Shaula: Yona
Somehow Recordings

Nobuto Suda: Modest Calm
Somehow Recordings

Shaula and Nobuto Suda return with their second releases for the Somehow Recordings imprint and both reward one's attention. Yona, Shaula's follow-up to last year's Non_rem_sleeps, finds the Japan-based producer entrancing the ears once again, this time with seventy minutes of immersive material. Shaula's music is calming and time-suspending in the extreme, so one is advised to put everything else aside while listening to it and simply surrender to the experience. Within a given setting, simple melodic figures repeat over and over and in so doing lull the listener into a state of peaceful meditation. Delicate settings of shimmering haze and drift, Shaula's long-form dreamscapes are generated from treated guitars, bass, piano, and electronics, and t he low-level flow of guitar plucks, sparse tonal accents, and willowy atmospheres makes the album's pieces (“Night and Green Grass,” “Deer in the Stalactite,” and the thirteen-minute outro “White” good illustrations of the form) feel like middle-of-the-night reveries.

On Modest Calm, Nobuto Suda graces our ears with fifty more minutes of sweeping ambient material built from layers of guitars and field recordings. Having issued five recordings in 2010 on Rural Colours, Somehow Recordings, and three on Tobira Records (the label Suda co-manages with Hakobune), the Kyoto, Japan-based sound artist is gearing up for an equally productive 2011 with the taâlem release of Twilight Garden to go along with this Somehow Recordings sequel to last year's Ecotone. Suda's ethereal epics are suffused with melancholy and consequently exert an emotional pull on the listener that can make other ambient productions sound merely pretty or even static by comparison. In the opening piece (track titles weren't available), Suda creates something akin to orchestral ambient, with dense formations of mournful foghorn-like tones overlapping in slow-motion. The second opts for ambient splendour, as if one is high above the clouds with the sounds of humanity reduced to faint traces barely audible amidst the hazy hum of the immediate surround. Suda wisely mixes things up as the recording unfolds: the third is dominated by purer guitar-generated streams, while field recordings of the natural outdoors are more prominently featured in the fourth. And while the opening pieces are clearly epic in character, the sixth points in the entirely opposite direction by ending the recording with a lovely setting of delicate, guitar-generated quietude. It's such moments that make one return to Modest Calm for repeat listens.

April 2011