‘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!

’13 Monotonousness’ – Yosuke Tokunaga (AVA – Audio Visual Atmosphere)

'13 Monotonousness' - Yosuke Tokunaga (AVA - Audio Avisual Atmosphere)

Experimental musician Yosuke Tokunaga’s latest output comes in the form of ‘13 Monotonousness’, a 13 track limited edition cassette run on Antwerp-based label AVA (Audio Visual Atmosphere). In the release notes, Tokunaga states that close attention to the ‘sounds, clear isms and perspectives that AVA has presented to date’, resulting in my opinion, as one of the most interesting experimental albums that have come out in 2020.

The album drifts through different moods, with some presenting a somewhat harsh, industrial listening experience (e.g track 6 – Monoto nousness’) and some offering up gentler ambient soundscapes (e.g. track 13 – Monotonousnes s’). 

Tokunaga’s back catalogue is full to the brim of all round creative cohesion. More often than not, the music pushes the boundaries of electronic experimentalism and the media format (CD or cassette) is presented in a hand made package, with some nod to the title of the album (for example, 11 buttons contains a small bag of buttons affixed to the outside of the DIY sleeve). Small runs, little details and amazing tangible representations of an artists dedication (and love) of their art. Well worth exploring.

‘Fairchild OST + Borderland EP’ – Jordan Reyes (Whited Sepulchre Records)

'Fairchild OST + Borderland EP' - Jordan Reyes (Whited Sepulchre Records)

Nine tracks of modular synth exploration come together to create ‘Fairchild + Borderland EP’, the latest release from Jordan Reyes on Whited Sepulchre Records. To begin with, the album was conceived as two separate projects (hence the name), but as the production developed, Reyes states that ‘it was clear that they were cut from the same spiritual cloth), resulting in a beautifully considered piece of work. 

‘Spacelessness’ is what Reyes cites as the main influence in Border Land (three of the nine tracks within the LP), a feeling that regularly greeted him whilst on the road touring alone. Motel rooms and cities blend into each other and the idea behind ‘temporary existence’ is really quite something. An artist spends their life devoted to their craft, and some (especially musicians) work towards sharing their art in tangible form or live in front of a room full of people. Achieving this, whilst also having days interspersed with hours of drifting really is an interesting perspective.

‘Border Land’ is a short film recently created by close friend Kali Khan, and the accompanying six tracks make up Reyes’ first soundtrack output. As Border Land focuses very much on solitary thoughts and processes, the soundtrack moves in an opposite direction, in collaboration. I always find such a body of work extremely interesting – two (or more) artists with a very distinct vision of what emotions they want to portray across sight and sound and ultimately, how they both come together successfully. Note to self – must watch film.

The album itself is really well composed, with Reyes clearly able to manipulate / control a modular synth impressively. It drifts from an often optimistic, cosmic feel (Touching Down), to somewhat melancholic (notably the final two tracks – ‘Broken Crown’ and ‘All Things End’). Perhaps equally as impressive however, is the story behind the two bodies of work and how they come together to complement each other as one.

‘FORGETTING’ – Vierzig Skizzen (Self-Released)

'Forgetting' - Vierzig Skizzen (Self-Released)

Vierzig Skizzen, AKA Daniel Stuhr, self releases ‘Forgetting’, a seven track album available for digital download or on limited run (20) cassette. Recorded between December 2017 and October 2019, ‘Forgetting’ is Stuhr’s first release since August of last year, when ‘II’ dropped.

The album begins with ‘fall song (quiet)’, a peaceful acoustic affair, where gentle guitar plucks are underpinned by a low recording hiss. ‘from windows’ presents itself with long, powerful drone soundscapes, which are complemented by muffled spoken word recordings.

‘In erwartung’ pushes the album in a slightly more abstract direction, with guitar based loops, sporadically interspersed with distorted mechanical notes. The album’s mid point ‘snow at the bottom of the well’ actually evokes a feeling of cold as Stuhr plays with more grainy and industrial sound layers. A soft 4×4 kick is warmly welcomed in the title track ‘Forgetting’, arguably the most ‘pop’ sounding track on the release, as dreamy, effect-laden guitars return as the most prominent element.

Ending on a much darker tone, ‘Gate Opens’ and ‘(security)’ round things off with twenty minutes of harsh sound experimentation. The former literally sounds like the gates of hell are opening, and all manner of nightmares are spilling out (I’d love to know where the quiet spoken word recording / effect is sampled from / produced). After five and a half minutes of blistering noise, it’s almost as if the gates shut, peace returns and a contemplative ambience ensues. The latter again uses quiet guitar strums to contrast against heavy distortion.

Another great find and some really interesting work coming out on tape from Stuhr.