Review: Since so many European labels have been reissuing lost and obscure 1980s Japanese ambient albums of late, it was probably inevitable that at least one label would put together a compilation paying tribute to the sound. It turns out that Jazzy Couscous has won the race with Kumo No Moko, a superb double album that does a terrific job in putting Japan's '80s ambient scene in context. As you'd expect, the majority of the tracks feature either dreamy electronic sounds or a mixture of acoustic and electronic instrumentation, with nods to jazz coming thick and fast. There are naturally a couple of fairly well-known names on show, but for the most part the compilers have done a terrific job in highlight lesser-known tracks from unsung heroes.
Review: Although composed by Japanese ambient and new age composer Takashi Kokubo in the mid 1980s, "A Dream Sails Out To Sea (Get Out The Wave)" was never officially released. Instead, it was given away as a gift to those who purchased a particular model of air conditioning unit manufactured by Sanyo. Happily, Japanese music specialists Lag Records has decided to finally give it a proper release. The music is stunningly beautiful, comparable in quality to leading Japanese ambient albums of the period from the likes of Yoshio Suzuki, Dip in the Pool and Keizo Inoue. Expect waves of blissful synthesized panpipe melodies, twinkling electronics, becalmed harps, imaginative use of traditional Japanese instrumentation and a B-side epic that will take your breath away.
Review: Last year, Astral Industries dived into the back catalogue of obscure ambient explorer Heavenly Music Corporation (AKA film and TV composer Kim Cascone) to present the first vinyl release of superb 1995 album "Lunar Phase". Here, they offer the same treatment to 1993's "In A Garden of Eden", Cascone's first solo release. It, too, is something of an overlooked classic, albeit one whose inspirations were more pastoral and natural than the stargazing Lunar Phase. The set is notable not only for its Pete Namlook-esque use of dreamy, elongated chords, but also for the presence of hyponotic, Global Communication style melodic movements and Cascone's liberal use of sound effects and field recordings, which bring to mind the KLF's legendary ambient house album, "Chill Out".
Is A Rose Petal Of The Dying Crimson Light Keyed Out (13:08)
In Mother Earth Phase (10:26)
A Sodium Codec Haze (5:46)
Across To Anoyo (15:21)
Review: On his last album, 2016's "Love Streams", long-serving ambient experimentalist Tim Hecker joined forces with an Icelandic choir and orchestra. This time round, he has headed East, utilizing the services of Japanese musicians and percussionists. The resultant set, "Konoyo", tips a wink to Japan's deep history in both ambient and jazz, but is far darker and dystopian in tone. It's an intriguing approach, all told, and one that allows for tracks to organically evolve, slowly shifting between fluid, otherworldly dreaminess and unsettling, paranoid creepiness. It's this interplay - not just between darkness and light, but also the experimental and the traditional - that makes "Konoyo" such a riveting and enjoyable listen.
Review: Like many experimental composers, Sarah Davachi is impressively prolific. This Ba Da Bing! debut marks the Los Angeles-based Canadian's third full-length outing of 2018, though there's little sign of her high quality threshold dipping. This is studious, hallucinatory ambience of the highest order, with Davachi conjuring up cuts that ebb, flow and studiously unfurl themselves across the sound space, making "Gave In Rest" perfect for contemplative headphone listening. At times, tracks are little more than beguiling exercises in electronic sound design, at others they're far more musically complex, drawing on her love of choral music, woodwind ensembles and dusty old church organs. Throughout, the music sounds breathtakingly beautiful.
Review: Glasgow's 12th Isle collective describe themselves as a "label, nightlife institution, and occasional radio broadcaster," and their debut release will find favour with anyone that keeps up to date on the inner workings of Going Good, Firecracker, Mood Hut to SUED and Acido. Thoughtstream is a truly delightful album recorded by St. Petersburg-based duo Dices + AEM, spanning some 11 tracks recorded over the duration of 2015 by the Udacha and Gost Zvuk affiliates. Influences from early sequence-based electronics and vintage space rock abound throughout Thoughtstream, paired up with a diverse rhythmic approach that is quite reminiscent of the Aquarian Foundation album that Going Good put out a few years back. Extra points are awarded for the superb silk-screened artwork courtesy of 12th Isle's own Al White.
Stage 5 Sudden Time Regression Into Isolation (22:13)
Review: The legendary Leyland Kirby returns with more extreme excursions in dark ambient music for his latest offering. In the tradition of previous releases such as Patience (After Sebald) and An Empty Bliss Beyond This World, Kirby further explores the subject of dementia via points of progression, loss and disintegration as part of his 20 years long project as The Caretaker. He evokes memories and sensations (whilst reflecting the natural processes of expiration) over a new series of six albums. On Post-Awareness Stage 5, he explores confusion, horror and isolation across several drone pieces.