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Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto: Glass (CD, Noton, February 2018)

You’ll think I’m silly, but I almost didn’t want to listen this: I love Alva Noto, I love Ryuichi Sakamoto, I love Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto, Sakamoto’s latest album was almost heartbreakingly perfect, and I didn’t want to be disappointed. Well, I’m glad I got over myself, because this is a magical and wondrous […]

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Music

Marc Barreca: Aberrant Lens (CD, Palace Of Lights, March 2017)

Confession of ignorance time: Marc Barreca has apparently been a big noise (as it were) in electronic ambient music since the late seventies, but I’d never encountered him until now. I’m happy to correct that, though, because this is a beguiling piece of work: twelve tracks that hover tantalizingly between ambient (but they’re too structured […]

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Mike Cooper: Reluctant Swimmer / Virtual Surfer (LP, Discrepant, February 2017)

Here’s one to file under “strange but strangely wonderful”. The first 11 minutes of the A-side is Reluctant Swimmer, an ambient experimental thing which seems to be done on a prepared guitar, all scrapes and bloops and rattles: it sounds oddly like you’re inside some kind of arcane machine but in a much softer, more […]

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Bethan Kellough: Aven (CD, Touch, August 2016)

This is a short (28 minutes) but perfectly formed bit of intense atmospheric ambient. It’s made mostly of Kellough’s own droning string arrangements, field recordings (from Iceland and South Africa), and a bunch of processing. From the opening seconds you’d be forgiven for thinking this was going to be at the floaty end of the […]

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Thomas Köner: Tiento De La Luz (LP, Denovali Records, March 2016)

This is a superbly stately piece of ambient classical. It’s centred around piano and electronics, with a touch of strings (early music favourite the viola da gamba, I gather), brass, and tuned percussion. Köner thinks nothing of leaving a single piano note hanging for five or ten seconds, echoing into the ambient wash. From time […]

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Music

Secret Boyfriend: Memory Care Unit (LP, Blackest Ever Black, February 2016)

A variety of synth stuff on this intriguing album. The Singing Bile is, as its title wonderfully suggests, kind of sludgy yet melodic, a murky but sweet ambient number. Little Jammy Centre has a sort of wheezing drone, an echoey but jaunty little melody which is sort of like pop at one remove, and towards […]

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Kassel Jaeger, Stephan Mathieu, Akira Rabelais: Zauberberg (LP, Shelter Press, February 2016)

I’m going to call this “environmental ambient”, a term I may or may not have just invented, and by which I mean that it strongly evokes a particular scenario — in this case, the Swiss Alpine setting of Thomas Mann’s 1924 novel Der Zauberberg (aka The Magic Mountain). It does this through a mixture of field […]

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Music

Rafael Anton Irisarri: A Fragile Geography (LP, Room 40, January 2016)

This is just top notch melodic classical drone ambient. Irisarri has been at this for a while (I’m quite fond of It Falls Apart, his 2010 album as The Sight Below) and he just seems to keep getting better. There’s that gently pulsing humming noise, the drawn-out strings layered subtly over the top, just the right […]

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Music

Mätisse: Kairos (CD, In Paradisum, January 2016)

Sometimes, I really don’t make life easy for myself. It’s very hard to know what to say about this record. There are two 18-minute tracks, but each is in several apparently unrelated parts. Along the way it incorporates (in no particular order) melodic synth music, sparse modern classical using a variety of different piano sounds […]

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Music

Fennesz: Mahler Remix (LP, Touch, January 2016)

In which Christian Fennesz applies the techniques he usually uses on his guitar to a bunch of recordings of fellow Austrian Gustav Mahler (and his guitar). This inevitably invites comparison with Matthew Herbert’s working over of the composer’s tenth symphony for Deutsche Grammophon’s Recomposed series. I have to say, the comparison does this work no favours: […]