Californians Amanda and Britt Brown`s Not Not Fun imprint have released a trio of engrossing, most excellent, ambient excursions in the last month. Across formats from cassette to digital to vinyl, and across continents from L.A. to Moscow.
Closest to home is Sydra by Jared Carrigan, of the Jungle Gym crew, recording under the nome de plume, V. Kristoff. These are 11 tracks of a haunted, urban, midnight air. Sidewalk-surfing soundtracks for deserted late night streets, coloured by sodium shadows and the hiss of city rain. Found sound sources distorted, crackling, as if licked by tongues of flame. Blurred and smudged signals of squeezed sighing tones are caught, cycling, in vapour-like loops. The heavily fogged, fractured melodies, containing faint echoes of family, children at play. Once stately piano refrains are chipped and blunted – crumbling and sent wonky, spinning slightly off-centre. A comment on time, and perhaps in particular metropolitan decay. The standout for me is Majolica. A dusted, nostalgic glide ghosted by traces of techno icons and relics. Detroit dreams of deep space exploration, futures that weren’t to be. Promises of jet-packs and flying cars exchanged for empty ballrooms and municipal bankruptcy.
The remaining 2 releases are Russian in origin, but as the title of Alexander Sirenko AKA Coral Club`s Nowhere Island alludes, he could really be any place, virtual or corporeal. The press one-sheet describes Sirenko as an “electribalist”, and these live improvisations serve as an audio road map for intrepid explorers lighting out for an imagined landscape. This archipelago of Alexander`s mind`s eye being a veritable 4th-world fog of field recorded flora and fauna. Following tributaries through free-flowing streams and waterfalls to a music of distant thunder, psychedelic storms, and techno, trance typhoons – acidic at their spinning edges. Where birdsong is abundant, night choruses of crickets and frogs are deafening, and monkeys are out looking for a mate. This calming cacophony camouflaging an instrumentation of organic clicks and clanks. Tom toms, tambourines and mercurial idiophone, marimba movements. Rushing currents of percussive percolations buzzed by harmonium drone, machine whistles and grainy electronics, Lo-Fi Sci-Fi sound-effects. Oriental oscillations and Javanese jive. A ceremonial smashing of temple gongs, each hit sending shockwaves into the next. All of it breathing to the ritual beating of hand drums. Rocking to rhythms as if eddied by tides, blown in the breeze. These in the main serene sequences sometimes shaken by earthquakes of distorted bottom-end boom. Pounded by stampedes of roaring pachyderm feet. Listening I was reminded of Tropical Hi-Fi`s Oceania, and O Yuki Conjugate, if the latter were dragged out from its dark and into the light.
Fellow Soviet Vladimir Karpov makes music under the moniker X.Y.R. – which is short for Xram Yedinennogo Razmuwlenuja, and translates as “Temple Of Solitary Reflection”. I have to admit that I approached the two 20 minute pieces that constitute Vladimir`s Pilgrimage with some trepidation. Unsure if my concentration could commit, and engage with with such long-form compositions of glitch, twitch or drone. I mean the scope for self-indulgence is considerable. I was in the bath. If I nodded off I might drown. But I needn’t have worried.
Black Monk In The Dunes is a shape-shifting, evolving dub-wise drift. Its field-recorded foundations serenaded by sighing spectres, and subliminal, phased synthesizer swirl. Owls hooting and frequencies fluttering like the beat of bats` wings in its cool twilight. Its gentle drum circle gyrations gradually becoming more distinct and the bass-line throb more insistent. Echoes In Time employs a somehow familiar pan-pipe refrain to hijack your head on its heaven, nirvana, satori, bound journey. Accompanied by ambient angels as you travel through an unspoiled aural Amazon, an electronic Eden, a synthesized savannah. Atmospheres that once again invoke the rituals of O Yuki Conjugate`s In Dark Waters – classic tracks like their Cloud Cover and Ascension. Mandolin-mimicking moments somewhere in the dense musical meditation. Sending you adventuring deep, deep in a 3rd-eye 4th-world. Slow-dancing with Ayahuasca spirits, where DMT minutes could be hours and the idea of measuring a dimension is made meaningless.
V. Kristoff`s Sydra, Coral Club`s Nowhere Island, and X.Y.R`s Pilgrimage are all available directly from Not Not Fun.