In hindsight, this year started off like a fairly normal one for Detroit musician Steve Swartz, former guitarist of the dream/gaze band Au Revoir Borealis who’s been creating ambient soundscapes as Swartz Et for the past decade. I had the good fortune of chatting with him recently, and discussed many of the projects he’s been working on as well as the general state of 2020 and beyond.
His latest release from this past June, Light Leaks, seeks to bring awareness to the pain of seeing loved ones with mental illness by using found sounds and human utterances along with electronics to build wave upon wave of audio emotion.
Today is another Bandcamp Friday – and here’s a rundown of the music I’m tracking and looking to pick up today. Check them out if you can! (This is not an exhaustive list, just what I was able to put together this morning)
Fly Pan Am
Montreal post-rock legends return for an extending single, “Mirror Cracks Seeking Interiority“, on their home label Constellation. As part of “Corona Borealis“, Constellation’s first-ever digital series, the label will be releasing “16 artists with new longplaying singles and accompanying experimental film/video, commissioned as part of our pandemic/post-capitalist response for label-affiliated musicians under current conditions.”
FPA saw their 2020 UK/EU tour (their first in 15 years) cancelled, and have been trading music files and ideas during the lockdown. This is the 6th single in the series.
Without realizing it, this mix is devoid of vocals. Just instrumentals. It’s most likely a reaction to my anxiety around the upcoming election here in the states and the general state of the corona virus, but really I just want to zone out for a bit.
Pulled from the latest offering from A Year In The Country – a compilation entitled The Layering – Pulselovers invites us into the world of “Brodsworth” (0:00), an English coal mining town that has returned formerly derelict industrial land into beautiful natural landscapes contoured by the wastelands that lie beneath.
The compilation “is a reflection on how these, and other varied strata, are layered on top of one another, and/or sit side-by-side, with some being recorded, while others are forgotten or unknown, becoming part of a hidden or semi-hidden history.”
As the world continues to get stranger by the day, let me offer some refuge with a slate of psych, ambient, dream pop and electronic music.
Starting us off is “Penrose At The Edge Of A Hill” (0:00), from an electronic and ambient collaboration between Buffalo’s Survey Channel, and Edmondton’s Cpektir. They traded tracks and ideas over the summer, and produced Myriagon Atlas – “a mental map of the imaginative thought process”.
It’s hard to believe that buying a split seven-inch in the summer of 1995 would lead me to meet bands and musicians that I’d still be following to this day. Such is the case with Sean Byrne, who first showed up in my record collection while in the band Lenolaback in the mid-90s. He’s been creating music under a number of guises and projects since then – appearances with Mazarin, Azusa Plane, Matt Pond PA; as well as his own brands The Twin Atlas (with Lucas Zaleski) and Lazy Salon.
Earlier this year, he released an album of a project, called Camino Sound, that he has been working on with a local musician along with a longtime friend from college. This “band” got me excited again about the prospects of neighborhood garage bands and how there are always opportunities to connect with fellow musicians to make something awesome.
A refreshing sound emanates from the notes of Western Excuses, filled with myriad styles swirling together and played in a band environment. There are no genre boundaries here – the songs span multiple styles, even within the same song. The members of the ensemble – Sean Byrne on drums, Van Kapeghian on guitar and Keith Allen on bass – represent many years of playing in and out of scenes, listening to and absorbing a variety of influences along the way.
I’m covering a lot of musical territory on this one – from psych to ambient to a Stereolab cover in Spanish. This episode will trend towards the dreamy around the middle, so get cozy… but don’t worry, the Epic45 track will bring you back to reality.
Starting off is Astrel K, the solo project of Rhys Edwards of Ulrika Spacek recently released on the Duophonic label. “Gnistrande Snö” harkens back to some of the more slack moments of Steven Malkmus, or even middle-era Velvet Underground, forming the perfect backdrop for late summer here in Michigan.
As this crazy summer continues rolling on, I’ve been immersing myself in all the current music floating around – which has skewed heavily towards the ambient and electronic direction lately. The AirPods will have to be surgically removed from my ears.
Holy Wave gets us started with the opener off of their latest Interloper. “Schlettering” displays a more avant-pop vibe than their previous guitar-based works from a few years back, but the sound has been growing on me.
A shared love of vintage synths and German music from the 70s has inspired a collaboration between Travis Thatcher (Voice of Saturn) and Dave Gibson (Heron & Crane), known as Personal Bandana. After releasing their debut in 2018, they are working towards the release of their second full-length, This Time It’s… in the Fall of 2020, featuring the included track “Chloroplasts”.
Following along the vintage synth path, the aquatic sound of Polyporeslatest album Azureshould help cool things off this summer. “Coral Palaces” serves as your soundtrack for an extended virtual deep-sea diving session.
Moving from underwater scenes to the industrial age, Gilroy Mere gives us “The Age Of Trains” from the recent Adlestropalbum – an aural homage to rural English train stations slated for closure in the 1963 Beeching Report. Quite a fascinating audio adventure.
Jim Musgrave, aka Land Equivalents, continues his exploration of eclectic electronica on “Our Friend And Colleague” from his latest Industrial Accounting EP – blending analog synth sounds with rhythmic fragments that constantly evolve and morph over the course of its duration.
Forest Robots is the work of musician Fran Dominguez, this time around focusing on minimal compositions with his upcoming release After Geography. The track featured here “Of Birds Migrating In The Distance” provides a glimpse into a meditative soundscape while providing an unsettling undercurrent that is hard to get away from these days.
On a slightly lighter note, Japanese multi-instrumentalist Nao Kakimoto – known as [.que] – offers a glistening guitar-based piece, “Film”, from his latest And Inside from the Sound In Silence label. The songs span styles from “gorgeous twinkly folktronica, joyful dream-pop” to “nostalgic melodies, dark atmospheres and complex rhythms” – it’s quite a sonic journey to behold.
For the final track, we are roused by the glitchy beats of Spectrals – “a virtual band created in lockdown times”, made up of Matthew Shaw and John Robb. On “Zip Zam Zoom”, The Happy Monday’s Shaun Ryder recounts a tale of a visitation by a UFO on the streets of Salford, England many years ago.
As always thanks for listening, and sign up for the email newsletter to get monthly updates on these and other bands featured in the podcasts.
A ton of new music is rolling through the doors of Sonixcursions HQ – and I’ve been absorbing it over the long (and hot) weekend here in the states. Most of it has been in the ambient and analog electronic vein, which seems to stretch time out even further when you’re lying in the sun.
To mark this strange season – where it’s really nice outside, yet the ominous cloud of a global pandemic and a toxic political environment make it difficult to fully enjoy – I’ve started a series of mixes on Mixcloud to offer a soundtrack to the “festivities” (more about that below).
Take a virtual deep-sea diving session with Polypores, on Mr. Stephen James Buckley’s latest release Azure. The music here veers toward the aquatic – gentle arpeggios float along the currents, waves and washes follow the tides, echoes from undersea worlds beckon to be explored.
Constant rain during the recording sessions may have played a role in creating this bathysphere: “I was also able to immerse myself in various books, films, and documentaries related to the ocean, particularly the mythology and lore surrounding it”, say Mr. Buckley. It’s well worth the submersion.
I’m not here to tell you how messed up the world is right now on many fronts. It’s a difficult time in history to find any rays of light, but hopefully I can offer some solace from the real world if only for a short time. Put on your headphones, take a walk and let your mind float with the music.
Air Formation “You Have To Go Somewhere” – from 2007’s Daylight Storms