Donnacha Costello

todos: Ten Years of A Strangely Isolated Place

 
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The impossible task. Find a way to summarize the last ten years of music featured on the A Strangely Isolated Place blog and website.

First off, we have created the ‘tagged’ project, listing some of the hundreds of artists featured on the blog for you to explore over here. And pretty soon, we’ll have a special release for you all.

But I also wanted something that was closer to our blog beginnings, and a story told through a mix. What better way than tasking our favorite journey-maker, todos.

todos and his Kilchurn Sessions have been a staple of ASIP over the past ten years. We’ve even collected them all in one place, given how many posts they ended up spanning. I don’t need to add many superlatives about him here, but they are some of the best recorded mixes I have ever heard. And I mean it. You can hold-up (my personal favorite) professional mixed CD’s by Sasha, or James Holden for example, and I would be just as pleased listening to some of todos’ Kilchurn Sessions. He has a knack, a perfection and an obsession with mixing unique journeys that span everything from ambient, electronic, techno and instrumental elements, alongside a unique use of samples and movie quotes. He creates familiar and emotive narratives that need multiple revisits to appreciate the detail, skill and passion he put in.

Once todos agreed to my ask (nearly a year-ago now) I sent him the archive of posts from the old site, and a list of all the tags used across both new and old. My only criteria was that he needed to select tracks from artists or albums that were a part of that list - an attachment to ASIP and the blog. He had hundreds to sift through, some known, some new to him.

I don’t know how he did it.

I do know it was a headache for him, for months, but what he turned in, was something well beyond my expectations. He went through many iterations and different approaches, trying to do one chronologically in the order they were featured on ASIP for example, sending me revisions up until the very last minute, but in the end, he managed to find a selection of tracks that truly reflect the past ten years of discovery here on ASIP. And in a style only he knows how to execute.

A big BIG thank you to todos for soundtracking ASIP all these years. And for this, a superb piece of no-doubt painstaking work to help us celebrate ten-years of existence.

Once you’re done listening here, check out our ‘tagged’ project to explore even more.

Download MP3

Download WAV

~

Ten years of A Strangely Isolated Place - mixed by todos

Tracklist:

1. Minilogue - ‘Yesterday Bells’ edit (2008)/ Grzegorz Bojanek - A Huge Explosion After The War’ edit (2017)

2. Altus - ‘Virgo’ edit (2013) / Little Dragon - ‘Twice’ edit (2008) / Lights Out Asia - ‘Except Europa’ edit (2010)

3. Herbstlaub - ‘Softly hidden she.’ (Stray Theories remix) (2016)

4. Stellardrone - ‘Pale Blue Dot’ (2010)

5. Freescha - ‘Kite High’ (2009)

6. Benjamin Dauer - ‘Harmony Bound’ (2011) / Rhian Sheehan - ‘Standing In Silence Part 1’ edit (2010)

7. Jon Hopkins - ‘Private Universe’ (2008) / Opus III - ‘It’s A Fine Day’ edit (2009)

8. Sasha - ‘Broadcast’ (2016)

9. Umber - ‘Tomorrow We'll Throw Out Some Old Shoes’ (2011)

10. Kiyoko - ‘Sea of Trees’ (2012)

11. Bjorn Rohde - ‘Forest of Forgotten Hearts’ (2013) / Nils Frahm - ‘Peter’ (2013)

12. Jason van Wyk - ‘Eyes Shut’ (2017)

13. Roel Funcken - ‘Android Robson’ (2016)

14. Synkro - ‘Midnight Sun’ (2015)

15. Martin Nonstatic - ‘Open Minded’ (2015) / Aphex Twin - ‘Rhubarb’ (2009)

16. Sonitus Eco - ’Storegga Slide’ (2015)

17. Vermont - ‘Übersprung’ (2014)

18. Ocoeur - ‘Resonance’ (2013) / Sigur Ros - ‘Takk’ (2011) / Carbon Based Lifeforms - ‘Intro’ / ‘Hold’ (2014)

19. Donnacha Costello - ‘That Empty Feeling’ (2011)

20. Rhian Sheehan - ’Sileo’ (2013)

21. Markus Guentner - ‘Baryon’ (Feat. The Sight Below) edit (2015) / Porya Hatami - ‘Fen’ (By Segue) edit (2015)

22. Tegh - ‘Down’ (2014)

23. Arovane - ‘Woven’ (Peter Benisch Remix) edit (2015)

24. John Beltran - ‘Seasons Go’ (2013)

~

Includes audio recordings taken in and around USA, Germany, UK, Italy, Poland, Australia, Netherlands and Japan.

Special thanks to Ryan, Marcel, Eiko, Spencer and James for the support and sending me snippets of your own strangely isolated places. It was a pleasure incorporating them into this mix.

*Years indicate when tracks were featured on ASIP, not necessarily when they were released*

Artwork by ASIP, containing elements from Mario Morales and Nick Brzostowski.

 

Portals: Music For Mindfulness

 
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Mindfulness, is undoubtedly subjective and situational. But one thing I’ve noticed, is that most of the material you hear on this topic often has a stereotypical sound; normally new-age, and often yoga or meditation focused with buddhist chanting, or crashing waves. Sometimes, you might be lucky enough to find a sweet-spot with Brian Eno, and with it, you draw a sigh of relief. 

I've often wondered how (or why) hotels and spa's choose their music and how this 'background style' has become so mistakenly synonymous with ambient music. Ask anyone who isn't familiar with ambient music is and they’ll likely say "spa music" or "meditation/yoga stuff". No digs on that type of music, I mean some elements even find their way in here - it's the root to many ambient concepts, and I could sit and listen to the sound of the sea and waves crashing for years on end. But as with all of these Portals series, I try to find and explore a different perspective where possible. 

The goal of this feature and accompanying mix was to create a journey of escapism and comfort. Whereas the previous Portals feature, ‘Music For Sleeping’ could be deemed very similar, the approach here focused on keeping an attentive layer/s that ended up being more pure to Brian Eno’s definition of ambient music: “As ignorable as it is interesting”, which aligns very well with the definition of what it means to be mindful; "the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something”

There’s a lot of ambient music that fulfills this goal, so what’s different here? As I was curating tracks for this mix, I found common themes that resonated with me personally when it came to mindfulness, which I tried to reflect throughout, and ultimately formed a filter for what should be included. Perhaps you’ll identify with one or more and can descend into a rabbit-hole of exploration, or hopefully you'll enjoy it as a whole. 

Nature
Field recordings and the pure sound of the outdoors is undoubtedly calming and reassuring. It’s an escape from our busy lives, and a reminder of what’s good in our world. The mix opens with my favorite field recording from Biosphere that somehow encapsulates the exact sound I used to hear from the field behind my childhood house. Nature sounds are a common theme throughout this mix, whether on purpose or inadvertently as an intro or ending to certain tracks. 

Submersion
The warm, blanket-like approach to ambient music is a favorite of mine, often created through analog equipment, or layers of undulating synthesizers that build, wrap and immerse. Markus Guentner, Donnacha Costello, Marcus Fischer, Heathered Pearls, bvdub, and Billow Observatory are just some of the many moments in here that keep you warm and comforted. 

Subtle/subliminal layers
The KLF’s ‘Chill-out’ album is one of ambient music’s most pioneering pieces, and on paper, it really shouldn’t be. The sound of trains, sheep and Elvis Presley are not the first ingredients that come to mind for relaxation, but the key here, is how they’re interwoven into a moving piece of musical art - an undercurrent of subtle moments that on their own would be distracting, but together form a story. They provide moments of interest and escapism - enough to keep one foot in the door, and one foot in a world of your own. I’ve tried to replicate this approach in this mix, by lowering volumes of certain tracks into the background, or including something a little unexpected in a few places, so if you see something you like in the track-list, don’t assume it will feature prominently. 

Choral sounds
Beautiful, emotional choir singing is pretty cliche, but who can argue against it when it comes to feeling good? Whether it’s the religious connotations, or just the simple realization that the sound you're hearing is coming from a person, is as stunning as it is comforting. Moments from Hammock and Jonsi & Alex provide the highs in this instance. 

String instruments
Whether it’s a slowly drawn cello, a harp, or a lone guitar pluck, there’s something about string instruments when it comes to reflecting positivity (and in the right context, ultimate sadness!) However, I often associate these sounds with light - I have no idea why - but perhaps thats why they feature in here so heavily. Be it the acoustic version of Aphex Twin’s ‘Rhubarb’, Mary Lattimore’s beautiful harp, or Kit’s portrayal of a walk on the beach as fireworks light the horizon. 

Strong-sounds can also go to the other end of the spectrum too, with reverb-laden guitar-haze forming complex palettes that you’d normally expect to come from synthesizers. Examples in here being Manual and to a simpler extent, Neozaïre. 

Repetition
We’re creatures of habits, and the beat of the drum is what makes all music so special. When it comes to ambient music, this often comes to life in loops, or slowly evolving textures that do just enough to keep you intrigued, yet are familiar enough to hypnotize and make you feel comfortable. Given its minimal nature, most ambient music is repetitive, but sometimes it can become more evident in its form, for example, a track here Klimek that anticipates each evolution and movement with a similar instrumental pluck of strings. 

Overall, I have tried to avoid anything that can be seen as daunting, intriguing or so vividly different that you switch into new worlds with every track. You may notice some distinct phases throughout the mix, where similar sounds are tied together, and you may prefer certain phases to others, but eventually I hope you finish on an extremely positive note. Just sat here listening back and writing this, I’m feeling better than I was a few hours back...

Thanks to everyone who commented on the original Facebook post with their own suggestions, a few of which made it into the final journey. 

Download.

Tracklist + links to buy/download:

01. Biosphere - As The Sun Kissed The Horizon [Biophon]
02. Ourson - Mountain, Calm Day, Birds, Saw [Self]
03. Brian Eno, Roger Eno, Daniel Lanois - Deep Blue Day [EG / Polydor]
04. Parks - Forest [Self]
05. Kit - Girl Walking on The Beach Wearing A Skirt [A Strangely Isolated Place]
06. Sage Taylor - Raintime Ten [Cold Fiction Music]
07. Bjorn Rohde - Intentionally Gone [Self]
08. Billow Observatory - Calumet [Felte]
09. Hammock - Now And Not Yet [Hammock Music]
10. Heathered Pearls - Glass Routine [Self]
11. Donnacha Costello - This Way [Ursa/Self]
12. James Devane - Rhubarb (Acoustic) [na]
13. Aphex Twin - Rhubarb [Warp]
14. Marcus Fischer - Arctic 2 [Luxus-Arctica records International]
15. Helios - Halving The Compass [Type/Unseen]
16. Yeter - Dart 2 [A Strangely Isolated Place]
17. bvdub - 10 [Self]
18. Markus Guentner - Express Yourself [Kompakt]
19. Leyland Kirby - Polaroid [Ghostly]
20. Martin Glass - Welcome To The Four Seasons [Kit Records]
21. David Bowie & Brian Eno - Moss Garden [RCA]
22. Klimek - Sun Rise [Kompakt]
23. Mary Lattimore & Jefre Cantu Ledesma - Borrego Springs [Soap Library]
24. Brian Eno - Music For Airports 1/1 [Polydor]
25. Jonsi & Alex - Boy 1904 [XL/Parlophone]
26. Neozaïre - Blue Bell Treasure [Fauxpas]
27. Manual - Azure Vista [Darla]
28. Peter Broderick & Nils Frahm - Sketch 24 [Fugues]

If you enjoyed this, dive deeper into ambient music with our in-depth introduction 'Neither Scene Nor Heard: An Introduction to Ambient Music', or some of the other Portals series, below. 

 

ASIP - Journey Upwards

 

With our next release by Merrin Karras just weeks away, I've decided to celebrate the unique style of the album with a themed mix.

Merrin Karras' upcoming album, Apex combines Brendan's gilded production techniques with an armory of hardware (including the Moog Minitaur, Vermona Mono Lancet, Juno 106, Nord Rack 2, and the Korg Monotron) serving as both a modern ode to the synthesizer and a reverential nod to the early pioneers, a sound and style any ambient and electronic fan will appreciate. 

Along with influences that Brendan lists as having an impact on his upcoming album (Steve Moore, Oneohtrix Point Never, Abul Mogard) the mix features some of my favorite contemporary synthesizer pioneers such as Alessandro Cortini and Donnacha Costello. As the title may suggest, there's a subtle story at play here; beginning at ground-zero and ending in a galaxy far, far away.

This mix should give you a taster of what to expect when Merrin Karras' album, Apex, hits the shelves June 10th, featuring the title track, Apex along with a first listen of Isolation. Pre-order for vinyl and digital is now available.

Download.

Tracklist:
01. ASIP - Ground
02. Abul Mogard - Bound Universe (Circular Forms)
03. Steve Moore - Aldebran Exchange (Light Echoes)
04. Merrin Karras - Apex (Forthcoming on ASIP)
05. Alessandro Cortini - Retta (Forse 3)
06. Oneohtrix Point Never - Months (Rifts)
07. Donnacha Costello - Ten Ton (Love From Dust)
08. Merrin Karras - Isolation (Forthcoming on ASIP)
09. Majeure - Solar Maximum 2 (Solar Maximum)
10. Stellardrone - The Belt of Orion (Invent The Universe)
11. Steve Moore - Light Echoes II (Light Echoes)

 

ASIP - Reflection on 2015

This years' ASIP Reflections mix closes out the annual "Advent Calendar" for our friends over at Das Kraftfuttermischwerk

Featuring just a few of my favourite tracks from 2015 the mix process is always organic for me, so ultimately always misses out several styles. This one, has focused more on the ambient and techno side of things, and doesn't include some of the many electronica, IDM, shoegaze or softer ambient music we have featured this year.

As a special treat, I've finished the mix with the first listen of a remix coming out on ASIP in January, as part of ASIPV003R.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone who has been reading, listening and supporting ASIP in 2015. We couldn't have had such an amazing year without you.

Download over on Soundcloud.

 

Tracklist:
01. Hior Chronik - Nest Of Autumn Feat. Sophie Hutchings (Kitchen) READ
02. Offthesky & Pleq - Ashes Of America (Infraction) READ
03. Leandro Fresco - Los Pasos Vacilantes De Los Reyes (Kompakt) READ
04. Heathered Pearls - Cast In Lemon & Sand (Ghostly)
05. Halftribe - Shells (Dewtone)
06. Rafael Anton Irisarri - Persistence (Room40) READ
07. ASC - Deluge of Thought (Silent Season) 
08. Synkro - Your Heart (Apollo) READ
09. Refracted - The Jungle Is Thick (Silent Season)
10. Voices From The Lake - Orange Steps (Editions Mego) READ
11. Martin Nonstatic - Granite (Ultimae) READ
12. Nautil - Mue (Further)
13. Acronym - Letting Go Of It All (Northern Electronics) READ
14. Voices From The Lake - Max (Editions Mego) READ
15. Donnacha Costello - Farewell (Self released) READ
16. Alessandro Cortini - Rimasta (Important)
17. Arovane & Hior Chronik - Day After Tomorrow (AMX) (A Strangely Isolated Place)

Tracknotes

Hior Chronik - Nest Of Autumn Feat. Sophie Hutchings (Kitchen) READ
This album is being heralded as one of the best by many in the past few weeks. My full review summarizes this beautiful piece of work, but this track with Sophie Hutchings is pretty outstanding.

Offthesky & Pleq - Ashes Of America (Infraction) READ
Infraction are one of the most consistent underrated labels out there, and this colab proves it. I'm pretty sure plenty of people skipped this album, but it's one of the most special soundtrack moments of 2015 - a true grower with an emotional climax.

Leandro Fresco - Los Pasos Vacilantes De Los Reyes (Kompakt) READ
Leandro has had a spectacular year, with the release of his dedicated Pop Ambient album and this, a contribution to the annual Pop Ambient compilation. His sound never falters and this is one of his more finer, articulate moments, slightly different to his regular stuff.

Heathered Pearls - Cast In Lemon & Sand (Ghostly)
Jakub's album is another being heralded across the many best-of lists. Body Complex crossed into more of his 'club' sound, whilst keeping his warm textures and this track was the closest to his previous ambient sound we've covered here on ASIP many times.

Halftribe - Shells (Dewtone)
Despite a relatively quiet year for the label, Dewtonw had a few stunners including the Shells EP by Halftribe.

Rafael Anton Irisarri - Persistence (Room40) READ
A Fragile Geography will undoubtedly be known as one of Rafael's best. Power, emotion and delicacy such as this beautiful track, traverse the album to show RAI's ever-growing library of sound.

ASC - Deluge of Thought (Silent Season) 
ASC on Silent Season is a guaranteed combination. His past outputs have been some of the best music of the year and Fervent Dream is no exception. Deep, dark and mysterious, James Clements crafts the finest of details into vivid landscapes.

Synkro - Your Heart (Apollo) READ
I'm a big fan of Synkro, along with his other guises such as Kiyoko. Changes switches between epic synth-laden ambient music and more upbeat electronica, all in a unique new-beat Synkro style that straddles the likes of Burial, the Autonomic sound and Drum'n Bass.

Refracted - The Jungle Is Thick (Silent Season)
Silent Season went deeper than ever this year and Refracted dug deepest. Bubbling, daunting techno that encapsulates and transports.

Voices From The Lake - Orange Steps (Editions Mego) READ
VFTL didn't do anything particularly new this year, but their LIVE album was another reason to fall in love with the duo. Whilst this track wouldn't stand out in its own, it fitted well in the mix and my favorite from the album was actually the below 'Max'.

Martin Nonstatic - Granite (Ultimae) READ
The sounds in this track and across his album are addictive, like an industrial clang of warm dub-techno. Martin's praise for this album is illustrated in the review, so it was no surprise he would have a place in here.

Nautil - Mue (Further)
A relatively overlooked techno release that more-or-less defined a few of the styles I really got stuck into this year, alongside the Refracted track and the likes of wndfrm. Further also had an amazing year as a label and look unstoppable right now.

Acronym - Letting Go Of It All (Northern Electronics) READ
I could have included a host of Northern Electronics tracks in a year-end mix and it was hard enough narrowing it down to this one from Acronym. I've seen the album, June, pop up on a few lists and I'm glad Abdulla Rashim's ever growing techno label is getting some well-deserved attention. 

Voices From The Lake - Max (Editions Mego) READ
This track epitomizes VFTL's album productions and their stray into the ambient world. Melodic, warming and above-all, memorable.

Donnacha Costello - Farewell (Self released) READ
Donnacha's Love From Dust may be my favorite album of the year. An amazing return centered on his spectacular synth work. Donnacha went on to release another album, Stay Perfectly Still, which was just as good.

Alessandro Cortini - Rimasta (Important)
Alessandro continued his yearly Forse analog assault to great effect. Despite being one of the most 'famous' people on this list through his Nine Inch Nails involvement, he was surprisingly my biggest discovery of the year which led to me hunting down all of his previous synth work.

Arovane & Hior Chronik - Day After Tomorrow (AMX) (A Strangely Isolated Place)
A little taster of the next ASIP release - a remix EP of Arovane & Hior Chronik's In-between.

 

Donnacha Costello - Stay Perfectly Still

 
 

Any new instrument, software, toy, or newfound capability to be creative is going to inspire you to be more productive. Just this past July, Donnacha Costello gave us his latest creation from his synth-inspired world- Love From Dust, and he's already tweaking the style and approach on his beloved Buchla Music Easel to bring us a new album, titled, Stay Perfectly Still

Love From Dust varied in approaches (which was outstanding given the overall simplicity in end-sound), invoking a certain Japanese feel alongside moments of complete ethereal, sci-fi induced space music. Stay Perfectly Still sees Donnacha refine the sound even further, getting closer to his 2001 ambient core and drawing parallels with productions such as Dry Retch

Melodies develop slower, layers envelope with more patience, distortion creeps unknowingly, tones become softer, the blanket gets softer, and you nod-off to sleep quicker. 

This Way, is the albums quiet interlude, to a quieter, That Way. Enso is the albums yang to Love From Dust's, track Farewell.  It's easy to draw comparisons between them both but you'll notice a maturity in approach, a taming of the beast, a taming of the Buchla maybe. Such a machine boasts such potential, and it takes skill to refine a sound rather than push it any many different directions.

Available on Bandcamp in vinyl and digital formats. 

Read more on Donnacha here, where I dive into some of my favourite tracks from his esteemed Color Series.