Out Now! Spheruleus – Canvas Homes + Supplémentaires

The second of our new releases for March out today, sees the return of our label owner Harry Towell as Spheruleus. Harry has not released a CD on his label since 2016’s Obsolarium and with Canvas Homes + Supplémentaires he presents a double album of lockdown sound diaries. Some may recall Canvas Homes from Harry’s Home Diaries edition but 2nd Disc Supplémentaires is a new album, created during November’s lockdown mark II.

This limited edition double CDr edition uses photographs Harry captured during family walks as cover artwork and the sounds within these records cover field recordings, acoustic instrument sketches, household sounds and orchestral tones.

Whitelabrecs low-run releases are likely to sell out fast. The best way to keep informed is to join our mailing list which can be located through our website menu or you can click HERE

press release
“Spheruleus is Lincolnshire, UK based artist Harry Towell, who also runs Whitelabrecs and records alongside his brother Stuart as Paper Relics. Harry has been active in the modern Ambient music scene for over a decade and has released works with labels such as Eilean, Hibernate, Home Normal and Time Released Sound. His output on his own imprint has been scarce however, limited to one CD edition ‘Obsolarium’, released back in 2016.

We launched last year’s digital Home Diaries series off the back of ‘Canvas Homes’ which was a sonic diary of life at home during lockdown. The recording for this album began around 1 year ago with three key sound elements: field recordings, sketches made using acoustic instruments and MIDI keyboard arrangements. The sketches were all captured during brief 1-2 minute recordings to an iPhone whilst in his daughter Isla’s playroom. She unwittingly became part of the album and a positive constant during the strange events that were unfolding across the spring and summer. Walks out into local parks and woodlands became a source of field recordings and a connection to the natural world. Then evenings were a time of reflection and processing, as the sounds captured were orchestrated into tracks.

In November another lockdown was announced and Harry decided to repeat the process as a compare and contrast from his original process. The idea to create a second album began with the assembly of a new item of furniture for Isla’s room which arrived from France. A bag of spare fixings was labelled ‘Supplémentaires’ and Harry decided to set about a series of additional recordings with a view to release it as part of a double album. This time, the weather had turned cold resulting in a different lockdown altogether, with more time spent indoors. Isla had grown considerably in the space of just 6 months and her speech was much clearer. A familiarity with the ‘new normal’ also seems to have translated into the music, with longer, cosier tracks drawing out the winter months. There are more moments of calm and warmth; ‘les dormeurs’ was created at low volume one afternoon, as the household napped. ‘notre cocon’ establishes a sleepy comfort in the descent towards the festive period before ‘le résumé’ plays out a recollection of the year 2020, with Harry using every field recording he’d captured during this most eventful of years. The cover photograph was captured during a family walk in the summer; a reflective gaze into the local ‘Bourne Eau’.

credits
Written and produced by Harry Towell
Mastered by James Edward Armstrong
Artwork and design by Harry Towell

Out Now! Andrew Heath & Anne Chris Bakker – How To Breathe Like A Stone

Today we released two new CDs and in the first we have an exciting collaboration between UK’s Andrew Heath and Anne Chris Bakker from the Netherlands. Their next album ‘How To Breathe Like A Stone‘ will be out this Saturday the 20th of March and is an album full of acoustic warmth from real life improvisations, recorded environments and reel to reel tape, yet it also feels lulling, drifting and very ambient.

This limited edition CDr edition makes use of photography provided by Renske Zijlstra as well as packaging art and design by Andrew himself. As a special gift from the artists, there are 25 hand-numbered prints which will be included with the first 25 CDs purchased.

Our low-run releases will be made available suddenly without official release dates, meaning they’re likely to sell out fast. The best way to keep informed is to join our mailing list which can be located through our website menu or you can click HERE

 

press release
“‘How to breathe like a stone’ is the third release from the ongoing collaboration between Dutch, ambient and experimental guitarist Anne Chris Bakker and British, minimal pianist Andrew Heath. Their work charts a slow moving, lower case journey inspired by place and process. Combining tonal washes and textural recordings, punctuated by pointillist piano and guitar notes to produce music that creates an ephemeral, dreamlike state.

Previous releases have been on Chihei Hatakeyama’s small Japanese label, White Paddy Mountain (Lichtzin) and the English, tape cassette label, Rusted Tone Recordings (A Gift for the Ephemerist).
Having been aware of each other’s music, Chris and Andrew finally met when Andrew invited Chris to play in the UK’s Resound festival several years ago. This cemented a friendship and mutual admiration of each other’s music. Various visits to both The Netherlands and the UK offered opportunities to record and improvise together before a file exchanging process followed, allowing their work to be edited and further refined.

Both artists are experienced performers and collaborators, with Andrew having played at Iceland’s Extreme Chill festival and working with Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Toby Marks; Chris Has performed with the trio Kleefstra/Bakker/Kleefstra, touring Europe and Japan.

How To Breathe Like A Stone utilises Chris’s mainstay, the guitar, often processed with a huge 20 second delay and placed alongside Andrew’s piano and electronic sounds. Two different church pianos were used for their natural tones, one recorded in Noordlaren and the other in the village of Sheepscombe. Additional textures derived from field recordings and reel to reel tape machines, providing a layer of subtle detail to complete the aesthetic. One of the more unusual recordings on the album was made at the Kröller Müller museum in The Netherlands in the large sculpture room. The sun outside was causing the building to emit various quiet creaks and clicks, amplified by the acoustics of the space. It was as if the weather had its own improvised response to the collaboration, creating further notable moments that became woven into this story of chance.

This album does not have a mapped out concept, more that it uses the artist’s evident love of process and improvisation as a springboard into their sound world. It is hoped that the listener will pause to absorb this environment, both contemplating and losing track of time.

credits
Written and produced by Andrew Heath and Anne Chris Bakker
Acoustic and Electric Pianos, Electronics, Treatments and Field Recordings by Andrew Heath
Guitars, Electronics, Tape Manipulation and Field Recordings by Anne Chris Bakker
Artwork by Andrew Heath
Cover Photography by Renske Zijlstra

Coming soon…Spheruleus – Canvas Homes + Supplémentaires

The second of our new releases for March sees the return of our label owner Harry Towell as Spheruleus. Harry has not released a CD on his label since 2016’s Obsolarium and with Canvas Homes + Supplémentaires he presents a double album of lockdown sound diaries. Some may recall Canvas Homes from Harry’s Home Diaries edition but 2nd Disc Supplémentaires is a new album, created during November’s lockdown mark II.

This limited edition double CDr edition uses photographs Harry captured during family walks as cover artwork and the sounds within these records cover field recordings, acoustic instrument sketches, household sounds and orchestral tones.

The album will be released on Saturday the 20th of March with no pre-order. If you join our mailing list using the link below, we’ll make sure you’re the first to hear.

Whitelabrecs low-run releases are likely to sell out fast. The best way to keep informed is to join our mailing list which can be located through our website menu or you can click HERE

press release
“Spheruleus is Lincolnshire, UK based artist Harry Towell, who also runs Whitelabrecs and records alongside his brother Stuart as Paper Relics. Harry has been active in the modern Ambient music scene for over a decade and has released works with labels such as Eilean, Hibernate, Home Normal and Time Released Sound. His output on his own imprint has been scarce however, limited to one CD edition ‘Obsolarium’, released back in 2016.

We launched last year’s digital Home Diaries series off the back of ‘Canvas Homes’ which was a sonic diary of life at home during lockdown. The recording for this album began around 1 year ago with three key sound elements: field recordings, sketches made using acoustic instruments and MIDI keyboard arrangements. The sketches were all captured during brief 1-2 minute recordings to an iPhone whilst in his daughter Isla’s playroom. She unwittingly became part of the album and a positive constant during the strange events that were unfolding across the spring and summer. Walks out into local parks and woodlands became a source of field recordings and a connection to the natural world. Then evenings were a time of reflection and processing, as the sounds captured were orchestrated into tracks.

In November another lockdown was announced and Harry decided to repeat the process as a compare and contrast from his original process. The idea to create a second album began with the assembly of a new item of furniture for Isla’s room which arrived from France. A bag of spare fixings was labelled ‘Supplémentaires’ and Harry decided to set about a series of additional recordings with a view to release it as part of a double album. This time, the weather had turned cold resulting in a different lockdown altogether, with more time spent indoors. Isla had grown considerably in the space of just 6 months and her speech was much clearer. A familiarity with the ‘new normal’ also seems to have translated into the music, with longer, cosier tracks drawing out the winter months. There are more moments of calm and warmth; ‘les dormeurs’ was created at low volume one afternoon, as the household napped. ‘notre cocon’ establishes a sleepy comfort in the descent towards the festive period before ‘le résumé’ plays out a recollection of the year 2020, with Harry using every field recording he’d captured during this most eventful of years. The cover photograph was captured during a family walk in the summer; a reflective gaze into the local ‘Bourne Eau’.

credits
Written and produced by Harry Towell
Mastered by James Edward Armstrong
Artwork and design by Harry Towell

Coming soon…Andrew Heath & Anne Chris Bakker – How To Breathe Like A Stone

It’s about time that we released some more CDs and next we welcome an exciting collaboration between UK’s Andrew Heath and Anne Chris Bakker from the Netherlands. Their next album ‘How To Breathe Like A Stone‘ will be out this Saturday the 20th of March and is an album full of acoustic warmth from real life improvisations, recorded environments and reel to reel tape, yet it also feels lulling, drifting and very ambient.

This limited edition CDr edition makes use of photography provided by Renske Zijlstra as well as packaging art and design by Andrew himself. As a special gift from the artists, there are 25 hand-numbered prints which will be included with the first 25 CDs purchased.

The album will be released on Saturday the 20th of March with no pre-order. If you join our mailing list using the link below, we’ll make sure you’re the first to hear.

Whitelabrecs low-run releases are likely to sell out fast. The best way to keep informed is to join our mailing list which can be located through our website menu or you can click HERE

press release
“‘How to breathe like a stone’ is the third release from the ongoing collaboration between Dutch, ambient and experimental guitarist Anne Chris Bakker and British, minimal pianist Andrew Heath. Their work charts a slow moving, lower case journey inspired by place and process. Combining tonal washes and textural recordings, punctuated by pointillist piano and guitar notes to produce music that creates an ephemeral, dreamlike state.

Previous releases have been on Chihei Hatakeyama’s small Japanese label, White Paddy Mountain (Lichtzin) and the English, tape cassette label, Rusted Tone Recordings (A Gift for the Ephemerist).
Having been aware of each other’s music, Chris and Andrew finally met when Andrew invited Chris to play in the UK’s Resound festival several years ago. This cemented a friendship and mutual admiration of each other’s music. Various visits to both The Netherlands and the UK offered opportunities to record and improvise together before a file exchanging process followed, allowing their work to be edited and further refined.

Both artists are experienced performers and collaborators, with Andrew having played at Iceland’s Extreme Chill festival and working with Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Toby Marks; Chris Has performed with the trio Kleefstra/Bakker/Kleefstra, touring Europe and Japan.

How To Breathe Like A Stone utilises Chris’s mainstay, the guitar, often processed with a huge 20 second delay and placed alongside Andrew’s piano and electronic sounds. Two different church pianos were used for their natural tones, one recorded in Noordlaren and the other in the village of Sheepscombe. Additional textures derived from field recordings and reel to reel tape machines, providing a layer of subtle detail to complete the aesthetic. One of the more unusual recordings on the album was made at the Kröller Müller museum in The Netherlands in the large sculpture room. The sun outside was causing the building to emit various quiet creaks and clicks, amplified by the acoustics of the space. It was as if the weather had its own improvised response to the collaboration, creating further notable moments that became woven into this story of chance.

This album does not have a mapped out concept, more that it uses the artist’s evident love of process and improvisation as a springboard into their sound world. It is hoped that the listener will pause to absorb this environment, both contemplating and losing track of time.

credits
Written and produced by Andrew Heath and Anne Chris Bakker
Acoustic and Electric Pianos, Electronics, Treatments and Field Recordings by Andrew Heath
Guitars, Electronics, Tape Manipulation and Field Recordings by Anne Chris Bakker
Artwork by Andrew Heath
Cover Photography by Renske Zijlstra

Pre-order: Lorenzo Masotto – i=r

It’s been quite a while since we’ve done a pre-order and when we did, these used to be just a week before release date. For this release, we are working with Italian pianist and composer Lorenzo Masotto and today marks the release of the single and music video for ‘Reflection’. The piece is taken from the forthcoming album ‘i=r‘ which is up for pre-order today! It is also available via all the usual streaming platforms and the music video can also be viewed on Youtube if you click HERE

This limited edition CDr makes use of photography provided by Michele Dolci and includes a photography booklet featuring an image for each track.

The best way to keep informed is to join our mailing list which can be located through our website menu or you can click HERE
The release page for i=r can be visited at the following link:

https://whitelabrecs.bandcamp.com/album/i-r 

press release
“Lorenzo Masotto is a composer and pianist from Verona, Italy, with releases on labels such as Sonder House, Lady Blunt Records, Preserved Sound and Dronarivm. He has performed in many venues, most notably London’s Union Chapel whilst tours have taken him to California Sofar and concerts at the Iberian Theater in Lisbon and the concert at De Helling in Utrecht.

i=r is an album which Lorenzo started to write when the pandemic broke out across northern Italy and much of the world, in March 2020. He set out initially to explore the complete tonal possibilities of a Seiler upright piano, restricted to two microphones. He became fascinated as he discovered the beauty and sonic elegance of a hammer touching the string, muffled by felt, as the motion and vibrations created all kinds of creaks and noises within the wood.

i=r, known as Snell’s Law, is the law of refraction. Each piece of this album represents a different refraction, as different points of view reflected in an artificial or natural mirror. The accompanying photography by Michele Dolci is as much a part of the album as the music, as individual scenes of symmetry, asymmetry and reflection each depict a given track from the album.

It is perhaps fitting exactly one year on since the ideas behind this album emerged, that this bright and fluid collection of compositions beam their rays of hope back from those dark reflections. Light and darkness, warmth and cold, strong and frail, hopeful and despairing. Our hope now is to emerge into the light, under the warmth of spring, with a renewed strength born of our collective despair.

credits

releases April 20, 2021

Written, produced and mastered by Lorenzo Masotto
Photography by Michele Dolci
Graphic design and layout by Andrew Heath

Out Now! Nebel lang – Hand in mine

In our second physical edition for February, we welcome Kiel, Germany based artist Nebel lang who has had previous releases on Fluid Audio and Minui. Some may recall their piece ‘Sit Still For‘ which closes our recent Ennio’s Muse compilation. Their new album ‘Hand in mine‘ will be out this Saturday the 20th of February and features beautiful minimal piano compositions.

This limited edition CDr edition makes use of photography provided by Albarran Cabrera as well as a short story, written by Bailey Rose in the interior liner notes. This one makes use of our sleek minimal design template, new for 2021, complete with a vinyl-effect disc.

Our low-run releases will be made available suddenly without official release dates, meaning they’re likely to sell out fast. The best way to keep informed is to join our mailing list which can be located through our website menu or you can click HERE

 

press release
“Nebel lang is the latest moniker for a traveling artist, originally from San Rafael, Argentina who is currently based in Kiel, Germany. Previous releases include ‘Chapters’ on Fluid Audio as well as ‘00000’ and ‘motionless for a’ on Minui. That’s not to mention some self-released digital editions via his own Bandcamp page. The name Nebel lang combines the German words for fog and lifelong, to be taken metaphorically as ‘lifelong uncertainty’.

The Nebel lang sound is driven through improvisations, to capture chance moments that cannot be repeated. These sounds were impulsive, as if entirely natural, as part of the environment within a given moment in time. The tuning, environment and textural sound of a particular piano can never truly be replicated or reperformed.

‘Hand in mine’ is an album comprised of an opener, ‘situate’ which is a short piece to help the listener establish the volume and equalisation settings of their sound system. It is followed by two longform pieces of improvised piano compositions performed in Dordogne, (France), on a self-tuned upright piano. The first of the two album pieces is fluid, with a rhythm that ebbs and flows. The second is intentionally quieter and more sparse. This emphasises the need for ‘situate’ to establish with you the listener, your choice of volume setting. If moments sound quiet, it is entirely deliberate.

Two years on from the original recordings, the nuances and details of these sessions had long-since been lost. Additional artists were invited to collaborate and add an extra perspective to these recordings. Bailey Rose was asked to write some words and this lent the album its title as well as an accompanying story. Visual artists Albarran Cabrera were asked to provide the accompanying imagery from their ‘Kairos’ series, which represents their concept ‘the eternal present’, a fitting companion to these sounds.

credits
Written and produced by Nebel lang
Recorded in 2019 at “un temps, un lieu”
Mastered by James Edward Armstrong
Artwork by Albarran Cabrera
Words by Bailey Rose

Coming soon…Nebel lang – Hand in Mine

In our physical edition for February, we welcome Kiel, Germany based artist Nebel lang who has had previous releases on Fluid Audio and Minui. Some may recall their piece ‘Sit Still For‘ which closes our recent Ennio’s Muse compilation. Their new album ‘Hand in Mine‘ will be out this Saturday the 20th of February and features beautiful minimal piano compositions.

This limited edition CDr edition makes use of photography provided by Albarran Cabrera as well as a short story, written by Bailey Rose in the interior liner notes. This one makes use of our sleek minimal design template, new for 2021, complete with a vinyl-effect disc.

The album will be released on Saturday the 20th of February with no pre-order. If you join our mailing list using the link below, we’ll make sure you’re the first to hear.

Whitelabrecs low-run releases are likely to sell out fast. The best way to keep informed is to join our mailing list which can be located through our website menu or you can click HERE

press release
“Nebel lang is the latest moniker for a traveling artist, originally from San Rafael, Argentina who is currently based in Kiel, Germany. Previous releases include ‘Chapters’ on Fluid Audio as well as ‘00000’ and ‘motionless fo a’ on Minui. That’s not to mention some self-released digital editions via his own Bandcamp page. The name Nebel lang combines the German words for fog and lifelong, to be taken metaphorically as ‘lifelong uncertainty’.

The Nebel lang sound is driven through improvisations, to capture chance moments that cannot be repeated. These sounds were impulsive, as if entirely natural, as part of the environment within a given moment in time. The tuning, environment and textural sound of a particular piano can never truly be replicated or reperformed.

‘Hand in mine’ is an album comprised of an opener, ‘situate’ which is a short piece to help the listener establish the volume and equalisation settings of their sound system. It is followed by two longform pieces of improvised piano compositions performed in Dordogne, (France), on a self-tuned upright piano. The first of the two album pieces is fluid, with a rhythm that ebbs and flows. The second is intentionally quieter and more sparse. This emphasises the need for ‘situate’ to establish with you the listener, your choice of volume setting. If moments sound quiet, it is entirely deliberate.

Two years on from the original recordings, the nuances and details of these sessions had long-since been lost. Additional artists were invited to collaborate and add an extra perspective to these recordings. Bailey Rose was asked to write some words and this lent the album its title as well as an accompanying story. Visual artists Albarran Cabrera were asked to provide the accompanying imagery from their ‘Kairos’ series, which represents their concept ‘the eternal present’, a fitting companion to these sounds.

credits
Written and produced by Nebel lang
Recorded in 2019 at “un temps, un lieu”
Mastered by James Edward Armstrong
Artwork by Albarran Cabrera
Words by Bailey Rose

Whitelabrecs Best of 2020 List

It’s been a strange old year, as pretty much anyone reflecting on 2020 is likely to conclude. I’ll see if I can write this without mentioning Covid-19. Failed already.

As many of our followers will know, our schedule of physical releases hit an unplanned break in April, due to the closure of our local post office. We also felt that even if it were to be open, it wouldn’t be right to stand in a queue of people to ship packages a few times a week. So we decided to stop all of our plans completely. Before long, we launched into another project: Home Diaries. 30 albums from 30 artists later, we were into the warmth of July and were delighted to release our CDs again! We summarised Whitelabrecs related things in our last post, so I think the Whitelabrecs story ends here for now as far as this post is concerned.

Aside from a seriously busy year of running Whitelabrecs and even making some of my own music, I also feel that in 2020 I was able to listen to more music than I ever manage in an average year. I’ve been working from home as well as having time away from work altogether, which resulted in lots of DIY. Any household chore or job for me will always involve music. The washing needs to go on the line – it takes 5 minutes – that’s a track that can be played. Glossing every radiator in the house for example, gives time to take in a few albums! The shortlist really swelled this year and as always, my list is not about the best executed record or the perfect sound. It’s about the feeling it created for me, and how well I connected with it. I want to listen back to the records in this list in a decade or so and be taken back to this year, as strange as it was.

I stopped writing on the Irregular Crates blog a while back and this is where I’d normally announce a ‘best of’ list. But we set up Wallofambient this year alongside some other ambient labels and it’s been a bit of a consideration on whether I would post my list there. As I finalised it though, I realised several albums I’ve chosen are not ambient… so I didn’t want to annoy the ambient purists too much.

So I’ve decided to share it on the Whitelabrecs page this year and I’m sure there will be a few Ambient purists that are disappointed in my selections! Hopefully you’ll find some gems here though still. I’ve made no secret of my wide open taste in music, probably influenced by my microscopically successful DJ career, which I still look back on nostalgically. This influences my curation of Whitelabrecs and the sound we put out. Sure, the label sound is ambient overall, but you’ll see that generally I favour a melodic, melancholic or textured sound. I’m sure this is linked to a taste that dabbles in Dub Techno, Drone, Jazz, Liquid Funk, African Music, Chillhop, Deep House, Modern Classical, Funk, Folk, Field Recordings, Bossa Nova and many other styles.

So if you click the big yellow image of Port Isaac in Cornwall (from our holiday in September), you’ll be able to listen to a mix which is a countdown show of a track from each album in my top 25. My wife Beth has kindly leant her voice to provide the countdown and I added some delay and reverb effects just for fun. Below you can see a gallery of the cover art for the list of 25, as well as my thoughts on each album:


1st:
Bibio
Sleep On The Wing
Warp

At the top of my list ever since the night I noticed this new Bibio record emerged on Warp. Definitely the soundtrack to late summer for me, and I played it in the car on our family holiday to Cornwall a lot this year. So this will be a very nostalgic record for me in years to come. The use of instrument, particularly strings is a perfect blend and it’s one of those albums you can easily listen through in full. It retains your interest too with its variety of moods.

https://warp.net/releases/189049-bibio-sleep-on-the-wing


2nd:
Melody Gardot
Sunset In The Blue
Decca

I was sat listening to jazz fm in the car when an advert for Melody Gardot’s album came on. It was starting to get pretty wintry and thoughts turned to Christmas – the lush string arrangements in the snippet of audio I heard urged me to listen to the album on Spotify. I literally listened to the album over and over that whole weekend; I decided I couldn’t live without the double LP too. This isn’t necessarily my usual taste as it’s singer-songwriter stuff. But it really is just so so good all the way through. The Philharmonic orchestra certainly help, as the whole arrangement in every single track is perfect. Nearly my album of the year, this…

https://store.universalmusic.com/melodygardot/


3rd:
Offthesky & The Humble Bee
We Were The Hum Of Dreams
Laaps

This record for me was the clear winner for 2020 right up until I discovered the top two in my list. It came out at around the time the lockdown kicked in here in the UK. I was doing lots of DIY jobs around the house and the expert sound design from these two masters was just the perfect tonic to long, slightly strange days stuck indoors. There’s so much detail to get lost in, yet it still sits in the ambient genre which allows you to drift as you listen.”

https://laaps.bandcamp.com/album/we-were-the-hum-of-dreams


4th:
Loving
If I Am Only My Thoughts
Last Gang

Out in January, this one escaped me to the point when the vinyl versions had long since gone. This is a small band creating hushed ‘indie’ music, dare I say. The tones of the guitar, keys and vocals are warm and enveloping. Every single track in the album is excellent and again, the sign of a top album is one you can listen to in one sitting, without feeling the need to hit ‘skip’.

https://loving.bandcamp.com/album/if-i-am-only-my-thoughts-2


5th:
Inventions
Continuous Portrait
Temporary Residence

This album was always set to be good with the combination of talented artists Eluvium and Explosions In The Sky. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting however, as this set of fun folk ambient tracks are full of twists and turns. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and some of the samples or recordings will make you smile, whereas there are also plenty of moments that are truly beautiful.

https://inventions.bandcamp.com/album/continuous-portrait


6th:
Mute Forest
Riderstorm
Lost Tribe Sound

It was another solid year for Lost Tribe Sound with another excellent series of releases. My favourite was Mute Forest’s Riderstorm, a blend of soft rock, folk, Americana and the lightest touches of electronica. Some of the pieces are instrumental whereas others make use of Kael Smith’s song-writing and vocals. There is a generous palette of instruments used throughout but a sparse, intimate feel to it too.

https://muteforest.bandcamp.com/album/riderstorm


7th:
Mathieu Karsenti
Bygones
Slowcraft

Over the years, Modern Classical ambient music has featured heavily in my favourite records of the year. Generally, I’ve relied on household names such as Arnalds, Frahm or Jóhannsson but this year, I discovered Bygones by Mathieu Karsenti as my favourite classically influenced record. The strings and arrangement of the instrument tones are as rich and lavish as you’d find in music by these household names and that’s likely due to the fact that Karsenti is a film score composer. Only gripe is that this one’s digital only… would love to own it on vinyl!

https://slowcraft.bandcamp.com/album/bygones


8th:
Matthew Halsall
Salute To The Sun
Gondwana

I’ve been following the work of trumpeter, jazz artist and Gondwana label owner Matthew Halsall since his album Colour Yes and pretty much own all of his albums. There’s a rich and vibrant feel to all of his work but this latest album, ‘Salute To The Sun’ there’s a slightly more exotic, ‘world’ feel to it in places with more than a nod to Pharoah Sanders and Alice Coltrane. I’ve listened to this a lot since the beautifully designed CD arrived and wonder whether this might be higher up the list if I’d have been listening back in the summer.

https://matthewhalsall.bandcamp.com/album/salute-to-the-sun


9th:
Less Bells
Mourning Jewelry
Kranky

Kranky have a knack for releasing some real acoustic ambient classics and some of the finest albums blending acoustic instruments into melancholy drones. Stars of the Lid are the obvious stand out. This one by Less Bells was subject to a lengthy pre-order with a sample track available to whet my appetite. I knew this would be right up there from that very first listen and this one’s been a regular in my playlist this year. It has everything – variety, strings, texture, tasteful choral vocals, echoes of other stringed instruments and swells of cathedral drone.

https://lessbells.bandcamp.com/album/mourning-jewelry


10th:
Roméo Poirier
Hotel Nota
Sferic

There was a repress this year of Romeo Poirier’s excellent Plage Arriere but before this, the jazz flecked electronic sound art of Hotel Nota really impressed. An inevitable comparison to Jan Jelinek or Jon Hassell can be drawn but you’ll get past that to enjoy Poirier’s approach to composition and enjoy the enveloping detail of these works. I own it on vinyl and that really adds an extra layer of dust that gives another dimension.

https://sferic.bandcamp.com/album/hotel-nota


11th:
Alabaster DePlume
To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1
International Anthem

“I listened to a fair bit of jazz this summer, particularly the more experimental or hushed works or slower, spiritual jazz. Discovering this album by Alabaster DePlume was quite something and from the opening moments of Visit Croatia, these restful woodwind, strings and guitar compositions were a welcome sonic backdrop for warm summer days indoors.

https://intlanthem.bandcamp.com/album/to-cy-lee-instrumentals-vol-1


12th:
Soulstatejazz
Annwn
Banoffee Pies

I’ve followed the work of Tom Ellis for years, since my DJing days. He originally produced a deep, minimal micro House style and it was interesting to see him branch into a live approach, focusing on jazz and soul. This year I’ve spent a lot of time listening (and mixing) house music and it’s disappointing to me that I don’t represent this in my end of year list. However, this record bridged my attempts to make DJ mixes again with my taste for jazz music too. It starts with a beautifully deep sax and Rhodes reprise and there are some slow, leisurely House jams intersecting this beautifully deep record.

https://soulstatejazz.bandcamp.com/album/annwn


13th:
Tomotsugu Nakamura
Literature
Laaps

Laaps has quickly established itself as one of the finest ‘ambient’ labels around, following on from the success of the Eilean imprint. This one from Japanese artist Tomotsugu Nakamura has been in my car CD player for most of the year and has been a calming ‘return to the office’ record, sounding particularly nice in the sun. Acoustic sound sources, reversed notes and clicks and cuts nod nostalgically back to the mid-2000s.

https://tomotsugu.bandcamp.com/album/literature


14th:
Okkyung Lee
Yeo-Neun
Shelter Press

This record by Okkyung Lee has caused quite a stir this year and I’ve seen plenty of positive reviews and comments in the press. Lee is a South Korean cellist and her album goes far beyond the cello, as piano, low slung bass and harp amongst other creaks and clangs which makes for a playful but at times, spooky record.

https://shelterpress.bandcamp.com/album/yeo-neun


15th:
Sinerider
Moonflowers
Dronarivm

Dronarivm is a label that you tend to expect to provide high quality year-end list esque material every year. In 2020, pick of the bunch for me is this beautiful ambient album by Sinerider, a range of woozy, hazy sun-speckled guitar drones. Some of the tracks are blurry, some are more open loops but this for me has to be one of the finest ambient-leaning albums of the year, something you can easily sink into at any time, and drift away.

https://dronarivm.bandcamp.com/album/moonflowers


16th:
Gastón Arévalo
Terrain
A Strangely Isolated Place

When I first discovered ambient music, through netlabels, I also fell across the work of Gaston Arevalo whose sound was often a mixture of field recordings and experimental, electronica influenced ambient. I must admin, I have not followed his discography for a good number of years but this mammoth collection of deep listening-drones on A Strangely Isolated Space was a big hit for me this year, particularly late at night. At an hour long, it needs plenty of time to give it your attention and is best enjoyed as a whole.

https://astrangelyisolatedplace.bandcamp.com/album/terrain


17th:
Morimoto Naoki
Dusk To Dawn
Lontano Series

“Lontano Series have emerged as a strong label in the ambient scene and this album by Morimoto Naoki is really quite something. It’s a collection of static-riddled electro-acoustic moods, full of warmth and light melancholy. It’s difficult not to think of the 12k label when listening to this and for me, it’s easily one of the finest ambient records of the year.”

https://lontanoseries.bandcamp.com/album/dusk-to-dawn


18th:
Andrew Wasylyk
Fugitive Light and Themes of Consolation
Athens Of The North

.

https://andrewwasylyk.bandcamp.com/album/fugitive-light-and-themes-of-consolation


19th:
Mell-ø + Ambulo
Afloat Again
Chilled6Cow

I’ve been a fan of chillhop for a few years now and several of these short, chilled instrumental hip-hop eps and mini albums are in my headphones over the course of any given year. I was really impressed with this one by Mell-ø & Ambulo, with beautiful licks of smooth guitar taking centre stage.

https://mellomusicnl.bandcamp.com/album/afloat-again-ep


20th:
Footshooter
Libations & Movement
Dance Regular

“I discovered this one early this year and it sort of started my interest in beat driven music as I looked for some styles to help keep a level of positivity throughout the pandemic and its lockdowns. This one’s billed as an EP but the length is more like an album. The tracks use a street-wise London approach in the beats and vocals, but there’s a nu-jazz, broken beat and house influence running through too with some really clever production. There’s even a short ambient piece in amongst these tracks!”

https://footshooterbeats.bandcamp.com/album/libations-movement-dance-regular


21st:
Session Victim
Needledrop
Night Time Stories

I’ve got all of the Session Victim albums and have long since been a fan but Needledrop is easily a favourite, and an early contender for album of the year. This artist is often filed under house but in this record, there’s a beautifully adept ability to create downtempo, soulful tracks too. Waller and Pierce for me is the stand-out track with smooth and deep soulful vocals.

https://sessionvictim.bandcamp.com/album/needledrop


22nd:
Misha Panfilov Sound Combo
Days As Echoes
Funk Night Records

“.”

https://mpsc.bandcamp.com/album/days-as-echoes


23rd:
Leon Revol
Enter A Zircon
Church

I’ve been enjoying Ryan Bissett’s work as Halftribe for quite some time now and a jaw dropping moment occurred not long after I hit play on ‘Backwater Revisited’ from the trusty Dronarivm label. The record features synth and electro acoustic tones, drenched in reverb and a tasteful hint of chorus. Plenty of crackle and space between the lines to allow for a glistening, wintry backdrop. The artwork features an adaptation of open source imagery by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis from back in 1908 and this rustic, vintage cover fits in perfectly with the blanket-like folds of Ambience Ryan created here.

https://www.juno.co.uk/products/leon-revol-enter-a-zircon/773858-01/


24th:
Fabiano do Nascimento
Preludio
Now-Again

“I’ve always been into bossa and Latin music since my late teens, so occasionally I’ll discover something within these categories that I end up playing a lot, particularly in the summer. This one by guitarist Fabiano do Nascimento got some serious hammer and I found I played it a lot at around breakfast time. It’s got great variety and depth and has been pretty uplifting for a heavy old year.”

https://fabianodonascimento.bandcamp.com/album/prel-dio-2


25th:
Domenique Dumont
People On Sunday
The Leaf Label

“It happens every year; I finish agonising over my end of year list after months of shuffling my ‘chart’, casting an eye over everything I left out… then I happen to discover something wonderful in December. I’d already made my end of year mix and just had to swap in this album by Latvian artist Domenique Dumont, which had been on repeat all day. There’s a child like sense of wonder about all of these playful synth melodies and rhythms that I just can’t escape. I’ll state the obvious: a few more weeks of owning this, how high up this list might it have been?”

https://domeniquedumont.bandcamp.com/album/people-on-sunday