‘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. 

‘Solitary Hymns’ – Various Artists (VAAGNER)

'Solitary Hymns' - Various Artists (VAAGNER)

Berlin-based ambient / drone label VAAGNER releases ‘Solitary Hymns’, a nine-track digital compilation. Nine different countries are represented and whilst VAAGNER highlight that some of the pieces were made very recently, some of the tracks were unreleased material ‘that take on an entirely different context in the current, unprecedented situation we all see ourselves in’.

There are some familiar faces; øjeRum’s ‘Your Chest, your hands, your mouth’ offers up beautiful melancholic tape loops, whilst Anthene’s ‘Light Years’ is peaceful, yet hopeful, providing light at the end of a long tunnel. 

However, there are also some new (to me at least), which piqued my interest. Japanese ambient artist Hakobune provides the seventh track ‘March 28th’, and takes the release in a somewhat doom-filled direction. Vast soundscapes provoke a feeling of emptiness – really powerful and interesting composition. Following this is ‘(Windowpane) Nowhere Nearer’, a reflective, peaceful piece by Zen Zsigo – whom, until further research, I was unaware is an alias of UK producer Cremation Lily (his release ‘In England now, underwater’ was one of my stand out releases of 2018’). 

The compilation offers up a journey of emotions, with each artist seeming to encapsulate what these times mean to them. We are all in this together, but all of us have our own journey, and our own story to tell.

Available digitally via the VAAGNER bandcamp page.

‘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.