instead Rise For We Were Not Deserving” falls into this category.  One would think Holy Endings would be post-rock, but Lighght is electronic-ambient, graced with loops, dialogue and bells.  The closer “vectors: known and unknown” is the highlight of a sparkling set (Doom Trip, March 26). Simian Mobile Disco stalwart Jas Shaw unveils the second of three Solbruchstelle EPs on March 26, the third on May 7.  The offerings drip with deep, chime-like beauty (Delicacies).

Robin Rimbaud and Hans Op De Beek cover a variety of moods on Staging Silence, as is fitting for an OST.  The short films portray small landscapes where the music feels right at home (Sub Rosa, April 16).  The album pairs well with Green-House‘s Music for Living Spaces, an environmental treatise in which electronic music imitates creature comforts.  The album is preceded by single Sunflower Dance (Leaving).  Also on Leaving this spring:  Celia Hollander drapes her compositions in synth and flute tones, offering 5:59 as the first taste of the full-length set Timekeeper.  Flowering Tree, Distant Moon is a sweet set from Masahiro Takahashi, recorded in winter but devoted to spring.  As Takahashi dreams of frogs, rabbits and rain, we drift along with him (Not Not Fun, April 30).  The same day, the label releases Troth‘s Small Movements in Radiance, a ritualistic album that inspires meditation in a soft green meadow, and Unknown Me‘s Bishanti, which will be covered in our Electronic section.  We think it would be nice to buy all three.

 

Colin Fischer‘s angular synth sounds decorate Reflections of the Invisible World, which also features a healthy dose of abstract tenor sax.  The lavender vinyl and is out March 26 on Halocine Trance.  Francesco Giannico‘s Misplaced combines a nature-drenched video, travel inspiration, sci-fi titles and a sad clown cover.  The music is gentle and persuasive, swaying from ambient to drone (Adesso, March 28).  We first covered Ryan J Raffa‘s We Have Always Existed in our last preview; this spring, the full physical release will appear on Aural Canyon, and the special edition includes a hand-numbered print.  The album reflects on leaving the United States amid a time of intolerance and disarray (April 16).

 

Somewherecold

This week, we’re going to highlight a few labels who have won our admiration with their stellar advance promotion ~ not just to review sites, but to fans.  Kentucky’s Somewherecold gets the gold prize in Ambient and Drone, with an incredible eight spring albums already up for pre-order.  To be fair, we’ll also throw in Robert Scott Thompson‘s Escapology, which will be released this Friday on the final day of winter.  This shining synth-based release was recorded at an observatory and includes an homage to Harold Budd.  A week later, Cementation Anxiety offers cold drone as a farewell to winter, including “Thaw” and other pieces that nudge against harshness.  On the same day, Departure Street offers the warmer tones of shoegaze guitar on Every Color in the Sky.

Alternating seasons, Somewherecold returns to dark ambient claustrophobia via Pœna Sensus, and the dark ambient debut Krubera (April 9).  Federico Balducci / fourthousandblackbirdsAnta Odeli Uta is released the same day, melding guitar and heartbeat electronics.  Fast-forward two more weeks and one will encounter the label’s best release of the season, an ambitious double album from Nicholas Maloney.  Stilling includes two disc-long weather-based works, in which wind and rain share space with ambience and drone, a perfect release for the liminal space between seasons.  David Newlyn follows on April 30 with the lovely, piano-based Tapes and Ghosts, with clear turquoise vinyl to match.  The track “Let In the Cold” reminds us of the label’s name.  We used the cover of Darren Ryan‘s Into the Clicks for this article’s main image, and the video is above: a reflection of a world in bloom (May 14).  Then we hit the first day of June, and the evocative guitarscapes of yellow6for the first and last would also fit in our Rock and Post-Rock section.  Huge props to the label for demonstrating how it should be done.

Room40

We also credit Lawrence English’s Room40 label for a decade and a half of solid releases over many genres, coupled with professional early promotion.  The label already has six spring albums up for preorder, with more to come.  Richard Chartier‘s Intereferences may be minimal, but sneaks up on the listener with a soft static appeal (March 29).  Matt Rösner continues the quiet charge with No Lasting Form, a mysterious set drenched in piano, field recordings and an oceanic sheen (April 2).  On the same day, Yuko Araki releases its polar opposite, described as “waves of sheering noise and uneasy ruptures of sound.”  End of Trilogy is an uneasy listen, but a powerful experience.  A week later, Todd Anderson-Kunert completes his Truth Trilogy with You Promised, a meditation on promises made, kept and broken amid variegations of love.  On April 16, a classic live event from Alan Licht again sees the light of day on A Symphony Strikes the Moment You Arrive.  The same day, Alexandra Spence releases the beautifully titled and tenderly rendered A Necessary Softness.

 

Dark Ambient and Drone

Flag Day Recordings has three releases in pre-order, beginning with Benjamin Mauch & Micah Dale Pick‘s It Feels Great But the Planet Is Dying.  Track titles on this apocalyptic set come from areas that were hotter than usual last year.  Just intonation and Pythagorean tunings make for a slightly unsettled sound, calling to mind Greta Thunberg’s warning (March 31).  Tyresta‘s Ordinary Lives is a one tape-long track, thick and oppressive, not ordinary by any means (April 30).  And Rush Falknor‘s Hello from the Lover lurches and loops like an artifact from The Road Warrior (April 30); The Caretaker would be proud.  The albums are available separately or in bundles; Falknor’s album may also be purchased alongside a Gucci t-shirt.  Oh, the irony!

 

Ian Boddy & Markus Reuter continue their decades-long collaboration on Outland, this time exchanging files remotely to create side-long soundscapes.  The pandemic-era album is out April 16 on DiN.  Another long-distance collaboration shortens space between Czechia and Indiana, as xLWBxDRx (Lightning White Bison and Drekka) share field recordings and drone across a soft ocean of sound.  Prairie spells, a ribbon wove weaves the samples together in a smooth and settled fashion (Orphanology / Bluesanct, March 20).  Faith Coloccia and Philip Jeck explore old tapes on Stardust, scheduled for release on Touch this May.  Expanding on the team-up idea, two labels pair artists from their rosters on An Embrace, presented by the Bulgarian Amek and the German Vaagner.  Early copies come with a zine (March 26).

 

The two side-long tracks of Growing‘s Diptych do just what one would expect: they grow.  While the growth is subtle, the trajectory is sure (Silver Current Records / Laffs and Danger, April 30).  Clearly eager to fill his smoky, Empty Room, David Granström stretches from ambient passages to walls of sound (Hallow Ground, April 2).  On ÉlévationZaumne tackles the unusual subject of “erotic tension in nature.”  The soundscapes are drenched in atmosphere, and incorporate field recordings, whispers and mysterious bells (Mondoj, April 16, pictured left).  The cover art of Blooming implies a happy, springlike album, but Amulets had to fight through layers of oppressive politics and a long pandemic to get to this stage.  Portland, Oregon had a rough year, as evidenced by the struggle within these grooves.  But eventually everything returns to bloom, the garden as thick with flowers as these drones are filled with sound (The Flenser, April 2).

 

Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem “Un Coup De Des Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard” (1897) is the literary inspiration for Jos Smolders‘s Submerge-Emerge, a double album filled with the sounds of the sea.  Creaking hulls, wind chimes, motors and waves are sampled and fed into these electro-acoustic pieces to create a feeling of the ocean’s vastness (Cronica, April 13).  Inspired by Solaris, Bonzaii offers the Death in the Cities EP, a perfect match for the label Decaying Spheres (April 2).  “The grandeur of failure and its significance” is the theme of a lavish 4-disc box set from auteur Francisco Meirino.  The Process of Significance gathers a swath of out-of-print work and adds a 24-page booklet with words by Jim Haynes (Misanthropic Agenda, March 26).  Shelter Press makes a triumphant return with PDP III‘s Pilled Up on a Couple of Doves, mulching cello, gong and electronics in a headlong rush to an immersive 20-minute closer (April 9, pictured right).  Can’t get enough of winter?  Erik Lavander offers a sonic escape to frigid territories on Jökel, appropriately released on Glacial Movements.  The album is inspired by visits to an Icelandic glacier and the specter of climate change (April 23).

 

Sustained tones and slowly undulating drone can be found on Phil Maguire‘s ijzer en staal an exercise in slowness and incremental movement (verz, April 10).  Space, time and emotion collide on Tristan Kasten-Krause‘s Potential Landscapes, which begins with gentle morphing but soon begins to vibrate and hum.  A group of famous friends (which include a credited cheesemonger!) join Kasten-Krause for this project, whose covers include hand-painted rainbows (April 23).  Chaz Knapp seems to be having a lot of fun with his Organ Drunes, concluding his set with a track titled “A Breakdancers Broken Heart.”  The Yamaha workout is scheduled for release April 2 on figureight.  Recalcitrance is a great word we don’t hear all that often; the album is a split release for Matthijs Kouw & Gagi Petrovic, who complement each other’s work while building from the same set of sonic sources (Moving Furniture, April 16).  Taking rust as a starting point, Emmis B. releases Rust in the Asphalt, which includes “Rusted Choir,” “Rusted Transmission,” “Rusted Music Hall Collapse” and other takes on the abraded theme (Not Yet Remembered, March 26, pictured left).

 

Funeral director Tristan Welch address the subject of embalming on Temporary Preservation, which uses drone and symphonic surges to communicate the heavy concepts of life, death, and life beyond death (April 30).  Heimito Künst‘s self-titled release is dark and cultish, with crushing drone and slowed voice (Dissipatio, March 20).  Militant, post-industrial drone is found on Miracle of Love‘s Ostracism, a moody set on Overture Militia initially scheduled for March 24 but that may have just been postponed until summer.  The dark energy really gains power in the final third.  After the clubworthy Shadow of Fear and Shadow of Funk, longtime stalwart Cabaret Voltaire switches gears to release a pair of drone albums this spring.  Dekadrone is due March 26, followed by BN9Drone on April 23, both on Mute.  Also on Mute:  Alessandro Cortini (Nine Inch Nails) returns with Scuro Chiaro, introduced by the churning Chiaroscuro (June 11).  But we’re giving our bleakest, blackest album of the season award to noisepoetnobody for Insanity Mirror, as dark as the pandemic is long (Scry Recordings, April 2).

Richard Allen

2 comments

  1. Pingback: A Closer Listen’s Spring Music Preview 2021: Ambient and Drone  – Avant Music News

  2. Pingback: OUT TODAY – Nicholas Maloney: Stilling (Somewherecold Records, 2021) – SOMEWHERECOLD

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