‘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.

‘Currents’ – Luis Miehlich (Inner Space Travels)

Currents - Luis Miehlich Album Cover

Carefully crafted, peaceful percussion is the order of the day here as Berlin-based Inner Space Travels welcome rising producer Luis Miehlich for his label debut, ‘Currents’. Miehlich is continuing to garner fans rapidly and following releases on Whitelabrecs (Timecuts) and Archives (Silences), ‘Currents’ further cements his status as a ‘one-to-watch’ within the Ambient genre.

Across the seven track E.P. Miehlich shows composition knowledge beyond his years. Gentle guitar tones pepper the release throughout and glimpses of glockenspiel-esque synth add particular layers of interest (notably in ‘Klock’). In opener ‘Flows’ a soothing stream trickle (is there any greater sound?!) forms the foundation and exemplifies the producers clear talent in the use of field recordings. 

Slightly heavier, sombre tones are used in ‘1405’, the E.P.’s mid point, but by ‘Shizuka’ (track following), dreamy soundscapes return aplenty with Miehlich offering up abstract instrumental sections once more. The release finishes with the contemplative ‘Yukkuri’ and over thirty minutes of audible pleasure come to a close. A sublime addition to Miehlich’s discography and the IST catalogue.

With the help of designer Bettina Gackstatter (who oversees all artwork and design), label head Tiago de Almedia has delivered 8 releases on IST since 2018, each available digitally and on limited run cassette (the back catalogue is now available on made-to-order). The cassettes are beautifully produced, with the music, design and accompanying release notes consistently marrying in harmony to deliver Almeida’s clear vision for the imprint.

Available now via the Inner Space Travels Bandcamp page.

‘Seraphine Wings’ and ‘Emissary’ – Purl (Dewtone Recordings)

Swedish ambient producer Purl, releases two two-track E.P.s in conjunction with Dewtone recordings, a label he credits for being instrumental in both his development as an artist and for connecting him with other revered labels such as Silent Season and ASIP.

The atmospheric ‘Emissary’ transports you to a different land, one where nature reigns and the soft sound of a rustling breeze is heard above all, with subtle piano notes complementing the sweeping sounds perfectly. Equally uplifting ‘Seraphine Tears’ ushers in different elements. Padded kicks are introduced gradually and provide the perfect foundation for Purl to add layer upon layer of emotive sounds atop. By the mid point, the kicks form a steady 4×4 rhythm, providing notably more energy, which remains until near close, where the layers begin to shed and the track is distilled back to its minimalist beginnings. Nature’s influence is also evident on ‘Shards’, with echoing bird calls and trickling stream effects present from the get-go. 

It’s hard to determine where the release ‘begins’, and consequently ‘ends’, but for me, ‘Seraphine Wings’ rounds things off perfectly. Just shy of four minutes long, it’s the shortest track on the release, but is deeply contemplative and perfectly eases the listener back to reality. 

The swede is prolific in the studio, with solo and collaborative works released on a number of the genre’s leading labels over the last few years; ‘Stillpoint’ and ‘A State of Becoming’ on the aforementioned Silent Season and ASIP, plus in February of last year, a debut on ROHS Records (sister label to Lontano Series), with ‘Poems’.

Release notes included within ‘Emissary’ also confirms a full length LP is set to arrive later in the year, marking his return to Warmth’s label, Archives.

‘Sarbacane d’Antan’ – Amandra (Ahrpe Records)

Ahrpe Records see in the new decade with a five-track E.P. ‘Sarbacane d’Antan’, from label co-founder Amandra, marking the first release from the French label since June of last year.

Certain elements of the title track immediately remind me of minimal wizard Onur Özer’s Gizeh (which is only a good thing), as layers and layers of minimalist elements group together to create quite a complex yet refined sound, culminating in the space-like synths that pepper the track from the mid-point on, morphing into a tasty acidic wobble.

The gentle ‘Latraviata (Naïve)’ is more stripped back, which allows ‘Formosa’ to kick the release back up a notch, with Amandra turning to some solid ‘head-down’ dubby techno. The track chugs along nicely, with the robust kicks and synths complimented by the introduction of some of the more minimalist sounds the producer had used previously.

‘Chocolatine’ gives pride and place to dream-like elongated cosmic sounds and in the release round-off ‘Latraviata (Fable)’, Amandra presents over two and a half minutes of a near-perfect drum loop, peppered with sporadic feather like synths.

Available now, digitally and on 12″ vinyl, through the Ahrpe Records Bandcamp page.

‘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.

‘Luna de Sangre’ – Kyntral (Norite)

The progression of deep / hypnotic techno has mostly been attributed to DJs and producers across Europe; think Italy, for example, and Donato Dozzy and Dino Sabatini spring to mind, with more modern producers such as Luigi Tozzi, Claudio PRC and Ness continuing to fly the tri-colour. Look further north, to Sweden, home to two of the most influential labels in the scene (Northern Electronics and Hypnus) and you’ll find a constant stream of forward thinking techno being released.

As the interest in the genre continues to gain momentum however, pockets of DJs and producers have seen their local scenes rise to prominence on a global scale. The Buenos Aires based collective trio of Alderaan, Forest on Stasys and Kyntral, are such an example. Their Danza Nativa imprint, launched in 2019, has seen a release from each of the three, with a more recent offering from rising talent Vanoni, all of which provide a clear and consistent representation of the sound currently coming out of the Argentinian city.

Kyntral will soon release ‘Luna de Sangre’, his debut on the established Norite label. The four track E.P. opens with ‘Ceremonia’, a gentle combination of sounds (potentially field recordings – think rustling leaves) which progresses to a complex drone offering. The title track picks up the records’ pace with space-age tribal sounds underpinned by heavy syncopated kicks.

‘Sacrificio’ is the pick of the bunch for me, complete with warped synths, boomy kicks and haunting (choral) vocals. Staccato laced ‘Ciervo Sagrado’ rounds off the release nicely.

‘Il Labertino del Fauno’ – Doctrina Natura (Circular Limited)

Doctrina Natura (real name Alex Caballero) returns to Circular Limited little over a year after his debut, delivering ‘Il Labertino del Fauno’ a four track EP (incl remix from Unjin), which encapsulates the deep and hypnotic sound the Seville-based label has become renowned for.

Caballero has steadily been making a name for himself within deep techno circles and his maiden release of the new decade follows strong production output in 2019, including an E.P. on Ryogo Yamamori’s 951beat and ‘The Sacred Circle’, a six track offering released on Ghent based Aarden Records. This has been bolstered by contributions to some of the genres leading podcast series, including Sure Thing #79 (curated by Aaron J) and and Munitum #99. 

Presumably aided by their ‘Digital-only’ approach, Circular have a rigorous release schedule (17 in 2019). But whilst this frequency can often impact the quality of a label’s output, Circular have no such issue. Each release is beautifully curated, and their artist roster is bursting with production talent, ranging from more established names such as Svarog and Norbak, to emerging artists such as Vinz Exe and Citty.

Such is Circular’s contribution to the deep / hypnotic techno sub-genre, it would be effortless for them to expand into vinyl releases, a podcast series or even curated events / mini festivals. Their formula, however, is a winning one, and whilst there appears to be no immediate plans to deviate from their current output, they will continue to be one of the leading lights in contemporary techno music.

‘Sleeplaboratory2.0’ – Various (Whitelabrecs)

'Sleeplaboratory2.0' - Various (Whitelabelrecs)

Sleeplaboratory2.0, a 16-track ambient compilation, is the latest addition to the discography of Lincolnshire (UK) based label, Whitelabrecs (an experimental / acoustic / ambient offering helmed by Harry Towell – AKA Spheruleus) and follows the widely acclaimed Sleeplaboratory1.0 (released in 2019).

This release has a beautiful back story. Whilst he and his partner were awaiting the arrival of their new born daughter, Towell compiled 1.0, a series of tracks specifically curated to help soothe babies. After welcoming Isla to their family, the series developed and 2.0 was consequently born, focusing this time on ‘sleep, rest and personal reflection’. The result is over an hour of peaceful dreamscapes, wonderfully sculpted by some of the most interesting ambient artists currently active, including Warmth, Jens Pauly and øjeRum.

I’ve listened to the full release three times now, once through speakers and twice through headphones and each time, Towell’s vision for the release appears to have been realised. I rest, I self-reflect and whilst I’ve not fallen asleep mid-listen yet, it certainly sets me up for a decent slumber.

Whitelabrecs begin the decade in strong form and continue to be one of the leading lights in modern ambient music (especially labels coming out of the U.K). Notable releases in 2019 include two albums from the mysterious Glåsbird, a four track E.P. from Manchester based Ben Rath and a label debut for sound artist Jack Hyde. Feb 2018 also saw them release ‘Almost There’ a brilliant drone / piano 9-track full length from Robert Farrugia.

After surpassing 50 releases (all of exceptional quality) some time ago, it’s well worth booking out a cold Sunday, meandering through the WLR back catalogue and enjoying a full day of Ambient goodness. 

‘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