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 – AKASpheruleus) 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.
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.
Berlin-Based imprint Lontano Series strengthens an already impressive discography with their first release of the new decade; ‘Worn’ by Robert Farrugia. The Maltese artist is probably best known for his three releases on Archives (the independent label run by Agustin Mena AKA Warmth), but marks his debut on LS with some of his finest work yet.
Recorded in the summer of 2019, ‘Worn’ is beautifully constructed and flows seamlessly from start to finish. The opener ‘Routing’ is deep and powerful and sets the tone of the release perfectly, with sweeping ethereal sounds taking centre stage. Subtle instrumental additions; warm kicks on ‘Cicada’ and gentle piano keys on ‘Wading’ sound even better against the sketches when played loud.
The considered composition of the mid section of ‘Puddles’ gives the feeling of watching rain lightly fall and disturb the stillness of a small pool of water, and the release reaches its climax with ‘Segments’, a slightly more sombre track that uses the last 90 seconds to slowly ease you back to reality. For almost 40 minutes, you are lost in Farrugia’s world, surrounded by nature and seeing the world turn slightly slower than usual.
On the release page, he adds these notes; ‘In many ways, this album has been turning in my head since 2015, when my studies took me to Finland. During this period, my roommate and I found this dead fox in the snow, taking this photograph. Since then I’ve found myself thinking about the grass and the fox, and the dead fox and the grass, and how beautiful their colours both were. Sometimes it seems to me that life’s a process of wearing and of being worn, and, just like the tape, in many ways my process began back then, with the fox and its colours.’