cousin silas

Review of Cousin Silas and Pendro ‘The Audio Scullery’

Submariner-in-Chief Rob reviews the recent work from Cousin Silas and Pendro:

The Audio Scullery is the latest collaboration between Cousin Silas and Pendro – an interesting joint venture on several fronts, not least perhaps the perceived difference in styles: Cousin Silas, a musician I tend to think of as melodic and accessible, and Pendro, who I generally consider to be a more dark and experimental sound designer. I am famously poor at identifying genres (not ideal when you run a netlabel, but hey-ho) but I would say this joint album could legitimately be described as dark ambient. It’s definitely dark, maybe not as full-on scary as Pendro’s previous album Figmentland, but certainly ominous and unsettling in places.

The album opens with the fabulously inventive Silence of Rooks. Full of foreboding, with strange bird calls, and an insistent booming drum that propels it along, not unlike the orc drums in the mines of Moria.

Altogether lighter, my favourite track is The Tempered Isle. A floating synth pad provides a bed for free jazzy piano chords followed by sublime fluid jazzy bass figures, with incidental sounds and noises laced through. It genuinely wouldn’t sound out of place on Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way (except I suspect Miles would have wanted to add at least some trumpet.)

New Aurora that follows is a shifting soundscape of electronic bleeps and glitches, reeling and reiterating, drifting in and out of focus. Part of the beauty of this track is that it’s particularly nicely judged; the noises never overwhelm the track as a whole and don’t overstay their welcome.

Incubators is dark. Properly dark. Washes of noise, unidentified animal sounds. Even the addition of analogue synths halfway through doesn’t lessen the nightmarish qualities. It’s not clear what the titular incubators are for, but whatever it is that’s being incubated, it isn’t human.

A slight reprieve from the darkness, Mandrake Drift is a meditative, floating ambient piece, full of reflection. A Glacial Swell that follows starts in a similarly ambient fashion, all resonance, almost redolent of Buddhist singing bowls, across which Silas’ haunting eBow guitar cuts through, rather like a solitary uilleann pipe.

Morphology is a soundscape, mournful and glacial. Here the sounds are slow and stretched, and dotted with radio interference, and the album closes with the fittingly entitled The Exit Road, but it’s far from a happy ending. It’s a discomfiting drone, with ghostly, disembodied voices bathed in echo. Maybe the exit being referred to here is an exit from this mortal coil?

So, feel-good background ambient music for yoga and Pilates this is not. It’s a brave and sobering listen, with Pendro’s trademark attention to textures and sound-staging. It’s thought-provoking, occasionally startling and if you enjoy your ambient dark and unsettling, you’ll find this entirely rewarding.

You can hear and download The Audio Scullery from Pendro’s Bandcamp page here.

New Releases: Manipulant, Cousin Silas and GOATS

It’s starting to get busy here at the Conning Tower, what with Exhibition and possibly Klang coming up, plus one secret project and two confirmed new artists. So, in our wisdom we decided to release three new works on the same day. You can thank us later. Anyway, we have pretty much something for everyone. Starting with…

We’ve been trailing the Manipulant EP for a while, but now it’s finally released. Manipulant is musician and singer David from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and had a lot of radio airplay with his previous Eclectro album. The new EP ‘perspective’ is a melodic slice of electro that ranges from funky to seductive to jazzy to dramatic. We’re pushing tracks like SandS and Shiveresque to the US university radio stations as we think they really stand up to mainstream radio exposure. You can buy ‘perspective’ from iTunes, Amazon and our Bandcamp store here:

Cousin Silas needs no introduction for fans of ambient music, and that makes it all the more pleasing that he has chosen to place another release with us. ‘Radio Galaxies’, as its name suggests is a collection of cosmologically-themed pieces. Long-form, and deliberately slow-paced and evolving, this is an album that needs to be wallowed in. ‘Radio Galaxies’ is available from our Bandcamp store:

GOATS is a brand new experimental project, comprising Alan Morse Davies (The Clock House, At Sea Records, Truck Stop Rent Boy), Ade Hodges and Declan Owen. The album, made up of five goat-themed titles, also features Neil Campbell of Vibracathedral Orchestra fame and Rene Kita. The music is experimental and ever-changing, challenging in places and accessible in others. The album is ‘name your price’ on Bandcamp but any money raised will go to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) so we hope you’ll give generously.

Review: The Modul 303 Benefit Album Vol 2

One of the revelations of operating in the world of netlabels was when I realised there is no huge gulf between the big name successful acts and the independent artists; there is quality to be found at every level of fame and accomplishment, you just need to know where to look.

I mention this because Studio 4632 know exactly where to look. Concentrating on electronic and ambient music, Candy L and Studio 4632 continually release music of the highest quality; this particular album, The Modul 303 Benefit Album Vol 2, whilst not strictly limited to artists from the Studio 4632 stable, maintains this tradition. You would be hard-pushed to find a better collection of electronic/ambient music, regardless of label or budget.

When discussing this album it’s worth noting that there are a number of styles and genres contained here; if electronic music suggests ethereal ambient soundscapes washing over you, there’s much more to this compilation. Indeed Candy has sequenced the tracks with great care such that tracks of similar style and tempo are grouped together and the listener is gently transitioned between the various genres.  The album starts with the contemporary uptempo music of Altocirrus and the positively danceable sounds of Globotom. Thaneco’s ‘Temple IV’ features a playful bassline accompanied by swirling, bubbling synths, building into very satisfying piece. Mixtaped Monk, who follows, delivers one of few guitar-based tracks on the album, the heavy yet haunting post-rock ‘Sense in Sensation’.

As we move out of the uptempo tracks, Glenn Sogge’s ‘Insert Modul 30ED3 Here’ is an exquisitely atmospheric piece, slightly melancholy and despite the hi-tech connotations of the title I felt something ghostly about it. A ghost in the machine perhaps. Another highlight for me is Jaime Munarriz’s delightfully textured ‘Blind Line in Nairoby’,  which changes as it progresses, taking the listener on a journey through a changing landscape. The track that follows, ‘So Little Time’ by Cousin Silas, is achingly beautiful, built on bell-like synths and ornamented with Silas’ trademark crystalline guitar and piano figures. Earthborn Visions’  ‘Kaumendert’ follows, starting with a vaguely ominous asymmetric bass line; additional layers appear as the track progress which help to soothe the sense of foreboding, but it’s a fantastically clever, unsettling piece.

The track from Kellerkind Berlin, as the name suggests, contains many delicious references to the Berlin School of synthesizer music; unusually it also contains a waltz sequence, and even more unusually it succeeds brilliantly, with a natural, deft and airy approach.

Probably my favourite piece on the album is the haunting ‘Journey’s Least Travelled Path Never Ends’ by Playman 54  (Colin Blake). This beautiful piece is centred around Colin’s dreamy, melancholic piano, with synth pads that have the effect of making the listener immediately nostalgic. In a previous review I likened Colin’s work to that of Harold Budd or Roger Eno; this is music of the very highest order and deserves a far wider audience.

There are a couple of beautiful tracks featuring the late Wolfgang Gsell, himself a frequent presence on Modul 303. Both tracks are collaborations, firstly with Lutz Thuns and then Martin Neuhold. Both are joyful, uplifting pieces that feel to me like celebrations of life and nature.

The album closes as strongly as it opened with the cosmic sound of Tim Kays, the playful fairytale soundtrack of EternalKeys and the striking words and music Allen Pitt’s majestic musical poem, ‘Albion’.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this album to anyone interested in exploring the output of Studio 4632, the broadcasts of Modul 303 or just top quality electronic instrumental music. There’s a minimum $3 price tag on the album but I’d suggest you should really pay north of $10 as this is a genuinely superb album.

News from the Conning Tower: Exhibition

So much news, so few typing fingers! OK, Exhibition. Exhibition is the name of our 2018 ‘open’ compilation. There are three strands to the compilation, Red, Green and Blue: Red is the most experimental and challenging, Green is predominantly instrumental or ambient, and Blue is rock, post-rock, pop, electronica and so on.

We’re accepting entries until the end of March, but at the time of writing we’ve had submissions from:

Manga Brothers
Cousin Silas
Merge
Alan Morse Davis
CJA Band
Spartan Jet-Plex
Carbonates on Mars
Autonomaton
precocious mouse
Zumaia
Ruido
Nurse Predator
Ian Haygreen
Rauppwar
Lucidbeaming
Earthborn Visions
Pisse Larve
Peri Esvultras
Noise Cluster
God Cancer
James Hoehl
Raas
3SBAT
Feasibility Study
Cosmic Colonel
Manipulant
Crayon Angels
ikjoyce
Almark
Lezet
Intersonic Subformation
Ryliss
Icy Rainbows
{AN} EeL/Christopher Petkus/Lorne Shapiro
t.r. hand
Hans Castrup
Mean Flow
Against Nature
The Moth Poets
The Blank Holidays
Shice Squad
Tim Kays
Somta
Bridget Wishart & The Band of Doctors
Arka Sengupta
BlindººCoyote
Hypercube & Mario Lino Stancati
Janusz Brudniewicz

It’s going to be huge! You can read the original blurb about Exhibition here.

New release from Cousin Silas

We are delighted to announce that we have today released our first album from Cousin Silas. ‘Sketches, Rough Drafts and Early Ideas’ is a collection of previously unreleased material, curated by the man himself, dating back to David’s first adoption of the Cousin Silas name.

Despite being early material, the pieces are remarkably mature and accomplished. Fans of Cousin Silas will find plenty to enjoy here, with many of the Silas trademarks already showing through. Several of the pieces are quite sombre and err towards the dark ambient genre, while others feature the use of sequencers, reminiscent of Berlin school elektronische musik.

It’s a fascinating journey, and it’s completely free from our Bandcamp page.

And would you look at that, we didn’t even mention the Kickstarter.

Review: Dream Topography

Rob from SBC and Beltism reviews Argali Records’ new experimental compilation, Dream Topography:

In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out I was delighted to have a Beltism track included on this compilation. But let’s pretend I’m impartial and concentrate on the other tracks.

Argali Records is the brainchild of John Lithium (aka Nathan Carter) and continues its reputation for promoting new independent experimental music with this compilation, loosely themed around dreams.

What immediately struck be about this compilation is the variety of artists taking part; in addition to the usual suspects who frequent my quarter of the ambient and experimental nether regions of the Internet, there were several artists completely new to me. And the other notable feature is the quality of the submissions. As we at SBC can testify, you never know what you’re going to get with an open-call compilation, and it’s difficult to please all tastes, so ultimately it’s pretty rare to produce a compilation that doesn’t involve reaching for the Skip button at some point, but the quality on this one is consistently high.

The album opens with one of its most melodic tracks, Cousin Silas’ evocative ‘Fever Dreams’, with its repeated piano motif full of half-memories and yearning. Glove of Bones’ ‘Psychopomp (Fuck Turquoise)’ that follows shortly after is an altogether more disturbing affair – the dreams that inspired this dark and damaged piece were the result of blue cheese and peyote buttons before bedtime. Mean Flow’s ‘Dream Land’ is a short drone, dark but also meditative, unsettling but cleverly textured.

One of my favourite tracks is Ars Sonor’s ‘Shattered Dreams’, a barren haunting soundscape, redolent of winter, possibly a nuclear one. James Lowe’s ‘Transparency One’ continues in the same vein, a fragile and chilling peace which unfolds into a collage of disturbing sounds that would work nicely in a Tarkovsky film.

Jack Hertz’s ‘Half Moon Dream’ is delightfully textured, rich with unnerving sounds drifting in and out of focus; I don’t think this is a particularly happy dream, but to answer Bill Nelson’s question, I’m fairly sure Jack dreams in colour. Jaime Munarriz’s ‘Out of the Dark Zone’ swirls ominous bell-like (campaniform?) sounds, cleverly teasing us that something beautifully melodic, or terrifyingly anarchic, will happen, but much like trying to read a newspaper in a dream, we never get a clear view for long enough to be sure.

Playman54’s music is always a delight, and ‘Ghost Echoes 2’ on this compilation is no exception. I don’t know Colin’s influences, but I often find there is something in his music that makes me think of Harold Budd or Roger Eno; he has a way of making his reverb sound reassuringly expensive, I just want to sink back and wallow in it.

My two favourite tracks on the compilation appear back to back, starting with ‘Liquid Tale of a Dying Star’ by Citiborax. One of the longer tracks on the compilation, this track takes the listener on a journey, reaching a threatening peak midway through, then at the ten minute mark a beautiful and haunting guitar refrain, joined later by scattered analog synth reassures you that it’s all going to be OK and it was only a dream.

The following piece, ‘Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia’ (that’s the single, right there guys) by Sharpen!Strokes is another track that cleverly forms beauty from chaos. Initially suggesting you might be in for seven minutes of harsh noise, the saw waves give way to melodic burst of bleeps and an underpinning of mechanical rhythm. I can’t find the words to do it justice, but it’s genius.

This is a very solid compilation; if you like experimental or dark ambient music, I would strongly recommend this album as you’ll find many tracks that you will want to return to again and again. If you’re new to experimental music, or just experimental-curious, do give this a try; it’s relatively free of white noise and static and packed with ideas and ingenuity. It’s ‘name your price’ on Bandcamp, so you really have no excuse not to own this album.