Celer and Hakobune – Vain Shapes and Intricate Parapets

‘Vain Shapes and Intricate Parapets’ is a 2 track ambient drone collaboration between Japanese musicians Celer (Will Long) and Hakobune (Takahiro Yorifuji), released on the Chemical Tapes label with the catalog number HOT-2 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylthio-n-hydroxyphenethylamine) on limited cassette (of which I have a copy of the first press).

When I saw Chemical Tapes post this on Facebook I was surprised to see Celer showing up on that page, but with spending money in my Paypal I decided to buy the cassette (I think I was one of the first people to buy it) and immediately afterwards listened to the album. To say the least: I was impressed. I wasn’t expecting it to be much more than a decent drone album but Celer and Hakobune both proved me wrong on that one because it put me in some meditative state and it was pretty amazing.

The first track is a kind of low-mids drone without low bass and is very smooth with nicely timed changes in sound throughout the entire track. Very mellow, very gentle on the ears. The second is more quavering and slightly more metallic, though still very relaxing, staying focused on low to high mids it reveals some highs when it gets towards the end and actually almost gets a rough wall of noise sound before fading out. Another thing is this release has definite staying power. I have logged around 90 full plays of the album (that’s almost 200 plays total), and I’m still not quite bored of it yet because it seems like such a ‘classic’, for lack of a better word, something that is just good and doesn’t really get old because of it’s uncomplicated method of being good.

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Overall Rating: 9.5

Favorite Track: ‘Merges of Hysterical Exhilaration’

Recommended: Other Chemical Tapes artists.

Released: February 8th, 2013

Links: Celer and Hakobune on Bandcamp

Kolumbus – Of Every Tragedy Before Our Eyes

Kolumbus is an ambient/drone musician from Sydney, Australia. In the fall of last year I reviewed his album Fleeting Hope For False Optimists. ‘Of Every Tragedy Before Our Eyes’ is the project’s latest EP consisting of five short tracks.

‘As We Enter the Nihil’ kind of acts like an intro with these soft ambient swells  that weave in and out of each other. I’m not very fond of the tone of the synthesizers, they seemed stale and unrefined as though they were composed on a cheap Casio keyboard. ‘The Silence That Cleanses Your Throat’ contains some minimalistic drumming which could have been a nice touch but I don’t feel like it actually enables the track to progress, it is just this loop of light drumming. Although I was generally unimpressed there were a few moments that were enjoyable such as the  fourth track, ‘In Thoughts’ that contains some really nice drones and featured this low sub-bass rumbling texture throughout that really helped the brighter overlapping tones stand out. The title track continues this low end bass with a little bit of grit and distortion which came off as being inauthentic and after a while just became distracting, burying the subtler drones beneath it.

There is often a fine line between minimalistic and boring and Kolumbus crosses that line. It should of course remain basic enough to where it doesn’t clutter or overwhelm the listener with sound while remaining fulfilling for those listening to where they will feel inclined to return to the music. The problem I had with ‘Fleeting Hope For False Optimists’ was the album did not run cohesively enough for me, a lot of the songs lacked enough content for me to remain interested. Whereas, it still retained some semblance of structure and created a mood by utilizing samples; ‘Of Every Tragedy Before Our Eyes’ lacks in doing that and as many problems as there are with this, the major one is the progression or lack of. One of my favorite things about ambient and drone is the idea of listening further, giving repeated listens just to here something different each time, to gain a new experience; drones within drones, small micro sounds that are at first not apparent, overtones and undertones, etc. It is all a part of the fun that should come with the experience of listening to drone but with Kolumbus I have lost touch with those small traits that makes the genre interesting because those aspects are either non-exsistant or far too sparse to pick up on. The tracks don’t really go anywhere and when you finally feel like they do or that something is going to happen it doesn’t.

Where Kolumbus failed with ‘Fleeting Hope For False Optimists’ is to create something interesting or captivating in a minimal way by using the absence of content and the use of samples alongside to create a sense of emotion. The samples that were present in that last release helped the music become more of an emotive experience and although the album didn’t thrill me it filled in a lot of the cracks that made me dislike it but with this release these small factors have been removed making ‘Every Tragedy Before Our Eyes’ feel like a rushed effort and an overall unenjoyable one. There is little that is salvageable; even some of the more patient fans of drone and experimental music are going to have a tough time getting through this one and not feeling bored.  This was large step backwards and an overall disappointing release.

Overall rating: 3.8

Favorite Track: –

Recommended: –

Released: 04 February 2012

Links: Visit the Bandcamp Page

-Redntoothnclaw

Mont Saint Michel – Sediment

Mont Saint Michel is the solo experimental music project of Tyler Stupalsky. ‘Sediment’ is the first release under the project name which according to the last.fm page is a collection of songs featuring a variety of guest production. Sediment is a series of five songs that pays tribute to the wall-of-sound characteristics found in shoegaze combining it with ambient music in even tasteful applications all in a compact and friendly span of 3 to 5 minutes.

The Ep begins with ‘Tributary’, a track brimming with guitar melodies and glowing ambient textures, one that starts off safe enough with but soon transforms into monolithically large pulsating slabs of psychedelic noise. The textures are so vibrant, melodic even, a concept that is carried on throughout the EP, specifically on ‘Midnight Special’. One of the most enjoyable aspects of ”Tributary’ is the unorthodox beat that randomly comes into the song, a risky and unexpected move that feels perfectly in place, one that shows that Mont Saint Michel is not afraid to take chances with a few unusual ideas. Seeing as this is the only track that includes beats, it is an idea that works so well in its application that I wouldn’t mind hearing more of it on future releases. Although experimental, ‘Sediment’ does not stray so far away from familiarity that it becomes completely alien. This familiarity is demonstrated on ‘Streets/Tears’, a slow moving ballad that begins with a considerably larger amount of traditional guitar playing further brings in a sense of musicality.

‘Sediment’ comes off very much like a mixtape, a collection of interesting ideas and experiments that gives the listener an idea of what to expect in the future which makes this experimental enough for the weirdos while staying formulaic and familiar enough for your average listener who has a bit of a sweet tooth for experimentation. Mont Saint Michel brings a stimulating pallet of familiar sounds and blends them with an adventurous amount of experimentation. The tone is bright, featuring a thin but present underlying layer of dreamy pop melodies; it is all very warm and welcoming while being mysterious enough to make you feel like you have discovered something new. It is like a summer day at the beach, just before it is about to rain; a strong and refreshing introduction to what is hopefully to come in the near future.

Overall rating: 8.8

Favorite Tracks: ‘Tributary’, ‘Midnight Special’, ‘Streets/Tears’

Recommended: Like attempting to remain conscious while being submerged in a pool filled with cough syrup as you are serenaded by local rock musicians.

Links:

Visit the Bandcamp page

Mont Saint Michel on Soundcloud

-Redntoothnclaw

mhva – Warmer / Colder

Warmer

Colder

Mhva is a musician from Oslo, Norway who’s glitchy drone / noise soundscapes have garnered some positive response within the soundcloud community and within soundcloud threads on /mu/ which isn’t hard to understand where this following comes from once you listen to his work. Warmer / Colder is a double album consisting of two separate EP’s. Since these two EP’s are made to be played as a whole I decided to review them as an entire album instead of reviewing them both separately which does not necessarily mean that they cannot be enjoy apart from each other.

Warmer / Colder is full of dark mysterious soundscapes and collages of noise in the repetitive fashion of drone. Like most drone recordings the tracks on this album are quite lengthy and change very little sonically, fortunately there are elements of noise, glitch, and even some traditional piano playing that are present throughout these two EPs which do well to prevent the content from getting boring for listeners who may be new to or impatient with the genre while allowing the songs to remain at a glacial pace for familiar listeners. There are many moments of subtle change throughout these two releases; tiny shifts in sound, quiet background noises, drones within drones, and silent tectonic movements that all come together to create a collage of sorts which is one of the fascinating aspects of drone. It is this ability to create the illusion of doing more with less and when you begin to pick up on these acute changes it is at that point that what you are hearing becomes more than just repetitious raw noise and transforms into an actual experience.

I found myself immediately in a state of calmness with the first track which features some simple drones with a bit of foreground noise that becomes progressively more apparent throughout the music, a formula that is explored throughout the album. ‘Pretty Late’ is made up of lumbering melancholic piano chords that are fittingly pieced together with unintelligible spliced samples that act as a musical and textural background element throughout the track. The samples, although minor, give the track a feeling of sadness, not in such a way that it is depressing but in a weird beautiful kind of way making this track to be amongst mhva’s more musical and accessible. This isn’t the only song to feature remnants of traditional sounding instrumentation; “The Punctum” a track on Warmer features some similar piano chords that play amongst a sea of colorful sounds that come into and out of the track.

Mhva creates some interesting experimental compositions that are familiar enough for fans of this style of music to remain interested while being different enough in it’s own right to achieve his own niche within the genre but the music does lack structure and content in which there are moments where I found myself growing bored or impatient with the progression on some of the songs, particularly on a few of the longer tracks such as ‘Beetle’ and ‘Enginery’. I am well aware that this type of music rides on a lack of content but in the context of what mhva has created, what is here is not sparse enough to be interesting in an ultra-minimal way nor is it dense enough to be something I would come back to often, especially when taking into account that the album spans two lengthy EPs. The combination of all these sounds creates some great textures but there is a point where these good ideas fail to become something musical and simply remain ideas, in this case a collection of interesting sounds.

Warmer / Colder is an example of what could have been a truly unique and powerful piece of music that barely falls short of its own expectations. Regardless, I cannot stress enough that with all forms of experimental music the listener themselves are often required to do some of the work as well in order to appreciate what one is being exposed to so with that said, I think this can be something great if the listener is willing to dig deep enough and remain patient in doing so.

Overall rating: 6.8

Favorite Tracks: ‘Five Nights’, ‘Pretty Late’, ‘The Punctum’

Recommended:  Like being in a room full of printers that are simultaneously dying as they all attempt to finish a final job.

Links:

mhva on Soundcloud

-Redntoothnclaw

Dementia & Hope Trails – Parts of the Sea I & II

Dementia & Hope Trails is the solo project of prolific experimental musician Justin Marc Lloyd. Justin has performed in a multitude of bands and projects and has been releasing a constant stream of visual and musical content for some time.

Some people will argue that the idea of consistently releasing material comes at the expense of said material lacking in quality. At times this theory does prove to be true, especially when taking into account the tradition of productivity that is so abundant in musical circles such as drone, ambient, and noise which have been made all so susceptible to these accusations. Fortunately, Dementia & Hope Trails proves these accusations wrong; given the amount of content and even more so the quality of it ‘Parts of the Sea’ holds it’s own rather well. The first part of this double album features six tracks while the second half are three much lengthier racks, two of which reach past the 20 minute mark with the entire album coming to a nearly whopping two hours. Because of this I think it is important to keep in mind that like many other drone and ambient projects this is an album that is best experienced in one full uninterrupted listen (mood lighting optional).

Like any good piece of epic work, whether it be literature, film, or in this case music it is careful to begin things slowly which is apparent in the first track. Track two starts to pick the music up; ‘We Sent Hearts Soaring’ is a massive, beautiful soundscape brimming with the normal lush ambient swells, spacey echoes, and a catalogue of many other strange, uncommon, and ethereal sounds that make for a lush but calm track.

Another standout track, “Hazy Love Drifting Down A River” airy washes of slow moving chords flood over the listener. Eventually it all builds into a loud monolithic construction, intensely so, although not in such a way that it is unlistenable or intrusively noisy but in a self-liberating way that is not so structurally different from a Godspeed! crescendo. While listening, getting lost in the dense clutter of sound it is hard to forget that all of this is being created on the spot and when it comes to improvisation, proper attention to detail is crucial in not ruining the delicate pace and tonal atmospheric qualities of what one is attempting to accomplish. There are plenty of laid back repetitious moments as to be expected but Justin does well in making sure not to bore the listener making sure to implement a good deal of recognizable sounds and by that I mean sounds that actually sound like they are being made with an instrument.

Justin’s colorful visual aesthetic transfers over in his music, sometimes to the point of being saturated in a colorful palette of sound. Seas of shimmering reverb, crushing slabs of psychedelic noise, organ-esque synth tones, and cascading volume swells that seem to go on forever all add to the complexly layered construction of these songs. Some of the textures on ‘Still Replaying’ are so vibrant and colorful that it makes it hard to believe that ‘Parts of the Sea’ was completely improvised all in a single take on guitar with no overdubs when it was recorded. Some of the songs actually sound like they were composed, written out prior to being recorder. The sounds on these albums are like tearing into a pack of gummy worms, they’re colorful and delicious except in this case the gummy worms last nearly two hours and are the size of a mountain. Maybe that was a bad analogy…

‘Sunflower’, which is probably the most progressive track on the album in that it is constantly evolving and building to a climax. Although it ranks in as the second longest track at 24 minutes it is possibly the most accessible piece of music on the album. Although I feel that ‘Sunflowers’ is probably the best track (my personal favorite at least) I do feel that the guitars may be a little too trebly, especially for a track that lasts 24 minutes. Sometimes it can be grating for those who are not as familiar with noisier elements in ambient music, especially taking into account the recording style which sometimes contains peaks in volume. There are so many sounds on this sprawling epic of a release that it calls for multiple listens in order to fully digest the product of something so expansive. The final and longest track, “I Miss You, Don’t Fall Asleep Yet” is a cathartic journey of transcendental ambience and psychedelic noise. It eventually mellows out into a looping state of modulated drones. As the track continues more guitar tones get thrown into the mix of the composition building off of each other, reverberating and echoing up to the end of the album where distant vocals can be heard singing the title of the song.

As much as I just want to praise this album and not say anything negative about it, ‘Parts of the Sea’ is not free of it’s shortcomings. Although I cannot respect the spirit of this style of music and the improvised nature of it enough, the fact that it was improvised is somewhat of a flaw. For being completely made up on the spot the music is great, more than great actually but I feel as though it is not fully realized. It makes me wonder what Justin could have done if he had recorded other tracks overtop of what he had or manipulated the end result in post-production. Choosing a recording style, especially one like this is a crucial decision that sometimes opens up possibilities and other times restrains the musician causing them to work around whatever negative aspects that come with it This is of course a very small flaw seeing that end result sounds like a realized piece of music and as I mentioned previously, some parts of the album actually sound like they were written prior to recording as though they wren’t improvised at all.

The album starts off simple enough, some pretty ambient soundscapes, nothing out of the ordinary for ambient music but then everything takes a left turn and about halfway through the second track you realize that you are on a very different kind of ride, something so different and futuristic that it will surely take more than one listen to digest. It is all constantly changing, always moving, seamlessly shifting, deconstructing and reconstructing itself in so many ways. At times is is soothing and at other times it is apocalyptic and frightening, a formula for an instant classic. ‘Parts of the Sea’ is always something different with each listen and is almost never uninteresting or boring. There is very little I can say about this negatively. This is surely the result of trial and error, passed time, hours of messing around, doing things wrong and not giving a fuck if it is correct in the normal sense of what is considered “right” in music; this is indeed the work of a musician who has nearly perfected his craft.

Overall rating: 9.8

Favorite Tracks: “I Miss You, Don’t Fall Asleep Yet”, “Hazy Love Drifting Down A River”, “We Sent Hearts Soaring And Sailing At The Same Time” “Sunflower”

Recommended: Similar to attempting to stay awake in a house full of carbon monoxide while consuming an overwhelming amount of candy and ultimately failing. Progressive and futuristic. A monolithic audible depiction of spacial and apocalyptic visions. In the “about” section of the Facebook page it describes the music as being like “if This Will Destroy You actually destroyed itself”.

Links: 

Violent Threads

Justin Marc Lloyd

Facebook Fan Page

Click the links below to download both parts for free:

Part of the Sea I

Parts of the Sea II

-Redntoothnclaw

DataSphere – Set / Rise

DataSphere is an ambient / noise musician who creates spacey compositions. On the Set / Rise EP DataSphere explores a more claustrophobic approach to the minimalist inspired music that can be heard on previous releases such as ‘Ghost Town’.

When talking about ambient music, I find that albums falling into this category tend to be best listened to altogether, heard as one element as oppose to listening to individual tracks separately. The structure of the music, especially in terms of more abrasive styles such as noise, puts a lot of responsibility on the listener, relying on one to absorb the information, see past a hazy concrete wall of sound and pull out some tangible evidence that music, in the popular sense of the word actually exist beneath all of the chaos. Set / Rise works in this way, best as a juxtaposition that places two extremes beside each other and not in such a way that it is meant to be compared but to be listened to or absorbed together.

‘Drowning’ is a noisy affair albeit it is the softer and more consistent of the two tracks. It starts out with a low rumbling that morphs into fuzzy hollow noise followed by some fantastic textures. For me, the track is the more enjoyable of the two as there as some interesting sounds buried beneath all of what is going on that paints a vivid picture of something cosmic. ‘Abduction’ is a harsher piece that finds DataSphere experimenting with a sort of claustrophobic composition. There are moments where loud shrill sounds can be heard eclectically clashing with each other followed by brief let ups that erupt without warning into more noise.

In terms of harsh noise, DataSphere does a decent job trying to create something enjoyable with something chaotic, making for a structured and somewhat thought out piece. On the downside there just isn’t a lot that stands out with these two tracks to keep me listening and being an EP comprised of two songs alone that doesn’t leave a lot of room for the album to better itself. With that said, the music here isn’t particularly bad in any way, just nothing that separates itself from a sea of similar sounds.

http://datasphere.bandcamp.com/

Overall Rating – 5.2

Recommended: Enjoyers of structured harsh noise, Tim Hecker fans might even find a comfortable place here.

-Redntoothnclaw

Kolumbus – Fleeting Hope For False Optimists

Kolumbus – Fleeting Hope For False Optimists

Ambient music is something that I have found myself enjoying ever since I discovered and began listening to experimental forms of music. It has become somewhat of a hobby for me; an archive documenting interesting and unique sounds to explore and share. Sometimes the music is absent of any tangible musical properties, often being made up of noise in the form of feedback or static and it is this concept that I find myself to be fascinated with. The idea that noise, typically unwanted sound, can be arranged and layered in such a way that it creates something beautiful and truly unique is an amazing concept. As much as I feel that the previous statement is true there are many times that experimentation does not always work out the way it was intended, this is especially true when talking about ambient music. Sydney-based ambient/drone musician, Kolumbus attempts to explores the concept of arranging sound by making long compositions on his album Fleeting Hope For False Optimists. The album focuses on sparseness and atmosphere, ever shifting changes in sound and direction, and short interludes laced in-between movements. The album is comprised of 3 long songs each divided into various movements.

Ambient and drone music is a style of music that relies heavily on subtleties, ones that challenge the listener to pick up on minuet changes in sound, to engage in the atmosphere, and to listen deeper than what lies on the surface and with this last statement I mean it quite literally. On this release Kolumbus makes a type of ambient music that reflects certain cinematic qualities. The abundant application of synth combined with the distinct use of sampling makes Fleeting Hope for False Optimists seem like a film in some ways. Sampling has become a distinguishable trait within hip-hop and other forms of electronic music, often times being treated as an instrument just as much as a guitar or a drum set would be. Samples are also used to project a mood or make a statement in an otherwise instrumental piece of music. Kolumbus uses it in just that way, juxtaposing the dirge driven synths with news samples about drug use and the zero tolerance policy to create a disposition of sorts; to make his statement clear absent of the straightforwardness that vocals can inflict on a piece of music. As much as the samples work in terms of adding to the cinematic nature I can’t help but feel that their use throughout this music is out of place and far too abundant to not be distracting. Samples should not be used to the point where the music to sample ratio is leaning considerably more toward the latter. Instead they should act as an added effect, used to enhance the experience of the music as oppose to fragmenting it.

There are some defining moments in Kolumbus’ compositions that I find myself enjoying but, to my disappointment they don’t last long. The drums that come in during the first song ‘The Internal Wars’ create a fantastic mood giving one the feeling that something apocalyptic lies ahead. Unfortunately, the foreboding feeling is short lived because before it can be realized they stop short, echoing away to become lost under waves of rising synth. They just stop without warning which forces me to assume that Kolumbus was unsure of where to go with the rest of the track. Many of the songs on here work in this same non-linear aspect; a song will go on before mellowing out into these cinematic Godspeed You! Black Emperor-esque gaps. Albeit, unlike Godspeed there isn’t a whole lot of substance here.

‘Allusions to Electronic Illusions’ heads in a beat oriented direction and although they don’t do much in the way of anything innovative or groundbreaking the beats are an enjoyable element added to the otherwise ambient overtones. Toward the end, the track eventually mellows out, adhering to a more sensual ambient sound.  The tone Kolumbus achieves with this sound is a beautifully crafted well structured piece of music. Voices drenched in reverse reverb rise and fall along with a body of gorgeous spacey noise. Kolumbus forms something alive with emotion and a plethora of palatable sounds yet distant and hollow at the same time, projecting a sense of something oceanic and vast.  I could honestly listen to this part exclusively for the 9 minutes that the track goes on for. If Kolumbus had pursued this sound throughout the rest of the album I feel like ‘Fleeting Hope for False Optimists’ would have been a more enjoyable release but as I said before, the defining moments on this album are few and far between.

The final song, ‘In Our Dying Dreams’ starts out with a simple repeating bass beat. The beat meanders for far too long, even for drone music but it eventually pays off as the track picks up and the symphonic violin-like swells are introduced. Halfway through the song some vocals can be heard reciting something akin to spoken word poetry. The rest of the track redundantly recycles the beat until it suddenly stops, replaced with some tribal beats that loop bringing the track to a conclusion.

The name of this album seems fitting seeing as most of the sounds on this album attempt to create a brooding sense of atmosphere but at the end of it all I can’t help but feel like this attempt falls short. Even with lots of swells, various noises, samples, and some beats this release manages to remain very minimalistic, and not in a positive way. Fleeting Hope For False Optimists comes off in a way that it lacks substance; I found myself wanting more, something richer. It seems like there is so much potential but it is all lost, buried beneath loads of unnecessary meandering and scattered across 36 minutes of music that doesn’t go anywhere, at least not for me. Fleeting Hope for False Optimists shines in a few spots but cannot help but become consumed by the uneven and fractured structure of this music.

Find Kolumbus on Bandcamp here

Overall Rating: 4.6

Favorite Track: Allusions to Electronic Illusions

-redntoothnclaw