Ulrich Schnauss & Jonas Munk - Passage (video premiere)

 

A duo of versatility and uncompromising musical output, Ulrich Schnauss and Jonas Munk are no strangers to our ears. In the past fifteen years, the pair have gifted us with some of our most admired albums and collaborations, and neither seem to be letting up anytime soon.

Ulrich, whilst in the midst of releasing his latest opus, No Further Ahead Than Today, is also now a part of the legendary electronic outfit, Tangerine Dream. And whilst Jonas hasn't been as relentless with his output in the midst of his family time, he has still found the time to re-ignite the spark that saw their revered skills combine on 2010's self-titled production. It was an output that came together almost naturally, with both artists possessing that ethereal, melodic take on shoegaze inspired electronic music; one, a master of the synthesizer and the other, the guitar.

When asked what pulled them back into the studio, Jonas makes it clear they were destined to continue what they started."We've been working together for quite a long time now and I can't remember ever getting stuck with a piece or feeling uninspired during a session. There has always been a really good work flow, with things rolling naturally. So when we both had some available time in early 2014 we figured it might be a lot of fun to start something new". Ulrich continues, "I think we always had some kind of silent agreement that we'd eventually continue - sometimes it's really just a question of fitting it into the schedule somehow."

The new album, Passage came to life through a variety of sketches, originally ideated by Jonas in Odense, (listen to Jonas' isolatedmix dedicated to the sounds of his hometown), bringing them over to Ulrich's London studio, with the pair then obsessing until completion. This revisited dynamic seemed to be a welcome change for Jonas, who enjoyed Ulrich applying his magic to his original sketches amongst the wonderful cave of equipment and synthesizers adorning the studio; "Once there's a fundamental idea going Ulrich will be adding most of the synths and be in charge of effects processing and so on, and I'll add guitar parts and perhaps come up with suggestions sound or structure-wise", Jonas says. going on to elaborate how much he enjoyed those days in London with Ulrich: "I always find it very inspiring doing these daily 14 hour sessions, totally immersed, with nothing else on my mind. It's quite different from my work flow at home – I've got a family now, so I usually head to my studio after dropping off my kid in nursery, work for 6 hours, before rushing back to get on with daily life. In London it's all music, except for the occasional coffee or Indian food break".

With Jonas' signature guitar work and Ulrich's synchronization, chord manipulation and warming analog sounds, it's easy to point to a variety of influences on the sound emitted when their powers combine.  This mutual respect for each others strengths made it easy to point towards specific ideas, with Jonas asking Ulrich"could you try a really creamy early 1990s synth-pad in the intro" or "could we make this more new-agey in a vintage kinda way" or "This needs more Simple Minds". The response from Ulrich heard bouncing across his north east London studio: "Jonas: bring some Fleetwood Mac to this part, goddamnit!"

If you recall their earlier album, these inspirations would definitely ring true as a general theme throughout. With Passage however, it's a little harder to tell. The album is much more varied in approach, a purposeful result, as Ulrich mentions: "the 'method' actually, is to avoid developing one, and to capture the joy of recording without being tied to the framework of a certain concept instead - we keep surprising ourselves by what we end up writing. from my perspective we've managed to create a varied album that's not stuck in a particular genre - a piece that's inspired by 80s Californian New-age maybe followed by a slowed down tech-house groove, coupled with folky guitars". 

Album opener Amaris (see the exclusive video by London based photographer and film maker Nat Urazmetova below) forms the bridge between the last album and Passage - featuring a recognizable Schnauss structure punctuated with Jonas' guitars. However the album quickly introduces other signature moments and structures. The more euphoric reverb of Intervention : Sol; the Klaus Schulze or Tangerine Dream influences on Intervention : Stjerner; the sparse drum-beats reminiscent of Joy Division (obviously not as gloomy) form the back-bone of MST,  and the classic chord-step progressions we've come to enjoy from Ulrich transcend moments within Spellbreaker.  

It's not all accidental euphoria though, as Ulrich describes,"the rather narcotic, somnambulist vibe of the song 'Anywhere But Here' is at least, to a degree, the result of my excessive aspirin consumption during the recordings. Now it's actually one of my favourites".

As Jonas goes on to describe the main differences between this album and the last, it's clear both he and Ulrich had fun building on an already perfected relationship, likely bringing in new ideas and energy from recent projects to form another unmissable piece of work. "Even though we deliberately stayed away from any overall concept, to my ears this album ended up with more of a laid-back vibe in general – compared to the more euphoric vibe of the self-titled album. Which is something I didn't really think about until very recently. It's like there's a mild breeze blowing through all of these tracks". 

Simplified and unrestricted intentions undoubtedly bring out the best in these two. 

Passage will be available through Jonas Munk's newly created Azure Vista Records, with pre-orders available on Bandcamp now.

 

ASIP Wantlist #5 ASC (James Clements)

 

Not only do we know James Clements as the man behind one of the best ambient albums of last year (No Stars Without Darkness), or one of our favorite electronica EP's in the form a new alias as Comit, or as a pioneer of the 'autonomic sound'... or as label boss of one of the most forward thinking labels out there - Auxiliary. But we also know him as a vinyl obsessive, part-proven by his meticulous and beautiful presses on Auxiliary and other labels lucky enough to get his music on board (take the X3LP Imagine The Future or his black and green colored EP with Ulrich Schnauss - just two examples of his labor of love). 

With both an amazing musical background spanning everything from drum'n bass to techno and ambient, alongside a pure love of the format, we were always going to enjoy knowing what lay deep within the crate digging dreams of ASC...

1. Sandwell District - Feed Forward [Discogs]

I had it in my cart on Juno and for some unknown reason, I didn't complete the order.  I recall that I'd forgotten about it, and a few days later I returned to see it had sold out. I started to search all over the net for a copy and couldn't find any left.  Of course, it's pretty much folk lore what sort of prices it goes for used, although that's also down to Discogs listing price suggestions, which help to inflate the price of a used record.  All it takes is one person to buy it at a high price and then the median increases, Discogs suggests a higher listing price and the trend continues. I suppose from a business point of view, it makes good sense, but from a consumer point of view, it's fucking annoying. Rumor has it that it wasn't pressed in high numbers either, which makes it all the more annoying that I missed out. C'est la vie.

2. Lee & Tango/Lee & Gwange - Legendary Volume Three [Discogs]

I had this record in my collection at one point, but when I moved to the US from England and shipped my vinyl over, I couldn't find this. Both sides are absolutely essential pieces of music to me. Growing up on hardcore, drum & bass, early jungle etc, this record is the epitome of everything I loved about that era. One side is some dark menacing jungle-tekno and the flip is a serene piece of atmospheric drum & bass, much in the vein of the stuff LTJ Bukem was starting to push in the early 90's. I tend to set myself a limit of what I'd pay per record these days, but for stuff I've already owned and lost, it pains me to have to buy it again!

3. Convextion - Venus In Spurs [Discogs]

Another amazing record that I missed out on, although no stories of near misses on this one - just me sleeping on Convextion. I only got into his music after hearing his debut album in 2006, and by that time, this release was already 6 years old. Two gorgeous pieces of music here, especially the b-side, Crawling and Hungry. This is one of those records I dream of getting lucky with while checking out some random record store in some city around the world, although I'm not holding my breath on it happening! 

4. Ostia - Clamp EP [Discogs]

I have a fascination with Iesope Drift's stuff. Some of the rhythmic creativity shown in their work was absolutely light years ahead of its time. This one is an obscure 12" from their Seico Corp sub label and the only release they did under this guise I think. Fortunately, 2 of the 3 tracks here were reissued on a vinyl release earlier this year, that kinda came out of the blue. I still want the original 12" though, as I'm just like that :)

5. No Artist - Two On One [Discogs]

Bit of a strange one here, as there's no music on this piece of vinyl at all. This was a picture disc used as promo for Moving Shadow's Two On One series back in 1994. It features the super cool Moving Shadow World Domination logo on one side and the flip gives information about the upcoming series. I've always wanted a copy anyway, mainly as something to display in a frame on my studio wall. Perhaps I'll buy one at some point :)

 

isolatedmix 65 - Würden & Pfeiffer

 

We start our 2017 schedule with two of ambient music's most recent strongholds, Max Würden & Thore Pfeiffer.

After arriving on Kompakt's Pop Ambient compilation in 2015, and making appearances with tracks in the subsequent two years ('16 & '17) both artists have helped shape the new-school of Pop Ambient artists and sound emerging from this notorious platform - an ever-developing, yet distinct sound from the mind of label boss Wolfgang VoigtThore also helped launch the Pop Ambient album series, following in the footsteps of Leandro Fresco, with his debut, Im Blickfield - a melodic and inviting sound that's synonymous with the series.

Whilst also in 2015, Max presented his album Retour on Wolfgang Voigt's other recently launched curated series, Exponate - a label which intends to, "open up new musical spaces and to sound out the increasingly liquified confines between abstract ambient music and art music, between electronica and new music". 

After a production together on 2015's Pop Ambient edition, titled Feinherb the duo intend to continue their plans of producing together. Max and Thore have been enjoying creating mixes in the meantime, with their first dropping Savvy Records last year, and more recently a Winter special on Kompakt last December.

For isolatedmix 65, we're treated to an amalgamation of overlapping textures and finely tuned atmospheres. Expect a similar approach to Markus Guentner's isolatedmix (Ten Years of Pop Ambient), which focused heavily on the Pop Ambient sound, but with some additional unique twists and turns that span the spectrum of influences for them both, all wrapped amongst some carefully considered, extended transitions. 

Mixing ambient music can be exploratory in approach given its similar capacity and textures, and the duo take advantage with many tracks played at the same time. Questioning when one ends and another begins will be a familiar experience throughout - but that's when you know you're wrapped in something so deep you won't want to surface. 

Download.

Tracklist:

01. Intro – Road Works / Open Fire
02. Anton Kubikov – Dekka - Pop Ambient 2017 (Kompakt
03. Marsen Jules – Yara 4 - Yara (Oktaf) / The Hunt For Red October (O.S.T.) – Plane Crash – The Hunt For Red October (MCA Records)
04. Gas – Pop 5 – Pop (Kompakt) / Efdemin – Ohara – Decay (Dial)
05. Higher Intelligence Agency & Biosphere – Augusta Road – Birmingham Frequencies (Headphone)
06. Markus Guentner – Paragon – Theia (A Strangely Isolated Place)
07. Max Würden – Perfect Moment - Or Lost (Farfield Records) / Pauline Oliveros / Stuart Dempster / Panaiotis – Suiren – Deep Listening (New Albion)
08. Thore Pfeiffer – Good Life – Pop Ambient 2017 (Kompakt)
09. Cory Allen & Marcus Fischer – Two / Twenty-Two / Seventy- Seven – Two / Twenty Two (Bandcamp) / Shades Of Orion – Liquid Shade – Shades Of Orion (FAX +49-69/450464)
10. Maps and Diagrams – The Shape of Things To Come – Air Texture Volume I (Air Texture)
11. Max Würden – Unterwasser III – Retour (Exponate)
12. Wounds – Losing Focus – Winter Ambient Box (Not on label) / Martin Schmitz – Orgel DX 10 - 50°58'2.19''N, 7°0'6.73''E (Noorden) / Main – Cavitation – Deliquescence (Beggars Banquet)

Würden & Pfeiffer | Facebook
Max Würden
| Wuerden.com | Kompakt.fm | Soundcloud | Bandcamp | Facebook
Thore Pfeiffer | Kompakt.fm | Soundcloud | Facebook

 

ASIP - Reflection on 2016

 

2016 was a busy year! The label started with the Arovane & Hior Chronik Remix EP, then Merrin Karras' glorious synthesizer piece, Apex. And more recently, the much-desired 36 album, The Infinity Room.  It was also a very sad year in many ways, with ASIP artist, Igor Bystrov aka Parks, passing away. The In Memory EP, featuring a collection of his works was also released, with all proceeds going to Igor's family. Thank you to everyone who supported the label and the artists throughout 2016 - I can't express how grateful I am to have such an amazing bunch of listeners and supporters.

It was an amazing year for music. I was overwhelmed for the most part, and didn't get round to writing about half as many albums as I would have liked to. But my yearly Reflections mix goes some way in helping soothe my guilt and pain. Featuring many of my favorite tracks from some of my favorite albums and releases from the year, it's my version of the infamous journo 'best-of' list but presented in the best way possible I start with a playlist including one track from every album I've enjoyed over the year, and then whittle it down, based on what sounds right in the mix and ultimately, what I've been listening to the most. It goes without saying, this only scrapes the surface of the many great albums and releases we've been treated to in 2016.

A quick run down of the inclusions in this years mix...

Sad Elron, the one track I spent the year looping, was the standout in one of this years best albums from Mark Pritchard. Bvdub surprised us with a selection of shorter-than-normal cuts, and potentially his best album yet. The Green Kingdom is this years under-the-radar gem, cutting up dubby-ambient and post-rock. Steve Hauschildt topped the year of the synthesizer, as did Phaeleh, with outstanding albums on both fronts. ASC made a sneaky retro-electronica appearance as Comit. Synkro enlisted the best for his remix EP - with Helios providing a glorious take, alongside a superb album of his own. Jesse Somfay returned after over 5-years with a unique and exciting new album. Segue turned in da-dub as usual on the ever-brilliant Silent Season. Isan made a return with their quirky melodic electronica. The Orb made an attempt to out-chill-out the Chill Out. Ametsub dropped a sneaky jazz-infused ambient piece. Tangent proved the newcomer of the year on n5MD. Jóhann Jóhannsson should be on the front-cover of Time magazine as man of the year with his outstanding score for Arrival and another complete masterpiece in Orphée. Heck got the remastering and reworking of choice by Field Rotation's Christopher Berg. Ocoeur got our year off to a stunner with his modern-classical masterpiece. Eluvium won the hearts of everyone with his operatic tearjerker. Drape kept Infraction's continually brilliant ambient output up-to-scratch. Warmth treated us to one of the years best ambient surprises. Deepchord turned in one of the years best remixes - out-ambienting Wolgang Voigt's flip. Benoit Pioulard broke his wrist and showed us how to remix Aphex Twin. Porya Hatami and Arovane joined forces once again book-ending their ASIP remix EP.  And lastly, as a special tribute, we end the mix on one of my favourite tracks by Park from 2009 - RIP.

And breathe. Enjoy the look back.

Download.

Tracklist:

01. Mark Pritchard - Sad Alron [Under The Sun] (Warp)
02. Bvdub - 07 [Yours Are Stories Of Sadness] (Self)Read the review
03. The Green Kingdom - Haze Layers [Harbor] (Dronarivm) 
04. Steve Hauschildt - Time We Have [Strands] (Kranky) Read the review
05. Phaeleh - Frequency [Illusion of The Tale] (Undertow) Read the review
06. Comit - Under Your Spell [Trip 01] (Warm Communications) Read the review
07. Synkro - Midnight Sun (Helios Remix) [Changes Remix EP] (Apollo)
08. Jesse Somfay - Chorona (A Voice Like Sunshine) [Levamentum] (Tipping HandRead the review
09. Segue - Deep Valley [Over The Mountains] (Silent Season
10. Isan - Lace Murex [Glass Bird Movement] (MorrRead the review
11. The Orb - 4am Exhale [COW] (Kompakt)
12. Ametsub - Skydroppin' [Skydroppin' EP] (Blueberry Records)
13. Tangent - Perceived Horizon [Collapsing Horizons] (n5MD)
14. Jóhann Jóhannsson - Heptapod B [Arrival OST] (Deutschegrammophon)
15. Hecq - Night Falls (reworked by Christopher Berg) [Night Falls] (Hymen Records)
16. Ocoeur - Fixo 2 [Reversed] (n5MD) Read the review
17. Eluvium - Fugue State [False Readings On] (Temporary ResidenceRead the review / mix
18. Drape - Detrial Rest [Let There Water Air] (Infraction)
19. Helios - Land Father [Remembrance] (Unseen Music) Read the review
20. Warmth - Odessa [Essay] (Archives) Read the review / mix 
21. Peter Michael Hamel - Colours of Time [Reinterpreted] (Deepchord’s Carolina Forest Mix) Read the review
22. Benoit Pioulard - Stone In Focus [Radial] Read the review / mix
23. Porya Hatami & Arovane - iaan [Kaziwa] (Time Released Sound
24. Jóhann Jóhannsson - Flight From The City [Orphée] (Deutschegrammophon) Read the review
25. Parks - Eternal Wind [Hidden] (Infraction - 2009)

[Artwork / photo taken on a trip to Japan in August 2016]

 

ASIP - Deep Electronics Ambient Sessions #27

 

Honored to have a mix included in the brilliant Deep Electronics podcast - a steadfast mix series for great ambient curators for some time now. Check the series out on Soundcloud. Thank you to Jeroen Smulders for hosting me.

My introduction to the mix: 

I rarely approach mixes with a concept in mind and often find them developing organically in the process. I did however, want this mix to be a deep journey, which was hard, as I've been listening to lots of melodic synthesizer music recently, so I had to get in the right mind-set for it. I started to picture space, and was partly inspired by this video for an Alva Noto track which is a spectacular combination of imagery and sound. The mix ended up being an accompanying soundtrack to some kind of failed rocket launch - starting with optimism, becoming more intense, experiencing glitches and more dramatic moments along the way, and finally falling back down to earth and more recognizable, familiar ground. It's a little cliché for an ambient mix- but I find it extremely relaxing to picture a journey along the way and felt this one came together quite nicely if listened to as a whole. I called it 'Familiar Ground'.

Hope you enjoy it.

Download (also available in the ASIP iPhone App)

Tracklist:

01. Moby - Long Ambient 3 (Excerpt) (Self released)
02. Steve Hauschildt - A False Seeming (Kranky)
03. Abul Mogard - The Purpose Of Peace (VCO Records)
04. The Black Dog - Phil 3 to 5 (Dust Science Recordings)
05. Phaeleh - Absence of Light (Undertow)
06. Casino Versus Japan - Miano: A Pink Night For The Snowmen (Attacknine)
07. Ben Guiver - Ex Machina (Silent Recordings)
08. Alva Noto & Blix Bargeld - Bernsteinzimmer (Kompakt)
09. Alva Noto - The Revenant Theme (Alva Noto Remode)
10. Tangent - Perceived Horizon (n5MD)
11. Carbon Based Lifeforms - RCA (Leftfield Records)
12. Phaeleh - Visions (Undertow)
13. Merrin Karras - Isolation (A Strangely Isolated Place)
14. Lav - Freedom & Joy (Amone Recordings)