My top listens in November 🎶

Dijon – Absolutely (R&R Digital / Warner)

I listened to the album multiple times off the back of this track, “Many Times”. I love it, and love the video, even if I feel a bit queasy.

Dijon is referred to as an R&B singer, but knowing nothing about him before this video and listening to the rest of the album I thought, as much as that makes some sense on some tracks (especially “The Dress”), he also sounds like he’s into Americana and rock and a lot of stuff. There’s beatless guitar ballads and all sorts.

Breakbeat-led “Talk Down” kicks off with the lines “Listening to Gillian Welch / Ooh, I can’t help myself”, FFS. (On the album anyway, not sure what he’s singing in this video…)

I wasn’t into the whole album in equal amounts, but I still wish I could buy it. There’s heaps of ideas, heaps of cool bits, and it sounds like Dijon likes other singers and musicians I like. The rough feel reminds me a bit of Cody Chestnutt, in a good way. The R&B-and-not vibe reminds me of Blood Orange, also favourably. But not all the songs hit for me. “Many Times” and “Talk Down” are a couple of faves, but some of the soft numbers like “God In Wilson” are pretty great too.

Ulla – Limitless Frame (Motion Ward)

So at the end of July I said this wasn’t my fave release by Ulla, despite having listened to it a lot for a couple of months. Well, it really clicked with me this month. Still probably not my fave, but I have been a bit obsessed, so…

Given how I’ve been overspending since Bandcamp Friday became a thing, it’s a pretty good sign that I’m still listening to an album regularly six months on from when I bought it.

I also found it to be a good bedtime listen, which always clocks up a lot of plays. Chuck something on at night and pass out at some point.

Etelin – Frisson (Lillerne Tapes)

I still listen to Etelin’s 2018 release Hui Terra, and I rate it really highly. On Bandcamp I wrote the following about that one:

Delicate and curious explorations that I can listen to again and again. I don’t have kids but the backstory about this being made as a new parent somehow makes sense to me.

Backstory aside, I could say the same about Frisson. Only 4 tracks, but I must’ve listened many times for it to be near my most listened. I guess it’s an ambient release, and in particular the last track is a synth drone kind of thing, but even that is engaging and interesting in the context of what’s come before. IME, anyway.

William Tyler & Luke Schneider – Understand (Leaving Records)

Another release with only 4 tracks, so, yeah, I thrashed this one. Country vibes, with guitar and banjo, in an instrumental and I guess ambient context. But certainly quite different to long-time country + ambient adventurer Andrew Tuttle, say.

The plodding home organ drum machine and repeating guitar lines on “The Witness Tree” remind me of JJ Cale, but in a sort of Paris, Texas mode. Good times.

I’ve realised I’m a bit judgey about Leaving Records being overly new age, but I’ve also had some good times with several of their albums in recent months!

Grouper – Shade (Kranky)

I’d never gone so far as to buy a Grouper album. I regret buying this, to be honest. Not sure I get what Liz Harris is all about. Maybe it’ll click later.

Kris Keogh & Endurance – In Autumn (Self-released)

At time of writing it looks like I’m one of two people who’s paid for this album, which is a real shame as it’s some deeply beautiful ambient music. I’ve been following Keogh since his first excellent processed harp album 10 years ago, and a set of all-synth duets might sound like they’d hold less textural good times than someone going ham on a harp… but no, it’s excellent stuff. (Yet another 4-track release that I thrashed sufficiently to have it show up here.)

Luke Schneider – Altar of Harmony (Third Man Records)

Excellent Nashville-based ambient music maker Belly Full Of Stars hipped me to the two Luke Schneider albums I listened to, in response to some online chat about the crossover between ambient and country music. (Thanks, Kim! 🖤) If I’m reading rightly, this is entirely the sounds of pedal steel, but worked into huge power ambient numbers that are often completely divorced from their source sonically IMO. I was impressed, but not in love with it. We’ll see how we go.

More Eaze – Yearn (Lillerne Tapes)

When I picked up the new Etelin release I started noseying back through Lillerne’s back catalogue. I’d recently heard More Eaze’s collaboration with Dntel and Brin and was pretty into that. Turns out her solo work is pretty great too. Another 4-tracker, and worth it for the last track alone. But that’s not too dismiss the others!

G.E.K. – Faculty of Perception (Otomatik Muzik)

A Danish duo of sax and trombone, apparently, but definitely synths in the mix. Seems like the label is quite experimental and difficult, but this release is relatively accessible, if, say, you find Colin Stetson a good time. Chugging, propulsive (but drum-free) instrumentals.

My top listens in October 🎶

The 9 albums I listened to most in the last month, according to play stats.

In October I spent plenty of time with Signer’s recent music, listening to EPs from his Isolated Dreams series, but because they’re all only 2-3 tracks long they don’t show up in the above chart.

Taylor Swift – evermore (Republic Records)

I can’t remember why I decided to check this out. I’ve never particularly liked previous Swift singles, but I knew she’d more recently been writing and recording with the members of Big Red Machine (Aaron Dressner of The National + Bon Iver) and I thought that sounded interesting. She shows up on multiple tracks on Big Red Machine’s new album actually – probably the only legit release on Bandcamp that involves her?

To be honest, I’ve never really liked either The National or Bon Iver, but they’re still of interest to me. I try on stuff they release from time to time, wondering if it’ll click this time. So far, nah, though I liked their contributions to a Mouse On Mars album a few years back now.

Anyway, I liked evermore enough that I listened to the whole 15-track album more than once and then thrashed a few tracks. I don’t enjoy the album from start to finish, but, to my wife’s great disappointment, really like some of it.

Having said I never got The National, this song where their singer showed up was one of my faves. They sound great together imo.

BON – Pantheon (Shimmering Moods)

So I only listened to this twice, but because it has 18 tracks, it’s near the top of the chart. As a test to myself, I tried to remember what it sounded like without giving it another listen. I remember ambient synth instrumentals that sounded like someone was playing them. No drums, so samples or other textures that I remember.

This is 1 of 4 albums in the chart from the label that released my Recording last Jan.

Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever (Darkroom / Interscope)

What I knew before listening to Billie Eilis for the first time was: she’s a pop star people say can really sing, something about some jazz influences, and lots of nerds get excited about her brother Finneas’s bass-heavy production.

I heard these two songs first via a react video, and immediately really liked both of them. The incredibly spare, darkly-mixed sound of “Lost Cause” felt like a throwback to weird 90s productions like Moloko before they got famous for a house remix, or when DJ Vadim remixed Icelandic band Gus Gus on 4AD way back, or early singles by Arlo Park. But the whole thing is bigger and more banging.

While I really like “Your Power” from the start, it’s the sub bass stuff that comes in later that’s the real hook for me.

I wasn’t that into the rest of the album in the end, but from the play stats I gave it a decent hoon. Eilish is obviously a really competent singer, but I do find the thing where she’s singing really softly, almost talking sometimes, then it’s turned up really loud quite … intense? I love that about “Lost Cause”, mind you. And Finneas’s beats and arrangements are often great, but at the risk of sounding more-alt-than-thou, I’ve been listening to so much more out-there shit for decades now, so the most I can say about his reputed innovations is that I am glad sounds like this are meeting with massive commercial success.

Tawdry Otter – Dark Mansion Of Forbidden Beats (self-released)

Jinkies! Adrien aka Adrien75 dropped a great Hallowe’en release here, laced with samples from oooold horror movies and related material. It has a classic melodic IDM kind of thing going on, but if that phrase gives you chills then don’t let me put you off! Expect chunky drum machines, bouncy breakbeats, and bright synth and guitar melodies.

Nueen – Circular Sequence (Quiet Time Tapes)

This comes only a couple of months after his last release, but it’s at least as good imo. Soft and new agey synth stuff and the title seems apt. Lots of repeating sequences of notes, but with things slowly evolving. In my favourite moments, like on “Moving II”, the different sequences feel like they’re going at different speeds and it’s a pleasure to not even try to keep track of what’s going on.

Kraus – Chocolate, Candy, Love and Dreams (self-released)

Super crisp, unadorned FM synth numbers here from Kraus, quite a sideways step from his more psych material. The lack of fx makes it feel quite intimate and purposeful, even in a 100% digital domain. “Horse Pyramid” wins track name of the year, I think.

Fa.R – Machine.Learning (Shimmering Moods)

This album is only 7 tracks but clocks in at just under 80 minutes long. Most of the tracks are like little suites or megamixes. Or they’re just long. 😄

The fantastic sound palette makes me think of the noisy end of dub techno, with plenty of hiss and crackle and submerged synth chords, but the beats never come. It’s one of those albums where any given moment just sounds so good to me. You could do the virtual equivalent of a record needle drop at any point and not be like “oh you have to really hear this from the start to get it”.

W.E._aa – (Shimmering Moods)

What I just wrote above about the sound palette of Fa.R’s record could equally apply to this, although I’d say the noise is even more to the fore on this.

Compositionally they’re pretty different, with this album often involving faster rhythmic sequences, electric-piano like chord sequences, and more sudden changes. And cats. Not just on the cover, there’s a lot of meowing on one track.

Champignonsdesbois – Missed Calls (Shimmering Moods)

A collection of 18 short field recordings. I found myself wanting to listen to something where the field recordings are worked into music, like the Longbrows release I was listening to a lot last month.

My top listens in September🎶

Joy Orbison – Still Slipping (XL Recordings)

So Joy O seems pretty eager to say this isn’t an album, but it is 14 tracks of original music that are a great listen. The whole thing is scattered with vocal recordings from people in his life, and someone early on says “The second you just change the language to mixtape, nobody cares.” Whatever it takes to get the thing out!

There’s a lot I love about Joy Orbison. One thing is that he’s definitely making dance music and he’s using interesting textures and sounds that you don’t often hear in dance music, and which totally take me back to mid-90s electronica. It might not be the first time around for me hearing these nerdy sounds, but in the context of this kind of low-key bass music they just work better, hit harder, whatever.

Music for Dogs – Spoor (Cached Media)

It’s a jazz duo, I guess, but I’d be pushed to call this a jazz record. Blippy electronic drums, most tracks are kind of sketch-like, and then every now and then … a clarinet solo. I really like it. One of many things I stumbled upon via Adrien’s recent BNDCMPR playlists (Ambient and Beats). The funny thing is I probably got him on to Cached Media, but I missed this release when it came out in February.

Longbrows – Manywhere (self-released)

The latest Longbrows release is, like his last, field recordings tweaked and worked into musical compilations. This one’s a travelogue, with each track a kind of relatively abstract vignette of a different place and time. Often the recordings themselves capture some musical moment, or else the tones of the field recordings are drawn out in a harmonic or melodic fashion, so it’s perhaps not as abstract as I make it out to be.

While most of it is definitely beatless, just to mix things up, High times in the low countries is almost like an 80s hip-hop instrumental, with rhythms of horses on cobblestones, bell melodies, and a dog worthy of a song by The Baha Men.

Place: Georgia and Place: Columbia (Place:)

So I’ve been getting very into a producer called KMRU over the last year or so, and I saw he was selecting tracks for a compilation called Place: Nairobi. At the time it hadn’t come out yet, but it got me checking out the Place: website and Bandcamp page. The folks behind this series describe “Place:” as follows:

A location specific electronic music compilation series where all proceeds are donated to local groups working on environmental causes in that area.

The series seems pretty switched on, from what I can tell, but also not very well supported, if the little fan icons on Bandcamp are anything to go by. 🤔

Anyway, yeah, compilations of electronic music from specific places. Largely what I’d call either techno or ambient, with a scattering of electro. I got to wondering about how neither compilation sounds particularly of its location, to my foreign ears. But I imagine if you had, say, metal compilations from around the world it would be similar: you wouldn’t necessarily spot the country of origin from just listening. Arguably this will be more exaggerated with instrumental music.

Christoph El’ Truento – Foraging (Cosmic Compositions)

When I started I unsurprisingly revisited a whole lot of local ambient music, and this Truento release from 2019 floated to the surface. I think of Chris’s stuff normally in the context of hip-hop – maker of many beat tapes and producer for Home Brew, @Peace, etc. – even though I know his El’ Truento output ranges all over the place.

This is a warm and bright collection of interesting instrumentals. Among the soft and wandering synths psychedelic touches abound, from reversed stuff, roaming guitar lines, to flutes and inscrutable recordings. It is not washed out drones, earnest acoustic felted piano, or anything you might call noise, so it steers clear of a lot of the most common tropes of contemporary ambient.

Jörgen Kjellgren – Hollawood (The Slow Music Movement)

4-track EP that’s basically nice guitar instrumentals in Americana territory, with some interesting electronic texture.

I don’t have that much more to say! But I listened to it a lot. Genuinely calming.

Perila and Ulla – Silence Box 1 (Silence Box)

This is a nice mix of delicate instrumental bits with field recordings, often sliced abruptly or otherwise almost dumped on the track in slabs of sound. Perila comes from a background in doing ASMR stuff, which I never picked from her solo releases, but it makes some sense here.

I was writing about Ulla in July. Her and Perila also have a collaboration called LOG that I’ve listened to a bunch. Not sure what’s going on with these Silence Box releases – they’re all by the two of them, who are as far as I know from Russia and USA respective, and the Bandcamp page says the label is from Portugal. But anyway, this is the one that caught my attention and I listened to it repeatedly.

Szymon Kaliski – Out of Forgetting (Audiobulb)

I can’t remember why this 2013 release (recorded in 2009) went on my Bandcamp wishlist in the last couple of months, but it’s been a very enjoyable listen over the last month. It’s relatively short – 7 tracks – so I probably listened to it more than some of the albums that came in higher up the chart (Longbrows and Joy Orbison’s have twice as many tracks).

Anyway, it kicks off with glitched up piano stuff, which I’m pretty partial to. I feel a bit like I’m often saying this about music I like, but in the end each track is its own thing, like the person making it was just focused on making that one piece of music the most that track it could be.

My top listens in August 🎶

Li Yilei – 之 / OF (Métron Records)

I’m sure collections made in managed isolation or under lockdown are already becoming a bit tired, people wishing things were otherwise and all that. But Yilei’s collection of things made in isolation after they returned to China as their UK visa expired is definitely worth repeat listens, whatever the backstory. ASMR-like tiny recorded details and super-clean digital synths play off each other, creating kind of new age flavours in places, but elsewhere the use of wind instruments and surprising tones make things pretty edgy.

Jessy Lanza – 24/7 (Hyperdub)

Surprisingly easy to listen through from start to finish, which many remix releases are not. I really like Lanza but found her third album a bit too much of the same same, so am glad these remixes are so good. Great to hear her voice and compositions in new contexts. There’s great range here, my faves being the more skittery syncopated things. Foodman never dropping the bass (as always) made me really happy. The screwed intro to Loraine James’ mix is another lovely highlight. Possibly the contrasting sounds – Kate NV’s retro pop vibe or Visible Cloaks’ usual low-on-beats and trippy business – make the beat-heavy tracks stand out too. And yeah it’s easy to put on and listen through; since it’s a short EP, its high placing on the list reflects a lot of me doing just that.

Joggers Vol.1 A Communal Compilation (Jogging House?)

If you give the musician Jogging House money via his Patreon account, you get access to a Discord server as one of the perks. Through that Patreon and that Discord has come about this compilation – as in, it’s music organised through that Discord, exclusively by members of that Discord. A million years ago I participated in a compilation for members of the Atom™ mailing list, which is about as close a point of comparison as I can come up with, although no money changed hands. I don’t mean to make it sound like I think this is sinister, I think the whole thing is pretty damn cool.

To the music: it’s pretty, synthy ambient-ish electronic stuff, leaning towards soft and intimate rather than say epic or cavernous. If you know Jogging House or his label Seil Records you probably won’t be surprised by any of the contents. But a lot of the music is very enjoyable to listen to, which given most artists are absolute no-names even within the micro-audiences we’re talking about, is nice to hear in more than one sense.

Sam Wilkes – WILKES (Leaving Records)

This has awesomely detailed notes on Bandcamp, in lieu of liner notes, and I love it. Wilkes lists Coltrane first in influences, and I get it. The thing opens with a Coltrane number, in fact, and the record is dominated by the sax playing of Sam Gendel, who Wilkes has also done a couple of releases with now. But, being on Matthewdavid’s Leaving Records, it’s not just a jazz record. It’s synthy, beaty electronic backdrops with lo-fi sampled vocal loops and such and it’s jazz, in a way that might live up to the words “acid jazz” if you’d never heard that genre. It’s also short, so its high placing in my list reflects many a listen.

I forget how I got here almost 3 years post-release – I assume it was via a Louis Cole binge, as he plays on this plenty – but I’m happy I did.

Frog of Earth – Frog of Earth (wherethetimesgoes)

Just a chance listen from the ginormous What are you listening to? topic on the lines forum. Apparently a frog-themed concept album out of Dublin, from January this year.

Drum-free synth instrumentals that I wouldn’t call ambient. It’s great stuff, but I’m not sure what else I’d say beyond that.

Pil – Wish For Good Timing (C Minus)

More of that contemporary ambient from the same circles that include Picnic, DJ Paradise, Huerco S (though he doesn’t like ambient music, and fair enough), Ulla Straus and others. Kansas City via Berlin? I dunno. I don’t have much to say, but I do like it.

Sonmi451 – Seven Signals In The Sky (LAAPS)

I’ve been following Sonmi451 since we were labelmates on Monotonik 15 years ago. This is a brand new album from him and he’s still in roughly the same territory, but refined and polished for better and for worse. More orchestral sounds, almost a bigger-budget feel. It’s undoubtedly beautiful but I’ll admit, even as I always rush on to the next thing anyway, this isn’t one I can imagine myself coming back to very often. We’ll see.

Kate Carr – dawn, always new, often superb, inaugurates the return of the everyday (self-released)

Another case where what I’m listening to crosses over some with my music-making, as Kate released Montano’s A Distant Light last year. Her own music is very focused on field recording and in exploring and manipulating sound, with this particular release contemplating a particular roundabout in London with a whole lot of interesting history. She’s using a geophone and contact mics here, which, if you need a translation, really means that the sounds involved may not sound anything like what you would hear if you went to the location in question. The notes on Bandcamp are well worth a read.

Midcentury Modular – Noncompetitive Music (Fallen Moon Records)

This is the only one in common with last month’s top listens. Not much more to say.

My top listens in July 🎶

I’ve decided to take the stats I normally share on social media each month, provide links, and write something. As per Disquiet’s great post about why you should blog, blogging is mostly for the writer. So I’ll try and see what that does for me.

I use to capture basically all music I listen to: MP3s on my computer or phone, plays on Deezer, and plays on the Bandcamp app. Despite feeling like a bit of a ghost town now, some freaks have built a new chart visualisation app, Musicorum, which I’m using for this image of what I listened to.

Two things bug me about how does its charts. First, they’re based on number of different tracks you play, not amount of time spent listening. I picked up and listened to Chad Munson’s Lost Language quite a bit in July, but its 50-minute duration is made up of two tracks, so it’s unlikely to show up. Conversely, an album with many short tracks will end up at the top of the charts even if I just listened to it once or twice.

The second thing is that I listen to a lot of compilations, but I guess because each track has its own artist name they don’t always show up in charts as one album. Weirdly, MP3s from my phone show up as one album, but not on my laptop. 🤷‍♂️

I bought three compilations in July that I really liked and listened through multiple times, plus the new Strange Behaviour compilation I’m on, Ambient Maladies:

  • Jogging House of Seil Records put together A Communal Compilation, which is a lot of unknown artists making gentle synth-led ambience;
  • a hefty charity record, Slow Sketch 2: Reflections of the Ambient Community, which is quite diverse for an ambient comp, but leans towards the more earnest and droney end of ambience; and
  • recent obsession Nikolaienko led me to what looks to be his label, Muscut, and the compilation Test Pressing III, which contains Muscut artists plus Andrew Pekler, Jan Jelinek, and more doing often weird and murky electronic experiments that I find hard to sum up in a sentence.

Right, here’s links and thoughts on that top 9.

Matt Rösner – No Lasting Form (Room40)

I’ve been happily listening to Matt’s collaboration with Seaworthy on 12k for a decade or more now and was excited to stumble upon this new solo work via browsing Lawrence English’s Room40 label.

Matt says of his process that “There were months where I didn’t record a single note, I just listened in a very detailed and deliberate way.” and for me the results reflect that slow and deliberate approach. I find the album hypnotic and quite its own thing. There is nothing I can point to that’s particularly formally distinctive, like the sounds he uses or compositional tricks or whatever, but I couldn’t point to any other beatless instrumental music and say “this record sounds like that”. The repeating sounds through most tracks often include piano- and bell-like noises, which make things feel not quite electronic and more environmental.

nueen – Nova Llum (Good Morning Tapes)

Literally Balearic music: chill out stuff from a guy from Mallorca. Often tracks feel kind of retro, from the slow breakbeat on Split which could be off some 90s 12″, to the crisp, sparkling synths and dramatic chords of Time=Feel which nods hard towards 90s ambience a la Global Communications’ classic. A great collection of tracks that flows really nicely.

Paq – Hyphae (Crash Symbols)

Another one that sometimes reminds me of the 90s, but more in the territory of the first few Air albums, some Skylab or something – and at times going way back to the Perrey & Kingsley records that people were sampling and making references to then. So, sometimes 90s, sometimes 60s and 70s via the 90s – thanks retro cycles! I mean, you have tracks with names like Atomic Samba! Overall, the album has a great psychedelic feel; a set of instrumental tracks that sometimes head off into space, but more often have a solid groove. Sometimes you’ve got old school drum machines, sometimes rolling, acoustic-sounding drums. Some double bass, some vibraphone, whatever spacey sounds making up the rhythm section, and often the kind of squeaky synth melodies I associate with old Moog records.

Midcentury Modular – Noncompetitive Music (Fallen Moon Records)

I got here because it’s a label that released me in the past – if I’m looking at a label to release my stuff it’s because they already put out things I like, so maybe that’s no great surprise. But then, after buying this, I discovered it’s the alias of a guy I’ve chatted with plenty via the lines forum. This release and Grosse’s do nothing to ease my feeling that ambient music is mostly practitioners listening to each other. 😅

Anyway, what we have here is a really tasty collection of synth jams. I would call it ambient, but it’s not in the washed-out or droning territory you might think of, and some tracks like entering the tunnel have a really driving pulse to them. The sounds lean towards grubby and fuzzy, with sounds collapsing into noise on some tracks, rather than all delicate sparkles and such. Some tracks like ciat 2 have chunky bass pedals, but my faves tend to me the lighter suspended tracks like the pair wandering flower garden and staggered blooms.

Ulla – Limitless Frame (Motion Ward)

I named Ulla’s first album as the single album on my end of year list for 2019. It felt like the thing I most wanted someone, anyone to check out. Ulla has turned out to be really prolific and I’ll admit I’m almost hitting the point of overload. I think this counts as her fourth solo album (so that’s three in the last year and a half), plus she’s done numerous shorter releases and amazing things with Perila, both under their separate names and as LOG.

I’ve listened to this heaps since it came out in late June and I think I have to admit it’s not my fave. It’s more diverse, e.g. one track is a mellow saxophone solo, another a murky piano lament (over 8 minutes!) and another sounds like guitar noodling – a bit more processed, like on Clearly The Memory, but still quite a departure from what she has been doing. On the split release with Oceanic, Plafond 4, she did things like this that I really liked, but here these tracks just don’t grab me and make me buzz like her more abstract moments where hard-to-describe sounds loop-but-don’t, coming and going and changing form. Still, that’s not to say it’s not a good record and I’ll still be jumping on whatever Ulla does next.

Grosse – Untitled (self-released)

From time to time I do the assignments from the Disquiet Junto, and Marc Weidenbaum has a Slack workspace for contributors to chat. I hang out there a lot and get a lot of recommendations. Grosse is another of the Slack members. He put out two releases concurrently in February. I finally picked up a copy of this one and have no regrets.

It’s another set of electronic instrumentals, each quite different from the next, and none landing neatly in the territory of a particular genre. I don’t have much more to say than that!

Womb – Holding A Flame (Flying Nun)

Something with singing! Heh, the only one. I will say Womb songs sound pretty samey to me, but it’s a samey I love. They remind me a little of a slightly sad-sounding indie I associate with the 90s, but I couldn’t name an act they specifically remind me of.

For this to make the charts means I listened to it a lot, because it’s just a four-track EP. Compare with e.g. Noncompetitive Music‘s twelve tracks.

Suuri-Pieksä – Fitolampa (Triangle & The Snitches)

Four lovely synth tracks, my fave being the dubbed out second track, which has this beautiful synth progression through loads of echoes accompanied by gurgling and lurching sounds like a tape being mangled. Something about how pretty and friendly the synth line is (and that it sounds like it’s being played, with variations) pairs beautifully with the quiet pitch mayhem happening in the background.

Nikolaienko – Rings (Faitiche)

Probably quite typically for me, most of what I listened to in July is music that I got in the same month. But this has stuck around for a while now. I don’t feel like I can describe it adequately. From the descriptions and so on I understand it’s mostly music made with tape loops. Perhaps because of that it has a retro electronic feel that goes all the way back to 50s and 60s recordings. There’s Forbidden Planet burbles and reversed bits on Mirrorage, plonky wooden percussion sounds wandering in and out on Hidden Track and a lot of gently looping synth tones, particularly on each of the tracks named Ambianta. I love it!

Recent listening 4/2021 🎛🎶

I’ll try and keep this tight: here’s five releases I’ve been listening to a lot since January. Thanks to the ongoing phenomenon of Bandcamp Fridays I’ve bought way too much music over the past year – you can always go look at my Bandcamp fan account for the whole damn list.

Lido Pimienta – Miss Colombia (Anti-)

One that came up from end of year lists, specifically Pitchfork’s The 22 Best Songs by Latinx Artists in 2020. I was blown away by the single Eso Que Tu Haces, and the more I dug into the album the more I found to enjoy. Many songs are cumbia of some flavour, but also arranged with layers of woodwind, brass, steel drums, and more. I’d love to understand more of the lyrics, but apparently Duolingo only gets me as far. Who woulda thunk?

I enjoyed this little documentary too.

Beatrice Dillon – Workaround (PAN)

Another one from lots of 2020 end of year lists. I’d love to know what Dillon was working around here, if we’re to take her track titles as being at all descriptive, because these sparse rhythm workouts sound like they were definitely always supposed to be this way. Synth stabs and drum machines suggest the lineage of house and techno, but the beats here never sit still. No extraneous stuff, often just a few chords and a drum machine, sometimes with an unadorned acoustic instrument playing alongside. And best of all, while the beats are often on the move, they don’t sound complicated or virtuosic. Just naturally roaming about with plenty of variety. The standout tracks for me are the ones with live tabla, such as the opening Workaround One.

LCM – Signal Quest (Orange Milk Records)

This trio create an otherworldly combo of sax with meandering keys and electronics. More like quiet fusion moments than the other releases on Orange Milk are. Really affecting and has rewarded repeat listens. I don’t have more to say on it, but if you like kinda new age-y things or quiet jazz fusion you may well enjoy this.

Picnic – Picnic (Daisart)

A beautiful thing from a duo associated with c-, some kind of social group of ambient music makers from Kansas, USA that includes exael, uon, Ulla Straus, Perila, Huerco S, and so on. As per some of those other acts, the music tends to involve floating synth chords and ASMR crackles. There are sometimes rhythmic bits but it’d be a stretch to say there are beats. Often things feel quite small and delicate – neither washed out in reverb like a drone record, nor covered in dub fx either.

The four different guest remixes bring more rhythmic takes, particularly Huerco S’s version of Folds and Rips.

Jonnine – Blue Hills (Boomkat Editions | Documenting Sound)

I’ve been quietly plugging my way through the Boomkat Editions | Documenting Sound releases, which were a collection of releases the webshop put out from musicians responding to COVID and 2020 and the rest. So far this album from HTRK’s Jonnine is a real standout. It might be the weirdest of the 5 albums I’m writing about here, but on the other hand it’s the most retro. Moody guitar, bass, drum machines, and layered vocals could all be from the 80s. Songs sometimes feel like just strange sketches, but almost always in a good way! The advertising copy refers to The Cure circa The Top, which is not what I would’ve thought of immediately, but I get it.

Recent listening 1/2021 🎛🎶

Happy New Year! It’s been a while since my last wee round up. What with the Bandcamp Fridays and all, I’ve consumed a stupid amount of new stuff which you can always nosey through on my Bandcamp fan page. But here’s six more releases I’ve enjoyed a lot in the last six months or so. All ambient stuff this time.

The Arteries of New York City – The Arteries of New York City (Bloxham Tapes)

Beautiful mysterious lounge bar jazz wanderings juxtaposed with more abstract atmospheres. The vocal closing track is a perfect way to go out – almost feels like a spoiler to mention it, sorry.

Jonathan Fitoussi – Plein Soleil (Transversales Disques)

Pretty, drum-free arpeggiating synth stuff, like taking something like Tangerine Dream’s ‘Love On A Real Train’ and exploring every branch that one track could take you down. 

The label is primarily a reissue label, which perhaps gives you a feel for how this is fairly retro. Still, it’s a clean and clear sounding beast compared to the more collagey or murky things I’m writing up elsewhere in this post.

Ike Zwanikken – For Little Limp and Tunnel Vision (Storage Media)

Four more ambient tracks, sometimes punctuated by majorly muffled or distant-sounding drums (but it’s always kept sparse). There’s a lot little events, layers and subtleties in these tracks, but mostly they just sound great. 🌹

Ike is from New Zealand and this was recorded in Berlin in 2017, but only released this year. It’s a massive contrast to the equally detailed, skittery dancey stuff he’s also put out as Ike.

Jeannine Schulz – Serve (self-released)

What I hear is a combination of grungey tape loops – plucks (guitars?) and chiming synth sounds – mixed with rich organ type keyboards. RIYL Marcus Fischer, Taylor Deupree, or both!

Schulz appeared seemingly out of nowhere this year and has cranked out a crazy number of releases. I haven’t checked out any others closely yet, because this has been enough. Really relaxing without being cloying, imo.

Robbie Elizee – Windows 95 Startup Blues / Central Standard Time (self-released)

All 3 tracks are absolutely cracking drones. I never know what distinguishes what I love from what I don’t, but this release has that thing.

Around the time of Black Lives Matters protests kicking off again earlier in 2020, there was a request on reddit for recommendations of Black musicians making ambient and this guy went in for a bit of self-promotion. I’m glad he did.

Nate Johnston – A Constellation of Similarities (AEMC Records)

A collection of curious little mysteries and surprises, mixing wandering synths with wordless male harmonies reminiscent of Beach Boys slow numbers, acoustic instruments, and who knows what else?

This is the first single-artist release from a record label that has evolved out of a Facebook group, Ambient and Experimental Music Community (AEMC). For all that Facebook might seem like a diminished and still-fading thing, I have to admit this group has been a quietly enjoyable “place” to spend some time. Social media platform guilty pleasures?

My first tutorial video

Not much more to say that I don’t cover in the video.

Evolving chords using multiple time signatures.

Well, a few comments:

I was keen to explain the overall thing right at the start so those who didn’t want to watch 8 minutes could get the gist upfront.

I did maybe 8 takes and this is a straight run through with some slight edits to the audio.

I didn’t script the video, but I had a plan in mind.

I didn’t even mention the software being used, but I figured it was about a writing technique, not about the specific tools used to achieve it.

The track I’m talking through here is Escalators, Violins off Quiet, and in this take I didn’t bother to mention that the title is pretty prosaic – the track has a squeaky escalator sample and violins in it – but also was me resisting going all in on an “escalating violence” pun.

The other track I mention near the end that uses similar techniques, but with multiple MIDI parts pointed at a mono synth, is Phase off Everything Happens, For Some Reason.

Recent listening 7/2020 🎛🎶

I guess I’m doing this kind of round up every 3 months then.

Huron – Happy Transmission (Rad Cult)

A beautiful set of wandering synth sounds that at times made me think of Boards of Canada minus the rhythm section. Quietly diverse, but not just all over the shop. And, yeah, do judge it by its cover. Really good fit.

Part of the steadily increasing proportion of stuff I buy from fellow music makers in online forums, Slack workspaces, Facebook groups, etc.

The Japanese House – Good At Falling (Dirty Hit)

I first got into this one woman band via this song, which isn’t on the album.

The album is in a similar vein, with a lot of processed vocals pitched and stacked and mangled, sorta new wavey electric guitar licks, and such. It struck me the arrangements are a lot like melodic IDM artist Lusine, just with full songs on top.

The album does get it a bit samey, but I love the highlights. I’ve listened to tracks like We Talk All The Time and Lilo so many times and am not sick of them.

Polygloss – Coronal (self-released)

I’ve listened to this a lot in the last month or two and it’s really taken me to some weird places, in the best of ways. It’s some guy I follow on Twitter for laughs and music nerdery – he just casually self-released a really tight album on one of those days when Bandcamp were waiving their fees.

Not sure I’ve got any useful descriptors for this. Synth music, quite spare and sometimes genuinely odd, but never in a way that’s hard work or sort of willful about it.

Klara Lewis – Ingrid (Editions MEGO)

Buy on Bandcamp.

A single long track developing from a cello loop over 20 minutes. I read comparisons to The Disintegration Loops, but this is more your classic crescendo from quiet to a roaring wall of noise, via slowly evolving spectral weirdnesses. It’s great imo.

Kmru – Saal (self-released)

I probably found this in this reddit thread promoting Black artists who make ambient music, one of several such lists that popped up in response to the death of George Floyd. I don’t see how buying Kenyan music supports the BLM cause, but I really liked these two tracks and wanted to buy them regardless.

Two ten-minute drone tracks that are a nice mix of field recordings and near-static tones. Quiet and quietening, IME.

Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe – Basalt Sphere (self-released)

This moody 20-minute long track reminds me of gamelan, gongs, chimes, and sometimes like something really big is starting to fall – a bit of a glacier, a large rock, a building. Tiny ghost vocals lurk in the mix and small changes really shift the rhythm of the elements. I love this kind of thing that can sound like not much is going on, but also sound like it never really sits still.

This New York synthesist’s looooong and slowly evolving tracks have been exciting me for a few years now, 2016’s Cognition – Observation and this 2014 video of a performance in San Francisco being particular faves.

Lowe’s been going hard out on Bandcamp in the last while, uploading his back catalogue and unreleased stuff alike, and I’ve been enjoying this one, Basalt Sphere, and Phosphenes in recent months.

Hadi Bastani – Emergence (Flaming Pines)

Yet another one I’m going to struggle to describe. Instrumental electronic stuff, with a real mix of sounds, from a moody building drone a little like the above Ingrid, through what sounds like scraping metal and feedback, to Raster.Noton-ish pulsing drum machine stuff, to gentle guitar arpeggios. His notes say “It brings together a host of field recordings, found object recordings, live improvisations, recycled sounds, synthesis, and voices, produced in Tehran and Belfast over the span of 10 years.” It’s really pretty diverse and I found it super-engaging.

I was paying special attention to Flaming Pines’ releases leading up to our Montano release on the label, and I’m very glad I listened to this one.

Hawthorn – Evening Dreams of Space Flight (self-released)

Impressive little debut EP (though that huge final track brings the total play time up to almost 40 minutes. I do my best to avoid the pretty empty word “cinematic” when describing instrumental music, but it’s probably apt here. Any of these tracks sounds like it could be a contemporary soundtrack piece.

The third release in this round-up that’s from someone I “know” online, in this case from the Disquiet Junto Slack.

n-So – Out of the Valley (Moderna Records)

Dramatic piano pieces, adorned with synths and other electronics from time to time. Sometimes I think it threatens to get a bit OTT for me, with its rich harmonies and such, but it never really tips over the edge. I’ve found I can put it on when I first wake up or put it on when I’m trying to sleep at night, and it always sounds good.

Fourth release from someone I “know” online, this time lines.

Supermalprodelica / Kerozen – Saint-Arnoult (Scum Yr Earth)

Quiet lockdown noodling from France. The quietest end of techno, I guess. Soft and pleasant loops and pulses that I found really restful.

I have no memory of how I found this – I seem to be only one of five people who’ve bought it, and one of the others is my bandmate Adrien who is there because of me. 🤷‍♂️

Stem-splitting software

So one thing that makes me feel generation-gapped is the whole Melodyne world of music tricks. I know what it does, but I just can’t muster up any enthusiasm to go there. The closest I’m getting is the new generation of cheap or free apps to split a song into what remixers call “stems”, being the bits of a song like its vocals, drums, bass, and “others”.

Spleeter is one such app that’s available for free as a command line thing here: There’s instructions on how to install it on your computer out there, and a web implementation where you just drag and drop files into your browser here:

A couple of months back my buddy Tim Koch linked me to another one I’ve already forgotten and instantly dissected Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams for me, at my request. Even from a Youtube ripped MP3, converted back into MP3s, the results were pretty good. These algorithms are weird things. So clever, so quick, and I feel like maybe twenty years back when I was first mucking with Autotune and such things I would’ve been absolutely delighted. I can imagine my younger self sitting there for hours splitting up tracks, slicing and dicing component parts, reusing them in unintended ways, etc.

But I have to admit right now I’m barely interested. It’s fun to check how well they work, but I have no appetite to do a live dub of, say, some obscure 90s number, nor to speed up split out break beats (literally not that, not break beats) from some cluttered funk tune to find some undiscovered Amen replacement.

Still, I was interested enough to make this post, I guess.

Recent listening 4/2020 🎛🎶

It’s been five months since I last did one of these, excluding when I pushed Ulla Straus’s Room as an album I loved from 2019. So here’s ten releases I’ve been listening to a lot in the interim.

Chelsea Jade – Personal Best (self-released?)

I keep coming back to this album from 2018 and it’s one I’ll happily listen through from start to finish. I’ve listened to it a lot over summer. Many great pop songs, full of great hooks, fantastic lyrics, and all kinds of curious audio sparkles. I saw her live earlier in the year and the beats were surprisingly pumping over a PA. Ace.

Legowelt / SFV Acid / Haron – Plafond 1 (Bakk)

I’ve been enjoying the whole Plafond series. Chiefly techno-ish artists doing something closer to ambient music, but often with a sense of drama and climax. I’ve got the first 4 and recommend any of them.

Frederik Valentin & Loke Rahbek – Elephant (Posh Isolation)

I absolutely thrashed this Danish duo’s 2017 debut, Buy Corals Online (Editions MEGO), and while this hasn’t hit me quite so hard yet, the not-too-glossy mix of synths, bass, piano, whatever else is going still makes me very happy. There’s a bit more digital sheen to this one, more overt signs of what once upon a time was called “studio trickery” but might just be on someone’s phone these days.

Anyway, I unreservedly love the opening and closing tracks, and the whole is short enough to easily digest too. 🖤

Robin Saville – Build A Diorama (Morr Music)

Walking music from one half of the excellent Isan.

I still revisit Robin’s album from 2013, Personal Flowers, and have a strong sense I’ll be listening to this 7 years down the track as well! I love the delicate sounds – the mix of electronic and acoustic chiming and bubbling. It’s ambient, but not a washed out drone. (Not that that doesn’t have it’s place, but!)

Mapstation – Present Unmetrics (TAL)

Another new release from someone I’ve been listening to for years. Mapstation is Stefan Schneider, formerly of To Rococo Rot, Kreidler, and The September Collective. It’s been well over a decade since a solo album and this is an inviting, roaming mix of synth bass, euphonium and noisy electronic debris. Schneider is a bass player and I can imagine that’s key to the way these weird little instrumentals are warm, somehow tuneful, and swinging, despite also being glitchy, rough and strange.

mHz – Form (Kasuga Records)

This is the first time I’d heard this kind of thing coming out of New Zealand. Wellington Mo H. Zahreei has the best initials for this kind of technical, spare music! A meticulous set of tracks in the territory of Alva Noto, SND, raster.noton. Alternately percussive bangers and fizzy harmonic stuff – sometimes within the same track.

The physical edition comes on SD card. 😎

Kilchhofer / Hainbach – Acosta (Marionette)

If anyone knows something else like this, let me know. Percussive, rhythmic synth music but the beats mostly feel like hand drums. Pretty and tuneful as much as it is abstract. Also a pretty amazing split, in that the music of both artists sounds so of a piece. Kinda cool that their tracks are intermingled too.

Jeff Parker – Suite For Max Brown (International Anthem)

I can’t pretend to listen to much contemporary jazz. I ended up here because Parker is in noodly fusion band Tortoise. This turns out to be a cool stitched-together-at-home jazz record, perhaps my only disappointment being that there’s no other vocal track after the fantastic opener.

Deltidseskapism – Nattmusik (Source Records)

Is it a bit abstruse to write about a 16-year-old CD that hasn’t made it online in any form? Oh well, looks like it’s pretty cheap on Discogs. After some discussions with my Takamu collaborators, Adrien & Tim, I ended up ripping this and listening to it multiple times.

France Jobin –Scènes (LINE)

Another one from 2017, this one a tribute to Finnish producer and musician Mika Vainio, who died that year. It’s by far the quietest selection in this post. Jobin’s compositions always sound to me like she’s sculpting sound in the sense of subtracting from whatever source she started with. I put it on at night, to sleep to, I put it on for close listening too. While I guess you could describe this as drones, that shouldn’t imply that it’s heavy or grungey.

I obsessed over Jobin’s Intrication a few years back, which still might be my fave.

One album from 2019 I loved

If you like any kind of ambient music, give Ulla Straus‘s Big Room a hoon. I passed it over on first listen as “nice enough”, but am glad I came back to it.

I bought and/or downloaded 105 releases in 2019 and 35 of them are from previous years going back to 2000. And predictably enough, some of the things I most enjoyed listening to in 2019 were from those earlier years, e.g. Etelin’s I-have-no-vocab-for-this Hui Terra, Barker’s Debiasing, and Chelsea Jade’s Personal Best.

Perhaps in part because I already overwhelm myself with so much new (to me) shizz, I always feel a bit overwhelmed by end of year lists. So I’m leaving this post at just one release I’d recommend. But if you so wished you could basically track my buying habits entirely via my Bandcamp collection or most of my listening via my ancient profile.

Recent listening 11/2019 🎛🎶

Five things from the last couple of months.

Fumitake Tamura – Tamura 000 (Black Smoker Records)

This came out in May and is a CD-only release. I loved this guy’s previous releases, and have no regrets on finally caving and buying a CD direct from him, even if it cost me a year’s rent. Almost. Very pared back mostly instrumental hip-hop, with a palette that reminds me of SND and other microsound and sometimes Chain Reaction artists like Porter Ricks (who he did sample once upon a time).

If you want something more readily available, try his collaboration with Japanese MC Hidenka.

Julia Reidy – In Real Life (Black Truffle)

Baffling and intriguing: I seriously have no other album I can point to that sounds like it, except her release from earlier in the year. Reidy plays finger-picking 12-string guitar that reminds me most of acoustic blues, and her sparse vocals are sort of along those lines as well, but through Autotune. And the two tracks here stretch to about 20 minutes each, with a bed of quite uneasy-listening synth and organ parts under the guitars and vox. The end result is actually a bit more accessible than it might sound, at the least in comparison to her previous release, the aptly-named brace, brace. 😅

Lontalius – All I Have (PBWH)

Great second album from Lontalius, one of the better musicians to come out of New Zealand this century so far. Nice and concise; I think he said something about wanting it to fit in the palm of your hand, which works. 🙌

It’s in part produced by R&B producer Om’Mas Keith (Frank Ocean, et al) and separately by Jim Fairchild (Grandaddy, Modest Mouse). It certainly feels like an indie record through and through to me, but does contain a lot of tasty ear candy for folks like me.

Jonas Meyer – Konfusion (Serein)

A very tightly contained set of what I’d comfortably call an electronic record, but with a lot of use of acoustic material (instruments and otherwise). Only one of the six tracks clocks in at less than five minutes, but it’s one of those albums that feels like there’s absolutely no fat on it. And heaps of character. I couldn’t be sure of his influences at all, although the types of sounds and the way they’re used sometimes reminded me of Giuseppe Ielasi’s albums for 12k.

The cover art is on point: is that intricate pattern a digital creation or a photo of a delicate sculpture? Some combination?

Belly Full Of Stars – brokendatapool (Courier)

Apparently I can’t post one of these without a link to someone whose music I “met” via lines, and in this case she’s a Disquiet Junto contributor like me. 🎛

A great four track EP of short electronic instrumentals, where each track is based on some kind of glitch or used materials or software that’s somehow obsolete.

Fun animations

Really enjoying what I’ve found of this guy Johan Rijpma.

Always fun when someone takes a physical thing and makes it unfamiliar, in this case through weird angles and through choreographing the familiar thing happening en masse.

I like how this one only reveals how it works at the end… I never would’ve guessed what was going on.

The problem of mindfulness

This article by a Philosophy PhD really resonated with me: The problem of mindfulness.

I enjoyed it for the critique of people saying mindfulness is somehow free of values or beliefs, because that never made sense to me, but I also liked that it’s not just a giant dismissal of a set of techniques that, personally, I’ve found pretty useful.

But, you know, everything has limits. This rings true:

[Mindfulness is] not much help in sifting through competing explanations for why you might be thinking or feeling a certain way. Nor can it clarify what these thoughts and feelings might reveal about your character. Mindfulness, grounded in anattā, can offer only the platitude: ‘I am not my feelings.’ Its conceptual toolbox doesn’t allow for more confronting statements, such as ‘I am feeling insecure,’ ‘These are my anxious feelings,’ or even ‘I might be a neurotic person.’ Without some ownership of one’s feelings and thoughts, it is difficult to take responsibility for them.

Feeding back

On and off for the past 7+ years I’ve taken inspiration from a weekly assignment called the Disquiet Junto. Marc Weidenbaum, who runs the thing, offers up some usually basic steps for creating some audio, challenging you to make something and get it online for feedback and comment within a few days.

This week Marc picked up a tweet I shared with him via the Disquiet Junto’s Slack and has made it the jumping off point for the assignment.

The original tweet I thought would be a fun musical cue:

It was nice to contribute to the Junto in a different way like this, as I haven’t been actually doing any of the assignments for ages. It got me thinking how I’ve been doing this kind of thing for decades. I think it was in 2000 I agreed to coordinate a remix chain where a bunch of us online in different parts of the world took it in turns to remix the previous contributor’s track. Someone in the project had to build a custom website to upload the files to, because there was no online file-sharing service I knew about. It took forever on dial-up to get the stems… I think I probably downloaded them from work. Back in the days, when work internet and devices would be 100x better than at home.

Here’s a playlist of Junto assignments I have done. It’s probably more fun to click through to tired ol’ Soundcloud and read about each assignment.

Recent listening 09/2019 🎛🎶

Here’s another five things I’ve listened to a lot in the last six months or so. All relatively short releases, which is probably an accurate reflection of this year’s listening.

Saariselka – Ceres (Longform Editions)

Slide guitar, electric piano, just under 18 minutes of niceness.

I really like Longform Editions‘ whole thing of trying to put out long and slowly evolving tracks as an alternative to jumping constantly between things. It’s nice synchronicity with the new Montano tracks Shanan and I have been writing over the last year, which tend to be no less than 15 minutes a piece.

I’m a fussy bugger, so have bought maybe only six of the Longform Editions releases so far. But I listen to everything at least once to see what’s going on.

Kate Carr – City of Bridges (Longform Editions)

At 36 minutes, this one is most definitely longform. Field recordings and enigmatic collage. I like releases where I don’t know how much is in the field recordings and how much is not.

Bonus points for keeping in moments of interference from mobile phones. 😅 Most “field recordists” (ugh) freak out when that kind of thing happens.

Barker – Debiasing (Ostgut Ton)

I’ve listened to this so much this year. It’s techno, but no beats. So kinda also like Berlin school chugging synth stuff (Klaus Schultze), but not as boring. 🔥 Four concise tracks that do their thing and then stop.

Released on the label of Berlin techno Mecca , Berghain.

Adrien75 – Snow Walking (self-released)

Adrien writes:

For the 20th anniversary of the Adrien75 e.p. (a seven song 12″ released on the long defunct American IDM boutique label Carpet Bomb in 1999) I’m happy to present this new seven song e.p.

And, yeah, it’s a great collection of melodic IDM, with a couple of pulsing four-to-the-floor numbers near the end. If Boards of Canada territory isn’t your thing, maybe check ‘Germany 1999’ at least. Happy reminders of old Farben / Jan Jelinek records.

Loidis – A Parade, In The Place I Sit, The Floating World (& All Its Pleasures) (Anno)

Unsurprised Four Tet is into this. Here’s what I already wrote on Bandcamp:

This is the most dancey alias of Huerco / Pendant I’ve heard – crack up that the 2nd track goes 5 minutes before a beat drops, tho 😀

Like his other aliases, this reminds me a lot of stuff from 15-20 years ago, but never like a total ripoff. And it’s a great sound.

Recent listening 08/2019 🎛🎶

Here’s five things new to me in the last six months or so. Leaning towards stuff you might not have heard. Switzerland, USA, Ghana, NZ.

Martina Lussi – Diffusion Is A Force (Latency)

A varied bag of electronic instrumentals that are fairly hard to pin down. I was vaguely reminded of Laurel Halo’s release on the same label, Raw Silk Uncut Wood, but no really useful points of comparison jump out. I already wrote on Bandcamp:

A great collection of tracks that often feel like their own little worlds, but work well together as well. Impressive when someone has their own voice across such a range of music, imo

Olivier Creurer – Bits (self-released)

Again, this is one I already wrote about on Bandcamp:

Living up to its name, this single track moves through a bunch of different bits, each one a curious little world.

Something intimate and inviting about a beatless album that’s not washed out in reverb too.

I apparently like describing things as little worlds. 🤔

It’s one of two in this list I discovered via the lines community, and Olivier’s comments about his approach there might be of interest to other music-makers.

GALTFaculty – E B O W (Human Pitch)

I keep coming back to this short and sketchy release. Me on Bandcamp again:

I’m not going to pretend I’m schooled up on Ghanaian beats, but the loops on here have the greatest feels. Sometimes loopy sample house hits just right. This is one of those. Favorite track: Owned It.

Rosenau & Sanborn – Bluebird (Psychic Hotline)

The second I heard about via lines. A duo play guitar and synths/samplers live and record the whole room, with the doors open. It’s really simple in the most enjoyable and direct way. Bonus points for the track where one asks “what did you think?” and the other complains about the ending. 👌

Paperghost – This is a Miracle Village (Sonorous Circle)

I reckon Zach Webber’s own words do the trick:

This album is my first fully instrumental release. Exploring West Coast synthesis combined with collage’d samples, field recordings and live instrumentation. Tape wear and degradation interplay the soundscapes to create an aged warped sound throughout the album. Created after watching too many hippie-cult documentaries the album acts as a kind of crypto soundtrack, a soundtrack for a film that does not exist.

Actually, there’s plenty in there that could make me wary – if he’d said “cinematic”, well, that’s a bit of a red flag for me – but I’ve been listening to this a lot and totally recommend it.

Gay pop

I’ve always listened to some out and out pop. Sure, it might all be a bit of a Serious Film Guy Defends The Quality Of Toy Story 2 scenario when just this week I was buzzing over the sounds of a faulty extractor fan in the takeaway joint I was in, but it’s true.

Over the past few years, when I’ve been making playlists for the car or whatever, I’ve been tending to put in really straight (heh) pop songs that are explicitly gay, even just through use of pronouns. I thought to post some of it, after this:

So, yeah, here’s that Lontalius song (which is great (obligatory self-serving link to a remix I did in 2013)) and then some even more pop things I’ve been listening to.

Eddie / Lontalius has been tweeting about his love of Phoenix and I get that kind of vibe from the instrumentation in this, though the vocal is doing its own thing. (I also still put tunes like Everything is Everything and of course If I Ever Feel Better on my playlists.)

Lontalius remixed Troye Sivan, which I think is where I first came across the latter. This vid had me thinking of Marc Almond and Pierre et Gilles, which did have me wondering if there was more mainstream gayness going on than I remembered back in the day, but.

Absolute killer chorus with that chugging guitar, and (spoiler!) when it comes back around the last time with just Troye singing and a much higher guitar line it gives me that perfect hanging-in-mid-air-when-are-we-going-to-land feeling I want in a pop song. The breakdown and the drop, I guess.

I reckon this Sivan / Jónsi collaboration is as beautiful a pop ballad as you get. Yes, that’s Jónsi who fronts the Icelandic band Sigur Rós and who would more commonly be called post-rock or ambient perhaps.

I don’t remember how I came across this next song. The first time I played it to my wife she said “Michael, years of gym classes has changed you” … which may well be true.

The ascending harmony in the “take him to the pier in Santa Monica” bit gets me every time. But also all the mad reverb games that mess with the perceived space of the track. Sparkly!

Then this came along:

This comment on the above:

When I read about a “boy version” of this song I was thinking “like a straight version? ew” I was a fool and I apologize.


I haven’t found that many Kiyoko songs I really like, but she did a big duet with Kehlani, who has a feature on this next tune.

Structure-wise it’s a totally no surprises feature verse, landing where you’d put the rap in a pop song. But lyrically it flips the song from something absolutely commonplace to something I’d never heard on the radio before – but which I really wish was commonplace.

This last one I came across via Melody from RNZ tweeting this:

We’re back full circle to a bit more of an indie vibe. King Princess! Amazing name!

The quietest I’ve been

A bit of a funny name for my first go at rebooting blogging since maybe the end of 2013.

In a recent conversation on the lines forum a couple of folks commented on the reflective qualities of writing a blog, regardless of whether you get any responses or evidence that anyone’s reading it. So here I go.

Screenshot of an empty folder, with the file path ending "Music Making > WIP > 2019"

The post title seems fitting for a few reasons:

  1. I finished a solo album last year, yet to be released, which is the quietest album I’ve written. I’m really happy with it. I might make music with big drums again some day, but right now I can’t imagine it.
  2. I have a folder where I save unfinished tracks by year. It’s empty. I have finished maybe four tracks this year, but have been going multiple weeks at a time without writing at all. So in the sense of making music, this is the quietest I’ve been in yeeeeeeaaaaars.
  3. Although I’m pretty active on lines still, and probably (relatively) active on “classic” social media, it’s really falling away and I’m finding that calming and enjoyable.
  4. On the reflection front, I’ve been learning recently to let some of my nervous energy dissipate and let things go slow. (Like every other comfortable first-world jerk. Hm – ok still a way to go.)

If I’m being truthful point 2 might be about to change. It feels like two collaborations I was part of last year are (quietly, again) starting to spark up again. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I might put some more words right here and see how it goes. I still obsessively listen to new music, so I might take some time to write up thoughts on some of that.

My cat just walked across my kalimba. (And 10 other smash hits!)