Tag: Ambient (Page 2 of 2)

X-Navi:Et – Machina Nova – Review

Artist: X-Navi:Et
Album: Machina Nova
Release date: 16 May 2017
Label: Eter Records & Beast of Prey

01. Machina Nova
02. Neo Primitiv
03. Weltschmerz
04. Pseudo
05. Nonsens
06. Fiasko

X-Navi:Et was born as a side-project of Rafał Iwański, one of the members of HATI collective. Although I’m not sure if I should still use the term “side project”, as currently X-Navi:Et seems to be more active than the main project. Rafał focuses on it in terms of both recording new material and playing live. The last HATI album was released in 2015 – in the meanwhile we got Vox Paradox material, an full length album called Technosis and now Machina Nova, a CD including also Vox Paradox, which was previously available on tape only.

HATI is a three person ensemble, so it is sort of the sum and essence of three ideas and views on music. With X-Navi:Et we have an insight into a single artist’s creative mind. But I have to admit that – on the contrary to Dead City Voice or Brain Overloaded – this CD gets pretty close to the HATI spirit. First of all, this time he travels far from the (dead) cities. Far from the turbulent, modern world. The music on Machina Nova happens to be turbulent as well, but more in a tribal, atavistic aspect. It all starts with the flute imitating the singing of the birds and then turns into the struggle between the drones, the ethnic instruments and tribal drums. This first track, Machina Nova has a strongly Eastern feeling, however weirdly it may sounds, but it’s like the primitive ritual, yet delicately saturated with Orthodox traces. It’s like living in a village, having your own primitive gods and beliefs, yet you see the towers of the first church that has just been built on the horizon. Machina Nova. The New Machine.

I love how the folk and ethnic sounds intermingle with the electric, drone textures, as they go hand in hand. A struggle, yes, but fair and balanced. Both parties have the same chances, you don’t have the feeling that one aspect dominates over the other. Also it has to be said, that Rafał doesn’t use the ethnic elements in the typical way, you know, like many others do, in quite a cheesy manner reinterpreting on synths the simple melodies they’ve heard somewhere. The melodies on Machina Nova may not be very sophisticated either, but they’re something different – they’re filtered through a modern and creative soul of a person not only having different, wider technical possibilities (because a lot of sounds have been created using real instruments, not electronic surrogates, just like folks were doing many centuries ago), but also having an open mind and awareness that the music is timeless. Some sounds may seem old, but if you use them in a proper context, this fact becomes insignificant.

All this refers to the first six compositions, forming the Machina Nova segment. These are probably the most catchy pieces from X-Navi:Et so far, just check the melodies on “Weltschmerz” or “Neo Primitiv” (what an apt title). Of course it is all based on adding loops until the track reaches its climax, but it sounds really cool. The compositions 7-12 are taken from a tape released by the Wounded Knife label in 2015. These are closer to cities, but quite vague ones, suspended in time and space. You get a bit of industrial harshness here, without any extremities, obviously, but you’re not on a forest meadow anymore, around a bonfire, rather you are in the sewers under a dystopian megalopolis, where ancient rituals are still practised. Yeah, I know I’m simplifying here, but you get the idea. Still, a tribal feeling is present here and there as it is Rafał’s trademark, just like this “neoprimitiveness”, a certain idea around which all Rafał’s projects are built. Like in the amazing “E System X” piece. On the other hand, you’ll get a jazzy trumpet in “Machina”. So… expect a mix of organic and electric, the ancient and the modern. And the unexpected.

Written by: Przemyslaw Murzyn

Keosz – AVA – Review

Artist: Keosz
Album: AVA
Release date: 18 April 2017
Label: Cryo Chamber

01. Aquitted from Illness
02. All I Had To Do
03. AVA
04. Downfall
05. Nothing Left But Gloom
06. Consigned To Limbo
07. Behind The Horizon of Preconceptions
08. Resurrection from the Dust
09. Equanimity of the Senses
10. The Took All I Had
11. Farewell To Hollow Space

In 2016 the Slovakian electronic artist Keosz first appeared on Cryo Chamber with his album Be Left To Oneself. Since 2010, Keosz has been releasing a variety of singles and EPs through varies labels. He won the Radio Head Award for best electronic artist in 2016 for his work through these various projects.

Be Left To Oneself was Keosz‘ first real venture into dark ambient. On his dark ambient debut, we heard a fairly uniform style throughout the album. Keosz delivered a collection of melancholic droning ambient tracks, perfect for reminiscing one’s past. The sound Keosz produced had a unique atmosphere in that it was simultaneously downtrodden, and yet uplifting. For me, it was the most fitting when traveling through the city by metro. Watching a sunset over a cityscape alone, yet surrounded by people and modern technology.

AVA starts out in a similar vein as Be Left To Oneself. The first few tracks follow the same formula and ultimately evoke the same set of feelings. Yet, this time around there is a noticeable shift after the first half of the album. As we move into “Consigned To Limbo” Keosz changes everything. The track starts out calm with a bit of field recording sounds and a very gentle airy drone. This is the first time I can recall any real use of field recordings in Keosz‘ music. Two minutes into the track an electric guitar enters the mix. Again, this seems to be a first for Keosz. The guitar gently strums the same notes gradually increasing in volume and intensity. By the time it has moved to the front and center of the mix, it has added such an emotional charge that one can’t help but feel moved.

As AVA continues through the second half of the album, we are repeatedly presented with the use of the electric guitar. In fact, often the album takes on an energy and template that would be a perfect fit in a post-rock band. Similarities to acts like Caul could easily be found. Even comparisons to bands like Explosions in the Sky or This Will Destroy You would not be misplaced.

Keosz creates something in AVA that has been tried on more than one occasion. But on this album this artist perfects the formula. The combination between dark ambient and post-rock elements is flawless. The soundscapes move from introverted to highly energetic and back again in such a natural way that the transitions are often hard to notice.

These dynamics of AVA are quite a pleasant surprise. All the elements that made Be Left To Oneself such a gorgeous album are still present. Yet, AVA offers so much more. It is alive with emotion on a whole new level for this artist.

Cryo Chamber has slowly shifted over the last year from a label which strictly focused on cinematic dark ambient to one that gives a home to all sorts of different ambient music projects. Keosz and Phonothek both made their debuts last year on Cryo Chamber and each were quite surprising in their deviation from the norm. Yet, this year with both of their sophomore efforts being released back to back, we find in both that there has been abundant growth. Both projects took what made their debuts so interesting and went much further with their innovations.

AVA will likely be heralded as the greatest work yet by Keosz, an artist who already has quite a following. It will be very interesting to see where he takes his style in the future, because it seems that this artist has much more to offer than may have initially been realized. Between the heavier use of field recordings and the introduction of overt post-rock elements, Keosz will be finding many more listeners receptive to his sound. AVA is surely one of the best albums I’ve heard yet this year. It is bound to find a similar place in the hearts of many other listeners.

Written by: Michael Barnett

The Caretaker – Everywhere at the End of Time: Stages I-II – Review

Artist: The Caretaker
Album: Everywhere at the End of Time: Stages I-II
Release date: September 2016 / April 2017
Label: History Always Favors The Winners

01. A1 – It’s Just a Burning Memory
02. A2 – We Don’t Have Many Days
03. A3 – Late Afternoon Drifting
04. A4 – Childishly Fresh Eyes
05. A5 – Slightly Bewildered
06. A6 – Things that are Beautiful and Transient
07. B1 – All that Follows is True
08. B2 – An Autumnal Equinox
09. B3 – Quiet Internal Rebellions
10. B4 – The Loves of my Entire Life
11. B5 – Into Each Others Eyes
12. B6 – My Heart Will Stop in Joy
13. C1 – A Losing Battle is Raging
14. C2 – Misplaced in Time
15. C3 – What Does it Matter how my Heart Breaks
16. C4 – Glimpses of Hope in Trying Times
17. C5 – Surrendering to Despair
18. D1 – I Still Feel as Though I am Me
19. D2 – Quiet Dusk Coming Early
20. D3 – Last Moments of Pure Recall
21. D4 – Denial Unravelling
22. D5 – The Way Ahead Feels Lonely

The Caretaker is one of the musical projects of James Leyland Kirby. Kirby is also known for his projects: V/Vm and The Stranger among several others. He started The Caretaker in 2011 as a look into the past, with a focus on the failings and degenerations of the human mind. The Caretaker project was named after the character from The Shining, Jack Torrence. Some of these sort of sounds could be heard in the 1980 film by Stanley Kubrick. Deciding to build a musical project around these premises, it wasn’t long before Kirby had a highly successful offering in the second proper album, An Empty Bliss Beyond This World.

Stage I

The Caretaker project is based around borrowing sound samples from a period of musical history which has been all but forgotten. He started the journey in old records stores, perusing collections of vinyl which were coated in dust from years of neglect. From these hidden gems, Kirby sampled and manipulated the music to fit into his narrative.

Everywhere at the End of Time is being released in six segments, but the entirety of the series is a one-off purchase. At a very low price, the final three year period of The Caretaker music project will be fully available to buyers. This gives Kirby the ability to spread his music to as many listeners as possible. This is a bold move, while many artists try to find ways to maximize profit, Kirby has vied to maximize exposure, caring more for the ears than the wallets of his fans. Of course, this direction is easier to choose for an artist with multiple music projects from which he may continue collecting an income.

Each section of Everywhere at the End of Time will focus on a different aspect of the degenerative stages of dementia. Stage I, released in 2016, focuses on the early signs of memory loss. It is bright and generally has a positive vibe. It is sort of a throwback to the heyday of the “patient”. It is a window into the fond memories and high points in life. Each track is rather upbeat, with only a few taking on a slower pace. Even with the more laid-back tracks, their is always an uplifting energy present.

Stage II

Stage II takes a turn to darker thoughts. It focuses on the saddened acceptance of the disease. The Caretaker begins to realize the full ramifications of his position. As his memories begin to fade and become foggy, so too does his mood become more negative. There is a heavy sadness weighing down the entirety of Stage II, an extremely noticeable shift from Stage I. Track titles like “A Losing Battle Is Raging” and “What Does It Matter How My Heart Breaks” give the listener further cues to understanding the emotional elements presented, with the latter being an alternate version of “It’s Just A Burning Memory”, the first track from Part I.

For the most part, Stage II brings all new (in the sense that it hasn’t previously been used by The Caretaker) material into the project. From a technical standpoint, the music is much less direct, it seems to meander between varied levels of energy and emotion. Some of the tracks feel like they have a light use of field recordings complementing the sampled music loops. This second stage brings the track count up to 22, each of which are beautifully presented.

Each stage of the process is being released on vinyl, a fitting format to present this wonderfully staticy and purposefully flawed material to the public. The last four stages are set to be released between September 2017 through March 2019, at which point The Caretaker project will be officially laid to rest. Such a massive undertaking seems fitting for the close of a project which has managed to receive such positive feedback from fans and critics alike. There is no doubt that James Leyland Kirby will continue making music through one project or another. Yet, knowing that the end of The Caretaker is near gives fans a termination date that they can look toward with an air of sadness. It is a clever maneuver on the part of Kirby. As we know that the project will soon “die”. We can be part of the process, watching, waiting, and fearing the inevitable death of The Caretaker.

Written by: Michael Barnett

cover art

AWARE – The Book of Wind – Review

Artist: AWARE
Album: The Book of Wind
Release date: 28 February 2017
Label: Glacial Movements

01. so he got up and ate and drank
02. and travelled forty nights
03. until he reached the mountain
04. there he went into a cave
05. and spent the night
06. a powerful storm tore the mountains apart
07. but god was not in the storm
08. after the storm there was an earthquake
09. but god was not in the earthquake
10. after the earthquake came a fire
11. but god was not in the fire
12. and after the fire came a gentle whisper
13. so he pulled his cloak over his face
14. and went out

Glacial Movements is an Italian record label, known for their focus on cold, desolate and isolating releases. The new release, The Book of Wind by AWARE adds a layer of philosophy and theology to this template of frozen soundscapes. AWARE deliver one of the most relaxing and emotional releases on Glacial Movements with a grace and attention to detail that will be immediately noticeable to the listener.

The Book of Wind centers on the concept of using sound structures to invoke a sense of oneness with the godhead. This is not to be confused with ritual ambient. The sounds here are anything but that. The theory is that certain combinations of sounds, crafted just right, though probably by accident, may bring the entirety of mankind to a sense of enlightenment. There is also a philosophical concept presented here which is borrowed from the studies of Simone Weil, who believed that only downward motions were real, conversely ascension constitutes illusion. Feelings of sadness and joy are two faces of a similar structure of emotion.

The Viennese musician Alexander Glück, the man behind AWARE, uses a combination of these philosophical principles, field recordings and looped musical samples to take the listener on an inward journey. The result is a serenity of emotion. Listeners may easily fall into this music, delving deep into their inner consciousness. The sounds are certainly melancholic and introspective. The gently evolving drone-work matched with field recordings from nature display a sense of being in a small isolated cabin, deep in the wilderness, contemplating one’s own existence.

AWARE describes The Book of Wind as “a collection of essays which never reach their goal, but vanish into nothing, to which they belong.” This is a very apt description of the music. As a whole, the album consists of track names which, when read as one, convey a short poem, or piece of religious scripture. The entirety of the album indeed has an incomplete feel. This gives the listener a hunger for finding the deeper meaning, a thirst for repeat listening sessions. Each replay is able to evoke a new emotion or uncovers a new aspect of the soundscape. The entirety of the album melts into an intermingled whole, where no one track truly stands out above the rest. On the surface this seems to be some shortcoming on the part of AWARE, but in fact, it achieves its goal in simultaneously opening the mind of the listener, yet never giving them a total fulfillment or closure.

The length and ephemeral impact of the music makes for a highly enjoyable and replayable album. After dozens of play-throughs, a sense of boredom or repetition never rears its ugly head. The music stays pristine. It gives a sense of longing. Solitude. An attempt to describe any one individual track would be pointless, as the album constitutes a single entity. There is a life in the music which is undeniable. Given the sparse use of beautifully detailed field recordings, the album truly comes to life for the listener.

I would recommend The Book of Wind to any fan of ambient, dark ambient or drone music that finds contentment in staring out the window upon a lonely, rainy landscape. Anyone who finds an equal sense of beauty and melancholy in the natural world around them will be drawn into the embrace of AWARE. As usual with Glacial Movements releases, there is more than meets the eye with The Book of Wind, and one must experience it for themselves to truly understand the impact.

Written by: Michael Barnett

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