As hard as I try to keep up with this endless torrent of beautiful music, there are still a few gems that seem to slip through the cracks. After publishing my own Best of 2013 lists, I spend countless hours combing through the internet in search of such treasure. Today I present you with the first part of my discoveries, courtesy of Stationary Travels favorite selections, who I’m very honored to have contribute to Headphone Commute.
Elskavon is the ambient project of Chris Bartels who has several musical irons in the fire, including the indie band Bora York (with his wife Rebekah) and a more experimental electronic venture called Vitamin June. Of all these, it seems Elskavon is the most ambitious and fully realized. Like Elskavon’s debut, Movements in Season (2012), Release is a serene and lovely record catering to a very pure ambient aesthetic, although this time Bartels stretches a little more into drone territory in keeping with the wintry tone he intended to create. Piano and synthesizer based pieces are interwoven to create enough sonic variety to prevent the album from lapsing into blandness, and yet it maintains an appealing calmness throughout. A spring oriented follow-up is expected in 2014.
Antecedent Conditions is the debut recording from Threethings, a solo ambient guitar project of Ben Worth, also of the post rock band Kontakte and the experimental sound project Stenorette (with Ben Dyson). It consists of six tracks of ambient acoustic and electric guitar run through a variety of effects pedals woven into a complex fabric of loops and melodies with occasional field recordings and piano. The press material on the album explains that Worth attempted to “find something beautiful in the imperfect and the accidental, the loops contain incidental sounds purposefully left in to maintain the atmosphere of the recording space.” It is impressive to see such a nuanced and patient recording from an artist who can also generate stadium worthy post rock anthems.
The Gift of Affliction
Although this is her debut album as a solo artist, Athens-born Zinovia Arvanitidi has been studying, composing, and performing music since the age of 8 and has had work featured over the years in theatrical plays, films, and various other media as well as collaborating on a lovely album last year with composer Hior Chronik under the moniker Pill-Oh. That explains why this is such a polished and mature sounding record. She has created a set of elegant soundscapes sculpted from cinematic and modern classical elements and masterful incorporation of beats and effects. Surely one of the finest downtempo albums released this year. Out on Tympanik.
With Tidewater Pulse, New England artist and musician Tim Dwyer delivers his first full length album under the moniker Off Land. The album is a collection of minimalist ambient soundscapes orna-mented with delicate textures and field recordings to create a very meditative mood. As such, it is very unobtrusive and yet, in a subtle way, it is very lavishly textured. The sonic colors are icy cool and the wintry tone is strongly suggested by track titles such as ‘Drift Ice’ and ‘Permafrost’. Alternately tranquil and haunting, this is a beautiful album crafted patiently and will reveal many rewards and nuances to the listener who gives it their full attention.
Words by Brian Housman of Stationary Travels.