On her first two albums, you could already hear and feel a strong empathy in the artist's music. This impression is even more noticeable in "to belong". This is likely due to Cynthia's meditative method.
    The delicate nuances of human connections and the emotional world that arises from them are always present. Cynthia already expressed her love for journaling and documentation in 2022 with "chamomile." Therefore, "to belong" can be considered a kind of sequel.
    The musician once again used guitars, synths, and her voice to set her story to music. Field recordings of the voices of her friends and family members lend the songs a pleasantly personal touch. There are 16 short pieces on "to belong". They nestle together and are inextricably linked. Right from the start, you feel like entering a relaxed and compassionate world—it doesn't leave you until the record's last chord.
    marine eyes has woven her textures and sounds together so softly that it's easy to settle into them for 50 minutes and block out the world for the duration. The overall scenery is very natural, including birdsong and campfires on the beach. Cynthia Bernard creates her songs based on her personal experiences. She manages to name them and reflect on them, which leads to something magical happening: she also manages to provide her listeners with an opportunity to let go of thoughts and accept things. Fragility is beautiful, and belonging is precious.

    I have already introduced you to marine eyes, aka Cynthia Bernard, on Sounds Vegan. She is part of the Past Inside The Present collective and also makes music with her partner, James. She skilfully combines ambient, shoegaze, drone, field recordings, and dream pop with her meditative lyrics to create dreamlike works of art.

    The Los Angeles-based artist has been fascinated by music since her childhood. When her grandmother suffered a stroke and lost the ability to express herself through words, she started researching and experimenting with music as a form of therapy.

    For many years, she shared her music only with close friends and family. When she met her James in 2014, the two started their project, awakened souls, and began recording music together. In 2021, she released her first solo album, "idyll," followed by "chamomile," in 2022.

    Cynthia continues to draw her ideas from nature, exploring the healing effects of sound in ever greater depth.

    Dennis Huddleston, aka electronic artist 36, makes electronic music in the grand tradition of trailblazers like Edgar Froese, Klaus Schulze, and Jean-Michel Jarre. And what I mean by that is 36 works on grand scales, building crystalline sound worlds where one gets lost for a bit. Where some ambient feels like slow motion cloud formation overlooking some existential chasm, Huddleston’s music emanates a kind of ethereal light. The music is big, ecstatic, and wholly all encompassing.

    36 has built a vast discography over the last nearly 15 years, releasing albums on A Strangely Isolated Place, Huddleston’s own 3six imprint, and with Past Inside The Present. His latest is Reality Engine, and was released with PITP. It’s the third in Huddleston’s “synth trilogy”, and continues what the previous volumes laid out for us. All-encompassing sounds and ghostly melodies, building a universe of sound seemingly from the ether. It’s quite the beautiful journey.

    According to Past Inside The Present, “36 touches on themes of sound machines that create immersive digital experiences, augmented reality engines that overlay digital content onto the real world, and powerful forces that shapes emotions, perceptions, and connections.”

    Over the course of these 10 tracks on Reality Engine, 36 wastes no time pulling us into his world. “Imagine The Truth” opens with a sonic bloom; a synthetic sunrise over some far-reaching ocean, light spreading over effervescent mirrors of water. “Axiom Haze” emanates a kind of robotic melancholy, as if the machines become sentient and absorb the worry and anxiety that comes with being human. Title track “Reality Engine” spreads across the soundscape like mysterious shadows forming in the wake of clouds rolling in to hide the light.

    The great thing about Reality Engine is that these pieces are bite-size. 3 to 4 minute songs that seemingly hold within them individual worlds of mystery and hazy dream-like soundscapes. There’s the feeling of getting lost in a dream, wandering through the mystery and subconscious of the mind. Your own mind? Someone else’s mind? Or the sentience of artificial intelligence? It’s hard to tell. But songs like “Beyond The Hyperreal”, “State Space”, and the heady indifference of album closer “Everything & Nothing” makes the journey all the more engaging and thought-provoking.

    36 has proven over the course of nearly 15 years that he has a profound ability to build these sonic chapels. Musical monoliths that hang in the air for us to be engulfed in. Reality Engine is a world of sound that walks the line between dream and lucidity. It’s the feeling of rapture and understanding, right before our eyes open to the world beyond our minds.

    James Clements has made a name for himself with releases in various genres over the past decades—including Auxiliary and A Strangely Isolated Place. The fact that he has now landed on Past Inside The Present is a lucky coincidence, as his way of turning music into something intimate, sensitive and emotive fits perfectly into the ranks of exceptional talent within the label.

    A large part of the Past Inside The Present family contributed to the album. Cynthia Bernard awakened-souls, From Overseas & City of Dawn has enriched it with her photographic art. Her husband, James, did the mastering at Ambient Mountain House. Zakè did the design.

    "Loss" by ASC is a sound journey with a gripping arc of suspense
    With "Loss", ASC has set the feeling of loss to music—as pure, painful and all-encompassing as it feels and grips us when it shows itself. The nine tracks on the record are filled with a weighty vastness that runs from the first note to the last. At the same time, James has managed to interweave field recordings from nature to perfectly reflect the sea of thoughts in which a person struggling with loss constantly finds themselve. A particular highlight here is the last song, "Tears in the Rain", which begins with rain and ends in a sea of sounds. According to the artist, the piece is based on the old photographic experiment of showing different people the same facial expression and asking them what the person in the picture is feeling. The respondents' assessments range from happiness, tiredness, and relief to joyful amazement and abject confusion.

    But it's not just the album's grand finale that has it all. The sound journey ASC has composed so marvellously leads you through all the different phases of loss while listening—corresponding to the emotional states described by the people in the photo experiment. The arc of suspense is perfectly crafted. Shadows from the past arise, enclose everything, and disappear into the nothingness of the uncertain future. Hope spreads, ebbs away again and finally manifests itself.

    Music as the most empathetic narrative form
    The musician Thomas Meluch put it into words flawlessly:

    "In sections of this collection like "Sensory Disintegration" and "Fleeting Elation", with a bruised but forgiving heart, Clements boldly faces the void in order to create something where there is only a cruel nothing. There is no replacing a breath on the neck or that diffuse, gowned shadow along the wall, but there remains the hope that these compositions will sing beyond the stratosphere like any cosmically bound radio signal, outlasting their maker and all fleeting reminiscences that carry on in pure, vaporous vibration."

    An instrumental project that conveys feelings so perfectly that it needs no words—that's how you could also describe "Loss" by ASC, I guess. However, the recording achieves much more: it translates experiences into music and thus expresses much more than spoken or sung words could. The pieces' complexity achieves this meditatively–sensitive and powerful, characterised by devotion and determination.

    Ambient sounds full of harmony, disharmony, sound and ethereal moments await you—produced perfectly and composed by the exceptional sound collective from Indianapolis, Indiana. I guess this is exactly what I found a little challenging to put into words when I started writing this preview: Past Inside The Present, with all the artists involved in the label, expresses what music really is: the most emphatic narrative form.

    Dennis Huddleston, aka electronic artist 36, makes electronic music in the grand tradition of trailblazers like Edgar Froese, Klaus Schulze, and Jean-Michel Jarre. And what I mean by that is 36 works on grand scales, building crystalline sound worlds where one gets lost for a bit. Where some ambient feels like slow motion cloud formation overlooking some existential chasm, Huddleston’s music emanates a kind of ethereal light. The music is big, ecstatic, and wholly all encompassing.

    36 has built a vast discography over the last nearly 15 years, releasing albums on A Strangely Isolated Place, Huddleston’s own 3six imprint, and with Past Inside The Present. His latest is Reality Engine, and was released with PITP. It’s the third in Huddleston’s “synth trilogy”, and continues what the previous volumes laid out for us. All-encompassing sounds and ghostly melodies, building a universe of sound seemingly from the ether. It’s quite the beautiful journey.

    According to Past Inside The Present, “36 touches on themes of sound machines that create immersive digital experiences, augmented reality engines that overlay digital content onto the real world, and powerful forces that shapes emotions, perceptions, and connections.”

    Over the course of these 10 tracks on Reality Engine, 36 wastes no time pulling us into his world. “Imagine The Truth” opens with a sonic bloom; a synthetic sunrise over some far-reaching ocean, light spreading over effervescent mirrors of water. “Axiom Haze” emanates a kind of robotic melancholy, as if the machines become sentient and absorb the worry and anxiety that comes with being human. Title track “Reality Engine” spreads across the soundscape like mysterious shadows forming in the wake of clouds rolling in to hide the light.

    The great thing about Reality Engine is that these pieces are bite-size. 3 to 4 minute songs that seemingly hold within them individual worlds of mystery and hazy dream-like soundscapes. There’s the feeling of getting lost in a dream, wandering through the mystery and subconscious of the mind. Your own mind? Someone else’s mind? Or the sentience of artificial intelligence? It’s hard to tell. But songs like “Beyond The Hyperreal”, “State Space”, and the heady indifference of album closer “Everything & Nothing” makes the journey all the more engaging and thought-provoking.

    36 has proven over the course of nearly 15 years that he has a profound ability to build these sonic chapels. Musical monoliths that hang in the air for us to be engulfed in. Reality Engine is a world of sound that walks the line between dream and lucidity. It’s the feeling of rapture and understanding, right before our eyes open to the world beyond our minds.

    TEXTURA | 05FEB24
    Mere seconds are needed to identify Do We Become Sky? as a Slow Dancing Society production, which testifies to how clearly Drew Sullivan has defined the SDS persona and style. The latest collection by the Washington-based producer is a particularly beautiful one, not just for its musical design but visually too. Credit Past Inside the Present with issuing the eighty-six-minute release as a striking double-LP set pressed on ‘Cobalt Nebula' vinyl and complemented by an equally striking sleeve (it's available digitally too, of course).

    Whereas some ambient-electronic artists evoke peaceful pastoral countrysides, the typical SDS soundscape paints images of late-night, neon-lit city streets. The image of Crockett and Tubbs cruising through the Miami night with “In the Air Tonight” as the soundtrack isn't far away when Sullivan's music floods the room. He describes the new set as a “spiritual successor” to 2008's Priest Lake, circa '88, which is easy to accept when Do We Become Sky? exudes nostalgic yearning for a more carefree and innocent time and uses timbres (many sourced from a Korg Wavestation) emblematic of the analog era. According to Sullivan, a number of the twelve pieces emerged fully formed, originating as they did from “dusty and blurred memories of sounds from youth that seemed to transcend time.”

    After “Prelusion” initiates the set in a controlled orgy of luminous synth blaze, the title track presents the album's first glorious exercise in time travel when twinkling arpeggios and radiant chords dazzle the ear in a soundscape as huge as the night sky. Another trademark of the SDS sound surfaces in the engulfing “The Past is Always Following Close Behind,” with Sullivan coupling sweeping guitar textures and oceanic synth swells. Calmer by comparison is “Empty Lake, Empty Streets … The Sun Goes Down Alone,” which simmers in a way that captures the loneliness of the insomniac longing for release. The slow burn continues with “Retrograde,” as quintessential a SDS production as could possibly be imagined. Sullivan's music shimmers and swirls through the static, whether it's visualizing the mist-shrouded stillness of “Cavanaugh Bay” or unspooling through the set's longest piece, the thirteen-minute travelogue “Devastation is the Path to Recreation.” While unease and foreboding underscore many a track, “The Return” oozes the kind of serene calm one associates with Harold Budd's 1980 album The Plateaux of Mirror.

    His affection for the dream pop of Julee Cruise, OMD, and related artists comes through occasionally, albeit allusively. The gleaming chord progression that gets “Time Won't Forget What You Meant to Me” underway wouldn't have sounded out of place on 1989's Floating Into the Night, and “Another Heart in Need of Rescue” seems to hint at pop balladry despite its abstract instrumental design. One final surprise arrives when “Coda” flirts with song structure and presents a percolating, guitars-and-piano arrangement animated by a drum machine beat. Glimmers of melody always lurk in the background of these productions, sometimes overtly stated and at other times teased.

    In the interest of full disclosure, Sullivan created a SDS piece for textura's 2019 Joni Mitchell tribute Swallowed by the Sky, but any perceived bias won't stop us from fully endorsing this terrific new collection. Do We Become Sky? is state-of-the-art Slow Dancing Society and indicates clearly why textura contacted him in the first place about contributing to its own release. Like a true artist, Sullivan's genre-transcending work bears the unmistakable and indelible stamp of its creator. It's also heartening to see him still operating at such a high level eighteen years after Hidden Shoal released his debut album The Sound of Lights When Dim.


    ‘Demain, dès l’aube’ (Tomorrow, at dawn), is a compelling collaboration between label owner zakè (Zach Frizzell) and From Overseas (Kévin Séry). The title pays homage to the eponymous poem by Victor Hugo, the poet, novelist, dramatist and perhaps the most important of the French Romantic writers. The track titles are also allusions to verses from the poem. One of Hugo’s most poignant and dramatic works begins with a walk through Normandy’s countryside. One might at first imagine a lover’s date, but soon the poem will take a tragic turn, unraveling a heart-breaking revelation in an extremely visual, cinematic way. The destination of the journey is his daughter’s grave four years after her death …

    Starting with short vignettes as foundational blocks, Séry and Frizzell, have expanded their primary ideas by adding guitar, tape and synth loops to the final arrangements. Veering from skewed elegance to unsettling depths, serene and eerie as the restless sea, the duo has gracefully captured the drama, the tension and the sorrow of the source material; fragile, comforting and unbearably romantic.

    PITPV055 | 31JAN24
    You are cordially invited to join 36 & Past Inside the Present on January 31 for a listening party in celebration of 36’s third and final LP in 36's synth trilogy titled, Reality Engine.

    Reality Engine continues the melodic, melancholy machine sound started with Wave Variations and Symmetry Systems, exploring the blossoming dynamics of artificial intelligence and the ever-changing definition of reality.

    Over the course of the five years gracing our roster, the multifaceted essence of 36's sound reverberates with unmistakable diversity.
    "Reality, hypothetical technology, and augmented machines. Everything and nothing is real. Reality Engine is a conduit of what is real and what is imagined. It is a powerful force that shapes emotions, perceptions, and connections. Digital human connections, imagining the truth. What is real?

    Enhanced reality converges with sound machines that create immersive digital experiences to augmented reality engines that overlay digital content onto the real world. Sensory inputs that generate realistic and interactive environments. Genuine connections with one another on a profound level, irrespective of their differences. This music encourages a sense of unity and communal belonging, where listeners can find solace and camaraderie within the melodies and harmonies that resonate in their hearts. Can this be real?

    A veritas mechanism evoking genuine emotions. Unique and captivating sonic landscapes, digital chants, harmony with futuristic sounds. An authentic, diverse, and transformative force; transcending boundaries, while amplifying the human experience. It embraces the full spectrum of emotions. Is the reality engine simply a veracity propulsor to empower individuals to find meaning and purpose within the ever-changing symphony of existence? Truth can be heard in a world where time and space begin to blur. Is anything real?"
    All tracks written, produced, and engineered by 36 Design by 36 Cut at WMM Pressed by GGR Manufactured and assembled in the USA Marketed, distributed, and phonographic copyright: Past Inside the Present Matrix / Runout (Side A): PITP-V055-A 'Veritas Mechanism' Matrix / Runout (Side B): PITP-V055-B 'Veracity Propulsor' ©℗ 2024 Past Inside the Present This is PITPV055 pitp.us 3six.net
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    Past Inside the Present continued to be central (in importance) and peripheral (in operant listening mode) over 2023, titles coming, if not thick and fast, then neither slim (in pickings) or slow (in release schedule); what follows constitutes, for want of time for exhaustive description, a representative sample of some of the year’s rich late harvest.

    First, Unlikely Places, where you’ll find Cynthia Bernard (vocals, guitar) spending more time with her family—all good, though, as it’s hubby James (bass, synth, keyboards, guitar) and their baby, awakened souls. Deep dives, sundry imagery—verdant forests, nightsky, plenty serenity sans sopor, i.e. ample interest in those unignored parts. Inspirational cue from creativity’s infinite potential—to be, given a spirit of receptive openness, ‘born from unlikely places that we now know were all meant to be more than just another passing moment. Unlikely Places is a paean to the infinite everything-everywhere of creative possibility.

    Next, Chicago’s Tyresta brings his latest, Small Hours, to PITP, following All We Have (2020) with an exploration of themes related to the human condition, viz. the ever-popular grief, loss, and impermanence—with hefty infusions of healing and growth, mind. Nicholas Turner approaches these with customary subtlety and a sonically-mediated intimacy of response in an inquiry that reveals novel turns each subsequent listen. Small Hours stands as testament to the transformative power of sound, gentle cadence and evolving harmony, it is suggested, constituting a haven wherein the listener may seek solace or rekindling of the spirit.

    Kévin Séry, with his ambient guitar project, From Overseas, is the latest colluder with zakè, their Demain, dès l’aube alluding to one of Victor Hugo’s best-known, and most enigmatic, poems. In it tension is built in a highly visually suggestive way, as we’re first taken for a walk, destination unknown, purpose uncertain, through the Normandy paysage—perhaps a lover’s date (though the poem eventually unveils something deeper). For the work Zach Frizzell took favorite sounds to form foundational loops, from which a raft of vignettes was created, then grown, reshaped and expanded, various guitar parts (From Overseas, presumably) introduced and merged with tape processing, and synth work, resulting in a set of stately long-form tracts, which slowly unspool with meticulous attention to detail. From Overseas and zakè’s compositions with their immersive recursions offer compelling affordance spaces for questing inner voyagers. Eight pieces of mesmeric cadence that are as interesting, when attending, as they’re ignorable, when you aren’t, Demain, dès l’aube is at once present and remote, in the Here and Now and in The Elsewhere.

    Last, James Bernard redux, here off with the lads—one anyway, Brad Deschamps, whose Soft Octaves deploys 6-string bass, an unwonted source with a range spanning chthonic rumble to celestial etherea. Captured in a single take, FX-treated, edges rounded by a volume pedal, an intriguing kind of timbral indeterminacy forms as the set develops, here like a deep string, there a reed or woodwind or otherwise, oriented with a felicitous turn—an ear for le ton juste. His offerings are enhanced by anthéne with harmonized pulses, a slow-mo lyricism via pedal steel that’s just so somehow. A certain Nordic American glaciality merges into the source’s coastal haze, as on the title track, blithely unveiling echoing guitar swells against granular detail and organic susurration. “Trembling House” incorporates voice (marine eyes aka wife, Cynthia, again) layered in ghost tones, for a languorous lull, the aqueous tonefloat of “Renascence” and “Cortège” dressed in cathedralesque. ‘Times of uncertainty and hope’ are cited by Bernard as a spur for much of this, his veteran credentials (30+ years in the trade) much in evidence in a well-manicured set artfully choreographed by Polar Seas curator, Deschamps.


    PITPV049 | 10JAN24
    It is not the limit. It’s a fragile shield against the infinitely expanding freeze; it’s a network of invisible rivers that connects every continent and every creature, forever confronting science with its caprices; its psychic soot falls to rest on each of us. With all the reverence that terrestrial awe can afford, the latest work from Washington’s Slow Dancing Society (aka Drew Sullivan) gazes up and asks, Do We Become Sky?

    Best experienced front-to-back in its 86-minute entirety, Do We Become Sky? is – by the artist’s description – a spiritual successor to 2008’s Priest Lake, circa ‘88, whose namesake location harbors visions of childhood freedom and innocence, of family road trips through northern Idaho and a yearning for something simpler that once existed under the same sun.

    Channeling the inevitably complicated feelings around loss and entropy through the years since, Sullivan relied on the unique, nostalgic tonality of the Korg Wavestation as the backbone of this set. Many of its tracks arrived nearly fully-formed, inspired by “dusty and blurred memories of sounds from youth that seemed to transcend time”.

    As a result there is a skillful arc of tension and resolution across the album’s four sides, sustained by a distinct balance of rhythm and drift. “The Past is Always Following Close Behind” pairs graceful, melancholy arpeggiations with rich beds of swelling harmony, accented by guitar plucks that strike like distant lightning and unfurl across the stereo field. The looser, cascading composition of “Retrograde” creates a transitional moment as the dial of a disused radio scans crackling signals through storm and static. There is a quiet unease, but the center holds itself reassuringly; this too shall pass.

    “Time Won’t Forget What You Meant to Me” is perhaps the most direct nod to the artist’s main inspirations here; a lucid, evocative synth progression is wrapped in panning whispers, like the maundering conversations that arise and fall away by the lakeside or along trillium-lined forest trails. The final side succinctly collects the themes of all that came before; “The Return” hums with angelic sweetness and a sense of light emerging beyond the greyscale roil, while “Coda” closes the suite with towering guitars, warbling piano and a kinetic rush toward an unreachable horizon.

    In considering the onset of adulthood realities and the attendant passing of friends and family members over the years, Sullivan cited this quote from Clive Barker’s Imajica as particularly resonant:

    “Remember that everything you learn is already part of you, even to the Godhead Itself. Study nothing except in the knowledge that you already knew it. Worship nothing except in adoration of your true self. And fear nothing except in the certainty that you are your enemy’s begetter and its only hope for healing, for everything that does evil is in pain.”​
    Listen Here 

    ZD027 | 01JAN24
    The colours that appear in autumn are the soul of perennial transition and slow breath; once a chill sets in and the chlorophyll-green of the leaves migrates to the trunk of the tree, those yellows, oranges and reds emerge from chemical remnants that have in fact been there all along, awaiting their moment on the forest’s lissome stage. It is a graceful manner of self-sustenance for the organism, but a source of ineffable beauty for the observing eye. Potent, poetic echoes of nostalgia and mortality coexist in a quiet fanfare brought to its end by literal gravity and decay.

    There is a tender, undeniable strain of this fundamental complexity in the catalogues of Japanese ambient legends Chihei Hatakeyama and Hakobune (aka Takahiro Yorifuji), who have each composed dozens of works for the likes of kranky, Room40, Constellation Tatsu, and Hatakeyama’s own White Paddy Mountain, among many others. Yorifuji’s gorgeous 2019 LP for Past Inside the Present is even fittingly titled The Last of Our Time Together, an acknowledgement of the falling-away to which all things are subject.

    Resulting from a 2014 session between Yorifuji and Hatakeyama in rural Japan, and unearthed after a curatorial conversation with PITP head Zach Frizzell, the 22-minute unfurling of “LiveImprovisation I” displays a depth of intuition and pacing that can only develop over years of individual exploration and a particular aligning of the planets. Their progressions evolve almost imperceptibly, allowing for moments of negative space that give way to gossamer swells in the purest of warm guitar tones. At times the only reminder of human hands in this billowing expanse is the distant flit of a fingertip, lightly scratching the A string while shifting chords. Altogether it gives the feeling of being dropped into one extended moment of an eternal drift, eons easing outward on either side of the fade.
    Inspired by the richness of this source material, zakè (Frizzell) and From Overseas (aka Kévin Séry) crafted “Live Improvisation II” in order to forge an intercontinental bond, similarly performed in a single take with minimal editing. While graced by a kindred patina, their side adds the subtle but very effective crackle of a well-loved, dusty LP that’s been pulled from the shelf after a few years; whatever sounds the grooves might have once held, they are reshaped here into an impressionistic memory of a first listen long ago. Frizzell and Séry’s remarkable long-form album Demain, dès l’aube (PITP, 2023) forged its environments from nocturnal mystery, but on Live Improvisations they offer a lucid, delicate glow that rises humbly across the loam.
    Since 2018 zakè has produced an unimpeachable catalog of affecting ambient releases, both solo and as an adventurous, prolific collaborator. From Overseas may be the newest to the game among this quartet, but his work effortlessly flows into that of the legacy artists, and the torch they collectively bear will continue to light the caverns of the ever-expanding modern experimental landscape. Live Improvisations brims with a consistent mastery of tone, texture and movement, and elegantly takes its time in doing so.
    Listen Here 

    A CLOSER LISTEN | ZD028 | 24DEC23
    Zach Frizzell has built up an impressive discography as zakè in a few short years, exploring orchestral music in various guises, often in blurred out ambient drones. He is also the man behind Past Inside the Present, a label which has distinguished itself for their expansive catalog of immersive music, with acts including Black Swan, marine eyes, City of Dawn, From Overseas, and James Bernard, all of whom I’ve written about over the last few years. Zakè Drone has been the place for his own projects, often in collaboration with artists from his wider circle. Thomas Meluch, better known by his moniker Benoît Pioulard, has contributed his Polaroid photographs to the artwork of many Past Inside the Present releases, as well as beautifully evocative press releases, and more recently has had a handful of releases on PITP. But the two have only previously collaborated musically on “A Breath” from zakè’s Remembrance (2022), an album which included many guests and reworks beyond its core eight solo tracks. So this surprise full-length is truly a gift, nearly an hour of music between two great artists.

    We’ve often mused on what makes a successful collaboration, but the truth is the best collaborations have a kind of magic to them that can’t be planned or replicated, and eve has that feeling of unforced serendipity. Drawing on years of sonic fragments from his archive, zakè laid out the foundation upon which Pioulard arranged his contributions, ranging from tape-processed guitar, dulcimer, melodica, synthesizer, and of course his voice, which is such a defining part of much of his music. And yet for most of the 52 minutes that comprise eve, these elements remain muffled and indistinguishable, allowing for the elusive third to emerge from the synthesis of its two creators. Because ultimately it’s less about them than the enveloping sonic space they’ve conjured.

    The three longform drones that comprise eve channel the peaceful quietude of a long snow-blanked December night. Silence is never truly silent, if you know how to listen, and eve reveals its complexities slowly, like the subtle differences in shades of snow and shadow. Opener “eve” is a 16-minute drift through rising and falling sonic landscapes, grounded in deep swells of bass and gentle ambience, evoking the peaceful anticipation of its namesake. The chiming bells of “frost” are more clearly discernible against the solemn clouds of Pioulard’s voice, subtly shifting from back- to foreground as the hypnotic shimmers erase all sense of time. Like frost forming on the window, there is a structure here that at closer inspection reveals infinite variety across its chilly patterns.
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    You may remember James Bernard from various ambient projects such as his duo with his wife Cynthia awakened souls, his involvement in "Keep the Orange sun" and his "Polar Night" cooperation with Zakè and Markus Guentner. Like the two, he is part of Kévin Séry's, aka From Overseas, sound collective Past Inside The Present. anthéne, aka Brad Deschamps, is an ambient and drone artist based in Toronto, Ontario, with a considerable back catalogue. If you haven't heard of him yet, go and check it out; you won't regret it!

    The harmony we all long for in these times (according to James, the main inspiration for "Soft Octaves" was our "time of uncertainty and hope") lies in the octaves of these beautiful works of sound art. With your headphones on, you can let yourself be carried away to other worlds and discover colourful, imaginative horizons. James Bernard describes it like this:

    "That liminal moment, when the phosphorescence behind the window shade first disrupts your eyelids, is a difficult one to pinpoint. Sometimes, the earliest thought in your mind is a long-tail partial memory of those last few moments of a thousand-yard dream; sometimes, it's an irrepressible descending sigh as you anticipate what's to follow, whether with apprehension or ardour. Centuries have passed in your unconscious absence; every frequency is existing somewhere."

    The composer has been making music for almost 30 years and has worked with various genres and projects, engineering, patch-building and mastering for a wide range of bands and labels. His sound art has become an integral part of his life, and his experience with a wide range of instruments, from the six-string electric bass to the cello and various synths, is constantly growing. You can hear this in his latest work, which he created with anthéne. The six-string, in particular, provides impressive drone sounds and effects. With the help of his volume pedal, he rounded off the corners and gave the whole thing a harmonious glamour. The occasional cello and woodwind elements provide further relaxed highlights.

    What is particularly interesting here is that James and Brad recorded each of the pieces in just one take. Nevertheless, everything has found its perfect place—nothing seems overproduced, and the tempo is intuitive and natural.

    And Brad's role in "Soft Octaves" is also essential. His lyrical slow-motion melodies and pedal steel guitar add an otherworldly, orchestral sound to the tracks, making the record unique. The head of Polar Seas Recordings likes to enrich his music, which he prefers to create based on field recordings in northern latitudes with analogue synths. You can also experience them in all nine songs on this LP.

    In the eponymous sixth track, the two sound talents unveil a curtain that slowly and steadily reveals a panorama flooded with daylight. They have depicted this with organic noise, the reverberation of guitar walls and subtle digital grain. It is impressive how outstandingly they succeed in visualising an image without the help of words.
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    zakè & Benoît Pioulard have left a gift under the Christmas tree and we are allowed to open it a day early. eve is a sanctuary of sound built on a decade worth of sound fragments and audio experiments. It captures the magic of a snow-covered eve; the heady sound swirls and orchestral swells give one the feeling of seeing the silent flakes fall as a portal of peace comes over you. It’s the kind of musical gift that will keep on giving.

    Over three long form tracks, “eve”, “frost”, and “pine”, zakè & Benoît Pioulard gather lush sound fragments and bring them together into an epic 52-minute sound journey. One that unfurls into epic moments of spiritual exaltation, an organic oneness with Mother Nature, and that syncs you with that great cosmic hum.

    “eve” is the sound of that first step into the wintry night. The quiet envelopes and overwhelms the senses, putting you in an almost hallucinogenic state. The silence is deafening, and “eve” is the noise that emanates from within you.

    “frost” builds into bright, lush soundscapes. It sounds like an awakening in one’s own head. It glows in crystalline tones and weightless optimism. It holds the elements of a personal awakening standing amongst the quiet of a snow-covered landscape.

    “pine” leaves us with a state of understated weary. It’s the feeling that comes over you the moment the evening’s chill breaks through. The quiet resolves into a darker hue, and the vastness of the coiled black above you in the snowy skies tempers the magic. The frigid temps wake you from that lull.

    For a few fleeting moments escape into its world, bask in the beauty, and find yourself immersed in this musical gift from two masters of sound.
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    'Demain, d​è​s l​’​aube' by From Overseas & zakè
    Two of the current masters of ambient/deep meditation music, From Overseas and zakè, collaborate on one of the most epic sound journeys of the year withDemain, dès l’aube.Demain, dès l’aubeis a tour-de-force in subtlety and restraint, with sound sculptors From Overseas and zakè creating lilting, epic passages that feel like falling through time. Tracks like “Tomorrow At Dawn”, “I Will Walk Eyes Fixed On My Thoughts”, and the grand epic finale of “A Bouquet Of Green Holly” painting cavernous, transcendent sound with exquisite sonic brushstrokes. Minimalism at its cinematic finest.
    'unlikely places' by awakened souls
    There’s something quite entrancing about awakened souls, the debut project of husband and wife duo Cynthia and James Bernard. No strangers to the ambient world, these two fine ambient composers in both solo and collaborative projects come together and create a magical, warm, and all-encompassing world with album unlikely places. 10 beautiful tracks the envelope the listener in light and life. From the brassy optimism of opener “i was complete” to the nocturnal mystery of “fall asleep, dream” to the buoyant hopefulness of closer “whispering goodbye”, Cynthia and James Bernard have made a record of epic beauty and emotional heft. A joy to hear and experience.
    'Orchestral Tape Studies II' by zakè
    zakè’s Orchestral Tape Studies II continues the heady, orchestral sound experiments he started in 2019 with Orchestral Tape Studies I. Capturing the magic of composers like Johann Johannsson, Max Richter, and Philip Glass but putting his own unique ambient spin on it, zakè creates thoughtful sound spaces and gives gravitas to his ephemeral symphony. It’s like music as clouds; strident shapes twisting and turning before your eyes before morphing into something completely different. Or dissipating into the universe never to be seen again. Orchestral Tape Studies II is a score to a vivid dream, a dream where canvases paint themselves and ideas come to technicolor life revealing magic hiding in plain sight.
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    PITP45 | 13DEC23

    The final act of the new album from Polar Moon (aka Jonny Radtke) is ushered in by “Patagonia”, a native term translated as “land of the giants”. Fittingly, its graceful, overlapping piano lines and shuddering, organic rhythm give the acute sense of something massive approaching over the horizon. This is no apparition of dread, though; it’s a purely curious and stirring anticipation, in keeping with the pensive tone and kinetic pace of the set altogether. Where Have All the Wolves Gone carefully casts its beguiling arrangements across a patient and dynamic topography, becalmed but cavernously deep.

    While Radtke’s 2020 debut As Above, So Below established the artist as a singular presence in modern ambient composition with its balance of chamber music influence and expert sound design, here he elaborates on those elements with unhurried complexity at nearly every level.

    It’s a truly personal study in nuanced crescendo and kaleidoscopic release, the layers of instrumentation like particles in an accelerator that gather, eddy, disperse and explode in heart-rending deliverance. In this way, standout track “Sky People” rides on a Sunday-mellow piano motif as pizzicato strings shake off their dust across the stereo divide, appearing in the manner of distant stars as you edge away from city light and into the wilds.

    Elsewhere, (fraternal) twin tracks “Descension” and “Ascension” define the first half of the record, with the former bathed in mysterious harmonic swirls, and the latter resolving into hopeful shimmer on a bed of perfectly intoned strings and reverberating bells. Describing the creation of these works over the last three years, Radtke notes “a conscious decision to shut out surrounding noise and find some serenity hidden among all the uncertainty.” The writing process was unavoidably fed by reflection, appreciation and the reduction of life to a granular level in order to honor its magnitude.

    Accordingly, Where Have All the Wolves Gone presents an overall sense of security in solitude – whether forced or voluntary – with moments of melancholy lonesomeness soothed by the perennial realization that existence itself is miraculous. All things depart sooner or later, and you learn to cherish even more deeply the ones that return; we are pack animals, but there are undeniable benefits to be earned from a secluded sojourn.

    To this point, the exemplary “Destination Nowhere” bears the fruit of Radtke’s artistic evolution early on in the album. Landing with gentle force, its mid-tempo percussion brings to mind the cracking of ice and snapping of fallen branches underfoot, as the felt and hammers of an immaculately recorded piano establish a sense of intimate comfort. It’s just one breathtaking moment amid a collection of many.

    Mastered by like-minded artist and engineer Drew Sullivan (aka Slow Dancing Society), Where Have All the Wolves Gone leaves an indelible emotional impression, and could well stand as a new benchmark in its genre.
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    PITPSMPLR3 | 07DEC23
    Immerse yourself in the aural mosaics of Past Inside the Present's 2023 end of year playlist, a curated collection showcasing the beautiful arrangements that graced our ears throughout the year. Carefully woven into just under two hours, the playlist highlights the work of 23 extraordinary tracks released on Past Inside the Present, Healing Sound Propagandist, and Fallen Moon Recordings.We hope you will enjoy this retrospective mix and relive the incredible journey of 2023. Here's to a year filled with musical wonders and the promise of more to come.» Continuous mix can be heard here:on.soundcloud.com/DqG4H
    Order of Appearance:‣ Tyresta 'I Dreamt That We Were Laughing'‣ Cat Tyson Hughes 'Gradually Fade'‣ Purl & Sinius 'Ekvir'‣ Polar Moon 'They Watch Over Us'‣ Origin ST 'Time Waits for Nobody'‣ Andrew Tasselmyer & Blurstem 'Midnight Letters'‣ Marc Ertel, zakè, James Bernard, From Overseas 'Fernweh (live)'‣ Clouds Without Water 'free standing reflection'‣ marine eyes & IKSRE 'Sun Circles'‣ Circular 'Chromatic Commute'‣ Slow Dancing Society 'Moments Bruise and Bleed'‣ James Bernard & anthéne 'Soft Octaves'‣ From Overseas & zakè 'When The Land Whitens'‣ Belly Full of Stars 'Ebon Flow'‣ Mike Lazarev 'Tonality Number Six'‣ Ayami Suzuki & Carlos Ferreira 'Beautiful Inertia'‣ bvdub 'Tattered Wings Still Fly'‣ ASC 'Tidal Disruption Event'‣ Blush To The Snow 'Cascades, No. 4'‣ Meg Mulhearn 'Orbital Resonance'‣ Pulvil 'Forest Mirage'‣ awakened souls 'waiting'‣ Almøst Silent 'Mvmt 3'
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    PITPV060 | 29NOV23
    That liminal moment, when the phosphorescence behind the window shade first disrupts your eyelids, is a difficult one to pinpoint.  Sometimes the earliest thought in your mind is a long-tail partial memory of those last few moments of a thousand-yard dream, sometimes it’s an irrepressible descending sigh as you anticipate what’s to follow, whether with apprehension or ardor.  Centuries have passed in your unconscious absence; every frequency is existing somewhere.

    ​​California’s James Bernard, an established PITP veteran, has been creating and releasing music for nearly 30 years across many genres and label affiliations, in addition to his expert engineering, patch-building and mastering work.  Both as a solo artist and collaborator he has also brought an inimitable degree of invention and skill, heaviness and delicacy to works for A Strangely Isolated Place, Rising High and others. 

    For Soft Octaves, he created a suite of compositions using electric six-string bass, which yields a massive range spanning from subterranean rumble to cirrus vapor.  Each recorded in a single take through an array of effects and augmented by volume pedal to soften the edges, these pieces occupy a symphonic space of tonal androgyny, at times resembling a cello, a woodwind or something altogether unplaceable, but always arranged with deft and intuitive pacing.

    anthéne (aka Brad Deschamps of Toronto) complements Bernard’s environments with harmonized pulses, lyrical slow-motion melodies and evocative pedal steel guitar that pitches and yaws above the firmament.  As the founder of Polar Seas Recordings, Deschamps has created and facilitated a considerable catalog of patient music in keeping with the imprint’s name, incorporating plectrums, analog synthesizer and field recording as the bases of his output.  The impressions of northern climes that he creates make for an unlikely but perfect fit amid the hazy, coastal spaces of the source material here.

    Soft Octaves’ title track is an exemplary iteration of each artist’s strengths, as the curtain slowly parts to reveal a daylit panorama accented by an organic rustle, echoing guitar swells and subtle digital grain.  Standout “Trembling House” builds on this tenor, incorporating the voice of marine eyes (aka Cynthia Bernard, James’s partner in PITP duo awakened souls) layered in ghost tones around itself, a lullabied comfort even as it drifts away into the ionosphere.  Other key tracks like “Renascence” and “Cortège” introduce elements that imbue their aquatic dirge with church-like reverence.

    Citing “times of uncertainty and hope” as the primary genesis for much of this work, Bernard proves himself once more a master of transfiguration, weaving meditative and compelling beauty from the strands of doubt and fear that many of us have faced in this young century.  His wise choice to trust his works in the capable hands of Deschamps has yielded a complex and dynamic set that perfectly captures the essence of the magic hour, where all is suspended in shifting pastels.​
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    The universe would like some stillness. In the insanity created by us, we try to find some peace and quiet. But even that has been commoditised and sold as yet another refuge from this all. The focus on our mental health has brought with it another pathway of escape. But when you run, you find yourself again, with all your demons. Wherever you may sit in silence – there you are. Perhaps some music will unhinge those thoughts and carry you throughout this session. It’s time for self-reflection and repose. I have recited many words on this entrancing topic. Five years ago, I even shared guidance on meditation and on music. Can music be a tool to help you breathe? I think so. Yes. And here’s one example of such wonder.

    “‘Demain, dès l’aube’ is a quietly powerful collaboration between From Overseas and zakè with a beautiful stillness at its center. It is meditation music that secures a clear pathway to intimate contemplation.” And now is a good time to sit and to breathe. Some music reminds me of breathing: a cyclical motion that sustains our lives yet goes somehow unnoticed (until it’s too late)… This is why, during meditation, it is important to bring your attention to the steady flow of your breath… This is why, during these turbulent times, I remind myself to focus on the steady flow of this beautiful music… Don’t let this one go unnoticed…

    From Overseas & zakè are, of course, Kévin Séry and Zach Frizzell, both from Past Inside The Present label, which has been offering a lot of lovely music lately. The two have collaborated in the past, most recently Live at the Gothic Chapel with Marc Artel and James Bernard. A year prior, there was also Sound Space 4 release, which came out as part of the imprint’s subscription series, on Zakè Drone. For this upcoming record, the duo constructed loops from their favourite sounds. “They expanded on these short loops with intentional reshaping of the initial sounds by introducing and converging various guitar parts, tape processing, and synthesizer work.” The resulting eight gorgeous long-playing pieces are pressed onto a 160g opaque maroon 2×12″ LP with a limited edition run of 100 records. There is also a black vinyl set of 400 copies.
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    awakened souls is the musical project of ambient musicians and husband and wife duo Cynthia and James Bernard. Cynthia records under the name Marine Eyes, while James has had his hand in many solo and collaborative projects. Cynthia and James have, to my ears, perfected the ambient music realm. Creating sound worlds vast and beautiful, with the heaviness of heartbreak and the buoyancy of ethereal light. Between these two they have created a library of exquisite sound that would easily soundtrack a whole week’s worth of enlightenment from start to finish.

    On awakened souls’ new release unlikely places, the duo of Cynthia and James Bernard spin sonic delights with guitar, bass, synths, and ethereal vocals that act as a hypnotic heart beating throughout the album. The ten tracks here expand and resonate far beyond the album’s runtime, and almost feel like cosmic dream pop as opposed to ambient music.

    “i was complete” echoes and emanates in an almost neo-futurism. The music echoes as if rising from some endless chasm. It has touches of Vangelis in it, with Cynthia’s vocals giving the proceedings an angelic, spiritual lean. “waiting” emanates like a swirl of sunset hues; purples, pinks, and ember orange dissolve into cosmic bliss. “it could be wings” wavers in positive vibes and almost psychedelic undertones. The guitars reverberate in crystalline shards as the almost new age hum of electronics give it all a meditative, hazy feel.

    The Bernards bring things more into sharper focus sonically as awakened souls. Where previous releases feel like swaths of colors blended together perfectly in a beautiful abstraction, the music on unlikely places hones in on melody and emotion. The combination of voice and instrument – along with the exquisite production – gives us something completely new and uplifting to get lost in.

    “fall asleep, dream” is beautifully built, with lingering guitar notes and electronics coalescing beautifully while a vaguely disquieting note hangs just above the proceedings. ‘better for” shivers in sonic light as gently picked guitar builds a path for the ethereal vocals to float just above. Album closer “whispering goodbye” rings in cosmic swirls and an almost Komische sensibility. Harmonia contemplating the universe with the spirit of Suzanne Ciani.

    This is yet another stunning release from Past Inside The Present and Cynthia and James Bernard. As awakened souls these two ambient musicians have given us yet another beautiful sound world to get lost in. unlikely places is cascading beautiy, ethereal melancholy, and a must for any ambient/new age fan.
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    “To shine, burn and ultimately dissipate away”

    In 2019, Ambient drone maestro zakè released his acclaimed album ‘Orchestral Tape Studies’. The release was a stoic yet pensive meditation of the universe composed of orchestral looping textures, subtle field recordings and warm lulling drones. It’s an album I had on extensive repeat for a long period of the year it was released because it absolutely knew what it was trying to do and knocked it out of the park.

    In 2023, amongst an already steady catalogue of releases over the past few years (including the spectacular Stasis sounds for space travel collaborative albums with English dronemaker 36) zakè returns with his follow up album ‘Orchestral Tape studies II’ Released on the hugely prolific label ‘Past inside the Present’.

    With this 2nd album in the Orchestral tape Studies Series, zakè absolutely doubles down on what made the first album so good, with better production, a stronger sense of focus and intention in what the series does and a greater mastery to execute these grandiose yet restrained visions of pensive orchestral drone ambient. Everything here feels perfectly executed, the instruments are clean and spacious without feeling lifeless, the noise/field recordings all add a warm atmosphere without ever muddying the overall quality of the album and the use of drones/synths adds a whole other element to the record without ever sounding overbearing.

    The album makes reference to influence from early minimalist composers (without it naming names, but if i had to assume i can definitely hear works by Arvo Part and Joep Franssens). The album draws from these influences in a fantastic manner. Marrying the awe inspiring almost overview effect inducing sounds of these composers with the lush beautiful droneworks zakè has become so synonymous with in recent years. The contributions added by Cellist Olivia May, Viola player Charlotte Frizzell and guitarist Damien Duque bring a sense of life and energy to the recordings captured. The result is patient reflective music on a cinematic scale.

    One thing that I personally to commend zakè on with his work is how he uses field recordings, when listening to a lot of drone/ambient a lot of field recording work can really try to emphasise a specific space or texture that can feel uninvited and almost forceful of the mindset it’s trying to impose on you, With zakè’s use of them however, the complete opposite is true, the recordings while definitely present (for example at the beginning of in return) really compliment the whole track well and add a great atmosphere to the entire album, it has definable characteristics that give you some sense of feeling but its elusive qualities truly invite space for the listener to interpret the mental environment as they see fit.

    If I could best describe the way to listen to an album like this, it’s basically anywhere you can be alone and self reflective, I listened to the original orchestral tape studies at home alone/near the river near my house, at the grocery store, and each time it was a perfect accompaniment to whatever was going on internally and externally. It’s an album that rewards deep listening and gives space for a lot of self reflection. The rising and falling of all the textures to shine this really beautiful light that dims and either returns differently or disappears forever really is something special to listen to. The 3 Lament for strings tracks on this album highlight this aspect perfectly.

    Overall zakè has created another fantastic release in already consistently solid catalogue, fans of his previous work will likely understand what to expect and thoroughly enjoy it, for readers of our magazine who are aware of such works as stars of the lid or William Basinski, I thoroughly advise you to check this album out, You wont regret it.
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    The last place you’d think would be the home base of one of the most prolific and forward-thinking ambient/new age music record labels is Indianapolis, Indiana. But then again, why not? Past Inside The Present has proven to be a most prolific home to the world’s finest purveyors of ambient/new age, putting out music by zakè, From Overseas, City of Dawn, Marine Eyes, James Bernard, Drum & Lace, 36, plus many others. The sounds are subtle, ethereal, and very much a sonic salve for the mind, body, and spirit. I’ve personally found great comfort from this Midwest record label.

    On February 18th of this year zakè, Marc Ertel, James Bernard, and From Overseas got together at the historic Gothic Chapel, located at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana and put on a sublime live show. For those that couldn’t attend Past Inside The Present has now released the show as a live album experience. Multi-track recorded direct from the soundboard we now have Live at the Gothic Chapel, a tour-de-force live LP that puts the listener in the hallowed halls of the Gothic Chapel on that cool February evening. It’s 8 tracks of pure sonic and meditative beauty.

    Each song opens a portal to some kind of enlightened presence. There’s a reason these songs seem so powerful in a chapel, as they elicit a feeling that there’s more to our existence than we realize. A higher power? I don’t know, but what these electronic pieces do is make me not so much of a pessimist when one brings up such things. There’s a lightness in songs like “Signaling” and the sublime “Wanderlust”. The air becomes rarified that surrounds these songs; it’s as if you’re breathing in something ancient yet newborn.

    Nothing tips the scales past the 8 minute mark, with neither “Lament For Strings I” or “Lament For Strings III” barely cracking 2 1/2 minutes. They both feel like interludes between time and space, as opposed to ethereal breathers between the longer pieces. “Knowledge Rooms, Pt I & II” sounds like some New Age, atavistic tome that you’d hear in a crystalline hall echoing across blue skies and cumulonimbus peaks. It’s a moving experience, from first piece to last.

    Live at the Gothic Chapel hearkens back to the shows early Tangerine Dream would put on in Gothic churches and cathedrals; sitting on concrete floors, twisting knobs, bending circuits, and blowing minds(Live At Reims Cathedral is essential listening.) zakè, Marc Ertel, James Bernard, and From Overseas lock into that kind of magic here, evoking a kind of peaceful transcendence in front of a live audience. Giving them not just a concert, but a true experience.
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    IGLOO MAGAZINE | ZD023 | 05MAY23
    With one representative of a past generation of Electronic Listening Music mavens, James Bernard, already brought into the PITP-affiliated Zakè Drone fold, zakè adds another in Ambient DroneMeister Markus Guentner for the latest in this Now Voyager‘s series of (inter-)stellar outings under his curation, Pyramiden.

    Igloo-perusers may recall coverage of the previous collaborations of self-styled ‘healing sound propagandist,’ Zach Frizzell (aka zakè)—viz. syntheticopia, with kindred synth-spirit, ossa, which envisaged our curator and his trusty assistant as flight personnel on a new mission to collect and study the sound origins of the cosmos, and Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel with UK ambienteer, 36, a field recording-infused “extended hypersleep program” inspired by nostalgia for an imagined forsaken world. While the chilly optics of Pyramiden‘s titles (viz. “Polar Night,” “Seafrost,” and “Arctic Choir”) may have you shivering in anticipation, any potential cold pricklies dissolve on entry to the sound world created by our Ambient Drone ‘supergroup,’ as its expansive tracts, eight in total, cumulatively evoke a beauteous tepor via a drone-drift soundscaping prowess at once luminous and caliginous. A dialogue is set up between the cadence of ambient drone and the cascade of post-rock (rock sublimated) with an array of textures and strata perfused in a kind of slo-mo wide-sky outfolding. It effectively puts past inside the present in musical motion, affording psychoactive teleportation to temporo-spatial elsewhereness.
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    Zach Frizzell‘s Indianapolis (US) based label, Past Inside the Present, has been an incredible force in the last couple of years in the ambient community. So much so that when I was putting the finishing touches on my own album and thought about the best home for it, PITP sprang to mind first. You may think that I’m singing praises here as a result of that, but if you flip through its impressive catalogue, you will immediately notice the quality output from artists such as ASC, 36, bvdub, Lav, Wil Bolton, Pepo Galán, Slow Dancing Society, Celer, Purl, r beny, Endless Melancholy, From Overseas, and … too many others to name here… and that’s just in the last few years!

    Opening its doors in only 2018, this American imprint has established itself as one of the leading voices on the scene. It’s almost hard to keep up! And I’m not even mentioning here Zach’s offshoot for his own works, Zakè Drone Recordings, or a digital-only sub-label called Fallen Moon Recordings, or a sonic platform called Healing Sound Propagandist. The stellar creations that found themselves on Past Inside the Present have appeared numerous times on these pages and HC’s End of the Year selections since the launch, so it’s only fitting to have Zach showcase the upcoming output through this exclusive mix. Enjoy the journey, and as always, please support the label!
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    We have a dysfunctional relationship with time. We groan as the alarm calls us from our sleep. We feel harried by the clock, rushing from meeting to meeting. We spend hours mindlessly scrolling. We watch our children grow up and our parents grow old and are astonished by the rate of change. We try not to think about the implications for ourselves.

    Mike Lazarev‘s been considering time for a while now. 2021 Out of Time was the soundtrack to an imaginary film in which the protagonists are constantly fighting against the fleeting moments on this plane. 2019’s Aeon, released with Arovane, featured track titles like “Distant, In Time”, “27th December, Recurring” and the richly poetic “Unendlich, Endlich”, whose meaning is ambiguous enough that it could be translated as either “Unending, ending” or “Unending, ultimately”. 2020’s Suññatā, with James Murray, stepped out of time and explored the experience of encountering the non-self through meditation, and it’s the latter album with which Sacred Tonalities shares the most in common.

    As we know from his Headphone Commute, Lazarev’s musical interests are really broad, ranging from contemporary classical to dark drone via both ambient and electronic music. In Sacred Tonalities, Lazarev barely touches his old friend the piano, instead focusing on synth ambience: the Waldorf Iridium, the Sequential OB-6, the Roland JP-8000, the Novation Nova and Modal Electronics’ ARGON8M to name just a few. The drones help us to free ourselves from time: we can step out, experience timelessness, and step back in again. In doing so, we see that while we cannot stop time from happening, we can choose to move differently within its flow. It’s an album that shows Mike Lazarev’s deep understanding of a paradox of mindfulness: by focusing, we lose focus; by losing focus, we attain a new depth of focus.

    “Tonality Number One”, the first track, expands from a single solitary held tone until synth textures surround us, enveloping us in warmth, evolving in ways we don’t fully understand. In the remaining six tonalities that make up the album we’re shown multiple versions of the same truth, a truth not easily expressed in words (see the convoluted attempts at the end of the preceding paragraph!) but familiar to anyone who has spent time concentrating on their breath and letting go of themself. At times synth arpeggios loop around us, reflecting the circularity of experience. In the final track, as if presaging death, distortion builds to a climax topped by the decay of a single piano note. Having listened to the album on repeat several times, there’s something reassuring about the return of the solitary tone that opens it: yes, time will ultimately kill us, but we will continue.
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    In his own words, Mike Lazarev has described wanting to convey his new album as being “present with time, a meditative state,” as opposed to previous releases which have been more concerned with “entering time, exiting time, and finding yourself within time”. He can be safe in the knowledge he’s managed to achieve this, and whether conscious or not, offers something which sounds more introspective and personal than previous work. This is his first on burgeoning ambient label Past Inside the Present.

    Whilst ambient’s popularity has fluctuated over the years, it seems it’s reached something of a healthy stabilization point, with enough interesting music coming out to please the avid follower, and enough to alight new ears. Unfortunately, like many scenes in this post-internet world, it can feel saturated and for artists, a lot harder to stand out from the crowd.

    London-based producer and composer Mike Lazarev might not exactly be re-writing the ambient rulebook, but there is enough melodic flourishes, subtle tonal shifts and attention to detail in his third full-length Sacred Tonalities to prove that the genre is more than just the background music it is sometimes written off as, and deserves the listeners full attention (ideally with headphones).

    Cyclical synth lines adding some hypnotic patterns ::
    Tracks like “Tonality Number Two” gradually evolve and develop, with melodies creeping up on you as they emerge from the wash of orchestral chords and textural FX. Rhythmical elements are not entirely absent from the album, with cyclical synth lines adding some hypnotic patterns to Numbers “Three and Four” respectively, and throughout “Tonality Number Five,” a ghostly kick drum provides the most subtle heart-beat pulse.

    Sounding simultaneously natural and digital, Lazarev has expertly blended field recordings and atmospheres with his warm, synthesized compositions resulting in the feeling of one, fluid, organic whole rather than separate elements and layers fighting for space. Although the general mood of the album is melancholic (with the occasional drift into dystopian unease), the beauty in his chord progressions and melodies far from make this a difficult listen, and the moments of darkness never come over contrived. This album will satisfy not just the die-hard ambient fan but anyone who generally enjoys the more emotive side of electronic music, and unlike the lengthy and meandering drones of some of his peers, these tracks never outstay their welcome.
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    I’ve recently discovered a gorgeous and all-encompassing slice of ambient heaven in the form of two albums, titled Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel I & II. The artists are 36 and zakè. 36 is the musical project of UK musician Dennis Huddleston, while zakè is, well, zakè. His work has been talked about and adored on these pages many times over the last couple of years, starting back in 2020 with Dawn Chorus and the Infallible Sea’s Liberamente(released via Azure Vista Records.)

    With 36 & zakè’s Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel I & II these two ambient musicians take us up into the cosmos. Slow, drifting swaths of electronics encompass you and take you on a cosmic journey. I do think music can heal, and with these two albums they emanate a kind of soothing, sonic pulse that calms the nerves and quiets the mind. Who doesn’t need some of that these days?

    There’s lots of music that comes my way, and honestly it’s hard for me to cram it all between my ears. Believe me, I try. Listening to and writing about music is something I’ve done on a regular basis for over a decade now. And listening to music? Well I’ve been doing that since I could walk. At least since I could pick up my parents copy of The White Album and ask my mom to put it on the turntable. So when I don’t have enough time in the week to devour all the amazing music coming my way that’s both a bummer and pretty amazing. It means that just because I’m not hearing it, doesn’t mean that people aren’t continually opening their heads and hearts and giving the world the gift of sound.

    When I hear from labels like Past Inside The Present, Zakè Drone Recordings, Azure Vista Records, and Moon Glyph Records I make sure I listen. Their ambient and drone albums have been a source of mental comfort for years now. They’ve opened my brain to the world of ambient and new age. It’s a deeper trip, and I feel it’s the logical progression from the world of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Rudiger Lorenz. Where the darker realms of Komische and Berlin School were the gateway for me into electronic and heavy synth, ambient and new age were the welcoming step into the light. Still dig the dark, but you can’t stay there all the time unless you’re a mushroom.

    Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel I & II have the vastness of a widescreen view of Earth from the point of view of a space station. It’s awe-inspiring, like earth from several thousands of miles away, or the sight of the aurora borealis hanging over the atmosphere from a galactic view. This is music to fall into and let it engulf you. 36 and zakè build slow moving soundscapes that soothe the listener into a weightless world, using synths and electronics like paints. Each brush stroke and added layer of color creating vast canvases of cosmic visions and ethereal light.

    Over the two volumes of Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel there’s plenty of sounds to keep you in stasis for a couple hours. Sonic bliss and a sort of cosmic peace make these records truly special, and a welcome respite in these troubled times.
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    In addition to being a prolific collaborator, most notably as one half of the ambient duo awakened souls alongside her husband James Bernard, and curating playlists and compilations such as Healing Together in support of mental health recovery, Cynthia Bernard has become a solo artist in her own right under the alias of marine eyes. Having laid down a marker with the sumptuously layered guitars & vocals idyll debuting last year on the Stereoscenic label, Cynthia follows up with a deeply personal musical diary of sorts called chamomile. Written during the summer and fall of last year in her bedroom studio, she uses electric guitars, bass, pedalboard, synthesizers, and vocals to survey a sonic landscape defined by its emotional touchstones – equanimity. awe. love. comfort. longing. compassion. creativity. grief. tranquility. heart-searching.

    Deepening the personal connection in the songs, Cynthia has incorporated field recordings taken in places with special meaning for her – things like a favorite forest tree, windchimes her uncle gave her before he passed away, birds and a fountain from a tiny house she stayed at with her husband, or the sounds of the ocean close to the home of her childhood best friend. The imprint of these memories and emotions resonates through the music to infuse with it with sincerity and heartfelt tenderness that cannot be denied. Like the herb that is its namesake, chamomile is a soothing balm for the soul.

    chamomile was released July 22, 2022 by Past Inside the Present in two vinyl LP editions. The album was mastered by Rafale Anton Irisarri and features cover art by Cynthia herself. While those initial cocoon white and sky nap blue editions are sold out, the label has issued a second pressing of the album on 160-gram vinyl each copy of which comes in a one-of-a-kind “mystery color” (see Bandcamp page for details!)
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    Swedish producer Christopher Landin (aka Lav) established his presence in the ambient / techno underground scene releasing several singles and EP’s as well as collaborative works with the prolific Ludvig Cimbrelius (aka Purl) on A Strangely Isolated Place. Their breathtaking 2017 album A State of Becoming (A Strangely Isolated Place) marked Lav’s first full-length release, and featured euphoric field recordings intertwined with carefully measured beats and melancholy piano melodies. With A New Landscape—his latest proper solo record for Past Inside the Present—this formula can still be heard throughout, yet perhaps with more emphasis placed on rhythm and classic electronic drum machines.

    The opening track “Human Disturbances” is a stunning example of how Lav’s organic field recordings can blend with warm basslines and crisp, steady beat work in perfect harmony. It’s easy to get lost in the following track “Under the Microscope,” which is more of a straight forward dub techno affair. Serene atmospheres evolve throughout the song, which is held together by booming 808 kick drum and hi-hats that will tickle your tweeters. “Collaborative Survival” employs cyclic percussion arrangements, and sporadic instances of background effects with delay and reverb, engaging the listener with a high level of sonic detail. The album continues with “Advanced State of Decay.” Fading in slowly, each element builds upon each other creating a sense of tension with ominous pads, and low end rumble which rests comfortably underneath a skeletal techno pulse. On “Myxomycetes” Lav slows things down a bit, with a lower tempo and scattered beats that form an intelligent structure in which the downbeat and time signature are seemingly a mystery. More classic drum machine sounds can be found on the tranquil “Art of Noticing” which also has a beautiful bird song deep in the background of the mix.

    One exceptional thing that stands out about this A New Landscape is that the mixes are never overly crowded with frequencies. There are always just the right amount of elements in play at any given moment. While not exactly minimal, (as the songs sound quite large) the tracks are somewhat stripped back and given lots of breathing room within themselves, utilizing a less is more approach with great effect. The songs are structured in such a way that they could be enjoyed with intent, introspective listening, or even as a backdrop for your daily activities. Highly recommended for cool autumn days with the windows open, and a cup of your favorite tea or coffee. Grab a copy today from Past Inside the Present in a multitude of different vinyl choices including black, transparent marigold, or even a mystery color package.
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    The latest from label Past Inside The Present is a free fall into sonic bliss with the collaborative Misty Memories. Bringing together for the first time artists From Overseas and City Of Dawn, this ambient/new age record brings together “nostalgic tape sounds, lo-fi strings, mesmerizing guitar loops, and Kévin(Séry’s) use of subtle vocal samples create a dream world filled with calm and stillness.”

    From Overseas is musician Kévin Séry, while City Of Dawn is Damien Duque. These two combine their sonic strengths together on Misty Memories, a deep dive into heady soundscapes and healing vibes. Both have plenty of musical explorations under their belts, and working together with Past Inside The Present they’ve made the perfect zone out record.

    “‘Misty Memories’ is a soundtrack for our memories and time passing by.” That is how Kévin and Damien sum up their first collaborative album, and when you hit play or drop the needle on this LP you get it. It’s a sound that is all consuming, like falling into a memory. Tracks like “Driftwood” and “Falling Leaves” swell slowly from their beginnings; the idea of a time and place blossom, followed by the emotions that come with those moments. It’s like looking down a long hallway lined with doors, and behind those doors are moments in time. These songs are sonic bridges that lead to those moments.

    While mostly instrumental, there are vocals. Besides Kévin Séry’s use of vocals as sonic layers, Marine Eyes’ Cynthia Bernard offers her ethereal vocals in layered harmonies on tracks “Weathering” and “Waves Vanished”. These vocal moments put me in mind of post-rock/dream pop outfit Besnard Lakes, a band that flirts with ambient touches on their mostly pop rock records. You can almost envision glacial walls climbing to the heavens as these tracks play on. It’s quite stunning.

    The 8 tracks that fill out Misty Memories take shape like early morning fog, and as the sun wakes they disappear as quickly as they arrived. Kévin Séry and Damien Duque use heavily effected guitars, synths, vocals, and tape loops to conjure swaths of heady noise and a sense of nostalgic melancholy. It’s a dichotomy of emotional riches, by finding yourself lost in the ether of memory and time. The joy of remembering a moment with a loved one, while finding sadness in knowing that loved one is gone. Misty Memories plays and emanates from that; mining your mind for those moments of both comfort and loss. In the end, though, there’s still peace at the center.
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    When the world is burning it can be difficult to find yourself, however, through struggle and turmoil comes great art. This is not to assume every artist takes in their surroundings or global action into the equation—but perhaps by creating their own worlds allows others to follow into temporary escapism and solace within.

    Earlier this summer we saw the thought-provoking, momentary stillness in time chamomile, by Cynthia Bernard (aka marine eyes.) Each passage is soaked in true feelings that chooses warmth to fill up our own negative space. There is an elegance in how effortlessly these tracks find emotive points connecting throughout. To describe the overall sound in perhaps two words, I would first say BIG for the expansive reverb that swirls marine eyes’ vocals around ethereal landscapes the size of an ever growing universe—the details are delicate yet infinitive. Secondly, I would say ABSORBING. Perhaps this is just finding me at a time where I needed it without knowing. There is a caring notion that chamomile holds your hand whilst allowing you to look around, gently guiding you.

    Take a moment today, now if you can, to listen to this in full. Wherever you are, and whatever your situation, marine eyes manages to conjure up belief that everything will eventually be okay.

    Cynthia Bernard was recently involved with Healing Together: A Compilation For Mental Health Recovery, also available via Past Inside the Present. This compilation is currently set to ‘Name Your Price,’ and is a wonderful release we previously reviewed.
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    Kévin Sery, aka From Overseas, will always be one of my favourite artists from the ambient genre. The sound artist from La Réunion has now recorded a new album with City of Dawn. "Misty Memories" is the first collaboration between the two projects.

    Kévin and his friend Damien from City of Dawn have created a wonderful collection of melodic songs based on nostalgic tape loops and dreamy guitar sounds. The layers of light and, at the same time, interwoven and playful guitar playing, samples and loops and their play with silence and calm have particularly impressed me.

    Cynthia Bernard (marine eyes & awakened souls) enriched two of the eight songs with her vocals. "Weathering" and "Waves Vanished" are my favourites on the record, not just for that reason. The overall atmosphere of the two tracks makes me feel like I'm drifting far away – dreaming of hidden places of untouched nature.

    Nature has always played a significant role in From Overseas' overall work. You can also hear this intimate connection in this collaboration with City of Dawn.

    The sound of the sea, wind chimes and feet in the sand. Whether it's the samples getting flushed into my ears over the headphones, or whether these pictures are already created by my imagination getting stimulated by the enchanting sounds: I'll leave this open at this point.

    One thing is for sure: songs like "Driftwood" (Track 2), "Fallen Leaves" (Track 3) or "Silent Friends" (Track 7) don't need words to tell their stories. They're starting to unfold as soon as the needle of the record player touches the vinyl.

    For me, "Misty Memories" could become the soundtrack for the cold season – incredible ambient/drone sound made for writing, meditating, dreaming and relaxing. So please give it a listen. It's worth it.
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    Every once in a while an album works its way into your brain that truly soothes the soul and calms the buzzing mind. 2020 was a year that I subsisted on ambient and drone music. It was the kind of music that offered what my weary head and heart needed so badly, a reprieve from the madness outside. Bands like Dawn Chorus and the Infallible Sea, Jonas Munk, Omni Gardens, and Steve Roach brought the sonic sedatives that kept me afloat in my time of need.

    I’ve been going through a lot of personal shifts and changes over this past summer. Not pandemics and doom, but just tectonic shifts in my life as kids get older, move on, and leave old pops to ponder what’s next when he’s not as needed as he once was. An album I’ve been leaning on quite a bit lately is the gorgeous chamomile by marine eyes. marine eyes is musican/composer/producer Cynthia Bernard. She released her debut idyll on Stereoscenic Records in March of 2021. chamomile is her debut release with label Past Inside The Present and it showcases her brilliance as an new age/ambient/drone composer.

    chamomile is slow motion bliss.

    The ten songs on chamomile rise like sunset hues over calm water. There’s a house we rent in the fall that sits on a quiet, private lake in southern Michigan. “cocoon” gives me the feeling of sitting on the screened-in porch with a cup of coffee as the sun sleepily makes its entrance over the calm lake. The family still sleeping, there’s a sense of oneness that comes over me in that instance. “cocoon” captures the mystery and the ambivalence in that moment. It’s at once peaceful and melancholy. “magic familiar” has the heft of a walk on the beach, complete with the hum of stirring waters and sun-baked psychedelia. Voices in the distance that blend into a chorus of gauzy release.

    Cynthia Bernard mixes voice in her music, giving the proceedings an almost angelic touch. Clouds parting, sunlight coming down like an escalator from the cosmos inviting you to ascend to a higher plane. I get touches of Enya, but they’re very subtle. On “what’s on the inside (featuring City of Dawn)” Bernard creates walls of glorious reverb-drenched vocals. This song has an incandescence to it; meaning escapes in the cavernous ebb and flow as if the song’s beating heart welcomes you into its sonic chambers. “suspended universe” goes into Cocteau Twins territory with almost pop sensibilities as her vocals sit front and center. Pure transcendence.

    Cynthia Bernard, aka marine eyes, described the album as pieces of journal entries, and wanted these ten songs “to feel like new entries–distilled miniature worlds of my creative process and inner life.” I feel she has done that with chamomile. You can feel the people and places that helped make this album a reality. The textures and voices in the music come out as living things. They invite you in, lovingly with wide open sonic arms.
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    The lush tones of secret garden hymnals become tangible, ethereal landscapes in Cynthia Bernard’s hands as marine eyes. The ten vignettes on chamomile don’t simply tell a story; they invite listeners to find their own narrative within these lilting arrangements. The empty space is nestled within the warm synths, expressive guitars, and magnetic field records. Somewhere we can immerse ourselves and find a hypnotic calm.

    Stretched melodies are at the core of chamomile, whether in the ebullience of “cedarwood,” the sublime vocals on “magic familiar,” or the slow strums of “filler of hearts,” Bernard distills unearthly harmonies into pure streams. “cedarwood” resonates with a transcendental fullness. Shimmering chord progressions rise and fall, following a breath of anticipation as skies become effervescent jetstreams infused with arpeggiated gem tones and shadow dreams. Night fades into a welcome shade of midnight blue where we can cast our spirits.

    Verdant soundscapes encircle Bernard’s disembodied voice in the opulent silhouettes of “magic familiar.” Familiar memories ascend toward the surface, hidden in distant waves that spill into the stunning “what’s on the inside.” Joined by the wonderful City of Dawn, Bernard’s voice is twisted in reverse, casting a beam of pure light into the ambient darkness. Within its aural prism, we are weightless. The feeling returns in the gossamer stretches of “sky nap,” though hues of yellow and pink permeate its expansive atmosphere. Dawn brings a fresh start, an outstretched path toward the horizon.

    “outpourings” pierces through the liminal shroud with guitar elements that remind me of the late, great Azusa Plane, with a reflective undercurrent and propulsive glow. It’s the downslope edge compared to the title track, which only floats upward. “chamomile” hangs in gossamer tendrils in the canopy surrounded by birdsong and the breath of tomorrow. Elegant landscapes blossom in the elegiac tones and enveloping arrangements making everything feel safe here. Bernard’s gift is this heavenly world. chamomile is a wonder.
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    In the diluted field of ambient music, Dennis Huddleston aka 36 (pronounced “three-six”) has rapidly become one of the most established artists in this ever-expanding area. With what seems like thousands of musicians trying their hand at ambient production, one must be more selective than ever when it comes to delving into this space. Dennis’ works can range from full-on blissed-out atmospheres, to looping melodic dreamscapes, and Symmetry Systems feels like more of the latter. As listeners, we are always looking for artists and labels that we can trust for consistent quality output—and the latest 36 release on Past Inside the Present fits that bill.

    Inspired by early Artificial Intelligence compilations on Warp Records Symmetry Systems seems to utilize the same mold as his previous album Wave Variations (released 2020, PITP). Shorter format ambient songs, generally ranging from 3-4 minutes in length, which instead of employing long crescendos—take the listener straight to the apex, then dissipate as quickly as they came. Each track essentially influencing the next, with the sequence of the songs being the order in which they were created. The songs transform and evolve with recognizable chord progressions that take the listener to a familiar, nostalgic place. Though the frequency ranges are quite full, Dennis admits the songs are minimal in nature, as he intentionally limited his palette during the creation process. Hypnotizing melodic synth leads surrounded by lush chorded pads are also reminiscent of Carbon Based Lifeforms.

    If you’re just getting into the works of 36, this is a great starting point as Symmetry Systems quite accessible for most listeners of the genre—and you could just work your way back from here. His back catalog continues to get deeper, so you’ll have plenty to choose from and none of it disappoints. 36 sets himself apart from the rest of the field once again with his latest on Past Inside the Present, so go grab a copy for yourself!
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    Whilst many of us are attempting a new normal after the past couple of years, we are only really starting to unravel what is essentially the aftermath which in turn also has severe outcomes that is affecting a range of demographics at striking rates—this is mental health issues.

    Healing Together: A Compilation For Mental Health Recovery is a benefit compilation for mental health recovery featuring 23 ambient-electronic artists from around the world. Each have prepared entirely new compositions specially for the compilation. Showcasing an incredible line-up of women artists Nailah Hunter, Penelope Trappes, Clarice Jensen, Drum & Lace, Sofie Birch, Hollie Kenniff, Clariloops, more eaze, Ami Dang, Karen Vogt, Patricia Wolf, Zoe Polanski, Sachi Kobayashi, Christina Giannone, Ai Yamamoto, Cat Tyson Hughes, IKSRE, Inquiri, Belly Full of Stars, Claire Deak, Pechblende, Caminuata and marine eyes.

    Recognizing that music is a bridge to normalizing conversations about the challenges people are going through, each artist was prompted to create a song that would help someone with mental health struggles know they’re not alone. This sprouted into a collection of ambient music holding space for the many emotional landscapes we experience as humans. Delicate by nature and transformative throughout—this album in its entirety massages thoughts and creates free space for imagination to gracefully calm.

    What I like about this compilation and curation, is that there is not a concentration on long-form. Whilst we can certainly imagine healing music to be of this kind, instead on Healing Together each artist presents a brief moment in time to take a break. Often with fractured and busy lifestyles trying to find those 10-15 minutes for meditation and debrief can almost add its own stress. Cynthia Bernard, who not only curated, but also did the photography and design as well as contribute under their marine eyes alias for this release, extends a hand to the listener by bringing together such talent whilst remaining in a touching duration.

    Whether it is first thing in the morning, or on your commute, a coffee break or the last thing you do before bed—taking even just a few minutes to digest your thoughts to these often euphoric and mesmerizing soundscapes provides tranquil notions and controlled breathing without realizing.

    Past Inside The Present has been active for a few years now and whilst it is garnering an impressive catalogue of releases that will mostly stand the test of time, this release in particular will be a cornerstone for reference in years to come.

    Net profits will go to Sounds of Saving, a non-profit fueling hope for mental health both by celebrating the power of human connection to music and directing people towards the resources they need before it’s too late. If you or a loved one suffer from mental health issues or you are looking to learn more, here are some resources. Look after yourself:

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    While much has been written about the use of ambient music as soother, sleep aid, or background, little has been written about its therapeutic qualities (Isabella Herrera’s recent article in The New York Times one exception). Cynthia Bernard seeks to expand perceptions with this 23-track, all female compilation, whose proceeds will benefit Sounds of Saving. Health, healing, and hope recur in the track notes, providing personal evidence of an additional facet of the genre. The set is also a celebration of female artistry, from Bernard’s art to the vast array of talent on display: familiar names happily mingling with the underground, all healing together.

    The past two years have seen a rise in cases due to a wide array of issues, from pandemic to politics to war, but many suffer in silence, fearing stigma. Each artist was asked to record a song that would help a struggling listener realize they are not alone. The flow of the collection is exquisite, highlighting the power of music to cast a spell, lift a mood, and perhaps motivate a listener to reach out.

    Sofia Birch’s “Willness” is a microcosm of the set, beginning in quietude before introducing the healing power of chimes, proceeding to adopt an upbeat electronic pulse, a blossoming of soul and sound. She mentions finding a “point of focus” and holding on with all one’s might. Hollie Kenniff offers wordless voice on “Embers,” an extension of The Quiet Drift. For Kenniff, healing arrives through artistry, a pursuit not common to all but available to all. Clariloops writes of “focusing on and appreciating every aspect of the present moment, good and bad.” Already three artists have offered three different ways to look at the world: access points to joy, or away from anguish. To listen is to feel; to read is to appreciate each individual’s voice and to accumulate action plans.

    Drum & Lace recorded “Felt” at home, letting the birds have their say. She focuses on the thought of togetherness, even when one is alone: remembering that those who care for us still care for us, wherever they may be, a crucial reminder in times of quarantine. Sachi Kobayashi reminds her listeners of the “Scent of Roses,” and by extension the healing power of scent. Belly Full of Stars turns loss into remembrance, and remembrance into gratitude. Compiler Bernard, recording as marine eyes, reflects her moniker with local California waves and is one of the set’s witnesses to the healing power of nature.

    But how does the album make one feel? The answer will differ between listeners. This reviewer’s unscientific test was to play the music when stressed and to see what happened. Would the music produce calm, lethargy, sleep? Only the first. IKSRE embeds the Schumann resonance, purported to prompt healing, but a softening of emotional edges occurs before that. The calm led to increased productivity, as I returned to work with the music playing, occasionally noticing specific sounds, in IKSRE’s “You Will Find” the strings more than the binaural beats: healing by any means necessary.

    Clarice Jensen lets her title do the talking: “Getting Lost Is Okay.” Giving ourselves permission to admit imperfection, to be lost, to fail is an initial step on the road to recovery. One in five persons suffers from mental illness, and this figure doesn’t include those who suffer from mental anguish. This can happen to anyone. At some point, it does happen to everyone, and the only reason many don’t know this is that we don’t talk about it. What if we were to greet each person (perhaps in our heads) with a “Hi, I was/am/will be mentally ill, and you were/are/will be mentally ill too!”? We’d be letting the bird out of the coop: the scary yet liberating truth. “I know it is hard,” sings Karen Vogt over and over until it sinks in: acknowledgment as medicine.

    By the time the set reaches Cat Tyson Hughes’ “Almonta,” it has circled back to calm, described by The Wire‘s Catherine Sinow as “inner peace.” This trajectory is a promise that such things are possible: that music can heal, and can lead one to healing connections. The key word: together. Here are 23 voices, whispering, singing, serenading, you’re not alone.
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    PETAL MOTEL | PITPV030 | 17MAR22
    Night Songs is the latest record from awakened souls, the Los Angeles based husband and wife duo- James and Cynthia Bernard. Although I look to ambient music to soothe and quiet the mind, very few do it quite as well as Cynthia and James Bernard. I first discovered Cynthia’s music as marine eyes, her 2021 album idyll a soothing shower of sonic wonder, and Unfailing Love, her collaboration with zakè, a deeply profound, romantic exploration of liminal space and sound. Both are go-to soundtrack for evening dips in the pool, sunset drives through the canyon, airplane rides, dreaming, etc. With her husband James as awakened souls, they recently released the lovely Keep The Orange Sun with From Overseas.

    And tomorrow they release Night Songs, a blanket of serenity and lunar-guided melodies out on Past Inside the Present. I appreciate this prolific duo’s quest to create calming, inner-peace-inspiring music and hope they continue doing so well into the future.

    In the Spring of 2021, they found that a good night’s rest was more important than ever to help them through pandemic days of schooling kids from home and balancing work and life. Even prior to being together, both James and Cynthia individually sought out records that would become remedies to calm their minds at the end of the day. Night Songs is their own version of a sleepy evening record, exploring slowly evolving loop-based ambient primarily using bass guitar and vocal textures.

    After going on an evening walk in their neighborhood, James and Cynthia would write in their bedroom studio and test the songs out for sleep that evening. The tracks that ultimately made it on Night Songs are the ones that made them relax enough to go to a place where thoughts fade.
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    VEHLINGGO | PITPV042 | 01MAY22
    It takes a particularly talented person to make electronic music sound organic — compositions that feel like they live and breathe. Sofia Hultquist is one of those musicians. You hear it in both her solo scores and the score work she does with her husband, Ian. Her long-running Drum & Lace project is likewise loaded to the brim with electronic elements that pulsate with a massive heartbeat.

    Along those lines, she has never been a musician I’d call “synthy” or a “synth artist,” even though she deftly uses synthesizers of some type on the regular. More so, I’d place her studio album work in the same camp as The Haxan Cloak (Bobby Krlic), Zola Jesus, Flying Lotus, or Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. You could place her stuff on Warp, Ghostly, or even Sacred Bones, and it would sound right at home.

    On Natura, her latest album, her organic approach is even more in force — and it’s not merely because of the presence of real strings by the London Contemporary Orchestra. As the title suggests, the natural world is a pronounced theme of the album and one that is tailor-made for Hultquist. Built into this is an inherent sense of the cinematic. Although her studio releases have always reflected some elements of her day job, there’s something about Natura that is markedly more in line with her recent score work.

    A potent example of the filmic-modern electronic harmony of Natura is the IDM-infused cut “Waxing Crescent.” The central synth arps strike a Reichian rumination — weaving meticulously around repeated themes, underneath which the drum machine stabs and pulses its way to an intriguing denouement. Throughout are Hultquist’s wordless vocals, what could be field-recordings-turned-percussion, and a stark characterization of the explosive internal nature of contemplation. It’s an intriguing representation of the entire record in one seven-minute song.

    The piano-driven texture-fest “Sirens,” with its warm, skittering percussion and yearning lead piano, is laced with emotive synths, ambient pads, a splash of creaky colors that coat the spaces between the sounds, and a tanker full of trepidation. It too is a prime example of Hultquist’s masterwork on Natura.

    Elsewhere, on “oe,” we find Hultquist pairing evocative vocals with a dark, slow, and dynamically rhythmic musical palette. It presents the kind of sultry foreboding you’d find on Massive Attack’s 1998 masterpiece, Mezzanine, but with the artistically grander scope Hultquist reliably exhibits with ease.

    Natura, released on ambient label Past Inside the Present, is Hultquist’s first full-length album, remarkably. Perhaps with the multi-modal, mixed-media experiments in which she’s been involved, and the various EPs, in addition to the scores for things like the I Know What You Did Last Summer TV series, Good Girls and Night Teeth, there just hasn’t been the time.

    Or perhaps this is exactly the right time. After all, Natura showcases Hultquist’s various talents — cinematic music, electronic experimentation through both soundscapes and composition, and often peculiar field recordings used uniquely — in a markedly organic fashion that feels particularly potent in our metawhatever era. The musical experience of the album suggests that Hultquist’s Drum & Lace project is at the vanguard of the next wave of post-pandemic, pre-apocalyptic, beat-driven ambient electronic music. We live in “exciting” times and it’s always good to have some great music to get you through it.
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    Humans have been using music to help themselves find peace and slumber at night for millennia. In that quest the vast majority of us rely on recordings made by others, but in the case of the husband and wife duo James and Cynthia Bernard known as Awakened Souls, they took it upon themselves to make one of their own. Like many during the spring of 2021, they were in search of restful nights to help them through days of schooling kids from home and balancing work and life while coping with a life-changing pandemic and Night Songs is a collection of six anodyne ambient soundscapes capable of quieting the most restless mind.

    With its serene ambient textures and ethereal vocals, Night Songs is like a weighted blanket for the mind. Between their considerable studio skills and empathetic sensibilities, the Bernards have tenderly crafted a set of songs capable of seeping past the barriers of language to resonate in the deepest of liminal spaces.

    Night Songs is available digitally and in a limited clear vinyl LP edition (200 copies) from Past Inside the Present. Metallic silver and 160 gram label press vinyl editions were also released but were both sold out at the time this review was published. The album was mastered by Rafael Anton Irisarri and features artwork & design by Cynthia Bernard.
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    After a run of acclaimed singles, EPs and film and TV scores (“Dickinson,” “Good Girls,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer”), Drum & Lace (Sofia Hultquist) is finally releasing her debut album. Natura is confident and catchy, the artist’s vast experience giving her an advantage over most debut appearances.

    In 2019, we placed the artist’s semi songs in Modern Composition after a brief discussion; this one lands in a different category because the dominant element has shifted. The strings are still present, contributed by the London Contemporary Orchestra, but Natura is also a club-friendly album, featuring many possible singles. The first of these, “Creatura” and “Armatura,” are also the opening tracks, the first instrumental, the second including sparse vocals. Amazingly, Drum & Lace has the potential to chart in both pop and indie arenas due to her chameleon-like nature.

    The mixture of organic and electronic illustrates the album’s loose theme: the interplay between nature and technology. The album’s longest track, “Waxing Crescent,” is built on a foundation of modular synth, with onomatopoeic vocals wafting over the rhythms. The timbre is as lush as a rain forest, despite its artificial elements. Field recordings crackle underneath, a souvenir of the gentle earth. The blending is reminiscent of Björk’s Biophilia, which also contains a track titled “Náttúra.” The template is repeated on the immersive “Prasiano,” which beckons listeners into a wondrous trance-like world where all time markers are erased.

    The album’s shortest track, “Sullen,” is also its turning point. In 1:24, this quiet piece shifts from rain-drenched synth to church bells, sparking the return of the orchestra, which features on three of the last four tracks. The strings add a melancholic depth, which turns spiritual as the bells turn to chimes on “Moss.” The ancient meets the modern and finds a peaceful welcome, an instinctive integration. It all leads to the album’s stunning finale, “Plantae,” on which Hultquist and the LCO are joined by percussionist Valentina Magaletti (TOMAGA). The electronic pulse is replaced by the organic, the synthesizers dance in the trees, the wooden violins meet their ancestors, while Sofia sings wordlessly over it all. All elements are reconciled. Harmony is achieved. The birds sing us sweetly home.
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    On March 18th, awakened souls will release their new record, "Night Songs". It is the first solo awakened souls record since "How We Heal". The duo recorded it to help people sleep better in times of fear and confusion.

    In the spring of 2021, the two realized that good night's sleep is more important than ever in times of pandemic – times when children have to be homeschooled, and the lines between work and leisure are becoming increasingly blurred.

    awakened souls have always been on the lookout for music that calms the mind and helps you fall asleep. "Night Songs" is their version of a cosy evening album. They combined slowly evolving loop-based ambient sounds with bass and beautiful vocal textures with their work. Cynthia describes it this way:

    "The tracks that ultimately made it on 'Night Songs' are the ones that made us relax enough to go to a place where thoughts fade."

    I indeed couldn't have described the experience I had listening to "Night Songs" for the first time any more beautifully. Because that's precisely what the music of awakened souls does: it carries me away, gently beds me and slows down the carousel of thoughts in my head already with the first notes.

    Unlike other pieces from this genre, I don't find myself in an endless sound loop while listening. Instead, the music is constantly evolving. The total of six songs is the perfect start to an evening of rest, meditation and relaxation. With the harmonious sounds, I manage to slip quietly into relaxation mode after I've done my work, and then a few hours later, I'm able to drift off to sleep.

    Because it has become a dear evening routine for me over the recent months to listen to either a guided mediation or quiet ambient pieces over my headphones after I have turned off the lights, "Night Songs" comes in very handy. I feel very comfortable with it and can imagine listening to the album regularly while falling asleep.

    For me, "Night Songs" is the perfect soundtrack for my Yoga Nidra - the deeply relaxed state of clear consciousness that occurs just before falling asleep or during the relaxation phase after a yoga session.

    "Night Songs" by awakened souls brings just that to all those who wish for a moment of peace in between in these tangled times – blissful relaxation that goes by ear, that spreads very slowly, little by little, over the whole body.
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    Lingering darker textural and feedback driven drones, suggesting emulations of memories or their musical counterparts. The sound is evocative of beautiful ambience and loops, the pace is relaxingly slow. I think of the sound of yesteryear, like old recordings whenever I listen to it.

    “Dwell Time focuses on the moments in between.”

    “Dwell Time explores the moments in between active and passive listening.”

    The sound I hear is pleasant, it does not require attention to details and nuances. It floats there, you can float with it or you can ignore it and go about your tasks, I like that. The instruments I detect are something like brass, maybe woodwinds, probably from electronic synthesizers. The specific instrumentation is indistinct, and the listening sensation is encased in a formal loopy drone backdrop, and enjoys the sustained elongated disengaged tonal ease that you might find drifting on breezes with your window open, if you are lucky. One of the lessons of John Cage was how to find or recognize music in the world around us.

    “A sound that maintains a unique balance of properties can start as an active relationship that slowly dissolves into the background and accompanies a listener over its course.”

    The ghost of remembering visits in eight different ways, each are consistent variations on the same range of tonalities and moods. The pace is slow and easy. These are friendly ghostscapes, this is not designed to be an anxiety producing artform. There are distortions and odd sounds that linger, all in slow motion and together they create the full feeling of sustained nostalgic relaxation.

    Once upon a time if you said that certain music put you to sleep, that was considered awkward. This album, Dwell Time, today, right now, might be prescribed to help sleep to find you when you are prepared to find it. The music herein gently unfolds behind you and around you while you drift along, offering no abrupt surprises or distractions to snag your mind and hold you awake or to bring you back to your restless obsessions.
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    Drum & Lace, aka Sofia degli Alessandri-Hultquist, is a composer and performer hailing from Florence, Italy. On April 8, Drum & Lace will release her debut LP Natura via the ambient vinyl label Past Inside The Present. Pre-orders will be begin on March 25.

    Natura was mixed by Paul Corley (Liminal/Sigur Ros) and mastered by Joshua Eustis (Telefon Tel Aviv). The record features the London Contemporary Orchestra (on Canary, Moss, Armatura, Plantae) and Italian drummer Valentina Magaletti (Nicolas Jaare/Lafawndah) on the closing track, "Plantae."

    The LP was recorded at Sofia's home studio in Los Angeles, and the strings were recorded in London at Church Studios over the course of the Fall/Winter 2020/2021. Natura draws greatly from the juxtaposition of the natural vs artificial, exploring this concept through manipulated field recordings, voice, modular synth and string ensemble.

    Sofia's music has been described as being genre-fluid, melding together sampled field recordings, lush layers of synths, chamber instruments and electronic beats. She draws inspiration from film music, music concrete and nature to create textural electronica, often juxtaposing unlikely sounds with one another.

    Performances, which often include elements of spatial audio and multimedia include The Echo Society VI: Family (Los Angeles, CA), National Sawdust's Digital Discovery Festival 2020 (virtual), Quadraphonic Live at LA Central Library's Taper Auditorium with Suzanne Ciani (Los Angeles, CA), and Moogfest 2019 (Durham, NC).

    Drum & Lace's composition work includes music for film/tv, most notably on projects such as AppleTV+ Original Series Dickinson and Netflix Film Night Teeth as well as for dance, theater, and fashion.
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    Alex Smalley has made a lot of music over the years, though rarely under his own name. He’s perhaps best known for the work he’s done under the moniker Olan Mill, but his collaborative project Pausal has always hit my sweet spot. Towards the end of 2021, Smalley released Vanaprastha (The Man Who Went Into The Woods To Find Himself) on Past Inside the Present, his strongest sonic statement using his own name. It’s an album that leaves a heavy mark by using a light touch. Smalley’s work is always expressive and lasting, and Vanaprastha pushes that into new spaces. This interview was conducted over the last couple of months of 2021.

    What are some of your favorite sounds in the world?

    I’d say that thunder, gongs, bird song, and water are all pretty satisfying – especially water in its many forms. My favorite sounds are probably made through processing instruments, whilst my absolute favorite is the sound of my kids laughing.

    Can you talk a little bit about the album title and why it seemed like the right fit for the record?

    Vanaprastha is a Sanskirtt word meaning ‘bathing in the forest for insight’. Before relocating from the UK to Germany in 2017 I spent much of my life walking in the woods – a ritual I find pretty essential to this day. Those introspective years were the grounding to my life as a father and I’ve learned many things from the solitude of nature. When making this record I felt a distant connection to those peaceful places back in the South of England.

    This new record, Vanaprastha (The Man Who Went Into The Woods To Find Himself), is your first official solo album after numerous collaboration and group releases. What inspired you to finally do your first solo record?

    Many things have changed for me in recent years and through all the challenges I’ve discovered more about myself. This has led me to question my creativity from new perspectives and find more clarity in what I want to communicate.

    Generally, I do prefer working with people as it’s more gratifying to strive for something beyond my own creative means.
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    Past Inside the Present has offered up several beguiling collaborative albums this year and Color of Time stands right there with the best of them. This duo of Nick Turner (aka Tyresta) and Kévin Séry (aka From Overseas) ride an underwater current deep into hidden worlds on the ocean floor. Life moves in circles on Color of Time and the astral clock begins to turn backward, swaying beneath the aural gravity that Turner and Séry spread like magic. This is music to carry us forward.

    Tidal pools glow with floating shapes on the entrancing slipstream of “Cold Air.” Synths blur any movement, obscuring the underlying mechanisms of propulsion to the naked eye, but guitar strings vibrate at lightspeed causing our bodies to swim ahead. Vocal echoes bounce through aqueous caverns, an angel choir willing the dawn to come again. It’s as though we’re stuck in clear glass, watching streaks of light surf the night sky like strings pulling the universe back into view.

    Blue-green waves turn into a wash of autumn leaves on “Radiance” as sonic laments float past the horizon in the light of sunset. Fading like ghosts in daylight, a sweetly intricate ballet unfolds between clouds as the world below ignites. There’s a somber thread woven within “Radiance;” an acceptance of fate’s cruel turn and an acknowledgment that the brightest hope lies above. Hypnotic loops curve around a shimmering beacon of guitar drone lulling us back to our dreams.

    Color of Time has a focused sonic palette, but the subtlety is a strength that heightens the emotional pull of the album. In the somber reaches of closer “We Did This To Ourselves,” our lives become disentangled from our actions and the result is inescapable. Guitar passages burn out the last vestiges of green and the gentle warmth becomes an inferno. The duo reminds us that our time here has always been limited, but between these gilded aural valleys we push down on the accelerator and let these prismatic tones dissipate our spirits into the next life.
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    There’s a feeling of arrival permeating the soft-focus, shapeshifting drones of Christina Giannone’s absorbing Glazed Vision. Subtle movements build on themselves to create walls of undulating sound, echoing in rhythm underneath a darkening sky. Giannone’s music is like a sheer veil surrounding a massive, intricate structure, flowing in enigmatic patterns, but still solid as a gleaming monument.

    Distortion comes in waves, cultivated from the dense layers vibrating in empty space. “Divinity” crawls through a wind tunnel, electronic shrapnel firing off at intermittent angles while a ghostly choir is obscured by the gale. Textures change repeatedly; a haze envelops everything, as chords disintegrate into emptiness. Left with the void at our backs, phantom melodies are stretched to the breaking point and disappear on the solemn breeze.

    “Telepathy” mines similar spectral terrain, glassine tones brushed with decay, like submerged chains dragging against the ocean floor. Underwater ballet floats away, “Telepathy” a hand reaching back to hold everything together. There’s such a heavy sense of loss infused to this aural spread it pulls everything downward. As an antidote, “Immortality” grinds toward the sun, invisible harmonics rotating with force, tugging strings harder and harder until we begin to lift toward the heavens.

    Giannone washes everything with a rough mist, clouding her melodies with rough patterns, moving against the elegant grain. Urgency drops listeners into the thick of Glazed Vision with opener “Realms II,” synthetic strings whirring to life surrounded by rippling vibrations. It looks for catharsis, but only finds a stronger, more anxious force. Glazed Vision is moving even at its most bleak and behind its careful steps and apprehensive ambiance, a quiet beauty lurks and waits for the right moment to make its move.
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    Although the year is almost over, From Overseas has good news for us once again. The fantastic album Kévin recorded with awakened souls is just a few days old, and here we go again: The next great collaboration popped out of the vinyl press on November 19th: "Color of Time" emerged in cooperation with Tyresta.

    I could hardly believe my ears when Kévin Séry, aka From Overseas, contacted me and told me that he had another album ready and asked me if I would like to listen to it. Of course, I wanted to! And what should I say: When I decided to check it out, I definitely made the right decision.

    For Kévin, "Color of Time" is another important milestone. It is a long-distance ambient drone project that he recorded together with Nick Turner, also known as Tyresta, using guitars (including violin bow), synthesizers, mellotron and various effects.

    The total of six songs (plus an exclusive 30-minute autumn session on the cassette version) deals with transience, loss and the influence that humans have on each other and the planet. So the album is all about time and comes at just the right moment.

    The opener "Color of Time" builds up an all-encompassing tension, which the two artists have staged with the help of the mellotron and an initially delicate drone effect. After 3:03, the surface dissolves and reveals a multifaceted image: "Brand New Sky" glows in all the colours of the autumn sky and tells a story of uncertainty and hope.

    "Radiance" goes one step further and rises majestically before my inner eye. Darkness spreads. Distorted sounds initially give a hint of melancholy, but this quickly dissipates.

    "Cold Air" is my favourite piece on the record. The winter landscape that the two composers must have imagined when creating this song surrounds me after the first notes. Sounds that couldn't be any chillier pour out of my speakers and make me dream of winter - of eternal ice that never thaws and of a deserted earth that slowly recovers from our existence.

    An avalanche breaks loose, and the next song begins: "Avalanche" stretches the violin bow and continues the journey through this fabulous and sad story that works entirely without the need for any words.

    "We Did This To Ourselves" laments and holds up the mirror we have hidden from for so long to us all. Then, finally, a glassy drone settles over the whole picture and slowly but surely drives the shards of our existence out into the winter sky. Our dance on the volcano is over.

    If you listen to the cassette version like I did, you can enjoy a 30-minute set in addition to the official songs. Kévin and Nick recorded it for the second anniversary of 9128.live. So here is my advice for you: You'd better not miss it!

    "Color of Time" was recorded in the summer of 2020. Stephan Mathieu did the vinyl and digital mastering at Studio Schwebung. James Bernhard mastered the Autumnal Session for 9128 Broadcast at Ambient Mountain House. The artwork is by Jason Akira Summa, and the layout and design by zakè.

    Mellotron & Guitar: Nick Turner OP-1 & Guitar: Kévin Séry
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    awakened souls recorded a fantastic new album in cooperation with From Overseas aka Kévin Séry. It will be released tomorrow, so I'll take the chance to introduce it to you today. For me, "Keep The Orange Sun" is solid gold – it definitely needs to be part of my vinyl collection.

    If you don't know awakened souls by now: They are a musical couple from Los Angeles who already recorded three records together. Some days ago, they got to know Kévin through the ambient community. All three of them have been fans of each other's music for a long time, so when they met, they decided to make an album on Past Inside The Present Records.

    The outcome is quite magical. The music reflects the intense conversations the three artists had when they first met about their shared musical influences and inspirations.

    "Keep The Orange Sun" takes you on a mindful journey. The nine songs in total are telling of the certainty that life changes ("Certainty Of Tides"), of emerging self-doubt ("Release/Adapt") and of the benefit of immersing yourself in the present moment as a gateway to a deeper connection with nature and your own life ("Keep The Orange Sun").

    Stylistically, the newborn trio relies on elements from the electronic, shoegaze, and ambient world. So each band member contributes their or own individual fingerprint.

    This combination and the perfect-seeming harmony between the musicians provide an unbelievably rounded and versatile body of work that sends pleasant shivers down the spine of fans of all three genres.

    For me, "Keep The Orange Sun" is more than a pleasure. It is a beautiful successor for From Overseas' last masterpiece, "Home", which I also featured here on the blog. I'm already very excited to see what we can expect next from Kévin.

    From the atmospheric sunrise in "Certainty Of Tides" to the emotionally charged sequences in "Any Of This Lies", and the soulful moments in "Rise", the LP spirals up until the sonic peak "Release/Adapt". So far, the track is my favourite on "Keep The Orange Sun". The song is incredibly vibrant. Especially the tender lyrics have it in them, making me dream while listening – of a world without doubts and insecurities.

    With "Open Heart", From Overseas and awakened souls, open our hearts by giving our ears a wellness treatment. "Deepest Ocean" continues in a relaxed manner. A sound bath of feelings lets me dive into a chilly world full of darkness and light. Light swimming strokes lead me further in the direction of "Keep The Orange Sun". The album's eponym brings beautiful post-rock elements. The space seems endless and wide.

    "Migration" surprises me with its playful nature. The piece enchants me and forms the perfect transition to the dreamlike finale "Passing Dreams". I am letting the thoughts pass by as they come, not holding on to them anymore.
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    Black Swan :: Repetition Hymns — A double album from (insert de rigueur enigmatic epithet) Black Swan, cutely trailed as being well-suited to the temporal distortion of quarantine in which each day feels like an endless loop. Since debut, In 8 Movements (2010), the artist has carved a niche for a particular tape-based symphonic drone variant, though the early dark symphonic deconstructions have shifted to let in lighter textures and more tranquil meditations, expanding tonal palette while retaining discreet identity. Layers of handmade tape loops of varying lengths and pitches are manipulated on multi-track recorders, methodology imparting a raw quality with greater looseness and freedom than before. Repetition alters perception, high(low?)lighting subtle timbral modulation and events triggered by interplay with other loops. Sustained string crescendos sweep, recursions running through it, cycles within cycles, reprised motifs displacing temporal sense. A sense of narrative remains elusive, though Repetition Hymns offers itself (cutely again) as ‘slow music for slow times.’

    Free Dust :: Woo’d Early — In 2015 Matthew Sage cataloged near-daily recordings made under narrow creative constraints—electric guitar, a few pedals, recorded and mixed directly to 4-track cassette. Eschewing the often complex studio gadgetry and computer editing of primary project M. Sage, Free Dust became a space for techn-ology/ique to cede to more direct expression. Having collected and issued hours of this material as quarterly d/ls, he re-issued it as a double-CD on his now-defunct Patient Sounds. A new set of Free Dust material, Woo’d Early is billed as ‘a succinct diurnal counter to the sprawling dusk-settling realms of Archive,’ its shivering auroral guitar pieces captured early a.m.s late Summer/early Fall 2019 using the project’s original defining constraints. Rather than the cerebral vespertine meditations of Archive, a diaristic account of acclimatizing to a new life in a new city, the post-adaptation of this, the project’s first LP proper, brings matinal musings in string-y billows, as Sage explores melody and timbre with ‘an inquisitive, sensitive, and casual curiosity.’ (Coincidentally, The Wind of Things, an ensemble work from M. Sage has come into view aswewrite thanks to boomer coverage.)

    36 + awakened souls :: The Other Side of Darkness — On which Dennis Huddleston aka 36 communes with James Bernard and wife, Cynthia Field, aka awakened souls. Starting with JB sending DH a few bass loops, it soon evolved, their own individual interpretations added to the main album, collected on a single extended digital LP. 36’s “After Dark” versions re-envision TOSoD as rain-drenched neo-noir, reflecting the bleak backdrop to these challenging times (natch). Other awakened souls soundings reveal different facets of the husband/wife duo, from deep drone, dub and acid to more composed ambient and shoegaze, also reviving Bernard’s late 90s electronica moniker, Influx, for two dance-spun workouts, while his partner debuts solo project, marine eyes, for three lush emotive variants. Trailed as ‘a contemplation on how holding space for hard emotions is ultimately what leads us towards the light,’ amid a year of unease in an unprecedented climate, the feelings tapped ‘act as mantras reminding us of our common humanity.’ Masterful mastering from maestro Rafael Anton Irisarri.

    Pepo Galán and Sita Ostheimer :: Contact — These two have consorted off and on since 2015, prolific Malaga producer Galán (El Muelle) making music for Berlin-based choreographer Ostheimer‘s dance works, she in turn providing delicate vox for some of his albums. This first collab proper finds Ostheimer’s evocative vocal delivery well attuned to Galan’s mellow neo-classicism and subtle electronics, making for beguilingly poignant listening.

    Ecovillage :: Clouds and Waves — ‘Inspired by nature and the inner journey,’ runs the accompanying legend to Swedes Emil Holmström and Peter Wikström’s album, recorded in Topanga and Umeå, and mastered by PITP’s Healing Sound Propagandist, zakè. A track like “I Remember You ft. Joe Frawley” delivers its emotive cache via plangent piano and sad distant violins colored with traces of wind and water—a place of retreat after the chaos. On “Letting Go Of All Things ft. Ludvig Cimbrelius” remote choirs share in the pathos with gentle guitar and piano, making real magic (and magic realism) from melodic motifs out of Eno via Basinski.

    Tobias Karlehag :: Process — On his solo project’s debut this Gothenburg multi-instrumentalist and sound artist deploys algorithmic composition and improvisation to create spacious ambient drone. A still meditative state is wrought via modular synth, electric guitar and sundry electronics, underlying narrative product of a shift in inspirational provenance, equal parts field recs, chance and his own reflections on flow and break-up.

    Celer :: Being Below — Prolific ambient sound artist Will Long’s Two Acorns colludes with PItP for a mini-album of shorter pieces wrought with digital and analog instruments composed with a structure reflecting shifting states, ‘overlooking the past and future as a split pathway with the present endlessly fluctuating between. The pangs of rumination…’ Intruigingly billed as an exercise in loop-less writing, it thus departs from Celer’s (seeming) signature compositional strategy, making for some of his most indulgent work from within an ascetic aesthetic with a nicely veiled ambi[val]ence.

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    Now to PITP bros, Healing Sound Propagandist: Home Learning :: The Case For Final —Documents a long-distance liaison of two friends constantly seeking to pleasantly surprise one other and their listeners. Tom Schmidlin (Pagination) in Bentonville AR crosses synth, guitar and FX with Edmund Osterman (Screener) in Covington KY, overlapping ebb-flow ambient tracts into a compellingly cohesive whole, textural-emotive tenor unified in winsome-sweet slides into sad-sour, all heart-tugs and wistful cadence; lowlight languor adds to a fragile allure.

    Carlos Ferreira, Ely Janoville, Igor Imbu :: Pêndulo —Three Brazilians colluded remotely in an effort to cope with pandemic-bound isolation, seeking something sound in a world made unsound, the resultant “Pêndulo” sparking further ideas, conversations and recordings, five pieces complete and compiled in a month. Narrative, if one there be, for its four tracks is seen by them as a person’s lucid dreams, with the closer “Corpo,” feat. a Portuguese poem written/read by Francis Espíndola, being awakening.

    Matteo Cantaluppi :: Frantic — This 23 minute long mini-album from Matteo Cantaluppi is a focused yet meditative work dominated by the eponymous track, on which the Italian producer unfurls a steepling expanse of a piece anchored by harmonious synth, with tones echoing into the far distance as new ones rise to take their place. David Eßer :: The Other Home Hamburg musician Eßer aka Ataxy started out in 2017 as an Ambient tyro with a Roland Juno 106 and a Korg Ms 20, from which he has evolved into the sound heard on here. TOH sets out to focus on ‘so-called emptiness,’ as heard esp. on “Vacuum I,” Eßer being inspired by the idea that music isn’t possible without oxygen to wonder how music might sound elsewhere in the universe, were it possible. Online exchange with Valèncian ambient producer Warmth led to other tracks being added later.
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    Everything about this release feels like it was made just for me. From the gauzy synthetic airspace to the pink and green color palette of the cover, this album is how I think of myself. Tiny moments get stretched to infinity throughout Unfailing Love, adding weight to memories that may not immediately seem like pivotal turning points, but eventually rise to become shining monuments to who we’ve become and who has helped us there along the way.

    There’s a passage on the wistful “Forever” where disembodied voices linger in the sonic mist as a haunting reminder of everything we’ve lost. Soft, spectral tones gently writhe beneath, a safe bet to catch phantom tears; a place that’s always there, ready to catch you whenever the fall comes. Notes shift upward, emerging from the aural fog like beams of light piercing through overcast skies, giving new life a chance. Everything may feel impossibly heavy right now, but there are still flowers ready to bloom beneath the surface.

    Throughout Unfailing Love is a powerful, transcendent message of finding meaningful connection and grace through hope and empathy. Mournful washes of sound permeate so many corners of Unfailing Love, like the pastoral title track where marine eyes breathlessly echos the words “unfailing love” like a celestial body singing to the universe. As it fades, I am hypnotized. I can feel again.

    zakè and marine eyes have created a powerful testament to our resolve. Joined by the wonderful Lucy Gooch on closer “Floating Together,” it is a bright moment to end on. Gooch soothingly whispers, “I know it’s true, I gave a part of me to you, when we came together. I know you know it too.” We give ourselves, perhaps more than we should at times, and we build connection and community. The electricity that hums throughout Unfailing Love is that connection, that invisible, moving force that keeps us going and, hopefully, brings us together. Close your eyes and take this beautiful journey with zakè and marine eyes.
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    Our review writers are often challenged when they encounter a well-written press release. Repetition Hymns bears one of these. During quarantine, the author writes, “each day feels like an endless loop.” Given this temporal experience, the loop-based work of Black Swan is perfectly suited to the current crisis, the yin to William Basinski’s Lamentations. While that work was more in tune with the angst and frustration of the modern era, Repetition Hymns manages to find beauty in the smallest encounters and holds on with all its strength.

    Opener “Closer” (we couldn’t resist the unintentional oxymoron) shimmers like the nighttime sky, graced recently with a planetary alignment, meteor showers and a surprisingly southern visit from the Northern Lights. Listen carefully, and one can hear choirs: a warm introduction to the 81-minute album, in which 19 tracks flow seamlessly into the next like days upon days. And yet, there seems less weight to this accumulation than spiritual release. The loops free the listener’s mind to dream of higher things and better days. Instead of reflecting the pain, Black Swan offers comfort.

    The first time I played these hymns, I fell fast asleep. This is not an indictment of the music, but a compliment. Like so many others around the planet, I’ve had difficulty sleeping over the past year. My thoughts are always racing, even when my body is weary. Perhaps the white noise of the early tracks put my mind at ease, perhaps the surrender to the waves of loops. A few plays later, I began to notice the nuances: a stretch of static beginning, perhaps not coincidentally, with “The Innocence of Sleep” and resurfacing a few tracks later; the majesty of strings on “No Tomorrow,” continuing through the next few pieces; the “continuous breath” sound of “Rites of Luna,” which fades only at the end but transfers to the returning strings a track later, astride hints of organ.

    If the title and timbre were not enough to indicate so, these are indeed hymns, but hymns of the half-remembered kind, where snatches of song rise to the surface, lyrics obliterated by time. One remembers the cathedrals, the light streaming through stained glass, the sense of surrender and awe, and wonders, if we strip away the words of sermons and scriptures, can we still learn? If the music causes an ache in the soul, the answer may be yes: the hope is returned to the soul as the notes are returned to the song. “Ballad for Broken Wings” implies healing, an escape from the ravaging loops of time. The cycle breaks. The clock ticks forward once more.
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    Out now on Past Inside the Present, home of all that’s good in Ambient Drone and otherwise: Healing Sounds II: A compilation for those in need, a mammoth compilation featuring previously unreleased and newly produced tracks from no less than 49 PITP-related artists:

    36, r beny, Black Swan, James Bernard, The Green Kingdom, Moss Covered Technology, anthéne, Wayne Robert Thomas, Benoît Pioulard, zakè, Christina Giannone, Scott Campbell, Belly Full Of Stars, Carlos Ferreira, Mathieu Lamontagne, From Overseas, Slow Dancing Society, Polar Moon, Viul, Awakened Souls, wøunds, Marc Ertel, Syneva, Black Brunswicker, andarctica, City of Dawn , Hipnotic Earth, Sita Ostheimer, Almøst Silent, Deer Meadow, Aaron Ross Hansen, Tyresta, Two Hands | One Engine, Jörgen Kjellgren, Ai Yamamoto, AUSKLANG, Tom Vourtsis, Jordan Christoff, Rhucle, Isaac Helsen, Pepo Galán, Field Hymn, Fabian Koppri, PILLARS, dreamgazer, Ludvig Cimbrelius, Phillip Wilkerson, Etxera, Akkad the Orphic Priest, Andrew J. Klimek, Hilyard.

    Over 4 hours of healing sounds are yours for just $1, all donations going to Feeding America, a US hunger relief organization that harnesses support from local communities to keep low-income families supplied with food. FA‘s major concern right now is with addressing one of the devastating effects of COVID-19: schools’ closure cutting off a source of healthy free meals.
    This compilation is dedicated to the people that struggle with hunger on a daily basis. All proceeds are donated to local food banks that need it most. All arrangements featured on this compilation belongs to the respective copyright holders and graciously provided their arrangement in an effort to raise donations in response to the devastating effects hunger and lack of food/supplies.
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    Newcomer Lucy Gooch belongs to a select list of musicians (Juliana Barwick, Grouper, Mary Lattimore) putting reverb to more artful ends—not simply painting on a veneer of readymade emotion, but using the technique to suggest a dimension beyond our ken. Rushing is the Bristol, UK musician’s debut release, and its five tracks are evidence of an unusually developed aesthetic vision, one that joins the atmospheric quality of ambient music with the structure of choral composition and the seeming effortlessness of pop.

    Gooch’s music sounds simple on the surface but teems with complexity underneath. “My Lights Kiss Your Thoughts Every Moment,” which opens the record, begins with airy sounds: the glimmer of what might be church bells, the echo of her voice wafting up to the arches of the nave. Below, a seismic synthesized bass tone rumbles the earth beneath our feet. In between those two poles shimmers a world of echo, masking the sources of her sounds. Turn it up loud enough and mercurial details flash out, like what might be the scrape of electric-guitar strings—part of the arrangement or just a trick of the mixdown? Who’s to say?

    The song’s lyrics are drawn from the poems of Rabindranath Tagore: “I have kissed this world/With my eyes and limbs/My life when young was like a flower/That loosens a petal or two/They flock around him like bees.” Gooch’s soft, clear voice is trailed by ghosts of itself; the music is rich with color and alive with movement, as layers of wordless singing swarm around her in slow motion. The feeling of weightless rapture recalls A Feather on the Breath of God, a classic recording of choral work by the 12th century Christian mystic Hildegard of Bingen.

    “Sun,” darker and heavier, is reminiscent of gloomy This Mortal Coil songs like “Waves Become Wings.” Once again, a sustained clanging sound hints at church bells in the distance; Gooch sings ominously of a disappearing sun, of arid fields, her voice turned thick and close, as though bouncing off the walls of a dry well: “All the water’s gone to drain.” She returns to the idea of water on “Stalagmites & Helictites,” whose title invokes surreal, biomorphic-looking cave formations formed by dripping water. Sonically, it’s the record’s simplest cut, just a series of stair-stepping vocal harmonies that fade into lengthy shadows, but it may also indicate a well-developed sense of self-awareness, if not outright irony: a song about caverns that sounds like it was actually recorded in one.

    The song that might be the record’s best actually downplays Gooch’s favored effect. In “Rushing,” her close-harmonized vocal loops spin in place while she solos on top of them; buzzing organ tones lend a liturgical atmosphere, but this time her voice is dry and untreated, almost as if she were in the same room as you. The lyrics are psalms taken from the Old Testament and rearranged into song form: “In his hands are the depth of the earth/And unfailing love/Do you know how the clouds hang poised?/The skies proclaim the work of his hands.” The subject matter hints at vastness, but Gooch’s songwriting is marked by its ease and intimacy; the arrangement is fleet of foot in a way that feels closer to pop music than ambient bombast. There’s always the risk of overreaching when trying to capture this kind of boundless yearning. But with “Rushing,” Gooch breaks off a small piece of the sublime and cups it in her hands.
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    ver since becoming infatuated with his 2012 album Egress, I’ve always looked forward to anything new from The Green Kingdom, a solo project from Michigander Michael Cottone. Few artists match his deftness at blending organic and electronic sources while maintaining a delicate balance between melodic structures and textural soundscapes. He makes his first appearance on the burgeoning Past Inside the Present label with a particularly poignant release called Residence on Earth. Thematically, the album finds Cottone processing loss and reflecting on growing older while drawing inspiration from Pablo Neruda‘s book of poetry by the same name.

    “As one gets older, it’s natural to think about the time you’ve spent on this planet and what you will leave behind. This was only punctuated by the unexpected loss of my aunt. At some point while crafting these pieces, I also pulled Pablo Neruda’s book of poetry Residence on Earth off the shelf. The surreal imagery and emotions these works evoke felt connected to the music on many levels, and informed the course of the album until its completion. This album is dedicated to the memory of Mary V. Mannino.” – Michael Cottone

    Gently tracing an arc from “Dawn” to “Dusk”, Cottone pays particular attention to guitar lines and textures on this record, giving them ample space to shimmer and radiate the blue melancholia of the music with a potent subtlety. Particularly noteworthy is the elegiac “Fantasma”, a heartfelt piece that is as emotionally direct as anything I can recall ever hearing on a TGK record. These songs are not so much ambient soundscapes as plaintive airs and redolent meditations capable of exhuming a long-forgotten memory or inducing a wistful reverie. To sum up Residence on Earth more succinctly, it is only apt to borrow a phrase from another work of Neruda that seems fitting and call it a ‘luminous solitude’.
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    MEDIUM | PITPWLS01 | 27FEB20
    In the Northern Hemisphere, much of us stare outside our windows — those parallel to the rising ground or those stretching like children into the clouds — and see a blanket of wet browns, muted grays, and blanketing whites. It’s a dull palette compared to the blossoms and bursts of Spring. It’s a time when the colors match the harshness of an environment keen to run humankind off its surface, using literal decay to remind us that we’re all servants to the whims of an atmosphere and planet unsure of our growing presence.

    It’s these rough, patchy landscapes that echo Rushing, the first large-format release from Lucy Gooch. Sometimes it’s quite literal (the bouncing voices of Gooch whooshing through cavernous space on “ Stalagmites & Helictites”), but more often Rushing presents a figurative reflection of the North in wintertime. The mean-spirited winds, torrential precipitation, and static chill of an earthen cleanse.

    But Gooch looks forward, through the blinding whiteness and bitter bister of a season whose purpose is to wash away all signs of growth by any means necessary. As “Sun” rises to meet the bleached landscape, the warmth of near-future, in the guise of Gooch’s breath-taken voice fighting through a sweeping, pitchy drone, shows us the one tree in our purview that is thriving in the coldness.

    As we turn away from the high-definition screens that offer us a perverted view of life outside during this time, it’s comforting to affix our gaze outside to the reality of the situation. Rushing provides a steady reminder that the good fight is just a thaw away.
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    RÁS underlines the importance of liner notes in music, especially instrumental music. Without any words, the listener is “freed” to imagine their own stories, but with prose, the music takes on added resonance. For Wayne Robert Thomas, the impetus of “Cantus In Memoriam Mark David Hollis” is to pay tribute to a fellow musician. It’s a beautiful piece, soft and meditative, but without context is akin to a passing cloud. Hollis was the lead singer of Talk Talk, but we can’t help but feel that he would be moved by this instrumental tribute. These morphing tones carry a meaning more than the sum of their notes. While listening, we feel the loss anew.

    “A Grey Morning, Later Lovely Sunshine” is more and less personal than its predecessor. As Thomas writes, Alexandra Fyodorovna’s words “described the day of July 16, 1918. Unbeknownst to her and the rest of the Russian royal family they were to be brutally murdered late into the night.” Thomas connects this historical grief to his own, in days of struggle regarding sunlight with suspicion. Hopeful notes fade in and out, never putting up much of a fight. The track may be melancholic, but it also prompts an alternate reading. If we knew the day were to turn dark, might we enjoy the grey a little more? Is life more precious once we recall that it is finite?

    Isaac Helsen‘s music is the perfect balance for Thomas’ musings. Helsen’s cover photograph displays a colorful church set into a hill. No one seems to be there, but the church itself is well kept, a stunning vista regardless of one’s religious beliefs. The implication is that comfort may be found in nature and architecture as well as in faith. Helsen writes, “It is often only in hindsight that … our vision widens and clarifies. The melancholy remains but is buoyed by a new hopefulness, a landscape unfolding, a bright contentment with what is and has been.”

    On the side-long track “In Which We Hold Our Breath to Gather Light,” the sun does indeed break through: first hinted in static and eventually in melody. If Side A is the sunset, Side B is the sunrise. The realization is slow, but steady. By mid-piece, the artist has created a bedding of drone like a base mood, atop which strings play a heartfelt invitation. Then the drones retreat, leaving only the brilliant sun. Soon there are only tendrils, drifting down. When three minutes remain in the eighteen minute track, a piano makes its first appearance, symbolizing that “bright contentment.” One can imagine Helsen writing his side as a response to Thomas’ side, gently reengaging him with the world. Would we intuit such things without words? Perhaps. But with them, we are enriched.
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    Since arriving on the scene less than a year ago, Indianapolis-based Past Inside the Present has rolled out a rather dazzling catalog of thoughtful and immersive ambient releases of exceptionally high quality. Among these is a pair of gems under the title of Orchestral Tape Studies. The first record is by “healing sound propagandist” zakè (扎克), an homage to minimalist symphonic composers and orchestras in which fragmented orchestral loops have been compiled and woven together with oscillating repetitive strands of textural ambient drone. The result is a wonderful meditative exploration of liminality and tonality and one of the most serene and beautiful albums you could hope to enjoy.
    The second album is a complete reworking of the first by Chicago-based Nick Turner aka Tyresta using a Mellotron, Fender Jazzmaster, delay & reverb to re-imagine each of the original pieces preserving their deeply contemplative nature while adding new dimensions of depth and opacity to create a more vivid melancholy from the same raw material. Taken together, these two complementary recordings offer over an hour of contemplative audio bliss.
    zakè has sampled & looped the sounds of several orchestras' quieter passages then deftly adorned them with gentle drones & the faintest of field recordings to wonderfully soothing, minimal, neoclassical & ambient effect for Past Inside the Present.
    These studies are a “compilation arranged and curated by healing sound propagandist, zakè.” The mode becomes pure striations of ambient texture wafting from an off-white drone. The recording is broken into four parts, that actually work seamlessly as an extended long-player. Throughout there are frozen harmonies continually thawing, sometimes behind a filter, sometimes up front. But before the invigorating higher chords the layers melt and rise. It sounds like orchestral music for made in homage to the deterioration of polar ice, warm and chill, back and forth. Lovely set.
    Orchestral Tape Studies is a compilation arranged and produced by healing sound propagandist, zakè. OTS is a group of richly layered movements of fragmented orchestral loops, paying homage to minimalist symphonic composers and orchestras. zakè incorporates field recordings and faint drone billows to accompany these selected samples of orchestral loops. With an emphasis on tone and recurrent murmurs, these four arrangements offer 32 minutes of delicate repetition, reticent sound treatments, and subtle manipulations. OTS is intended for low-volume listening.
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    he Last of Our Time Together features thirty-two minutes of Hakobune‘s magnificent ambient music. The artwork alone speaks volumes, a sign as to the receding away of something, the night representing total finality, and the ambient marks the beginning of another end – the last of our time together.

    The gathering darkness spreads along the borders, at first seeping into the backwater coves of the subconscious and gently invading until it obscures and blots out anything and everything, just like midnight. This is the midnight hour for our mysterious pair, be they lovers or friends or family. The seconds are counting down to a significant departure, either a permanent leaving thanks to bodily mortality or a sojourn in the more physical world. The result is the same: life will go on without them. Without you. A special connection lies under the guillotine, and a special relationship is quietly erased; things are ending. Because of this, Hakobune’s album is a universal album, encompassing all. Escape is not an option, but when the music is as sweet as this, a goodbye can be a symbol of love and gratitude, not just sadness in the wrenching away and the parting.

    The Japanese musician tugs on the heart of the listener, inflicting a bittersweet, emotional pain and deep pangs of longing built on slow-moving soundscapes and chameleon-morphing harmonies. Vacancy comes to claim the music. The music is housed in a cathedral of reverb, but its ambient notes have forgotten how to worship, how to believe. The lighter texture is as frail as the air we breathe, and it brings the impermanence of all things into a sharp and stark reality – as stark as the branch on the artwork – even as the tone remains cloudy. The music doesn’t seem willing to relinquish, but neither does it try to stop it from happening. Whatever will be, will be.

    Saying goodbye is tough, but even so, the music understands the beauty of the moment, and of the time spent together, so it’s a thank you as much as it is a letting go. The ambient is evocative of an ungraspable feeling wherein the soul is torn and departure leaves a permanent impression on the heart, and there’s no easy fix. Leaving is part of the process, though. It’s the way things are, and Hakobune’s ghostly drones hover in the air, coming and going, entering and dissipating as lives orbit around one another. Capable of arriving as a mountainous swell of affection or lowering its head in a swoon of disappointment, the ambient is serene enough, but there are undercurrents of discontent and dissatisfaction.

    Appreciation for time spent together is peppered with a growing grief, and a continual stab of longing comes later. They may go their separate ways. They may grow old without one another. They may fade from the memory as they find new loves and new lives. One pair of footprints instead of two. But the music will never forget, and new life grows from dead soil. The Last of Our Time Together is a memorial, carved in whole notes and long drones and inscribed on a branch, remembering the last of their time together.
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    Released on the increasingly influential Past Inside the Present label, Orchestral Tape Studies is an album by zakè. Based on looped orchestral samples, which then incorporate original field recordings and production, OTS is a remarkably meditative record, that despite its short running time is one that brims with ideas.

    Presented in four parts, zakè describes OTS as “intended for listening at low-volumes” and it’s is a mellow, pleasant listen. Opener Pure Violet is classic Tired-era Stars of the Lid; a horn gently blows in the background as strings delicately meld together to form a cohesive whole, while the ominous sound of wind hums beneath.

    Infinite Ocean is delightful; the violin sounds like it is buried beneath sand but the way the melody curves is joyous. The repetition lulls you in and seems to wrap you in a cocoon of serenity, with the barely audible wisp of wind now only adding to the calm. zakè describes himself as a “healing sound propagandist”, and OTS is a wonderfully peaceful record. Solar follows suit, its violin slowly rising up and down throughout the track. Combined with how plaintive the strings are, it makes you feel as if you are being talked down from a panic attack, and that the song exists solely to rid you of anxiety.

    Closing track Stata is perhaps the most complex; this time the violins are more pronounced, the notes sharper and higher – it never strays into disquieting because rather than sounding foreboding, the strings are instead steeped in melancholy. It’s an acutely poignant end to a record of mostly tranquil stylings. Orchestral Tape Studies is a fascinating album, one that feels like an aid to ridding yourself of a 2am anxiety spiral. It’s a record of beauty and poise, and each note feels perfectly placed. It may just be half an hour in length, but it’s a special 30 minutes.
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