Congregations – Circular Ruins

‘Circular Ruins’ is the post-humous release by Congregations, a project that featured a rotating line-up, the only constant member being edmonton ambient musician David Ferris who is also a member of drone / jazz trio TAIWAN whose first album, ‘Belladonna’  was reviewed early in the summer.

Lush, spacial, and delicate are a few of the descriptors that could be used to describe the ambient beauty that is Congregations first and last album. ‘Circular Ruins’ is massive without being crushing or oppressive. Tracks such as ‘Found In The Ravine (Zain)’, You Are Trembling’ and ‘Hayley’ are brimming with a sea of sounds; sounds reminiscent of voices, of wind flowing through tunnels, of the slow static hiss of a tide briefly washing ashore and retracting back into the horizon but still although relatable it remains so disconnected from any of these things, left only for the imagination to interpret, to wonder what thing makes such bodies of noise. Dense low-end drones ride throughout many of the tracks while cascading spacial swells soar above them, the likes of which seamlessly weave in and out of one another, at times merging and separating, becoming one and becoming nothing. At times I think I am hearing strings, church bells, a symphony of instruments, or a choir of women singing but in reality all of this is being created by one David Ferris and still, I find it so easy to get lost in the aural beauty of this short lived project.

The dynamics on this release are certainly impressive and it’s hard to believe that this project is the work of one musician, even so I feel like the addition of more contributors could have added greatly to expand the variety of what this album is, which sometimes feels as though the tracks are bleeding into one another. Regardless, there isn’t a lot for me to say in terms of the negative aspects of this album.

From the beginning of the album with the delicate piano and melancholic rise and fall of ‘You Are Trembling’ to the album’s final lush conclusion on “When We Call” all of the sounds in between resonate a wavering beauty that is not of anything wholly pertaining to this world or any known thing. What is found are glacially paced, glistening free form bodies of sound. Circular Ruins is overtly natural in sound; the field recordings that are placed throughout the album bring a nice touch of life to the spacey fog of ambience that envelops you.

Overall Rating: 8.2

Favorite Tracks: ‘You Are Trembling’, ‘Found In The Ravine (Zain)’, ‘Hayley’

Recommended: Listening to a muffled choir of angels singing underwater within the vacuum of space.

Released: 20 August 2012

Links: Visit Congregations on Bandcamp

-Tyler Thompson

Jahktute – A Record of Things Gone

Jahktute is a recording artist whose sound ranges from the extreme shrill noise heard on previous albums such as ‘Epwell‘ to quieter collage-like recordings that are sparse in sound.

I’ve always had a soft spot for noise; the intensity and abrasives of it can, at times, bring us back to a reality of life that we often seek to get away from or it can make us feel alienated bringing us into a new world of creative and vast soundscapes. Perhaps the most captivating part of noise is not the audible aspect but what it means to us conceptually; the idea of making these common parts of our life seem alien, to evoke emotion or tell a story through the juxtaposition of raw sound as it may be heard in everyday life, unfiltered or restrained by the use of traditional instrumentation but instead inspiring experimentation and often times an unconventional means of execution to produce a piece of music that is as original as it is unreproducible. When we hear noise in it’s commonplace, where it belongs, it does not bother us but when stripped of all of our other senses but sound, when noise becomes the focus of a situation, in this case looked at as a piece of music it suddenly becomes capable of evoking many different emotions and whether the feelings we pull from it were intentional or not the fact remains in both cases, noise is inescapable and Jahktute makes use of this reality via use of sometimes harsh electronic feedback and collages of sound combined with recordings of people talking, cars passing, birds chirping, and a variety of noises that lie hidden outside of our subconscious with this 11 track collection of varied minimalist noise.

The first two tracks are much quieter, relying on a minimalist approach with small movements of sound; what at times appears to be recordings of old machinery attempting to finish what may be it’s last dying task, sheets of metal clashing together, bottles clanking together, people chatting with each other, low-end rumblings that ominously flow beneath the foreground amongst a slew of other unsettling noises. The sounds are often sparse yet spontaneous; at times noises will meander about before erupting into a cataclysm of abrasiveness. ‘Road Lines’ features more of these sonically intense factors as shrill high pitched metallic noises and what sounds like pieces of metal and glass being scrapped against each other make their way across highly compressed low end rumblings which continue into ‘Symphony pt. 2’. Although the focus of the sound is mostly combinations of grating noise and field recordings other forms of noise are introduced into the mix, an example being ‘I Found it Underground’ which although brief, makes use of rich and dark piano chords that are allowed to linger moments after they are played where the track ‘Of meanings’ provides the listener with a deep melancholic drone which makes for a very different feeling of unease that the noise on the rest of the album just can’t accomplish as well. These two tracks made me want to hear more of what Jahktute can create using a more atmospheric approach to noise and although I enjoyed their inclusion they just felt out of place regardless of the additional variety they add. As the album continues the inclusion of field recording becomes continuously more involved playing a major role in telling something of an audible story encouraging a disconnect between the origin of the sound and what is being heard. The listener is left to interpret these naked sounds without the visual imagery of what is creating them, the same kind that allow us to feel comfortable with them naturally.

Jahktute’s ability to pull a blindfold over the eyes of the listener is uncanny, his music forces the listener to remain attentive leaving one visual impaired yet sonically more alert to the events that are transpiring within his recordings but at the same time even with all of the variety that is offered here I did feel that there were moments on this release that just could not hold my interest. Seeing as the approach on ‘A Record of Things Gone’ is more moderated than that of previous releases in that there tends to be more control in terms of the placement of noises on this recording I found that it either wasn’t minimal enough for me to feel completely involved, to feel completely engrossed in what has been constructed and when more sounds were introduced it was not spontaneous or chaotic enough.

I feel like where ‘A Record of Things Gone’ lacks is not so much the execution of the material, the individual tracks but that the release acts more as a compilation of interesting sounds, either found or created to make something of an emotive collage rather than something more concise. While some tracks do work well with others some, although enjoyable just feel out of place. While I was not necessarily compelled by what I heard I do feel like what is here can provoke one to ask questions, think, or feel emotion and in that it succeeds because even if it were negative is that not what this kind of noise seeks to achieve, that being a response as simple as questioning the music itself?

Overall rating: 6.0

Favorite Tack: ‘I Found it Underground’, ‘Of Meanings’

Recommended: Choose to hear it.

Released: 20 February 2012

Links: Stream ‘A Record of Things Gone’


ek (swe) – vårkänslor

This is an album I randomly happened across while I was browsing through the “field recordings” tag section on bandcamp. The cover art and odd name (Google translate tells me it’s Swedish) intrigued me and I decided to check it out since it was a free download and I needed some new music.

Now just let me say, this is pretty fucking cool and actually really different than I expected. It’s a bunch of folky, largely instrumental, acoustic songs, often with more than one guitar playing, with nature recordings and occasional other ambientish sounds playing in the background. It’s pretty straightforward with what it’s trying to do but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The field recordings add a nice ambient aspect to the acoustic guitars and compliment them well. This album is fairly lo-fi but the recording and mixing isn’t really that bad, it’s just not very produced. There are occasionally some slight effects on the guitars but they are subtle enough to miss if you aren’t really paying attention. Altogether it was quite an enjoyable experience and I’ll definitely be listening to it again.

Recommended if you like Sung Tongs, Pullhair Rubeye, or maybe even Grouper. It has that kind of naturey feeling.

Rating: 7/10 (on first listen, may change later after more listens)

Josh Preston – Exchanges 1-4

Josh Preston - Exchanges 1-4

Josh Preston is a dark ambient / noise musician from Sydney, Australia whose music is self described as ‘The sound of trade, exchange, interrelation and operability’. ‘Exchanges 1 – 4′ is a collection of various haunting stark recordings arranged in a four song EP.

‘Exchanges 1-4’ is exactly what the title suggests, it is a haunting study of the sound of currency being withdrawn and deposited, things being shifted, moved from one place to another, displaced, replaced, exchanged in a number of ways, both related and unrelated. The entirety of this EP’s sound is the result of a collection of sounds arranged, collaged together to create an entirely new composition all while maintaining attached to the original source material. Eerie oscillating tones create an otherworldly soundscape while static forebodingly lingers beneath in a world that is at first glance alien to ours but given multiple listens is very much like our own. Much of the source material seems to be comprised of what sounds like doors and metal cabinets being opened and closed, the rattling of a fingers meeting the keys on a keyboard, people commuting; all reverberated, stepped and repeated, crackling, and decaying into a cluster-fuck of unsettlingly hollow sounds. It is the embodiment of a generation controlled by economical statistics, consumerism, and the exchange of items.

I found myself enjoying the overall concept of this release, that being the overarching theme of the exchanges that much of the sound on this release is derived from. The whole idea of a musician using sounds and arranging samples and recordings over the preferred method of vocals to create a statement is a good idea, it has worked before but like Kolumbus’ debut ‘Fleeting Hope For False Optimists‘, a musician who employed a similar technique, I found myself wanting something a bit more solid. At times the music felt sparse, I couldn’t help but feel that much of it was overshadowed by a good idea that was poorly executed.

In short, the music on this EP is constantly changing all while managing to remain the same and like my description, the listener may at first fail to gain some grasp on what they are hearing but after repeated listens everything comes together including my inane description, to create something that is more of a statement or a reaction toward the busy economic world we live in today. There is undoubtably a good concept hidden beneath the mess of incoherent sounds and noises that make up this release and while ‘Exchanges 1 – 4’ gets some points for its originality, its vague concept, and its daring musical traits it fails in the aspect of providing enough substance or musical progression to keep most entertained, myself included.

Check out his Bandcamp

Overall Rating: 5.1

Favorite Track: ‘Exchange 4’

Recommended: Fennesz worshippers may find a warm spot here.