Strom Noir is Slovak musician Emil Maťko who has been composing ambient and experimental music for ten years. Writing about him feels very special to me as he lives in the same city as I do, but his work is much better known abroad than at home. Maťko’s albums were released on bunch of interesting labels, such as Hibernate and Resting Bell which carefully select just very talented and exceptional alternative-oriented artists what even increase Maťko’s relevance to ambient scene, along with his long-time experience in composition. But what is crucial for a musician is the invention and distinctive sound that Maťko certainly posses.
What makes his signature different from his peers is the joy and unusual ease of his compositions. Whether it’s slow and silent mass of drones or pastoral guitar plucking with indecipherable echoes, the lightness is omnipresent. And he doesn’t stay in the spectrum of playing with light-dark contrasts - it’s oddly calm and cheerful harmony that sparks between his notes and makes the process of listening and unveiling so satisfying.
Tebe (To You), his new composition that comes from his new full-length Dni Stratili Svoju Farbu (Days Lost Their Colours), follows this trend. Although its warped introduction feels bit distracted, the basic motive evolves quickly and calms the mood down. Short guitar loop is emphasized at most and pulsates with varying intensity during the first half of the composition that ends with dreamy echoes. It reminds Simon Scott's sleepy Silenne, but Tebe is denser. Despite the pessimistic title of new album, Tebe is colourful and serene, so I’m really curious what about the rest. By the way, it was produced by Rudi Arapahoe and comes soon via Hibernate Records. Exciting.
Svarte Greiner presents two new forthcoming Miasmah releases
Erik Skodvin, who most often performs as Svarte Greiner, experiences highly prolific season. It started with last year’s stunning Flare (musicAddicted’s 4th favourite album), his mostly acoustic album released via Sonic Pieces, than his second album with Otto Totland as Deaf Center (review coming very soon), except of that a split EP with Le Corbeau, innovative gig at Unitarian Church in Cambridge and contribution to Ghostly compilation. Along with his career as a composer and performer, he also runs his own Miasmah label focused on ambient, experimental and especially dark music.
As a small preview of what he likes and listens to, Skodvin prepared an eclectic mixtape for Self-Titled mag called Entrance Shot. What is so remarkable about it at most are two compositions that come from two forthcoming Miasmah releases. The first is Down The Out, nervous guitar plucking with uneasy droning echoes by Belgian avant-garde artist Kaboom Karavan, whose full length Barra Barra arrives in April. Right after Kaboom Karavan is featured an excerpt from Gareth Davis and Machinefabriek's collaboration Grower and later on comes Sut, minimalist metal track with painful shrieking by Juv, peculiar Norwegian duo. Their eponymous debut (review very soon, too) was released just few days ago and offers more than seventy minutes of dark, oppressive droning metal. As a penultimate track on Greiner’s mixtape comes Opkropper, a tragicomic cabaret affair that rightly combines decadent, self-aware playfulness (captured in operatic vocals) with high art (think of that cello and strings generally). Opkropper was composed by Kreng who releases his second album for Miasmah later this year. Worth noticing is also the last track by Luciano Cilio, talented Naples composer with minimalist and musique concrété tendencies. Certainly, it seems that Juv was just a shot at the entrance to musical year 2011 and many explosions are awaiting us from Miasmah.
True to its name, which translates roughly from German to mean ‘chamber play’, Kammerspiel is a subtle collection of eleven songs that, to the listener, sound as though Conquering Animal Sound were playing them right there in the same room. The Glasgow-based duo of Anneke Kampman and James Scott imbues their music with such natural warmth that it feels as if these songs were composed and played especially for you, a sense that is strengthened by the intrinsic echoes of the lo-fi recording and various musical shadings. Conquering Animal Sound switch with ease from simple, minimalist songs to those with more layered complexity with twists and ornaments that surprise and intrigue.
Gareth Davis & Machinefabriek: Let the shadows grow
Machinefabriek, Dutch ambient and experimental musician, is well-known for his almost unbelievable productivity and versatility. Rutger Zuydervelt, the brain and heart behind Machinefabriek, lives inside his music. It captures his frequent trips (among them is also EP Slovensko which was recorded while visiting Slovak Republic, my home country), socializing and meeting other, similarly interesting musicians. It often ends up in collaboration that combines Machinefabriek’s droning textures and field recordings with the partners’ peculiarities (among the most impressive collabs were multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick and cello master Aaron Martin). Still, besides contributing to uncountable compilations and special editions (like Rural Route or Slaapwel records), he retains his creativity and every new release comes as something original and unique.
Two years ago Zuydervelt paired with Gareth Davis, avant-garde clarinetist. At first, their four-hour long improvisation with the intention of soundtracking John Price’s film The Sounding Lines Are Obsolete, resulted in their Soundlines EP, where Simon Scott provided some unusual sounds too. Then Davis and Zuydervelt released another two records, Ghost Lanes and Drape, that drew from the same sessions. Their recording experience must have been pretty unforgettable as they release another part of their improvisation. This time, it comes via Sonic Pieces, label with limited handcrafted packaging.
Marissa Nadler: Entire album of yet unreleased, unheard songs
Marissa Nadler, American singer-songwriter, painter and woodcarver, is interestingly active these days. Along with recording her fifth studio album and publishing video for Rosary, beautiful ballad from her impressive Little Hells, she created her own Bandcamp page today, where she offers an entire album of yet unreleased songs among other rarities. Ivy and the Clovers, name of this cute collection, was recorded right after the release of her third work, Songs III: Bird on the Water. According to the available description, she never found enough money for a professional recording of them, so the album has a strong lo-fi sound and an intensive touch of homeyness.
Conjuring Spirit Worlds is the most standout track not only on Ivy and the Clovers, but also concerning Nadler’s entire discography. It features droning cello (performed by Helena Espval) which is free from traditional form and gets to the avant-garde zones of electronic manipulation. On the top of it are quite rough synthesizers and drums played and engineered by Greg Weeks. Conjuring Spirit Worlds reminds of Mazzy Star's older & bolder material as well as more shoegaze-y contemporaries Slowdive. Marissa’s vocals are buried among the subduing layers of these heavy sounds and feel oddly right as she found new, effective way of artistic expression. Also, the shortest track, Black Hole, is Marissa’s most ambient one. Grouper and her layered echoes and drugged distortions comes to mind, but Nadler’s perception of ambient is milder and more tender.
The opening song, Daisy And Violet, belongs to her saddest songs. Marissa sings about twins “joined at the hips of the songs that they wrote" who enjoy beautiful sister love and die together. Marissa’s wordless coos are heartbreakingly soft and light what even multiplies the grievous mood. This American songstress is master in portraying blue emotions with simple and very imaginative lyrics and her talent gets the greatest space in emotive All Love Must Die. It’s weird that there was no one, who would release collection of such nice songs, but on the other side, that lo-fi sound and bit amateurish feeling adds an authenticity and realness to Nadler’s song. Though it isn’t a full studio album, Ivy and the Clovers is another proof of Nadler’s natural gift for old-fashioned storytelling and a pure, sincere melancholy.
Simon Scott sings on his fragile Depart, Repeat release
Simon Scott's release of his two new compositions comes as an interesting surprise for few reasons. The former drummer for legendary shoegaze, dream pop crew Slowdive who runs his own Kesh label came back to the alternative music scene in 2009 with his first solo work, Navigare, delivered via renowned Miasmah label and year later he came with shorter Traba EP and for falling asleep composed Silenne. Both are explorations of ambient drone, layered experimentation with the possibilities of sound, noise and silence, play with echoes, all with delicate touch of soft melodies buried somewhere between these unapproachable masses of sound. So the first surprise is that Depart, Repeat, his new release, contains two songs. Songs in the whole meaning of the word.
Gone are the layers of unpredictable, epic drone and overwhelming dose of sounds; Depart, Repeat features Simon singing and playing the guitar and xylophone with Nils Frahm, German pianist and composer who released musicAddicted’s 3rd best album of 2009, taking care of piano and the entire mixing process. Everything about Depart, Repeat is fragile. Simon’s lyrics show his mind bare and express inner impeccable melancholy. Listening to his words of loss and unsureness about himself feels almost inappropriate; on the other side, formulating his emotions in simple, euphonious verses is fascinating.
First song, Never Alone (listen below), is longer and somehow richer. It starts with simple guitar melody that leads into the first sung tones. Simon’s lyrics are images of winter, snow, cold environment that somehow acts against the main idea of sharing our lives with others, the inevitable man’s need to be loved and needed. Never Alone reaches its climax with the resoluteness sparkling from ardent piano that directs towards a very tender vision of painful cacophony that never comes. And there comes the second song, Left Behind the World, which main topic is expressed in its neame. Abandoning, leaving and forgetting not only the troubles, but also people making part of the past and therefore fraction of life. Musical background is simple and bright: Frahm’s glockenspiel interacting with shiny, optimistic guitar and few piano harmonies. If the song was just instrumental, its melancholy and sadness wouldn’t come to mind. But those words and grief in Simon’s voice make it blue affair.
Depart, Repeat is a pleasant and enjoyable listen. Despite its austere arrangements, understanding its intentions and fully exploring the beauty inside comes after many listens. It’s very uplifting that Simon Scott is so diversified artist, who can drop such quality acoustic folksy EP after few ambient drone ones. Another specialty about Depart, Repeat is its physical release. It’s delivered via Sonic Pieces in a form of hand-made, unique, limited vinyl that is the first in a so-called Seven Pieces series of seven 7” vinyls coming this year. It must be pleasure to listen to Depart, Repeat on gramophone. Regardless its physical or virtual form, it’s one of the most impressive alternative records of last months that shows a promising progress of Simon Scott as a singer, lyricist and artist as well.