DISPLACER: The Face You Deserve CD/DL Hymen Records
This is the final release of the year for prolific Canadian Michael Morton; who is on a seemingly unstoppable roll right now, in the productivity stakes.
Opening up with ‘Out of Time’, a steady bass line gels the gently applied and folded beats as cold and distant pads ease their way through the cracks; setting the scene for the general approach to this latest opus.
As usual though, Morton has the knack of surprising the listener once they have bedded in for the ride; throwing the odd curveball of electronics that wade in to kick over the bins and push items off shelves, as opposed to just tearing the place up. A gentle riot if you will, that is none more evident than on ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’ (Mike is actually a really nice guy).
The title track plays with Displacer’s trademark looping elastic band, panning electronic leads and stuttering rhythm; that sets the scene well for the beat-free analogue synth extravaganza that is ‘He Becomes the Dream’.
‘The Face You Deserve’ has a lot to live up to, given the impressive and expansive back catalogue Morton has given to the world over the years. Once again, he has delivered an album that stands tall in his discography that touches on the past; and indeed adds some extra footnotes for the future, as a bridge for the endless possibilities to come.
GREGG KOWALSKY: L’Orange, L’Orange LP/CD/MC Mexican Summer
‘What does the sun sound like?’ asks the press release. It’s a mystery that never crossed my mind and most likely one we will ever truly find out, if it’s worth asking at all. No matter, as Kowalsky obliterates any questions that may be directed at himself, with an impressive conceptual 7-tracker that took me completely by surprise.
Warm summer enriched ambient is the order of the day here, with multi-layered pads that compliment each other as a fusion of pitch that sit on a bed of oven baked bass lines. Lush, high-end pitter-patters are allowed to flow across a sea of ranging drones, never losing sight of essential melody.
‘L’Orange, L’Orange’ is a dreamy album; and one of those releases, which you really have to make some space and time for. The rewards for the listener are endless here, once you allow yourself to be completely immersed in its tangerine, seamless folds. It also gains kudos for an ability to have kept me transfixed from beginning to end; and I very nearly just hit ‘play’ once again, as the final notes reverberated out.
CUT WORMS: Cable Mounds CD/DL Opa Loka Records
This is Richard Van Kruysdijk’s second full-length under this moniker, once again manipulating a variety of electronic sources and effects to produce a prime slab of ambient, that surprisingly doesn’t tailgate around the bleaker end as I expected.
As far as Dark Ambient goes, Richard has this pretty much nailed on tracks such as ‘Witch Brogues’. The low-ends drag in an alternate direction to the soaring highs; and the space between is utilised as a playground for other effects.
A variable palate is evident on ‘Cable Mounds’, where sounds cater for lovers of Drone and experimentalism and indeed, fans of analogue synth. This variation does surprisingly leave the release disjointed in parts; and it’s the direction that suffers somewhat as a result.
Overall though, there is a lot on this latest piece of work to smile about if you separate the tracks into sections; and the sum of its parts more than outweigh the structure as a whole.
ZE-KA: Ghost Planet CD/DL Opa Loka Records
French composer Jean-Phillipe Feiss has a background in classical music that isn’t all that evident on this project, which for the most part loiters with experimental noises until the cellos make an appearance on ‘Red Forest’.
‘Ghost Planet’ is an obscure affair, where the tracks themselves sound like midsections of background scores to a movie; that never actually evolve into full songs (apart from ‘Landscapes’ and ‘Oceans’). As such, this just adds to the peculiarity of the album as a whole.
This is not to say that this work is bad; it isn’t, not by any means. Track by track (barring the opening pointless high pitched number, ‘Fission’) there is much to become involved in if you like obscure and disjointed moments of desolate space. In those aspects alone, Ze-Ka has been successful.
LARVAE: Ghost Dubs EP DL Crime League
It’s been five long years since we heard anything out of the Larvae camp; and this is the first release for Canadian label Crime League, after the majority of their musical output came via the now missing in action label, Ad Noiseam.
‘Ghost Dubs’ is an aptly named moniker for the five tracks on display. Apparitions of ambience float and glide through a thin veil, as oozing bass lines are the glue for slow, stilted beats and chirping electronics to gloomily trundle along a moody path.
Paying homage to much of the output covered by cult Japanese ghost movies from the 50’s and 60’s; Larvae have got their concept firmly nailed down to a tee. Background whispers, creaks and groans permeate the entirety of this EP, enveloping the listeners’ consciousness with relative ease.
This is a decent re-entry back into producing music and sets the stage for any possible future full-length. I would have appreciated just a touch more horror, given the subject matter involved; but there is little on here to grumble about overall.
KEDR LIVANSKIY: Ariadna LP/CD/MC 2MR
Moscow based Kedr Livanskiy (real name Yana Kedrina) surprised me somewhat with this release. With imagery conveying something more in a classical vein, this is actually a synth based album that utilises the very basics when it comes to 80’s pop beats and programming; and tops it off with Kedrina’s reverberated vocals, that for the most part appear to be sung in her native tongue.
‘Ariadna’ is an odd affair that captures a desolate empty backdrop to cold abandoned buildings; and it’s anyone’s guess if this is intentional or not. I will give some kudos for not being able to nail down exactly whom or what this reminds me of compositionally, even if this isn’t the most challenging of works, from a musical standpoint.
For all its simplicity, there is something about Yana’s latest output that is endearing none the less; and if anything, it’s nice to listen to something once in a while that’s not over complicating matters and just gets on with the job at hand.
ORCHARD: Serendipity LP/CD Ici d’Ailleurs/Mind Travels
A collective of artists brought together by the label, of which; Aiden Baker is the only name I recognise. This did help somewhat when listening to the album, as I immediately could latch onto some of his input as a foundation.
When ‘Serendipity’ shines, it invariably is a result of the ambient tracks on offer; and these are more up my street musically speaking. However, a lot of the project revolves around a varied stream of musical apparatus; and freeform Jazz-esque improvisation and random fannying about will always bring about a pit of inconsolable rage, with me having to endure it in any shape or form.
It would be unfair to completely pull this apart though, as there are some genuine moments of musicality on here, that stand out regardless of musical taste. As stated before, when they catch an ambient wave, they really nail it. It’s just a pity the effort it took to listen to so much I dislike, to find such small moments of personal pleasure.