Leyland Kirby

ASIP - Reflection on 2017

 
Reflectionon2017_BW.png

2017 was undoubtedly a year for many of us turning to a softer, more comforting style of music to help heal and escape the real world. Many of you reading this probably use the type of music covered here on ASIP as a remedy and form of escapism, and some may just be getting acquainted. Now more than ever, I feel like people are connecting with ambient music, and I see it in the comments, feedback, support and thoughts that accompany each release, friends releases, mixes etc, and and in the growing popularity of the genre in the wider-music spectrum. 

We’ve managed to present three vinyl releases this year, and I'm extremely proud of each one. Starting with the organic calming of Lav & Purl'sA State Of Becoming; we then went denser and deeper with Leandro Fresco & Rafael Anton Irisarri'sLa Equidistancia. In August, Arovane & Hior Chronik returned for their second album, Into my own. And in the middle of all of this, we experienced the worst possible outcome with our vinyl production (as did many others), but that was put into balance with your amazing support and kind donations for La Espera; the companion EP by Leandro and Rafael, which helped raise funds and get us back on track to continue with a new press (more to come on that one soon, along with news on the vinyl for La Equidistancia).

We're already looking forward to 2018's releases, with the announcement of Christian Kleine's upcoming album in January. But before we get ahead of ourselves, it's time to look back at all the music that kept the inspiration high and the mind elsewhere over the last year...

Here's a breathless-quick rundown on what’s included...

~

Young composer, Sophia Jani opens up our mix; Kai Schumacher reimagines a Moderat favorite; and South Africa's Jason Van Wyk finds the magical atmospheric piano balance on his Home Normal release. Leandro Fresco pairs up with Kompakt companion Thore Pfeiffer (who also just dropped a new album with Max Wurden); whilst Warmth is back on the year-end list with another pure blanket of warm ambience. I watched Earthen Sea play live in a church this year, and his Silent Season anniversary release was one of the best of a brilliant bunch from the label. ASC strayed away from his Silent Season ambient home to put out a deep-cut on his own label Auxiliary. The powerful, heart-pulls of Black Swan, 36 and Secret Pyramid were some of my favorite tear-jerkers of the year, whilst Rafael Anton Irisarri's political masterpiece on Umor Rex took our emotions to the next level. Noveller moved to LA recently, which might've  inspired one of my favorites of hers in a long time. Ryuichi Sakamoto returned with a twisted and interesting set of compositions, whilst PAN released an intriguing dig through relatively new and unheard ambient artists on their highly regarded compilation, Mono No Aware. Field Records and Acronym are no strangers to us individually, but their combined output was undoubtedly one of this years best pieces of ambient music. The one sweeping piece of ambient from nthng’s original and innovative techno record makes the cut, triggering some deepness from Luigi Tozzi in a rare ambient remix- a break from his bubbling techno on the high-flying Hypnus label. Wanderwelle landed strong with one of the most innovative dub-techno records we've heard in a very long time, whilst my fandom for Alexsi Perälä went up a notch, via his relentless Colundi Sequence compositions. We get deeper with Primal Code (Hypnus with another great release) and then Artefakt pull out the swirling, progressive techno-stomp and another must-own album. Joachim Spieth finally unveils a full-length album spanning ambient and techno- one of the only people who could strike this balance so well. Loess is another big return for 2017 with their signature deep and unique glitches, and Purl continues his many guises with one of this years most original pieces under his Illuvia moniker. Speaking of originality, no-one comes close to the bvdub style, but again he manages to surprise and delight. Loscil pairs with Mark Bridges as High Plains in their brooding instrumental piece, which is followed by our very own modern-classical prodigy Hior Chronik and his debut album on 7K!. Ghostly's, Christoper Willits scores a film on The Art Of Listening with some beautiful textures and Leyland Kirby scored a lifetime of mental degradation this year with his Caretaker series, but chose to release some of his best stuff for free. Hammock and Billow Observatory were once again on point to soothe with their dreamy lulls and enchanting melodies. The Thesis Project continued to present unique collaborations with Anna Rose Carter and Dag Rosenqvist just one of the many standouts from the series. The Susumu Yokota stylings of Poppy Ackroyd, are followed by the now legendary sounds of Four Tet. And with one of my most anticipated returns in a while, The Gentleman Losers begin to end proceedings with their Air/Bibio/Quiet Village dreaminess. And finally, the curtain closer coming from the biggest return of the year, Slowdive.

~

Despite a hefty 36 tracks, and 2hr 42mins total,  I've still left-out a bunch of my favorite releases of the year from this mix. But, I let the flow of the mix dictate what is included whilst pulling from my whittled-down playlist from the past year. It's restrictive whilst also liberating doing it this way, as putting together lists is a near impossible task for me. This method forces my hand, whilst also presenting something a little different to the normal year-end lists. 

To all those artists I’ve missed out, keep doing what you’re doing, we’re still listening. If you need to see more of the music I've been enjoying, well, this blog is of course a good place to start, as well as everything I've purchased and supported on Bandcamp, shown in my Fan Collection (go Bandcamp!).

Thank you to all the artists and labels featured, and a big thank you to everyone for continuing to support ASIP this year, buy our records and listen to the music featured on the blog and the label.  Next year will be ten years since the very first ASIP blog post, so we’ll be celebrating with some very special projects.

Until then, enjoy a look back at 2017...

Download
Stream tracklist (Spotify/Apple Music). (Not all tracks included)

Tracklist [label & link to buy] (ASIP links) rough start time.

01. Sophia Jani - Those Who Stay [Unreleased / Soundcloud] 00.00>
02. Kai Schumacher - A New Error [Neue Meister] 04.04>
03. Jason Van Wyk - Clouds [Home Normal] (Review) 07.55>
04. Fresco & Pfeiffer - Splinter [Kompakt] (Review) 10.16>
05. Warmth - Isolation [Archives] (isolatedmix) 14.00>
06. Earthen Sea - The Time Past [Silent Season] 17.50>
07. ASC - Quaoar [Auxiliary] (ASC isolatedmix) (Review) 22.22>
08. Black Swan - The Escapist [Self] 27.06>
09. Secret Pyramid - Two Shadows [Ba Da Bing!] (isolatedmix) 30.48>
10. 36 - Black Soma [Self] (artist page) (isolatedmix) 34.30>
11. Rafael Anton Irisarri - RH Negative [Umor Rex] (artist page) 39.34>
12. Noveller - The Unveiling [Fire Records] 43.40>
13. Ryuichi Sakamoto - honj [Milan Records] 46.30>
14. Malibu - Held [PAN] 48.30>
15. Acronym - The Final Decision [Field Records] (Review) 49.32>
16. nthng - Touches [Lobster Theremin] 55.34>
17. Luigi Tozzi - Yavin (Ambient remix) [Hypnus] 60.42>
18. Wanderwelle - The Starry Night [Silent Season] (isolatedmix) 63.28>
19. Aleksi Perälä - NLL561606935 [Clone Basement Series] 68.36>
20. Primal Code - Junkan [Hypnus] 71.47>
21. Artefakt - Entering The City [Delsin] 77.58>
22. Joachim Spieth - Radiance [Affin] (isolatedmix) 88.17>
23. Loess - Wrikken [n5MD] (Review) (isolatedmix) 94.02>
24. Illuvia - Illuvia (Exaltation) [Eternell] (Review) 99.00>
25. bvdub - Limitless [n5MD] (interview) (isolatedmix) 108.18>
26. High Plains - Ten Sleep [Kranky] (isolatedmix) 113.42>
27. Hior Chronik - That Mistery Again [7K!] (artist page) (isolatedmix) 116.30>
28. Christopher Willits - Beginning [Ghostly] 118.52>
29. Leyland Kirby - Dig Deep March On [History Always Favours The Winners] 122.12>
30. Hammock - Dust Swirling Into Your Shape [Hammock music] 127.04>
31. Billow Observatory - Montclair [Azure Vista] (Review) (isolatedmix) 130.00>
32. Anna Rose Carter & Dag Rosenqvist - Nothing Ever [Thesis] (Feature) 133.26>
33. Poppy Ackroyd - The Calm Before [One Little Indian] 137.50>
34. Four Tet - You Are Loved [Text Records] 143.38>
35. The Gentleman Losers - Holding Back The Night [Grainy Records] 149.30>
36. Slowdive - Falling Ashes [Dead Oceans] 154.24>

 

Portals: Music For Mindfulness

 
Mindfulness3.png

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.