Before you read this new installment of Sound Bytes, I wanted to take a few seconds of your time to point something out. Although originally intended as short, paragraph-length write-ups, launched back in 2010, these mini-reviews have almost doubled in size over the years. I think what I’m attempting to draw your attention to here, is that the covered releases are more than just honorable mentions, and indeed are highly recommended gems. I think no less of them than of the featured albums. I hope you feel the same. Enjoy!
A Guide To Saints
The music of Celestino comes on like a slow morning sunrise, announced with an early ringing bell. The tranquil chords swell into the wind like a pastel painting briefly emerging through the daylight. Its texture is hazy and blurred, droning in that essence of a meditative state of mind. There was more than a one occasion, on which I seemed to [randomly] land on Kindling in my playlist, leaving it playing on repeat, for almost an entire day. A favorite piece on the album, “Broken Open”, begins with the sounds of a distant ocean, some field recordings, and a swaying tide of a brooding drone. There is a sense of hauntology, noir-fi and phantom ambiance in this track, which has kept my growing interest in its eerie progression, until I come up for some air on the shore. Appearing on a cassette label called A Guide To Saints, Celestino is a project of a Portland based musician Gabriel Celestino Higgins, released on this Room40 sister imprint. Building on his 2012 release, Lived In, Higgins creates heavily textured harmonies, that softly lap at the sharp edges of your day, smoothing out the cringed brow, placing impulsive thoughts at rest. “On Kindling, submerged drones gently slide and rub together, one betraying the next in a cascade of truly glacial beauty. Voices haunt the outskirts of the pieces, calling from somewhere just too distant to make out. Waves of bass swell and break, leaving a tideline of endless harmonics.” It’s no wonder that Lawrence English decided to pick up Celestino as an “eighth saint” for an edition of 100 cassettes (plus a digital) after landing his adept hand at mastering the album. All this, after singing some names such as Motion Sickness Of Time Travel, Primitive Motion, Heinz Riegler, Rangefinder, Sleeper, With Moths and more… all of which I shall highly recommend you check out.
Another gorgeous and aptly named album comes from the never ceasing to impress catalog of the beloved Home Normal. Continental Drift is a product of Faures – a new trio consisting of Fuzz Lee (also known as Elintseeker), Samuel Landry (aka Le Berger) and René Margraff (who you should already know as Pillowdiver). The album begins with an apparent glitch [one I had to double-check and make sure it’s not just my copy], and slowly spreads into a statically charged, fluid, and organic soundscape. The elements swirl between rich synth pads, soft piano keys, and swelling guitar hum, complimenting each other along the way. The concept was inspired by Alfred Wegener‘s book The Origin of Continents and Oceans, but the project has yet another special touch. The music transcends through each artist’s unique approach, picking up along the way an influence as shaped by the character of the environment. The latter is attributed to the ‘triangular’ process of composition, where each musician from a different continent would produce two tracks, and then pass it along to the next artist in line. Just like an ‘exquisite corpse’, each contribution is built on top of the last [except, I suppose, they’re allowed to witness the previous section], and, just like this artistic method, each augmentation of the work is final. The output can be related to Hans Cloos‘ quote on continental drift theory, also referenced in the release: “It let them float and drift, break apart and converge. Where they broke away, cracks, rifts, trenches remain; where they collided, ranges of folded mountains appear.” The result is a blissed-out meditative exchange among the purveyors of ethereal minimalism, wafting ambiance and ebbing drone. Recommended for fans of everything from 12k.
The Ashes Of Piemonte
The Ashes of Piemonte first appeared on my radar back in 2013, with the project’s début on Time Released Sound, titled Winter’s Fire, and immediately grabbed a spot on Headphone Commute’s Best of 2013, in our Music For Withered Leaves And Lonely Fishtanks category! I’ve followed the output of the label since its inception, and was particularly excited by this collaboration between Wil Bolton (co-owner of Boltfish Recordings) and Lee Anthony Norris (the same Norris of Metamatics, Nacht Plank and owner of Neo Ouija). The second album, Datura Notes, is a followup, this time on a Perth-based (Western Australia) Twice Removed micro-label (run by Gavin Catling), released on two CDs with only four tracks. The individual pieces, each approaching a 30-minute mark, are immersive, mesmerizing and sublime. This is an all-engaging ambiance, requiring attentive patient listening, full of gorgeous piano melodies, twinkling synthetic elements, and calm field recordings (‘The Colour of Space’ features something that sounds like rain in a cavern). The progression of each track is gradual, at times a bit thicker in layers, but mostly just peaceful and poised. Waves of the ocean, strums of guitar, and calming pads – all of the ingredients required to get me into that meditative state. There’s not much said about the project (or this particular release), but I assure you, it deserves your great attention. Norris, meanwhile, has also collaborated with Porya Hatami on Every Day Feels Like A New Drug for Unknown Tone Records, and he’s even got a return of Metamatics release in the queue scheduled, I believe, for August 2014 on XTT Recordings. You bet I’ll be getting my hands on that one!
I tend to have a soft spot for post-apocalyptic post-rock post-everything music. Perhaps that spot should not exactly be called soft, but rather a raw and aching scar, so that when it finally appears to heal, I scrape at the bleeding throb. I suppose it was ever since my discovery of G.Y.B.E. that I got hooked on this particular roller coaster, and the “Opening Theme (Ablaze in the Distance)” track of Oiseaux-Tempête‘s self-titled release on Sub-Rosa surely recalls my first infatuation with the sound. The album features all of the beloved: sampled field-recordings of people with deploring urgency in their voices, soaring ascending guitars, discontent keyboards and even an alto sax courtesy of Frédéric D. Oberland, mischievous, tense and discontented bass by Stéphane Pigneul and sinister percussion builds by Ben McConnell. If a few of these names sound familiar, it is because you’ve glimpsed them being credited as members of FareWell Poetry (along with Colin Johnco, Eat Gas, Hayne Amara Ross and Stanislas Grimbert). If not, I highly recommend you pick up the 2011 release, Hoping For The Invisible To Ignite out on Giseh Records. The music on the album follows the work of French filmmaker, Stéphane C., who documented the 2012-13 political and economic turmoil of Greece. “Originally conceived as a musical and visual, poetic and militant voyage, this first album retraces, in a sonic odyssey, the qualms and queries of a sickly and dysfunctional Western society.” I wouldn’t have mentioned this November album if I wasn’t returning to it over and over, six months after its release. Recommended for fans of Esmerine, Mono, Yndi Halda, The Pirate Ship Quintet, and of course, GY!BE.
Words by HC