Review: While you'll find plenty of experienced composers and producers on A Strangely Isolated Place's quietly impressive roster of artists, the Californian label is also excellent at showcasing new talents. They're at it again here, offering up a debut from previously unheard Sardinian artist Blinkar Fran Norr. The eight tracks tend towards the more becalmed, meditative and immersive end of the ambient spectrum, with Norr prioritizing swelling, stretched-out chords, hushed aural textures, atmospheric field recordings, ghostly strings and unearthly instrumental sounds that invite you in for dinner and then persuade you to stay for the weekend. It's beautiful and beguiling, for sure, but also touched with a hint of sadness. As debuts go, it's really rather impressive.
Review: Formerly known as The Greatest Hoax, there's nothing remotely fake about Washington D.C.'s T.R. Jordan. The work of some serious talent, both in terms of its arrangements and those working behind the scenes (Rafael Anton Irissari, of legendary Ann Arbour imprint Ghostly International is on mixing and production duties), the results of efforts to create this album are truly gripping, albeit in a gentle and heartbreakingly tender way. Whoever the "You" in the title is needs to count themselves very lucky indeed. The six tracks presented here are spellbinding contemporary classical overtures of such spectacular beauty they seem destined to score the most humanistic moments of sci fi. From the redemptive mood of "Leap Of Faith", to the fairytale piano stunner that is "Bruised World", here's proof that storytelling needs no words.
Review: Dutch producer Samuel Van Dijk has operated under numerous aliases over the years, though he's undoubtedly best known for his IDM and electro work as VC-118A. Those with an in-depth knowledge of his work will tell you that there's also some treasure buried within Van Dijk's outings as Multicast Dynamics, a project rooted in the blurred boundaries between ambient, music concrete and sound design. "Ancient Circuits", his latest album under the alias, is also his most expansive to date: a hundred-minute journey in four 25-minute chapters designed to tell a slowly-shifting journey that's at times blissful, otherworldly, dark, foreboding, intoxicating and intense, all crafted from epic studio experiments with synthesizers, samplers, effects units and a vast array of field recordings. Like much of the Astral Industries catalogue, it's superb.
Review: Since making his debut in the early 2010s, Berlin-based American Steve Huerta has delivered a string of rock solid, dancefloor-focused EPs. On debut album "Junipero", he's decided to mix things up, delivering a warm, woozy, atmospheric and picturesque set of tracks designed to ease tired minds in the comfort of the home. There's a few nods towards the dancefloor present - not least the toasty and dreamy breakbeat house cut "All Wild Things Are Shy" and bustling "Waxwing Air" - but for the most part the set settles in to a comfortably melodious and gently enveloping blend of blissful ambient, dub-flecked electronic soundscapes, spaced-out IDM and intergalactic electronica. It's a hugely enjoyable journey.
Review: Five years on from the label's first 12", Whities has finally decided to offer up an album. It comes from Leif, an artist whose output has consistently been getting deeper and more downtempo the longer his career has progressed. "Loom Dream" is a fine set, with the Freerotation regular effortlessly mixing and matching gentle off-kilter rhythms, drowsy ambient chords, claustrophobic aural textures, bubbly melodies and fluid, effervescent electronics. There's much to admire across the six tracks with highlights including the humid, glassy-eyed tropical bliss of "Myrtus", the hypnotizing, Steve Reich style marimba minimalism of "Rosa" and the slow techno creep of "Borago".
Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel (Stage 1) (5:59)
Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel (Stage 2) (6:18)
Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel (Stage 3) (4:59)
Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel (Stage 4) (10:35)
Review: Given the respective outputs of committed ambient explorers and sound designers Zake (best known for releasing no less than five fine albums in 2019) and 36 (most recently seen on A Strangely Isolated Place with the superb album "Fade To Grey"), you'd expect this trip into aural deep space to be rather good. It is of course, with the four tracks mixing echoing sonic tones and drifting sound effects with slow-burn electronic melodies and the kind of immersive, sustained chords that were once the preserve of German maestro Pete Namlook. The third track in the suite, appropriately titled "Stage 3", is little less than stunning, in part because of its grandiose, almost classical intent.
Review: Following on from the excellent "Scene In Mirage" reissue that broke O Yuki Conjugate to a whole new crowd, Emotional Rescue return to the archives of the over-looked Nottingham "dirty ambient" outfit. Their second LP "Into Dark Water", originally released in 1987, is just as powerful as the first - a hypnagogic journey fuelled by a global stew of sound, feeding into elegant, evocative pieces. Fans of classic Jon Hassell will find much to enjoy here, but equally those appreciating the exotic post punk undercurrents of 23 Skidoo et al will easily find themselves drawn to the likes of "Ba-makala". Stunning, borderless musings from a hidden treasure of the UK's post-industrial heritage.
Review: Soon Jon Hassell will release a freshly re-mastered reissue of his groundbreaking debut album, "Vernal Equinox". Before that arrives, there's the small matter of this re-mastered pressing of another classic LP from his expansive discography. "Flash Of The Spirit" was created in collaboration with Farafina, a group of musicians from Burkina Faso whose extensive contributions undoubtedly shaped the outcome. Rich in West African percussion, enlightened horns, alien synthesizer sounds and group vocals, the album is undoubtedly more up-tempo in tone than some of Hassell's "Fourth World" work, despite the presence of a number of sublime ambient cuts. For that reason alone, it's essential listening.
Review: Contemporary classical is a phrase banded about far too loosely in our opinion. It would be easy to try and apply it to Carlo Giustini, for example, but the term only bears relevance in some parts. There are moments on this immersive collection of six tracks that almost feel like chamber music, choral moods without any voices or hint of a choir, for example. And the timbre is such we can almost feel the walls of a symphony hall around us, but the performance would be one of such profound intimacy that setting seems wrong. Forget overtures, then, this is more about ambient refrains that emerge, transcend and reform. Distant noises echo subtly, never fully realising themselves, but creating tangible textures that guide us through each piece - aural breadcrumbs ensuring that when we must, it's still possible to find a way out from under the depths.
Review: Inspired by a weeklong walking holiday in the Alps in 2018, acclaimed Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi decided to create a suite of albums inspired by each of the seven days he spent away. The albums were released on CD and digital in 2019, but it's only now that we're getting the final few on vinyl. This seventh and final set is particularly fine, with Einaudi delivering a succession of poignant, exceedingly beautiful piano pieces capable of taking the breath away. His playing is of cause impeccable, but the recording and production should be celebrated too; it almost feels as if you're sat in the room with him, hearing his feet tap at the piano pedals while his fingers caress the keys. In a word: sublime.
Review: According to the artist himself, Zake's first solo album of 2020 was recorded and produced during "a four-day excursion in several secluded areas" in South Carolina. As a result, listeners can expect to hear babbling brooks, birdsong and the gentle rustling of leaves beneath Zake's alluring mixture of enveloping ambient chords, unearthly drone tones, opaque electronics and slowly-shifting, heavily processed neo-classical movements. The results are hugely immersive and undeniably enjoyable, with each of the four tracks delivering a head-in-the-clouds journey that ripples with becalmed, atmospheric intent. In other words, it's the kind of ambient music you can get lost in. More please!
Review: Sign Libra's 2016 debut album was something of a slow-burn hit, with the quality and popularity of the initially digital-only album - a fine voyage through ambient and new age pastures - eventually leading to a vinyl release on Antinote. For the belated follow-up, the producer has transferred to RVNG INTL and delivered a concept album inspired by the moon, its various dry "seas" (check the track titles) and its relationship with earth. Musically it's a little jauntier and upbeat that you might expect, with 1980s style new age synthesizer sounds being used to create melodies that dance across soundscapes rich in echoing machine drums, choral vocals and dreamy, echo-laden chords. It's a formula that makes for enjoyable and highly entertaining listening.
Review: It's not surprising "Everything", the latest outing from French contemporary composer Ocoeur, is so spellbinding. After all, the man also known as Franck Zaragoza has been making, or at least playing and toying with music since childhood. Citing the likes of Brian Eno, Vangelis and Murcof, while also revealing a strong thread of IDM when premiering his Ocoeur alias via the album "Les Hommes", this latest is more in keeping with the grand science fiction soundtrack end rather than Aphex-infused tones. Perhaps grand isn't the right word. The title number suits it to some extent, space-y waves gliding above occasional crashes, while "Ascent" offers similar vibes. But then "Current" feels far more spiritual, humanising whatever that future is, "Glow" is playfully innocent and wrapped within its own melodic mind and "Dawn" floats through opiate refrains, making this more intimate than expansive.
Review: Nobody ever said albums, or even songs, had to be about big themes and grandiose ideas. And it's this truth that has guided this lush, tranquil offering from Robin Saville. Dedicated to taking a simple stroll, whether that's through the city streets for which this album provides the perfect antidote, or captivating rural landscapes the field recordings, drone work and acoustic instrumentation feel born out of. Best heard as a complete set, while there are clear differences between the six tracks and across its 40-minute playing time, this is really all about giving yourself fully to the whole experience. Meditative in many of its qualities, it's a sumptuous exercise in relaxing the mind and feeding the soul, suited to soundtracking the remnants of a heavy weekend as much as the beginning of a fresh week.
Review: On their hotly anticipated debut album, Passive Refraction invites us up to the "27th Floor" of an imaginary hotel in the heart of Tokyo, a place where you can gaze in wonder at the neon-lit cityscape. Musically, it's an immersive experience, where dreamy, slowly unfurling ambient chords and vivid synthesizer sounds reminiscent of Vangelis' "Blade Runner" soundtrack intertwine with sampled voices, hazy aural textures and quietly loved-up melodies. It's the kind of album that you can imagine being classed as a 21st century ambient classic 20 or 30 years from now, which we think you'll agree is high praise indeed.