anthéne & Simon McCory - Mind of Winter
Released: February 25
Another fantastic collaboration for cellist and electronic musician Simon McCory, this time appearing on the independent Ukrainian label Hidden vibes with talented guitarist anthéne (Brad Deschamps). What we are treated to on this release is a serene collection of songs that reflect a cold yet comforting tone overall. McCorry's cello forms the base of many of the tracks here and Deschamps' guitar comes in to add a particular sparkle to the tracks as shown in the opening title track "Mind of Winter." The slow-building cello provides a backdrop in this track as the guitar gradually fades in with its softly plucked chords that echo and reverberate over an icy scenery.
However, the entire album is not simply variations on guitar and cello pieces. We are also treated to tracks utilizing synthesized pieces that also combine effortlessly with a more eerie and experimental cello sound such as "Breath of Night." Here, we hear a synthetic percussive synth that plays on top of the background of sparse strings with a haunting quality, later to be joined by difficult-to-place field recordings. Even with this variation throughout, the album as a whole is incredibly atmospheric, shying away from anything closely resembling a melody and opting for grand and sweeping overtures to a cold, yet familiar, landscape.
Petridisch - Exhibition on Europa
Released: February 25
Exhibition on Europa feels very much like an outlier of an album. As I listened through the entire EP, I found it a bit difficult to place. Is this an ambient album? It feels far too busy for the title but also too calm to be anything close to what we could call noise. Occupying this tense middle ground, this album experiments deeply in its sound design by using dark pads and tones alongside heavily manipulated vocals of unknown origin. However, the best way I can describe the album is if an alien species watched an opera production and attempted to replicate it.
A particularly poignant, if not also confusing, moment came with "Das Todesopfer (Death Song)" as a strange rattling accompanied by a high-pitched and almost wailing voice singing something that sounds mournful. It feels cacophonous, but only so much as to leave you slightly uncomfortable rather than completely disoriented. This sense of discomfort is capped off in the final track "Etude No. 2" with a slow-moving piano element joined by a ghostly sounding singing voice. Overall, the album is a strange and fun little trip, I just can't tell where it is taking me.
Loneward - Pallid Memories
Released: February 21
Soothing and ethereal landscapes permeate the entirety of Pallid Memories, the title itself being a roundabout reference to this. Each track seems to purvey a theme of long passed but not completely forgotten memories, often those detached from the context in which they were formed. Much of the content borders the territories of drone and ambient with soft swells of pads and the small tinkling of synth atmospherics.
This minimal motif is established with the first few seconds of the opening track "Suspended Image" as a soft and sparse piano plays emotively over the faint pads that provide the somewhat morose, but never quite mournful, backdrop of the track. We are even provided moments of seemingly hopeful reflection with tracks like "Into the Blurred Mirror," which leans much more heavily into the floating atmospheres as moves ever so slightly away from the tinkling keys and already scant melodies. The exploration of the theme concerning faded memories is masterfully done here as the entire work possesses a strange reflective quality that never fully fleshes out a full picture; tranquil and pondering.
Various Artists - Calm & Chaos on Earth
Released: February 22
The best thing about any compilation album is the sheer variety that you get to hear and this recent one from Uruguay-based Scum on Earth is a fantastic example. I was quite excited to see multiple names I recognized on this one, including a couple whose previous solo works have been featured here previously including Cryptorianus, Ide of Earth, and Somnoroase Pasarele, all of whom contribute startlingly different tracks for this collection.
Throughout the compilation, we are treated to everything from dark ambient and drone-type tracks to blood-curdling harsh noise walls that push the bounds of comfort far past their breaking point. This sheer variety gives each artist the opportunity to show off a bit of their own style with Ide of Earth giving a signature crushing wall of noise and Cryptorianius giving us a metal-influenced dark ambient track that features some positively chilling vocals. While variety is wide here, don't expect anything to be soothing or calming. You will likely be shaken, but that's the beauty of it.
Chelidon Frame & Discontinuation of Treatment - Wings in the Dark
Released: February 25
Wings in the Dark is both an album and a performance. Recorded and broadcast during January of this year, the album is presented to us as two long-form suites of experimentation in which these two avant-garde adventurers take us on an hour-long journey through all manner of broken beats, dark drones, field recordings, and heavily manipulated vocals. While it is disorienting at times, there is a strange cohesiveness to the entire experience that prevents things from going off the rails.
I wouldn't bother trying to find any meaningful difference between the two tracks. Rather listen closely for the movement within each piece. While not a tempo-driven work by any means, Chelidon Frame and Discontinuation of Treatment created a masterful push and pull throughout the full runtime. The intensity of the pieces ebbs and flows with some moments becoming quite intense as broken beats thump wildly and deep basses create subtle growls that build until the tension breaks for a moment and we are plunged right back into the dark and droning atmospherics. Tense and cinematic, though you'll have to let me know if any movies come to mind as you listen.