Discover Ambient (Jan-March 2021)

My picks of new album and EP releases from the zone without borders. Boozoo Bajou, Castlebed, Gold Lounge, Lorenzo Montana, Iasos, Healing Sound Project, Bålsam, Biome, One Million Eyes, Cofaxx, Nigel Mullaney, Jacob David.

Beats & groove

Boozoo Bajou ‘Lambique EP’ (Apollo)

Germany’s exotic lounge maestros Boozoo Bajou are back after a long absence with three new tracks and two slightly older ones that were buried on recent V/A compilations. Their sophisticated, eclectic sound remains gloriously alive, from shimmering dub and post-rock to balmy tropical scenes and brooding cinematic scores. The EP is on respected R&S imprint Apollo Records but it sounds like it could just as easily be a Stereo Deluxe release, the pioneering label on which they first made their name 20 years ago. Link

Castlebed ‘Fundamentals’ (Lemongrass Music)

From Florida USA, this is high quality stoner beats, usually leaning towards jazz and soul-inflected breaks. Slick but substantial tunes, with spare arrangements yet loads of colour: flute, guitar, piano wordless vocals, double bass and trumpet. Link

Gold Lounge ‘Green Land EP’ (Sine Music)

At his considerable best, Italian composer and DJ Michele Felloni’s makes loungey electronica and chilled house that’s exceptionally crafted and deeply harmonic. Just like his masterful long player Floating (2018), his new EP as Gold Lounge is rich in both production smarts and musicality, whether it’s serving euphoric prog house or transforming familiar fare like the very Zero 7-ish “What’s Going On” into glorious pastiche. In a word: tunes! Link

Lorenzo Montana ‘Dunuc’ (Fantasy Enhancing)

Lorenzo Montana must be one of the most underrated producers in 21st century electronica – just check out what he’s done over past 10 years. The seven tracks on his latest album are clean, spacious and sometimes quite stark, with a machine funk and complex patterns that sometimes echo classic 90’s ambient techno, especially Pete Namlook and Richie Hawtin’s bleepy collaborations. Link

New age

Healing Sound Project ‘Elements’ (Heart Dance Records)

Emanating from the acoustic end of new age, Elements is a triumph of understatement. Using a small selection of instruments – flute, harmonium, piano, vibraphone and just a hint of synthetic sound – the duo of Sarah Hargis and Matt Hubbard have fashioned an album of sparse and intelligent environmental ambience with a deep devotional streak. This is their second album together, and it’s right up there with classic Deuter and Coyote Oldman. Link

Iasos ‘The Next Dimension’ (Bandcamp)

45 years on from his first album, there’s still nobody making electronic new age ambient that sounds quite like genre pioneer Iasos. To my ears this is also his best album in decades, contrasting deeply spacey passages and sparkling washes with grand orchestral-style flourishes that echo fantasy film scores. Cheesy in a way, but unique, too. Listen with headphones and before long his kaleidoscopic panoramas will open up before you. Link

Deep sounds

Bålsam ‘Flora y Fauna’ (Neotantra)

From an American artist based tropical Columbia, this is nature ambient done right. Tonal, subtle, evocative, mysterious. My fave of the recent Neotantra label releases, and Bålsam’s finest album to date. Link

Biome ‘Essence’ (Biome Music)

First rate beatless ambient spacemusic here with trippy new age colours. Gregory Kyryluk’s Biome alias is evolving beautifully, distinct from his better known Berlin school emanations as Alpha Wave Movement. Link

One Million Eyes ‘Brama’ (Strangely Isolated Place)

Intriguing and luscious collection of warm, Balearic-style tunes from an Italian duo that turns the genre on its head by ditching the bass frequencies. It still has the beats and rhythms, but almost everything in the soundscape sits between the low-mids and the highs. Progressive in the best sense, and quite experimental at times. Link

Cofaxx ‘Shell Collector’ (Constellation Tatsu)

Best of the recent batch of albums from California’s Constellation Tatsu label. Deliciously strange exotica that meshes floaty, dappled Fourth World tones with deeply hypnotic tribal percussion loops. Jon Hassell fans take note. Link

Classic synth

Nigel Mullaney ‘The Navigator’ (Behind The Sky Music)

A stimulating collection of lyrical electronic miniatures by longtime UK composer Nigel Millaney, inspired by sailing explorers and the great Age of Discovery. It’s made with lots of retro modular and analog synths, but cleverly transposed into the present to the point where, somehow, it doesn’t sound retro at all. Link

Modern classical

Jacob David ‘Mursejler’ (Moderna Records)

The latest album from modern classical composer David Jacob is a pitch-perfect example of the ‘felt piano’ style that the Moderna label excels at. When the writing is good in this subgenre, the mechanical noises – created by adding felt on and/or between the hammers and close-miking their movement – create a remarkable intimacy. These 12 lyrical compositions are strong and true, spanning joy to melancholy and sorrow, while rarely rising above a whisper. Link

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