dawn in the land of shattered dreams (for Laetitia Schteinberg)

dawn in the land of shattered dreams

dawn in the land of shattered dreams

Unlikely heroes often emerge from the most unlikeliest of places. I first came across Laetitia Schteinberg through the prolific and talented aural raconteur, Hal McGee. (Check out his bandcamp page and his website. Insane and provocative are only two words and don’t even begin to tell the story. He’s been making music since the early ’80′s.) A couple of years back he orchestrated a series of email collaborative recordings by artists from around the world titled, Exquisite Corpse Audio Chain Letter. I came across it through his Facebook page, Contact Group of Homemade Experimental Electronic Music and Noise. I was fortunate enough to have a few woefully, inadequate contributions included in these projects but, and far more important, I was made aware of several artists and composers I had not yet heard of. While the complete list might make for a very interesting post one day, there is one artist who is inspiring far beyond her musical abilities.

The premise of the project was to create a one minute piece of music to be attached to a growing body of work until it reached 8 minutes. You were given a series of email addresses for those wanting to contribute and then told to only listen to the last couple seconds of what was sent you, add your bit, then pass it on. As the project carried on and the pool of contributors began to shrink, you started to see some of the same names popping up over and over again in your inbox. Frequently, the last contributor to send me their addition was Laetitia Schteinberg. The name was intriguing but it wasn’t until a few months later I realized she records under the name Ars Sonor and had released material on black circle records (a label you MUST know) and Treetrunk records (a netlabel my love for is already well documented.) Having heard a couple of her releases, as anyone who may have read any previous posts knows, I now had to hear and read everything I could find.

And this is where this post starts. Laetitia is a transgendered woman, an inspiring composer working in a variety of genres and an outspoken advocate for gender equality and human rights. Having fled Russia prior to their enacting the most archaic, barbaric and untenable human rights legislation in recent memory, she has been seeking asylum in Sweden, with no success as of yet (please, read more of her plight, in her own words, here.) While she struggles continue to avoid deportation, her case has begun to gain support from the international LGBT community at large and through more dedicated and understanding advocates within the Swedish immigration system. She has also received unwavering support for a growing network of musicians and artists who have released various consciousness raising and financial support events and statements. One which I wholeheartedly support is black circle records‘ compilation, artists for laetitia schteinberg. 26 tracks of experimental electronic music, it is a free download on one condition, downloaders are asked to sign an online petition in support of her efforts to avoid extradition. As of this writing it had already received 2500+ signatures.

While results from her second hearing were encouraging, this is still a grave injustice waiting to be righted. Throughout this ordeal, Laetitia has continue to use her voice and her plight as a clarion call for greater action for universal human rights everywhere. Please, sign the petition and add your voice to the millions across the world who support those who face daily discrimination, humiliation, hatred, imprisonment and even death from intolerant citizens, religious bigotry and dystopian governments worldwide. This may only be one small humane act in an otherwise hostile and malevolent world, but if her story inspires you to look for ways to support the LGBT friends and neighbors in your community, Laetitia’s eventually triumphant struggle will continue our inexorable march to universal equality and justice. For in the end, love and tolerance must carry the day.

As always, I’ve created a mix of music for this post, this time featuring the music of Laetitia’s projects Ars Sonor, Iky Iky, as well as several collaborative efforts. While by no means meant to be a definitive overview of her sounds, they are many of the compositions I find myself returning to again and again. I hope you enjoy.

http://www.mixcloud.com/johnny_nowhere/sounds-from-the-outer-edges-dawn-in-the-land-of-shattered-dreams-for-laetitia-schteinberg/

Transmissions from the heart of darkness…

in the cave of dreams (detail 2)

in the cave of dreams (detail 2)

As I discussed in my last post, I frequently use music to help lift me from those moments that life leaves you in the deep, dark pit of depression. But that doesn’t mean everything I listen to during those times is happy and bright. Sometimes visiting those dark spaces inhabited by others is just the tonic I need to reassure me that darkness can indeed be a shared source of inspiration and creation.

A case in point is Des cendres a la cave, a French music blog “dedicated to deep, dark and disturbing music of all kinds.” Besides offering extensive reviews of alternative dark music, each day they feature free music to download that covers as broad a spectrum of sound as their mission statement implies. These daily offerings can be followed on their Facebook page. I’ve discovered countless artists/bands/projects through them and their site is one I view religiously. But maybe their single most important project of late has been their 5 part series of words/music, Transmissions from the Heart of Darkness.

Although I didn’t stumble across the Transmission series until their third installment, I refrained from listening to part III in February and went back to discover and experience the series from its beginnings. Released in December of 2012, Transmissions from the Heart of Darkness, part I: A noise at the end of the tunnel features 13 tracks of “dark, ambient experimental drone and industrial shoe-gaze doom noise” (to paraphrase a few of the tags they use) by musicians both familiar and completely unknown to me. While there are artists like Cezary Gapik, who has a long history of self released material dating back to the late 1990′s, on this release, it’s the artists I’m unfamiliar with that always draw my attention. Whether it’s discovering the sheer wealth of sonic mayhem from Crowhurst, (L.A. composer Jay Gambit) or the extended improvisational layers of sound which nestle atop transcendent soundscapes and field recordings from the duo Caulbearer, I knew this series of recordings was something I would enjoy for many, many listens.

In January of this year, Transmissions from the Heart of Darkness, part II: A ghost in the belly of the machine, was released. Featuring 15 tracks and having a decidedly longer playing time, part 2 upped the ante for what I would expect from the rest of the series. While including tracks by accomplished musicians like  “sensitive minimalist” Alexandre Navarro, composer and photographer Tanner Volz’s solo project Anklebiter (both of whom have recorded for the wonderful American label Tympanik Audio), IDM, glitch maven Dirk Geiger and French electronic composer and remixer Thomas Pujols’s project Nebulo, without a doubt the highlight of part II was discovering Laurent Girard’s project Melodium. Self described as “music for sadly happy people”, his music is at once simplistically deep, upliftingly dark and blends hints of folk, pop, electronic and classical. Truly, truly stunning compositions. And having been releasing material since 1999/2000, how I’ve gone this long without experiencing his sonic beauty is mystifying to me.

February saw the release of Transmissions from the Heart of Darkness, part III: Escaping, and Transmissions from the Heart of Darkness, part IV: In limbo. This double dose of goodness had me working the internet overtime to try to discover all the new projects that were included in the 26 combined tracks. And while I didn’t listen to part III until I had downloaded and listened to the first two parts, I had seen the tracklist for part III and the inclusion of 15 artists, of which I knew none, guaranteed I would have hours and hours of fruitful search in my future. I was not disappointed. Several artists have since gone on to become personal favorites of mine, including the ethereal shimmers of retina.it, the post-progrock machinations of thot, the relentless post-industrial mayhem of The Peoples Republic of Europe and the incessant, distorted thrum and grind of Imaginary Forces (I especially love this project, as it bears many of the same stylistic nuances of my own compositions.) Part III is much more abrasive and industrial than its predecessors and it was a decidedly good idea on my part not to dive in here as my opinion of this series would have been skewed if I had. Needless to say, though, it is still one of my favorite compilations to have downloaded in quite awhile and I have gained countless hours of listening pleasure from the 15 projects included. Part IV, on the otherhand, features several artists who are well known and respected along with the occasional unknown project. Starting off Part IV is composer, musician, writer Aiden Baker with his droning cycle of tonal frequencies, “Study in Pulsations”. This should give you a pretty good idea of the overall sonic thrust of this release. And it only gets deeper and deeper with tracks from Craig Murphy’s project Solipsism (whose work with Lee Norris’s Norken and Nacht Plank projects is what first drew me to his material), an 11 minute piece from Stomoxine Records‘ Nicolas Godin, Ectoplasm (sorry, my fonts aren’t creative enough to write that moniker correctly) and , as the kicker, a track from Ben Chatwin’s beautiful, beautiful project Talvihorros. I’ve become enamored over the last couple of years with Ben’s work and anytime I find his name on a release, whether a full release or on a compilation, I will crawl broken glass to download it. Of the first four releases in this series, this is the one I find myself returning to again and again for the sheer joy of its cohesive aural quality.

Finally after 2 months of waiting, April saw the release of the final chapter, Transmissions from the Heart of Darkness, part V, Elsewhere. While the track list for this release may seem a bit slight, there are only 8 compositions in total, 6 of the 8 tracks run at least 8 or 9 minutes with the longest running nearly 18 and a half minutes! Because of that, this is the release which has taken me the longest to appreciate. Possibly the most ambient and ambitious of the five, Elsewhere is the calm after the storm. Bringing the cycle to a well deserved and appropriate climax, Elsewhere sounds less a finishing statement than the natural decay in a cycle of echoes that leaves one feeling a slight sense of loss, an underlying sense of completion and the lingering memory of a journey across distant, uncharted lands whose sights and sounds will haunt the traveler for years to come. Truly, these are transmissions from the heart of darkness.

With each of the Transmission releases, a section of a “steampunk” short story by the singularly named Alistar is included. While at the present time only the first installment has been translated into English, each of the 5 releases contains a continuing chapter from the full story. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the story and the liberal use of slang and period vocabulary, any online translating service is only going to give you a rough idea of the continuing action (trust me on that one.)  (Disclaimer alert: while I studied a bit of French many, many years ago in school, by no means is my comprehension intensive or extensive enough to either follow the blog in its entirety or to read the complete serialized short story, but that is beside the point right now.) This blog is meant to focus on music and because these releases are such an amazing treasure trove of music and artists, I’ve been able to overlook that handicap. That said, I do possess enough French to follow along (especially the shorter reviews on their blog) to know just which projects may appeal most to me. But one can listen to the releases as a stand alone project and please don’t let any language barrier deter you from enjoying all of these transmissions. Enjoy!

Link to the accompanying mixcloud mix:

http://www.mixcloud.com/johnny_nowhere/sounds-from-the-outer-edges-transmissions-from-the-heart-of-darkness/

Getting by with a little help…

we will  be with you in approximately 59 minutes...

the signs were conflicting, paralyzed through indecision…

A friend once told me a joke. Q: “What’s the difference between space pirates and depression?” A: “I don’t wake up every morning fighting space pirates.” The joke has become one of my mantras. Since then, whenever a select few friends ask how things are going and I’m under that cloud of depression, the answer is, “It’s a space pirates kinda day.”

While not talked about publicly much, depression is something many of us face daily and can often be very tragic. Long bouts of anxiety and fear, hours/days spent questioning the very motives for living and the inability to see beyond this moment’s pain can be severely debilitating (look how long its been since I’ve posted…), reducing even the strongest to tears. While many who do suffer from depression go on to seek medical help, some, like me, feel that this black space is integral to our creative process. Far too many friends and loved ones have been unable to cope with this decision and have since moved on. I don’t blame them, living with someone who is clinically depressed is an onerous burden and one most people should never have to confront, let alone commit to. I’ve grown to accept that. Unfortunately, seeking a way through alone can be very difficult and few are able to continue the fight throughout one’s life. My family history testifies to that. Each sufferer has to find their own life-preserver to grasp when the ship starts going down and depression begins pulling you into the undertow, and for me, that preserver has always been music.

Whether revisiting old favorites or finding new sounds to pull me through the current bout of darkness, music has been, and always will be, the single most important influence in my life. More often than not, though, it’s a case of finding something new in an old familiar sound. I first came across Entropy Records 3 or 4 years ago, (just after discovering Schall netlabel (a full blog on their influence on my listening habits is in order one day), another standard in my listening palate and a label that has released many of the same artists as Entropy, including, Axs, Djorvin Clain, Gabriel Le Mar, Lo, Orcalab, optic, p.Laoss, Slow Noise, The Marx Trukker and Zzzzra, to name a few.) Their new compilation, Entropy Records Sampler 2013, drew my immediate attention as it includes a track by one of my favorite new (to me, anyway) artists, Brickman. But as is almost always the case when listening to a new compilation from a familiar source, it’s not who you know but who you’ve just discovered. In this case the artist is Fischerle. Hailing from Poland, Mateusz Wysocki is a producer of deep dub techno cuts that are as inspiring as they are emotionally impressive. And of course, once I’ve found a new artist/project, I become obsessive, (it helps to draw my attention away from the depths of depression back into the heights of sonic inspiration.) As usual, as is my want, further delving into Mateusz’ work revealed several netlabels and sources, some familiar and some not. The first release I found was Standards on the wonderful Polish electronic netlabel, Minicromusic. 4 deep, dark stabs of minimalist dub techno that define most of their releases. Definitely a label I’ll be watching for in the future.

Having briefly mentioned Polish netlabel No Echo Records in my last post, I’m only just beginning to embrace the breath and depth of the Polish netlabel scene. Mateusz has had a lot to do with that. His first release (at least as far as his Discogs listing) was, on the Qunabu netlabel. No longer releasing material, they were able to provide me with his first release, wzrost ep, an unknown (to me) Brickman EP,  Consume, and to turn me on to LifePHORM, which led me to Oorlab.  But this digresses from the main thread of this section, Polish netlabels, so I will leave it to you to discover any of the aforementioned, if so inclined.

In addition to releasing on independent Polish netlabels, Mateusz also partners in one himself, Pawlacz Perski. A label so eclectic that it defies categorizing, it was founded on the principle of interaction and dialogue between artists and composers open for collaboration and sharing. I’ve been working my way through their catalogue for a few weeks now and it’s an impressive endeavor. Of particular note, though is the debut release, For Love of Our Kids and Cats, from Thomasz Wegner’s solo project, aimless driving. Combining acoustic guitar, field recordings, electronic music, various percussive noises and trumpet (yeah, really, and it’s awesome!), For Love is stunning. I can only offer these words from the release page itself as a hint of its beauty… “The tones of the volubility played melody are subsiding as the corner of the mouth after a stroke.” Like the music, that phrase leaves me breathless.

Fischerle‘s also has an EP on the Canadian netlabel/blog/multimedia extravaganza, basic_sounds. I’ve been a rabid follower of the netlabel since 2010, they’ve had an amazing run of releases in their short history, including releases from Dntel, offthesky, Textural Being, Pimilk, as well as 3 (!!!!) releases from the magnificent Radere (including their latest release in April, Radere’s A Pouring Out of Sleep.) If you haven’t listened to anything from this label, please, do yourself a favor and download everything now. Here’s a couple tastes:

(A link to the new Radere track is not yet available on Bandcamp, but this will do.)

Another tried and true method to help alleviate the depression is to run through some of my favorite artists/projects Discogs page in the hope that someone has released new material that flew under my radar or, when in a more adventurous mode, to scroll through latest additions to the Free Music Archive looking for inspiration.

Possibly the most effective method for me for calling the black dog of depression to heel, though, are the fortuitous moments when I discover a favorite artist or band I love has begun a new project. This, too, has come into play recently when I discovered Eddie Palmer, of the impressively innovative The Fucked Up Beat (who are releasing a couple new albums this summer themselves and I’m excited and honored to have had Eddie send me tracks for an early listen), had teamed up with vocalist, guitar, banjo and loops player Christine Annarino, in the inspirationally inventive Fields of Ohio. Building on The Fucked Up Beat‘s use of public domain samples and off-kilter, skittering beats and loops to create a futuristic beat poetry of sound and word, Fields of Ohio adds Christine’s intimate acoustic playing and detached, drifting vocals to produce an imaginative amalgam of early 20th century folk and blue grass, free-form jazz and IDM beats and loops that propel the listener through memories that never were and futures that will never be. I love this project! Their first release, (fields of ohio), on possibly my favorite netlabel going right now, HAZE, is not only breathtaking in its scope and beauty, it’s release page features words that sang to my very core, especially in those all too frequent moments of darkness:

“Now in the midst of the broken waters of my civilization rhythm begins. Clear above the flood I raise my ringing voice. In the disorder and darkness of the night, in the wind and the washing waves, I shout to my brothers — lost in the flood.

We have to sing, you see, here in the darkness. All men have to sing —poor broken things. We have to sing here in the darkness in the roaring flood. We have to find each other. Have you courage to-night for a song? Lift your voices. Come.”

The honesty, emotion and truth in those few lines will be carried with me for quite a while. As will this release.

Further cause for rejoicing is the upcoming second release from Fields of Ohio, Woods Without Maps, scheduled for release on June 5th. You can download the track, DragonGourd/November Witch, now.

Finally, if all else fails and new music is not to be found, I resort to the tedious task of trying to present the sounds and darkness in my head in the most succinct and accessible format possible. Whether digital manipulations of photographic inspiration, like the images above which accompany each of these posts and which can be found on my photography/poetry blog, unless you got lost on purpose (you would never get this far), or sonic distortions of the noises that cycle endlessly through my consciousness, this moments of creativity are often one of the few reaffirming instances in an otherwise brooding, claustrophobic day. Usually, these creations are solo endeavors, but recently I’ve begun collaborating with others to create compositions of deeper depth, though no less dark and ominous, in most cases. In fact, I’ve recently finished a collaboration with PhuctUp, the voices from the cave mouth smelt of death, and am working on another piece with him.

More often than not, though, these sonic abominations are created alone and can intimately reflect the mood I’m in.

Because this post has been more personal than most and meant to reflect on how music helps alleviate depression in me, I won’t be posting a Mixcloud mix as not enough divergent music was discussed, focusing instead on a couple specific artists, releases. There will  be a longer mix to accompany the next post, though, I promise.

And that, briefly, is why I love discovering new music. In the end, each bout of depression is different, although all too similar. Each must find his or her way through the night and try to emerge into the new day. It’s a difficult and lonely trek, and if these few words are of comfort or assistance to anyone, then these long weeks penning these words will have been worth it. And if you’d like to comment or talk, please feel free to contact me. Just remember, I may not always respond promptly, as I may be struggling with my own demons, but your words will be read and a response forthcoming.

When you least expect it…

self portrait in repose

self portrait in repose

So, I’m listening to the new Hibernate Recordings sampler, Volume 6, while scrolling through Twitter the other day and this song comes on in my headphones. A looping, slightly hissy thrum starts cycling, a distant fuzzed out keyboard line hints of another song drifting lazily in from down the hall, over which this beautifully languid piano line drops. And then Fraser McGowan begins singing, “The first time I saw you, you looked like an angel…” Leonard Cohen would have cried. And I haven’t even gotten to the shimmering guitar riff…  I minimize the screen to see what it is and it’s Last of the Heroin by Caught In The Wake Forever. Rarely does music make me pause like this, but this is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard in quite awhile. But, for those of you who know, this is not an exception to the rule for Hibernate. Featuring releases from some of my favorite artists, Wil Bolton, Ian Hawgood, Ithaca Trio and offthesky (among many others), their track record is impeccable. I can now add Caught In The Wake Forever to that list. But do yourself a favor, listen to the whole compilation, it’s full of gems and threads that may lead you down paths unknown.

Another inspirational site for discovering new music is Bad Panda Records. I’ve been an avid follower of them for awhile now and they never cease to amaze me with artists and tracks that have slipped under my radar. A case in point is autumna. Like many of the artists/projects I like, much mystery surrounds this project to me. Hailing from Antwerp, autumna creates glorious cascades of sound that float effortlessly down from the heavens above to warmly embrace the contours of the firmament below. The recently released memories of winter is a perfect example of this blend of ethereal and corporeal.

With almost 200 releases so far (one every Monday) recapping Bad Panda Records would be a book unto itself, but suffice it to say that I never would have heard Talvihorros, Kodak to Graph or Hypermagic if not for their efforts. If you’re unfamiliar with any of those projects, do yourself a  favor and click on the links. While similar in the sense that I love their music, all are as diverse as could possibly be while still falling somewhere within the boundaries I placed in the header to this blog.

Another invaluable resource is the music blog, Everything Is Chemical. Like Bad Panda, they release free music for the world to embrace. They’ve recently released 2 new songs from Hypermagic that continues my love affair with the project, EICV7″ No. 39. Layers of reverbed and effected vocals drift across laconic bass lines and pristine guitar leads that serve as counterpoint to the swirl of sound surrounding them. Truly magical.

As I’ve mentioned before, there are a handful of netlabels I return to again and again for inspiration. One of these is Silent Flow Netlabel. Based in Chisinau, Moldova (that’s why I love netlabels. Never in my life would I be able to travel to many of the places these labels are based in, but just by clicking a mouse I can listen to the sounds that flow from those regions…) and releasing music since 2009, I first came across them when downloading every release I could find from Tetarise. I then fell in love with Lingua Lustra and more recently, Engraved Memories. From Sparkling Hours In Stillness, the new release from Engraved Memories, is a majestic collection of transcendental visions that turn emotion into motion, feeling into being, memories into music. Song titles like ‘By the Valley of Buried Hopes’, ‘The Wheel of Brooding Memories’, ‘Colored Sea of Infinite Visions’ and ‘Ceaselessly Wandering’ should help you realize where this music will take you. At times breathtakingly beautiful and at times hauntingly aching, this is an impressive release and one which I can’t stop playing. Here’s a brief overview they’ve posted. I only wish I could link to the whole release for you.

And then there are those perfect moments of synchronicity where you stumble across a new netlabel that has released the exact sounds you’re looking for at that exact moment. Founded this year and based in Belgrade, Enshrine Netlabel is only 3 releases into their catalogue, but I was stunned by their debut release, Under the Falling Sky‘s ‘Entering Temple‘. Hypnotic, meditative loops ground distant anthropomorphic tones falling somewhere between communal religious gatherings and forgotten music from remembered dreams. For a debut release, I was floored. This is clearly one of my new favorite netlabels. And they’ve upped the ante with their third release, also from Under the Falling Sky, ‘Soft Stars‘. Moving closer to perfection, this is a tremendous release.

And finally, there are those netlabels and artists that rise mysteriously from the ether leaving no trace of the path you used to find them but are permanently seared on your synapses. Hands in the Dark is the netlabel, and SAÅAD is the project. Originating from Toulouse, SAÅAD is Romain Barbot and Greg Buffier. Combining murky, distended drones and haunting, echoing soundscapes, their recent album ‘Orbs & Channels‘ is a sonic journey into reaches and realms rarely visited by the human psyche. Each listen opens up sounds and textures unheard previously and for that I thank them. A release for the ages.

Hopefully there are a couple of threads you can pick up from this post and carry with you on your own musical journey of exploration and inspiration. After all, this blog is all about noticing the signposts and gleefully leaving them well behind.

Link to accompanying Mixcloud mix:

http://www.mixcloud.com/johnny_nowhere/sounds-from-the-outer-edges-when-you-least-expect-it/

From one can come many…

unheard tones from a scale unread

unheard tones from a scale unread

One of my guilty pleasures has always been the compilation album. Every since I became fanatical about collecting music in the early ’80′s, the compilation has been a serious resource for me in my quest to find new artists/bands. Back in the day when quality record labels sold them for the price of a single, it only took 2-3 songs you liked to feel like you’ve hit the jackpot, and if I was buying a compilation from a label I already new, I felt I had just scored free music. With the advent of Creative Commons and online netlabel releases, that music really is now free and my guilty pleasure has only gotten worse (or cheaper, depending on how you look at it.) I now download at least of 3 or 4 compilations a month, sometimes getting 2 or 3 a week. Because of that, the number of artists/bands that I have discovered in the last 10-12 years is something I couldn’t have imagined 30 years ago. Everyday there’s a new project I’m just hearing of, and at times these artists have been releasing material just beyond my hearing for years.

The inspiration for discovering a new label/compilations can come from anywhere. I’ve recently joined a Facebook group, Intelligent Ambient Music, hosted by Jack Hertz. Jack is a perfect example of an artist who has been releasing material for years without my having had the pleasure of listening to it. An overview of his work would be a blog post unto itself and that’s not really the aim of this blog. I only hope to inspire you to begin your own search and am merely pointing out some of the signposts I’ve seen along the journey. But Jack has become a thread that has exposed me to more music in the last year or so than I ever would have imagined when I first discovered his netlabel, Aural Films. Home to many of Jack’s releases, in particular, his recent Wetlands, a series of compositions crafted with the distinct aim of submersing the listener into an electronically manipulated environment and whose intention is to create an alternative reality within the listener’s own perspective (in Jack’s words, “part documentary and part hallucination”), it is a perfect spot to begin to understand the dynamics Jack is trying to capture. Very good, and very heady, work.

Aural Films is also hosting a couple of new releases from another of my new favorite artists, Cousin Silas. Both his collaboration with Jack, Jaguars & Shamen (another collection of transcendent compositions meant to invoke the spirit and imagery of Amazonian shamen and the hallucinatory practices they embrace), as well as his own release, Ballard Landscapes 3, are among the heavy plays in my headphones right now. The third in his series of J. G. Ballard inspired releases, Landscapes 3 is a collection of glistening pads and celestial swoops gliding alongside deep, thrumming drones nestling among found sounds, lilting piano chords and ominous, cascading washes. I think Ballard would be impressed. In fact, this so rekindled my love of Ballard, I revisited another favorite resource of mine, UbuWeb, to peruse their collection of Ballard videos. If you’re unfamiliar with UbuWeb, please do yourself a favor, visit them now. Their collection of experimental and avant-garde material from the 20th century is a remarkable resource. Their mission statement, alone, is worthy of praise. But I digress, an alternative, and topically appropriate, entry point for Aural Films, may be their recent compilation, Prehistoric Tar Pit Music. Comprising 19 tracks spanning over 2 and a half hours of music and inspired by the Facebook group mentioned in the opening of this paragraph, this release captures Jack’s vision of creating internal landscapes through manufactured realities, this time arousing the primal instincts and emotions of our prehistoric ancestors. More than a compilation, this is an effort to provide form to an individual’s artistic vision that can, and is, shared by many.

And that’s just the beginning of Jack’s thread this post. His newest release, a haunting we will ghost, on we are all ghosts, celebrating the first anniversary of waag’s launching, reaffirms the singular vision and voice that Thomas Mathie has cultivated at waag. An air of haunting, melancholic reminiscing permeates waag’s releases, giving them a heft and gravity usually not associated with ambient soundscapes. I look forward to every new release they offer. Jack has also released material on Earth Mantra Netlabel. Now, in all honesty, this is not a name that would have normally jumped out at me, but Jack has a couple of releases through them, so I thought I’d check it out. And that’s when I discovered Stefan Paulus.

In my small world, Stefan is brilliant. Constructing intricate, intoxicating compositions through the use of psychogeography, I’d be disingenuous, at best, if I implied I could explain his theory any better, or more accurately, than he does. To paraphrase a single paragraph in his statement, “Psychogeography is drifting, is action, is the collection of things that can be found on the street – getting into a subway, the nearest bus and get somewhere out. It is about paying attention to the terrain, the animals, the garbage in the streets.”  Exactly! Both his release on Earth Mantra Netlabel, Becoming – Dissolve, an hour long meditation spanning 3 compositions which hum along to the subconscious heartbeat of a subterranean society hovering on the edge of remembrance (from which the video below is taken from), and his latest release, on Treetrunk Records, Sea Salt Island, a continuing effort to define and construct impressionistic internal vistas using a soundtrack both unfamiliar and familial at the same time, encapsulate his aesthetic and singular vision. I have already become a massive fan of his music and his artistic vision.

Another netlabel I find myself repeatedly returning to is Nostress Netlabel. I’ve been singing their praises the last couple of weeks and just can’t seem to stop. Their recent compilation, The Astounding Fair, is another example of great music lurking just around the corner. Continuing their mission of promoting unsigned and often overlooked artists and bands, this compilation has opened my eyes to a couple of projects I was unfamiliar with. First mention has to be Cinema Noir, from Palermo, IT, a 5 piece post-rock experimental outfit that might have easily continued to fly under my radar if not for my favorite song title of the last few years, “when sigur ros don’t play music, they name Ikea’s furniture“, a 7 and a half minute foray into a dark, droning world of heartbeat kick drums and guitar chords washing over landscapes littered with discordant electronic signals and the detritus of a forgotten civilization. A very strong track and a band I will watch for in the future. Another revelation from this compilation is Neuf Meuf. The working alias of Rok Vrbancic of Slovenia, his deep, droning scoundscapes are music to my ears. Both his 2012 release on Nostress, What’s Left in Chorus, and his new release on No Source Netlabel, On Titled EP, are releases getting extensive play in my headphones right now. On Titled, in particular,  adds a slight sense of hope in an otherwise oppressive world of forces sweeping out of control and the inability of the average human to harness those forces. But the single most impressive release from Nostress recently has to be from Milan native, Francesco Vecchi, under the guise of his Etterem moniker, Dark Irish, Some Tunes. An impressive endeavor of traditional Irish music samples stretched and looped and treated with layers of electronic effects and underpinned by recurring drones and cycling samples, I haven’t heard anything this original in quite awhile. Just in time for dj’ing this St. Patrick’s Day, you know several of his compositions will be popping up during my sets over the weekend. Very impressive release!

There are several other netlabels I’ve recently discovered and which have provided me with new sounds to follow and enjoy. Cold Fiction Music has been releasing quality ambient, dub-techno and minimalist projects since 2009, but have only recently entered my world. And what’s really surprising, their 2012 compilation,  futur(e)cho 2‘s tracklist reads like a who’s who of my favorite netlabel artists. Coppice Halifax, Zzzzra, Orcalab, Martin Nonstatic, Textural Being and AXS are all featured on it. How I missed this for 6 months is really staggering to me. Fortunately, there was an artist I was not familiar with, DeepWarmth. With 4 releases on Cold Fiction Music over the last couple of years, I’m slowly working my way through his back catalogue. Deep, warm pads meet minimal, dubbed-out beats and glitchy atmospherics to create hypnotic and inviting compositions that are blissfully enveloping. Very pleasing and a joy to discover.

The next three netlabels I’ve recently started following are all courtesy of Stray Theories. The ambient project of Micah Templeton-Wolfe, his self-released compositions have been floating around my hard drive for a couple years now. He’s recently had tracks included on two different compilations and I’m better for having discovered both labels. The first, Future Astronauts‘, Vessels 2, is an impressive introduction to the future garage, downtempo, ambient philosophy of the label. Only knowing Stray Theories from the list of bands, this release is providing hours and hours of exploration and discovery for me. Micah’s second appearance of 2013 is on the Document 10 compilation, Page One. The decidedly more ambient of the two compilations, this one really piqued my interest knowing it also featured a unreleased track from the glorious Radere. The most impressive new find for me through this release has to be Pillowdiver. While I must admit he doesn’t usually release material through Creative Commons, I have fallen in love with his breathtaking compositions and ethereal soundscapes. Finally, Stray Theories has added a remix to the Great Grey Records release, Into the Distance: Remixes. Happily, there’s yet more research for me to do while I work through their first couple of releases.

Finally, Document 10‘s Page One compilation has also directed me toward another brand new netlabel. Opening with the haunting soundscape, In Bruges by Tone Color, it took me awhile to remember when I first came across Manchester artist Andy Lomas, but after much searching (okay, I really just went to his soundcloud page…) I found his track Ebowed an’ Clear was featured on the Futuresquence, Sequence 3 compilation (more on Futuresequence in later posts, as they are a netlabel I revere.) Searching for more of his work, I came across the brand new label, Assembly Field and their debut release, VA Compilation#1. Featuring tracks from Tone Color, Gallery Six, Pleq and Wil Bolton (among others), this is a very impressive roster for a debut release. And Tone Color‘s track 061 is a stand out effort. Already rumoring to have a second release in the works, this is a label I will be following feverishly in the months to come.

Finally, another 2012 compilation I’ve recently discovered is Nu Sounds from Poland from No Echo Records. Releasing material from the heart of Krakow since 2008, an unknown world has just opened up for me and this is the release that will afford repeated listening for me as each artist/project is a new entity to me. Focusing on experimental music from the underground Polish music scene, this release spans the musical spectrum from broken beat and nu jazz, to droning soundscapes and micro-house tonalities and almost everything in between. A very eclectic collection of songs and one that bears new insights with each listen. This is why I listen to music and why the search for new sounds is a never-ending process. Hope you find an intriguing bit somewhere in the post and pick up a thread of your own to follow. Enjoy…

http://www.mixcloud.com/johnny_nowhere/sounds-from-the-outer-edges-from-one-can-come-many/

A funny thing happened on the way…

circumnavigating the edge...

circumnavigating the edge…

For further proof that you never can be too sure where the next point of inspiration will come from, I present this post. As you know from the link at the bottom I also throw the occasional mix up on Mixcloud.com. And as I am a fanatical stats follower, I’m always curious where any of my work shows up. A couple weeks ago I noticed Antropik had created an inspired mix of Petroglyph Music‘s A X-Mas Compilation which included my would-be messiahs‘ compisition, seasonal affected disorder (distant rains arrive mix), in his tracklist. As you might imagine, I immediately think, hmmm, I like his choice of music… I wonder what else he has out there? So, lo and behold, the next thing I know I’m fixated on his recent self-released collection, Absydion – [collected works 2012-2013]. Low, grumbling drones ebb and flow beneath crushed bits of static and hiss, time stands suspended, laconic in layers of reverb and echo leading you across soundscapes of disjointed geography through unsettling, indistinct vistas. Yup, this release is getting massive amounts of play in johnny’s headphones right now.

Of course that’s only the beginning of this week’s thread. Further unraveling revealed Antopik has also released an EP, Persistances on Bruits Netlabel, a label I was completely unfamiliar with less than a month ago. And wasn’t I more than pleasantly surprised once I’d begun searching through their back catalogue to find an extensive selection of releases from Moonsugar, who I’d only just become aware of through their recent release, Lost from Electric Light, on Petroglyph MusicBruits Netlabel, to follow down this rabbit hole, has also just released Oystein Jorgensen‘s Inside EP (which I was very pleased to add to the vault.) Petroglyph’s influence on my musical selections over the last year or so has weilded surprisingly hefty return and one for which i am extremely grateful. So, to bring this bit of nonsense full semi-circle, Petroglyph Music has also just released label co-founders Oystein Jorgensen and Rune Martinsen‘s, The Four Elements, EarthAirWaterFire, a 4 part suite that is as monumental as the topic implies. Built entirely on samples and layers of effects, these releases are epic in their undertaking, having taken the last couple years to produce. Much too encompassing to discuss in detail, these are releases that I will be returning to again and again. Do yourself a favor, download them now. Now.

But, back to the thread, Moonsugar, one of several projects from Gennady Vladimirov, and the one which features a more classical structure than his darker, more experimental monikers, has also released material on the French netlabel, Sirona Records. Sirona Records, which you may recall from my mention of Substak‘s release These Days a couple weeks back, and for hosting a handful of Mystified productions over the last year or so, have just released Mystified’s Nocturne. Comprising 16 tracks of manifest realities built on field recordings, sound collages, and evocative, disparate samples, which once held personal import for the composer, but are now part of the collective internal consciousness where each listener adds their own individual interpretation and expression, this is an intriguing release, and, as always, very entrancing material from Thomas. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg with Sirona Records, whose releases cover a wide range of experimental styles including IDM, techno, noise, ambient, hip-hop, trip hop, glitch, breakbeat and hardcore, among many other. Having only begun releasing material in 2011, this is definitely a netlabel to keep an eye on.

Revisiting another label that has become a favorite of mine, Nostress Netlabel has recently launched a sister label, Batenim Netlabel, focusing on ambient releases. Their first release, Morphine Bandit‘s, subtle shift theory, is a collection of 6 tracks that are built on subtle, transcendent drones interspersed with seemingly random noise samples that highlight the collection’s title/modus operandi as they slowly shift both the compostion’s relentless cycling tones as well as the listener’s mental equilibrium. Not to be outdone, Nostress also has a new release, this time the debut release from Black Cocks, Sweet Illutions. A lo-fi affair built on Mauricio Diaz Varela’s decidedly punk attitude and his love of “Japanese science fiction from the ’60′s” (really, how can you not love someone whose self-reference point is that obscure!), these 6 tracks hum and thrum with lower ranges drones and endlessly looping  ringing fills as discordant, disembodied vocals float untethered to soundscapes never imagined playfully lay waste to preconceived notions. A decidedly strong release from a talent to watch.

The find of the week for me, though, has to be The Shimmer Effect, and their new release, Mechanosensitive, on South Africa’s Bushmen Records. A deep, dark dubbed out drop into the underside of dub-techno and discordant beats scoring soundtracks for worlds unimagined inhabited by generations yet to be born, this release grabbed me by the throat and just wouldn’t let go. How this duo has passed beneath my radar for so long boggles my mind! And despite extensive searching, I can’t for the life of me piece back the thread that lead me to Bushmen Records, but whatever it was, I’m glad I picked that thread up. A whole new world of beats and attitude have opened through their focus on experimental South African music and I’m the richer for it. Yup, this is one label I will support empathically.

Finally, I spent a few days last month checking back in on some of the netlabels that have been my trusted companions for the last several years. While most continue to host great alternative netlabel releases, a few that jumped off the websites and into my consciousness were Gargan Record‘s Bim, by aris_h, a sublime set of downtempo tracks that were released as a promo for his latest album, Tep Zepi, Huron‘s latest release on Crazy Language, Pictures from the Past, a melange of idm beats and sputtering staccato riffs that is among his strongest work yet, and headphonica‘s release of Jan Grunfeld‘s A Trace, a stunning collection of cascading, somnambulant layers of flowing water sampled beneath strummed chords and free-floating melodies (and whose words to describe this release may come closer to summing up this blog than I could myself, ” The last four or five years I followed a trail. Plenty of footprints. I collected tracks, pointing in different directions. Now the traces are almost beyond recognition. But you can still listen to it.” Exactly!) All should be reviewed in full, but that’s not this blog’s point. I merely act as a guide, pointing out the visible signposts that lead from one landmark to the next, each journey a trek only the curious begin and the intrepid embrace. Each label hosting many, many more treats that may appeal to your tastes without my prompting. Enjoy!

http://www.mixcloud.com/johnny_nowhere/sounds-from-the-outer-edges-a-funny-thing-happened-on-the-way/

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…

I wish arcane signs to splay across the night sky

I wish arcane signs to splay across the night sky

As an avid collector of music since the late ’70′s, I’m often asked when I thought was the best time to collect/hear music. Clearly it’s today/tomorrow. With each passing day, more and more avenues to hear music become available as more and more artists/labels embrace social media as an alternative platform to gain exposure for their sounds. Each day seems to feature a new netlabel being born, a new community-driven social site focusing on highly targeted musical preferences and a greater move by a growing numbers of bands/artists to embrace Soundcloud.com, Mixcloud.com, Bandcamp.com, among many other hosting sites, as well as Facebook, Twitter, et al., to promote their music. More music than ever before is out there, waiting to be heard, embraced and downloaded, and it is falling upon the informed listener to find their own musical choices by knowing how to look for exactly what they want. This blog is meant to be an inspiration for you to begin your own search.

Over the years I’ve built up a fairly hefty list of netlabels, artists and bands that I continually go to for inspiration and guidance. Of course, not everything everyone on that list is currently promoting is what I want to hear at the time, but more often than not, if not immediately taken by their suggestion, I do find myself returning to older choices with fresh ears only to find myself liking that choice much more than I initially did. That’s part of the charm of this endless quest for sonic Nirvana. And while I enjoy revisiting these old friends for their latest offerings/suggestions, part of the love in this quest is finding new sources for hearing new sounds.

One of my favorite new sources for learning of new music is the Facebook group, I ♥ Netlabels. Hosted by Coltep Spielfeld (an amazing DJ in her own right and definitely someone you should follow if you don’t already), it is the one Facebook group I’m in (and I’m in quite a few at this point) whose posts I follow as rigorously as those on my own wall. I’ve only been a member for a little over 4 months, but the music I have been directed toward has already made this a daily go-to in my continual search for music I may have missed. The most recent gem being Abstraction‘s Tension EP on the Spanish netlabel Doppt Zykkler.

Launched in 2010, Doppt Zykkler had flown under my radar, despite having released some very good, and very interesting, releases, and probably would continued to have if not for their (and my!) involvement with Coltep’s group. Their latest release, Carlos Valle’s project Abstraction, is an interesting collection of tracks. At times leaning toward an almost electro-dub-techno sound that thrives on a minimal-esque sense of less is more, it still manages to lure the listener in with repeating loops and disparate harmonics that leave you entranced and enthralled.

Another joy of finding a new label is discovering they have released material from artists that you love but didn’t know had been released. In October of last year they released Substak‘s Cortas los acordes.  I’d first come across Substak’s work through his releases on deepindub and Gleichtakt (both of which have also released mixes from Coltep. Starting to see how this works?) Having also released material through Dast netlabel (more, much more on them next week) and Sirona Records (who have also released material from one of last week’s featured artists Mystified), Kostas’s work has continued to impress me. His latest, Noise Panorama on Adpet Label, continues his exploration of sparse dub-techno beats layered atop minimal deep-toned washes of almost sinister import. Deeply hypnotic yet deceptively simple in nature, these are the sounds of an industry as yet unfounded from world as yet undiscovered.

Another invaluable resource for discovering new music is discogs.com. With their stated aim of building the world’s largest music database, currently listing over 3.5 million titles from 2.5 million artists, they are the second stop on every music journey I take. Once I’ve discovered a new label or artist, it’s off to discogs I go to get as comprehensive a back discography as is possible. It is through them that I have discovered more netlabels than any single source. And it’s not just labels and releases that you can learn from them. With extensive cross referencing and web addresses for aliases and sister labels for most of their entries, I am frequently pointed to projects that I never new existed. More importantly, I’m often made aware of which artists run which label, something not always obvious through netlabel sites. One such case was Camomille Music.

Run by Montreal native Vincent Fugère, I’d long been aware of both his work as Muhr as well as Camomille‘s back catalogue (the Hope’s Not Lost compilation is still one of my favorite ambient collections ever), it wasn’t until I chanced upon Camomille‘s discog page searching through Shiftless‘s back catalogue that I realized that Vincent was responsible for this wonderful selection of music. And with the release of Trans Alp‘s Après quatre pièces d’Erik Satie, this collection of beautiful sounds show no signs of abating. I’ve tried several times to describe these pieces and I’ve thrown each attempt out, continually going back to Vincent’s own comments on the release page, “Erik Satie’s compositions wander in Trans Alp’s vast and deep world, drenched in texture and echoing in space, like a drop of water falling in a pool of static.” Well said, Vincent, well said.

Not only has Vincent presented me with music I love through his own label, he was instrumental giving me my first exposure to the Soft Phase netlabel through his Muhr release, Farewell Anthology. Having been on hiatus for nearly 2 years, Soft Phase returned in January with Outra-G‘s Seiren, a collection of glitchy, staccato beats underpinning ethereal, shimmering sheets of translucent washes and hints of distant, whispered conversations hovering just beyond earshot. It may have taken 2 years for Soft Phase to release new material, but the wait was definitely worth it. Beautiful, beautiful post-ambient music that proves ambient isn’t just for late night listening.

Circling back to tie up a loose end, I included a track from Saffron Slumber on last week’s accompanying Mixcloud mix off his release, Somnogen, (as the drone pieces from the release featured were each nearly 30 minutes long) without any attribution in the blog. Released on Resting Bell Netlabel,  I neglected to mention Resting Bell as I planned on featuring their new release, lefolk‘s, isn’t this dangerous, this week. Founded in 2007 by Christian Roth, Resting Bell has continually released some of the most inspirational ambient music on the net from many of the artists that I follow passionately (including, and not limited to, Ian Hawgood, Saffron Slumber, Bengalfuel, offthesky, Phillip Wilkerson, and Saito Koji.) My external hard drive is loaded with Resting Bell releases, many of which I return to again and again. lefolk‘s latest will not be an exception as fading beats weave in and out of a hypnotic, ever-present hiss amid relentless hints of rain in landscapes just beyond while surging electrical currents surface through droning soundscapes bent on warping the very fabric of time. Stunning!

Finally, last week I featured one of my new favorite netlabels, HAZE.org. Since that post, they’ve only gone up in my estimation as I’ve become a huge fan of emptywhale (having featured a collaboration between him and litmus0001 in last week’s accompanying mix.) Having released 2 albums through HAZE, fearscapes and that grey place we go, I’ve become enamored with his post-nuclear, darkly ambient, droning soundscapes that lurch and churn from behind hidden corners, leaving terrifying images burned on peripheral visions from sights you’re unsure you’ve seen and nervous twitches stirred from unsettling sounds that harken back to primordial fears found lurking in the dark. If H.P. Lovecraft were alive and writing today, fearscapes would be his soundtrack. As you might have guessed, emptywhale is currently on very heavy rotation in my headphones.

Next week I hope to feature a few of the older netlabels which have forged my preferences and listening habits and return to a Friday/Saturday posting scheduling (but all that depends upon more things than a mere mortal can control…) Until then, please remember; “… all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death,”  and it’s only what we do tomorrow that may make a difference. Enjoy.

Accompanying Mixcloud mix:

http://www.mixcloud.com/johnny_nowhere/tomorrow-and-tomorrow-and-tomorrow/

it’s a small, small world in netlabel land…

drains to Boston Harbor 69

As those of you who may have read my inaugural post know, this blog is meant merely to be a long personal thread that wanders through the fabric that Creative Commons and netlabel music weave, tracing a faint seam across the sounds that this global music community expands every day. Not surprisingly, it can be a very tight-knit and supportive community that crosses wide geographgic, political and cultural divides. And picking up the thread in one spot can lead to a longer unraveling of many, many threads that can lead anywhere but home.

A case in point is The Fucked Up Beat, a sound project created by Eddie Palmer of New York with Brett Zehner of San Diego in October 2011. I first came across them about a year ago through Free Music Archive, an invaluable resource for anyone interested in finding music on the edge of any genre you may favor, FMA continues to provide me with hours and hours of inspiration every time I return. Eddie and Brett have posted all their recent releases on both their FMA and Bandcamp pages with links to the respective netlabels that host them. While I did find myself familiar with several of those netlabels, I wasn’t familiar with Nostress Netlabel.

Founded in 2011 and operating out of Palermo, Italy, Nostress offers CC music in a wide range of dark and experimental genres with The Fuck Up Beat’s epic two-part foray into the death of the American dream, Rust Belt (1961) & (1968), released at the end of last year, being a perfect example. It truly is an unbelievably impressive feat and an extended glimpse into their creative process. Last month, Nostress released BAUMANN.electronic‘s, Zeitgeistangst.  I’ve been following Jep Cuesta for the last couple of years on all his platforms, in particular his Mixcloud page, and am overwhelmed at the sheer scope and breath of his latest release. Clocking in at over an hour, its 3 compositions offer an unsettling ride through dark dub-techno beats juxtaposed with detached found loops and low grumbling washes. It really does evoke the sound of “Anxiety from the Spirit of Times.”

The Fucked Up Beat have also released music  through picpack, a small netlabel out of the Ukraine that’s already nearing 170 releases, opsound, an almost overwhelming resource for free music, free art, free literature and free creativity of nearly every genre  founded by Sal Randolph, (a long-time copyleft advocate  and someone you should be familiar with!) and who hosted The Fucked Up Beat’s Schizophrenic Wolf last spring, among several others. But it’s their new release, Roswell Radio Cult,  on HAZE Netlabel, which has knocked the pins out from underneath me. An invigorating mash of concrete found sounds and post-ambient/retro-futurist beats and space, Roswell Radio Cult creates one of the most original and intoxicating listenings I’ve had in quite awhile. Their composition titles, visuals and music combine to create an aural poetry that is a refreshing reminder of just how unique an artistic vision can be.

HAZE, a netbal based in Belarus, has been releasing a wide range of experimental music since 2007. They’ve hosted the two most recent The Fucked Up Beat’s releases and have been on my radar throughout the last year for a series of monthly releases they call Sound Interpretations and feature musical interpretations of 20th century writers they feel have been some of last century’s most influential. Beginning with Julio Cortazar, the series features a variety of interpretations of the writer’s words, feelings or personality by a number of HAZE labelmates and outside contributors, and currently includes releases focusing on Franz Kafka, William Gibson, Albert Camus, Stephen King, and (my current fave, of course!), James Joyce. They plan on finishing out the series with interpretations of Jack Kerouac, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Samuel Beckett (which I hope to have a piece finished to contribute…) and Antoine de Saint-Exupery. And it is through these compilations that I continue the thread for this post. While initially drawn to them through their literary angle, once I noticed The Fucked Up Beat were included, I rushed to download them all, leading me to discover Mystified.

A solo project from the prolific Thomas Park, who, as a trained musician from youth, brings a refreshing sense of timbre, tempo and scale to his compositions often lacking in today’s experimental music. Despite having released sounds on such legendary netlabels as webbed hands records and magnatune,  as well as several of my current faves, Petroglyph Music,  Vuzh Music and Buddhist on Fire (among many others), since 2004 (!), I’ve only just become aware of his music. Crossing many musical genres with his vision, Mystified’s Moonshine, on Buddhist on Fire is a particularly intriguing release as it takes Park’s sound in a more  motion driven direction with a feeling of long miles spent on endless highways in lonely cars transecting the unwashed underbelly of empty southern expanses with a radio pulling indistinct sounds from an extraterrestrial signal.

Vuzh Music, a netlabel out of Colorado initially founded to release C. Reider’s personal compositions, has also released material by Mystified and Phillip Wilkerson (see below), growing over the years to spawn several sister labels including  dystimbria, and provided me with my first exposure to the incomparable and entrancing Saffron Slumber through his release Piano Drones 1. I’m now an avid follower of his Soundcloud page.

Mystified has also released a 47 minute track, Coming From the Void,  on we are all ghosts, a netlabel out of Motherwell, Scotland. Started by Thomas Mathie, who also presents the podcast circumambient under the moniker headphonaught, waag features expansive, beatless soundscapes that are more meditative than contemplative. The recent V.A. release, Silas & Friends vol. 1, a collection of collaborations between Cousin Silas and fellow ambient enthusiasts like Phillip Wilkerson, Bing Satellites (both of which will be discussed in detail below) and emptywhale (among others), typifies the close comaraderie this community possesses.

Mystified’s  foray into the uncharted terrain of his inner vision continues on his newest release, Music for Journeys, this time on the netlabel he founded, treetrunk records (originally begun as an opportunity for him to release material of his own which had not found a home but which has grouwn to include a pretty impressive roster), and from which you become fully aware of the breath of his compositions. He has clearly become one of the more influential producers, as well as promoters, in the ambient/experimental community through treetrunk records and its sister site, Complex Silence, a “creative challenge (…) to explore the depths of long-form ambient music composed entirely of extremely subtle changes, dissonant harmonies, stretched-out harmonics, abstract tone washes, layers of mystical atmospheres, or field recordings, but without straying too far from beauty, mystery, or wonder” (italics author).

The most recent Complex Silence release, Complex Silence 32, is a collaboration between Phillip Wilkerson & Mystified, a slightly darker, earthier release in this series that will take the listener on a deep journey through both the lower reaches of seamlessly looping drones and the shimmering peaks of crystalline pads and provides a wonderful introduction for those unfamiliar with these releases. Other outstanding offerings in the series include works by both Bing Satellites and Cousin Silas. In particular, my recent discovery of Brin Coleman’s work as Bing Satelites has provided immeasurable pleasure in both listening to his music and discovering the netlabels he has appeared on.

Once again, as is often the case in the experimental music community, not only is Brin a musician, but also operates the netlabel BFW recordings. His most recent release as Bing Satellites on BFW, The Dream, showcases his use of ambient treatments and lush orchestral strings interspersed with  laconic beats and treated found sounds, creating a mesmerizing blend of driving rhythms and ethereal dreamscapes.

And like treetrunk, BFW has also released material from Phillip Wilkerson and Cousin Silas. All three of these artists have also had material released on another of the influential Creative Commons netlabels, Free Floating Music. Originally begun as a music blog by Vancouver based music lover, Brad Ross-MacLeod, in 2007 (becoming Free Floating in 2008), Brad expanded to a netlabel in 2011 and has already posted some of my favorite releases in the ambient scene, the newest being Cousin Silas’s, Whispers Fall. A mournful, elegiac ode to the moments between day and night, light and dark and sleep and wakefulness, Whispers Fall is a collection of 5 tracks (none less than 10 minutes in length) that point decidedly toward everything that I hope for in an ambient release. It has been on repeated play in my headphones for several weeks now.

Finally, Phillip Wilkerson has also collaborated with litmus0001 on the Anubis Music Netlabel release, The Renaissance House Sessions. A collection of 3 tracks written and recorded over the course of one day, it not only shows the warmth and friendship many of these artists have but also highlights the inherent creativity they have in creating such detailed and intricate work in such a brief time period. It also is the debut release from Anubis and so begins another thread that will hopefully lead down many, many currently uncharted paths, allowing us to unearth riches as yet unimagined.

And for your continued listening pleasure, here is the first installment of mixes that will accompany each post as we journey on: it’s a small, small world in netlabel land on mixcloud. Happy travels.

sounds from the outer edges

lost in a digital forest...

lost in a digital forest…

First of all, thank you for accepting the invitation to hear sounds that may not have passed your way or that may give you pause to revisit warm, old haunts from sessions past. I know you probably won’t love everything you hear on these posts, but hopefully one or more of the following links will help lead you on your own sonic exploration. Because for me, music is a series of transits with neither beginning or end… just an unsatisfied sense that the sounds you’re truly looking for are just around the next corner, sounds heard in an unconventional way, under unique circumstances for no other reason than the sense of discovery.

But how does one express the first tentative steps to someone who has never taken that quest? Would a brief overview of personal favorites provide the necessary signposts for journeys to come, or should there be a linear delving into the individual genres hinted at above in this blog’s tag-line, and should it be necessary to provide the technical specifications that composers use to fashion their visions? After long and deliberate deliberation, I’ve decided to approach this endeavor in much the same manner with which I’ve come to appreciate the great interactive community of musical composers and the network of promoters and labels that help it take flight, by following the threads that tie many of these experimental artists together and to allow room for each reader to interpret their own sounds. Less review and more an offer to listen, each post will be a brief hint at what has recently been released within the reach of my gravitational pull and, more often than not, being freely offered by those creating and releasing it. As many of you know, I’ve long been an advocate of Creative Commons licensing and the countless netlabels that release astonishing music under those terms and this journey will feature many of those labels, as well as band and composers’ personal websites, Soundcloud and/or Bandcamp pages and maybe an occasional link to one of the many blogs I follow that paints a more poetic portrait of the aural experience in question than I ever could.

Okay, so how does this work? Simple. One of the netlabels I’ve recently come across is etched traumas; an impressive new netlabel from Athens that have been releasing material since October ’11. In January they released Nicholas Fair‘s How to Get Lost in Your Bedroom, a laconic, hypnotic suite of 3 instrumental tracks layering treated guitar runs over decaying vocal echoes. Stemming from older recordings, they carry the warmth and noise of time past, of days hazy in memory.

The reason I follow this label and found Nicholas’ wonderful release is etched tramumas’ earlier, back to back release of Red CloudsThe Introduction of a New Species, in April of ’12, and IOK-1‘s That Which Remains is Silence, a month later in May of ’12. Both are projects which I’ve followed avidly through their Soundcloud pages for quite awhile now. Right, I think you’re beginning to see how this works…

James Hoehl, aka Red Clouds, followed “The Introduction of a New Species” with the brooding, droning “Mythology”, 3 soundscapes which continue his dive deeper and deeper into the hypnotic hum of engines yet invented, of an overarching industrial ambience which the future will thrum with night and day. Released in November of ’12 on “Petroglyph Music”, a new Norwegian netlabel launched in the earlier that summer by Rune Martinsen and Oystein Jorgensen, it proved to be a very fortuitous find for me as they would include one of my recent compositions on their extensive, end-of-year holiday compilation, The X-Mas Compilation (sorry, shameless plug, but an amazing compilation featuring more new sounds and musicians for you to discover than there are hours in a day to listen to them all.) And as is often the case with netlabels, those who run them are also artists in their own right. A case in point is Oystein’s new release on Petroglyph Music, “Winter EP”, a blend of crystalline Aurora Borealis shimmers bracingly arcing across the night sky as the cold tones of barren, snowswept tundras howl across the landscape. Rarely does a release’s title match the feelings it evokes, but this truly is the sound of cold Nordic winters slowly passing to their own rhythms and time.

Petroglyph Music continues to impress with their roster of artists, also releasing new material from the Greek producer (who has recently relocated to Manchester, England, I believe) John Ov3rblast. Veteran of several of the more influential netlabels, I first came across his music through DeepinDub. One of the elder soapboxes for Creative Common releases, DeepinDub has a long history of releasing some of the most influential music in the dub and dub techno communities. Although started way back in 2006, it wasn’t until 2008 and their releases from Zzzzra, Upwellings, Idealist and, in particular, the amazing Fingers in the Noise, that I become an advocate of DiD. Like many of the netlabels struggling to cover the costs of production and release, DeepinDub have recently crossed over into the realm of physical releases with another new favorite of mine, Textural Being, having just released his latest collection of tracks, Dreams of Falling, as the second CD to be offered with the DeepinDub imprint.

Another young veteran of the netlabel release circut, Textural Being’s Sage Taylor has released material on basic_sound, which I will feature in-depth in later posts, the influential Monokrak, as well as one of the most promising new labels, Cold Tear Records. In roughly 3 years, Cold Tear has gone from a small Lithuanian upstart to having released material by Textural Being, Brickman, who is currently one of my favorite artists, slow noise and Moonwalker. In addition to all those wonderful releases on Cold Tear, they’ve also just released a new series of tracks from Brazilian born Cesar “M1A1” Alexandre, aka Iminazole, who, while vacationing in Japan, created 10 tracks of sonic space that continue his exploration of the frequencies and tempos that inform and define minimal ambient techno.

And so there it is, the first tentative steps on this epic voyage of discovery. From Nicholas Fair’s haunting sounds of moments slipping into memory to Oystein Jorgensen’s hyperboreal Arctic ambience to Iminazole’s dubbed out clash of modulated loops and distant, hissing Oriental rains, all in one easy journey. And this is only the beginning…