Archives for posts with tag: ambient music

Noveller 2020Noveller is Sarah Lipstate, a composer/ creator of cinematic soundscapes using guitar and effect/ loop pedals. The most recent Noveller album “Arrow” was released in June, and it’s an immersive adventure in sound.

“Pattern Recognition” is the most overt guitar-sounding track here, as the rest of the album is more texture and sound layers created from bowed, looped, effect-saturated guitar-generated sounds.

The music on “Arrow” works on multiple levels – cinematic soundtracks, ambient music, futuristic soundscapes, experimental instrumental guitar (post-)rock, even instrumental dream-pop. Although guitar-generated it feels more like a relative of mid-70s Tangerine Dream circa “Phaedra” than anything else.

Reading interviews with Lipstate its apparent there’s an organic creation process involved, seeing where the sounds take the music. It’s something Holger Czukay (see previous+1 PopLib post) would understand and approve of. As he explained in a 2009 interview “you could say that I use randomness, chance. Classical composers were searching for the music, but what they didn’t realise is that sometimes the music is also searching for you.” 



Holger Czukay

Holger Czukay was a founding member of German experimental rock band Can. In addition to playing those hypnotic motorik bass grooves, Czukay was the recording engineer for Can, and an early adopter of ‘sampled’ collage sounds, recorded to tape from shortwave radio broadcasts and other sources, edited and manipulated by hand in those pre-digital days, woven into the music assembled by Czukay from hours of improvised music creation.

Beyond Can Czukay recorded several ‘solo’ albums – often in conjunction with Can human drum machine Jaki Liebezeit – and collaborations with other musicians. One of those collaborations was with David Sylvian, producing two albums “Plight & Premonition” (1988) and “Flux + Mutability” (1989). These albums were recently re-issued on a double LP on the Grönland label. Sadly there’s no Bandcamp presence for the label, BUT, searching for Holger Czukay on Bandcamp did turn up this fine Claremont Editions compilation called “Claremont 56 versions 2009-2017” from which “In Space” here is taken:

“In Space” was released on a Claremont 12″ single in 2011. It’s close in spirit to the music on the two album collaboration with Sylvian, a morphing dream-state ambient soundscape, built upon layers of looped percussion, and punctuated by crystaline guitar melodies, and the random ghostly smudges of sampled sounds.

Czukay died in September 2017 aged 79 in Weilerswist (near Köln) in Germany.  It’s still relatively easy to track down the Can catalogue, but a bit more work is required to track down the solo recordings and collaborations should you wish to explore the music of this avant-garde, ambient, experimental music innovator further.

Earth to ZenaWellington psychedelic shoegaze band Earth To Zena return with an intriguing preview of a new release called “Transmutations” which they say is companion release to their 2018 album (or long EP) “Transmundane”. This new release promises to shift the axis of their debut by revisiting three of the songs in stripped down versions along with three new improvised instrumentals. Here’s their transmutation of “I’ll Never Know”:

The low-key atmospheric wash of “I’ll Never Know” takes them into similar territory to Slowdive’s epic (although misunderstood/ under-appreciated at the time) low-key ambient/ experimental shoegaze 1995 masterpiece “Pygmalion”.

The transmutation of “I’ll Never Know” highlights Renee Cotton’s vocals and also the songwriting and musical skills of the band. The recordings grew out of finding stripped down ways to perform the songs in more intimate settings than suited the full throttle roar of their normal performance: “we aimed to replace shimmering distortion with ethereal ambience, complexity with simplicity, density with space.”

The other pre-order track, the dreamy soundscape “Found”, is also a sublime atmospheric trip into a new world courtesy of what sounds like an elevator trip into the ambient afterlife and beyond.

“Transmundane” has been a regular feature on the car stereo and home stereo since its release and, on the strength of these two  pre-order tracks, the ethereal ambience of “Transmutations” promises to be a regular companion as well.

Dalot Sound AwakenerContinuing the instrumental theme with another atmospheric track, this time from a new album “Little Things” which is a collaboration between Vietnamese sound artist Nhung Nguyen (Sound Awakener) and Greek sound artist Maria Papadomanolaki (Dalot). Here’s “Inside”:

The album combines field recordings from cities and natural surroundings with synths and almost infinite reverb and delays at times to create 10 different and fascinating experimental soundscapes.

“Inside” here rides on a throbbing low frequency, arpeggiated synths bustling among found sounds. That combination of the artificial machine-world with the more organic sounds and textures of nature and human city-scapes is at the heart of “Little Things” and it delivers something exotic and also evocative of alternative realities.

nhung-nguyenHere’s PopLib’s 8th send as a gift tip for the month, featuring “For June (Forever Summer)” from the EP “For June” by Hanoi, Vietnam based sound artist Nhung Nguyen:

“For June (Forever Summer)”, with its glorious combination of field recordings of birdsong mingling with other-worldly hypnotic chiming, is a great way to escape the noise and stress of the world for a moment. Or play it on a loop and let that moment last forever. The whole EP is a perfect survival capsule of ambient soundscapes… as is the entire Bandcamp catalogue from this artist.

Recommended to send as a gift to anyone who needs a break from the madness for a bit. That’s all of us isn’t it?

Peach Milk 2017Day 2 of the 31 Days of May for NZ Music Month 2017 and we head to Auckland and the studio of Peach Milk for “Super-Ambi”

Peach Milk’s “Finally” EP has been one of my most-played NZ releases for the past six months. It’s perfect for a variety of occasions. Late at night (mostly), early morning, sunshine, rain.

As noted back in October 2016 the music on the 5 track EP is superbly tasteful in the sounds and the moods created, the sheen and shimmer of the synth washes, the understated beats, and the icy ambient minimalism leaving space to set the mind free to wander and imagine.

“Super-Ambi” is the last track on the EP and the most recent recording of the set, indicating the future direction of Peach Milk. It’s a future we can’t wait to discover.


Piano Day Nhung Nguyen Sleep Orchestra.jpgToday (29 March) is Piano Day for 2017. The 88th day of the year (88 keys on a piano, of course). There’s days for everything but the piano is as deserving as anything to have its day. And who better to celebrate Piano Day with than PopLib’s favourite ambient piano-loving sound creator Nhung Nguyen, who has collaborated with Sleep Orchestra to create this dark, mysterious and elegant piece “Disparate” –

Sleep Orchestra provides the electronics, and Nhung Nguyen the piano. The electronic sounds mix sombre, snarling ambience with a sense of dread and unease, behind which builds a pulsing, anxious beat. The piano’s ominous chime and alternating chords sound like the warning toll of a navigational buoy sounding in the fog. The soundscape created by this combination of the traditional (piano) and the new (electronic sound) captures perfectly the mood of 2017 so far…

If you haven’t already visited Nhung Nguyen’s Bandcamp there’s a superb back catalogue of EPs to get lost in. Some are built around piano sounds and loops (both Nostalgia and Winter Stories are recommended starting places)  while others mix street sounds with a variety of electronic sounds and treatments (check the dreamy For June EP).

nhung-nguyen“Warmth” is the opening track from a new (released today) EP collection of ambient piano pieces title “Nostalgia” from Hanoi, Vietnam based sound-artist Nhung Nguyen.

This opening track is  the straightest piece on the EP, just a slightly wonky piano recorded in a space full of reverberation.

Nhung Nguyen explains ““Nostalgia” is my an ambient piano EP. All tracks are based on two long piano improvisations, which were recorded in 2015 and 2016. 

“Nostalgia” takes inspiration from my personal memories about childhood and the melancholy coming from thoughts and emotions at the end of the year. Yearning for the lost time of the youth and the warmth from moments are also main themes of the release.”

It certainly evokes the “Nostalgia” of the album title. Don’t know what it is about the sound of a slightly out of tune piano in a big echoing space, but it brings all sorts of memories and feelings back. Some relate to family gatherings, some to out-of-it jams, some to film music, some to the early piano-based ambient soundscapes of Eno.

Most of all, though, this track evokes a spooky kind of nostalgia for the peculiar feeling created by the world of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” assisted by some of the incidental music created by Angelo Badalamenti.

The rest of the album is the piano looped and treated with reverb and delay, getting progressively more abstract with each track, as overlapping loops smudge and blur individual notes into a vast drone which slowly morphs over the course of the track.

The fourth track “Grace” at nearly 8 minutes is another highlight of the EP. The sound here is the most luxurious and distant from the sound of the piano introduced on that opening track “Warmth”.