Everything Is: Wait
Rural Colours

Ed Hamilton: Behind the Clouds (For Zoë)

Herzog: Waking Up is Hard to Do
Rural Colours

Damian Valles: Old Tin Will Cry
Twisted Tree Line

In addition to a steady stream of full-lengths, labels such as Hibernate and Somehow Recordings also issue an equally generous number of three-inch releases on their respective offshoots, Rural Colours and Twisted Tree Line. Four recent discs provide a good impression of the type of material one typically encounters in these EPs, each of which hovers around the twenty-minute mark.

South London, UK-based producer Bill Bawden predicates his latest Herzog set, Waking Up is Hard to Do, upon the idea of nightmares, so not surprisingly the moodscaping is sometimes unsettled. The electroacoustic material is emphatically textural, with Bawden wrapping flickering piano tones in billowing masses of glitch-laden smears and static. The approach complements the concept of the release in conjuring reverberant vistas of ambient dreamscapes that are as immersive as slumber—during the seven-minute “New Weapons” and “Help Us Help Ghosts” especially, which are considerably more peaceful in character than their titles might suggest. Though “She Was in the Lake” introduces the EP with a suitably foreboding blend of piano and resonant shimmer, the becalmed title setting closes the release with a sense of morning-after serenity that's overtly conveyed in bird chirps that appear outside the bedroom window.

Christian Eldefors' Everything is EP Wait is more straightforwardly acoustic and melody-based than Bawden's but no less appealing. Eldefors, who resides in a small mountain town in Sweden, has a soft spot for piano settings of lilting and melancholy character, of which Wait includes a fair share. Apparently recorded in a single night in a chapel in November 2010, the EP presents six concise piano-based pieces augmented by percussion, choir, and cello. While there are a couple of tracks featuring piano only (the pretty, arpeggio-laden “A Dance for You”), it's the cello-and-piano pieces that stand out most. Consequently, special mention must be made of Gülsah Erol, whose emotive cello playing boosts the lyrical qualities of “Lost in a Dream” and “Suddenly the Rain Stopped.” The EP's most dramatic piece, “The Escape,” again features Erol's playing alongside Eldefors' piano, though this time punctuated by choir. A lot of ground is covered in the EP, despite a brief fifteen-minute running time.

Ontario, Canada-based multi-instrumentalist Damian Valles adds to the impressive discography of experimental soundscaping recordings he's built up over the past couple of years with the twenty-minute EP Old Tin Will Cry. Valles' material, which is very much in keeping with the stylistic approach we've come to associate with Simon Scott and Talvihorros, assembles his long-form tracks using heavily treated guitar as the core and percussion, piano, and field recordings as supplements. The eleven-minute “Part One (Cold Working)” presents a slow-building ambient vortex whose cycle of ebb-and-flow grows ever more dense as various instruments and sounds move in and out of focus. Rather more vaporous is “Part Two (Phase Transition),” which slowly expands into a swirling, all-consuming cloud mass of nebulous and quasi-industrial character.

Speaking of clouds, the South West England musician Ed Hamilton brings us the final release of the four, Behind the Clouds (For Zoë), dedicated to a friend of Hamilton's who recently passed away. Finding himself recently dissatisfied with the austere computer music he was making, Hamilton modified his approach such that it now involves the integration of Max/MSP patches and acoustic sound materials. One hears, then, within a typical piece identifiable acoustic elements alongside the requisite electronic pulses and textural treatments. Like Valles' release, Hamilton's features two long-form tracks, the second of which is split into two parts. Extended duration gives his material room to breathe and develop at a pace that feels natural to it. The electroacoustic drone “Palmipsest” augments vocal exhalations and tonal shimmer with the pluck and strum of a pipa-like string instrument, resulting in a meditative setting that exudes a requiem-like feel—a mememto mori for Zoë, perhaps? “Behind the Clouds (Part One)” plays like a second cousin to Valles' “Part Two (Phase Transition),” even if Hamilton's piece adds dulcimer-like sounds, while “Behind the Clouds (Part Two)” shifts the focus to phase-shifting guitar treatments and celestial tinklings, with the result a particularly heavenly coda. One could easily imagine the closing piece extending for a wholly immersive hour rather than the three-minute teaser we're given.

December 2011