This short lot brings about some of the most current nuances in contemporary electronic music, on the ambient side of things. It’s sometimes hard to distinguish what stands out from a crowd these days, sometimes sounds are so amorphous that they get lost in space and time. Sometimes that’s a good thing, other times it questions the balance between sound-making and background noise. Here I explore four current works that attempt to break through. Take a deep breath inward and let’s go
Forest Management | Passageways (Whited Sepulchre Records)
The record warms up really slowly, bass humming drone caressing the ground, coating it in a thin semi-permeable synthetic layer memorizing and mimicking the granulated rough terrain below. Forest Management (John Daniel) delivers a contemplative work that scopes its territory before venturing forward. The piece is something of an ode to growing up as a child living in an apartment building (managed by his parents) in Cleveland. The drone fades in and out like a storm (or a stillness broken), of disrupted memories, like opening a dusty box of decades-old Polaroid snapshots. Drenched in a sense of desolation, there is a pit in its core that is now ajar just as the frayed ends sway gently in the brisk balance of obfuscation and daydreaming. These five elongated pieces offer an immense scape that is as transcendental as it is introverted.
Deaf Center | Low Distance (Sonic Pieces)
Hard to imagine this is only the third album from Deaf Center and the first since 2011. Though Erik K Skodvin & Otto A Totland have made any anticipation that much easier by delivering a work of boundless opulence. Low Distance is a resounding ode to the most delicate ambience, drifting with restrained harmony and interrupted by threadbare abstract detachment. The quietest moments ooze into the near hallucinatory effects of the luxuriant keyboard and ghostly accents floated between. The record explores highs and lows, darkness and light all within a sense of moderation in moodiness. The reverb of bass, the twinkling synths, all adapt themselves in and around a poignant atmosphere, distilled by passing recollections. It’s a tranquil space that the duo concocts here, and though it seems private to some extent, all are welcome to bask in their lucid, and somewhat heavy frame of mind.
Evelyn Glennie & Roly Porter | One Day Band (Trestle Records)
An evocative new EP from a duo co-opting themselves as a One Day Band seems like a terrific premise for any improvisation, but better yet – it’s an entire series from Trestle that is quite ingenious actually. The flare between ambient and sonic explosion/reduction and recycle thereof in such a short form is quite refreshing on this somewhat iconoclastic instrumental take on industrialism. The minimal manipulations between drone and circumstance are inventive in terms of compositional styles, but the setting they develop is like a scramble of childhood memories and adult compensation thereof all in one.
Evelyn Glennie & Roly Porter have made a dreamy and spirited recording that should be streamed from a mountaintop. The echo is delightful, reminiscent of a snowy day here, and a walk through the forest elsewhere. It’s all about atmosphere, especially as delivered on the incredible restraint of its conclusion.
Li Yilei | 0:00 (Ferric:Flux)
Another interesting EP on the sublabel of Focused Silence is the time stamped work of Londoner Li Yilei. Her tape may only run for less than twenty minutes but was so provocative that I felt compelled to share my thoughts. From the very second it opens it just bellows with an exquisite bounce of distorted rhythm. Yilei’s live performance somehow incorporates “found planetary sounds” which adds to its peculiar depth that only re-emphasizes the meandering reverb. This fits in an awkward space between mise en scène and a bit of ye olde reconnaissance. I’m reminded of the delicate handling of effects and objects by an artist like Dan Burke, or even Seth Nehil, but her 0:00 is much more elusive as it looks to the outer edge of our skies for answers. The sense of ‘infinite’ is stylish and not overly stamped by tropes or tradition – instead the artist is at work, churning away at a personal vision of gravity’s long reach. Repeat, repeat.