Loss

I have been seeking out and listening to ambient music a lot this year, it’s kept me grounded. In this space the label 12k has been releasing ambient gold all year. In fact, this is the second “now spinning” post in a row featuring one of their albums. They recently released a new album by Marcus Fischer, one of the modern kings of dreamy, introspective ambient music and I have been coming back to it time and time again lately.

What I admire about ambient music is that it is such a broad genera sonically, it has no rules, no collection of senseless subgenera classifications (outside of a couple maybe), and no pressure to be the hot new sound. It can be electronic, it can be acoustic, it has no boundaries and I love that.

My personal favorite ambient music explores sound as a means to amplify emotion; a protective shell of sorts that gives life unexpected weight and a sense of warmth. Music that feels honest and from the heart. Marcus Fischer’s latest solo release simply titled “Loss” encompass all of my favorite things about ambient music perfectly.

The music here is achingly beautiful and organic. It manages to merge seamlessly into my life at home while it spins on the record player, or in the background of my life while out at work through my headphones. This album centers my thoughts and gives a backdrop to contemplation. It’s perfect through and through.

The notes and melodies feel like distant memories played through an old radio in environments lost in time. The recording style and mix give the music a dream like quality making the collection feel like an artifact containing audio recordings of overlooked moments; shadows cast through leaves, light reflecting off of water, the moon lingering low on the horizon. Life often feels like chaos to me and recordings like this give it focus and provides me with a chance to seek out meaning and beauty in the cracks between the obvious.

Weighty, possibly pretentious description aside, this music is beautiful and makes the environment it is played in feel that much more inviting and whole, something we all could use a little more of today so if that sounds like something you could use I highly suggest picking up a vinyl copy or seeking it out on your digital service of choice.

La Niña Junco

Ambient music has continued to be a stabilizing force within my day to day life. It breathes calm into moments of chaos and helps moments of joy feel transcendent. Among my favorite discoveries lately is the album La Niña Junco by Federico Durand released on the 12k Label.

The album has a purity to its concept that I greatly admire and appreciate. The whole of the release was created using one single synthesizer, and to great effect. It causes each song to pool into a collective whole as if each new exploration of the instrument is a single block building a home, a cozy, light filled home from open windows and warm summer breeze. While that may sound over the top, its my best attempt at describing how its left me feeling at times.

Hidden among the album is a song which has quickly become a quintessential piece of ambient music within my all time favorites called Navidad en el bosque. When I first heard it I must have left it on repeat for an hour, and continue to come back to it time and time again. It is both somber and hopeful, contemplative and full of subtle life with its waves of light hearted sound. Its the kind of music that makes the world around me feel empty without it playing within it.

While most 12k releases come out in physical form via CD, this one has a well suited vinyl edition that sounds beautiful. If you are curious about the toy bird in the photo above. It came in a pack of Japanese caramels and has lived around my turntable for a long while. When I started to share the process of playing vinyl records with my one year old daughter I placed the toy on the label so she could see that the disc was spinning around and around. Now, at 16 months old she loves to make attempts at helping me play records and because I included the bird as part of that initial learning experience, now she won’t let me play a record without the little wooden bird spinning round and round there on the record along with the music because, of course, thats just part of what makes it work. She sure loves music, which really brings me joy.

At any rate, if you are into ambient, contemplative music then be sure to have a listen to this fantastic release on 12k (which just happens to currently have a summer sale going on through the end of the month so its a perfect time to pick up a copy if you end up enjoying it as much as I have.)

A Crow Looked At Me

The latest album from Phil Elverum (Mount Eerie, The Microphones), is an emotional heavyweight. It’s an album of direct, focused story telling about moving beyond from the death of someone close, in this case it was is wife which only a little over a year prior to her death gave birth to their one and only daughter. It’s a heartbreaking story and this album is an intimate look into his life beyond this loss and transitioning into a life beyond death.

In the spirit of honest storytelling, the first time I casually sat down to listen to a song released early from the album about a month ago, called ‘Real Death’, it left me broken for a short while. I caught myself in tears by the end of listening the first time through because it caught me so off guard. It had been a long time since feeling such a honest connection to a song.

I’m in a point in my life where my emotionally driven artistic self is starting to have to run along behind my practical self, doing its best to keep up with increasing responsibility. My emotional connections to life have been condensed into the exploration of a new kind of love that I have only recently become acquainted with in the form of having a daughter, family, and home. There are days it feels like a dream but every time I come home from a long day of work and find the smiling face of my daughter on the other side of the front door nothing else matters but that moment, everything locks into place with a satisfying deep breath of fragile air before the whirlwind of life kicks back in.

I say this to explain why this song and now the rest of the album as well, struck such a delicate chord somewhere inside of me. It forced me to consider the frailty of memory, time, and love. His prolific gift for song writing and story telling paints a clear and present picture of what loss is and he cradles this emotion in such a way that I can not help but feel connected with as I listen. If you can make it through this album without feeling it tug at your emotional self then surely you are nothing more than a sack of rocks. What is life without a connection to this deeper side of ourselves? I can’t help but feel as though the loss described among these songs transcends their own sadness and become hopeful in their fearless embrace of reality.

The songwriting on this album is an intimate affair that is usually reserved for the pages of personal journals locked away never to be read. But Phil is an artist who has literally published a journal of his in the past among another classic album of his known for it’s honesty. He is a legend because he is emotionally venerable yet truly creative in his approach to music. Since the beginning he has carved his own sound through hope, fear and loss coupled with polarizing approaches to songwriting that swing wildly from the softest of whispers to the loudest of roars.

Needless to say his music and art has been a huge influence for me over the years both in his songwriting and his meticulous attention to detail, quality, and cleverness when releasing physical copies of his records and artwork. I hope to see plenty more from him as he continues to do what he does best, and shares his perspective with the rest of us.

Order a physical copy here.
Or listen to the album and order digitally here.

Master and Everyone

Master and Everyone

Master and Everyone by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy was released back in 2003 and has long been a part of my desert island picks of essential records. It’s seen a lot of use over the years and for good reason, the unmistakable croon of Will Oldham has never managed to get old to my ears. The music here is bittersweet lyrically and takes a calm approach sonically as it grazes a number of folk music genres and rarely escalates above a whisper.

There are a lot of Will Oldham fans out there, his music spans years and years of different projects and prolific output so everyone seems to have their own personal favorites within his discography. For me, Master And Everyone has always stood out to me as an understated masterpiece, a record I could easily recommend anyone in need of something laid back and contemplative to check out if they have not come across it already.

Vinyl Copies have been out of print for quite some time as far as I know but can be found used here and there and available for purchase digitally on bandcamp here.

Jeff Parker

Slight Freedom

Last year was slow for me in the music discovery department. It was an atypical year in many ways so I didn’t end up putting as much time into seeking out new music as I usually do. I found myself gravitating to a lot of ambient music last year, or quieter music at least . Among my favorites in this department was a beautiful record of solo jazz guitar by Jeff Parker called Slight Freedom. While most people know Jeff’s work with the band Tortoise, he has a few releases under his own name and with others but this is his first truly solo record as far as I know.

While the album is only four tracks long, totaling about 37 minutes of music, the album as a whole holds a warmth and weight that I can’t get enough of. The music is immediate and elemental and was recorded in real-time with a minimal set of tools at hand without overdubs, an approach that allowed for an intimate listening experience that I really admire. It gave the album a sense of timelessness and still today after treating myself to a vinyl copy I have been putting it on quite a bit lately.

If you listened to 50ft Radio Vol. 15, then you heard one of the cuts off this album because I started off the mix with the track Super Rich Kids which is Jeff’s loose take on a Frank Ocean song (though you wouldn’t know it after listening). I love his subtle use of field recordings and audio loops which pull everything together to create a gentle landscape of sound.

If your looking for a peaceful album to give your day a few moments of calm you really can’t go wrong with Jeff Parker’s Slight Freedom. Digitally it is available for sale on iTunes and worth every penny. If you would like a vinyl copy, which is a beautiful sounding pressing on heavyweight vinyl, and read more about the release you can do that here on the label page for the release.

Glen / Molina

It was Triumph We Once Proposed…

I, like so many others, discovered Glen Hasard after seeing Once and while I do enjoy his music quite a bit I have not stuck with his releases through the years. When I heard he was planing to release an EP of Jason Molina songs I was skeptical. Cover albums, especially those in the guise of a tribute, usually miss their mark and simply leave me wanting to put on the original recordings. Heres looking at you Seth Avett and your well intentioned Elliott Smith Covers, though to be fair, it’s not often you hear someone cover an Elliott Smith song well. So yes, it’s rare to find a cover or tribute album that I actually come back to for repeat listens.

I pre-ordered a copy of ‘It was Triumph We Once Proposed…’ hoping I wouldn’t end up disapointed and thankfully I was anything but. He did a fantastic job capturing the essence of what made these songs great to begin with and managed to do this without over embeleshing the music. It is a worthy tribute in my book. Jason Molina had a wider reaching influence than I feel many fully realize and it’s nice to see his music live on and get shared with a new audience.

While it seems they have sold out on his personal site, I know there are still vinyl copies out there and of course it is available digitally through all the usual channels. Any fans of blues, alt-country, or singer songwriter music should jump on this without hesitation.

Desert Sound Colony

The Way I Began

I have been snatching up way to many great records lately, this year has seen a lot more great releases than I had expected, its been hard to keep up with all of the stellar music making its way up from the underground.

One of many recent favorites is this EP from Scissor & Thread, ‘The Way I Began’ which is, as far as I can tell, the debut from Desert Sound Colony. It’s a relaxed and subtly danceable collection of songs softly sung and glued together with head nodding rhythms. The music is reminiscent of the dreamy landscapes of Darkside and other electronic artists charting new territory in subtle electronic music. I can’t wait to hear more from Desert Sound Colony as time goes on, as it stands there is not much to go on as far as the history of the artist but well let that slide this time and let the music speak for istelf.

Available here (US) or here (Europe) on vinyl. Digital version also available through that first link which is his band camp page. Artists homepage here.

Transistor Radio

Transistor Radio

There are a handful of records in my collection that somehow never get old, ones that manage to feel welcome even after years of listening. One of those old standards in my book is M. Wards Transistor Radio, which I put on for the first time in a while last night. This record and the one that followed, Post-War, marked a turning point for M.Ward as he slowly gained a bigger following which reached a tipping point as he started to release music as ‘She & Him’ with Zooey Deschanel.

Transistor Radio is still my favorite album from Ward because of it’s eclectic mix of folk/singer songwriter ideas and experiments in sound/recording. It has a bit of a distant, otherworldly quality about it at times as it swings gently along. It is an easy recommendation and would fit nicely into any collection. It was released on Merge Records in 2005 but can be found on most modern streaming services or on vinyl through a bit of digging around online or at your local record shops.

Mountain Man

Mountain Man

One of my favorite summer albums for calm yet hot southern summer days is Made The Harbor by Mountain Man. It quickly snuck into my favorites back when it was released in 2010 and is still a go to record for catching a moment of rest during a busy day or adding a touch of solitude to an already calm summer night. Recorded with a minimal, lo-fi approach the folk influenced music found here sways calmly through vocal harmonies and catchy melodies that linger in your mind long after listening. More information on the release can be found here on the Partisan Records shop page.

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