Justin Wright’s Expo ’70 project has given rise to many decent releases over the last five or so years on labels like Beta Lactam Ring Records and Kill Shaman, but last year’s double vinyl set “Where does your mind go?” is perhaps his high water mark. Recorded live with no overdubs, the four long-form kosmische tracks are totally organic and immersive, clichés for ambient music maybe, but here entirely accurate.
A new album “Inaudible Bicoastal Trajectory” has also just been released this month on the seminal Aguirre label.
Motion sickness of time travel
In a short space of time Rachel Evans’ Motion Sickness of Time Travel project has gone in leaps and bounds. Already with a handful of releases in 2011, her highlight is perhaps still last year’s beautifully packaged “Seeping Through the Veil of the Unconscious” on the Digitalis label. Droning and peaceful, the key is perhaps her ability to capture a group sound, not so much reminiscent of kosmische music as much as space rock groups like Windy and Carl with a touch of Slowdive thrown in for good measure, all while simultaneously appropriating from new age ideals to produce a kind of healing music.
One of the tracks off “Seeping through…” also reminds me a little of one of ABBA’s ambient/instrumental pieces, the title track to the 1976 “Arrival” album.
While still on “group sounding” ambient, one of my favourite groups over the last few years is Moutains, the duo of Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp, who have made their home on Thrill Jockey. Originating in a more guitar-orientated sound, the duo latest album “Air Museum” is however, decidedly more electronic. Its shorter length is also an interesting feature and it feels almost poppy at times, which is not to say shallow or disposable, but is an interesting development for a group whose sound often takes time to develop over long durations, such as on the exceptional “Etchings” live album from 2009. There is also a little hint of Spacemen 3 in the sound of “Air Museum” that makes their current live incarnation seem more than appealing should they come to town.
BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa
Last year was an excellent year for seminal Austrian label Editions Mego. They released the Emeralds excellent “What happened” album, Oneohtrix Point Never’s “Returnal” as well as several Fenn O’Berg albums and deluxe re-editions of classics such as Fennesz’s “Endless Summer”. Buried alongside these was the double vinyl album “Space Finale” by Sweden’s BJ Nilsen and Stilluppstepya (the Icelandic duo of Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson and Helgi Thorsson) which was one of the year’s highlights. Slowly unfolding and glacial, it had a powerfully disarming effect, changing without giving the ability to notice it and rising and falling in volume and intensity. The collaboration has recently been extended to a new album called “Big Shadow Montana” on the Helen Scarsdale Agency label.
BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa - Big Shadow Montana (album preview) by experimedia
Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer
One of the landmark albums of the year will most certainly be the collaboration of Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer reworking the ECM catalogue. The work is a return to form for Villalobos who has had several pedestrian releases lately, while for Loderbauer it continues his recent ascent following on from the growing interest in his old Sun Electric project and his involvement with Moritz von Oswald in his trio. The double CD set is an intricate and patient tapestry of sound, embellishing different worlds of jazz, classical and fragmented electronica into often sparse, but still richly detailed sound forms the evolve in unpredictable ways. Here the duo explain the origins of the project
While excerpts can be found here
Just released now on the Dutch label 4Lux, is the album “When time doesn’t know itself” by Austrian group Orakel which shares many similarities with the Villalobos/Loderbauer collaboration in that it is a dense collage of jazz and soul fused into a hip hop and down tempo landscape. Perhaps not truly ambient, but well worked and a great foil for heavier club-sounding music.
The second label sampler of ambient tracks from Japans’s Mule Musiq doesnt need any complicated introduction, only to say that it is a very accessible collection of short ambient pieces reminiscent of Kompakt’s celebrated Pop Ambient series. The sounds here a perhaps a little more classical-leaning and closer to say the Type label then the more electronic angle of Pop Ambient. For example, one track has Terre Thaemlitz remixing John Cage which again sounds similar to the Villalobos/Loderbauer project.
Another new collection of ambient tracks, this time fromAmerican John Beltran on the always fantastic Delsin label run out of Amsterdam. The set collects tracks from as far back as 1995 and the results are somewhat different from the fore mentioned Mule Musiq and Kompakt compilations on one important level: the overt positivity of the tracks. So much ambient music is somehow dark, depressing or evocative of gloomier moods. The overt sunniness and alegria of Beltran’s collection is a marked contrast and while perhaps it seems superficial at times, this is perhaps only because it is indeed lighter and uplifting and not inducing a dire introverted state.