Adventsong – Happy Accidents
Happy Accidents by Adventsong covers a lot of stylistic ground: there’s a lot of ambient sounds, but also elements of dance music. True to their self-description on Bandcamp as “eclectic electronica,” Adventsong released a record that makes for an engaging listen, but one that one can also disengage from. In my opinion, this is the key to a successful ambient record.
I found the first two tracks, ‘Daibutsu,’ and ‘Into the Mist,’ to be the most interesting ones musically. ‘Daibutsu,’ wakes the listener up and prepares them for the album, and ‘Into the Mist’ incorporates 808 sounds that would be at home on a late 80s acid house song. As a big fan of acid house, this track is definitely my favorite one on the album.
The rest of Happy Accidents functioned much more like a traditional ambient album for me. I was able to disengage and still enjoy the music. The sounds on the record get more abrasive and build up to ‘Event Horizon,’ and, ‘Singularity,’ and then ‘You Have Been Disconnected’ provides a nice closing theme to the whole record experience.
Jack D’Arcy made a great record. This is the most professional sounding ambient record I’ve heard all year: it’s mixed just right. A lot of listeners take this aspect of recording for granted, and especially in a genre where noise is encouraged, mixing is the most delicate of arts. Even at its most abrasive, Happy Accidents sounds clean and that’s a triumph for any musician.
‘Singularity’ is my second favorite track on the album. The piano sounds beautiful and is reminiscent of Brian Eno’s Ambient 2 with Harold Budd. The song works really well as an aesthetically pleasing penultimate track to follow up the abrasive ‘Hivemind,’ and ‘Event Horizon.’
My frame of reference for ambient music and IDM is admittedly extremely limited. However, I hope that because of this, I was able to approach Happy Accidents with fresh ears less tainted by critical comparisons. Happy Accidents is an awesome record, and I recommend purchasing it on Adventsong’s Bandcamp.
Sunbane – Yugen/Cog
Sunbane really surprised me with this release. Several minutes into the song and I felt like I was waiting for a “drop” to happen that wouldn’t occur, that this music was too intelligent to have something like that, but I was wrong. Instead of a “drop,” suddenly what was an ambient record, ‘Yugen-Cog,’ turned into one of the weirdest house records I’ve ever heard and I knew I was in for a treat.
The single really nails down traditional sounds from house music and synthesizes them with more experimental elements of music. There’s “weird” sounds, but at its base, this single would be at home in a set with Adonis’ ‘No Way Back,’ and Denise Motto’s ‘IMNXTC.’ The only element missing from the record that prevents it from being experimental acid house is the coveted Roland 303 bass sound.
‘Cog (Pocket Arcade Re-Version)’ is a fun chiptune record, although I find no similarity between it and ‘Yugen-Cog.’ If the same chords or notes are here, they are indecipherable. Or so I think. Suddenly at several minutes into the song, I recognize elements from the previous track or I think I do. Regardless, this is a fun record and a solid B-side for the single.
Sunbane did a great job with Yugen/Cog. It’s rare to find music that incorporates older elements of house music without sounding too derivative, but Sunbane did so and with flying colors.
Mute Branches – Lodge/Saint Helena
On Lodge/Saint Helena, Mute Branches hit that sweet spot between experimental and traditionally sonically pleasing sounds. I’m always pleased to find artists who achieve this because it isn’t easy to do. The music never gets too repetitive and dull, but it doesn’t overpower the listener. The beauty of ambient music when its done well is one can engage with it or disengage and listen to the music as atmosphere. The tracks on Lodge/Saint Helena are psychedelic, and sure they drone, but this is music you could take home to mom…maybe.
The song ‘Lodge’ is supposed to be convey “the sound of threat, unstoppable and burning through the leaves” according to the album’s liner notes, but I found the track to be more of an enjoyable wash of sounds than a song which signified impending doom. It did get darker as the song progressed, and I think the band did a great job at capturing the sonic elements of fall.
‘Saint Helena’ is a more traditional drone record, if one can call a drone record “traditional.” I hate to bring them up in a review of anything drone or that may connote shoegaze since they’re so often referenced, but at the end of ‘Saint Helena’ I hear some of Kevin Shields’ guitar mastery in the chords that punctuate the song’s drone.
‘Forest Film’ sounds like it’s from a movie soundtrack. I think it’s the creepiest track on the record clocking at only a little over a minute, and it leaves me wanting to hear more from Mute Branches.
Lodge/Saint Helena is a wonderful little ambient record that isn’t too harsh, but still provides plenty of noise. I’m excited to see where Mute Branches goes from here, and look forward to exploring their back catalog.
Classical violinist and piano player. Mostly self-taught guitarist took lessons with Vic Juris who was sampled for Gang Starr’s Mass Appeal hit. Appeared in Music of the Heart with Meryl Streep (d. by Wes Craven.) Long-time home-recording artist.