Sound Bytes : Air Texture Volume II, SEQUENCE4, Loud Listening and Thank You

Air Texture Volume II
Air Texture
Following in the footsteps of the Pop Ambient (Kompakt) and Excursions in Ambiance (Astalwerks) legacy, the Air Texture series is back with a second volume promoting the sound of ambient, minimal and modern classical genres. The 2xCD installment presents two prominent artists with an opportunity to curate each disk. On the very first volume we were honored with selections by bvdub (Brock van Wey) and Andrew Thomas. For this second chapter, we are graced with twenty-two more tracks as picked by my all time favorite artists: Loscil and Rafael Anton Irisarri. Both of these musicians have appeared numerous times on these pages, and it is a pleasure to finally check out their personal choices for this wonderful project. Scott Morgan kicks off the compilation with Brian McBride and Marcus Fischer, appearing with his own work at track number three. The volume continues with pieces by Chris Herbert, Pan American, Strategy and Solo Andata, reminiscent of loscil’s deep atmospheric sound. Morgan’s fantastic selection ends with tracks by P Jørgensen, Rob Bridgett and Mitchel Akiyama – the last two names being new to my collection, introducing me to their unique sound, like every compilation is intended to do. For the second disc, Rafael Anton Irisarri doesn’t hold back his appreciation of quality recordings and unleashes a superstar roster showcasing the cream of the crop in modern talent. Among these (and a track by Irisarri himself) we find his contemporaries and all dear friends: Marcus Fjellström, Sawako, Simon Scott, Library Tapes, Lissom, Mokira, Benoît Pioulard, Eluvium, Kyle Bobby Dunn, bvdub and Lawrence English. Speaking of which, Irisarri is curating the second installment in the Seattle-based Substrata Festival this August 3-5th, which will feature performances by Scanner, Daniel Menche, Pan American, Tim Hecker, Widesky and the already mentioned Loscil and Lawrence English! Air Texture continues to be at the top of the game, archiving some of today’s key figures in ambient sound!

When I first came upon the debut compilation from Futuresequence, I was introduced to many previously unknown to me artists. A few tracks really stood out, and later proved worthy of my further exploration. For example, names like Anenon, Sun Hammer, Radere, Zvuku, and Widesky are all part of my collection now, thanks to the hard work of this independent magazine, which switched its focus to become an independent label as of 2012. For the fourth FREE installment, appropriately titled Sequence4, the series doesn’t show any signs of slowing down and churns out an incredible collection of 42 tracks. Here, once again, are pieces by some of my already favorite artists, such as Bengalfuel, Wil Bolton, Loscil, A-Sun Amissa and Pleq, with over 30 additional names that I haven’t heard of before! The tone is set by a gentle gray drone from Bengalfuel and moves into an organic textured journey through blissful airy pieces by Black Elk, Wolf Maps, Michael Oldham and Nobuto Suda. As the music evolves I forget that I’m actually listening to a collection of tracks from various artists – a testament to a fine selection by Futuresequence that represent a particular aesthetic it tries to express. The minimal ambiance among the pieces is achieved with a strum of guitars, single key piano notes, aching string bows, and a crackle of vinyl. This meditative narrative continues throughout the release, introducing my ears to the sound of Hills and Valley, Johnny_Ripper, Porya Hatami and Anna Rose Carter. By the time I get to collaboration between Pleq and Philippe Lamy, my mind is totally subdued, where it rests in a hammock of sub-bass frequencies of “White Hole” for a bit over nine minutes, and I realize that even though I’ve been listening to Sequence4 for over an hour and fifteen minutes, I’m only a third through the whole compilation! That’s right, this absolutely FREE release is over four hours (and twenty minutes) long! A perfect companion for your headphone commute – or better yet, a continental flight!

Loud Listening
A lot of ambient-electronic pieces have a distinct industrial feel: the hum of giant machines and installations, soothing at some times, ominous – or even threatening – at other. Quiet and reassuring when distant, but loud and aggressive when close. Though this may not be exactly what you expect of “ambient music”, it’s definitely a part of the sounds of our surroundings. Until the crisis may stop them, at least. Loud Listening is a FREE(!) compilation from the Crónica label, based on the environmental recording of four Italian soundscape artists: Allesio Ballerini, Enrico Coniglio, Giuseppe Cordaro and Attilio Novellino. They recorded the sound of four different Italian industrial sites, aiming “to capture the strength of industrial noises, providing a ‘loud experience’ of mechanical hums, natural drones, metal squeaks, waves of steam and the sounds of raw materials, simultaneously proposing to reflect over the meaning and the high social value of industries and workers in a country where they are often overlooked”. These recordings, presented as the four opening tracks on this album, were then handed to soundscape artists (all living outside of Italy), who then “reinterpreted” the recordings “looking from afar to Italian industry, but perhaps feeling much of the effects of the crisis that is affecting it”. Among these translations we find some (more or less) familiar names like Gintas K, @C, Lawrence English, Simon Whetham and Tu’M. The basic recordings are beautiful in themselves, presenting soundscapes from a boatyard, a wheat plant, a 70-ton furnace and a cement, lime and calcium carbonate factory. In the second half of this album, these sounds are altered into a somewhat otherworldy experience. It may come as some surprise that this album is far less loud than the title suggests – although this conclusion may depend on what sound levels you’re used to. Be sure to also check out another compilation from Crónica, titled Crossovers, archiving first time performances by artists that had not met or collaborated before.

Thank You
We love the thought that so many of our favorite artists have giving hearts. Thank You is a charity compilation from the recently-launched Vintermusik label, and all of the proceeds will benefit Världens Barn (Children of the World). The compilation is a beautiful mix of selections heard and unheard, offering new intrigues even to those already familiar with the artists. Many of these pieces shine even brighter when removed from their moorings. Sometimes a cello or piano piece can get lost in a forest of other cello or piano pieces, but Julia Kent’s “Last day in July” and Rachel Grimes“Every Morning” are enhanced by their proximity. Other contributions in the vein of modern composition include Sylvain Chauveau’s sublime “Des plumes dans la tête”, the title track of a 2009 film score, and the brand new “Autumn piano theme” from Woodworkings. The latter artist has been dancing on the periphery of mainstream recognition over the past few years, and continues to be worthy of greater notice. One can only imagine what a collaboration between Kent and Grimes or Chauveau and Woodworkings might sound like, but either combo would likely be spectacular. Some of the other artists on this compilation have already worked together, the most obvious being Machinefabriek and Jasper TX. But the uniting factor here is tone; despite the surface differences between the sparse (Library Tapes“En känsla av saknad”, Offthesky and Pleq’s “Delicate exit”) and the homespun (Monolyth and Cobalt’s “The north by train”), the tone remains gentle throughout the disc. Thank You is a calm and humble effort that befits its beneficiaries, reflecting the quiet grace of easing a child’s pain. (Editor’s NoteVintermusik by the way, is a small Swedish label formed in 2011 by Christian Eldefors, which has put out limited edition 5″ and 7″ cuts: Machinefabriek‘s Ontrafelde Tonen and Jedadiah BernardsTwo Poems/Piano. The very latest release by Johan G. Winther, Dränkstenen / Vanmakten, is currently available as a digital download directly from the label. Definitely check it out!)

“Air Texture Volume II” and “SEQUENCE4” reviewed by HC.
“Loud Listening” reviewed by Peter van Cooten of Ambient Blog.
“Thank You” reviewed by Richard Allen of A Closer Listen.
All reviews republished with permission of the authors.