Music: Faten Kanaan – A Mythology of Circles (Fire Records, 2021)

Brooklyn based composer and musical artist Faten Kanaan released her first record for Fire Records back in November last year. Born in Germany with Jordanian roots Kanaan explores cyclical patterns in her music, using harmony and counterpoint as narrative tools.

Back in November last year, Faten Kanaan released a new record „A Mythology of Circles“. Inspired by the Greek mythology Kanaan created a massive synthesizer driven record with bright dream sequences. The new album fits perfectly in her discography and doesn‘t leave the roots of her former works. The new one forms mythological/folkloric story structures from sweeping landscapes and quiet romances to patterned tensions. These combined elements leads to an perfect symbiosis about technology and human feelings.

„A Mythology of Circles“ starts with „Patagonia Motel 1: Largo“ an hypnotic prayerfully and mystic intro track. These melody floods into „The Archer“. It starts slow until an elegant synthesizer kicks in. It keeps a glorious 80s vibe combined with a mystic flair. It will follows by „Hesperides“ a pure melody and variations of it. It shines with repeating effects without being boring. Simplicity at it‘s best. „Birds of Myrrh“ symbolized the music of birds surrounded by mystic sounds. With „Night tide/Anteros“ the album picks up some drone elements and combined it with synthesizer surfaces. It sounds like a night sequence and a movie soundtrack from the 80s. It floods perfectly into „Sleepwalker“. This one works more like a bridge track and acts more like a short sequence. „Mist and Madrigal“ follows these roots and switches between foreground and background. It comes back after a while of fading. Next up is „Reve – Riviere“ a beautifully arranged track and „Erewhon“ with it‘s east european touch and charming melody. With „Patagonia Motel 2: Anders“ the melody of part one will be continued and leads into one of the album highlights „The North Wind“. It sounds like a breath. Drones kicks in slowly and open a massive sound area. Without any doubt one of the best in this collection. „The Heron“ and „Ishtar Terra“ closes the album.

„A Mythology of Circles“ is a great record and one of the best in 2021, altough it released back in 2020. It reminds me of artists like Caterina Barbieri, Kelly Moran or Oneohtrix Point Never. If you like one of these you will be in love with Faten Kanaan. I‘m excited to hear more from Faten Kanaan in the near future!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Music: Simon Goff – Vale (7K!, 2021)

The british violist and composer released his stunning debut. „Vale“ is a truly statement in both aware and intent. Goff isn‘t a complete newcomer, so he already has collaborations with such outstanding artists like Thor Harris, Johann Jóhannsson, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Dustin O’Halloran and Yair Elazar Glotman.

Born and raised in York, a british town in the north/eastern part of England, Goff explored many different music styles in the past couple of years. Back in 2019 Goff receives the Grammy for his contribution to the score Chernobyl. As the album title suggests, Vale is a flat land area of York. The valley is an important agricultural area and serves as the main north-south transport corridor for northern England. Like the valley himself Goff builds connections between organic, analogue and synthetic sounds. If feels like a love letter to his home country in a special way. In parts the album also describes Brexit-scarred consciousness of British citizens living overseas.

The album starts with the title track „Vale“. A gently string intro with a classical melody before the massive drones kicks in. „Wooden Island“ is driven by a hectical violin and a beautiful array of strings. These melodies are strong connected to the Chernobyl / Joker OST. „A Process in the Weather of the Heart“ sounds more conciliatory and less threatening. „Murmur“ on the other hand takes his time and works more like a connection to „Elowen“. The track breathes a similar tone like „Wooden Island“. A violine that sounds beautiful and threatening at the same time. Stunning! The following „Now“ acts like a prior notice. Like calm before the storm. „I Filled My Lungs with the Necessary Air, and Yelled“ is with no doubt the album highlight. It‘s a beast of a track and an emotional revelation!

„Sleeping Winds“ closes the record in a silent way. If feels like fog in the early morning, an intimate moment to be alone in the Vale. Some people connect intimacy with home. As written in the opening lines „Vale“ feels like an love letter to the homeland, with all of the memories from the past days of childhood. It‘s a emotional journey with classical and drone elements. For me „Vale“ is one of the most impressive records of the year. Highly recommended!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Music: Dustin O‘Halloran – Silfur (Deutsche Grammophon, 2021)

The american composer is one of the most successfull soundtrack creator out there. In the past couple of years O‘Halloran was responsible for the movie OST‘s of Lion, Transparant, Marie Antoinette and such more. Further he is also the other half of A Winged Victory for the Sullen. With „Silfur“ he returns with a stellar and timeless solo work.

One of the most adventages about classical music compared to other genres is there resistence and timeless. There is no demand to create the next big thing, because quality will remain. There are some similarities if you look back to O‘Halloran‘s 2012 „Lumiere“. It‘s still an fantastic record with so much emotions in it. This record is close to his 10th aniversity! With „Silfur“ he follows a similar way. It‘s more clear if you take a look at the tracklist. He remain the „Opus“ structure from „Lumiere“. Melodies will return but in a different way.

„Silfur“ starts with the gently „Opus 56“. Already after the first few seconds in, there is no doubt this is such a beautiful start. But the high quality will remain. With „Opus 28“ strings attend the piano ground melody. These roots will be seamlessly continued with „Opus 44“ and „Opus 18“. With the following „Opus 17“ ends the first third of „Silfur“ in a perfect way. It‘s difficult to pick every single track on „Silfur“ because all of them are amazing. It sounds like a masterpiece of classical music. O‘Halloran self mentioned that „Silfur“ was inspired by the relationship between music and time. He do some reworks about old ideas and give them a new life. „Silfur“ was recorded on different locations around Island. One of these was the Frikirkjan-Church in Reykjavik. It was also the location of his first concert ever together with Johann Johannsson and Hauschka.

„Silfur“ takes his name by the famous Islandic cristals. There special characteristic is to break light twice. Objects will appear twice. O‘Halloran describes the similarity in there as well: „It splits them in two, but at the same moment: The present and the past“. With „Silfur“ it‘s possible to fade out your environment completely. This piece of music is for pleasure-lovers. Lay back, close your eyes and listen…!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Music: Justina Jaruseviciute – Silhouettes (Piano & Coffee Records, 2021)

With „Silhouettes“ the Lithuanian composer released her first full lenght debut. Inspired by Johann Johannsson‘s 12 Conversattions with Thilo Heinzmann she creates a marvoules classical record. A beautiful stiring set of chamber music, which seem to capture hope and sadness at once.

Back in September 2019, Justina attended an Echo Collective show at Funkhaus Berlin, where Johann Johannsson‘s album 12 Conversations with Thilo Heinzmann was being premiered. This concert, which she described as one of the most touching performance she had ever attended, was one of the main insperation to create these kind of music.

After her debut track with „Rituals“ back in 2020 the Berlin based composer starts with the creation process of „Silhouettes“. Recorded between June and November at Christuskirche in Berlin „Silhouettes“ is a remarkable record by a very talented composer. The shape of the record often feels more pensive and dark but in a few moments it seems light shines through the lines. There is a continuous change between dramatic and hope.

The record starts with „Wolf Hour“ and ends with „Sunrise“ and that‘s for a reason. Justina explained why: „The hour of the wolf is that time of the night in which people wake up without any particular reason and can‘t fall back asleep. Last year, this happened to me numerous times, which allowed me to think about a lot of musical ideas while I waited on the sun to rise. To me, these ten compositions are like some kind of shadows, silhouettes of these sleepless nights“. It‘s very difficult to pick some specific highlights on „Silhouettes“ because this record only works as one piece of music. Justina has a great sense to implement dramatic peaks without loosing it‘s intense silence moments.

A masterpiece of classical music that attend us on a journey with dreams, fear, hope and thrill. This record has a powerful strength and beauty imbued with a great sensitivity. Best in class of classical albums in 2021? Yes, totally recommended!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Music: Martina Bertoni – Music for Empty Flats (Karlrecords, 2021)

Back in January this year, Cello and electronic artist Martina Bertoni released her newest addition. The Berlin based artist delivers an masterfully crafted experimental ambient/drone record. „Music for Empty Flats“ is a dark toned drone, cello experience.

Martina Bertoni started playing cello at a very young age. Because of her classical music background, Bertoni‘s career soon developed around experimental and film music, where her cello has been featured in many records, soundtracks, awarded movies and tv shows. She also do some collaborations among other artists like Blixa Bargeld and Teho Teardo and performed at many festivals around the globe.

The spectrum of „Music for Empty Flats“ provides a wide range of acoustic sound, reputation and analog / digital synthesis. The main focus of her solo work is based on deconstructing the releationship with her own instrument. After two EPs back in 2018 and 2019, she released her critically acclaimed full lengh album „All the Ghosts are Gone“ with the reykjavik based label falk in 2020. On her new album Bertoni continues to explore the sonic possibilities of her instruments. Most of her instruments function like a sound source, with adding of reverb, feedback and sub-bass a rich and intense atmosphere arises. The inspiration of the title „Music for Empty Flats“ comes after a trip to Iceland in winter 2020 around christmas. She was inspired by a strange distopian empty space with her favourite music in mind.

The records starts with „Bits“ an ambient toned opener with some drone and background noise. Later on it also catches some industrial noise. The intention is right there at the beginning. „Bright Wood“ on the other hand reflect in some cases the opposite. The cello was one of the prominent element here. Sometimes it feels warm and also a bit gloomy at the same time. It‘s a fine detailed track. „In Circles of Thoughts/Blue Ed“ starts with strings and an pulsing ambient surface. It feels like a distopian area, such an intense feeling. It will followed by the title track „Music for Empty Flats“. Mainly focused on drone, this track is a deep dive in distrotion. Massive from start to finish and the perfect soundtrack for any science fiction movie. Also the last three tracks „Fearless“, „Moving Nature“ and „Distant Tropics“ combines the described techniques in such a perfect way.

„Music for Empty Flats“ is dense and intense on one hand and fragile and sensitive on the other. It‘s a marvelous statement by Martina Bertoni and a highly recommendation by fans of Hildur Guonadottir, Giulio Aldinucci and Lawrence English.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Music: Roly Porter – Kistvaen (Subtext, 2020)

The Bristol based composer returned with a new album on Subtext Records. It‘s about 4 years since his last stellar record „Third Law“. That‘s a long time period but does it have any effects in style or sound? The short answer to this question is no, in a very good way. Porter again delivers a complex, dark toned and sub-bass heavy ambient record.

Roly Porter’s fourth solo record “Kistvaen” takes his name from a type of granite tomb found predominantly in Dartmoor, Southwestern England, these kistvaens were often found covered in the mound of earth and stone. The record describes excavating stories and images of ancient burial rituals. For the first time Porter takes the help of three different vocalists: Mary-Anne Roberts – from medieval Welsh music duo Bragod, Ellen Southern – of Bristol’s Dead Space Chamber Music group and Phil Owen – a singer and researcher in vocal traditions. Background vocals are more prominent then ever on “Kistvaen”. The opening track “Assembly” tells us why. It’s starts with lamented voices to conjure a ritual in an unusual oriental style. If you know the past records from Porter you might be a bit surprised. Without the record creation process in mind it’s difficult to catch these elements. The second track “Burial” is more Porter typically in kind of style. The massive drone and sub-bass is all over the place. It’s raw, oppressive and uncomfortable! The last section of track has a beautiful and sad arranged string part. An unexpected but great fade out. “An Open Door” was the first sign from “Kistvaen” back in April. It’s starts with a piano and hall vocals. Later on some drone elements catches up. It fades perfectly into “Inflation Field” with a sirene styled drone intro. There are massive distortion parts and a threatening atmosphere. It ends with a floating sad melody. “Passage” started again more silent and calm. It shines with a mystery atmosphere. Very intense, emotional and sad until a massive drone distortion kicks in. There is a massive peak in here! Clearly one of the highlight of the record. Everything comes to an emotional peak with “Kistvaen” the tite track. It’s a very beautiful and intense outro of a fantastic record! For me “Kistvaen” takes a bit of time to shine, but with the record creation process in mind everything makes totally sense. Compared to his last record it’s way more flawless. It’s not that aggressive and exhausting like the predecessor but with “Kistvaen”, Porter has develped his music a further step forward.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Music: Yair Elazar Glotman & Mats Erlandsson – Emanate (FatCat Records, 2020)

The first collaboration between Yair Elazar Glotman (Berlin) and Mats Erlandsson (Stockholm) started back in 2015. Their first joint album was released in 2017 on Miasmah Records. „Negative Chambers“ was created on traditional acoustic instruments. It was one of the best ambient/drone records in the class of 2017 and also reviewed here.

Both proliftic composers are fimiliar with collaborations. Yair Elazar Glotman was heavently involved in the Jóhann Jóhannsson composed soundtrack „Last and First Man“ on the german imprint Deutsche Gramophon. Mats Erlandsson on the other side works on different projects. For example the last two records from Maria W. Horn (Epistasis, Kontrapoetik) and his own fantastic EP „Hypodermic Letters“. With their new release „Emanate“ they try something different with a wonderful ensamble in the background. They follow-on with their ideas of a „displaced sound“ and combining electronic and accustic sounds, both analog and digital. In our fast living word „Emanate“ feels like a foreign body. It‘s a very fine-detailed record. Everything starts with „From Light To Refrection“ a slow starting intro and drone-based background. After a period of time they added strings and orchestra parts. The classical elements here are very detailed in the brackground. The record himself was divided into nine parts and was envisaged and recorded as one long single piece. The structure in „Emanate“ follows a three part palindrome A1 – B1 – C – B2 – A2. Each track will followed by an „Interlude“. Because of that structure it‘s difficult to pick an single track as a highlight. In terms of atmopshere it could be compared to Hildur Guðnadóttir‘s „Chernobyl“ score or Jóhann Jóhannsson‘s „The Miner‘s Hymns“. It‘s hard to describe in words and has to be listened by yourself. „Emanate is a texturally rich, deep spectrum exploration that flows and unfolds almost seamlessly throughout it‘s fifty-minute span to create an energy field which feels simultaneously static and yet continually shifting (Bandcamp)“.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Music: Eric Holm – Surface Variations (Subtext, 2020)

As a sound artist and composer Holm started back in 2014 with his first record „Andøya“ it was made from contact mic recordings of pylons carrying communications cables that connected listening stations on an Arctic Norwegian island. Eric Holm‘s new album reflects on his time spent underwater. A series of field recordings captured both above and below the surfaces.

With his new album „Surface Variations“ Holm creates an intimate atmosphere via oceanic sounds and rhythms taken from mechanical diving apparatuses. It connects the dissonances between humanity and nature in such a perfect way. It starts with the wide open field recordings from „Phorcys“ to imagine this special underwater atmosphere. It combines nature sounds with a tone of science fiction elements. „Sagara“ starts with way more distortion and drone elements and a nice interplay between light and darkness. Here you can feel the mystery of the ocean with a sort of meditation. With „Alioth“ the main tone switches in a more dark tone area with his stomping rhythm. It‘s a very unique and special track wich such an exciting flow. „Opalescence“ on the other hand brings the light back an stage. With a variety of elements here. It feels a bit weightless, like you are lost in space or between two worlds with a peak at the end. Difficult to describe in words but it reminds me on the last William Basinski (One Time Out of Time) from last year. The next one „Salp“ draws a different picture without changes the album main-tone. It starts with nature field recordings and combine it with a great ambient tone. To complete „Surface Variations“ the stomping „Trifolium“ marks an great end. To describe it in just one sentence: „Driftign alone, the sea becomes a timeless space for contemplation, a place to dream of new futures whilst reconciling the flotsam of the past (Bandcamp)“. What a fantastic record, highly recommended!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Music: Daniel Avery / Alessandro Cortini – Illusion Of Time (Phantasy Sound, 2020)

Everything between Daniel Avery and Alessandro Cortini started as a collaborative experiment a couple of years ago. Avery and Cortini worked remotely out of any concept or deadline. Back in 2018 when both finished their tour with Nine Inch Nails they completed the final result „Illusion of Time“. A record with the collision of two unexpected sounds.

„Illusion Of Time“ is a powerful album rooted in trust, process and experimentation. It starts with the opening track „Sun“. A massive drone and a raw synth driven one. It works nicely to dive into the record. It floods perfectly into the album title track, one of the highlights on „Illusion Of Time“. It’s a more focussed track and way more silent then the opener. The melody is the key element here. With a small amount of distortion and noise, it’s such a beautiful track. „CC Pad“ picks up the slower tempo from the predecessor. It‘s more like an ambient track and together with „Space Channel“ it works more like a bridge between this and the next one. With „Inside The Ruins“ the album tone switches again to a more dark and uncomfortable picture. It’s a pulsing and impressing track at the same way. „At First Sight“ and „Interrupted By The Cloud Of Light“ catches the key elements from „Illusion Of Time“ as two great ambient tracks before „Enter Exit“ smashes the stage. It‘s clearly a Cortini infected track. Such a beast of a track! Next to last is „Water“ an ambient track that drifts away sometimes but still keep his foundation. It shows in such a great way the strength of this record. As a heavy synthy based record it never feels monoton. The record fades out with the closing part of „Stills“. „Illusion Of Time“ delivers a great varity of sounds and spectrum, thanks to Avery and Cortini for such a nice collaboration.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Music: Clarice Jansen – The Experience Of Repetition As Death (FatCat Records, 2020)

Brooklyn-based cellist and neo-classic artist Clarice Jansen released one of the most relevant records in 2020. After her critical acclaimed debut „For This From That Will Be Filled“ back in 2018, Jansen comes back with a more Drone influenced record. Different as the predecessor, it‘s entirely written and performed by Jansen itself with a high variety of effects and pedals.

With her new album „The Experience Of Repetition As Death“ Jansen debuts on the well known FatCat records imprint. The record was mixed by Francesco Donadello (A Winged Victory For The Sullen) and mastered by Rafael Anton Irisarri at Vox-Ton studios in Berlin back in 2018. Jansen works with a bunch of stellar artists in the past, including Jóhann Jóhannson, Max Richter, Dustin O‘Holloran and Stars Of The Lid. She also works as artistic director of the well known ACME (The American Contemporary Music Ensemble) to develop modern classical music to the next level. As a solo artist Jansen is an expert to improvising and layering her instruments through loops and electronic effects with a rich series of drone-based sound fields. With her new record Jansen reaches a new level of this evolution. It starts with the massive cello foreground in the opening track „Daily“. It‘s a more neo classical one that‘s divided into two parts and fading perfectly into the second track. „Day tonight“ starts with a dark-tone drone intro. The reference to earlier works from Rafael Anton Irisarri isn‘t unmistakeable. It‘s a balance between darkness and light and the shades between. With „Metastable“ the drones are more present and frightening. It was inspired by the chorus of repetitive beeping heard in hospitals. The beeps here integrate themselves into a single loop. But one of the most dramatic parts of the five pieces is „Holy Mother“. For me it‘s the center and masterpiece of the record. It starts with a dramatic Cello part before the drone elements kicks in. The switching between fore and background is pure beauty. The title refers to the Tibetan name of Mount Everest (Qomolangma). With a runtime about 12 minutes it is also the longest track of the record. It‘s a monument of a track! With the closing track Jansens picks up the tape loops from the opener, but this time with the tape having been subjected to methods of degredation in order to erode the sound. It ends with a quartet of cellos and a warm melody without effects and a perfect fading out. „The Experience Of Reputation As Death“ is a powerful record between neo classic and drone elements. What a journey!

Rating: 4 out of 5.