’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. 

‘Antemortem’ – Volunteer Coroner (Adversary)

'Antemortem' - Volunteer Coroner (Adversary)

Kaninhal (Kaninhål) translates into ‘rabbit hole’ and this name was chosen for the blog due to the nature in which I enjoy finding new music the most. Whether it be online, in stores, or discussing music with friends, I’ve made some of my most notable discoveries by following my nose and ‘venturing down the rabbit hole’.  I stumbled across a great find yesterday – Adversary Electronics, an experimental tape label based out of Georgia (USA), who have put together a fine discography over the last five years. 

Over the last few years, the label has predominantly been an outlet for two artists; Grant Evans and Motion Sickness of Time Travel, but have confirmed that 2020 will see the label will open up for releases from friends and like-minded artists. 

The start of February saw the label push out three new releases; ‘Antemortem’ by Volunteer Coroner, ‘Fake Spells’ by Sparkling Wide Pressure and ‘The Pessimist’ by Grant Evans. Volunteer Coroner AKA Preston Weippart has been releasing experimental / drone on a handful of labels over the past 18 months and four-track ‘Antemortem’ marks his first appearance on Adversary. It’s a really well balanced release, with Weippaert blending an interesting mix of field recordings atop of noisey droney soundscapes. Favourite track goes to ‘Carved Into Wood, a Test of Time’ – nicely composed and slightly less industrial than the other three tracks. 

I find myself being drawn more and more to cassette labels (particularly those with a more DIY feel). Keeping physical editions limited (and number quite low) and having full autonomy over artist collaboration, design and production is ensuring that these imprints are doing a great job in carving out niches within the Ambient / Experimental genre. I’m really looking forward to seeing what 2020 has in store for Adversary.

‘Become Nothing’ – Slow Clinic (Self-Released)

Slow Clinic, AKA James Armstrong, cites his latest work ‘Become Nothing’ as “an uncomfortable listening experience”. Track titles such as ‘My god, these vivid nightmares!’ and ‘Relapse’ do nothing to quell the feeling that his opinion may be a tad extreme. However, a few full listens of this six track album and a read of Armstrong’s beautifully honest accompanying release notes, confirms that this is a true piece of artist self-reflection, complete with a strong message regarding an important social issue.

Work on ‘Become Nothing’ began in early 2018, in response to the multiple side effects Armstrong was experiencing during changes in antidepressant prescriptions, including; vivid nightmares, auditory hallucinations and withdrawal. The album actually opens with ‘Possible side effects include’, a four minute spoken word offering which lists out all known side effects to Mirtazapine, a common antidepressant used widely by the NHS.

The result is powerful, with almost sixty minutes of music offering a stark representation of the impact of depression, with effects pedals and field recordings saying more than any spoken word could. The album was shelved in 2019 after what Armstrong describes as an ‘unforgiving relapse’, but has fortunately made it to release in the form of limited edition cassette and CD, available via the Slow Clinic Bandcamp page.

Armstrongs’ output through his Slow Clinic moniker is a journey of compelling experimentation and consistently strong productions. ‘Salt’ for example, is an improvised long form track, the result of a morning of experimenting with adding small amounts of Himalayn rock salt to his guitar strings. ‘Fără o Frelungire a Sunetului – Without the prolongation of sound’ is the result of him producing without the assistance of reverb, an effect he had confessed to have become reliant on.

Amstrong understands sound, and he understands the feeling(s) it can evoke – an evening scrolling through his varied discography was an evening well spent.

‘Kulturtemplet’ by Trio Ramberget (Self-Released)

Free Improvisation three-piece Trio Ramberget have self-released a (very limited) two track eerie wonder, entitled ‘Kulturtemplet’. In a slight shift away from their past two releases (full length studio albums,available on CD) the Gothenburg-based outfit deliver a steely 20-run cassette, complete with handmade cover. 

‘November’ is a beautiful piece of music, which almost seems to be preparing the listener for the winter solstice, but offers hope in the way of ‘spring-like’ trombone. Side ‘B’ sees ‘Muller’ offer almost 14 minutes of powerful drones, punctuated with sharp (almost scary) brass notes, which wouldn’t feel out of place if sound tracking a contemporary horror. Note to self – listen at home next time – a couple of minutes into my Monday morning commute saw me eyeing fellow passengers suspiciously, as if I was the only sane one. Powerful stuff!

This was my first encounter with Trio Ramberget and the two tracks only encouraged me to wile away a blissful few hours listening to their past three releases;

To begin with, a self-titled four track EP (released Sept 2016) saw probably their most stripped back work to date. Each instrument stood out, but the more complex drone-like textures seen in their latest releases aren’t very prominent – still extremely interesting and really shows off their instrumental skills.

Slattermyren’ (released May 2018) – 8 tracks that still feel lighter (again, when compared to later releases), as if the three piece are only beginning to find their noir groove. The accompanying image with the release (complete with blue skies and sunshine) also appears to set the tone.

Musik att somna till’ (released Jan 2019) – a 10-track LP that sees me be drawn to the clarinet in the first half of the release, which subsides to see the trombone become more prominent in the second half. This appears to be a much bolder release, complete with a much more textural sound and sets the scene nicely for their most recent two tracker.

Trombone -Gustav Davisson

Double Bass – Johanna Ekholm

Bass Clarinet – Pelle Westlin