Saturday 10 July 2021


I'm back on the ambient / downtempo train again surprising no-one, but this time it has a bit more purpose than usual. I'm feeling like I want to make some more of my little ambient works again (the currently existing ones so far you can listen to / get from my Bandcamp), it's been a long time and I've got ideas both from back then and more recently I've been kicking around my head that I want to try out.

As always with my own audio experiments, a lot of that is just down to the sheer amount of new music I've consumed since I last made something of my own. It's a process that's very familiar to me from my art days - there are times when you find something and it sparks something within and immediately resonates with you, and the experience is like nothing else.
Almir Mavignier - Formas

It's something that's happened a whole bunch over the last year as I had the freedom to explore more than usual. From the field recordings of Wendy Carlos' Sonic Seasonings, more dark Ambient from Kenji Kawai and the indie tinged extended cuts of Sugar Plant, I've had plenty of those moments as of late. Granted, they're not all going to be things I can or will incorporate into anything I make, but they're more there as a sort of general collage of influence, a sonic mood board if you will.

And that's really what kicked off this post, I thought I'd share some of the things that are making that list. First of all is some Hiroshi Yoshimura, ambient composer extraordinaire whose reputation is well earned. Enjoying a bit of a revival in the modern era thanks to the internet and being officially licensed for represses in the West - Yoshimura's work is simply put, gorgeous. His delicate touches throughout Music For Nine Post Cards are Ambient in its most distilled form, I've chosen View From My Window to illustrate - the six minutes of runtime pass effortlessly. I'm hoping to introduce more melodic elements this time around and it's tracks like this that only cement that opinion more. But the creative process is never quite as clear cut as that as we well know, still, fragments of this will be on my mind if and when I get around to creation again.

Rei Harakami has been a big influence in that regard too, starting from his third album Red Curb, he settles into a style that is unique and ever so distinct - I've already talked to death about my all time favourites from him - Lust from the album of the same name and a slightly more obscure piece called Pone, between the two they make up the things I like the most about his brand of electronic: Lust with it's catchy yet sparse melodies and playful feel which makes it a joy to listen to, and Pone being essentially two tracks in one as the airy ambience gives way to rhythm.

This time I've picked something from a little earlier, in fact from Red Curb where this style would be defined. I've chosen June this time, one of the tracks that I think typifies this style from the get go and shows off the fabulous use of panning that Harakami does throughout this album as the melodies dance around your ears, something that comes to a peak on the final track Put Off, which is entirely focused around one panning melody. June is one of the tracks I recommend to new listeners, if you like what you hear on this one, you could pretty much go ahead and pick it up and the follow up album Lust and not be disappointed. The way little flourishes of beat are used on this and Pone are just lovely, no more so than the one that introduces a brilliant bit of synth work at around 1:40 - I could live in that section for all of time, the little pitch bends never fail to make me smile.

I can't talk influences without mentioning Oneohtrix Point Never. OPN has been a massive influence on my creative works, responsible for my brief dive into the world of Plunderphonics with the Eccojams Vol. 1 tape, which still informs a lot of my work to this day. It's a little more experimental than the other examples mentioned here so far, but out of them all I think this one bears the most resemblance to my previous ambient releases (OPN is obviously a hell of a lot better at it than me though!). Normally I would choose something from Rifts, a 2009 compilation of his earlier albums - while I still think that is my favourite of all his releases I have pretty much said all I can say about it in the 10+ years since it's release, so I've gone forward to the following album Replica instead.

I wasn't completely sold on it when it first came out in 2011 - there's a lot of the Plunderphonics influence on show on it, but unlike the vaporwave treatment of Eccojams Vol. 1 , the ones on Replica are more in the vein of proper sound collage: tracks like Sleep Dealer being made up of samples from advertisements if I remember right. It's grown on me since and I've come to appreciate it, but my heart still belongs to the flowing analog soundscapes of before, and Replica opens with one of the best OPN has ever done with Andro. It feels a little like a holdover from the Rifts era, especially as it follows that 'gradual increase in noise' formula of the longer ambient pieces of that compilation - though by the end with a section of sample butchery it does set up the overall tone of Replica. The opening is stellar, OPN has a real way with his synths as the haunting intro gives way and his trademark Juno comes in with some lonesome keys, the whole thing is dripping with atmosphere and I just love it.

This one got a little long but I'll wrap it up there, I was going to give an honourable mention to Kensuke Ushio and his solo work under the Agraph alias, but a lot of his stuff isn't quite as accessible as I'd like and I'd really prefer a Bandcamp player where possible. Still I highly recommend checking his work out, especially if you liked the kind of sound Rei Harakami had - Agraph is pretty similar just with a bit more of an IDM edge. I hope you all enjoy in the meantime, I'll be sure to swing by and post anything I do end up making as and when, but until then - as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


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