Grouper – A I A [2011]

Posted in ambient,dream pop,psychedelic folk by deek on April 25, 2011


Liz Harris’ music as Grouper has always existed for me in the moment between consciousness and slumber, when the day’s thoughts stray and splinter into non-sequiturs, when memory atrophies into instantaneous forgetfulness. Not to be confused with sleepiness nor a codeine-induced haze, this state is one of cognizance, though on the precipice of unconsciousness. Often in Grouper’s music, this unawareness manifests itself as déjà entendue, whether that be the ‘gymnopédist’ opening of “Disengaged” or further flung moments of partial recollection. While Liz’s music is gorgeous on a purely aesthetic level, this false, indelible immediacy is, for me, the ensnaring characteristic of Grouper. Unsurprisingly, this ephemeral comfort is once again present in A I A, Grouper’s much-anticipated, two-part follow-up to her breakthrough album Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill. For many, the appeal of that formative release was its ability to synthesize Liz’s prior penchant for fluid structure and dronescapes with the focus of a singer-songwriter superstructure. But let’s just get this out of the way: a Dragging clone A I A is not. Instead, on Alien Observer and Dream Loss, Grouper once again resides in the ethereal gauze of Wide et al., with only the track “Alien Observer” recalling the singer-songwriter idiom frequented on Dragging. While split into two LPs that can be appreciated independently of each other, Alien Observer and Dream Loss work best when played sequentially, especially since the two are thematically similar. On each, that aforementioned cognitive tampering is the most pronounced of Grouper’s discography. Liz’s remembrance ranges from the fleeting familiarity of her flowing vocal and disintegrating tape loops on the opener “Moon is Sharp” to far more concrete anamnesis. This clear reminiscence goes as far as (pseudo) quotation, of others and herself. Just as Dragging’s “Disengaged” is founded on a slight perturbation of Satie’s hollowed melody, “(first heart tone)” commences with what resembles the opening notes of what seems to be a Messiaen piece, only to disperse into newborn lines. Of even more vivid familiarity is “No Other,” which is seemingly identical to Grouper’s 2007 single “Tried.” Although it may seem distasteful for such distant reuse, “No Other” is contextually appropriate in both sound and theme. Adaptation and sampling aren’t uncommon for tape manipulators and pedal pressers, but Grouper’s aesthetics transcend the rhetorical device of shallow recollection often found in music of her ilk. Not only does she induce recognition, but Grouper melds memory and sound to the point at which memory is codified through her sounds. Akin to Schnittke’s ‘polystylism’ — the juxtaposition of past styles against modernity — Harris employs her sources and references as a catalyst for a listener’s cognitive editing, splicing their memories with Grouper’s and injecting herself into their consciousness. And yet, when I detach myself from A I A, I’m left feeling uneasy over the legitimacy of what I’ve found, whether ‘identified’ elements are truly present. The quotations and allusions I was so sure I heard now seem tenuous, not even placeable. Perhaps it’s in these mistaken identities where we can find the essence of A I A. Alien Observer and Dream Loss permit and accentuate their listener’s past, fusing with and wrapping around his/her subjective history. For each person, the resulting resonance is unique, so I do not feel comfortable asserting much about this process for another. But for myself, this sound/synapse transposition is as haunting as it is beautiful — surely Grouper’s best. -tinymixtapes

Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal [2010]

Posted in ambient,electronic,minimal synth by deek on December 14, 2010

Hailing from Brooklyn (though he records in Massachussetts), Oneohtrix Point Never seems to be ignoring all the wonderful hipsters and angsty song writers that heavily populate the community. Maybe he bought a bunch of synths from an indie band, but no one would have predicted he would play them all at once at live shows. He has said that after growing up listening to Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Birds of Fire he wanted his music to sound just like those synths, but without all the other pesky instruments. Having released a Santa’s sack-worth of very limited releases (all of which sold out quickly), Lopatin’s fourth full-length is a more complete feeling record, snugly composed from start to finish, exhibiting a freedom of space not often heard in strictly electronic drift artists. The music is certainly comparable to the adventurism of Burning Star Core, but without the music’s occasional attempts at killing the audience. The oddity of sounds, including Lopatin’s affected vocals on the title track (a nod to Fever Ray?), are certainly compelling, seemingly self-aware, moving, and living on their own terms. This, to me, is a great success. When music that is purely electronic feels alive, it is truly worthwhile. Retunal’s hypnotic ouroboros is just that. -The Silent Ballet

Hammock – Longest Year (EP) [2010]

Posted in ambient,post-rock,shoegaze by deek on December 11, 2010

Musically, Hammock is a band that trades in the slightest of nuances. To the impatient, this equates to each of their releases — there are nine total since 2004 — sounding roughly the same: Slow, dense, shadowy and possibly outright boring. Frankly, this music isn’t even meant for most modern, iPod-toting listeners (though, undoubtedly, they could be converted). Rather, as best heard on their most recent LP, Chasing After Shadows… Living With the Ghosts, Hammock (as the name infers) is a band worth taking in as a whole. Their work is experiential, crafted to soundtrack more than mere moments, but entire afternoons spent lost in thought or quaint appreciation for some surrounding beauty. Moreover, its impressionistic enough for you to find your own meaning within — album and song titles are the only words invoked to dictate feeling — but, it can’t be ignored that this music reflects its creators’ sober optimism about the world around them. More specifically, Longest Year sits in between Chasing… and its predecessor, Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow, a minimalistic “live studio performance” album composed specifically for the overseas debut exhibition of Riceboy Sleeps, the art collaboration of Sigur Rós’ Jónsi Birgisson and Parachutes’ Alex Somers. Like Maybe…, Longest Year is beat-less, its rhythms largely conjured from Slocum’s string performances, though rhythm is a relative concept when discussing ambient music, of course. And, like Chasing…, the EP continues Hammock’s interest in creating moments of swollen immensity that reach massive heights without bowing to the now-tired “Explosions formula”: Loud-quiet-loud-quiet-louder. -Consequence of Sound

Brian Eno – Small Craft on a Milk Sea [2010]

Posted in ambient,electronic by deek on October 27, 2010

Music can make life a cinematic experience. I’m writing this from a train ride to New York City, and Brian Eno’s new album Small Craft On A Milk Sea is shaping my view of the scenery as I whiz by. The opening track is gentle and the morning light dances off the fall leaves. But when the intensity of “Forms Of Anger” kicks in, other parts of the landscape pop out — patterns of fencing, graffiti on concrete, shifting heights of foliage. Eno makes two styles of music: songs that showcase vocals and personality and instrumental soundscapes. Small Craft On A Milk Sea, as the name implies, is the latter. And with or without the changing light of a train ride, these tunes alter my perception of the world around me, even with my eyes closed. The album came out of improvisations with two young electronic musicians. The first, Leo Abrahams, met Eno in a guitar shop. Abrahams was trying out a guitar and, as he put it, Eno “was happy I wasn’t playing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ with the amp turned up to 11. (So) he invited me to play on his album.” For the past seven years they’ve worked with such artists as Paul Simon and Grace Jones. Jon Hopkins, who plays piano and electronics, is the other standout collaborator. He and Eno worked on the last Coldplay album together, and the two performed with Abrahams at the Luminous Festival in Sydney, which Eno curated. Unlike many of Eno’s ambient albums, this one has varying moods — sometimes it lulls quietly, other times it’s fierce. -npr

Baths- Cerulean [2010]

Posted in ambient,electronic,glitch hop by umwut on August 25, 2010

Souvenir’s Young America – The Name of the Snake [2010]

Posted in ambient,instrumental,metal by lowbrass on May 28, 2010




Souvenir’s Young America is a three piece instrumental band from Richmond VA. They create sounds that could be called electronic, metal, prog, country, and ambient all at once, making something very different and new.

(link in comments)

Jónsi – Go [2010]

Posted in ambient,ambient pop,art pop,dream pop,electronica,orchestral by deek on March 10, 2010

Eluvium – Similes [2010]

Posted in ambient,modern classical by deek on February 25, 2010


Eluvium is ambient recording artist Matthew Robert Cooper who currently resides in Portland, Oregon. Cooper, who was born in Tennessee and raised in Louisville, Kentucky before relocating to the Northwest, is known for blending various genres of experimental music including shoegaze, electronic, minimalist and piano.

Eluvium is recording artist Matthew Robert Cooper who currently resides in Portland, Oregon. Cooper, who was born in Tennessee and raised in Louisville, Kentucky before relocating to the Northwest, is known for blending various genres of experimental music including shoegaze, electronic, minimalist and piano.

Jónsi Birgisson & Alex Somers – Riceboy Sleeps [2009]

Posted in ambient by deek on July 17, 2009
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