Carter Tanton’s self-titled album is a stark departure from his lush previous album which featured vocals by Marissa Nadler and Sharon Van Etten. Recorded with one mic, a guitar and piano, in the empty rooms, staircases, and hallways of his Baltimore childhood home as it lay on the market waiting to be sold. Tanton takes a lyrical cue from Sinead O’Connor’s “Black Boys On Mopeds” to build the album’s politically charged lead single “Steep Angles” which reflects upon Civil War monuments, a Baltimore dirt-bike racing crew called the “12 O’ Clock Boys,” and the gravesite of Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth - all three existing within a few blocks from his home.
Vague Tidings finds Elephant Micah stationed at a creaky spinet piano singing about the Alaskan night sky. From pipelines on fire to disappearing stars, O’Connell’s images evoke a kind of frontier lust run amok. Lead single “Glacier Advisors,” is a gorgeous, slow burning song that builds to an aching, clattering close. The track sounds a warning for the anthropocene, describing environmental pillagers that “encircle the earth and then dive for her prize.” “In this song, strange human powers have taken the ‘stars in their arms.’ They’ve wrested them from the sky,” says O’Connell. “It’s broadly about hubris, but arctic drilling was the thing on my mind.”
Across eight tracks that mesh spacious jazz with fourth-world tonality, saxophonist Joseph Shabason draws and auditory map of the transcendence, unity, conditioning, and eventual relinquishing of his upbringing in an Islamic and Jewish dual-faith household. According to Shabason, the album’s title track “…represents the golden years when my parents bought their first house and my sister and I were born. They had joined The Fellowship and found the spiritual meaning that had been lacking for the first 30 years, and they were going to raise and support us in all the ways that their parents couldn’t.” Check out the video for “The Fellowship” here.
On In a Deep and Dreamless Sleep Hollie and Keith Kenniff deliver a distinctly hazier chapter of their technicolor pop venture Mint Julep, striking a balance between songcraft and a more aerated form, exuding a heavy fog of shoegaze sensibility, though their infectious pop know-how remains firmly intact. Keith Kenniff says this about the lead single: "Black Maps was one of those rare songs for us that came together very quickly. Hollie and I wanted the song to feel very stream-of-consciousness and dream-like. After coming up with the initial chord progression, Hollie’s lyrics came together and ended up being very evocative and poetic, quite hazy feeling and so we reflected that with the rest of the music. We used a lot of gritty, old-tape-ish processing and lots of heavily reverb/delayed synths to help propel an overall wash of tonalities."
Combining digitally-processed recordings of wind and water with analog synthesizers and chamber orchestra, Elori Saxl’s The Blue of Distance begins as a meditation on the effect of technology on our relationship with land/nature/place but ultimately evolves to be more of a reflection on longing and memory. The phrase "the Blue of Distance" was coined by Rebecca Solnit in A Field Guide to Getting Lost and refers to the phenomenon of faraway mountains appearing blue due to light particles getting lost over distance. Lead track “Wave I” is accompanied by a video Saxl directed and edited, which embraces the serenity and calm of turning the page. Watch here. +
“Blue Canyon I”
Following his 2019 debut album Lower River, Balmorhea co-founder Michael A. Muller presents Blue Canyon, a succinct, two-song EP that speaks to the specific isolation of wilderness, the elements, and a willful stripping back of the unnecessary. Conceived just before the global pandemic of Covid-19 and released on the heels of the U.S. Presidential election, Blue Canyon comes as a respite and soft escape into natural beauty. +
Elskavon aka Chris Bartels and pianist John Hayes found their way to one another through a common interest in ambient-classical composition, and shared influences spanning Chopin to Eno, both in genre and chronology. On their debut collaborative LP Du Nord, the pair work in a modern framework draped in classical textures, adding up to a moving and tranquil outcome that sonically describes their mutually beloved home state Minnesota, particularly as it is during its overlong winter months. Du Nord makes a gregarious introduction with “Vermilion” wherein a deep four-on-the-floor kick drum anchors a plucked violin leading to one of the album’s most extroverted and percussive cuts that gets into head-spaces occupied by both Four Tet and Balmorhea. +
Anam is the first collection of recordings by Selah Broderick (b. 1959, Washington, D.C.). Having grown up in a strict Catholic setting, the alternative movements of the late 60’s and 70’s could not come soon enough for Selah, whose love for art and music eventually sent her traveling around the country, running from a rather chaotic upbringing, in search of quieter ground. Her interest in more meditative sounds infused itself with her background in folk music, and it is somewhere between these two worlds that Anam exists. Consisting of recordings as old as 1979 and as new as 2018, the wide range in fidelity has been embraced for this collection. The recordings were collected by her son Peter Broderick, who carefully wove them together over the years with occasional contributions from himself and his sister Heather Woods Broderick. +
On his debut album Nu Vision, Tokyo-based producer Yuji Namiki aka nubo, delivers Nipponese modernist kosmische that is therapeutic, multicolored, and alluringly strange, with chopped-up Kabuki howls and moonlit koto plucks placed ecstatically around floral billows of ambience and candy-coated synthesis. Click below to check out the album’s title track “Nu Vision.” +
Pennsylvania native Keith Kenniff’s output as Goldmund has established him as one of the preeminent composers of minimal piano-based ambient music alongside peers like Hauschka, Dustin O’Halloran, and even Ryuichi Sakamoto, who himself once described Kenniff’s work as “so, so, so beautiful.”
His recordings tread sincerely along paths laden with dusty timbres, diffuse synthesizer, and soaring string textures tinted by the muted glow of a cloudy analog sky above. On The Time it Takes, his newest book of aural polaroids, Kenniff somehow manages to deepen the emotionality of his already affecting project, creating a space in which to unfold the sorrows of a troubling age and revel in the hope and beauty that follow thereafter. In this sense, The Time it Takes tackles grief head-on, unadorned by themes of escapism or pastorality, and marks another entry in an impressively consistent body of work.
Listen to album opener “Day In, Day Out” below. +