Get to know yourself with Semena Mertvykh's debut EP

There is a sense of resigned solitude on Semena Mertvykh’s debut EP. It’s a feeling not uncommon in Russian art, where Mertvykh hails from, and it fits quite well with the thick, syrupy detuned chords that sludge their way through the EP. Those chords, echoing the same analog synth patch techniques of Boards of Canada, are sometimes harmonic, sometimes slightly dissonant, but always lonely. Perhaps it makes sense, then, for Mertvykh to not only self-release this EP, but self-title it as well. Even in the video for ‘Decay’, the airiest of the tracks that reminds me of Dedekind Cut’s more recent work, not a single soul is visible. Clearly, this is music made for the self — self-reflection, self-evaluation, self-control, self-actualization. Watch the video for Decay above, and you’ll see. Just make sure to do it by yourself.

You can check out the rest of the EP as well on Spotify, or pay what you want to download on Bandcamp.

— review by autonomy

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Lichtriss finds hope in the darkness on 'nachts'

‘nachts’, the final track on Lichtriss’ new EP titled ‘Glut’, lays its foundation with noisy, barely-harmonic electric distortions and reverberations that on its own would be interesting enough to fans of dark ambient and dub techno styles. Capturing the unending solitude of the vast expanses of our mechanized landscape is a central idea in these disciplines. But not long after setting this scene of midnight idle-industry, Lichtriss pokes through those endless nights with glowing synth pads that seem to offer refuge from that uneasy feeling that we may very well be living in a dystopia. As we progress, the glow continues; it confirms our hope, it reaffirms our existence as one worthy of life in this world. It leaves us with the message: no, our world is not good. But we are, and that might be enough.

— review by autonomy

Listen to the rest of the Glut EP on Spotify, and keep up with Lichtress’ other music elsewhere.
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Beyond The Hill's 'Granular Life' will turn your life into film

The debut EP from Japan’s 丘を越えて (Beyond The Hill), out now on 16:9 Recordings, is the perfect first release for a label ostensibly focusing on cinematic styles of music. 16:9 is of course the standard aspect ratio for High Definition digital video, and the EP’s title of ‘Granular Life’ is certainly evocative of one of the most distinct qualities of film, namely grain. But the title also goes beyond visual qualities, and can be taken more literally: these tracks were produced using granular synthesis techniques.

The opening track, Flicker Wind, (listen above) is a timeless ambient opener that would do well to accompany any number of tasks in daily life. It is at once precise in tone, and also flexible to interpretation. Think Boards of Canada in their more cinematic mode. The rest of the tracks on this EP only strengthen this comparison, expanding the Granular Life cinematic world in all directions. It’s a shame that such a carefully constructed world clocks in at under 15 minutes, just when you start to feel at home in its warm embrace. Nevertheless, it’s a strong first release from 16:9, and we’ll have to keep an eye on the label to see what they conjure up next.

Stream “Flicker Wind” above, and find the whole EP on 16:9 Recordings’ Bandcamp.

- review by autonomy

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From Toronto to the Far North with Alaskan Tapes

What do the expanses of Alaska and Toronto ambient producer Brady Kendall have in common? Well aside from the obvious namesake (Alaskan Tapes) there is certain feeling of calmness one gets surrounded by nature out in the great wilderness. This same tranquility can be found in Kendall’s ambient pieces, often incorporating field recordings, piano, and elements of peacefulness.

Kendall describes the opening track from his most recent release.
”Untitled #1 is apart of my new 4 Track EP entitled "The Ocean No Longer Wants Us", it's a long drone track, that incorporates subtle melody through piano, and other instruments run through Granular synths.” 

Untitled #1 strikes a delicate balance between melody, texture and depth. Soft and gradual ambiance rises and falls, accented by floaty touches of piano, contrasting coarseness of field recordings, and a final touch of nostalgia.

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Ambient Longplayer from New York's John Thayer

How long should a good ambient track be?

5 minutes? 10 minutes? 15 minutes?

New York composer and musician- John Thayer and Washington DC based record label- Surfacing Records both agree it should be somewhere up the double digits. Which in itself, is quite the feat. To create a sonically engaging, varied and dynamic arrangement that can not only hold the listeners attention for that amount of time, but gradually and subtly pull them into a world of warm tape loops and organic field recordings.

Thayer’s release ‘Regarding Wave’ from earlier this year has exactly this drawn out, engaging effect. Featuring 2 tracks of 14 and 17 minutes in length, the release takes an unhurried approach into a world of soft synths, lofi vibrations, and delicate drones. It’s the perfect unobtrusive soundtrack to accompany a good book or a quick mental reset. Regardless of the musical pairing, John Thayer’s thoughtful and effortless compositions should definitely be on your ambient music radar.

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Ambient dream-time from Germany's BLCKCSTLS

As Brian Eno once said “Ambient Music must be able to accomodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.“

We’d definitely like to think of the ambient music of German producer Georg-Christoph Stadler, aka BLCKCSTLS, as falling in the latter category, being dynamic and intriguing sonic creations deserving the listener’s undivided attention. And while this is certainly true, there is an effortless unobtrusiveness flowing through his productions which also makes them the perfect companion for an evening of studying, relaxing or getting work done.

And this is the real beauty of a good ambient album, appealing to the various layers of a listeners attention without imposing any sort of will upon the observer. Leaving it upto us to decide how closely to listen or how deeply to dive. Allowing the listener to complete other tasks or close their eyes and let the sounds envelope them. This is indeed a unique freedom, rarely afforded by other genres of modern music.

This kind of passive beauty can be witnessed in Stadler’s recent EP entitled ‘Secorder’. The album description reads “A quick and unmastered EP made on a cold Autumn evening to shorten the wait for Notes from the Dust.” Although only running about 15 minutes in length, the uncluttered and spontaneous EP gives us a good taste of things to come from the rising ambient composer.

Support his music over on Bandcamp

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Spiritual music from a Tokyo Dragonfly

Next up for your listening pleasure is a local (for those of us in Japan, that is) Japanese artist, Tonbo (meaning Dragonfly in Japanese). Tonbo has been flying around the Tokyo underground electronic music scene for some years now, exploring the spiritual side of music and Japanese culture. Tonbo produces, DJs, plays guitar and even gets on the mic from time to time. He also puts on a regular party dubbed the Tonbo Matsuri, (Dragonfly Festival) which is described as, "...a crazy bash to make a place for releasing spirits." Our featured track, "Gion", comes from the recently released Yellow Trance EP. It’s been released on the Psymatics label and follows Tonbo's first full length album, released in early 2017, Tokyo Mad Cave. Tonbo works and collaborates with numerous musicians and creators, "Gion" follows that trend. The tune features the Japanese traditional string instrument the shamisen, as played by Tokyo Ghetto Shamisen.

"Gion" is hard to pin down, it dabbles in the ambient, downtempo and psychedelic genres, while also containing elements of minimal, acid house and trance. As a whole it has a deep, transcendental feeling, combining analog and digital sounds. There's both traditional Japanese drums and our aforementioned shamisen playing a dominant role in the track, along with electronic drum beats, treble droplets, and a constant bassline. At times the track feels foreign and cold but always maintains a feeling of Japaneseness; a certain ancient spirituality, that lingers throughout.

Tonbo is an interesting experience listening to in single track form. A given tune feels like it belongs to a piece of a much bigger expression. I have a feeling a full set from Tonbo is an experience that is sure to transport participants to another world and may very well be up to the task of releasing a spirit or two in the process.

If our Dragonfly man Tonbo has enticed you, as he has me, make sure to give him a look on the following platforms.

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'Humanity at a crossroads' with Deru's new album- Torn in Two

One part cutting edge digital art project and one part snapshot of a dystopian future, Emmy award winning film composer and music producer - Benjamin Wynn, aka Deru, puts forth some his most poignant work to date with his new album ‘Torn in Two'.’

With a rich musical background, Wynn has taken his years of technical and musical experience and boiled them down into this 9 track concept album, bringing some of humanity’s most pressing challenges to the forefront and dissecting them with laser sharp sound design and texture rich productions.

There are delicate moments, tumultuous times, and walls of sound powerful enough to disassemble your physical self. Ultimately this is a concept album on the human condition, our vulnerability, strength and uncertain future. What would Earth be like without humans at all?

Attempting to tackle such large, philosophical questions in a coherent form of presentable art is a monumental task to say the least, luckily Wynn had some help in bringing these concepts to life. Take our video above for example, ‘Refuge’ is the 2nd track off the album and in many ways the counterweight to the bone-crushing opening track ‘Torn in Two’. With billowing acoustic elements and slow, cinematic builds of white noise, the audio syncs perfectly with the monochrome and desolate visual landscape.

The film is directed and edited by Wynn himself, in collaboration with Bryan Konietzko, the animator and director best known for Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, who provided the concept, art direction and digital sculpting. Longtime collaborator EFFIXX provided visual effects, 3D rendering, and artwork design. Tim Navis supplied the tintype photographic plates used as backdrops and cover art, and Xander Smith served as 3D Sculpting Assistance.

’Torn in Two’ is available via LA imprint Friends of Friends.
Grab it on limited edition translucent splatter double vinyl with gatefold or digitally over on Bandcamp


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Finnish film composer Kepa Lehtinen shares theremin serenade- 'Kontula'

Born in 1971 in Helsinki, Finland, Kepa Lehtinen has been deeply involved with music ever since he was a child. Whether it be pianos, synthesizers, theremins, drums or accordions, Kepa aimed to master his musical technique and develop his creative personality from a young age.

Eventually this led Kepa to pursue a full career in music which saw him first studying sound design at Aalto University in Helinski, and later appearing on countless film credits for his work as a composer, sound editor, and sound designer. His work has appeared across award winning Finnish titles such as Kimmo (TV series), Almost 18 (feature film), and A Stone Left Unturned (short).

This past April, Kepa released his first solo album entitled “Playing Theremin”, which fused analog synthesizers with the magic of the theremin. The result is a beautiful hybrid of organic and electronic elements; a sound as deliberate as it is delicate whereas even the smallest movements are felt by the listener.

Listen to the full album over on his Spotify

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Ambient IDM from Dutch duo- Tangent

Dutch production duo Ralph van Reijendam and Robbert Kok craft sonic journeys combining cutting-edge electronics with more traditional musical instruments. Always striving for the pinnacle of sound quality, Ralph and Robbert are constantly pushing their creative boundaries by exploring new and exciting ways of working with sound. 

Ralph van Reijendam graduated from HKU University of the Arts Utrecht with a Bachelor of Arts and Technology in 2007, specializing in post-production audio for film, animation and video games. Since graduating Ralph has worked as a sound designer, creating custom fx and atmospheres, and an audio/visual installation artist, creating live interactive environments utilizing custom built Max/MSP programs he designed himself. 

Robbert Kok, growing up playing in a number of metal bands throughout high school, eventually became the vocalist for the well known Dutch death metal band Disavowed. Active now for nearly two decades, Disavowed and Robbert's various live music experience has undoubtably lent itself well to his electronic projects as well.

Tangent is the hybridization of both Ralph and Robert's creative sensibilities and decades worth of technical musical experience. Lucky for us, the duo have a fresh new album entitled 'Approaching Complexity' slated for release Oct.5 on Oakland, California label N5MD. The opening track 'Confinement' is an 8 minute epic piece full of layered distortion, rich textures, and emotive pads. If this track is any sign of what the full album has in store we are certainly in for a treat!  

Pre-order 'Approaching Complexity' on vinyl, CD, or digital on the N5MD Bandcamp      

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