Andrew's Month in Review: April 2019

My favourite albums of April!

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Since school has been so hectic for myself, the writing for the site has taken a step back. Now I'm done with the busy schedules and have the warm weather of May to inspire more posts. April was filled with exams, but also many amazing releases that we did not get to discuss on our show. For quite a while I've been diving deep into back catalogs rather then listening to new releases, so this months feature will have less than March's. Just as too much of anything, new music consumption burns me out, and I look back to critically praised releases to re-ignite my love for music.

Discussing last month we cannot leave out the mention of Endgame, as it was a worldwide event of hype. Putting aside any feelings for this film, anyone cannot deny the impact Marvel has made with these films and what finished (overall) with Endgame. Of course, this is a music post so I have to mention Marvel's film scores and how they brought emotion across throughout their films. It is undeniable some of their scores are creative and iconic, yet a majority of them became cookie cutter just as the movies continued to become. But alas, we aren't praising Marvel for ground breaking techniques, let alone interesting. This is all a hint to a new series I have come up with, but I won't discuss it here in case I don't follow through with it!

Without further ado, these are my favourite releases of April. I should also mention I thought April was a very boring month for music and May has already blew it out of the water (so look forward to May's).

Visible Cloaks, Yoshio Ojima, and Satsuki Shibano - serenitatem

If anybody has been keeping up with ambient music lately, you may have noticed a sudden revival of Japanese ambient music. It could be due to Youtube's recommendation system, but also it can be thanks to Visible Cloaks' Spencer Doran. Doran first showed us his love for Japanese ambient with the Kankyo Ongaku compilation album that he curated for the label Light in the Attic. Now for those unfamiliar with all this, essentially Japanese ambient was created for "environmental" purposes rather than musical - yet here in the year 2019 people are starting to realize the brilliance in the music that was once created for commercial purpose. On serenitatem (which is part of the FRKWYS series from the label RVNG Intl.), Visible Cloaks teams up with two pioneers in the Japanese ambient scene. With this record, the sound you get is one you'd expect from these three - and that's putting it lightly as it is one of the best ambient albums this year.

Meitei - Komachi

I might as well continue the trend of Japanese ambient while I'm on the topic. Meitei came out with the gorgeously beautiful ambient album Kwaiden last year, and he's back with Komachi. For the people who already know Kwaiden, Komachi is more of that great ambience, and for the people who have no idea what I'm talking about, just look to what I said of Japanese ambient earlier and environmental factors of it all. This album isn't just another Japanese ambient album (as that wouldn't do it justice) because of Meitei's use of traditional Japanese art and music. Meitei evokes feudal Japan throughout the album, transporting you to a historic time in Japanese cultural development as a nation. It's peaceful and spiritual (as all ambient music seems like to outsiders), yet modern which brings thoughts of a utopia or garden of tranquility.

Sunn O))) - Life Metal

Moving on to ambient's distance cousin, we have Sunn O)))'s colossal drone album, Life Metal. Sunn O))) are pretty legendary in the community of both drone and metal, as the outfit started out as pioneer of the drone metal sub-genre. Life Metal is a return to form in some respects, as they continue trying to be the loudest band in the world and it helps with having producer Steve Albini at the helm. This record also features a rare vocal performance from modern classical musician (and the late Johann Johannsson's student) Hildur Guðnadóttir who gives a chilling contrast to the reverb of the guitars. There isn't much more to say about this album (I mean with these names all over it, you should want to check it out), yet it is another great addition to their catalog.

Tujiko Noriko - Kuro (OST)

I apologize in advance as I didn't realize this post would turn into "Top Ambient Albums of April 2019". As we all know my love for movie scores is undying, but I still have yet to see this movie (so I just listen to the score instead). I've always advocated for the idea that a score should be good enough on its own to separate the good scores from the great scores (or from the bad). Kuro is a obviously one of those great scores (as why would I include it otherwise?). Tujiko Noriko composes the score using mainly ambience as the tone, throwing in some classical elements here and there to give a change of pace. For the most part the albums movement is at a slow pace, growing in intensity as tracks head forward. Like I said I have't seen this movie, but from the feeling of the score I can see it being dark in overall tone, and feelings of melancholy throughout.

Caroline Shaw / Attacca Quartet - Orange

For my last album I chose a classical album which I believe is my very first classical album I've featured (to be fair classical music doesn't generally come in albums). Caroline Shaw just won the Pulitzer Prize for this album, and she's worked with Kanye West (!!!). Her name has been getting some attention lately, and rightfully so as this is a beautifully composed album. Her sound is clearly classical but she throws in some modern composition techniques such as minimalism. I'm no expert in classical music, but my admiration for it has grown over the last couple years (maybe correlating with my love for ambient). The Attaca Quartet as far as I can tell are just the strings section, and Shaw composes the music wonderfully to achieve a fuller sound. Now I'm going to stop talking about classical music so I don't make a fool of myself anymore.

Further Listening:

Dead to a Dying World - Elegy

Inter Arma - Sulphur English

Pup - Morbid Stuff

Helms Alee - Noctiluca

Otoboke Beaver - ITEKOMA HITS

Aldous Harding - Designer

Waste of Space Orchestra - Syntheosis

Tomoyoshi Date - Hochu-Ekki-Tou

Suso Saiz - Nothing is Objective

Andrew Kalichak

Published a year ago