Saturday 14 October 2023

Non-Music Roundup (Oct 23)

Hello everyone. As we're heading into the darker months, I wanted to share my latest roundup of non-musical delights with you...

And as always - if you like what you see/hear, please considering supporting these tremendous artists & labels by buying their albums and following them on Bandcamp and/or social media.


Jeph Jerman - registro de piedra 

(Unfathomless, 2023)

Jeph Jerman is a sound artist, field recordist, percussionist & visual artist that was born in Agana (Guam) and currently lives in Arizona, US. Over the years he has released a huge body of works - both independently, and through various reputable labels.

'registro de piedra' is his latest album - released as part on the ongoing Unfathomless sound art series. It consists of one 38-minute long composition based on the idea of place memory, audio pareidolia and possible paranormal activity within or near ancient ruins located in the Arizona desert. 
It begins with a droning mass of audio hiss, stones rubbing together, wooden branches cracking, and other faint distant sonic abstractions. As the piece progresses, you will hear subtle ghostly howls and environmental sound phenomena enter the mix, until it all fades away and the soundscape fills with muted rumbles and swirling frictional noises. After that you will hear (what I presume to be) the artist walking about on location...judging from the lone crunching footsteps on dry ground, and the distant airy ambience of the soft desert winds. Eventually you will hear an array of dry crackling tones and textures produced by the artist playing with objects found on site - shaken, shuffled, rubbed and scraped along rocky surfaces.
Around the midway point of the album, things start getting rather strange and unsettling. You will hear stuttery voices (or voice-like sounds?) drift eerily into the picture, along with various haunting and unnerving rumbles of wind. All of a sudden the ambience, style and frequency of the piece changes...and you will hear a tremulous mournful drone enter the foreground of the mix, while the voices and shuffling sounds ring on... I'm not sure whether this sustained drone is musical or environmental, but it's soon joined by the glistening gong-like resonance of a single bell, which gives the atmosphere an ancient, sacred, ritualistic and ceremonial feel. There's another abrupt switch in the soundscape, and once again you'll hear a hypnotic collage of stones, gravel, dust, vegetation and various desert objects being rubbed and scraped against a backdrop of loud tape hiss. 
As the composition nears its end - the frictional sounds intensify, and a low, rumbling, ominous drone creates a rather sinister and powerful atmosphere of foreboding. In the final couple of minutes, everything dies away and we're left with the spooky sound of a fragmented voice emerging through a broken transmission...

'registro de piedra' is a haunting and fascinating album of dark desert atmospheres, spectral vocalization, environmental sonic phenomena and gorgeous sound art. Jerman's ability to create such rich atmospheres and captivating soundscapes from non-musical sounds and found objects makes for an immersive, mesmerizing and ghostly listening experience.

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Gil Sansón - con richard (por la adversidad a las estrellas)

(Unfathomless, 2023)

Gil Sansón is a multimedia artist and composer. Currently based in Caracas, his audio work emphasizes the nature of sound and its capability to transcend stylistic boundaries. His work as a composer includes verbal scores, as well as, random processes and fixed forms using compositional techniques applied to concrete sound.

'con richard (por la adversidad a las estrellas)' in his latest album. Like the previous review, this one is also a part of the ongoing Unfathomless sound art series. It's one 45-minute long sound composition based on the idea of ''the musicality of memory'' and the artist reflecting on a simpler time - specifically New York at the beginning on the century. 
It begins with the distant ambient hum of street sounds and city traffic, which eventually becomes more prominent in the mix. You will hear the revving of motor engines, the thrum of passing vehicles, the familiar scraping and clanging of hard physical work, muffled human voices, various factory noises, industrial drones, stuttering radio transmissions, eerie electronics, atmospheric birdsong, lonely echoes, reverberations of quiet alleyways and many different kinds of environmental urban ambience. There's also recurring sounds of (what seems to me to be) noise whooshing out of air ducts, but this could be manipulated field recordings of something else, or the artist's own sound design. 
I also really like how the composition is broken up into fragments, and we as the listeners are constantly dipped in and out of the various soundscapes and atmospheres that Sansón has captured, created and constructed along the way. The juxtaposition of the recognizable and familiar city sounds with the erratic electronics and strange sonic abstractions makes this album so dream-like and unique.

'con richard (por la adversidad a las estrellas)' is a wonderfully immersive audio composition that mixes Sansón's personal field recordings with found sounds and electronic noise experimentations, and paints vivid monochromatic images of a specific city at a specific point in time. An intriguing and hallucinatory listening experience.

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eleOnora - tuuljamuud 

(Cruel Nature Records, 2023)

eleOnora (Eleonora Kampe) is an Estonian-Latvian singer and avant-garde vocalist. She works both as a solo artist and in collaborative projects that include noise and ambience duo Road To Saturn, static abstractions project Tencu/eleOnora and an avant blues experiment Ringhold.

'tuuljamuud' is an album of minimalistic abstract vocal improvisations, recorded over different sessions, in various locations. 
In these recordings you will hear eerie and hypnotic vocalizations over a bed of abstract ambience and heavily-manipulated field recordings and environmental sounds. One half of the album consists of Kampe breathing, humming, stuttering, sighing, whispering, singing, squealing, howling and growling...whilst windlike noises constantly swell and contract, along with an almost liquidy type of ambient drone that ripples, shifts, morphs and evolves. 
The other half of the album is even more bare and minimalistic than the first, solely consisting of Kampe singing through a Jews harp at her house. It's more melodic and slightly sweeter sounding than the improvisations recorded away from home. The melodies actually have quite a Celtic feel, and the effect of the vocals being sung through a Jews harp is akin to the sound of an accordian or harmonium. Lovely stuff.

'tuuljamuud' is a fascinating and slightly unsettling album of mesmerizing vocalizations and abstract ambient soundscapes. Klampe's heartfelt vocal performances, the atmospheric field recordings and minimalistic production makes for a very cathartic and immersive listening experience.

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Hayley Suviste - Edgeland 

(self-released, 2021)

Hayley Suviste is a sound artist and composer based in Manchester (UK). Working across field recording, archival sound, and oral history, Hayley uses her music to explore community and culture. Much of her work is immersed in the rural and urban narratives of her local Manchester, drawing on first-hand interviews, and collaborating closely with those who can provide the most accurate document of their environment. Outside academia, Hayley creates dark ambient music that blends live instrumentation and synthesisers with field recordings and textured samples.

'Edgeland' is one 24-minute long ambient sound composition focusing on Manchester's urban renewal, and the dire impact it's having on the city's public green spaces and nature spots. It consists a series of recorded interviews/conversations with some of Manchester's wildlife activists and experts, interspersed with field recordings and minimalistic ambient music. 
In this composition you will hear intriguing factual information, engaging anecdotes and heartfelt opinions from various local individuals working in the field, which run parallel to the sound of wonderful field recordings and Suviste's glistening electronic ambience. I love how these field recordings capture the juxtaposition of nature sounds (beautiful birdsong, woodpigeons flapping, insects chirruping, the wind blowing through the aspen trees, etc...) with distant urban noises (cars revving, the hum of passing traffic, the murmur of human voices, etc...). By the end of this piece, I felt like I had watched an eye-opening documentary on the subject of urban renewal. Powerful stuff.

'Edgeland' is an informative and poignant audio documentation of an important topic, and an ecological crisis. It's quite depressing, yes... but it's also fascinating and alluring, and even heartwarming at times. A beautifully meditative listening experience.

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Vittorio Guindani - Materia Breve 

(901 Editions, 2023)

Vittorio Guindani is an Italian non-musician interested in silence, soundscape and small sounds, which he creates with objects, loops and anything endowed with its own dust.

'Materia Brave' is an album of fairly short fragments/vignettes of minimalistic field recordings and abstract sound passages. It's a sonic exploration of small sounds and quiet recordings, wonderfully amplified to expose their gentle atmospheres and subtle intricacies. In these compositions you will hear soft environmental ambience, tranquil nature sounds, body movements, airy drones, deep rumbles, muted swells, minute scratchings, dark echoes, distant reverberations, various weather noises, small objects being shuffled and rustled around, and lots of subtle and fascinating sonic phenomena that rests on a foundation of tender audio hiss. You will also hear the occasional tiny pullings of tiny musical strings. Possibly a ukelele? The atmospheres that Guindani has created in this album are so peaceful, yet so intriguing. It just begs for further listens...

'Materia Brave' is a beautiful album of lowercase non-musical ambience and delicate sound art that requires close attentive listening and quiet surroundings to fully appreciate. It's an intense yet extremely gentle aural investigation into the stillness of places and things, and makes for a very rich and captivating listening experience.

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Blanc Sceol - Orbit

(OTOROKU, 2023)

Blanc Sceol is the artistic duo of Stephen Shiell and Hannah White. They are sound makers, explorers, performers, investigators and inventors working across disciplines, incorporating field recording, voice, acoustic ecology, instrument building, participatory action and deep listening.

'Orbit' is a 30-minute long experimental sound composition based around a stringed instrument that Stephen Shiell created called The Orbit, which you can read about in the Bandcamp link below. The album was recorded in the chambers of a Victorian sewer substation in London.
It begins with the slow screeching sounds of The Orbit - performed using glissando and staccato methods to create a quiet creeping dread effect, against a backdrop of subtle environmental ambience. As the piece develops, The Orbit produces a captivating array of different tones and timbres which swirl, vibrate and resonate throughout the soundscape in hypnotic repetition, creating a surreal and wonderful ambience of cyclical sound, abstractly parallelling the tidal phases of the Channelsea River. The composition is broken up into various segments of performance, and in the silences in between you will hear the dark reverberations and mysterious ambience of this underground network of pipes.
Around the midway point, you will hear the minimal spoken word poetry of Hannah White, which complements the atmosphere of the piece wonderfully.  Towards the end of the piece, the intensity of The Orbit increases more and more, until eventually the musical movements slow to a tired dreamy crawl, signifying the end of this sound journey...

'Orbit' is a fascinating work of hypnotic performance art, beautiful sound ecology and experimental ambience. The unique richness of the sounds created by The Orbit, along with the surreal atmospheres of this dark underground environment makes for a rather haunting and meditative listening experience.

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Marja Ahti - Tender Membranes 

(Black Truffle, 2023)

Marja Ahti is a Swedish-Finnish composer and sound artist based in Turku, Finland. Ahti works with field recordings and other acoustic sound material combined with synthesizers and electronic feedback in order to find the space where these sounds start to communicate.

'Tender Membranes' is an album consisting of four lengthy electro-acoustic sound compositions.
On 'Shrine (Aether)' you will hear a singular bell slowly resonating and swirling through the air, instantly inducing the listener into a trance-like state, before it abruptly cuts out and you hear (what seems to me like) a seaside field recording accompanied by crackling static. Then a shimmering metallic drone comes in for a while, after which you will hear a close-up recording of a fly buzzing away frantically. It's fascinating to listen closely to the different erratic tones and textures of the fly's movements. They give an almost motorized/mechanical patter. From around the midway point onwards, you will hear an array of glitchy electronics and mesmerizing noise experimentations that sound like variations based on the buzzing of the fly...
On 'Dust/Light' you will hear another singular bell, shimmering slowly while sine tones, rippling drones and fuzzy electronics fill the soundscape. Eventually you will hear field recordings of faint distant human voices - singing, whispers and murmurings, along with sweet birdsong and ominous drones drifting in and out of the mix.
On 'In All This...' you will hear a series of bizarre noises, glistening ambience and fractured high-frequency electronics before some subtle melody and musicality enters the soundscape. Stretched out piano chords and mournful organ tones create a somber atmosphere that ebbs and flows against a backdrop of abstract field recordings and various muted sounds.
On 'Oh Fragrant Witness' you will hear rippling ambient tones, low foreboding drones and quiet pitch modulations, creating a very delicate and dreamy atmosphere that slowly resonate through this strange ambiguous audio environment.

'Tender Membranes' is an album of slow meditative ambience, abstract electronics and avant-garde sound experimentations. It requires patience and quiet surroundings to fully appreciate, and makes for an unsettling yet mesmerizing listening experience.

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T. Jervell & ChromaDots - Faksfjord / Fragsfjord 

(Steep Gloss, 2023)

Trond Jervell & ChromaDots are two sound artists (one Norwegian, one Irish) who have collaborated on this album of collected field recordings from an old wooden house in the Norwegian countryside. These recordings were then heavily manipulated, cut-up, rearranged and processed in a different location, with the intention of ''recapturing them in a new space''.

'Faksfjord / Fragsfjord' is an album consisting of 18 short sound fragments. In these fragments you will hear erratic bursts of squealing glitch, crackling layers of noise, fractured tape hiss, wacky manipulations, crunching wood, lo-fi voice snippets, bizarre skitterings, frantic scratches, electrical squelches, occasional bell hits, warped brass melodies, quiet percussive hits, some rippling synth ambience, computer blips, freaky sound abstractions, gurgling textures, pitchshifting tones and atonal drones.

'Faksfjord / Fragsfjord' is an album of abstract sound collage, bizarre tape manipulation, unnerving atmospheres, warbling tones, strange interweaving textures and raw crackling noise experimentation.
It's definitely not what you'd expect to hear when you listen to an album of field recordings from rural Norway, but it's utterly alluring and fascinating in its own unique way. A weirdly compelling and absurdly immersive listening experience.

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Válek / Merta / Tarnovski - Metal 

(Flaming Pines, 2023)

Petr Valek is a painter, illustrator, musician and author of sound instruments and kinetic objects that lives in Jeseníky, Czechia.
Ondřej Merta is a member of the experimental-pop duo Hugo & Zoe and has participated in numerous collaborative projects with artists such as Oliver Torr, Dirty Electronics, and Tomáš Niesner. He lives in Brno, Czech Republic.
Jara Tarnovski is a prolific experimental musician/artist who has released many works - both solo and in groups. He also makes music for theatre, field recordings (under the moniker Prosoxi Skylos), and radio documentaries.

'Metal' is their first collaborative album as a trio. It's an album of metal performances (the physical material, not the musical genre) in which the three artists build sonic sculptures through movement, abrasions, vibrations and encounters.
In these 13 pieces (numbered in the Japanese numerals) you will hear metal being welded (or something that sounds very like it), frantic rolling sounds, steel tinkles, mechanical clanking, soft rubbing, intense grinding, abrasive squeals, tin thumping, glistening chime bells, clattering utensils,  woody rattles, clicking spokes, hypnotic vibrations, electrical drilling, small objects rattling and nice natural room sounds. All these fascinating sounds make the environment come alive with their own individual opposing rhythms, tones and textures.  I never thought I'd be so endeared to the sound of a frantic hive of industry...

'Metal' is a wonderful clattering cacophony of raw metallic noisescapes. Despite the multitude of mechanisms, machinery, equipment and devices being used throughout this album - it sounds so organic and human. The physicality of these improvised performances, and the exquisite audio sculpting makes for such a vibrant and mesmerizing sensory experience.

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Noah Ophoven-Baldwin - 0 Oktas 

(All Sky, 2023)

Noah Ophoven-Baldwin is an American composer, cornetist, and improviser currently living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His work collages field recordings, metronome and cornet.

'0 Oktas' is one of the two launching-off albums for his brand new label, All Sky. It's an album of quiet experimental soundscapes, mainly consisting of lo-fi field recordings and snippets of cornet improvisations.
In these recordings you will hear beautiful, delicate ambient tape hiss, minimal melodic flourishes on the cornet, breathy squeaks, airy reverberations, faint human movements, room sounds, soft environmental drones, distant birdsong and plenty of peaceful emptiness to immerse yourself within. The central focus on this album is definitely the sound of the cornet, the physicality involved in playing the instrument, and all the spaces in between. Sometimes the notes are slow, gentle and sustained, sometimes they're quick fleeting bursts of noise that die in the air, sometimes they sound rough and tortured - trembling and shuddering in distress, sometimes they sound strangled and squeezed...and sometimes it's just simply dreamy and beautiful.

'0 Oktas' is an extremely quiet, airy, fragile album of hushed improvisation, lo-fi ambient hiss and minimalistic sound experimentation. Beautiful atmospheres and to immerse yourself in in a quiet relaxing environment. A delicate and meditative listening experience.

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S. Grey - Table, Garage and Drainpipe 

(Falt, 2023)

S. Grey (a.k.a Standard Grey) is the artistic alias of Christopher Olsen - a Canadian sound artist based in Nara (Japan) who makes tape-concrète and field recording-based sound work. 

'Table, Garage and Drainpipe' is an album consisting of three different sound experimentations using different areas, objects and surfaces within the artist's home in Nara, Japan. It was recorded using only a Lom Geofón (a sensitive omnidirection geophone used to pick up very faint vibrations) and a Zoom sound recorder.
'Table.' consists of an an array of percussive knocks and rattles on some kind of hollow vessel that slowly echo and swirl around the otherwise empty soundscape. As the piece progresses, you will subtle variations and slight increases in intensity. The tones and timbres captured in this recording creates a hypnotic and rather calming effect, the more you listen...
'Garage.' begins with a slowly-evolving atonal drone. Whether this is environmental ambience or a manipulated recording of a certain surface being repetitively rubbed/scraped (or both?) - I'm not really sure...but it's fascinating to hear how this ominous drone slowly builds and subtly varies over time, creating such an immersive and haunting atmosphere.
'Drainpipe' begins with the muted gurgling sounds of (what I gather to be) copper pipes being shaken or rubbed together, along with some subtle crackling noises and deep atmospheric rumbles in the background. As the piece progresses and intensifies, you will begin to hear a barrage of internal watery sounds - trickling, splashing and flowing through a system of narrow vessels, before the long fade out that signifies the end...

'Table, Garage and Drainpipe' is a raw, minimalistic and mesmerizing album of atmospheric field recordings and avant-garde sound art. The tones, textures and repetition of the sounds heard within these three strange pieces make for a vibrant and spellbinding listening experience.

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Jimmy Peggie & British Sports Car - Limiting The Frame

(NeonVox, 2023)

Jimmy Peggie is a sound artist based in Phoenix, AZ who uses sound and moving image in his creative practice. His artistic work is focused on atmospheres, transmissions, fragments, particles and decay.
British Sports Car is an experimental artist from Colchester, UK. He creates an array of complex and disturbing soundscapes, music and textures inspired by minimalist composition and independent arthouse cinema.

'Limiting The Frame' is their collaborative album - a sound project about analog film, and its connection to memory and nostalgia. In this album you will hear the mechanical clunking of old film projectors, decaying film reels, broken transmissions, rhythmic glitches, motorized whirring sounds, ghostly swells, grinding machinery, metallic resonances, sweeping industrial noise, heavily-processed audio abstractions, sinister drones and dark fragile ambience. The sonic treatment and electronic manipulations of all the old film sounds heard in this album makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly what you're hearing at any given moment, but this happens to heighten the mysteriousness and vagueness of it all.

'Limited The Frame' is an emotional and atmospheric album of haunting noisescapes, fractured ambience, cinematic drones and abstract sound art. Its dark audio environments, intricate textures and intriguing sound phenomena makes for a highly immersive and evocative listening experience.

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