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ACL 2024 ~ Winter Music Preview: Ambient

Написано на 01.01.2024

A new year, a fresh start, a clean slate: as we turn the page of the new year, we look forward to what it has to offer.  We hope it will bring health and happiness, prosperity and peace; but we know it will bring new music.  We’ve already heard hundreds of albums set for winter release, and now we’re pleased to be able to preview many of them for you!

When the leaves are off the trees, one is able to see farther and clearer.  A certain clarity emerges.  The winter release slate looks a lot different from that of fall: full, yet pared down, like the January landscape. The field is crisp and concise, rather than blurry and overcrowded.  The splashes of color stand out against the white.  We hope you enjoy our week-long Winter Music Preview, starting with the ambient slate!

Hands down, the release of the season is also its most massive.  Time Released Sound: A Decade of Handmade Music Packaging is a celebration of the label, available in regular (but still special!) and deluxe editions.  The book bundle includes a two-disc collection of new music from TRS artists, including Olga Wojciechowska, Francesco Giannico and our very own Dalot.  As packaging of any kind grows increasingly rare, this release is a reminder of the value of the tactile.  The music was made available in December, but the full release will arrive early this year.

Another split-year release is Meg Mulhearn‘s Let It Burn Through the Night, the seventh album from Ceremony of Seasons.  The twist this time: the 2021 Nebbiolo wine, Unravel the Mystery, was uncorked on the winter solstice, while the album will follow on February 2.  This is a particularly expressive release, with immediate ambience chased by strong undercurrents of drone, modern composition and experimentalism.  As always, we’re looking forward to the dual experience of drinking and reviewing, waiting for the perfect combination of winter light and snow.


Our cover image comes from Manu Delano‘s Snow From Yesterday, a more vocal album than we usually feature.  The handpan maestro collaborates with Mad About Lemon to produce a concept album about snow in both physical and metaphorical senses.  The music is full and rich, the timbres soft and deep (One Little Independent, February 2).  Another winter-themed release this season is Arin Akberg‘s Nordic Patterns, which uses piano and stripped-down ambience to paint a sonic landscape of northern climes, especially the artist’s native Finnmark (Projekt, January 19).  The cover image of zakè‘s Lapis, pictured above, will remind many of winter, while the expansive music is a perfect match for the Quiet Details imprint.  The composer is purposefully patient, inspired by words from Ram Dass: “The quieter you become, the more you will hear” (January 17).  David Cordero‘s Restless Nature is similarly wintry, a minimalist synth excursion, its reverberations amplified like the the echoes of winter woods (Whitelabrecs, January 20).

As is often the case, releases from Room40 will be listed in different categories this season.  One of the loveliest is Panghalina‘s Lava, which we recommend to fans of Hollie Kenniff.  The all-female trio makes a beautiful sound that references the album’s title but is warm rather than scalding, and inviting to the ears (February 2).  Celer lands on the label with a pair of reissues: the sedate Cursory Asperses, which embeds watery field recordings in a web of synth (or the other way around), and Gems I, an “ice cold,” single track release (March 1 and January 12).  Prolific artist øjeRum continues in the vein of Your Soft Absence with Softer Than Before, offering sine waves, wind instruments and a sense of drift (February 2).  David Shea‘s The Ship shimmers and swoons, reflecting its genesis as the soundtrack to a VR game (March 2, pictured above).  More releases will follow in our Drone and Experimental previews, or you can find them now by following the link above.


When releases cross genres, it’s always helpful to have a little hint in the title, so Nick Schofield‘s Ambient Ensemble lands here.  Piano is the main instrument, surrounded by a support cast of synth, clarinet, double bass and violin, producing a relaxing sheen (Backward Music, February 9).  Field recordings decorate Kernow, a synth-based set from David Penrick.  The Penwith Peninsula is brought to life as instrumental serenades smooth the changing of the seasons (January 12).  Billow Observatory is offering the Soliton EP separately, as well as together with 2022’s Calque EP on vinyl.  The two pair well together, so we recommend the latter.  The new EP is peacefully exploratory, like visiting a new town with plenty of time on one’s hands (felte, January 19).  Linnea Hjertén follows in the vein of Lisa Gerrard and Cruel Diagonals with Nio systrar (Nine sisters), a ritualistic set of Swedish folk melodies and wordless vocals.  The album reflects spiritual cycles of life and death, making it a perfect spin at the turning of the year (Nordvis, January 12). In a related manner, Allison Burik calls upon ancient traditions, as Realm is inspired by folk tale and Nordic myth, showcasing alto saxophone, clarinet, flute and sacred voice (February 2).


Normally when storm systems meet, people run for cover, in later years speaking only of the devastation they did or didn’t cause.  MINING is different.  Using data from Hurricane Ophelia (also known as Hurricane Brian in the U.K.), they transposed readings from Chimet into notes, charting the vagaries of the system.  The album art follows the same path, with each individual copy containing a unique time-stamped sleeve (Leaf, February 23).  James Island and Andrew Heath‘s Elysian Fields is described as both fog-like and cloud-like, and there’s rain in the early track, cementing the association.  This is the latest release to receive the generous Fluid Audio treatment, which includes vintage bookbinding, a 35mm slide, photo, celluloid negative and so much more (January 12)!


Dean McPhee offers space-themed guitar ambience on Astral Gold, a cosmic journey that spins slowly past Neptune, weightless and serene.   (Bass Ritual, February 16).  Moolakii Club Audio Interface will soon unveil Bird of Passage, from Cabbaggage.  The album shifts effortlessly from ambient to drone, with pit stops in film noir and a few dialogue samples for atmosphere.  A remix and solo keyboard versions are also included (January).  Nicol Eltzroth Rosendorf‘s 2023 album Internal Return is now being released as a remix disc, with stellar reinterpretations coming from Siavash Amini, Rafael Anton Irisarri and more.  Check out the original glacial-tinted vinyl above, a perfect match for the season (January 4).

Yes, there are dancers in the video above, although finding and identifying them is often akin to Magic Eye.  nubo‘s music is also a synthesis, smoothly integrating ambience with electronic elements.  Planetary Vision is out March 1 on Western Vinyl.  Sedibus, an Alex Paterson project, returns with Seti, which integrates classic broadcasting samples into a web of electronic textures.  The spirit of The Orb is alive and well, although we also recommend the set to fans of Public Service Broadcasting (Cooking Vinyl, January 22).  Wil Bolton shifts gears a bit on Null Point, moving further into the electronic realm than ever before, while retaining a coat of ambience.  “A vintage 7″ record of heart sounds” lies at its base, a human element at the center of the machine (The Slow Music Movement Label, February 8).


Scorpion Deathlock is perhaps not the best name for an ambient electronic album, although it does fit the name of the artist, The Golden Age of Wrestling.  The album dances between genres, or perhaps bobs and weaves; it’s incredibly hard to pin down (INTRASET, January 19).  We love the label description of IKSRE (I Keep Seeing Rainbows Everywhere) as “positive and elevating.”  The artist, also known as Phoebe Dubar, flirts with club sensibilities while keeping the mood calm and chill.  Abundance is out February 2 on Constellation Tatsu.  Also included in the label’s Winter Batch is Wenge, a jazz-tinged experience featuring a wide array of instrumentation.  Randal Fisher & Dexter Story‘s expressive set is inspired by the score to the PBS Series 10 Days in Watts.  For those who are wondering, wenge is the wood from which the instruments are made (February 2, pictured above).  Also in the field of ambient jazz, we find the more sedate Små Vågor 6, a piano-led journey by Henrik von Euler, released on Sweden’s Flora & Fauna label (January 25).

We began this section of our preview with one major compilation and end with two more.  Hylé Tapes’ Connection: sculpting silence gathers ambient composers from around the world for a 27-track set with a dual concentration: the connections between notes and the connections between us all.  There’s a great deal of variety in the pieces, which include contributions from Frederic D. Oberland and Igor Yalivec (January 12).  And Whitelabrecs will release sleeplaboratory4.0 on January 20, the latest in a series that seeks to induce sleep, or at the very least, calm.  This year’s edition includes Wil Bolton, Glacis, The Inventors of Aircraft and more.

Richard Allen

A new year brings hope for health, happiness, and prosperity, along with multiple new winter music releases.

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