Drowse & Amulets | Split | Whited Sepulchre Records (CS/DL)
These two Portland artists share more than just a city they live in. Randall Taylor, probably better known as AMULETS has already been featured on these pages with his quite exquisite sonic excursions of tape loops and ambient guitar. Nothing much changes in that respect on his side of the coin or cassette tape as it were. The thing that does change is it seems that Taylor is getting better by each release he makes. All four AMULETS tracks are a joy to listen to.
Kyle Bates’ and his drowse project are obviously kindred ambient souls, but they do add a bit of a shoegaze guitar sound to what they are attempting. And while the subject matter of their songs might be on a heavy side, covering things like mental health and personal loss, their music here is still on the more gentle side of the spectrum and deserves full attention. Bates and co. are able to keep the balance between ambient and shoegaze elements in check, without sounding forced or contrived at any point.
Kirk Barley | Landscapes | 33-33.co (LP/DL)
Yorkshire composer Kirk Barley and his latest Landscapes are definitely on the more experimental side of ambient and that might be the reason why it is on the exemplary side of things.
Barley obviously possesses an extensive knowledge of world music forms, particularly gamelan, exotica and other forms. He combines regular instruments, field recordings and electronics with such an ease that it oozes with understanding and knowledge of all the forms he is formulating. Obviously inspired by the likes of Eno or trumpeter Jon Hassell, that in lesser hands would sound like a mishmash of incongruous sounds. Barley makes everything work with ease, particularly since he condenses his music in short song forms that never exceed four minutes. The artist obviously has a great feel for all the elements he is combining. on Landscapes. File and listen along with the recent Andrew Pekler album Songs From Phantom Islands.
Stephen Vitiello/Molly Berg
I Drew A Fish Hook, And It Turned Into A Flower | IKKI (LP/BK)
Actually, this is a three-way collaboration between composer and instrumentalist Stephen Vitiello, musician/vocalist Molly Berg and photographer Jake Michaels, who is responsible for the visuals, the book aspect of the project.
As far as the music part which fell into the hands of Vitiello and Berg it can fall into a one word description – gorgeous. Using elements of classical and jazz music, the duo have a true knack for creating expansive soundscapes where the space between the notes and sounds plays as much importance as the sounds and notes themselves. While not being able to see the book, you can certainly imagine how Vitiello and Berg have actually re-interpreted the city space and turned it on its head and into something much more ethereal. The music is all in shades of different colors, with the extremes, although present, seemingly cancelling themeselves out.
Benoit Pioulard | Sylva | Morr Music (LP/CD/DL)
Seattle’s Benoit Pioulard (aka Tomas Meluch) releases tend to alternate between pure ambient electronics and folk-oriented vocal albums. The only thing they had in common was the high quality of Pioulard’s music.
On Sylva, his latest release, Pioulard brings these two strands of his musical experience together in perfect harmony. Combining elements of staple Kranky bands like Stars of The Lid or Labradford with vocal elements that range from Joni Mitchell’s early folk stylings to Juliana Barwick. He divides the music on the album into four movements, and the actual movement is slow, fuzzy and never less than intriguing.
Pioulard was always an artist that was able to both combine the extremes that seemingly sound ‘standard’ and turn them into something that actually blurs the boundaries between genres. He is able to do that on Sylva too.
Trikorder23 | Much Time No Horse | Cosmic Winentou (LP/DL)
Judging by Much Time No Horse, an album by Trikorder23, aka Niko Lazarakopoulos, Gunther Schlienz and his Cosmic Winnetou label can’t miss. With Trikorder23, the devil’s in the details. Instead of going into expansive, wide musical strokes, like the horse on the cover constructed out of little bits and pieces so is the music, even though track like son, live in Rio last over 11 minutes.
In his visions, Lazarakopoulos is joined by a heavy group of Stuttgart musical experimentalists, which jointly are able to recall the heyday of Krautrock lead at the time by Can, Faust and Amon Duul II, but as seen through the eyes of psychedelic revivalists like Olivia Tremor Control.
What Lazarakopoulos and his collective are able to do here is pick up ‘conventional’ instruments like acoustic guitar, play them, splice the results up and turn them into a Faust-style collages that simply work. An excellent surprise.