By now, most people in the northern climates are preparing for spring; but spring is more than cherry blossoms and returning flocks. Spring is a state of mind: a warming, a flowering, an emergence. Spring is a feeling that, to quote Kate Bush, “something good is going to happen.” And even if that hoped-for thing doesn’t materialize – new love, political stability, an end to war – in our minds we can imagine it, and our imagination propels us into the new season.
When summer is the biggest season for movies, and autumn for books, spring and fall share the crown as the biggest seasons for new music, evidenced by the hundreds of albums we’ll be introducing over the course of the week. With some huge names on the spring slate, as well as many promising newcomers, we’re confident that everyone will find an album to fill them with anticipation – maybe a handful. Welcome to our Spring Music Preview, which begins with our quietest but most popular genre.
Our cover image is taken from OZMOTIC | FENNESZ’ Senzatempo on Touch, the photograph from one of our favorite photographers, Jon Wozencroft.
Sounds Like Spring
We love when an album reflects its season of release, which is why we’re starting with anthéne & simon mccorry‘s florescence. The album is all about roots and rivulets, the score to nature’s new beginning (oscarson, March 31, pictured right). In like fashion, the enmossed label kicks off a new cassette series called ENMS on the first day of spring. Each release is paired with the plant of the artist’s choice and a relevant interview. Chaperone‘s Leaflet Music is the first entry, a tribute to chamomile with a dialogue between Daisy Paradise and Suzanne Belle Stone of Moon of Hyldemoer Herbals. The second cassette is released the same day. Tetsuya Nakayama‘s Vestige addresses the red spider lily, with words by Daisy Paradise (March 20).
Martyna Basta experiments with electric guitar, zither and whisper on the intricate Slowly Forgetting, Barely Remembering, a mysterious album that sounds like a forest walk at dusk. Claire Rousay guest stars on “It Could Be As It Was Forever” (Warm Winters Ltd., April 28). Another beguiling set comes from Katie Lou McCabe, who melds her voice to guitar and lo-fi echoes on Innersense, dark tales told around a fire by a hallucinating narrator (March 23). A series of dreams inspired Leo Wolf‘s Shapeshifter, in which field recordings mingle with vinyl and film samples to form an aural collage, matched by the art (Dead Letters Archive, April 7). Adam Matschulat‘s Formosa is a personal album with a domestic tone, splicing in sounds of home cooking, German folk singing, church hymns and evening insects, a tribute to the artist’s Brazilian home and rich heritage (Calling Cards Publishing, March 24).
Guitar and cello feature strongly yet softly on Seeking the intimacy of silence, an album influenced by the isolation of the pandemic and the search for inner and outer peace. Haarvöl‘s seven track titles, when read as one, also serve as a meditative poem (Moving Furniture, March 24).
Piano and strings add heft to AULUS I, the forthcoming album from Poltrock. This is the first of two instrumental albums the artist will reveal this year; Part II arrives in September (May 26). Nature and nostalgia each factor in to Eric Angelo Bessel‘s Visitation, a shifting album that sometimes sounds haunted and other times at peace, with filtered choir and bells (Lore City Music, April 21). We’ve checked to make sure, but Bob Holroyd‘s Football Chants and Nursery Rhymes does not in fact sound like its title. These unhurried pieces suggest a different pace of life, perhaps the quiet after a loss, when one returns home to the comfort of family (Six Degrees Records, May 12). Solo electric guitar may be the only instrument on Eight Reflections in Darkness, but Martin Heyne finds many hues and allows a bit of light (AWAL, April 14). Staran Wake‘s self-titled debut contains enough guitars to suggest post-rock, but the music eschews crescendo in favor of mood (Hands in the Dark, March 24).
gas28a honors the equinox with the guitar-centered Namazh menya na Hleb vselennoj (Spread me on the bread of the universe), a subdued album on Faktura (March 20). Continuing the theme of restraint, Tapes and Topographies will release Mircotones, which might be considered part of a triptych along with Monomials and Modalities. As society’s pace continues to accelerate, this music travels in the opposite direction (Simulacra, March 31). A comfortable haze develops from tape loops, piano and “recontextualized old recordings” on PSALM012: An Allegory, a commentary on environmental disaster. Aria Rostami‘s work nudges against drone, conveying an aura of sad inevitability (Spirituals, May 12).
The latest pairing on IIKKI Books is Akhiro Sano‘s delicate Shadow’s Praise and the photography of David Nissen, available in a fine art book available alone or as a pair. Sano’s pointillist compositions inspire contemplation, the perfect score for viewing each photograph in turn, musing on its meanings (April 20). Another ambitious pairing comes from 12k, as the seven-strong Between collective traded ideas and musical files to create a set of musical and physical collages, completed by Marcus Fischer and collected into a 46-page book titled Low Flying Owls, pictured left (April 7).
Violeta Vicci paints in an expressive fashion, with violin, viola, cello, field recordings and her own voice. Cavaglia is “a translation of lakes and maps into music,” a sonic travelogue (Fabrique, April 14). The “almost songs” of Avenue Azure‘s self-titled debut are wrapped in nature and the seasons, with soft vocals woven into the mix (Ensemble Klang, March 31). On the heels of a January EP, Matthewdavid releases the full-length Mycelium Music on April 28. The album continues his new age journey into the land of magic mushrooms (Leaving Records). Meanwhile, David Edren imagines his compositions as “miniature terrariums,” in tune with the planet and the arrival of spring. Relativiteit Van de Omgeving is released April 7 on Not Not Fun Records. There’s not a lot of country music here at ACL, but Nashville Ambient Ensemble offers a rare take on the genre, blending pedal steel, violin, piano, guitar and synth with yearning vocals. Light and Space, originally paired with a museum exhibition, appears April 14 on Centripetal Force. Cliffdiver‘s self-titled album looks a bit like summer, but we don’t mind looking forward! The great ocean beckons, along with shimmering guitars (April 7).
OZMOTIC | FENNESZ categorize Senzatempo as “a lockdown record,” created for an imaginary orchestra when orchestras were not allowed to rehearse. The guitar carries a message of comfort, while electronics convey the timbres of a concert hall (Touch, April 14). We were pretty bummed when Brian Eno‘s FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE turned out to be a vocal album, so we’re happy to announce that Forever Voiceless, a Record Store Day exclusive, is an instrumental version of that release (April 23). A Journey of Giraffes pays tribute to ambient music pioneers (including Eno) on Empress Nouveau, adding occasional flute and saxophone to expand the sonic horizons (Somewherecold, March 31).
Spencer Doran‘s SEASON: A Letter to the Future is the score to a video game about saving pieces of civilization before its collapse: an all-too-real scenario. The mood is more pensive than frightful, as befits the nature of the narrative. Doran is also a member of Visible Cloaks (RVNG Intl., May 5, pictured left). The contrast between “the beauty of the universe and the sad beauty of human suffering” is highlighted in the bubbling tones of Same But Different, a spiritually-tinged set from Ümlaut (Audiobulb, April 15).
Modular synth anchors Imposter Syndrome, while fragments of piano lay across the electronics like toppings. Orbital Patterns‘ album is out April 4 on Artificial Owl. Foreign Body Sensation / Justin Maranga‘s Subterranean Environments sounds a bit like The Orb on Ambien, with four drifting tracks that produce a sense of disorientation. (Dune Altar, March 31). With track titles like “Passage of the Bird Queen,” “The Flower Bears Its Fruit” and “Forest Guides and Deity Statues,” Florigenix is clearly in love with the great outdoors. A touch of fine psychedelica is also present on Wild Light, released April 7 on Mystery Circles. Mark Barrott‘s Jōhatsu is the colorful score to the documentary of the same name, translated … the art of evaporation. The film notices those who “evaporate” or disappear in Japan following “addiction, divorce or job loss, (leaving) the lives they knew behind” (Reflections, April 17). Shackleton‘s evolution continues on The Other Side of Devastation. Recording under the guise The Purge of Tomorrow, the producer presents a pair of side-long tracks whose beats beckon and fade, producing a wavelike feel (Modern Obscure Music, May 5).
Subheim has begun a new phase of production, “removing the percussive elements” from Raeon to reveal the artist’s more ambient elements. From time to time, one can hear the ghost of a pulse (Denovali, March 28). Mikkel Rev‘s The Art of Forgetting is a journey into blissful chill, as close to the border of electronic as ambient can get before toppling over. The music produces a feeling of alert calm, with constant tempos and infrequent beats: a blast from the not-so distant past (A Strangely Isolated Place, March 20). Masahiro Takahashi‘s Humid Sun has a few more beats and a lot more instruments, a resurrection of the art of “tropical calm,” with nods to lounge and exotica. It may be arriving a bit too early, but we suspect it may find its audience at beaches this summer (telephone explosion, March 31).
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