Installed Teleportation Machine by Summons Of Shining Ruins

Summons of Shining Ruin is Shinobu Nemotu, an ambient composer for whom the word ‘prolific’ was almost certainly coined.  With hundreds of pieces released on a multitude of labels, it’s tricky to pick a favourite, but this was the very first work of his I heard, and I still play it a lot.

It’s called ‘Installed Teleportation Machine’ but for me its combination of tape loops and found sounds should be the soundtrack to a video tour round one of those abandoned cities you read about on the internet – empty tower blocks with trees growing out the windows and car show rooms full of orange and brown 1970s cars.

Sonically, it’s like a more accessible William Basinski, or the contemplative parts of the last Godspeed You! Black Emperor album, but with a gentle, melancholy feel to it which I hear in all of Nemotu’s work.

If you only listen to one track, listen to this one:

Well it’s all one track, but you can download a copy for free from Brian Grainger’s Install Digital Archive here:

or you can support the artists by buying a slightly different version here:

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Under Blankets – Caught In The Wake Forever

I drive along a winding country road every weekday, going to and from work.  Last December, I ended up stuck in traffic on that road in the dark, inching painfully slowly forward, with snow falling and thick flakes being caught in the headlights.  ‘Under Blankets’ was playing. It was a perfect moment.

It’s a 40 minute long ambient piece of gentle swells and lulls, slow and soft, all rounded edges and muffled tones, and perfectly suited to a certain mood.  Fraser McGowan, who is Caught in the Wake Forever (and also Small Town Boredom whose wonderful  ‘Autumn Might Have Hope’ I have bought twice on vinyl)) is the finest crafter of melancholy (in its most positive sense) music working today.  All of his releases are worth a listen, but this is a lovely, tranquil place to start.

(digital only – cd sold out long ago)

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A House, Floating In The Middle Of A Lake – Erik Kramer

This was just about the first thing I stumbled across on Bandcamp.  I was drawn in by the album name, I have to admit, before I even got to the music but having started it streaming through my crappy laptop speakers (before I spent a bit of money to upgrade everything) I was instantly captivated and it remains an album I go back to again and again.

I knew I was going to love this music the second that the gentle guitar of opening track ‘Other Spaces’ was interrupted by a police car siren in the background.  Kramer stops, the car passes by, and he begins again from where he left off, a happy accident which somehow only adds to the track, marking the point at which pastoral folk begins to descend/ascend into something more abstract and less easily defined, and the track moves towards an ambient drone, full of subtlety.

And the whole album follows that (non) pattern – nothing is exactly what it seems, everything is in flux and liable to change.  Stand outs include ‘Grass Burning in the Palm’ where Kramer adds his own voice to birdsong, saxaphone, hollow, echoing drums and what sounds like xylophone to create a fascinating soundscape, and some wonderful guitar playing on ‘For Bruce Langhorne’ – but there’s not a failure on here.

If you only listen to one track, listen to this

(digital only – there was a cassette, apparently, but annoyingly I missed out on it!)

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A Shadow in Time – William Basinski

The thing with drone is that – even more than other types of music – just as much depends on what the listener brings to the experience as the creator intended. Titles are a helpful guide to the intent of the artist, but as often as not I find the images a drone piece conjures up in my head to be a mile away from the label attached to it. ‘A Shadow in Time’ is an example which both exemplifies and contradicts that point.

Let’s start with the title track, a 20 minute plus slice of layered sound, in which individual layers build and peak, then fade back into the background, all set against a constant, swirling hum. Listening to this on decent headphones in a dark room, it begins – for me – as the soundtrack to some slice of early sixties’ BBC science fiction; a slow walk across the moon, or a monochrome pan across planets hanging in matte painted space. Four minutes or so in, and the little effects which prompted that image disappear from the mix, and we’re left with long washes of sound, where one note or other dominates for a space then falls back again, the sound to me of travel and things passing by. And then, fifteen minutes in, sparse chimes and muted bells herald a slowly building repeated refrain of 8 or so notes which increase in clarity until the end. It’s a beautiful, restful piece, if a little different from other Basinski I’ve heard.

The flip side, ‘For David Robert Jones’, on the other hand, is more straight-forward and does exactly what it says on the tin. It begins much like ‘A Shadow in Time’ with waves of swirl and drone, but after six minutes the sound of (Bowie’s?) disintegrating saxophone bleeds into the mix and takes over, repeating its brief, collapsing riff for fifteen glorious minutes, each time ending with what sounds to me like a foghorn (and with the track being a requiem, I can’t help but picture a boat being guided through the mist, like some Styxian vision). It’s a melancholy, but perversely triumphant, piece and one the man himself would have appreciated, I think.

If you only listen to one track listen to…

(digital only on Bandcamp – also available on vinyl and cd)

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Selections for Fort Evil Fruit – Taming Power

It’s all one track, so it’s easy to become unsure which track you’re actually listening to at any point, but it doesn’t really matter.  The music on offer here splits and reforms like some sort of giant electronic current, with guitars tripping over themselves and colliding with deep pulsing beats and pleasingly lo-fi abstract sounds (there’s even a point at which it comes over all 1970s Radiophonic Workshop).

It’s a mix, of course, as the title suggests, but whether the artist (one Askild Haugland of Norway, apparently) conjures up the heaviest of drones or the most intricate of guitar harmonies, it’s all good. (cassette and digital).

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