Over the Summer I did a short series of blogs in which I looked at four albums in one post. This enabled me to write about more albums, albeit in less depth. These seem to have gone down quite well, so I’m going to try to continue this as an occasional series. These ‘4-Packs’ as I’m calling them, will cover four albums/ pieces of music usually around a common theme, style or area of origin. They are intended as a way of getting round as many bands as I can given the ridiculous amount of excellent music that’s being released at the moment.
I have called the first in this series an ‘Ambient 4-Pack’, because the music of the four albums featured could be classed as such, not in a passive way but rather they create atmospheres for the listener with their soundscapes; whether stark, eclectic and lush. The hope is that fans of one of these acts will find other music they like through these multiple reviews, and others will find a more accessible way into new areas of music.
See what you think, feedback always welcome.
H a r m o n i c by Behind the Shadow Drops
Behind the Shadow Drops is the new solo project of Japanese musician Takaakira ‘Taka’ Goto, of experimental group MONO. This, to my ears, is a beautiful album of music that is replete with panoramic soundscapes that you can utterly lose yourself in. There is definitely a soundtrack feel to the music as you find yourself imagining scenes as the sound passes through you. The album, recorded at Goto’s home studio and mixed with producer and percussionist, John McEntire (Tortoise, The Sea and Cake, Yo La Tengo) imagines a world that is full of possibilities. Yes it is moody and, on occasions, dark; but never really bleak. I found the whole piece to be a satisfying and uplifting experience.
Available now on Temporary Residence Ltd.
Titan’s Island by Ancient Ocean
This is the second album from New York-based composer J.R. Bohannon, who has produced yet another work of considered beauty that seems to give that little bit more every time you hear it. The album, developed around the mission of the Cassini spacecraft, which recently sent back stunning photos of Saturn; and the idea that that planet’s moon Titan may be the only other habitable place in the solar system. As such the music, best listened to as four movements given that each builds on what has gone before, evokes the emptiness of space and a sense of being on a journey that is both significant and awe-inspiring. If there was a common theme running through this album it would be one of infinity, a real sense of openness marked by a constant drone above which the both the journey and the nature of the destination is set. This gives an sonic intensity throughout that, while never oppressive, gives the whole piece a send of real power.
‘Titan’s Island’ is out now on Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records.
Horse Head Bookends by Gel-Sol
‘Horse Head Bookends’ is one of those albums that your really don’t how to describe. There is such a complex interplay of instruments, media (samples, cassette recordings, spoken word; and there are a series of art works to accompany the album), and genre that any definition as such would be almost futile. Gel-Sol is the work of multi-instrumentalist Andrew Reichel who has created a suite of music that is eclectic, seemingly the product of a mind that is never still. In this sense it is perhaps a mistake to put this within that category ‘ambient’ because the soundscapes developed here are restless and continually on the move. Nevertheless, there is a sense that Reichel is reacting to his surroundings with this music, a reflection of the unceasing ambience of our contemporary urban world. In that sense it is as ambient as any other piece here while being at the same time disturbing and, on occasions, almost overwhelming.
‘Horse Head Bookends’ is out now on Verses Records.
Heliotrope by Mésange
Regular readers to this blog with be familiar with the musicians who make up this duo. Agathe Max (Kuro) and guitarist Luke Mawdsley (Cavalier Song) have both been involved in albums that I have really liked over the last year or so. So I was intrigued as to what their collaboration would sound like. The result, as you would probably expect, is a powerful, dark and intense set of tracks that engender a broad spectrum of deep feelings for those who listen to it closely. This is not done through an eclectic approach to the music, rather through subtle changes of mood and musical cadence. Indeed, like both Kuro and Cavalier Song, this is an album that cannot be reduced to background music but needs attention to fully appreciate its crepuscular allure as it draws you into a netherworld that seems poised on the edge of dream and nightmare.
‘Heliotrope’ is released on November 3 on God Unknown Records, from where it is now available to pre-order.