Clocking in at 2 hours and pretty much devoid of lyrics, this month’s mixtape is instrumental and highly evocative. The abstraction in the sounds you’re going to hear will stimulate your imagination. Galactic joyrides, tropical islands, sci-fi journeys - there’s plenty for the mind to wander if you’re happy to float along.
Recommended settings: when you’re in a contemplative, introspective state of mind.
Grenoble gardener Denis Morin could be a fantasy island ethnographer. On his debut album L’ile D’or, he takes us on a flow of opaque tropical hallucinations. This is a piece of work where the artwork and track titles beautifully complement the sound to transport the listener to intimate, emotive and imaginative lands.
On the Milan EP, Detroit-based Alister Fawnwoda teams up with Suzanne Ciani (synths / Sep 2020 mixtape) and Greg Leisz (pedal steel guitar) to create deep listening music that requires undivided attention to be fully appreciated. This expansive collaboration between generations of musical adventurers fuses a multitude of influences into a sound that is expansive, ambitious, and authentic to its core.
Drawing inspiration from the magnificent Australian landscape, Sydney-based Danny Wild leverages field recordings, cassette, organic instruments and synthesized soundscapes to blend the real with the invented. His debut album The landscape has become a bed features 9 songs described by the musician as ‘constructed moments providing abstracted depictions of geography along the East Coast of Australia’.
We slowly enter denser territories with an immersive cut by Alex Paterson and original Orb member Andy Falconer. 30 years after working together on The Orb’s 1991 Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, they reunited this year to create The Heavens, an album that looks back to the early days of the space race. With its cold air, cowbells and soft drone, the opening track’s sense of drift is real.
With its calm somberness and healthy dose of synthesizers, Legacy is a deep sci-fi journey into space. Composed by Swedish electronica musician Stefan Strand, this exploration into the vast unknown offers sonic glimpses at the wonders of the universe, and depicts the human desire to keep pushing farther.
Next is a haunting, bass-heavy track by German ambient music producer Thomas Köner. This is the sound of low mist slowly entering a forest at dusk. On this album, he creates an almost disorienting drone by recording gongs underwater. You rarely need a subwoofer for ambient music, but having one here will tremendously change your listening experience.
More low-frequency delicacies with a recent release by Berlin-based Alpiniste and Martin Besson. This track is part of Immortalis Fieri Mori Ut, a compilation centered around Uneternal Sleep that came to life after musicians were tasked to express their own interpretation of the theme.
I first heard this album a couple of days ago in a coffee shop. By 6 PM, everyone had already left, rain was pouring outside and the barista dropped the needle on the record as she started cleaning the place. Hooked on the spot, I inquired about the music and a nice exchange followed. What you’ll hear is the third part of Finish Vladislav Delay’s The Four Quarters. To tap into the full potential of this magnificent piece of work, listening to the entire album in one shot is highly recommended. With a certain lightness of touch, fine details and fractured soundscapes, this is a record whose beauty and absolute depth really cannot be overstated.
In a league of his own, alva noto (Sep 2021 mixtape) composed the score of Oval back in 2019, a choreographic piece performed by the Staatsballett Berlin at the Berlin State Opera. This skippy, 160 BPM slab of techno-adjacent sound design is a single from his 2021 album HYbr:ID Vol. 1, the first of a new series of releases exploring the artist’s heterogenous compositional techniques.
We continue with an excerpt from a 2002 high-voltage, organic and improvised performance at the Baltic Center for Contemporary Art. Here, alva noto is joined by 2 others likeminded pioneers; together they turn the spotlight on the innate noise floor in music technology. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the sound of electricity. The performance is split into 11 movements and follows a basic suspense-and-release structure.
Montreal violinist Jessica Moss is an absolute all-time favorite. By now a seasoned practitioner of immersive isolation music, her gritty, drone-inflected, post-classical sounds are heart-wrenching. She amplifies, loops, distorts and electronically-shifts her violin to create deeply expressive, haunting and wholly committed long-form compositions. ‘Distortion Harbour' (taken from her latest album Phosphene) traces a tremendous arc of dark wave crescendo, showing her at her maximalist best. By the way, can we take a moment to appreciate the stunning artwork?
Caterina Barbieri is drawn to machine intelligence and object oriented perception in sound. She explores the psycho-physical effects of repetition and pattern-based operations in music, focusing on the creative use of computation and complex sequencing techniques to trigger temporal and spatial hallucinations. In 2019, she released Ecstatic Computation, a critically acclaimed album that was recognized as Bleep’s Record of the Year. Listened on a loud sound system, ‘Fantas’ is a mind-altering journey. Fantas Variations, released 2 years later, is a compilation of reinterpretations by musicians who use voices, saxophone, organ and electric guitar to share their own take on the song.
Scott Morgan (Apr 2021 mixtape) hits again with LUX Refraction, a superb 4-track release based on manipulations of a recording of a Hungarian orchestra. All 4 variations are mesmerizing, and they get better on every listen, but there is something a bit different about the last one. You can almost hear the orchestra playing this live, taking long, drawn-out bow strokes across their strings.
Maybe not what you’d usually except from Jon Hopkins, this floaty, delicate and comforting album will transport you to a serene place. In 2018, the British electronic producer wanted to create a new genre of music specifically crafted to enhance guided trips. He ended up in a cave in the Amazon rainforest, observing nature, thinking about synths and sampling sounds. The field recordings from that expedition formed the basis of Music for Psychedelic Therapy, his immersive soundtrack to consciousness exploration.