‘Freedom Is Its Own Kind Of Salary’ – Valance Drakes (Laaps)

Freedom Is Its Own Kind Of Salary - Valance Drakes

The six installment from french experimental label Laaps comes in the form of ‘Freedom Is Its Own Kind Of Salary’, an eight track album from London based artist Valance Drakes, whose prolificness in the studio over the last ten years has seen him release on a multitude of notable labels including; Detroit Underground, Cut N Paste Records and Kaer’Uiks.

Drake’s production style seems to effortlessly skirt a multitude of genres, with ‘FIIOKOS’ offering sections of experimental, ambient, breakbeat, and IDM. Playing with an array of different textures and soundscapes, ‘FIIOKOS’ succeeds in exemplifying Drakes’ craft as an experimental artist. It sounds considered and mature; the work of an artist who has really found their groove and can call upon years of technical expertise when putting production pen to paper. I could listen to this album all day.

Laaps is certainly a label to keep an eye on, with half a dozen top quality physical releases in their catalogue, despite having only been conceived in January of this year – each output is fronted by a 200 limited edition vinyl run, with a CD-R run of the same number (some going considering the obstacles 2020 has presented them!). All extremely strong concepts and well worth a couple of hours of your time, with the recent ‘Literature’ by Tomotsugu Nakamura being one of the highlights for me. 

The same team behind Laaps are also behind the project Ikki Books; a fine art concept which brings together visual and aural artists to produce a published book and accompanying soundtrack. Wonderfully creative and again, well worth checking out.

‘Between’ – Tatsuro Murakami (La Petite Chambre Records)

Between - Tatsuro Murakami - La Petite Chambre Records

Having recently completed twelve volumes of their ‘Songs for Solitude’ series, Brazil based La Chambre Records turn to Japanese (Sao Paulo based) ambient artist Tatsuro Murakami for their latest release, scheduled to drop in digital and physical form (more on this later) on the 9th September.

‘Between’ is a seven-track ambient offering, highlighting Murakami’s craft as sound artist and guitarist. The work of local multi-disciplinary artist Anais-karenin is cited as the main influence behind the first four tracks, with Murakami seemingly caressing the listeners ears with gentle soundscapes and soothing field recordings. Soft guitar plucks punctuate layered drones, with sporadic introductions of synths adding further interest.

As we reach track five, Murakami looks inward for the next three tracks and uses the pieces to offer an introspective view. ‘Reflection’, ‘My Favourite Hideout’ and ‘Inevitable Silence’ create a somewhat solemn crescendo – a notable contrast to the first half of the record which felt lighter. Nevertheless, ‘Between’ ends strongly, the closing trio of productions providing a beautiful finish.

The physical side of the release comes in a special edition of 50; a handmade package contains a risograph printed poster and a postcard with download code, accompanying the CD release.

Available for pre-order via the La Petite Chambre Bandcamp page.

A Recent Round Up – May

'Mist Coming Down' - Rime Trails (Self-Released)
‘Mist Coming Down’ – Rime Trails

As May draws to a close it’s time to reflect on a busy month of new releases. Global lockdown, for the most part, continues to be upheld. Here’s a short edit of some of the best music released in May (disclaimer – there could have been another ten posts!)

‘Mist Coming Down’ – Rime Trails (Self-Released)

Little can be found online about Rime Trails, an elusive ambient producer from Denmark. Over the past few years, a handful of releases across Shimmering Mood Records and Afterlife Ltd (plus some self-released works) have led to clusters of fans across the globe. ‘Mist Coming Down’ is Rime Trail’s latest offering – a delicate and considered 5-track ambient E.P. which traverses through sections of blissful piano tones and powerful, atmospheric synthscapes.

‘Of memories and hopes’ – Fallen (Lontano Series)

'of memories and hopes' - Fallen (Lontano Series)

A Lontano Series release was the first ever feature on Kaninhal and as label head Andrea Procu continues to deliver treats for the ears, a recent offering from Fallen (AKA Lorenzo Bracaloni) once again stands out. ‘Of memories of hopes’ is an eight track album, soundtracking the story of a man who sets about attempting to understand his life and confirm whether the life he has fought for is really what he wants. He decides to take an eight day break, to reconnect with himself and what makes him human. Powerful stuff, especially when considering current circumstances and a story i’m sure many of us can draw parallels with. 

Bracaloni impresses with his ability to convey emotions throughout each of the compositions. For example, ‘The Man I Am’ projects feelings of melancholy and reflection, whereas ‘Room with a View’ feels hopeful and uplifting. A real class act of a release.

‘Abstraction’ – Ralph Kinsella (Self-Released)

'Abstraction' - Ralph Kinsella (Self-Released)

Debut release from Scotland based Ralph Kinsella displays a production maturity of an artist with years of experience under their belt and long discography to boot. Currently living in a remote location, Kinsella cites detachment as the thread linking the ‘Abstraction’ together. For me , the release is tactile and soothing – feather-like guitar chords are the highlight throughout, contrasted against a backdrop of manipulated (somewhat industrial) synths and otherworldly sounds. Available as a free download and one to watch for sure.

‘Rituals’ – Arnaud Le Texier (Affin)

'Rituals' - Arnaud Le Texier (Affin)

I first saw Le Texier play in Newcastle, a little over ten years ago. It’s fair to say he leaned towards a slightly lighter sound back then, but over the years he has developed into one of the most prolific producers in the modern techno circuit. His three-track E.P. ‘Rituals’ marks a return to Joachim Spieth’s Affin imprint, responsible for releasing some of the best techno of recent years (stand out releases from Ukranian Svarog are jewels in my vinyl collection). In ‘Rituals’, non-compromising peak time techno is the order of the day – the tracks almost growl. Punchy, hard, fast. Brilliant.

Le Texier co-runs the Children of Tomorrow label, which seems to mirror the artists impressive production rate. Their podcast series is now over 50 editions old and the perfect opportunity to hear Le Texier at full throttle. I also often revisit his set recorded for the Erratic podcast in 2016, which you can find here.

‘The Abuse of Hypnosis in Dance Environments’ – Notzing (Edit Select)

‘The Abuse of Hypnosis in Dance Environments’ - Notzing (Edit Select)

Another label synonymous with shaping the contemporary techno sound is Edit Select, a project founded in 2007 by electronic artist Tony Scott, who also djs and produces under the same moniker. Fast approaching 100 releases, the ES discography presents itself as a lip-smacking smorgasbord of contemporary techno, featuring industry figureheads (including Mike Parker, Mark Broom and Antonio Ruscito) plus pushing the earlier careers of some of today’s most prominent DJs and producers (SNTS and Alfredo Mazzili for example).

Notzing is a sound artist from Madrid and returns to the label for his second release in quick succession. ‘The Abuse of Hypnosis in Dance Environments’ is a hard-hitting dance-floor-ready five tracker, with remixes / interpretations from Mod21 and the inimitable Oscar Mulero.

‘Black Plastic’ – Volunteer Coroner (Self-Released)

‘Black Plastic’ - Volunteer Coroner (Self-Released)

Volunteer Coroner (aka Preston Weippart) continues his search for the strange with his latest release ‘Black Plastic’, a four track E.P. featuring a collection of boundary pushing noises and spoken word. Something of a master in creating music that sets the listener on edge, this is sound experimentation at its finest.

‘tʌntrə VII’ – Various Artists (Neotantra)

'tʌntrə VII' - Various Artists (Neotantra) - album art

A plethora of good music has been released in May and the majority of which will be covered in a full newsletter, landing this weekend. The last few weeks have been an extremely busy time personally, which means I haven’t had as much time as I usually would have to dedicate to listening and writing. That being said, i’ve managed to catch up on a lot over the past few days and the long list of albums, artists and labels I have earmarked for the inaugural newsletter should make up for it.

Today I’ve listened to some interesting curations coming from UK based ambient label Neotantra. ‘tʌntrə VII’, is, as the name suggests, the seventh in the ‘tantra’ series, with each release offering up a smorgasbord of experimental sounds from some established and rising ambient producers.

Pick of the bunch from the label’s latest compilation comes in the form of ‘April 10th’ – a near nine minute sketch-based composition from Venetian artist ‘Focus on the breath’. I would offer further information on the artist and any past releases, but can’t seem to find any – a mightily impressive debut if so.

Prior to beginning the ‘tantra’ series, the label had a string of well received releases from solo artists, with personal highlights being ‘Pleochroism’ – a long form synth-bliss ambient four tracker from Juta Takahashi, as well as ‘Cosmonaut’ by ikjoyce, an album which dips a toe into the world of warpy electronica.

‘tʌntrə VII’ is available digitally via the Neotantra Bandcamp page as a free / pwyl download. 

‘The West Country’ – The Inventors of Aircraft (Self-Released)

'The West Country' - The Inventors of Aircraft (Self-Released)

Last month also saw an E.P. release from Phil Tomsett (aka The Inventors of Aircraft). ‘The West Country’ consists of four powerful ambient tracks.

The release begins with ‘Calling out my Goodnights’, where sombre synths take centre stage, amid crackles of samples / field recordings. Similar reaching synths are heard within ‘Flatland and Wires’, where Tomsett intersperses more abstract samples and the composition feels more reflective. ‘Matter and Vacuum’ is beautiful – almost evoking the feeling of quiet calm, as if a heavy rainstorm has just finished, and the clear sky is slowly emerging. Finishing the release with ‘Black Mountain Choir’, Tomsett takes it up an atmospheric notch, with layer upon layer of robust synth bliss, leaving the listener in a weightless, almost zen like state.

Tomsett recently announced a full length album is soon to drop on Wist Rec (an experimental label run by an Irish-based Canadian and a German-based Lichtenstinian) and also promises more music throughout the year. His discography is a stream of consistent quality, with a notable collaboration with Ian Hawgood (a culmination of sharing noisy synth patterns for over six years) really standing out – track ‘Haven Returns’ is superb.

Another jewel in the Northern England ambient / experimental crown – more information on Tomsett and his moniker The Inventors of Aircraft can be found here.

‘slowdance,lowtide’ – Hirotaka Shirotsubaki (Self-Released)

'slowdance,lowtide' - Hirotaka Shirotsubaki

Six tracks of serene ambient bliss arrived mid last month, in the form of ‘slowdance,lowtide’, an album from Japanese artist Hirotaka Shirotsubaki (due to heightened activity around Bandcamp releases, I’m trying in vain to catch up on the plethora of good music that has been released recently).

Personally, I’ve always felt Shirotsubaki’s sound lends itself more to a day of soft rainfall, where the streets are quiet and the air is damp. However, in recent times, he has often soundtracked my mornings; a post-walk coffee at the crack of dawn, streets still quiet, but the air warmed by the optimism of late Spring. 

‘slowdance,lowtide’ features some really beautiful tracks – all seemingly lulling the listener into a state of calm. Enveloping drones drift endlessly, peppered by the familiar tones of synths and piano keys. A fine addition to Shirotsubakis already outstanding discography.

Available via Bandcamp – also worth mentioning that Shirotsubaki donates a large chunk of his production income, to support local projects in need.  

‘Where to begin’ – Kate Carr (Flaming Pines)

'Where to begin' - Kate Carr (Flaming Pines)

Welcome to the sounds of Kate Carr. The Australian-born, London-based experimental artist who uses field recordings, sonic mappings et al, to explore the relationship between the natural and man-made worlds we find ourselves inextricably linked with.

Over the last ten years, Carr has quietly forged a career as an artist and curator, presenting her sound in the form of live performances, commissions and installations whilst also passing her knowledge on through lectures and workshops.

I first came across Carr in 2016, when she released ‘It was a time of laboured metaphors’ on boundary pushing US tape label ‘Helen Scarsdale Agency’. A return to the imprint occurred fifteen months later with ‘The Story Surrounds Us’ (I didn’t get a lot of sleep in Mexico is particularly beautiful) which in turn sparked a further personal interest in Carr’s sound.

Her latest release comes in the form of long form ‘Where to begin’, which began life as a shorter piece commissioned by the BBC. Released on Carr’s own imprint ‘Flaming Pines’, accompanying release notes can be found below.

‘This work was originally a shorter piece commissioned for the BBC show The Verb. I was asked to make a piece about loneliness, and I made a work which focused on the act of writing a love letter, as an activity we do alone in an attempt to connect with someone else. I have reworked this into a longer piece over the past few months, and because it seems to resonate somewhat aptly in this moment, I decided to put it out now. It is made from fragments of read love letters, sent to me by a wide range of people, and in several languages. Musically all sounds are created from recordings of falling glass beads hitting various surfaces, and instruments, in addition to close up recordings of the friction of pen on paper, and the textures of paper’.

Available on CD and digitally through Carr’s Bandcamp page. Further reading / listening can be found here.

Reflections From The Infinite’ – bryson (The Gods Planet)

Reflections from the Infinite - bryson (The God's Planet)

Italian techno label The Gods Planet is a collaborative project between arguably two of the leading lights in contemporary techno; Claudio PRC and Ness. TGP represents the pair’s joint venture across production and DJing, as well as an output for releasing music and over the last ten years, has released offerings from some of the most notable names in the contemporary techno scene (Reggy van Oers, Blazej Malinowski and Dorian Gray – to name but a few).

New to the fold is bryson, releasing his first album – a masterclass in minimalist, dubby sounds. ‘Reflections from the Infinite’ chugs along with all of the tribal infused hypnotic techno that the label is synonymous with.

‘Worlds Apart’ kicks off the release with the pitter patter of trance-inducing loops, padded kicks and toms and warpy synths. ‘Shadow Self’ sounds almost as if it was created under water – warm percussive elements are interwoven throughout and again, hypnotising drums take centre stage.

The release shifts in sound slightly with ‘White Magic Woman’; the tempo drops down, toms and kicks seem to emit a dawn like glow, perfectly complemented by acid-laced synths – a perfect 6am track. ‘Tribalism’ keeps the tempo low and stays true to its name – the loops are addictive, seemingly casting a groove inducing spell over the listener.

Bryson finishes the release with two peak-time infused tracks. ‘Serpent’ slaps along with dub-laden drums and toms and the textural ‘Age of Acquarius’ almost growls with gritty kicks and rumbling drones. 

Although new to releasing his material, bryson shows extensive production skills and a strong understanding of the modern techno sound. Coupled with a final spray of mastering magic from label head Ness and the release has become a perfect addition to the TGP discography.

Available digitally through The God’s Planet Bandcamp page.

‘We were never here’ – epic45 (Wayside & Woodland Recordings)

We were never here - epic 45 (Wayside & Woodland Recordings)

Ambient Duo epic45 return to Wayside & Woodland Recordings with ‘We were never here’, a 14-track LP complete with an accompanying 48 page photo book, with all original photography. Set for release in two days time, the album is available on pre-order digitally or physically in the form of CD.

Three teaser tracks are currently available for listening; the opener ‘Moss Laden’ is a gentle beginning, which sees hazy guitars gently caressed by fleeting synths. ‘Old Light’ sees meditative piano keys introduced, layered upon gritty (almost ‘crunchy’) percussive exploration, with the track culminating with atmospheric synthscapes. Penultimate track ‘Your life is a faded spire’ feels slightly more erratic, with samples and noises being intermittently introduced throughout. Again, the synths are the stars, and the track finishes with the listener enveloped in an almost dreamlike state.

The accompanying photo book documents ‘nowhere places’ – the dystopian patches of suburbia between rural areas and conurbations, seemingly springing up overnight – a familiar site for a lot of people from the U.K. 

Interesting release and looking forward to the full album.

‘Be Well’ – Ben Rath (Unknown Tone Records)

'Be Well' - Ben Rath (Unknown Tone Record)

Manchester based ambient artist Ben Rath releases ‘Be Well’ on Unknown Tone Records, an eight-track digital LP which will be the last musical output from Rath for ‘the foreseeable future’.

This gives the feeling of being a very personal release for Rath. Not much detail is given on his decision to stop making music, but track titles such as ‘Please don’t be afraid’ and ‘A safer place’ underpin the sentiment of a farewell. The former is the opening track, and ‘Be well’ begins with robust ambient soundscapes. Light-as-a-feather synths float effortlessly, interspersed with introspective samples. ‘Dear Enemies and Friends’ sets a slightly more sombre tone, as Rath continues experimenting with field recordings and samples. 

Gentle acoustic guitar is introduced in the third track, ‘I Never Recovered’, set against a backdrop of earthy field recordings. Emotive and reflective, it is here that the listener is reminded of Rath’s abundant skill with more traditional instruments. Guitar makes way for piano in ‘Sympathetic Joy’ as beefy, arpeggio-esque compositions ring out, almost akin to church bells. ‘Deliverance’ is more conceptual, with more abstract / experimental sounds explored and ‘Chimes’ offers a musical entremet, with soft bells the only sound for over a minute.

These bells continue briefly within the first section of ‘A Safer Place’, before atmospheric drone is ushered in – elongated synths create a dream-like state. Rath saves his longest piece for the finale; ‘Holy Mother Drone’ is a ten minute ode to textured ethereal ambient.

A truly beautiful album, showcasing Rath’s clear talent as a multidisciplinary musician and a shame that this appears to be his last work for the short-mid term future. Available digitally via the Unknown Tone Records Bandcamp page.