Christiaan Virant

Fistful Of Buddha
I’m usually pretty good at not judging a book by its cover, but I’ll be honest, even I was a bit fooled this time around. Looking at the album art I expected an edgier genre, somewhat pop-rockish, perhaps even industrial, and definitely full of vocals. I did correctly guess that the cover featured a photo of Christiaan Virant himself, but I was deeply mistaken [and pleasantly surprised] at the content within Fistful Of Buddha. The music on the album is closer to the ambient and modern classical genres I adore, so where exactly did this come from? Although Virant is a brand new name to my collection, I already own some of his albums as prized and treasured possessions! You see, along with Zhang Jian, Virant is a founding member of FM3, a Beijing-based duo responsible for the beloved Buddha Machine soundboxes. The similar themed Fistful Of Buddha is Virant’s first solo full-length release and he immediately gratifies all my hungry emotions. Released on the mysterious CVMK label, the music is deep, atmospheric and very dramatic – a sound which can not be contained within a tiny battery-powered plastic box. There are plenty of reflective rhythms and soundscapes, but unlike the short twenty-second lo-fi loops, the sounds of each track unfold to their grandeur and lush spectrum over the course of four-plus minutes. “Whilst still deeply Zen in mood and tone, the tunes here interweave minimal textures through drone and drift.” Don’t pass this up!

Seaworthy + Taylor Deupree
Wood, Winter, Hollow
I think it’s pretty obvious by now that I try my best not to miss a single release by Taylor Deupree. I especially get excited when this founder of the experimental, minimal and organic ambient label, 12k, collaborates with other favorite artists, like most recently with Christopher Willits in 2007, Stephan Mathieu in 2009 and Marcus Fischer in 2011. Seaworthy is a Sydney (Australia) based composer, Cameron Webb, with catalog releases on labels such as Slaapwel, Low Point, Preservation, and of course, 12k. In February of 2013, Webb visited Deupree in his Pound Ridge home, and the two wrote “a very spontaneous and natural album,” as Deupree told me in my interview, “that was really about our experiences over a couple of days outdoors in the winter forests near my house.” As suggested by the title, the music on Wood, Winter, Hollow captures the natural field recordings of hibernating wildlife and capricious weather, carefully sprinkled with strums of nylon string guitar, gentle bells, melodica and the sounds of crunching snow. The music is contemplative, calm and reserved, at times reflecting on the surrounding environmental damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. Even the thoughts of the hydrophones in the ice-covered creek give me the chills. Like a sound postcard, preserving a time, a place, and a memory, the album manages to document a unique collaboration between two of my favorite sculptors and archivists. A must for any avid 12k fan and collector!

Richard Skelton
Corbel Stone Press
Those already familiar with many works by Richard Skelton no doubt appreciate his pensive strings, solemn guitar, and somber field recordings, which create a landscape that’s entirely his own, unique as individual disquiet, desolation and in due time discrete grief. This past spring, Skelton began digitally releasing his previously unpublished recordings under the Archival Series volumes, which kicked off with a single twenty-minute piece, Riftmusic (Part Two). For the second installment, titled Ivystrung, Skelton collects three pieces that sonically meditate on Bark, Xylen, a limited edition pamphlet of “fourteen poems and fragments of the wood and field.” In addition to the same-titled track within the “woodland” theme, Skelton includes an unreleased piece, titled “Larch Light”, as well as a “revisited” version of “Noon Hill Wood” [a whopping 25-minute version] which previously appeared on his critically acclaimed album, Landings (Sustain-Release / Type, 2009). This digital compilation, as well as the previously mentioned printed literary material, are released by Corbel Stone Press, an independent publisher “specializing in handmade editions” with focus on “landscape, the poetics of place, ecology, folklore and animism”. The latter is run out of Cumbria, Northern England, by Skelton himself and his partner, Autumn Richardson.

Aidan Baker
Glacial Movements
The single, same-titled track slash album by Aidan Baker is a 47+ minute continuous ambient drone, which slowly evolves and recedes back to its harmonic elements as if time simply stood still. The aesthetic of the piece is very organic, drawing only on the sounds from Baker’s 12-string guitar, which were later manipulated even further to elicit a wide range of textures, frequencies and din. The title of the album, Aneira, means ‘snow’ in Welsh, and thus appropriately fits on the Glacial Movements label, which has been gifting us with sounds of isolationist ambiance and icy soundscapes since 2006. And just like the snowflake, unique in its infinite molecule configuration, the music on Aneira continues to slowly drift, layer and melt. Berlin-based Baker is extremely prolific, and in this year alone has already accumulated half-a-dozen releases! Among them I recommend you look into his collaboration with A-Sun Amissa, titled Scarpe Sensée (Drowning, 2013), his work with Plurals on Glass Crocodile Medicine (Latitudes, 2013) and a very interesting solo record on Gizeh, titled Already Drowning. The latter is a fascinating collection of songs “inspired by various myths and folktales about female water spirits”, each track featuring a different guest vocalist. And as always with Baker’s releases, it’s nearly impossible to keep up!