microphones in the trees

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

zazz ~ soft harbinger

"Zazz is the long distance collaborative project of Ang Wilson and Braeyden Jae. Out of mutual admiration for each other’s musicality and expression, the project came to life when the two decided to develop a creative dialogue through sound, sending files back and forth with no pre-determined aesthetic or agenda. That space of not knowing and openness nurtures the trust and respect that guides the project. It allows for an honesty and presence that can be difficult to tap into when the course has already been charted. 

Soft Harbinger follows the thread of gentle and pastoral work that Braeyden has pursued with his project, softest, and that Ang has been known for, both with their solo project, teasips, and with Electric Sound Bath. Soft Harbinger is the debut album from Zazz and it’s a beautiful opening." ~ inner islands

Vernal equinox is definitely a good day to share some peaceful music with the world and honestly I can't think better place to look for it than Inner Islands label. For many years now it keeps this delicate flow of acoustic sensations which adds something meaningful to our world. Just a little bit of harmony... 

When David Bohm, one of the quantum physics pioneers, discussed his theories with attendees, he described our world as a hologram and the difference between hologram and usual picture is that each part of hologram keeps the whole picture. So if you tear a regular photo you'll have fragments which can't really tell you what was captured on the original (especially if it's really small fragments), while each piece of broken hologram will have same picture in it, just more blurred than original. Each tiny piece of it will be same, just less detailed... When I read about it in my childhood, guess my life was irreversibly changed that moment. If the Universe is holographic in its nature, it means each tiniest part of it is the universe itself. And of course I knew about it before – metaphorically, from tales, myths, from poetry... But this was science, huh! 

But yes, your yoga teacher or psychologist are right when they say each person is a universe. But important part here (from physics) is that if even smaller part contains the whole picture, it can be so blurry that you'd never tell that something's there. It's hidden, it's out of reach. Parts must be connected, integrated and here lies another trick moment – there is a big difference between a part and a fragment. A bunch of letters may create some words but you need a concept of harmony to create poetry of it. Rhythm. Waves. Patterns... There is no music in the world until the listener appears. A mind with an idea of harmony. And that's the hologram, the picture of the whole, the music made of natural noises, the very beginning of it. 

Of course we don't need to go metaphysical to enjoy music. We even gone so far that we can see harmony in something which was considered dumb noise only a few decades ago. I guess that's inevitable process, that's seeing the bigger picture. Following the patterns of harmony. I'll leave the question about nature of the harmony itself because I'm trying to talk about music here and music is obviously my favorite thing in this Hologram. Simply because it doesn't need words to make you feel these things. It always connects you with other people, events, places and sensations, you become something bigger than you was. And in case of Zazz it does that thing so delicately, that you may lose any thoughts just after few minutes spent inside these blissfully repeating patterns of universal harmony... If each musical track is a hologram then these two sides are filled with so many things that you'll need an eternity to explore them all. It's just like a window into the wider space. Wide as world itself. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

inner travels ~ yonder

Flickering music at the edge of natural and abstract. Invisible structure of morning air. Web of tiniest threads connecting perception with so-called reality... New tape at Sounds of the Dawn it's always a revelation and each Inner Travels' work is an expanding universe of intuitive knowledge about phenomena we usually avoid to notice in our daily routine. All these barely noticeable nuances, a multidimensional space between what we call "myself" and "everything". You know they are endless, but it's your personal infinity, your own universe created on the edge of what you see and what you think you see. The game of life and death. What you believe and what is hidden. 

Despite its purely electronic nature I always see Inner Travels as music about nature. Yet it's not simply landscaping or ecologically inspired – the weaving of the sound here is abstract enough, yet with a strong rhythmic background. I'd say it's the air chiming. All kinds of air: morning, evening, air above lakes... But it's not about the air – like a book is not about pages and letters. When I'm trying to express that feeling Yonder gives me, it vanishes... When this music was born, it did same thing. Nuances of the perception, the miracle of memory which we often take for granted. Something was here for a moment and then vanished, but it lives in our perception... Not just a static picture, but vivid object, living thing. Of course we have a mechanism in mind which says "that is real and this is not". "It's just a memory", "it's just a dream"... Safety mechanisms. But listening to Inner Travels I feel like this distinction dissolves in the ripples of sounds. It's all same thing, one thing. No matter how you call it, real or made up, it lives its own life, it has its own infinity of nuances, true miracle! Just like everything else. 

rhucle ~ handmade ocean

Since 2014, young ambient producer Yuta Kudo aka Rhucle managed to publish more than fifty albums full of calmest ambience. You can safely trust this music to lull your children, use it as a growth stimulant for domestic plants or simply put it on 24-hour repeat without fear that something suddenly will change dramatically there. Rhucle albums sound absolutely same! It took me two years to start to distinguish them from each other (and I even published one), but even now I will not agree for a blind test. We all know Celer, Hakobune and Hatakeyama-san, and Yuta clearly studied with the best, but, in fact, what he does with his music is even more diverse in a sense. Yes, in every Rhucle album you'll hear sea waves, whispering springs, brooks and all other kind of water element. And his ambient sounds behave in similar fashion - instead of a static drone, Rhucle threads simple tones into undulating patterns causing the resonant frequencies to tremble - just like ripples on the water surface or streams inside a river body. But where Will Long ascribes another beautiful concept or situation, in order to justify another portion of the humming sounds with some reason (doing that, apparently, for himself - for me it's absolutely fine when music even doesn't have a title), Yuta won't do anything - same simple titles like Quiet Moments or Someday in the Rain, same sounds and the same murmuring water - absolutely pastoral, truly Japanese impressionism.

And this is his strength and his courage - not to try to surprise anyone with something, not to compete whose drone is more fat or deep... Just doing what he likes most. And repeating it again and again to the perfection. It's absolutely natural. The river flows every day just as it did yesterday. And maybe, at first glance, nothing changes in it. But you should slow down, calm down and just start looking - and you start to notice how thousands of tiny grains of sand change patterns every minute. As the reflection of the clouds trembles on the surface of the water. How infinite variability is combined with the disarming saturation of statics... This definitely has something Japanese and generally eastern in it - where we see simple, everyday things, Japanese find an infinite number of shades, nuances, meanings. And makes art of this. Maybe I'm just being stereotypical, but It seems to me that Rhucle mastered zen of ambient music - maybe just for himself, not necessarily for everyone... But that's how it usually happens, isn't it?

Saturday, November 18, 2017

baldruin ~ biotische verwitterung

«A disquieting record to accompany the nightmare of now. Baldruin documents this darkness, finding some hope in the helplessness. Buried within these grooves, lies a dizzying array of crepuscular sonics. Barely alive, it drips with dread. Rachitic loops return to us, like traumas. A sticky submission. My goodness, these earworms are infectious.» aetheric-records 

If this world is going to an end – let's dance! Why not? Oh, there is so much fear and dread, and awe, and horror, and hope, and loneliness, and death-death-death is everywhere! But why not to dance? It all begins in light they said. Send your prayers they said. But what's in the end? Baldruin says 'Vom Ende' and then nightmare just begins, spinning its way back to your memory, turning everything upside down, changing the faces and places in the same canvas like in the most disturbing David Lynch movie. Yet, we can dance a bit. Because why not? Okay, despite being groovy and glitchy and gloomily enjoyable this record is not about decadence. It's definitely Baldruin's most creepy work to date, sometimes so disturbing that it gets physical. Something in the stomach. So you better move your body, because these aural rats are everywhere, their skins are soft and warm but they are red inside and they want you be same way... It feels like everything collapsing, yet there is something hidden in the sound which gives you strength to look, to face this storm. Apocalyptic, yes – this records definitely has its own transcendental virtue usually avoided by many. If it's usually calming escapism or filth and decadence in case of 'apocalyptic music', Baldruin paves his own way far away from both. I'd call it necessary vision. To look at thing as they are. As you just came out of wilderness and faced human world for the very first time. Not knowing what's good and what's bad. Not knowing where to go, because your wilderness is gone. And everything else is going to end as well... And it isn't dark at all. It's just how it is right here, right now, when you go by the streets – just one step away from the usual safe road. It may be literal, but can be in your mind. Just one, just little tiny step. And new wilderness unfolds, The Real of the Now. It barks, it bites, it pleases, it laughs, it fists your guts. But after all we know that we created it. So why not to dance with it? 

Friday, November 17, 2017

son ash ~ easy listening for the hearing impaired

son ash ~ easy listening for the hearing impaired (År & Dag, 2017)

«'Easy Listening For The Hearing Impaired' is a collection of timbral, rhythmical and structural studio experiments for analogue synthesizers, sequencers and reel tape. Part of the material stems from free improvisation, while other parts are composed from more strict and conformational principles. The album is concerned with the idea of beginning and becoming, and an increasing expanse is embedded in the progression of the album, that gradually unfolds its ramifications over time». År & Dag

After years of dedication to ambient music it can be hard to focus on weirdness and playfulness of modern electronic music. Surely it's not that hard in general, your mind just gets so comfortable with the idea of music without unexpectable turns and sharp angles that it becomes inseparable from daily routine. Even without calling it consumerism or escaping, it's enough already to say that one can easily become 'hearing impaired' to any other kind of music. With this in mind I finished my first listening to this record, staring to the ceiling, completely lost and totally inspired. Taken first as the controversial eye-catcher, the name of this album unfolded as a little epiphany – even having the all music of the world before us, we usually select just few styles for personal comfort remaining deaf to anything else. Voluntary deafness, John Cage's archenemy. Of course, there is contrariety to it, hunger to complexity and ingenuity, which drives so-called avantgarde to limits of reason. But beyond those extremes lays the vastness of music, which can be virtually anything for you. 

Son Ash brings a lot to this table, playing and experimenting, making fun of cliches. Sometimes it gets so calm and minimal that it can be mistaken for some Guenter Schlienz' new work, but just few moments later it turns your calmness into laughter, as it was saying 'haha, got you!' – yet within the bounds of decency. I doubt Andreas Pallisgaard (Son Ash mastermind) does it on purpose, at least I want it to be that way because it creates a picture of some kind of futuristic ambient music in my head – it still exists in terms of Satie & Eno, but already corrupted by this unavoidable post-internet vibe, when unexpected turns are not glitches of the system but are result of changed perception of the world, conscious switches. Mind changing it's focus same way as 20 years ago people changed TV channels during sleepless night, but with awareness why and what for. As we change interiors while drifting through the city to our homes. If classic ambient was pastoral in many ways and had its evil twin 'dark ambient', this new ambient cannot be named that easily. It's not dystopian or critical. It's not even weird or cynical. It's like the life itself – just changing. Just different for every one. But still it has to say something about all of us in common. Yes, this is easy listening, after all, but only if you forgot how to listen. 

listen ~ support ~ watch video

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

pandelindio ~ spirits of valtellina

Spirits of Valtellina was recorded live at I’abbazia di S. Pietro, a romanesque abbey built in 1078 by the monks of Cluny, in Cosio Valtellino, province of Sondrio, Italy ~ novitic ind.

Despite the plentiness of acoustic instruments very well adapted or even specifically made for drone music, there are not so many artist in the world plying purely acoustic drone music.  Of course one can said that this is well known route and that it's much more interesting to build something upon drone – as it does New Age music, folk and actually almost any known music. With centuries (or thousands?) of development the presence of the drone has reduced  significantly, and, probably, only Indian music tradition preserved careful attitude to it. All sounds are emerging from drone. Like a primal ocean of energy, it contains the potency of any sound. Melody is just a fleeting splash, surface ripple, but it can reflect some of the inner processes inside of this unknowable continuum. Repetition of melodic phrases and game of overtones are as natural for the music, as a murmur for water. Drone is a stalk for the flowers to bloom... And it happens time after time on this album – as natural, as in a spring garden. At ease, as the wellspring goes through stones. Pandelindio magicians learn the organic way of things through music and bestow us their admiration, which we happily share!

watch video:

Monday, September 11, 2017

rhucle ~ raw

Without exaggeration, Tokyo-based sound magician Yuta Kudo aka Rhucle really flooded ambient scene with his music since last year, having tapes and discs released all around the world at labels like Oxtail, Constellation Tatsu, Adhesive Sounds, A Giant Fern, ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ, Beer On The Rug... One could only dream about such list of publishers, but it is actually well deserved attention if you ask me – there are many prolific ambient artists, even in Japan only (take Hakobune, Hatakeyama, Celer...), but Yuta developed its own sense for ambient vibe so quickly that we could speak about being just a medium here. It's always seems unearthly, when artist picks his style so carefully that you can recognize his tunes with the first minutes of playback. It seems like he simply mediates the frequencies of another dimension into our reality, and it's true with Rhucle. On the other hand, Yuta's music is very well rooted in nature, in bucolic recordings of water streams and birds voices, which are inseparable from his tunes. Mellow spheres of sound slowly echoing through those recordings remind me voice of wind in the electric wires, serenity of summer days, afternoon laziness and sparkles of the starlight falling with the dusk... And when I remember those days, I can't really say how many of them were in my life – it looks like infinity in my mind. One omnipresent moment. It's so unreal, yet I can feel any slightest sensation I had! So, I guess this is why it doesn't matter how many albums Rhucle has in its catalogue, how many summer days I spent alone with nature, how hot they were, how gentle was the whisper of the water... I can only wonder how such music can be done in Tokyo, which must be loudest place on Earth, but guess such wonder as this music gives to me can only be transcendent from inside. An it brings a lot more than I can express in a review, it comes with different story every time, so Rhucle can be viewed as an amazing cure from despair, from transience of our daily life, vanishing point of the mind, halfway between the memories and dreams.


a r c a d e ~ bilberries and mushrooms

Hypnotic whirl of grooves and hums, layered over the ground of weird echoes. Dance of electric impulses of mycorrhiza. Drops of water on the spider web. Moonlight reflections in the crystals hidden between leaves... I can go on like this forever while listening to this tape. It came a while ago, but every time I listened to it, the more hypnotizing it was. I know that term "psychedelic" can be attached to anything these days, so let's just say it's magical. And it truly is! Once you fall into these grooves and catch the vibe of those slightly unbalanced loops, it will spin in your deck for ages. Tuluum Shimmering  tropical canoe trip with Julia Bloop and Rod Hamilton, smiling to each other under the moonlight. High Wolf-y relaxing tunes to lazy Sunday mornings, Black Joker's game of never-ending loops which erase the difference between sounds which are actually there and imagined ones. And believe me, you'll be getting many of them even when tape stops. Maybe it's just a result of long-time addiction to weird cassette loop music, but a r c a d e definitely brings some tricks along with its seemingly simple compositions. The name behind is Nathan Stephenson and I strongly suggest to keep an eye on his output - "bilberries and mushrooms" is only a debut work!

listen ~ support
watch video:

Thursday, July 20, 2017

interview with guenter schlienz

Guenter Schlienz (Stuttgart, Germany) is known for his vast catalogue of tape & cdr releases on different great labels around the world – Sacred Phrases, SicSic, Goldtimers, Constellation Tatsu, etc. He is the man behind wonderful Cosmic Winnetou label, releasing all kinds of experimental/drone/ambient artists — maybe not as frequently as we'd like, but each time pleasing the taste of any tape music geek. Creating his minimalist compositions by means of d.i.y modular synths, tape loops and field recordings, Guenter achieves the serenity of classic ambient works, while keeping the vibe of 70s kosmische musik (think Cluster or Harmonia) and sometimes reaches the territories of academic minimalism, exploring the sound as ding an sich, inspiring the listener to invent its own narrative. Being part of Navel band since mid 90s, Guenter's place in music world has a long, but still almost unknown story which continues nowadays with further explorations of all kinds of ambient music.


Pied Paper: First of all, I'm curious about how it all started for you — ambient music, synth building, tape releases, etc. I know that you were involved in many other projects before, call you tell a bit about them too?

GS: phew, where did it all started… definitely many many moons ago. was active mid till end 90s in some heavy stoner psychedelic rock band. was the guy responsible for producing some "far out sounds" with his guitar and some delay pedal. so there already was this drone element in what i did. but far from recognizing it as this for myself. bit later during the same decade i did a session with a guy who did guitar and singing for another noise rock outfit. we just fiddled around with our guitars and with every pedal we could get our hands on. we recorded our very first session with some broken 4track and quite liked the results. after presenting the finished cdr people came back and reported "this is quite cool drone music". so yep, that's how we learned the name of this style. and after having the name we were able to dig deeper and learned names like Stars of the Lid, Flying Saucer Attack, Brian Eno etc pp. this guitar drone project of us is called Navel and we are still recording and doing live shows.

beginning of the 00's i quit doing this rock band stuff, so there was plenty time to do some other things. after getting introduced to all this amazing kraut and kosmische musik (during a navel live show in france by an english man, but that's another story) there was the idea to do some kind of electronic music solo. so i needed an instrument, and after bit of research i discovered that the schematics for some modular synthesizer would be something i could manage with the training in electronics i already had. so i started soldering, first quite simple filters, later more and more sophisticated modules.

the tapes, yep, fast forward to the end of last decade. stumbled over this tape scene thing by accident via the internet (god bless it). those days i was pretty frustrated and bored by the music all the labels and magazines i knew presented, so this occurred to me like a big relief. yes. so many people and projects and bands and labels are doing fantastic stuff, exactly the music i love, right at the moment, and sell it for very low money to people all around the world. yes! couldn't belief my eyes. that the favorite medium of all those labels and projects were cassettes don't really bothered me (of course i had this "ugh? on tape? strange…" moment like everybody else i guess), because i never really stopped using this media since my early childhood days.

I like to dramatize a bit some things some times, but this discovery of the tape label scene kind of saved my artistic live. it gave me so much energy and confirmation and countless hours of joy during listening sessions that i got the feeling that i have to give something back. hence i started my own tape label.

Pied Paper: Your music sounds almost academic sometimes, especially works as Organ Studies, Loop Studies and Furniture Sounds — which, as I understand is a homage to Eric Satie. But your name is strongly associated with "underground tape scene", as we call it. Did you ever thought about making your music open for the interpretations, to write it down on a paper maybe, letting the others perform it?

GS: huh, not sure if i my music sounds bit like academic music. for sure i'm quite interested in this genre, mean contemporary composers with "classical" musical education composing pieces for concert halls and operas and stuff. like their approach to their art through quite rigid concepts, their huge knowledge about musical structures and about music of many centuries and cultures. perhaps you see my enthusiasm for their rigidness shining through my stuff? that would be a compliment for sure, at least in my opinion. and of course, if there would be a small ensemble crazy enough to perform it, i would love to write a score for them (though not sure if i would like to conduct it). but i guess your name must be some lou reed or some other in the same league to be honored like this. actually i'm pretty sure that many of those academic contemporary composers would be happily release their stuff on tape if they would only know this special scene around it.

Pied Paper: It's clear that ambient music is a wide field for interpretation, same sound can be perceived in different ways depending on the artwork, liner notes, track titles, etc. Can you tell something about your own perception of your music? Does it have some stories within, or it's just abstract form which everyone can fill with its own meaning?

as you see in the answer of the last question i like some kind of concept around the music. and if this concept even gets its visual equal with the artwork i'm more than happy. so of course, there is a story in every piece. but hey, its music, its a form of art, so who am i to dictate what some listener and spectator wants to see in it? isn't it the very meaning of any art, that the consumer of it knits his very personal meaning to it?

actually i am not able to describe what i hear in my music anyway. for me the answer to this question would lead to some kind of poem, some painting, some huge novel, some dance or any other arty abstraction. in none of the mentioned techniques 'm very good at, so please, listen to the music.

Pied Paper: Imagine a situation when you someone asks you to create music with specific mood, theme, etc. — like for a movie scene or something — would it be easy for you? What you enjoy more - improvisation or composition?

already did this, i mean creating some music for a specific use (to earn some money), and hey, that is pretty hard work (and hard earned money)! to create some music without some customers needs to be satisfied, just the personal ones, isn't really easy to do as well, but much more gratifying for the soul. its an privilege to be able to do this, and i have a (pretty time consuming) bread and butter job to create the circumstances to fulfill it.

can't really separate those strategies during my performances, both live and during my recording sessions. its always a mixture of plan and being ready to include some coincidences respectively enlightenments. actually my believe is, gained through many observations and talks about such things, that nearly every work in which i am interested in is created this way.

Pied Paper: I know that you enjoy recording outdoor, do you have any specific set-up for this?

not really specific, the equipment just have to have some possibility to work battery driven. luckily my modulars fall into this category. just to improve the handling of such adventure i have build my modulars as small and compact as possible, and since a couple of months a work on some modules who will be included into some water proofed case.

Pied Paper: Probably you've noticed that releases of first wave of cassette drone/ambient in 2009-11 was mostly lo-fi and many of same artists still doing tapes nowadays came to much cleared and well-produced sound - is that natural growth or trying to be more "mainstream"?

yes, i'm aware of this development as well. i think it just was some other group of people with bit different background which had been running those labels you' mention. In those early days of the reemerging of this medium the leading actors had had mostly a background in the noise scene. hence the tape as favorite medium, hence the cheap and ugly aesthetics of the chosen instruments. these different (don't like to ad some other evaluative adjective) sounding tapes of lately are from people without this background, they just take over the torch and work with it out of their musical socialization. so in my opinion it is either "natural growth", this sounds like some kind of improvement who isn't any need for, nor a try to reach broader audiences. the good stuff of recently is produced by people who are just as true to their own style as their ancestors had been, and therefore it is as important and equal beautiful as the old stuff.

Pied Paper: As a label owner, can you tell how many demos you receive? Which kind of styles you receive most? I'm asking because it seems that ambient/psych/drone music isn't that popular anymore - I see tons of vaporwave/webpunk tapes at new-born labels, while such imprints as Stunned, Tranquility tapes, Goldtimers are long gone (or maybe it's just old man's talk, huh).

yes, and i'm very happy about it, i receive quite a lot of demos. always love to get some new sounds for my ears. mostly the artists are very good informed about the style of the music i usually release and about the aesthetics i'm interested in. perhaps you are right, there are less people out there which do their own style of ambient/psych/drone as perhaps eight years ago, but i'm not sure about that. and as i stated in the last paragraph i think those vaporwave labels and the like took the torch of the cassette celebration and run with it their own way. and this is a good thing. who needs the 16th or whatever version of the emeralds (insert here the name of your favorite release of those years)? isn't this exactly what have happened with pop and rock music and what makes this stuff sometimes unbearable to listen to?

Pied Paper: And what are your plans for the Cosmic Winnetou in the foreseeable future?

prepare my next batch right now which will be released in a couple of weeks. but after this 13th cosmic winnetou bundle of cassettes i will need a hiatus, unfortunately. i love to do the label work, but it is very time consuming. have lots of projects for this year, music and private stuff, so i have to pull the brakes to this project for this year. but really looking forward to restart the tape label with new ideas and energies end of this year.

Pied Paper: Do you ever think about future of music? Is it possible to invent something new, or we are doomed to retro-mania, returning to same tunes from different angles?

of course there will some day somebody release some music which haven't been heard before and will blow all of us completely into the void. don't know which day this will happen, but i'm pretty sure someday it will. just look around, not only the music is stuck into retro mode. clothing, hair style, performing arts, pictorial arts, industrial design, i think that in our days nearly every form of artefacts are done with quite old ideas, just a few new kind of tools here and there. the whole mood, you can call it "zeitgeist" if you like, is like "let's try to preserve what we have", not "perhaps this is a better idea for the future, let's work on it". in my opinion everything is linked together somehow, and we have this retro mania since the 90s, starting with this global change of the modus vivendi. but nothing is forever, so i'm sure this will change someday. these thoughts are just my 50cents about a very complex question. but yeah, i think about this, and love to exchange ideas about this kind of topic.

Pied Paper: Humans already sent some music with space probes - which titles would you choose for such mission? I know you won't choose Wagner, huh :)

really nice question, this is. indeed already thought about that, and i think the nasa did a quite good job with the "golden record" for the voyager mission. very good selection which shows how wonderfully diverse sounds humans are able to produce, and each and all of them aim at the listeners heart. but always wondered if it would be perhaps a good idea to send some field recordings of this strange planet into the void, and f so, which i would chose.

some people laughing, some people fighting, a mother singing her baby to sleep, the audience at a soccer game, a sundown at the shore of a calm sea with waves and cicades and everything? what else?

Pied Paper: Okay, that's it — you can send high fives here or add something if needed! Thank you!

hey, high five to you and many thanks for those questions! took my a while to type the answers, because you found some topics and ideas i love to share my thoughts on it. and of course many thanks for your support!

perhaps i would like to ad a big "thank you" to all the readers of those lines, time is precious and i'm happy that you waste it reading them. and a big "thank you" to all the people who listen to my music and perhaps even bought the cassettes and cds and vinyls with my music on it. to know that somebody out there cares about my music means a lot to me. hugs.

selected albums: