Celer - Xièxie

 
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Celer’s latest album, Xièxie, is a daunting undertaking at first glance. Not only does it read like a travel diary, but in-between the ten-plus minute tracks are interludes, sound recordings that narrate the beautiful textures that bookend each glimpse into Will Long’s trip to China.

It’s a tale of juxtaposing sounds that come together as a sublime narrative of travel. Field recordings form intros - instead of becoming part of the main tracks (as you’d likely expect from an album like this) - but thats the point. Upon each moment of significance, Will takes you elsewhere, painting a glimpse of voyeurism and scattered, slow motion activity. Drawn-out loops of dreams from a window turn into water paintings and a pensive, dystopian backdrop.

Everything moves faster than we can control. Days are just flashes, moments are mixed up but burned on film, and all of the places and times are out of order.

Simple and refined, this will become my perfect recommendation for anyone looking for the sharp point of emotive ambient music - it’s all here: narrative, escapism, texture, story and reflection. One to get lost in.

Available on Bandcamp in digital and vinyl editions.

 

Isorinne - Stumhetens Toner

 
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Just when everyone has their end of year lists wrapped up, Isorinne drops what he considers a tape full of tracks that are “pretty frail and unrefined"… Now, I don’t think that’s lost in translation and is actually mean’t to say, ‘a delicate collection of stripped-down ambient tracks’, but that’s exactly what we have on our hands with his latest on Northern Electronics.

Isorinne has been presenting us with these melodic, nostalgic, emotional pieces over his last few albums on Northern Electronics - namely ‘Views from a Balcony’ on Echoic Memoir, and his outing on Field Records in 2016. Stumhetens Toner, is no different in its design or output, despite Michel’s modest introduction. These are romantic vignettes for a voiceless film. The storied strings of Medan världen passerar förbi or the slow-burning-dystopian-style-synthesizers of Efterbild and Upphängningspunkten. The undertow of the guilty and foreboding Evighetsarp - almost ‘Twin Peaks’ theme in its subtle backing-synth. These are moments for future worlds and unwritten love stories.

Available on Bandcamp.

Isorinne also recently put together this beautiful mix (and interview) for Monument which echoes the style describe above in his latest album and also includes a few unreleased tracks, namely a collab with Wanderwelle under his Bandhagens Musikförening duo.

 

Jan Wagner - Nummern

 
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The album notes describe the atmosphere at play perfectly - a room set-up, mics, windows flung open. What starts as a simple cymbal, or an undercurrent of synthesizers, soon transforms this dusty space into a world of flowing colors, rushing through the air.

Delicacies of modern classical music combine with the subtle elements of jazz, and synthesizer in Jan Wagner’s new album ‘Nummern’, one of my favorite releases this year.

It’s a release that’s varied in elements, but comes together as a perfect whole, in a way that Nils Frahm’s Spaces in 2017 did - combining a beautiful juxtaposition of traditional elements, field recordings and dusty electronics.

Jan can be delicate in Nummer A, dramatic in Nummer I, channel Jon Hopkin’s-esque energy in Nummer G, or deep and engrossing in album closer Nummer N. The consistency is found in his ability to do so much with so little. Each track features only one or two main elements, but his strength in melody and progression, creates worlds akin to a dramatic movie score, or, like the album notes began to describe, a simple cozy studio in Berlin, with an instrumental alchemist at the ready…

Picture a cozy atelier / studio where all the windows are flung open, a pair of mics set to high gain hang in front of a piano, and the door to the space is locked. The thing is, if he’s going to play, the door has to be locked. A click track pops away relentlessly in the headphones, measuring off time. A seemingly insurmountable feeling rattles the bones, and with every chord which fills the room and spills out into the courtyard it’s slowly taking on tangible shape. It’s being released and translated, completely impromptu. The room tone, the kids playing in the backyard causing a raucous, the cat perched on the window sill about to jump off (making a thud), the creaking chair, the sound of the mallets and all the percussive, mechanical guts of the piano – everything that the mics pick up becomes part and parcel of the composition, and will eventually be woven into the very fabric of the finished full length.

Available on Bandcamp.

 

Losing Today - in memory of Brian Young

 
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One of the best things about ambient music is the community it creates. Probably because no-one truly involved, is in it for the money, fame or glory, as none of that really exists in this genre. The majority of people you meet are genuinely passionate, welcoming, supportive and in many instances talented.

I only met Brian twice in person, both at shows I was playing in Portland. He was all of the above.

We talked in the digital realm, mostly, and he took photos of ASIP records (out of passion may I add). He took photos at the shows I played at too; edited; and sent them over after the show, without me even asking. I followed his brilliant photography religiously. In fact, I regret not getting around to asking him to feature his photography on an ASIP record. I always mean’t to ask him.


“This album is dedicated to Brian Young, known to many of us as Losing Today, who died earlier this year. Brian was a brilliant photographer whose work was used for many album covers. He was a real fan who supported our music, a friend to many in the scene and a lovely guy. He is already missed.

All proceeds from this album will go directly to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline”

The album is available on Bandcamp, courtesy of the brilliant Dronarivm label. The compilation features many artists I know personally, digitally, or simply through their music as a close part of ASIP and this corner of the internet; making it a beautiful coming-together of our close community in memory of a very talented and appreciated person.

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Photos by Brian Young

Photos by Brian Young

 

Mount Shrine - Winter Restlessness

 
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This one stood out for me given its similar sound to the recent ASIP releases from Leandro Fresco & Rafael Anton Irisarri. It’s not often you stumble across this type of deeply immersive, textured and granular ambient music that immediately grabs your attention. When you do, it often veers into more abstract, darker drone, or it begins to encompass elements or instruments such as a a brooding cello, signifying an evolution in the story. Not that any of that is bad - take Markus Guentner’s latest album and Julia Kent’s addition - it just makes it a completely different listening experience. But sometimes, you just want to be wrapped amongst a new world of warm textures and it can often come at the expense of being boring.

With Mount Shrine’s ‘Winter Restlessness’, it lies within itself; absorbing the dust, whispers, crackles and soft tones it created seconds earlier, only to rumble on and eat itself again. Movement is minimal on the surface level, but interesting, warm and storied deep down.

Available on Bandcamp through the dark ambient label, Cryo Chamber.