There are very few things I enjoy more than discovering an artist I love for the first time; a feeling that is undoubtedly heightened when said artist is also relatively unknown. It’s pretty much the entire reason for this blog: claiming a minute fragment of credit for highlighting incredible music that would otherwise remain unappreciated. Appreciate me, please! Sickening really, but I can’t help who I am. Anyway, If – like me – you hadn’t previously heard of Steve Fors, his new album it’s nothing, but still is some of the best, wistful ambient I’ve heard this year. And I’ve listened to a lot!
Oxford based experimental producer theboywhochosethesea drop the title track for their new album, released later this week on Bandcamp as a digital/cassette release on the Expert Sleepers record label. Pairing dusty, subdued piano lines against a backdrop of bristling synths that steadily rise and fall, its dissonant textures are expertly handled creating a piece that simultaneously pulls you towards both the light and the dark.
In 2017 Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer traveled together to the Åland Islands (an archipelago that is host to around 6,500 islands) in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland. The concept of recording music there came about as Honer & Chiu learned more and more about the islands and were taken by the serene and strange quality of the place. I’m much looking forward to Recordings from the Åland Islands (the album that came out of their time there) landing next month, as Stureby House Piano – the second single to the taken from the LP – is just lovely, and a perfect way to drift into the weekend.
There’s something uniquely joyful about hearing an artist’s work for the first time, loving it, and then discovering they have an extensive back catalogue in which you’re destined to completely lose yourself for some time to come. Before this morning I had never heard of Turkish musician Ekin Fil, and now I am completely obsessed. Variously described as “drone-folk” (amazing) and “Grouper-adjacent” (reductive, but fairly accurate), her latest album Feelings is absolutely stunning, and Being Held is just sublime, ominous throughout until the merest fragment of distant vocal lets you know that everything’s going to be ok.
I honestly struggle to write about drone tracks in any meaningful way other than variations of “this is overwhelmingly beautiful/dark/powerful”, and the same goes for this brilliant 8 minute piece from Swedish composer LEHNBERG, so just listen to it and let it completely take you away from whatever mundane task you’re likely caught up in.
A longtime member of alt-rock band Nine Inch Nails, as a solo artist Alessandro Cortini has released something like a dozen or so albums over the last decade; electronic-based experiments in ambient, noise and occasionally straying into something that vaguely resembles techno. His latest LP SCURO CHIARO landed last week, and even though CHIAROSCURO came out as a single a few months back, I missed it at the time and it’s such a clear standout that I couldn’t not feature it. Building slowly from a base of celestial bleeps and hums to a gloriously intense finale, it’s the perfect embodiment of electronic music at its most cinematic.
Writing about this kind of floating, glassy ambient, I sometimes feel like words aren’t really doing it justice, which is, admittedly, a bit of an issue if you’ve chosen to run a blog where your own grasp of language is at least reasonably important. even – the latest from Japanese artist Akiyoshi Yasuda – is the latest to stump me. Is it ‘gorgeous’? Yes. Is it ‘evocative’? Also yes. Does it ‘feel as insignificant as curling wisps of distant clouds, but also have the ability to make your head spin with the force of its own delicate beauty’? Sure does.
Imagining Machines is a twenty-minute digital-only work in three parts by Australian sound designer Daniel McCagh which, if you’re a fan of William Basinski, is probably going to be right up your street. Focussing on the slow decay and disintegration of its main, constantly shifting pads while a whirling bank of machines limber up in the background, I guess all the individuals elements are fairly morose and disquieting. Except when you put them all together, it’s beautiful. And not just, “oh, that’s pretty” beautiful, but a kind of aching, longing appreciation of something that you can’t quite comprehend existing.
Sometimes all your want to do is sit back in a comfy chair and be made to feel increasingly anxious for 12 or so minutes. And while, sure, you could just drink several strong coffees and watch the news, there are better ways of achieving this sometimes weirdly pleasurable state of disquiet, so here come Grøte – a drone collective based in Croatia – with Prognosis 1 – which slowly overwhelms you to the point that all you can think about is the vastness of everything and the futility of your own existence in comparison. But, you know, in quite an enjoyable way.
Pigeon Breeders and Ghost Cars two experimental groups from Edmonton, Canada, and this is the second part of a session recorded on a muggy night in the summer of 2020, with guitar, bass, percussion, and electronics played live and improvised in a single take. Over the course of 12 minutes or so it ebbs and flows, building and receding with heavily reverbed guitars and eerie atmospherics taking centre stage, and while it doesn’t end up with anywhere near the same level of demented ferocity as something like Swans, it’s definitely in the same ballpark.