microphones in the trees: 2019

Monday, August 26, 2019

günter schlienz ~ icelandic tapes

Finally realized after being a pipe dream for a few years, Günter Schlienz presents Icelandic Tapes. With album thirty-something, Schlienz literally explores new places: this is «journey music» in a literal sense. Schlienz and his partner Hanno Braun actually recorded the piece in the loneliness of Iceland’s high plateaus, nearby active volcanos and in the midst of stony deserts – hence the title (no fraud!). Batteries, synthesizers, cameras and good shoes were the main studio equipment trying to capture the unknown emptiness of this dark, warm and bleak breathtaking landscape in this most remote European country. Most of these sounds were recorded in the open, so Icelandic Tapes takes you on a field trip into the vastness of the north. Inside the black box of your mind, there's always something beautiful to explore ~ hangover central station

We can only add to this that being clinically addicted to Günter's music it's virtually impossible not to enjoy such an inspiring journey. The bare minimum of sounds present here gives the maximum result for imagination and perfectly reflects the nature of the North. Not many colors needed to paint a vivid landscape. Not many notes to form a melody. Sometimes silence between them tells even more. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 01, 2019

dravier ~ dreamers cloth

«Prolific proprietor of the Jungle Gym recording empire Caleb Draves aka Dravier has trafficked all manner of hypnotic vapor, emotive drone, and extraterrestrial atmospheres across several dozen micro-edition documents issued the past few years but Spirit Channels spans an even wider, weirder breadth of sound and mood, and feels as close to a definitive collection as he’s yet attempted. 

Free-flowing through 50 minutes of equatorial new age, narcotic lounge, surrealist exotica, desert island serenade, sunrise sky-surf, and devotional tape hiss, the album sustains a poignant, plasmatic wavelength, sensory and spontaneous, wandering alone along winding coastlines. Field recordings of nocturnal jungles, insects, waves, and distant birds ground the songs with a sense of landscape but this is equally music of inner voyaging, adrift in archipelagos of memory and meditation». ~ not not fun

It is obvious from the label's press-release that what we're about to dive in while listening to this cassette is 100% what is our blog is up to. Tropical hypnagogia, tribal minimalism, and drone psychedelia are now considered being rare beasts by many, as well as it's almost impossible to find untouched pieces of nature in our world. Evoking the sensations of utopian tropicalia Dravier rather builds upon the idea of future exploration rather than (nowadays omnipresent) nostalgia about beauty now spoiled. His tunes are free from melancholia and reflection on what's lost, rather focusing on the things we are still about to discover. "It depends on the point of view" – one may say – "you're too optimistic!". And yes, I am and there's nothing to be ashamed of. Optimism is not naivety or infantilism, as the society often implies. Being a rare beast as well, this is something our world is losing as fast as the clean water resources. 

Optimism can be seen as the ability to see the landscape from a broader perspective. Of course, it's not always practical and one simply must to act and think differently at some points of the journey, but optimism is basically what drives the journey. Dravier's sounds, being blissfully crafted from ephemeral synth patterns and hazy drum machine beats present us a clear vision of the mindset which led people to discoveries and fearless explorations. There's no reason to call such music "experimental" because experiment implies working with known patterns in unknown ways. While there is nothing new either for the "tropical drone" genre or modern music in general, there's way more freedom of expression than many experimental things can provide. Surrendering yourself to the landscape and being optimistic about what it holds. Of course, yes, there are poisonous snakes and mysterious caves all over the place. But don't let the fear guide you. Follow the sun. 

«Danish textile texturalist Jonas Frederiksen’s solo endeavor Dreamers Cloth materialized late last decade in response to “a new-old type of sound” then ascendant among the international innerspace cassette community, characterized by bleached drift, miasmic memory, and inexpensive keyboards. Working from a wire-strewn Copenhagen apartment studio alcove, he quickly amassed a tapestry of tapes exploring parallel pathways of coastal fantasia and interstellar hallucination, issued via his own Relax With Nature imprint as well as various esteemed European esoterica outposts like Ikuisuus and Stenze Quo Musik. Frederiken speaks of seeking a sound evocative of daily suburban life while still cloaked in layers of “cosmic radiation, astral projections, crystal caves, chakra energy, dolphin communication, and extra-terrestrial presence.” Vitrospection 2008-2009 distills his dense but concise discography into a patchwork voyager’s hour of highlights, reflections, and reveries, ripped from the original spools for optimal aughts intra-sensory simulacrum». ~ not not fun

Okay, here we are, 10 years later after that thing which we may (and do) call "tropical drone" was blooming in full power. Dating back to the noisier and careless psychedelia of Ferraro and Spencer Clark and probably being more new age than any of the artists wanted themselves, this idea of nature's virginity revisitation was definitely a response to the growing pace of capitalism and late postmodernist cultural collapse. Being ideologically close to what later was labeled vaporwave, artists like Dreamer Cloth took a different turn from that anti-consumerism battle-cry and instead of recycling popular media has set off to astral travels and spirituality reconsideration. As Jonas Frederiksen put it, speaking about his (now long-defunct) label's mission: "Relax with Nature is my idea of chilling out and going with the flow. I think that what I’m trying to evoke is an atmosphere of a place where civilization and culture are non~existing. [..] What I’m talking about is a place ~ or a state of mind, which becomes real the very second cultural~civilization is canceled, and all that is left is nature ~ but ~ a new nature where, amongst other things, communication between individuals isn’t corrupted by words." 

Surely, there is a certain amount of irony which permeates these neo new age visions, yet Jonas is definitely right about the inability of words to describe the sensations evoked in his music. We may go usual path again, imagining the unspoiled islands full of lush greenery and weird animal sounds and mostly beatless, raga-like nature of Dreamers Cloth output carefully collected on this cassette only encourages that. Yet, after having ten years of vaporwave abundance (which has recently led to climatewave development, which shares a lot of common with tropical drone discourse) and already more than ten years of all kinds of aural tropical explorations, we can look now from a broader scale on the very idea of chilling out being opposed to consumerism and high-paced existence. Being not simply an idea of (non)activity but rather an active thoughtform creativity ~ constructing the place you want to relax in using music, visuals, your imagination and then exploring its capabilities. Switching the mind to a different mode, being active in another reality even if it lasts as long as the music plays or your eyes are closed. Much like a dream, which is a natural way of chilling out, yet different in terms of being present simultaneously in your room, in music and in this virtual, mirage-like realm. That way, the idea of relaxation looks way more like a real activity and actual creativity instead of laziness or isolation from any sensations. An experience, which always gives you more than just fancy visions ~ but the energy and inspiration. So, letting the shimmering tunes of Dreamers Cloth envelop you and take to marble halls of astral gardens is truly a fairytale experience which may result with not simply having a good rest but also finding a precious pearl in the palm of your hand afterwards.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

building a better world

The long-awaited full-length album from two vaporwave legends solemnly opens Hiraeth Records, a new label created to commemorate 猫 シ Corp.'s transition to the brave new world of the original, sample-free composition, following its colleagues in the genre. With its title, album underlines the beginning of a new era, and the optimistic pixel art on the cover only reinforces the anticipation that a new page is about to turn over not only in the history of the genre – the tendency to switch to original compositions has been around for some time already – but in the world in general, IRL. After the crisis of 1999/2000 and the shock of 9/11; after the ironic, but still sometimes disquieting expectations of 2012, when the Mayan calendar promised us, like dinosaurs, if not the extinction then the evolutionary leap in an incomprehensible direction – something good and life-affirming must absolutely happen. Centuries break has always been rich with upheavals, but in fact, the whole XX century was like that. Now it is already in the past, rethought and chewed on by mass culture, sampled and passed through nostalgia filters, collapsed into a kaleidoscope of endless post-modern recursions, vaporwaved... It would seem that here it is, the future, unnoticeably becoming casual but where is it, the notorious Age of Aquarius, while our world is only gaining speed in an incomprehensible direction?

There's no big secret, however, and here you can safely quote one old book, saying that 'he who has ears, let him hear.' If the XXI century taught us anything is the value ​​of attention. Everything happening around, an endless stream of notifications, news, scandals, an endless stream of changing trends and a cacophony of opinions on any subject – all this requires our attention, feeds on it, absorbs it as raw material, in order to spew it later as goods, services, offers... Just to let them fight for our attention again. Like a virus that has practically nothing of its own, except for the gene information and uses others to live and spread, all of this is happening only because we are doing it all ourselves. Where attention is, there's energy, and the management of this flow is the real magic of our time. Black or white is no longer important, what kind of dualities can there be in the post-modern world? But the formula is simple and as old as the world itself. While our attention is occupied by commotions, they occur. Yet it takes not that much to turn our attention away for a while, on to something else, different, usually silent and overlooked – and everything can happen. That very thing so long-awaited. Maybe something that was really dreamed of, before “selling a dream” became a daily routine for all of us.

Music is a special kind of magic. It also works with attention. Directing it into the body, it encourages us to dance. Directing in emotions – to experience them, to remember similar ones. When the magic of music comes to the imagination – we begin to feel free, daydreaming. Seeing an image in which all the fuss of the past disappears somewhere far behind... Where we see the future which is not falling along the curve back into the past but flickers with bright lights of something else, yet unseen. Something even impossible to predict or describe in plain words. Rather, the feeling when intuition quietly hints that everything is going to be better. And even if it is not clear how. After all, you can imagine, direct your attention into this.

Which exactly 猫 シ Corp. and t e l e p a t h are doing on this album, carefully taking our attention by means of gentle ambient and nature sounds, guardedly directing it to the dream-like visions of the future, where serenity is normal not only in social life but on the planet as a whole. Tropical rain and the almost perceptible smell of lush vegetation coexists with shopping areas and airports (perhaps spaceports already?), colors of nature are emphasized by the smoothness of architectural forms, and the air is filled with life-giving oxygen. The music seems to be floating from one skyscraper to another, spreading over parks and streets, invisibly creating an additional dimension filled with pure energy, freely available for everyone. Like air and water, music in this world is just as life-giving, refreshing and necessary. As the mysterious still not discovered aether, it ties this vision into a single whole.

Imagining how our world can be we are bringing it closer, and let skepticism (which is raising his head immediately) rest a bit. It is still useful to us, it's a good tool, but now it is time to let go of everything that can restrain our ability to dream. After all, everyone has it, since earliest childhood. Of course, how many times have we been told that dreaming is naive? Unreal? Ineffective? How often we were afraid to give vent to ourselves, frightened by difficulties and simply saying to ourselves 'this cannot be.' Protective reactions are important too, of course. But if we want changes, if we want to breathe deeply and live our lives, then it’s time to learn how to dream properly. Ok,  what to do then? The catch is that we already have too much of everything to do. All we need is to listen. To be able to stop and look around. Gaze the clouds. To remember our dreams. Hear the trees grow. Watch sunrises and sunsets, to walk under the moon... To feel, as this magical dimension of music spreads through space, filling it with a new, exciting feeling of anticipation.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

new management ~ 遠くの見知らぬ人

Either it's something of a "the beauty is in the eyes of beholder" kind of case, or it is a true fact, but recently more and more excellent ambient works started to happen in the world of vaporwave music. The specifics of the genre – namely, the fact of not knowing if that's an original work or simply some effects applied an old slowed-down track by a long forgotten artist, – gives an additional dimension to the vaporambient subgenre. You can easily tell what's is going on with more regular kind of songs, but with ambient and drone... It is not clear whether to thank the author for the quality of the work done with the sound editing or for the opportunity to hear something that otherwise would have remained forever in the depths of history... Both, most likely. In any case, the specificity of vaporwave is not to steal someone else's music but to create the right atmosphere using anything you can lay your hands on. Whether it will be a short intro from disco-funk hit or some old elevator Muzak composition. We have enough music gathering virtual dust on the music servers... Why not recycle it?

In the course of the listening to such albums like this one, it is easy to put aside reflections on the topic if the goal justifies the means or not. It's an experience happening right here and now after all.  Soft, enveloping music for subtle immersion into relaxed bliss. A dream disturbed by only slightly strange images, which, however, tend to blur and elude from sight. A sound that dissolves the need to think or to do anything. Sleep potion, gently pulling it into one's arms. Sometimes it may even seem like a sleepy paralysis, an intermediate peace between sleep and reality... An yeah, that's what we used to call hypnagogic some years ago. But there is nothing scary in this state of mind – except, perhaps, the desire to remain in it for as long as possible.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

bear bones, lay low ~ atlantean encrypted message

UFO-cult is another funny evidence that we all live in a sophisticated virtual reality or better say a reality show. Well, think for yourself, what could be more fun for a galactic viewer than to watch naive people seriously ranting about their extraterrestrial travels, living spaceships from the Pleiades, star seeds and the Mayan calendars, messages of wisdom from Atlantis and Shambhala... Even more fun is the fact that this is all true to a degree, but the essence of the reality show lies in making homosapienses believe in half-truths and to make funny conclusions about cosmic order out of them! Changing their lives according to them and creating new, non-trivial scenarios. Thus, entertaining those who are directly related to this – the Sirians, the Atlanteans, Pleiadians, Zets, and all other 'celestials'.

Another big irony here is the fact, that creators of this show included in it an opportunity for humans to create similar shows and make fun of with each other. Well, just to make it even harder to get to the truth. Someone in another trip discovers the highest truth and all around are like 'have you seen enough of the X-Files?'. It's postmodern, and fun, and instructive! And if you start pushing it too hard, you're immediately off to secondary storylines and, as always, politicians, religious leaders and pop stars will get all prime time. Oh, and they know how to make top-rated shows. And if you have learned the whole essence and truth, it is better to encrypt it into some piece of music, or a movie, or a picture of some kind. Can be fun for others, and easier for you... You have nowhere to go off this spacecraft anyway.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

kyle landstra ~ bloom lake

Migrating to the Pacific Northwest after years in Chicago brought new light to Kyle Landstra's crystalline sounds. Bloom Lake represents some of the first deeply devised sounds made by Landstra in his new environment, and while it's not a dramatic reaction to some conceptually new life, you can't help but hear some clouds clearing all the same. Recorded in real time, these two side-long pieces slowly braid strands of reflection and acceptance. Drifting but bright, "Love In A Mist" stirs with a kind of restrained excitement that comes at the beginning of promising times. The title track communicates a darker side of the same excitement, but in a way that again suggests understanding more than fear, growth more than foreboding ~ unifactor tapes

It's nice to see that some of the names that have been beloved in the wake of the cassette revival, like 7 or even 10 years ago, are still active. Kyle is a real magician when it comes to making music on vintage analog monsters. There is always a certain balance between his drone, ambient textures, and sequences in his music, and there is always some kind of pacifying frequency or some secret modulation which makes you immediately want to sit back, take a deep breath and close your eyes, just not thinking about anything... Trite maybe? Yes – and isn't that can be said about most of the music on this blog? That's definitely true, but at the same time, it's about many other things! All shades of feelings and impressions can be coded in the simplest vibrations of sine waves, what to speak of a rich synth sounds then! And when there's a very gifted practitioner behind them. Perhaps this album is just another reference point in that endless ocean of sound, plunging into which at some point you can completely forget that it can also be considered music, even recorded, also published, even on cassettes... Yet, even considering its transience this albums manages to create a portal that offers a view of the amazing dimensions of total serenity and bliss. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

polonius ~ anaxia short movie ost

“Welcome to the world of Oskexis, an ancient land of dark magic, an underworld frontier to the continent of Trocia above. Oskexis’ soil is rich, unidentified metals, gems, ores, and fuel – which brings countless crusades and bloodshed. The few remaining oasis’ are controlled by feudal warlords who engage in unending mining/military campaigns. Demons, bandits, and gangs run unchecked. It is a hostile place.  
Anaxia is an archaic and rare type of magic, originally developed by ancient Trocian mystic-engineers. Anaxian Magic grants the user abilities of psycho-navigation and psycho-puppetry others’ minds – an ability alike cloning one’s mind.” ~ weston razooli

Nope, you're wrong, that's not a trailer of some sophisticated erotic hippie movie from the 70s. It is a 2018 short filmed on tape and imbibed by something tightly embedded into the subcortex of world's cinema – spaghetti-westerns, fantasy, mafia... The simplicity and at the same time bright dynamics of the script creates a dream-like journey as if recorded by someone (without permission, of course) for sale on the magic crystals black market. Unexpected special effects continually break the retromaniac mood of the video sequence, but it immediately draws you back into its warm embrace. If Conan the Barbarian was filmed by feminists group who had the idea of it on the lysergic withdrawal while watching some western movie from a randomly selected nameless VHS tape.

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Yet, in reality, costumes, video, plot, the whole thing was the work of the director Weston Razooli hailing from sunny LA. While bizarre soundtrack and awesome sound effects were created by Seif Gaber (aka Polonius) from even sunnier Egypt. And all this sums up to the wonderful experience with just one flaw – it's criminally short! The music here seems to be caught on a cassette with the help of some magic spell or reanimated from some dusty archives of weird field recordings recorded over some old game soundtrack. And its meanderings are so convincing, that there will be no surprise if some impertinent fairy will enter your room next moment, angrily saying something like: "Hey, are you still chilling? Did you learn ten spells for tomorrow's class? Oh, you've finished my marshmallows again!" and will dissolve in the air, leaving the smell of dusty cacti behind...

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By the way, the soundtrack in full duration of 24 minutes will be released on cassettes next week on the Artetetra – Italian stronghold of the "occult psychedelia" and other wonderful things, so I probably should take back my words about this thing being criminally short. Yet, that would be super nice to watch a full-length movie like this some day. Meanwhile, you can chill with marshmallows and cocoa listening to amazing tunes Polonius had on Goaty Tapes and his double tape as Rorschac at Corum's Nonlocal Research, and then head to Discogs to find out much much more about Gaber's gorgeously bizarre soundworld. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

geology records winter batch

Sitting in the dead of Winter, I'm really excited about this collection of songs because it is just dripping with Spring. If you are familiar with Black Eagle Child, this collection fits very nicely on the continuum of his work. Gorgeous, sometimes folky, looping guitars, found sound and field recordings. A lathe-cut 12" version is also available from the artist's Bandcamp page. Cassette packaging includes a slipcase and full-color j-card with art by Black Eagle Child.

Yes, we are familiar with Black Eagle Child and when it comes to guitar goodness infused with tape hiss and light-radiating psychedelic repetition, one can hardly find something better than this. Since 2009 and thanks to such imprints as Digitalis, Stunned, Housecraft records signature tunes by Michael Jantz found their place in my subconscious and roll out of it in moments when they are most needed – like now, 1,5 months (and counting) without the sunlight in the middle of Russian winter... When these melodies are here, I can almost feel the breeze of warmth and imagine as snowdrifts outside suddenly started to melt... And the greyness were removed from the sky, and birds started to sing their spring songs. Okay, they will eventually, so no tragedy here. Actually, I love winter pretty much and with music like this, I do even more.


Adam is a prolific experimental artist in Milwaukee, having played in or guested on piles of the best albums to come out of the scene over the past 15+ years. These are more song-based than his normal terrain, but still with a nod to his drone/minimal work. Adam and I have a similar music coming of age background, I think, and so a lot of this hits my musical lizard brain in a really satisfying way. Wholly original, but sounds like home. Packaging includes a fold-out booklet and Autumn leaves from near my home in Milwaukee (unique to each tape).

Pretty much warming as the Black Eagle Child, yet a bit diverse and with carefully overdriven guitars and rudimentary percussion, this is another example of chord repetition which can be as meditative as pretty dynamic. Sliding from mantra-like folk ballads towards droning sound overlays and humming and back to songs rendered in krauty mood. Changing moods from lazy contemplations to melancholic philosophizing (on the dead bird). At any given moment this tape captures something sincere and emotional despite the seemingly cynical and indolent approach. It all resolves in Trees Listed Alphabetically with exalted awe and marching rhythm which takes you up above treetops... Cozy heartwarming music, what else we need to spend January evenings?