microphones in the trees: 2018

Monday, December 31, 2018

~ rewind 2018 ~


Our "list of the lists" made by artists turned out pretty coherent, though we're sure, they did their lists albums separately =) But for the excessive listener, a frame of 10 albums is never big enough to put all kinds of sounds into one box. There's always something unique even in seemingly simple drone tapestries, not mentioning more experimental things like weird tape manipulations, tropical exoticism, guitar experiments or weird vaporwave offsprings like broken transmission or mallsoft. Each New Age album has its own approach and some of them are pretty serious in their message even in "2k18" and some straightforward drone albums sound thrilling while others may be a pure earhoney. With this in mind, we proudly present you this list of modern cassette culture representatives for deeper explorations. ~ yours truly, Tim Six ~ aka PiedPaper ~ 


Amulets + Bus Gas ~ Mountains / Past Immortal Yeller (Spring Break Tapes)

More like two independent albums in one huge norelco, yet perfectly confronting each other on each stage of listening be it calm seconds before the storm or raging noise of guitar sound walls. Two worlds to explore, like we were exploring oceans some pitiful hundreds of years ago and still knowing not that much about them. This music leaves a mystery, so everytime you finish one tape your hand automatically reaches for another. 

Ant'lrd & Benoit Pioulard ~ Deck Amber (Sounds et al)

Continuing marine analogies by itself, this quickly sold-out tape dwells in the realm of so-called warm ambient and despite some obvious connotations really brings the feeling of warmth and protection, serving as a perfect companion for rainy days. An exquisite blend of elements in a holistic whirl of detailed sound. 

Baldruin ~ Vergessene Träume (Ikuisuus)

Despite procrastinating a review for this marvelous record for almost a year I was shamelessly listening to it all this time and the only thing I can add to the aforementioned thoughts is that this Traume already has its own special place on my shelf together with its predecessor

Bedroom ~ Moons (Fluere Tapes)

News about Bedroom's comeback hit me accurately in a process of relistening to Tranquility Tapes back catalog with a bleak hope to hear more from this amazing label and its artists. A pleasant surprise and rewarding listening even without ties to the cassette scene's past - thoughtful and carefully crafted ambience full of fragility and all other kinds of hopes. 

BJ Nilsen ~ Focus Intensity Power (Moving Furniture Records)

This release leaves you speechless after just first track. Maybe not that usual lo-fi kind of stuff but definitely the purest essence of drone minimalism refined so well that you'll want to listen to it in sensory deprivation camera or at full volume in a completely dark room. 

Brian James Griffith ~ From Particles (Aural Canyon)

This tape takes droning ambience to some celestial levels adding certain orchestral effect to it but remaining truly meditative in its nature, without giving out the control over emotions. Yet, it's full of emotions! How? Just listen to it, tune in, float away and feel it with every particle. 

Brianna Kelly / Sympathy Pain ~ ST (Whited Sepulchre)

Being already a signature sound of Whited Sepulchre catalog, especially after the cornerstone Like Author, Like Daughter by Midwife, this sedative drone-rock cassette acts like a dusty old box with all kind of memories both pleasant and not. Like going to your hometown after some years. Like seeing your favorite park being cut down. Like knowing that all good things are ahead but somehow revisiting old and painful ones anyway.

Channelers ~ Entrance to the Next (Inner Islands)

But you really know that any trauma can be healed, right? That we all have the capacity to self-sustain and even when things are dark we aren't really cornered but simply hibernating, unaware, uncertain... Yet, considering that there are Inner Islands, you can always try to soak some light and energy with these helpful and focusing sounds. No big shouts or appeals or promises, just a gentle reminder that there always are some ways.

Cheekbone ~ Tsuka No Ma (Muzan Editions)

Muzan is definitely a label of the year, being a super-active place for all kinds of inventive ambient music from all around the world. Amongst some very well-known names in their catalog, you can find this little gem. A truly soulful collection of fragile melodies and soothing drones, a name to keep an eye on in 2019. 

CMD094 ~ Kagami Tears (No Problema Tapes)

Being well-known ambient label in small vaporwave world, No Problema relies on slow synth excursions into abstract territories of digitalized existence and neuro-modulated virtual experience, gathering an impressive collection of artists. This tape by Ukrainian CMD094 bring a wide palette of dystopian atmospheres, from hopeful to nihilistic but stays neutral in the end, matching machine logic instead of leaning on human fragility.  

Color Television ~ Tona (Orb Tapes)

This weirdly collaged noisy soundscape works as a time travel machine. Not exactly telling to where or when though. But keeping the promise that it will be an interesting experience. Definitely a must-listen for fans of late noise/early drone cassettes circa 2008-09, ten years after. 

Dravier ~ Spirit Channels (Not Not Fun)

Dravier was a name to see many times during this year and always in slightly different contexts but when it appeared in Not Not Fun catalog it was certain that this is going to be a discovery. And it is - a fresh, but perfectly tape-hissed crusade into tropical drone zones, Lunar Miasma-tic planetary systems, searching for surf music rudiments and non-spoiled tribalism. 

Dylan Golden Aycock ~ Guitar Meanderings II (Scissor Tail)

Aptly chosen name for this kind of music actually explains everything you should know about it and to give it a proper listen. There's definitely some magic going there. No tricks, just hands and strings, interwoven to some unimaginable degree at every level possible.

Ecovillage ~ Sacred World (Constellation Tatsu)

Keeping the high standards and always looking for hidden gems, this time always amazing Constellation Tatsu brings us a tape full of delicate melodies, unobstructive and dreamlike new-aginess with neo-folkish approach. Another tag comes to mind - devotional - and hey, it's already there, at bandcamp. Ah, alright, just listen to it while tapes still available!

Electric Sound Bath ~ The Forces (Patient Sounds)

A second entry from Brian Griffith to this list, this time with Angela Wilson, bringing a combined healing force to our web-molten consciousness. Perfect soundtrack for deleting your social accounts or at least muting down all notifications for a whole day and giving yourself a couple of deep breaths and a proper full-body & mind rest. 

Endurance ‎~ Cloud, Castle, Lake (Cosmic Winnetou)

On a scale from one to ten Endurance hits 100 points in productivity during last year (or two) without losing anything from quality parameter. An impressive series of releases on many respectful cassette labels led Joshua to seclusive Cosmic Winnetou, where his talent unfolded in form of super-slowly evolving landscapes, highly reverberated and saturated with awe of something bigger than the human mind can imagine. Thousands of years spent in a castle above lakes, watching clouds and comets.

Emily A. Sprague ~ Mount Vision (Self-released)

Mount Vision received a lot of love from music press since the day it was released and it definitely deserves it. Warm, slowly oscillating drones, gentle piano takes, modular synth left alone to play until gaining self-awareness... All things we love and cherish are here, the only thing left is to enjoy them!

Eva Geist ~ Desfãn (Macadam Mambo)

Seeing Eva Geist live this year was definitely a bonus for diving deeper into her sound which caught our attention since the release at Elestial Sound. This LP is probably the best transition from the days full of ambient laziness to a bit more agile way of life. It's fully danceable yet truly enveloping and soft in its tropical warmness - so it's basically perfect for anything!

Equip ~ Synthetic Core 88 (The Yetee Records)

Since it's dreamlike ambient/faux-soundtrack tape on Dream Catalogue, Equip mastered his sound even further to the degree when you can't really tell if this soundtrack is for real game or what. It's so natural that feeling of the joystick's buttons appears at your fingertips and, in just a few moments, you find yourself looking for your old console and cables for it. Or simply lying on the floor with eyes closed and a childish smile on your face. 

Expo 70 ~ Ephemeral Totem (auasca)

Sludgy psychedelic guitar drones are facing slow extinction in the face of post-everything-music and it forces them to evolve into more complex forms or regress to straightforward psych-jam rock. But nothing of this happens on this tape. Despite any circumstances, Expo 70 continues to pour lava and tar over the universe with his roaring guitar engines.

Foresteppe ~ Mæta (Eilean Records)

Well-know for his tape manipulations with outdated orchestral music and mesmerizing approach to looping - namely, doing it until you can't find the way back from these spirals, this Siberian school teacher weaves a dingy net of fainting moments of beauty throughout the illusion of linear time. Actually, time is the main player here, being an object of close examination - just like drawing lines on the sand with a stick at ease. Remember doing this?

Guenter Schlienz ~ Tristan Magnetique (Otomatik Muziek)

Here comes, probably, the most epic Guenter's work to date. Definitely impressive in its 3-tape box presentation, it unveils such a wide variety of modular gorgeousness, drone blissfulness and overall harmony that only thing you can do is to change tapes just in time one by one. With no name and with barely no info on the release, it works so cohesively well that it may be considered a three-part symphony. Definitely a highlight in Guenter's discography, but guess I already said that about each album he released, right? And you know, it's true, why not.

Hellvete ~ Droomharmonium (Morc Tapes)

If there are any words to describe the totality of this blissed-out drone record, I'll leave you to find them. I've tried. But seriously, there's no need to tell you why this is an essential album. You'll feel it yourself in couple minutes.

IE ~ Pome LP/CS (Moon Glyph)

Actually, it's quite annoying when someone describes music by saying imagine [artist1] playing with [artist2] while riding the desert on a slowly levitating open-top limousine. But if I say that [artist1] is Bitchin Bajas, or, say Date Palms and [artist2] is Fabulous Diamonds... or Pocahaunted? Ah damn it, I said it's annoying. But wait, there's a giant Terry Riley smile hovering in the sky! Guess that explains something, okay?

Infinity Frequencies ~ Between two worlds (Self-released)

Legendary tape manipulator and virtual nostalgia generator Infinity Frequencies returns after a while with a collection of aptly looped piano phrases and ghostly outtakes from the online cemeteries of outdated music crumbling with mp3 artifacts and drowning in tape hiss. As much shabby and suggestive as the word haunting is. 

Inner Travels ~ Yonder (Sounds of the Dawn)

Over the course of last few years, Inner Travels became for me synonymous with top-notch ambient music which transcends the initial definition of it being some vague background. It can be it for sure due to its harmonic and fluid nature. Yet at the same time, it can be much more than even just music. A direct sensation, the flow of experience from one being to another, resulting in some higher revelation than human language can give. 

Isness ~ Isness (Crash Symbols)

On this new projects of some pretty well-established Canadians, you may hear ghosts ringing your number in the middle of the night, you may find yourself in the middle of nowhere, standing in the headlights, you can even realize that bad dream you had yesterday is actually real events... But don't be afraid, it all ends in a tropical forest in the middle of deep meditation seance. 

Jon Law & Oli Genn-Bash ~ To Dream of More Light, Faintly (Holy Geometry)

Drone jazz? Jazz ambient? Or maybe just really deep journey into slow and pensive sax solos played over blissfully slow ambiance. And by blissfully I mean exactly that feeling when music tunes you to being a cumbersome rain cloud making its lazy way through the mountain tops. And when guitar notes reminiscent of Deadman arise, rain starts to fall over the sea waves. In slow motion, of course.

JQ ~ Invisible (New Atlantis)

Carefully crafted atmospheres of post new-agey visions and millennial nostalgia about the past which never occurred and future which is actually now. Glowing dimensions of virtual meditating spaces. Chakras being tuned by personal neuro-algorithmic coach. 

Kali Malone ~ Organ Dirges 2016 - 2017 CS (Ascetic House)

If there is such thing as the lineage of female drone academists, Kali Malone, despite her young age, already entered it. In part, because of great homage to Pauline Oliveros she did last year but more importantly because of the certain mindset, which deeply resonates with delicate tunings of Eliane Radigue and Ellen Fullman. Church organ has always been a holy grail fo drone artists and Kali found it's own way to rediscover it. 

Kyle Landstra ~ Within/Without (Muzan Editions)

For his release at already renowned Japanese label, Kyle replaced crisp arpeggios of his recent albums with a slow-motion warm drone, dwelling on the edge of melody and monotonic looping. Exactly the territory where all interesting things are happening!

Les Halles ~ Zephyr/Zonda (Not Not Fun)

Les Halles simply never disappoints. With this gorgeously calm attitude and obvious attentivenes behind these extremely beautiful sounds, Baptiste Martin can nourish and lull baby dolphins and fly with bird flocks as he was a wind himself. You can't be anything different to create such a record! 

Lunaria ~ Ascension Now (Constellation Tatsu)

With each new release, Lunaria ascends to a new plane of quality, deepness, and awareness of its sound. As blooming fractal of thousand of petals, its sound takes the mind out of mundane reality and puts it right into the place. Place, where we all need to be at least sometimes. Just not to forget who we are and where are we heading. 

Lunar Abyss Deus Organum ~ Mammoth's Dream (ПANΘEON)

Celebrating 20 years on stage, this milestone St. Petersburg project opened archives of endless live recordings to intertwine them into the primordial collage of weird sensations barely known to the human ear. It's long and noisy, yet furry and warm somehow, as we are just tiny creatures traveling through time on the back of a kind wooly giant.

Magnetophonique ~ Une Cartographie Ideale (Not Not Fun)

Another travel takes us deep into tropical territories once again, the road so many times taken with guides like Lieven M. Moana, Spencer Clark, Corum, Fluorescent Heights, Wave Temples... Yet, still as dangerous and unknown as challenging and tempting. The only ideal map will be a holographic one and it should contain the whole universe. Until we realize that, let the tropical birds an crickets be our guides to higher dimensional experiences. 

Marifa ~ Ru'yah al-qalb (ПANΘEON)

When it comes to drone music, there's always some kind of hidden competition of sorts - who can hold the drone longer without any change but still keeping listener captured. This tape easily does that. At first glance, there are no changes at all. But the deeper you listen, the less of the changes you need. You just want it to play forever. 

Monopoly Star Child Searchers ~ Make Mine, Macaw (Discrepant)

Signature coconut level psychedelia, trippy tropical fever which results in levitation and seeing the world as a complex mandala made of palm leaves. Everything you love about Spencer Clark is here and even a bit more, so you definitely need to explore it yourself!

M. Geddes Gengras ~ Hawaiki Tapes (Umor Rex)

Drenched in reverb and recorded in one take, this is real calm journey under a clouded sky. Lulling sequences of synth line and relaxing echoes guiding you into the labyrinths of mountains and forests, to the distant ocean shores with weirdly shaped rocks and noisy bird flocks.

MindSpring Memories / valyri ~ Slush Conez (Tiger Blood)

MindSpring Memories was on a roll with a number of tapes highlighting project's past catalog and answering to demand of cassette collectors. This split features freshly recorded tunes and they transcend any jazzy vaporwave release existed before. These melodies are coming right from the heart and soul. And when it comes to valiry side you get 20 minutes of an epic drone to varnish the bliss.

More Eaze ~ a l4ngu4g3 (Tymbal Tapes)

It must be the weirdest tape I listened to this year. Very inventive in ways to tickle your expectations about music, yet unobtrusive enough to keep you mesmerizing until the end. The excellent cover itself tells a lot and you better keep your ears wide open while spinning this album.

Navel ~ The Hamburg Arkansas Starsound Orchestra play Navel (Partycul System)

Album name tells a lot about this record. Or maybe that's just me. But it's really stellar! Some best guitar ambiances and kosmik resonances are here, dwelling in elusive forms, gliding away like comets. Coupled with Navel's tape released on Cosmic Winnteou it really sets a good mood for entire day. 

The Orchardist ~ Mercury Vineyard Surgeries (Nonlocal Research)

The universe of Grant Corum's imaginations expands with a speed of light and some deepest corners of this bizarre world are truly interesting places to be. Some definitely unearthly sounds are happening here along with astral transmissions from parallel planes ~ certainly a kind of activity previously known in human history as "magic".

Pandelindio ~ Meteoro (Rous Records)

If drone music is your passion and if you like when it's alive, acoustic and hints to the genre roots ~ you'll need everything Pandelindio ever recorded. These blissed out improvs of raga-drone are bringing sunlight ~ both figuratively and literally. 

Pine Smoke Lodge ~ Ex Libris (Ikuisuus)

If you ever wondered how sounds the music of unknown mythological forest creatures, this may be the answer. Signature raw incantations and damp, foggy & noisy primal drones from project's archives, call of an echo from the past and perfect addition to once prolific duo's discography.

PJS ~ Sweet La Vie (Leaving Records) / Hermes (Aural Canyon) / Glows (Pyramid Blood)

Jordan Christoff (of Saturn's Daughter and Anarchist Mountains) was quite productive this year and in duo with Patrick Dique as PJS, they released three albums of pure light this year. Some beautifully iridescent drones here, perfect for long hours spent in peace with yourself and your closest ones. Intimate music for the soul and higher self.

Pool of Light ~ Terrace (Pyramid Blood)

This album left me speechless when I listened to it for the first time. It is long and varied but it's all about brilliantly build drone music. Guitar meanderings, Chinese lute and mouth organ ~ acoustic and electronic, deep and wide at the same time. It's just everything and beyond. 

Pulse Emitter ~ Xenharmonic Passages (Expansive)

Pulse Emitter is already classic and one of the gods of this blog's pantheon, so probably you already listened to this album. If not yet, there's actually no need to explain why you need to hear it. Just do! 

Radboud Mens ~ The Ambiguity of an Apparently Static Phenomenon (No Rent)

Super minimalistic drone compositions here are best used not even for listening but for experiencing with your whole body. You don't really need ears to feel the essence of this music. It's basically a construction made of resonance which enters your room and fills it like some fantastic air hyperstructure. Perfectly palpable and unique for every room and sound system. 

Rhucle ~ More Beautiful Than Silence (Constellation Tatsu)

Rhucle keeps his bar of prolificity pretty high, which can lead to bankruptcy for some of his most loyal fans. At the same time, it's indeed next good thing you can listen to after silence simply because it barely confronts it, just adding some touches here and there.

Rod Hamilton & Tiffany Seal ~ Enchanted Forest (Self-released)

Definitely a necessary listen for any fan of anything under "tropical" umbrella, this tape is filled with warm soulful magic and positive weirdness. Swarming with good melodies and perfectly saturated with tape hiss, it sheds its green light over some unexplored ambient genre territories.

The Rubies ~ Sleeping World (Alien Garage)

This collaborative effort of Rhucle and No Death both as a music project and a label brings us even more light and good tunes to spend winter with. Rhucle's attention to details and transparency with signature vividness and signature otherworldly emotionality of No Death.

Saåad ~ Présence Absente (Hands In The Dark)

After being on the edge of project's end it's a miracle to hear a work so solid and epic in its message. Probably truly cathartic but obviously transcendent otherworldly drones made with academic attention to the tiniest detail. Breathtaking as cold mountain air.

Saturn's Daughter ~ Eternal Resonance (Virtual Dream Plaza)

As I already said in the recent review, this is some highest quality healing music in the truest meaning of "healing". It goes directly into your heart and soul and taken with an open mind it brings you to the places we all need to be. at least sometimes. 

Salvaticus Selvatico ~ Activations: Contemplations (Golden Ratio Frequencies)

In correspondence with the label's name, this is a piece of music made with a serious approach. Probably the most solid work with gongs and crystal bowls I've heard in a while, yet not limited to just these instruments ~ there's much much more on this beautifully made double cassette.

Sunmoonstar / Euglossine ~ Split (Moss Archive)

Without the need for long presentation, this is one of the cassettes you need to hear, not just because of names on it but because of the charming abilities of this music both playful and meditative. Go along these waves and you'll find something new every time. 

Symphocat ~ Harpa (SSI Records)

This part of Symphocat's "Icelandic trilogy" has everything you can think about ambient music when world "Icelandic" hits your subconsciousness. Yet it's about many more things, about whole life and admiration of what it can be ~ even when it's just about some small things and fleeting moments.

Tuluum Shimmering ~ Dancing in the Seven Skies (Self-released)

Tuluum Shimmering just never disappoints and always goes beyond himself somehow. Looks like universe becomes a little bit better place with each new loop of his immense jams. It seems like it's not just one person with a bunch of exotic instruments but a strong universal force which enters our life through thousands of years of traveling through space.

uhushuhu & wii ~ Snegi (ПANΘEON)

If you leave anywhere where real winter exists, this might be a perfect companion for the whole season. Drenched in tapes hiss analog drones and reverberated guitars ascending to the cosmos through the glorious aurora borealis.

Uton ~ PA-LUU VAL-OON (Null Zone)

Outer-planetary explorations and some top-notch improv noise are dwelling in the fractal corners of this labyrinth. If you decide to explore it, be prepared for the absence of save points, so every time you fail, you'll need to solve the puzzle again

valiry ~ Surreality/Saturnfall (New Motion)

Truly an epic work and probably a culmination of valiry's ambient side, this 3-cassette box is hard to put in few lines ~ it's huge like the universe and it's not just about outer space, inner side is strong here as well, with all emotionality and softness.

Valotihkuu ~ Paths (Self-released)

Fragility and endlessness of nature, fleeting moments of seasonal magic in pastoral environments and childhood memories ~ this album hold so many bright moments blending them perfectly with sometimes unexplainable nostalgia and serenity at the same time. 

Yialmelic Frequencies ~ Yililok (Leaving Records)

Yililok already received a lot of love in year's-end lists and present in almost every top10 made by artists for us. And no wonder if you remember from the press-release that Yialmel is a place of love and harmony, so no matter how weird were territories along which its rays passed ~ they're faster than the speed of light, they're actually omnipresent. All you need is to resonate.

Zazz ~ Soft Harbinger (Inner Islands)

With its serene textures, emotive melodies and ever-changing loops, Soft Harbinger takes you up and higher, higher, higher over rains and cloud closer to the stars. It's super easy to surrender to it's tranquil waves.

Zhurnal Mod ~ Untitled (Gorgeous Lights)

Zhurnal Mod ("fashion magazine" in Russian) is probably one of a few vaporwave projects which take the sampling part so seriously that you can never guess the original sources. But what you can do is to get mesmerized by the truly academic repetitiveness and minimalist, as well as sacred commitment to phaser effect, the cornerstone of currently unfolding slushwave / phaserwave scene.

仮想夢プラザ & Useless ~ Clarity (Virtual Dream Plaza)

Despite the fact that this split was made by two legendary personas of the vaporwave world, it's a purely blissed-out drone album made on the edge of virtual and real, on the verge of past, future and now.

猫 シ Corp. ~ Palm Mall Mars (Self-released)

Perfect farewell album by mallsoft mastermind, the last one made from jazzy muzak and signature plaza reverberation. Cat System Corp. starts a new label next year and same way as the girl from the cover, he sees a future really promising. And we do as well!

So cheers to more great sounds in 2019!


Have a great transition to the new of year!

Much love to all