New Ambient

amb

  • An On Bast | Nothing Shapes Everything

  • Marcus Fischer + Burke Jam | Vanitas

  • øjeRum | on the swollen lips of the horizon

  • Sonmi451 | Nachtmuziek

  • Sven Laux + Daniela Orvin | The Writings

Ambient is nothing new and its true roots are likely a bit of a mystery, cast in the shadows between a fusion that takes into account classical and electronic music, sometimes with the semblance of the type of incidental sounds that come from cinema. Of course none of this is scripted and/or concrete, even if the term may have been coined and has foundations in and around the advent of Brian Eno’s works in the 70’s. People tiptoe around labeling music by genre, fearing to pigeonhole the essence of any given recording, but I would argue that ambient is likely one of those tags that both has street cred and a fleeting essence. Quiet sounds based on timbre, natural soundscapes, meditative/sleep resonances, drone, whitenoise, and layered atmospheres. The genre (and its many splintered subsets) have had several waves in each and every decade since, with some significant surges in the late 90’s and again over this past decade or so. Here are some of the latest recommended international offerings that may just bring you to the point of chill.


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An On Bast | Nothing Shapes Everything
Shimmering Moods Records (CD/DL)

Polish sound artist Anna Suda is An On Bast and though she’s been diligently making soothing, evocative sounds for a dozen years or so, I admit, this is my intro to her catalogue (I have some serious catching up to do). And I have to say this may be the first time I’ve ever really “heard” a content cat (Pusia) integrated into a record of such depth, purring its way into a complex and fragile mix.  The title track is so intensely isolationist I was rendered to its icy control. Suda uses a very fine balance of drone, microsound and wave control to synthesize layers that wrap ’round your ears and then your mind like a flower at night, its petals folding away until sunrise. This is a stylish collection of eleven tracks, each and every one walking the fine line between the membrane of unconsciousness and cosmic reconnaissance. The hyper amplification of tiny objects rolling and dropping, paired with the residual static and wavy backdrop make this an essential title for any assemblage of atmospheric music on this (or any) planet.


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Marcus Fischer + Burke Jam | Vanitas
Dragon’s Eye Recordings (DL)

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This is first pairing of Portland-based sound artists Marcus Fischer + Burke Jam. Its varying shades of distilled light is haunting right from the top of their Cold Open. For some reason, maybe its the regional reference, this offers a glimpse towards the outermost Pacific Northwest, the brisk and open, yet rugged coastline. They have concocted a watery grey scape filled with small tears in the surface, offering something of quiet power and haunting fragility. There’s a wide expanse of breadth on the title track, as well as an undercarriage of fuzzy reverb, this all amidst what sounds like a field expedition. As small branches crack and mysterious chirps enter as do tiny tones like elusive dots just beginning to form and speckle the air. As one drops deeper into these resonances it sounds like they are using gongs/metal bowls to make these glassy, dreamy harmonies. On the final piece, Detritus, they incorporate a set of subliminal waves, both real and synthetic, that evaporate like deteriorated loops.


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øjeRum | on the swollen lips of the horizon
Line (DL)

Copenhagen-based collage/sound artist Paw Grabowski known for his work as øjeRum has just released this new two-part live improvisation, on the swollen lips of the horizon. At first its quite soft-spoken, like his other work, here utilizing a Lyra 8 and other effects with a gentle synthetic flair. He counters the bellowing bottom end with sustained melodic movements not unlike taking and expelling breath. For all the repeating patterns throughout on the swollen lips… once he moves into…of the horizon the atmosphere shifts to even softer modulations with distinctly frizzy punctuation. Grabowski’s sound, for all its dreaminess always has something pert built-in that keeps you from completely drifting into the ether of your psyche. These sonic undertones help to define the embedded white noise and other velutinous, moving shapes.


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Sonmi451 | Nachtmuziek
Astral Industries (LP/DL)

Belgian artist Bernard Zwijzen is Sonmi451. His sound incorporates drifting synths, faded percussion and the occasional broken vocal treatment harkening to some of the classic releases on the short-lived and now long defunct Instinct Ambient imprint. Unlike the sounds of yore, Zwijzen manages to break into shorter passages, and assimilates fleeting transmissions infused into a stimulating low-key somnolent format. The layers of rolling chords and surface hiss is consummately blended into an otherwise subliminal production. Outer Shell, with its fine textural elements, really comes off as advertised, as if something is animating from its container. This is an atypical ambient release as it has marginal highs/lows that drift from the average aloof nature of classic, edgelessness – tilting to the brighter side of the genre with a lil’ extra. At times toylike, at others there are vague glimmers of lounge music, and elsewhere Eastern themes. In all, this is a comprehensive acoustic trip into the subconscious.


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Sven Laux + Daniela Orvin | The Writings
Dronarivm (CD/DL)

A pairing of two Berlin-based artists, Sven Laux + Daniela Orvin, that blends solo pieces as well as shared works, nine tracks in all. Opening with Laux’s simmering and opaque Being Too Optimistic fueled by quietude and static, and ending with Orvin’s Sudden Farewell, short but sweet, oscillating in low glowing tonal layers – this is a dulcet, melodic take on ambient. There is a lot of sonic distilling here, wallowing chords that vaporize in seconds, gaseous exhalation, and plenty of hushed, coarse-grain fallout. Friends is a sublime, drifting piece that wanders into empyrean territories. The expert balance between the piano keys and the electronic/programming doesn’t get much more elevated than this. When the two artists come together on articulate pieces like Same Situation, Different Perspectives (Part 1) and the consonant A Moment Of Silence there’s a rhythmic familiarity, it’s as if these two have been working together for decades, but this is there first collaboration, and hopefully not their last.


 

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