The Humble Bee – Light Trespassing (Motion Ward)
Another month, another top listen thanks in part to being something I put on while going to sleep. 😅
Quite a few of The Humble Bee releases I know about have long evolving tracks, but this is 10 tracks and clocks in at just over 40 minutes. It must be a pop album! The opening track basically lets you know what you’re in for throughout: a gentle, tinkling melody slowly develops as it repeats, expanding from a tinny dictaphone feel to fuller, noisier layers of what sound like snippets of tape recordings. I think there’s a guitar loop and piano on top? Not sure.
On the rest of the album things are almost invariably very lo-fi, but deliberately so. Mismatched loops that pop and click each time they come back around, plenty of tape wobble, scuffing the microphone as a feature not a bug. These kinds of textures have been my thing for decades now so on one hand I did question whether I really needed yet another album in this vein. But, whatever, it’s a goodie!
I think of The Humble Bee as one half of The Remote Viewer, a duo I had a lot of time for around the turn of the century. So he’s been doing his thing for decades and there’s something I find pleasing about him showing up on pretty new labels like Motion Ward, among the kids knocking out new forms.
Various artists – Thanking You (Black Truffle)
This is two years old, but I just picked it up. Black Truffle is run by Oren Ambarchi, one of a handful of Australian experimental musicians who I’ve followed closely for more than a decade now, but I got here through investigating NZ ex-pat Tim Coster for AmbientNZ.com. It’s a really interesting collection and I’d say most of it is too weird and/or engaging to fit the tag “ambient”, although it’s almost all drum-free and electronic sounding. Sometimes if I’m listening on my computer I wonder if I’ve accidentally got audio playing from a website.
To pick out one example, Delphine Dora’s “quelque chose de hazardeux” is a track of many evolving parts, all of which sound like she’s played them. Things kick off with a lively and almost accordion-like keyboard playing a motif that’s almost like some kind of fairground organ thing, but this abruptly stops and starts revealing other layers of mysterious metallic plucking and bowing sounds. Then there’s a whole middle section where the track heads off into a long, different mellow passage on a different keyboard. Things routinely get pretty dense and dissonant and it’s the opposite of a lot of the more loop-based music I’m often listening to. Probably part of what I found refreshing about this compilation!
Various artists – Fundraiser compilation: ВОЛЯ (Muscut)
Hmm looks like the font I use on this site doesn’t include Cyrillic. “ВОЛЯ” (“VOLYA”) is Ukrainian for freedom. This is a collection of Ukrainian musicians, leaning heavily towards electronic and instrumental music. There’s a bit of a band jam on one track and there’s one song. I’ll admit I’ve hardly digested the compilation yet, but it’s diverse and interesting and of course I was happy to support the cause.
I started following the label last year, having got very into an album by the label boss Nikolaienko, and there’s now unsurprising waves of anger and dismay coming through my Bandcamp app. Muscut has released albums by Russian artists in the past and in fact I bought one recently, but as of now is suspending the release of any Russian music.
Sam Hamilton – Super Positions (self-released)
Free if you like. Hamilton’s from New Zealand, though based in America, and this album is another one of the things I’ve picked up in the course of researching and writing up AmbientNZ.com.
This is a really diverse mix of instrumental music, from a piano solo through a couple of field recordings and a 34-minute acoustic drone performed on harmonium and strings to langorously evolving digital loops of electric guitar. The latter is actually the opening track and it put me in mind of Oren Ambarchi back when he was doing solo but highly processed guitar music circa Suspension, without sounding like a knock off in any way.
I will say it’s a long album to listen through: an hour and 45 minutes is maybe an hour longer than my ideal album length! And two tracks out of nine make up almost an hour of the run-time, which is also a strange sort of lopsided feeling. But, hey, there’s also nine distinctive, interesting things to listen to, and they’re giving the thing away. So it’s definitely worth checking out, IMO.
Old Saw – Country Tropics (Lobby Art)
I got here via Adrien sharing this Aquarium Drunkard article, Cosmic Pedal (And Lap) Steel Situations :: Winter 2022.
Ever since KLF’s Chill Out I’ve been interested in ambient music that has touches of pedal steel in the mix and I think of this album in that context, though it’s perhaps a largely acoustic kind of ambience. I very fondly remember seeing Susan Alcorn play at Meow years ago and I wrote about Luke Schneider in one of these monthly round ups. While Alcorn typically plays completely solo and Schneider goes deep with electronic treatments, both severing the country connection, Old Saw is definitely a band and their music also really leans into Americana. Pedal and lap steel lines slide about on top of drones made with fiddle, organ, and guitar. Banjo and acoustic guitar buzzes and shimmers.
I really like all four tracks here.
Wild Card – Wild Card 2 (self-released)
Wild Card is a trio of Marcus Fischer, Paul Dickow (aka Strategy) and William Selman. I know the first two and checked this out off the back of Fischer announcing it. It’s four tracks of what I take to be jammed or at least performed soft electronic stuff, with plenty of foley-like percussive scuffing and susurration and what a workmate decades ago used to refer to as “science sounds” (electronic oscillations with lots of echoes). Unlike Fischer’s solo material I don’t hear any obvious guitar.
all light hits u – Moving, Rising (self-released)
Ooh, careful, I think all three tracks on this EP have drums. The opener keeps feeling like it might go into dnb territory, but it’s all hints and nods and never quite kicks off. Um, to be clear, I like it that way. Deep chords and echoing sounds, using the vocab of dance music to say something soothing and restful.
I found this release having picked up something by the trio Purelink last year that I really liked. All light hits u is two out of three members of that trio. I see Purelink just dropped a full album on Lillerne Tapes. They’re also affiliated with the above label Motion Ward, and the release is mastered by Shy (Uon, who has releases on Motion Ward, Western Mineral Ltd, etc.).
Julia Gjertsen & Nico Rosenberg – Paisajes Imaginarios (Constellation Tatsu)
I wrote about this last month and don’t have much more to say about it.
Kate Carr – dawn, always new, often superb, inaugurates the return of the everyday (Forma Arts)
I also wrote about this previously, when I’d been listening to it a lot last August. The only thing I’d add this time around is that I reflected how much Kate does stuff where she’s making noise herself. So although I tend to think of her music as being based around field recordings, in this case very location-specific ones, she’s sometimes almost like a musical foley artist. I don’t have any particular thoughts about that, but it just reminded me that even in something as niche as making music with field recordings, there’s quite a range of approaches and possibilities.