The best atmosphere on Bandcamp: August 2022


BEST ATMOSPHERE

The best atmosphere on Bandcamp: August 2022

By Ted Davis August 29, 2022

You’d be hard-pressed to find a smaller ambient artist than Brian Eno who’s a household name – the genre is inherently quite niche, saturated with low-key releases from underground communities around the world. But it’s still been a few months since we’ve had a release from a truly great performing artist. This made sorting the records for the column extremely fun as I was pushed to dig even deeper than usual. This month’s roundup features albums from newcomers and unsung heroes. From Precipitation’s sparkling take on soft techno to Tewksbury’s cavernous ode to our rapidly changing climate, here are August’s best instrumental electronic releases.

Precipitation
glass horizon



Thanks to artists like Susumu Yokota, Soichi Terada and Jun Kamoda, Japanese house music has a rich and storied heritage. glass horizon, the first feature film by Tokyo producer Zefan Sramek (aka Precipitation), is one of the best artists on the Tokyo scene. Centered around floaty dance grooves, gorgeous synth tracks and pristine pads, it’s a truly breathtaking record, evoking a pink and orange tinged Balearic sunrise or a drive through a surreal slice of countryside. Inspired and recorded between trips to the beautiful island of Sado, it is shaped by natural sounds that Sramek recorded during his spring and summer trips there. The end result seems as suited to a 75-degree afternoon as it is to the descent after a sleepless night at the club. It’s a real eye-catcher, filled to the brim with heartbreaking melodies and dynamic beats that make it one of the most emotional electronic records of the year so far.

yunzero
butterfly dna



When it rains, it pours. For most of 2022, West Mineral Ltd. kept a fairly low profile. But in recent weeks, the almost boring and cool imprint of Huerco S. has released two records – the first Pontiac Streator Sone Gloand now Yunzero’s butterfly dna. Like Sone Glo, this new one is surprisingly rhythmic and danceable when analyzed in the context of a label whose fame is all about being a home for a weird, weird vibe. But while the album flaunts a classy edge, it’s still pretty wonky. It was recorded in Naarm, Australia, by merging samples of found sounds with other organic instruments. The end result oscillates between deconstructed club and concrete music. With just one track topping the four-minute mark, it’s a succinct, digestible undertaking, united by an unpredictability that keeps things diverse and exciting.

Jessica Ackerley and Patrick Shiroishi
through the water



There doesn’t seem to be a single vibe that Patrick Shiroishi can’t conjure up with his saxophone. Whether he’s joining The Armed onstage or collaborating on a remote sound project with Claire Rousay, the Los Angeles musician always remains prolific and defies expectations. One of his latest releases (by the time this column is published, chances are he’s released, like, three more records), through the water, is a split with Honolulu, Hawaii-based guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Jessica Ackerley. Although it came to life in two famously sunny locations, the record often plays like a dreamy version of a 90s Chicago band like The Sea And Cake or Tortoise. Through these sprawling cuts – all of which revolve around the 10-minute mark – the duo create shimmering and calm atmospheres. He finds the two avant-garde musicians settling into an unusually restrained, yet alluring style.

ice blink
Cocoon rug



Minneapolis, Minnesota musician Lynn Avery’s side project might be called Iceblink, but don’t get it twisted: the music from her new album Cocoon rug is warmer than this winter moniker suggests. Combining organic tones with nostalgic melodies, the record sonically resembles the work of mid-century Brazilian artists like Luiz Bonfá and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Drawing from his love of mixtapes, weird ephemera, and searching the internet for crate, the record is heartwarming and familiar. With Cole Pulice’s saxophone; flute and sax-flute by Mitch Stahlmann; and the whistles of Paya Bird, it’s a moving and poetic exploration of the more earthy and free side of New Age music.

sea ​​eyes
chamomile



In many places it is a brutally hot summer. As temperatures climb to dangerously high levels, it can be tempting to turn to darker ambient textures to simulate shade and coolness. Chamomile— the new album from Los Angeles producer Cynthia Bernard, aka marine eyes — is the rare, sunny electronic record that absolutely hits the spot on a steamy afternoon. Focused on the usual ambient instrumental fare (like field recordings and a Teenage Engineering OP-1), she also incorporated bass and guitar into her songwriting process. The completed project mixes bloated synthscapes with more traditional vocal and string flourishes reminiscent of Liz Harris/Grouper, if her work wasn’t so deeply affected by the foggy gloom of the Oregon coast. Expansive and emotional, these 10 pieces of gauze are just waiting to mark a lonely picnic in a patch of fantasy meadow.

Tewksbury
raw



If you’re anything like me, the more ambient music you listen to, the less you lean towards the long drones the genre is often remembered for – if I’m going to listen to a 20-minute track that’s all synths and tape loops, it better be pretty particularly good. And the new record of upstate New York professor and researcher Douglas Tewksbury raw is just that. Consisting of just two expansive tracks, these loops were recorded onto gargantuan 60-foot reels of analog tape, then played through eight guitar amps at once. It’s about 40 minutes in total, and while it all might sound a little pretentious on paper, this version is actually extremely listenable. Both works were inspired by a quest for hidden beauty amid the destruction of our natural world, which Tewksbury encountered firsthand during his college trips to places like Norway, Newfoundland and Alaska. These tracks are both painful, devastating and dynamic. In general, raw recalls that of William Basinski Decay loopsif these nine timeless compositions were marked by downtrodden optimism instead of outright tragedy.

Arthur King
Changing Landscapes (Mina Las Pintadas)



To call the Los Angeles AKP Recordings imprint an ambient label would be doing it a disservice. Founded in 2020 by multidisciplinary artist Peter Walker, the Dangerbird Records subsidiary has certainly dropped celestial works, from musicians like Space Between Clouds, Suzanne Ciani and Alister Fawnwoda. But they’ve also released a number of decidedly unmellow records from artists such as A Grape Dope (Tortoise’s John McEntire), East Portal and DunkelpeK. AKP’s latest is by seasoned creator Arthur King, and it seems to sit right in the middle of the label’s release spectrum. Changing Landscapes (Mina Las Pintadas) finds him using a Chilean copper mine to generate stimulating soundscapes. Pulsating, dynamic and at times a little uncomfortable, there is an intensity to the six tracks on this disc that clearly reflects the rocky subterranean landscape that has shaped its arrangements. Mina Las Pintadas is the fourth episode of King’s Adventurous Changing landscapes series, and while it’s really pretty, it ultimately remains organic and familiar. If DARKSIDE played with an avant-garde symphony orchestra, it might sound something like this.

rich ruth
I survived, it’s over



Cosmic Americana is one of the most exciting trends to emerge in the last few years, but at some point you start to know what you’re going to get. There are only so many ways to put a fresh spin on slide guitars, synthesizer flourishes and Townes Van Zandt grit. I survived, it’s over, the new album from Nashville composer and former Kansas Bible Company member Rich Ruth, pushes the boundaries of the genre’s formula. Incorporating saxophones, flute and a few other non-traditional instruments into the arrangements, he skillfully blends a host of seemingly disparate moods. Touching on jazz, electronic music and, of course, voiceless country, it plays like a lost experimental album from the Woodstock generation. I survived, it’s over was mixed by Tortoise drummer John McEntire, and his guidance behind the board makes him feel a bit like a dustier companion for Roped upthe stellar 2020 album from label mate Third Man North Americans.

Omni Gardens
New Directions in Meditation Tones



Omni Gardens is a project by Steve Rosborough, emblematic figure of the ambient community who owns the Moon Glyph label. Since 2012, the Portland, Oregon artist has released a number of captivating releases, going so far as to land a coveted collaboration with the eclectic and beloved service Longform Editions. His new album, New Directions in Meditation Tones, was recorded with Zen monk Jogen Salzberg, who provides oral contributions to Rosborough’s soothing auditory moods. It’s sweet, psychedelic and sometimes a bit cartoonish. These two 20-minute tracks showcase Rosborough’s talent for warm, esoteric electronic music at its finest.

Shiken Hanzo
The eternity of echoes



On his new album for Anthony Naples’ Incienso label, Shiken Hanzo tests the limits of aerial electronics. With beats approaching Tzu’s intensity levels, these four tracks stray from the British producer’s usual drum and bass sound, producing a gripping hellish sound in the lap. Through the eternity of echoes, the dubbed noise floats over kicks and bass lines that feel fit for a hyped, yet nerve-wracking club night. While this one definitely exists on the fringes of ambient, it offers a taste of the rawer side of what emerges from the scene.

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