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Dream Loss and its companion Alien Observer is a small two part release from solo artist named Liz Harris, known better by her stage name Grouper. Grouper has a few releases out and three full length albums including Wide in 2006 and the followup a year later with Cover the Windows and the Walls. Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill was released on Type Records in 2008 to much fan-fare and is widely considered Grouper’s most beloved release.

Grouper’s music is most often characterized by thin spider web-like vocals. The majority of her music is created using but a few instruments and some post-production work to enhance its lo-fi qualities. With this in mind, she’s earned a healthy following especially since the 2008 release of Dragging a Dead Deer, where these characteristics made a great impact in the ambient/lo-fi community. A great deal of word-of-mouth chatter about the album occurred which helped her gain traction within her respective musical circles.

Beyond the immediately recognizable lo-fi quality and the use of her vocals as another distinguishing feature, an acoustic guitar accompanies this artist in the music. I find that the slow moving melodies accentuate her songs in a way where it works really well with other elements within every track.

The vocals in particular really do wonders for this release. The musician here conveys a sense of calm solitude and isolationism that brings the record to a level that would not have been able to achieve otherwise. To that end, it’s easy to forget the outside world for awhile and delve deeply into this dream-like piece of work. Be sure to check out her previous releases!

For more information, check out the following resources:

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Apologies for the lack of posts for last week – been pretty busy.

This is Eluvium’s Leaves Eclipse the Light which was released as a limited (to 2,000) edition EP on Temporary Residence Limited. Eluvium, actual name Matthew Cooper, saw his first full length released in mid 2003 which he called Lambent Material. The five track, 35 minute record would serve to give the artist a name amongst ambient music fans, only solidified by his second and third forthcoming works entitled An Accidental Memory in Case of Death in ’04 as well as Talk Amongst the Trees the following year.

Many parallels could be made between Amongst the Trees and Lambent. The latter is an incredible and decidedly warm composition of piano work juxtaposed with an array of field recordings and other instrumentation. Its centerpiece track, Zerthis, captures your attention through the use of warped distortion provided by guitars – finally letting you off into a bottomless abyss of beautifully moving piano work with the fifth and album concluding track entitled “I Am So Much More Me That You Are Perfectly You.”

What’s amazing to me is that Lambent Material served as only the beginning of a musically fruitful adventure in ambient music from a then unknown artist out of Kentucky (since moving to Portland, Oregon). Lambent is simply the origin of a healthy sized line of music from Eluvium and through this, you’re able to hear influences from similarly musically like-minded musicians, namely Brian Eno.

His second full length An Accidental Memory in 2004 switched tracks a little bit veering into more piano territory. Although ambient music in the most traditional sense made subtle (if not minor) appearances, the piano served as the primary driver of the album mostly containing an array of subdued sounds from that instrument. Not necessarily sad, but the record was mostly contemplative, I think, and I feel like it helped Eluvium musically into what he could accomplish as a composer as well as a student of the piano. This instrument continues to remain as a mainstay of Matthew Cooper’s music.

Coming back into familiar grounds of ambient music with Talk Amongst the Trees in 2005, as an avid music listener, I’ve come to the conclusion that this record is one of Eluvium’s strongest, displaying a gorgeous knack for musically painting dark greys and blues on a dimmed canvas of sound. In Trees, it’s obvious that Eluvium’s become a respected name in modern ambient. Glacial walls of sound (most notably and gradually recognized in the work’s sixth track entitled “Taken”) penetrate the deepest corners of your ear drums letting go for a moment to only whitewash you with a range of dismal and pensively overcast-sounding pads that flesh out wonderfully over the course of the nearly hour long record. It’s quite an impressive work that continues to stand up to other heavyweight albums in the genre.

However, I’d say that many people know Eluvium best by a piece of work called Copia. Chronologically, this is his sixth album and was released in ’07 (again on Temporary Residence out of New York). Copia made significant and far reaching waves with fellow musicians and music lovers alike. This record contributed greatly to the success of Eluvium. From its very first track to the last, Copia is a world built entirely out of layers; and although we saw that quite a bit in An Accidental Memory in Case of Death a few years prior, this record is most definitely drenched in it.

The piano once again makes a strong appearance spanning the work, often acting as a catalyst for other musical elements to soar over its thoughtful melodies, particularly notable in Indoor Swimming at the Space Station, Prelude for Time Feelers, as well as Reciting the Airships later in the album. Indoor Swimming remains one of my favorite songs of any artist.

And again, built entirely with comprehensive layers. It begins with a few notes: subdued, eclipsed, shadowed. But then, pianos start rolling in – gentle at first, moving to a melody with a sense of elegance and purpose, and then you slowly recognize the warm pads being introduced and building layer upon layer of calm sound until the track’s conclusion. The entirety of Copia is more or less the same. At its end, you realize that there is a lot of “content” for an ambient record, and perhaps this is why that it has found so much success from the genre’s fans.

So, on to the actual material that I’m writing about. It’s called the Leaves Eclipse the Light and was released last September as an EP. It follows into a second part EP called The Motion Makes Me Last released in November last year and contains similar album artwork.

This EP in particular contains three tracks along with a video of the same name (which is also the same track on the early 2011 record Similes) and was limited to 2,000 copies. It includes a remix of this track by Four Tet, juggling the sounds of the original song and injecting other elements into it, making for an interesting and cool sounding second take on it.

These two releases together are a breath of fresh air after the mixed music community response to Similes released in late February of this year. It more or less contained many of the musical elements as heard in Eluvium’s previous works however it introduced something that long standing fans of the artist were not expecting: the introduction of Matthew Cooper’s vocals.

I can’t say for sure which side of the fence I’m on. I don’t mind vocals in this kind of music and I certainly don’t mind artists exploring new methods and techniques and what not to cultivate and learn new things from. However, I suppose that this is all up to the individual listener to figure out for themselves. Eluvium has a history of less than ten years – who knows what new and exciting music this lovely composer and artist will have in store for modern ambient music in the future?

Listen with a good set of headphones! Enjoy.

To learn more about the artist, please visit the following resources:

Last.fm

Discogs

Temporary Residence Limited

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Following in the footsteps of their previous album, Louisiana-based duo Belong have recently released their sophomore album entitled Common Era on Kranky (home to an impressive array of influential musically like-minded artists).

Belong is most widely known for creating an album called October Language in ’06 released on a small label dubbed Car Park Records. That album continues to be a defining staple in ambient music today, and although not strictly ambient by any sense of the word, it did push boundaries in what the genre could be described as.

October Language remains a very strong, perhaps defiant sounding record with heavily washed out and sometimes possessing a near apocalyptic-level of corrosiveness, often retreating from that level of noise to a distantly surreal and almost lonely flurry of ambient noise. It remains one of my all time favorite records to this day.

At first, I was hesitant to write about Common Era. When I had first listened to it all the way through, it was obviously immediately noticeable that some things had changed from the iconic album before it. I wasn’t disappointed with it – I think it’s great that artists try to improve themselves through the way their music sounds as they continue to create different things.

I was hesitant mainly because I needed time to digest. It’s markedly easier to listen to over October Language where some people might be turned off to somewhat harsh ambient noise rocking across their headphones, but the addition of drums as a prominent musical instrument surprised me. After all this time “digesting” though, I’ve come to discover that they’re not a turn off and it’s somewhat of a pleasant surprise.

Whereas their first record was heavily aimed into the shoegaze direction, this album doesn’t quite venture as far down that path. Yes, it sports minor vocal work (“A Walk”, “Perfect Life”, “Keep Still”, et cetera), but it’s not aggressive, it’s not very prominently featured, and it certainly doesn’t try to force it as the centerpiece of the record.

Common Era may or may not blow your mind (perhaps at least not as much as Belong’s previous work did), but it is nevertheless a very solid, very well thought-out, and decisively written album that does manage to effectively pull off an enjoyable and rewarding listening experience.

To learn more about the artist, visit the following resources:

Last.fm

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Kranky

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The Invisible Insurrection is Sven Weisemann’s second album released on Fauxpas Records based out of Germany. Released earlier this year, Desolate’s influences are clear from the beginning with UK-based 2-step act Burial being cited almost universally.

That’s OK though, because while there are obvious artistic influences between the two, there exists plenty of differences and quirks to make this album stand out on its own. And if you’ve listened to any of Burial’s records, you’ll soon come to rediscover this familiar collage of two step and a sort of a solemn and abstractly atmospheric sound that comprises the record.

Wistful piano pieces play across the record that accompany a subtle downtempo beat that provide a surreal warmth integrated with hushed vocal samples occasionally protruding from the woodwork adding to the isolation that the album captures.

In fact, that is one of the things that makes The Invisible Insurrection so great and those who have longed for another full length release from Burial since Untrue will find a refuge amidst the wonderfully contemplative and seductive sounds that listeners will find within.

The mash up between the laid back garage with its calm ambient backdrop certainly serves to provide a lot of opportunity to further the cinematic elements that the album relies upon to drive itself forward.

It’s not particularly hard to determine what level of downtempo music that the artist was after while creating the album with track titles like “Cathartic”, “Farewell”, “Pain”, and “Escape” – even down to the artist’s name and with that said, it may very well be more of a weathered and moody exploration into the genres illustrated here. It quickly becomes obvious that this is a very nocturnal album. Check out Subheim’s Approach if you enjoy this.

For more information, check out the following resources:

Last.fm

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Soundcloud

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Boomkat

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Love as a Dark Hallway is Benn Jordan’s latest album released on his label Alphabasic.

The man has a few aliases in which he records/recorded under including Human Action Network, his own name, Acidwolf, and Flexe. Despite all of these pseudonyms, The Flashbulb remains as his most popular name and continues to operate to this day.

Looking at this musician’s previous works will yield a very broad spectrum of music. It is very easy to classify him as a sort of an Aphex Twin style musician in that his works can be incredibly diverse, creating rollercoaster-style breakcore one moment and melodically complex idm music the next. Indeed, Kirlian Selections and Red Extensions of Me demonstrated that the man definitely has talent creating fast paced yet composed breakcore bangers. And in 2007’s Welcome to Chicago under his Human Action Network pseudonym, even acid house was explored and was rewarded with positive attention from fans of the genre.

However despite his quality contributions to these genres, in recent years he seems to have found that his strongest artistic talents actually lie somewhere in the realm of ambient music occasionally breaking familiar grounds into other genres along the way.

I’d speculate that the start of these turn of events started with his experimentation with Pale Blue Dot released as a tribute to the achievements and life of astronomer Carl Sagan. Pale Blue Dot was released under the recording name of Benn Jordan in 2008 and can easily be seen as one of his most solemn works perhaps only rivaled by a later work dubbed Louisiana Mourning, a dedication for his late friend Charlie Cooper who comprised one half of famed electronic duo Telefon tel Aviv (who have a very loyal following, I might add).

Limited to only 500 copies, Louisiana Mourning is a small four track record contains some of his most beautiful and timeless songs played in a sort of a bluegrass/folk style collage primarily powered by an acoustic guitar and bowed strings.

This album is actually easier to compare to some of his previous works including perhaps his most well known work as The Flashbulb with 2008’s Soundtrack to a Vacant Life in addition to Arboreal (an essentially refined mix of Soundtrack and Pale Blue Dot with absolutely gorgeous tracks in between). This record isn’t necessarily as solemn as some of his previous ventures; on the contrary, it does present to its listener some grand adventures in a more optimistic sort of light with songs like “Let Me Walk You to Your Honda” as well as “A Baptist Church in Georgia”.

The record really goes the extra mile in covering a wide ranging array of instrumentation as well – from guitar work with a savory jazzy hint to them complimented by care free piano work peppered by The Flashbulb’s signature idm backbone.

Honestly though, I enjoy and cherish the more concealed and private side of music that Benn Jordan has produced in this album and beyond. Love as a Dark Hallway contains a lot of these elements, although that isn’t necessarily the only thing that makes it a good one.

The record as a whole doesn’t need to prove anything; upon the first play through, listeners will easily be able to recognize Benn Jordan’s trade mark relaxed and cohesive production style – one that has been consistent time and time again with every release since I began to listen to my first album from this remarkable musician years and years ago.

For more information, check out the following resources:

Last.fm

Discogs

Alphabasic

And if you like it, please do yourself a favor and buy it at:

Alphabasic

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I’ve wanted to write about this band and their music for quite some time now but never could discover the words that I wanted to use to describe them. I think that one of the main reasons why I’ve become so attracted to this record is that I hadn’t quite heard something played in this fashion and in such continuity before and done to a degree that I’ve come to appreciate over the course of a few years. Having been released in early ’08, the record itself has had time to settle throughout its respective musical circles and suffice it to say, it has managed to hold its own particularly well despite similar releases of comparable sounds.

This double album is not so much about any one genre; indeed, many musical elements are showcased here. A lot of shoegaze is present as is a bit of post-rock and even drone at points. The shoegaze elements work particularly well – I don’t find too many albums these days who have been able to replicate the effect that is played throughout Half a Nice Life’s music. The third track perhaps most heavily hints at this with vocals sounding like they’ve been partially submerged as well as liberal use of effect pedals and other equipment that produce a certain dreamlike quality to it reminiscent of 80s and very early 90s shoegaze groups (think The Jesus and the Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine).

However, I don’t think that these reasons alone account for the band’s consistent appeal since I’ve known about them. The fact that they do so many things in the album and do it well should indeed speak for itself. It flows very well from the very first track. Texturally rough, but beautiful and seductive. It took me a fairly lengthy amount of time to fully appreciate the record for what it is and I’m still finding small details about it that make that even more pronounced.

What’s interesting is that the people behind the Connecticut, US-based band took almost eight years to put out their very first full length album when it was formed in 2000, perhaps more involved in other projects at the time including bands like The Danger Strangers and then-active In Pieces. Their second release entitled Time of Land was released two years later comprising of just four tracks and although of equal caliber to Deathconciousness, not much else has been heard from this group that we know of, at least not in any official capacity.

“Bloodhail” and “The Big Gloom” proved to be surefire hits, however there is a lot more to be discovered as you listen throughout the album including “Holy Fucking Shit, 40,000” linked above as well as “I Don’t Love” found within the second half of the album: an incredible washed out wall of sound that really satisfies and compliments the entire album very, very elegantly.

Double albums are usually very ambitious and prove themselves out with their reception. And despite the hype that this band got when Deathconciousness was released, Half a Nice Life has honestly out done themselves with such a fine quality release and I have no doubt that the record will continue to be a staple of the genres that it represents.

For more information, check out the following:

Last.fm

Discogs

– At Enemies List Recordings

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It has been awhile, hasn’t it?

In my absence, I hope you’ve all discovered a few gems here and there. Undoubtedly, the record I’m about to showcase here is probably old news to a lot of people who follow the genre. However I am sure that a refresher to remind of its greatness to even its first listeners would be appreciated.

Ravedeath is an interesting album because it already captures the artistic finesse and workmanship that Hecker has shown us in his previous records right off of the bat. I think I began to realize this to a greater degree within his 2006 album Harmony in Ultraviolet. I’m sure older listeners still would cite his beginning works dating back to the early 2000s and possibly what he has accomplished under another alias as a young, budding musician.

 

And while Harmony in Ultraviolet certainly showcased Hecker’s abilities, 2009’s An Imaginary Country saw the artist grow quite a bit not only in style, but in restraint, tact, and skill as well. The album solidified the artist amongst his fans as competent and genuine, and with that, his audience has only grown. There exists a great deal of musicians who create controversial (intentionally or otherwise) records for their fans, its effect sometimes splitting that band’s fanbase in half over it, with many scoffing in disbelief wondering how their favorite artist could create such a monstrosity.

However, with Tim Hecker, there hasn’t really been a record like that, at least with the general consensus. Time and time again, the musician is able to throw down the gauntlet of grayed out soundscapes with luscious texture and feeling, and Ravedeath is not an exception.

With his three recent albums, there have always been a top tier favorite track that I’ve been able to pick out and with that, show other people what wondrous sounds that album contains within. In Harmony, “Chimeras” was a colossal song that I think got a lot of people to appreciate Tim Hecker’s work, and in An Imaginary Country, the song “Currents of Electrostasy” proved to be a great way to introduce people to the rest of the album and the artist as a whole. I think with Ravedeath, “No Drums” just might be that next step: calm and eloquent, yet persistent and articulate. It’s honestly one of the most marvelous tracks that I’ve heard from recently released albums from this year, and I can without a doubt say that of the record itself. Bravo to Tim Hecker for creating a fantastic piece of work.

Go ahead. Buy this one.

For more info, check out the following resources:

Last.fm

Discogs

Buy this at:

Kranky Records

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This is The Effective Disconnect – Brian McBride’s latest album released not even a month ago. McBride is one part of the respected ambient duo Stars of the Lid, who have quite a few truly masterful albums under their belt.

It feels like listening to And Their Refinement of the Decline for the first time. A resonating and inward album. In all actuality, it feels each element that comprises the material is working in perfect concert with each other in harmony.

The album sifts through the traditional elements found throughout ambient-based music: delicate pads, gently exposed piano pieces fading in and out of a loose, easy going musical structure topped off with absolutely gorgeous violin work.

The three part “Toil Theme” series is a wonderfully crafted set of tracks and probably my personal favorite out of the album. Each song works in perfect harmony that provides its listener with a fantastic array of choice pads and instrumentation.

At parts, it can be quite cold. I wouldn’t necessarily declare it to be a “sad” album but I’ll be damned if this isn’t one of the more melancholy records I’ve had the pleasure of listening to recently. Bottom line is that The Effective Disconnect is an astounding contribution to the genre.

For more information, check out:

Last.fm

Discogs

Kranky Records

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Boomkat

Kranky Records

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(removed by personal request)

posted by Unctuous

Last Days is the alias of Graham Richardson. With solemn, melancholic melodies brought out through acoustic guitars and piano, the atmosphere is very nostalgic, as if remembering a better time than the present. The album begins slowly, like waking up gently from a deep sleep. The sound of rain outside guides your attention away as a voice reassures that you “will be there soon, in the safety of the north.” Almost like a fleeting memory, or saying a final goodbye before looking ahead to the future. But something tells you all is not lost, and the future is hopeful and will get better.

The album’s folk and post-rock influences work beautifully with the ambient background. Guitars put on extreme reverb draw out tensions and movement.

The music traverses many different landscapes, and is incredibly detailed with images From mountains, to soft, rolling plains, to forests and even the animals living in it. There is nothing direct, or upfront about the music; everything is reserved, calm, yet concrete and unwavering. This aspect creates rich layers that are each acting independently and telling their own piece of a story.

This album is like taking a breath of fresh air surrounded by nature after living in a congested city. The air fills and cleanses your body, but in this peace you are able to think clearly, without distraction. In this calm moment you are able to reflect, look ahead, like time has stopped and you are the only thing still in motion. You might ask yourself “Am I happy? Is this what I want?” There might be regrets, or things that have not been accomplished. In these moments lie the answers to happiness, although often we are so often absorbed in the little events that we completely miss how our actions will affect our lives on a grander scale.

There are times to feel sorry, but in the end what matters is what we do to make ourselves a stronger being on a deeper level than just the outside. Nobody will do this for you, so the choice is ultimately up to the individual, but with the right outlook and a proper focus your life can be as fulfilling or shallow as you desire. This is the message “The Safety of the North” told me.

More info at:

Last Days official site

Last.fm

Discogs

Buy this release at:

n5md Records

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posted by admin

Carve out the Face of My God is the 2010 release by Kyle Parker, otherwise known as Infinite Body.

If you’ve been following this site for awhile, you’ll know that Belong’s 2006 October Language is one of my highly prized records of all time. Indeed, October Language has established itself as one of the defining albums in my life. In fact, Carve Out the Face of My God may be the closest musical venture that I’ve discovered thus far that I could compare it to in this capacity.

Like October Language, the album is a beatless soundscape that sports intense declarations of ambient noise interlaced with subtle melodies that engage the listener as its progresses through its 40 minute, 11 track journey.

At points, there can be large shifts in direction: from colossal, stratospheric walls of abrasive noise that seemingly tower above you, to uniformly articulated calmness that refreshes and tempers everything that is happening in between.

Defined and intricate, the album moves with purpose with each and every track. The record’s first number begins with a bang: soaring entities of ambient noise collapsing with other, more subtle shifts in its underlying base in partnership with its fairer, more delicate melodic layers. It resigns itself to the album’s second track, entitled “A Fool Persists”, something that could fit neatly into a cinematic, futuristic film.

As Carve Out the Face of My God progresses, its more understated, less noisy side begins to take over. The beautifully destructive noises of the past few tracks become nothing more than preciously delicate notes that possess great structure and texture that really speaks to its author’s ability to paint such an awesome illustration. And just like with October Language, your mind will be blown.

Highly recommended.

Check out the following links for more information:

Last.fm

Discogs

MySpace

Buy this release here.

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