Tuesday 26 January 2021

Floating Feeling

I've been looking over my Bandcamp lists in prep of the return of the Bandcamp Friday - and it seems based on what's there I'm long overdue for a full on return to my downtempo loving phase (though is it a phase if you never really stop?) Anyway, I browsed through and put together a list of some things that fit the bill, a little mixture of pure ambient, the more usual general stuff I used to post way back when that could probably just fall under the 'chillout' umbrella and some straight up Trip-Hop to cap off - let's have a look.

Charles Blackman - Room at Twilight (1963)

I've mentioned a couple of times how it's sometimes hard to find legit versions of Japanese music, mostly because the licensing is either really expensive or super complex I've heard. It's something that effects all genres of music, but there is a label out there doing their part: Light In The Attic has been running a Japan Archival Series for a while now - re-issuing compilations of various genres and artists that for a while where either unavailable or prohibitively expensive to get hold of in the west. My favourite of these compilations (bias fully admitted) is the descriptively titled Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980 - 1990. As the name implies, it's a gorgeous, almost 'best of' selection of Japanese Ambient. It's been a while since I've posted or talked about any full-on ambient, mainly because I find it a little difficult to write about - I suppose that's the point of Ambient though isn't it? Especially in the Eno model, it's designed to be music that's 'there' and is equally at home in the background or being actively listened to.

Back on topic, Light In The Attic are also responsible for re-issuing a couple of Hiroshi Yoshimura albums which is great to see - his works have always been great listens but have been difficult to get a hold of. Here's hoping with this compilation we see the same for a few more of these artists. I've picked the opening track Still Space from Satoshi Ashikawa - I was a little reluctant going into the Compilation and wasn't 100% sure what to expect, but the opening tones soon set aside any hesitation I might have had, it's simply wonderful and I cannot think of a better opener to set the tone for this compilation. (With the possible exception of Yoshimura's Time After Time).

Please note that the digital version is only 10 tracks - the physical release is much longer! I assume that's also a licensing caveat. The physical release is more expensive naturally but it comes with exceptional packaging and with more than double the number of tracks, so it's definitely worth considering.

Moving onto Alucidnation next - an artist that broke free of my 'to check out in more detail' list a while back. I've had bits and pieces in my streaming playlists for a while but just dragged my heels when it came to picking something up, which is a shame because the record I decided to do that with - Get Lost is really nice. A mixture of pure ambient, downtempo and sometimes edging towards Trip-Hop, Get Lost is a very smooth record, as is most of Alucidnation's output from my experience. It was hard to narrow down a single track to choose from this album - part of me wanted to choose Solitaire as it's been a recent favourite of mine, but I thought the vocals might turn some people off, I find them chraming personally but they do contrast a bit with the overall sound. But I also didn't want to go full ambient with tracks like 15 Below, at least not back to back with the above.

So to split the difference it came down to two tracks: Skygazer or The Message. Skygazer is a beautiful twinkling piece that closes the album, beginning in full ambient mode but introducing some percussion after the first quarter or so, but in the end The Message won out. It's the most traditionally 'Downtempo' style tune here and also the one that's been in my streaming playlsts the longest, I can see it being slightly generic to some ears, hell I almost even used the phrase 'coffee shop beat' to describe it to someone once but don't let that steer you away - it's an enjoyable listen, and if it's not for, you still check out the more ambient tracks mentioned above. Having said that, The Message is a fairly solid summary of the instrumentation of the whole album, lush and flowing with occasional flourishes here and there, so if you're feeling this I would check out the whole thing!

Flunk to round us out. Way back when I first found Flunk I assumed they were, like many bands from the early 00's, not active anymore. That couldn't be more wrong, not only is pretty much their entire discography available on bandcamp but they are still putting out little singles too - the most recent being this month. I found Flunk way back when I went on a big dive into Guidance Recordings backcatalgoue well over 10 years ago now. I went looking for House but it turned out Guidance also dabbled quite heavily in the downtempo side of things too - having a few albums like Flunk's on there as well as both a Lounge and Dub compilation series.

I'm actually surprised that I didn't come across Flunk naturally, I was a fiend for picking up anything and everything in the chillout section as a youth and with an album title like "For Sleepyheads Only" (and those evocative covers they have) I can guarantee I would have been all over that. They have a proud place in my catalog now at least. The track I've picked out today is the Athome Project mix of See Thru You, the original was quite Trip-Hop as-is, but this remix takes it that extra mile and gives it that slightly grim Bristolian flavour that's befitting of a mix with the Vinterdepresjon subtitle.

Treat Me Like You Do is an interesting album, on paper it's remixes of tracks from ...Sleepyheads Only - but it's actually partially mixed together - you can hear it a little bit on the start of this tracks as the echoes of vocals from the previous mix of Your Koolest Smile bleed through. It's a different approach for sure, and definitely not a standard one when it comes to remix albums, part of me would have preferred it to be just the mixes as-is, but it's nice to sit and listen to it as a whole album once in a while.

I was planning another track to make it an even 4 players but once again I've run a little long. I hope you liked this midweek jaunt and discovered some artists and tunes along the way. I've actually taken a couple of days off so there hasn't been much news on the restoration front, and why there's been a slightly longer gap between this post than the last two. Rest assured that I will continue to come by every so often with more music for you!

And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


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