Illuminating the Horizon
A round-up of recent ambient and experimental sounds lighting up my ears throughout the past few months
In a week where many have been enjoying listening to major new works from Liz Harris and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma (as Raum), Cate Le Bon and Big Thief, or perhaps the reissue of Iannis Xenakis’s epic Electroacoustic Work, I have also dived deep back into the world of classic (and slightly less well-known) shoegaze. Alongside this I have also been continuing to enjoy recent works from a number of talented musicians who compose in ambient circles. Below are a few recommended releases I feel are deserving of a deeper listen.
James A. McDermid — Post Tenebras Lux
Self-released | December 2021 |Digital | Bandcamp
Slow brushstrokes of silent light push through layers of haunting darkness. Highly emotive and atmospheric.
This latest EP from James A. McDermid inhabits a personal world that links back to their previous stellar ambient and experimental projects and also could serve as a bridge to possible future works.
These links to a past and a certain future are echoed in the longing nostalgia and heavy melancholy that inhabits the three tracks. Glimpses of daylight returning through the fog and static are hinted at through melodic lines that penetrate the gentle drones and manipulated field recordings.
Every time I return to listen to Post Tenebras Lux it makes me feel like I am walking alone at night through the mist, with the way ahead partly illuminated by the soft amber halo of a nearby street lamp. The title is Latin for ‘light after darkness’ and similar to the Carlos Reygadas film of the same name, McDermid’s EP is said to be semi-autobiographical and is a striking archaeology of the psyche during a particular moment in time.
Listen + support: jamcdermid.bandcamp.com/album/post-tenebras-lux-ep
Ishmael Cormack and various artists | Digital and CD | Bandcamp
Ishmael Cormack created Fallow Recordings in 2021 as a home for their own music and a place to put out special works of minimalist ambience and lower case music from like-minded musicians. Since its launch there have been so many special releases which include: Francis Gri, Nebal Lang, Maps and Diagrams, Kilised, Liam Dolan and Wodwo — each and every one is unique and deserving of a considered listen, possibly best appreciated in an empty room with eyes closed and mind clear.
Valuing the essence of quiet and quietude and what sounds can rise from out of silence, Fallow’s curation of minimalism amplifies a wonderful sense of worn beauty across stretching dream spaces. With releases utilising a mixture of tape manipulation, piano, guitar and found sounds, what ties them together is a love of improv, a celebration of the happy accident during the process of practice and letting the unknown be known.
To add further value to Cormack’s subtle curation is the one-of-a-kind limited edition physicals items they create by hand. As a keepsake these echo the fragility of time and sense of hidden history the sounds seems to explore.
I highly recommend following Fallow on Bandcamp to ensure you will be one of the first to hear about upcoming releases — particularly if you would like to own one of their special physical items.
Listen + support: fallowrecordings.bandcamp.com
Pie Are Squared — Souvenir Store Gimbri
Fallen Moon Recordings | February 2022 | Digital | Bandcamp
I’m a big admirer of artworks created under self-imposed restraints but sometimes there is a risk that the process can end up sounding more interesting than the final product. There is absolutely no risk of this in the case of Pie Are Squared’s latest EP released on Fallen Moon Recordings, which is simply wonderful.
Inspired by visits to Marrakesh and the purchase of “a round, small, tourist-trap version of a Gimbri”, across twenty-one minutes we are treated to a transportive sound world sculptured from recordings made from various interactions with the souvenir instrument. Whether “plucked, picked, played percussively, bowed, granulated, stretched, and mangled” there is so much to admire in how these sounds have been produced and composed into an exhilarating collage.
Alongside Anemoia (in three parts), released in 2021 on Mailbox, Pie Are Squared are showing again their mastery of making every second count and the manipulation of space in the short-form format, alongside their already impressive full-length catalogue. Similar to Anemoia, this latest EP functions as a time capsule containing personal memories of a specific place for the listener to momentarily drift into and experience a shared nostalgia.
Listen + support: fallenmoonrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/souvenir-store-gimbri
Lamasz and Grandbruit, Sebby Kowal | Digital and Cassette | Bandcamp
Florina Cassettes is a new ambient label focusing on delicately curated musical and visual textures. Debuting with La première sortie de Florina, the first collaborative album from Lamasz and Grandbruit — the creators of this incredibly aesthetically pleasing label.
Across slow waves of melancholia, the defining mood is of minimalism and meditation. Textures throughout are gorgeously engulfing and the heavy melodies sneak their way into your heart. Much like the aforementioned art and design aesthetic, the music slowly zooms in close enough to micro moments — and lingers and encircles — so what may have been known before becomes something new to explore.
The label’s second release, Sebby Kowal’s Dissolve, continues this beautiful painting through sound. Field recordings blur with gentle drones and creates an ambient abstract painting that gently sways between the frame it hangs on — perhaps even in doing so transporting us between reality and dreams.
Both of these releases are available on cassette with gorgeous artwork. Definitely a label to keep a close eye on this year.
Listen + support: florinacassettes.bandcamp.com
black_ops — ephemere
Anticipating Nowhere Records | February 2022 | Digital and Cassette | Bandcamp
éphémère; ephemeral | lasting or used for only a short time
My final recommendation is perhaps the darkest. With ephemere black_ops presents to us a world which seems to have no solid footing or markings to follow. At times we could be listening to the sounds of outer space or the amplified ambience of a lonely room during the dead of night.
The listener is directionless but it is utterly enthralling not knowing what will next emerge from the shadows. Warped voices seem to be trying to communicate with someone or something across dimensions, as manipulated field recordings add to a growing sense of unease. Next a beautiful melody battles against gusts of static wind, before being replaced by some other unknown eeriness.
Things are never only what they seem to be. There is an interpenetration of everyday reality. Perhaps once ordinary sounds get transformed into dream and memory as we drift from one space into another world or time. It feels like science fiction but a story fed through the post-apocalyptic and deeply psychological eyes of Tarkovsky’s Solaris and Stalker. There is also a certain amount of David Lynch’s fantastic sound design in its make-up, too, which all adds to the alienation and sense of fragmentation.
This is just one of two other recently releases from Anticipating Nowhere Records. Alleviations by Bacfora completes their fine trilogy of releases inspired by experiences of hypnagogic/hypnopompic experiences. While Coagulant’s Atlas Obscura immersive use of field recordings takes us on a hypnotic journey across isolated landscapes.
Listen + support: label.anticipatingnowhere.com/album/ephemere
These are two upcoming releases that I am looking forward to listening to.
Simon McCorry — The Failure of Accuracy
Shimmering Moods | Digital and CD | Bandcamp
The exciting next release from Simon McCorry sees him appear on Shimmering Moods Records with a detour from his manipulated cello soundscapes towards a faded experimental world of electric guitar ambience. Judging by the available preview track we will be treated to a tremendous addition to McCorry’s discography.
The Failure of Accuracy will be available to pre order from 17 February and is released on 17 February 2022.
Listen + support: shimmeringmoodsrecords.bandcamp.com
Movements of a Cloud — Minimal Drone GRL and Belial Pelegrim
Bricolage | Digital | Bandcamp
This EP is a cinematic collaboration between Minimal Drone GRL and Belial Pelegrim. Billed as a journey through the four seasons, it promises to blend the unique individual talents of both musicians into a transportive aural voyage through shifting time and space. I’m looking forward to being carried away on an ambient odyssey incorporating chamber music, field recordings, orchestral and cinematic soundscapes.
Movements of Cloud is released on 25 February 2022.
Listen + support: bricolageglasgow.bandcamp.com/album/movements-of-a-cloud-bc068