Curium: Aember

The Lullaby League: Cantus

The Science Teacher: Parallelism

Sleep Robot: Panic Grass and Feverfew

Dynamophone's Parcel series presents one of the most compelling arguments to date against pure digital downloads. Each Parcel installment arrives in a gorgeous tiny package—the cardboard stock's texture and colour oh-so-carefully determined too—inside of which awaits a 3-inch disc and, in one case, a candle, prompting one to bask in the music by candlelight.

Under the moniker The Lullaby League, Dynamophone head and multi-instrumentalist Evan Sornstein, pianist and vocalist Fonta Hadley, and guitarist Shawn Brice inaugurate the label series marvelously with Cantus, a twenty-minute incantation that casts its spell in slow motion with phrase upon phrase dissolving into one another. Gentle waves of processed piano, guitar, piano, and Latin phrases rise and fall throughout, inducing a time-lapsed state of entranced calm one wishes could go on forever. This rich, crepuscular music is simultaneously soothing and powerful, so much so that hearing it banishes any and all traces of conflict from one's being.

Sornstein makes an individual contribution to the series with the slightly harder-edged Curium outing Aember (subtitled A Suite of Fierae Portraits). More overtly electronic, Aember's three instrumentals inhabit reverberant, electronically-illumined spaces filled with ghostly synth and chiming keyboard melodies that drift over lurching beats and bass throbs. Though titles like “Auror” (love) and “Sophea” (chaos) hint at marked sonic contrasts, the generally understated trio exudes concordance more than discordance. The tempo picks up in the more animated closer “Los” (wisdom) but the release's beatific sparkle remains firmly in place.

The third Parcel outing, Parallelism, presents three ‘pensive' electronic settings from The Science Teacher, Halou and R/R Coseboom member Ryan Coseboom's instrumental side-project. “On a Haiku Beach” sets the stage with a glacial, brooding ritual augmented by whispered synth shudders, Greg Kehret's cello scraping, and raw guitar embellishments. Simmering electric guitars and tinkling percussion dominate “Factory Flowers,” followed by the low-level “Low Countries” featuring Rebecca Coseboom's soft hum.

Henry Clarke's Sleep Robot release, Panicgrass and Feverfew, likewise features three pieces, in this case ultra-hazy, electroacoustic drones guaranteed to induce sleep or, at the very least, reverie. Voices murmur and willowy tones shimmer across still and desolate expanses in “Prayer Wheel,” “La Belle Epoche,” and “Lakes.” Clarke lists Windy & Carl and Stars of the Lid as influences so the immersive, dream-like nature of his Sleep Robot material hardly surprises.

After listening to this exquisite quartet of hand-made releases (each available in a limited 100-copy run), the disclaimer accompanying Sleep Robot's release—“Warning: not for listening while driving”—should be updated instead to “Warning: insufficient exposure may be hazardous to your health.”

October 2007