So it's been a while since I've wrote anything for the site - and I'm a little late on this month in review segment. Anyways, February in Canada is generally a depressing month for everyone. We are all just waiting for the winter cold to pass, students are heavily involved with midterms and assignments, and the days are short. Staying inside all the time sounds like a good time to relax until you start isolating yourself from social events because you don't to embrace the weather. But March is upon us, and spring is in the air. This also happens to mean releases start to pick up and the music coming out gets better. February, with everything said, was still a slower month for music. Maybe it has to do with the stuff I stated above but most likely it has to do with the dreaded "awards season" the we are blessed to witness every year. Though the Grammy's did a favourable job choosing winners (shoutout Kacey Musgraves!), the Oscar's became a laughing stock.
Even with a lackluster month of releases, I'm still always able to dig up some good deep cuts. The albums here are ones we didn't get a chance to discuss on our show, and I'm always only going to be highlighting five albums with a short review. One disappointing thing for myself this year is I have yet to find a release that sticks with me. With some March releases that should very well change, but I'm not saying none of the albums I listed aren't worth listening to. Anyways, enjoy as always and I hope to lead people to discover more of what is out there.
I would also like to mention RIP Mark Hollis, lead of Talk Talk who were a revolutionary band at the time.
Also shoutout to International Women's Day! Remember to appreciate the special women in your life, and respect everyone around you. I still believe strongly that women are some of the most creative in the music scene nowadays.
Nivhek is a new alias of the musician Liz Harris, most famously known under her Grouper alias. If anyone knows Grouper, Harris is a master of drone/ambient/folk. With Nivhek you can expect a similar style but with more emphasis on drone. Composed of four tracks (technically two), each track has a story line within it. The journey this album brings you on is a melancholic one, with deep textured drones bringing emotions of loss forth. The soundscapes she designs here are uncanny to her trademark sound, and are by no means unoriginal. With Harris' sound voice drifting alongside your adventure throughout this album, it feels as if a ghost is watching you from afar - maybe even as sort of guidance through dark times in ones life. A solid release from start to finish, and I'm sure any fans of drone/ambient will love it.
Another album rooted in the ambient scene but with more influence from techno and industrial music. The Possessor Possesses Nothing plays out as a soundtrack to post-apocalyptic future state, almost Blade Runner-esque at times. With hard hitting bass, flashy synths played over harsh noises to give that feeling of darkness and desperation. If there is anything that anyone needs convincing to check out this record, just look at the tracklist and realize there is a track called "Pikachu Police State". That track name was enough for me to check it out, and it should be for others as well. Speaking of the track, it is a wild ride of dark techno beats, unfolding into a hard hitting industrial banger. Highly recommend for fans of dark electronic music.
Of course I pick a film score as one of my favourite releases of February. I mean I have stated before I love film scores, but I find the best ones are ones you can listen to without the movie. I happened to have not had the pleasure of seeing Yoake yet, which happens to be a Japanese film by Nanako Hirose. So seeing O'Neil releasing a score caught my attention as I respect her in the scene of ambient music. Just as I predicted, this score was fantastic. O'Neil's ghastly soundscapes are present with a dark atmosphere engrossing the surroundings. She plays with electroacoustic drones throughout, and subtle build ups making for a thrilling (or depressing) experience. This is far from a traditional score, but I'm all for ambient musicians putting their hand to make some sort of Twin Peaks style scores to add extra atmosphere to a movie.
An album title that describes exactly the sound of itself. This is my first with King Midas Sound, but after seeing it pick up some good press I had to check it out. The album is about loss and loneliness, with the sound of what exactly solitude would be. On Solitude, you get dark ethereal synths and giant yet soft drones - and what ties this all together for a truly unique experience is the soft spoken poetry that is presented by Roger Robinson of the group. With his voice he presents himself as a narrator and you feel the loss of self through it. Feelings of existential dread are highly consistent throughout, and the group likes to make the listener decide on what the protagonist will accomplish through their listening experience. This of course is a unique take on a break up album, and almost unheard of in this particular genre. I recommend this to people open to trying out new and challenging music.
Geez do I just highlight electronic music nowadays? Seems like it, but maybe that's just what really caught my attention last month. I do tend to gravitate towards music that world builds, and ambient/electronic music has endless amounts that do that. Anyways, Efdemin is a electronic musician who specializes in techno though you wouldn't have guessed that purely by listening to this record. He flirts with various sounds on New Atlantis, while the techno is still there driving the entire record through its story. New Atlantis happens to take its influence from the novel of the same name, and Efdemin recreates what he thinks would be the sound of the novel futuristic utopia. One thing that really caught my attention of this album was not only the experimentation but during a time I was looking for something similar to the artist DJ Healer in terms of sound. Now the two aren't exactly alike but both give me the feeling of existentialism that I loved on Nothing 2 Loose by DJ Healer. So if you enjoy that album, I definitely think you'll enjoy this one.
Alright, this is probably my favourite release of the year so far but I decided to include it here because it technically isn't new music. This compliation was issued by a very good label Light in the Attic who specializes in reviving lost music, and this certain set was curated by the musician known as Spencer Doran aka one half of Visible Cloaks. Doran took the time to go through old Japanese ambient music, and have it licensed, so that the world not knowing of this beautiful genre could experience it. Certain artists people may be familiar with are the likes of Hiroshi Yoshimura, Joe Hisashi, and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Though those are probably some of the biggest names to come out of the Japanese ambient scene in the 80's, there were many others. Ambient music at the time was a new thing, and the Japanese were using it as more of a marketing and corporate tool. Lots of these musician were only making music for companies to play in their stores, as relaxing soothing music to have while people shop. Something about these kind of stories makes the music insanely attractive and have rich history behind it. Just recently thanks to Youtube algorithms we have seen a resurgence in lost Japanese music, whether it be thanks to vaporwave or city pop, now attention has turned to these weird ambient albums created for only a capitalist purpose rather than artistic. But stranger things have happened and now at the height of are consumerist age, relaxing and meditative music has been making a large comeback. The compilation record itself just picks a handful of tracks to sample of what Japan was doing in its ambient scene, and they are just delightful. Any fan of ambient music this is a must listen right here.
Girlpool - What Chaos is Imaginary
Cherry Glazzer - Stuffed & Ready
Jessica Pratt - Quiet Signs
Susanna - Garden of Earthly Delights
Spellling - Mazy Fly
Sir Babygirl - Crush on Me
Eli Keszler - Empire