17 Pictures: 17 Pictures

F.S. Blumm: Drawings

Daisuke Miyatani: Diario

Whether issuing material under the 17 Pictures or more familiar Wechsel Garland guise, Jörg Follert never falters in his ability to conjure enticing vignettes of bucolic splendour. Alongside gentle acoustic guitar, marimba, Rhodes , and piano accompaniment, harmonicas, banjos, flutes, and strings sing out lonely melodies that call to mind a carefree summer evening spent in the open countryside. The refreshingly uncluttered arrangements allow the songs—peaceful ballads (“Dreams of Quietness”) and gently swinging tunes (“Where Did They Go?” underlays its marimba lead with a walking bass line and jazz hi-hat pattern)—to breathe and their melodies to be heard without struggle (“Mirror Valley Theme #1” uses—and needs—nothing more than harmonica and guitar to leave its impression), and the occasional vocal (“Watching The Watching”) only enhances the music's appeal. Follert also downplays the electronic side of things so that the music's acoustic charm remains at the forefront. Most of the 19 songs are short but the project's unified by a lovely theme that appears in the opening song and then recurs intermittently throughout. Follert's music always charms, no matter the moniker choice.

Diario, by Awaji Island, Japan resident Daisuke Miyatani, is a natural complement to another Ahornfelder release, The Mountain Record by Yuichiro Fujimoto. Both feature electroacoustic miniatures (fragments, in some cases) that are haiku-like in their directness and simplicity, and both recordings are informed by a heavy ‘outdoors' field dimension. Created with acoustic guitars, xylophones, and ambient electronic enhancements, Miyatani's songs exude a fragile and contemplative character. True to its title, “Summer Child” is a dreamy memory piece that transports the listener back to a peaceful childhood afternoon where one rested in an open field to watch the clouds roll past while placid electric guitars accompany sounds of footsteps, water, and outdoor noises in “Sampo.” Time stands even more still in the wispy meditation “Hum.” Contrast often emerges through the juxtaposition of a melodic song or drone with an untouched interlude of evocative field elements. The only jarring thing about Diario is Miyatani's tendency to end many songs abruptly, a disquieting effect that's contrary to the album's otherwise calming ambiance.

Give Ahornfelder credit for extending the playing field beyond audio releases to print products too. In the label's own words, the latter works perpetuate “the ideas of structures, abstraction and harmonic experimentalism on a graphic level and in such a way complement the musical output.” In some special cases, the visual work originates from artists known for their musical output, with F.S. Blumm (Frank Schültge Blumm) a prime example. Created between 1998 and 2006, the images displayed on the forty pages of the book (seven square inches in size, matching the size of a 7-inch vinyl disc) are abstract and obsessively detailed drawings which possess an undeniable charm in their unassuming simplicity. Ahornfelder presents them lovingly too on high-quality matte-finish paper. Having said that, some of the drawings are a little too primitive and sketchily defined, and one questions whether they're deserving of such treatment. Regardless, the experience would have been more complete in this case and ultimately more satisfying had there been an EP (5-inch vinyl disc vinyl or CD) tucked away in the booklet's inner sleeve that one could listen to while studying the drawings. One can certainly approximate that idea by listening to Blumm's latest Morr Music release Summer Kling while reviewing the artwork.

January 2007