The ELECTROACOUSTIC Radar (Episode #1/2019)

When I deal with electroacoustic music, the main challenge for me is always to navigate into the hundreds of artists that populate the successful “mood-based” playlist that you can find on Spotify or other platforms and select those few who are really worthy of our time and attention.

This new series of articles, called The ELECTROACOUSTIC Radar, has really the objective to present a carefully selected group of artists who have distinguished themselves for having published something really special and exciting.

This first episode introduces five albums that were released between the beginning of 2019 and the middle of March. From a geographical point of view, we have one composer from Ireland (Gareth Quinn Redmond), one from Canada (Nathan Shubert), one from France (Watine), and two from the U.S.A. (Aukai and Philip G Anderson).

Enjoy these albums and don’t forget to visit the blog periodically for new updates.



“Céim• eanna”, by Gareth Quinn Redmond


There are albums and songs that do not offer pleasant melodies or intriguing and articulate harmonies to hear, but which still manage to capture the attention of the listener for some other special feature. The recent record released by Gareth Quinn Redmond, called Céim • eanna, looks to me as one of these kind of albums. The five tracks of the LP are all characterized by extreme minimalism: the songs are mostly built from a central core of a few notes, usually played on a prepared piano, which is repeated without interruptions from the beginning to the end of each piece, until they become transcendental, almost mystical. Alongside these repeated sequences of notes, we have other environmental sounds or delicate effects that complete the atmosphere.

The result is music that is at the same time hypnotic and extremely relaxing. The Irish composer calls his style as “Environmental Music”, explaining that his goal is “to help the listeners engage with their surrounding environment, allowing them to recognise the multitude of individual pulses that comprise the world. Fundamental to the concept of Environmental Music is that instead of offering a form of escapism, this music is designed to create an intimate bond between the listener and his everyday life“. I don’t know how far this goal is attainable in our daily routines, in my case it has succeeded only partially. What’s certain, however, is that Céim • eanna is a collection of very particular songs, different from what we usually listen to, and definitely worthy of our attention. Ideally without too many expectations.



“Wilderness”, by Philip G Anderson


Wilderness, by American multi-instrumentalist Philip G Anderson, is one of those albums that create beautiful and poignant atmospheres that you can listen as a background during your daily routines or while taking some rest after a busy day. Once you launch the LP on your stereo, you will start enjoying dreamy soundscapes enriched by delicate notes played by piano, violin and cello.

There is no real difference among the various tracks of the LP and therefore you will basically enjoy a placid and nice sequence of ambient-like pieces filled with soft drones and elegant touches of acoustic instruments. The mood is generally serene, with the exception of a few moments where the atmospheres become a little darker and melancholic. That’s not the kind of LP that require a depth of analysis or particular concentration, it’s rather an enjoyable half an hour of nice and fairly accessible contemplative music.



“Reminiscence” by Aukai


Aukai is the acoustic ambient project founded by American composer and instrumentalist Markus Sieber. Aukai’s new LP is called Reminiscence, and it’s one of these albums that may have the effect capturing your attention and making you feel completely absorbed by the music.

In the short duration of 24 minutes, Aukai’s new LP offers a remarkable collection of cinematic and atmospheric moments. The tones are generally melancholic and there is a sense of persistent sadness that really reproduces the idea of distant memories, sudden emotions that we feel at the thought of a person, or an experience, or a special place.

I’ve published a dedicated review of the LP, you can check it from here.



“When You Take Off Your Shoes”, by Nathan Shubert


The musical recipe developed by the Canadian musician Nathan Shubert is relatively simple but certainly effective. We have sketches of melancholic melodies or simple loops of notes played on a prepared piano, a background layer consisting of field recordings and other noises, and, more sporadically, delicate touches of strings and clarinet. Basically, it’s the typical structure of every modern electroacoustic song. Despite that, however, the album When You Take Off Your Shoes still manages to stand out from the mass of singles, EPs and LPs that are released on every week.

Shubert’s new LP may be the perfect background for many different moments of your day: it will never require all of your attention but it will provide you with an elegant and absolutely enjoyable atmosphere.

There is on the blog a dedicated review of the album, you can find there additional information on this excellent record.



“Geometries Sous-Coutanées”, by Watine


I’m concluding this digest with one of the most particular records that I’ve enjoyed in the last few weeks.

Too often, when we think about electro-acoustic music, we have in mind serene and ambient-like compositions made for relaxing or contemplation. An album like Geometries Sous-Coutanées by French artist Catherine Watine clearly demonstrates the desire to go in a completely different direction. Forget to enjoy easy-listening melodies or dreamy and melancholic soundscapes: here the music has been composed through the identification of a group of sonic “fragments” which are manipulated, elaborated, and combined together in order to arouse an effective reshuffling of your own feelings and sensations.

If I can use a metaphor, it’s like when you start rummaging through an old box that you took out from the attic. There is an initial phase of confusion when you start picking up and putting on the floor all the different objects that were in the box. But soon after you start getting back all the forgotten memories that were associated with the things that are once again in front of you. I had a similar experience with this LP, with the difference that the objects here are fragments of piano melodies, sketches of electronic rhythms, other instruments like flutes and oboes that appear from time to time, lots of tape recordings, verses, choruses, spoken rhymes, and drones that fill the silence with sounds that are sometimes serene, sometimes haunting.



The artists introduced in this article are all contributing to The ELECTROACOUSTIC Radar, the playlist that collects the best electroacoustic songs released in 2019. My recommendation is to listen and follow the playlist because it’s going to grow with time, as soon as new good albums are released.

Some of the songs mentioned in this episode of the radar were also featured in THE WEIGHT WE CARRY, which is the third episode of a series of mixtapes that uses contemplative music to accompany a poem.


SOUNDSCAPES, when music designs the sound

 

One of the important things about the synthesizer was that it came without any baggage. A piano comes with a whole history of music…when you play an instrument that does not have any such historical background you are designing sound basically. You’re designing a new instrument. That’s what a synthesizer is essentially. It’s a constantly unfinished instrument. You finish it when you tweak it, and play around with it, and decide how to use it. (Brian Eno)

 


 

There is a special sub-genre of ambient music that is fully focused to the creation of sounds and landscapes, with minimal if no emphasis at all on melody, rhythm and harmony. For those who are new to this style of music, the experience can be alienating and even a bit disturbing. But under the right conditions, and with a bit of preparation, this kind of music can give very strong emotions, such as to take your breath away.

Many artists are nowadays dedicated to ambient music, everyone with his own approach and characteristics. I’m collecting the best pieces that were released in the recent times into a special playlist of mine, named SOUNDSCAPES. As many of the playlist released and managed by this blog, this is a living compilation that will be frequently updated with new tracks.

At the moment of its publication, the playlist features about 2 hours of sonic landscapes from both veterans of ambient music and a few new artists who have recently appeared on the music scene. Enjoy the playlist, follow it, and visit it regularly to check for new songs.

 

 


 

Ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting (Brian Eno)

 


 

Whispering Melodies. Music for meditation, relax and concentration

There are moments in our busy days when all that one needs is to switch off any distracting equipment, lower the light, and let the thoughts roam free without any haste, no pressure, no trouble. For these special moments I have created a playlist with the best meditative and relaxing music that was published this year. You’ll find here great artists of minimalism, ambient and soundscapes like Peter Broderick, Erik Wøllo, Shastro, Balmorhea and many others. Enjoy this playlist and check it our periodically because the tracklist is updated as new songs are released.