‘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. 

‘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.

‘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.

‘Tyyni’ – Cucina Povera (Night School)

Artwork for 'Tyyni' - the latest release from Finnish sound artist Cucina Povera.

Slightly late to the party on this one (released March 27th) but stumbling across Finnish born sound artist Cucina Povera (aka Maria Rossi) and her latest album Tyyni was one of my favourite discoveries to date. Following previous releases; Zoom in 2019 and Hilja in 2018, Tyyni pushes Rossi to a more studio-based experimental sound.

The record begins with ‘Salvia Salvatrix’, where Rossi’s voice sets an almost sacred tone. Powerful, warped synths lay place as a somewhat distorted backdrop – the chaos ensuing whilst spoken word remains calm and unnerved. In ‘Anarkian kuvajainen’, Rossi’s vocals begin as an instrument, complementing a droning synth and glitchy mobile phone transmissions. As the track progresses, a dream like verse is introduced, which allows the listener to slowly drift to an almost meditative state..

‘Teerenpeli’ is possibly the most ‘modern’ sounding track – a minimalist-style tribal drum loop is present throughout and sampled recordings (simulating trickling water, crickets, thunder claps and echoing bird calls) glue the composition together with a naturistic undertone. Side A finishes with ‘Varjokuvatanssi’ – all instruments are stripped away and a haunting monologue is partnered only by quiet spoken-word background murmurs.

‘Polyton Nurkka’s’ distorted synth and heavy kick juxtapose gentle keys and Rossi’s melodic vocals, and in ‘Haaksirikkoutunut’, the record shifts again to a more abstract place, where structure makes way for sporadic drum pads, peppered with a manner of different samples and recordings. 

‘Saniaiset’ allows Rossi’s voice to be pushed to the foreground once more, with half-spoken and half-sung lyrics intertwined to the backdrop of a church bell-esque ringing synth, to stunning effect. Rounding things off with ‘Jolkottelureitti’, scaled synths sweep throughout the 8-minute track, whilst Rossi grants the listener one last show of her beautiful vocal range.

Not normally one for picking a favourite track, but the opener ‘Salvia Salvatrix’ really stood out for me. It’s where Rossi’s stunning vocal range is possibly most highlighted.  

Further reading (and discography) can be found here, whilst a mix recorded by Rossi for alternative music store Bleep, is also well worth a listen.


‘Resonance’ – Yumiko Morioka (Métron Records)

'Resonance' - Yumiko Morioka (Métron Records)

Métron Records is the creative project of visual designer Jack Hardwicke, originally from the UK, but now based in Berlin. Since 2015, Métron has been providing ambient fans with mixtapes and podcasts and in 2018, they began releasing records. Their latest offering comes in the form of a re-issue – the 1987 solo album ‘Resonance’ from Yumiko Morioka, originally released on Akira Ito’s ‘Green + Water’ imprint. 

Hardwicke finally tracked down Morioka mid-way through 2017, months after listening to ‘Resonance’ for the first time. Unfortunately, contact was made at a difficult time for the pianist, as she had recently lost her house (along with all of her possessions) in the California wildfires. Hearing the album had generated a wave of new followers through blog posts and YouTube was apparently met with some surprise, as the original release had mostly been used across different Japanese medical centres and commercials, before fading into relative obscurity.

The tracks themselves are beautifully delicate, with Morioka’s solo piano compositions taking centre stage, sometimes complemented with other orchestral instruments (the sweeping strings, joyful percussion and choral esque vocals on ‘Round and Round (I believe) are a personal favourite).

Re-issues tend to divide opinion (not necessarily equally). Some ultra-diggers see a negative side to picking out a relatively obscure EP / LP from history, and marketing it to a wider, modern audience. I have respect for said diggers, who spend hours and hours in dusty rooms unearthing forgotten gems. However, more credit, in my opinion, should be given to the music fan who invests not only his time in finding these pieces, but also energy, money and everything in between to ensure that this music can be shared with as many people as possible. 

This story is particularly warming, in light of the events that Morioka had experienced – contacted by a stranger, thousands of miles away, informing her that people were itching for this album to be re-released – amazing. 

Available via the Métron Records bandcamp page both digitally and on re-mastered 12” (be quick – there was only 72 out of 500 remaining when I placed my order)!

‘A Blue Wing’ – Canadian Rifles (Eastern Nurseries)

The latest addition to the impressive discography of ambient / experimental Porto-based tape label, Eastern Nurseries, comes in the form of ‘A Blue Wing’, an emotive three tracker from Canadian Rifles (the solo moniker of label head Rui Andrade). 

The label first came to my attention in July last year, when Andrade released the second EP from the then fledgling label – ‘Of course I still love you / Geranium’ a limited run two track tape, whose interior was sprayed with the 2003 fragrance ‘Hugo Boss Baldessarini’ (the scent of a long lost lover perhaps?). 

Since then, EN has operated at the indie-like efficiency I love and admire, releasing seven E.P and L.Ps in as many months. Initially, Andrade predominantly issued his own works under the Candian Wings moniker, but recent outputs by Nonchalant (‘I wish I could be somewhere with you’) and Lift Aym (‘Rare Earth Exposure’) have hinted at a slight change in direction.

In ‘A Blue Wing’, Andrade uses layer upon layer of powerful drone soundscapes. Opener ‘Two Women’ begins almost contemplative and somewhat ethereal, in contrast to the powerful, atmospheric title track which follows. To round things off ‘She proceeded to blindly tell fragrances apart at the airport duty free’ to me evokes a certain sadness, perhaps distraction, from an upcoming journey away from a loved one. 

Perhaps just my viewpoint, but I seem to pick out several references to love, and more so, loss in a number of the releases that make up EN’s discography. Some subtle, in the instance of ‘Old and New Bridges’ by HRNS and some much more upfront; ‘I saw his plane taking off to the clouds’ by Tbilisi based FH HF.

As highlighted with other independent tape labels, the whole package is brought together beautifully. Releases are complemented with artwork in different mediums (photography / collage / graphic design). For ‘A Blue Wing’, Andrade uses a beautiful piece by designer Laura Costas (unfortunately I couldn’t find any further information – will continue the search).

‘A Blue Wing’ is available digitally via the Eastern Nurseries Bandcamp Page. We eagerly await their next release and wish Rui and all affiliated to the label a safe passage through these difficult and uncertain times.

‘Can you ear me?’ – Antibodies (Steep Gloss)

Can you ear me? release by Antibodies

Release number seven on Wigan (UK) based experimental tape output Steep Gloss, comes in the form of ‘Can you ear me?’, a boundary-pushing seven track collaboration between interdisciplinary artist and musician Brandstifter and word-and-sound artist (Dirk) Huelstrunk, collectively known as Antibodies.

All seven tracks see Huelstrunk’s skittish poetry given centre stage, with Brandstifter creating a complementary soundscape each time, with the use of unusual instruments, erratic noises and rhythms. All culminating in what sounds like the inner ramblings of a psychotic state.

‘Send Receiver’ is a short intro track – a taste of what’s to come if you like. A strained spoken word beginning sweeps along with an under current of near acid like synth. A minute in, the words make way for the awakening of a sketchy orchestra, a variety of noises providing almost sensory overload. Title track ‘can you ear me?’ does an amazing job of building tension right from the off. A quiet, tribal-esque drum rhythm is solitary for around a minute, until Brandstifter again begins to introduce an array of conflicting noises with Huelstrunks input coming in the form of elongated oral drones. The ‘buzzing fly’ also adds another layer of unease. 

‘Mic robes’ begins with an almost distressed sounding monologue, which progresses into manic laughter, with the accompanying soundtrack stripped back to an almost medical metronome. Calm before the storm perhaps?

Indeed. If the previous three tracks were good at building tension, then ‘dis cushion’ is all about uncomfortable apprehension. The ‘mad man’ has become angry and the solemn, somewhat contemplative monologues make way for screams, shouts and everything in between. Again the music is abstract and minimalist – doing an amazing job in providing a jittery backdrop to the intermittent ramblings.

‘Yesnow’ is slightly ‘calmer’, with Huelstrunk’s voice twisted and manipulated to create an array of noises and rhythms. ‘Flamengo’ rounds things off on a reflective, but sinister note. I love releases like this – where I find myself creating my own story in which the release soundtracks. ‘Can you ear me?’ allowed me to create my most vivid yet.

Steep Gloss is definitely a label to follow. Although only launching in December of last year, their output so far has consisted of some of the most weird and wonderful experimental music coming out of the UK at the moment. A perfect musical accompaniment to seemingly endless isolation!