Close to an LMYE best label award for contributions to 2013 (Annual Hairshirt), it was A Very Good Year for Home Normal, which recently celebrated its 5th birthday. After a shaky early-’09 inception (Sketches) an increasingly stronger run of releases has seen the Tokyo-London enterprise slowly grow to the status of a beacon of stylistic tone-setting, sustaining a burgeoning ambient drone and organic electronic community. Despite relatively high print runs releases are often sold out at source—further cause for celebration for Ian Hawgood, for whom, in the face of a flagging mainstream music industry and his ‘not promoting the hell out of it,’ (interview, Tokafi), it's been business as usual. LMYE has been meaning to resume Normal service since the turn of the year, so here goes…
One of the stand-outs in ’13-14’s stream was Fabio Orsi + Pimmon’s Procrastination—but blow me down if this didn’t come out last February, so ffwd-ing to now in the interests of currency, we find a certain Mr Margraff ditching duck-down-delving nom de disque and coming out as plain old René, maybe a way to say that Phasen comes from a more authentic self—more guard-down hair-let-down. Over eight smeared—presumably steel string-wrung—textural meditations Margraff shapes shudders of unsettled mien from slender means—getting closer to source sounds’ core, small grabs blurred and transformed—a shift from previous ethereal and shoegaze orientations to bleaker, more fragile but more focused compositions.
The aptly titled Continental Drift (previously earslent) is the outcome of a cross-continental communion between LMYE fave, Sam Landry (North America), aka Le Berger, and musician mates—René Margraff (Europe) again, with Fuzz Lee (Asia), aka elintseeker, making up Faures. The eponymous earth alluded to is the least salient element evoked here. Rather they are air—palpable musical gestures of soaring, water—sequences suggestive of submersion, especially in the longer-form “Asthenosphenic Movement” trilogy, and crackling fire, all converging in highpoint, “Magnetic Striping.” The trio fuses controlled grainy rushes with more composed unfurls in a shimmering son et lumiere. Overall, a notably neo-romantic deep-water, wide sky, beyond-horizon, into-the-spheres affair, this unlikely ambient-drone supergroup engage in an unwontedly pretty poesis of sound design. The trio spin this accompanying quote into their semiosis of sound: ‘It let them float and drift, break apart and converge. Where they broke away, cracks, rifts, trenches remain; where they collided, ranges of folded mountains appear.’ (geologist Hans Cloos re: Wegener’s theory).
Back to 2013, on a completely different tip is c60 / tmkutekt by wndfrm, which is real Oregon kid (geddit?) Tim Westcott (who some may have caught as Cloudburst for Resting Bell release, Katedra) with two long-form ’scapes sourced from location recordings of the Biosphere Museum of the Environment in Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal’s geodesic dome, which showcases the water ecosystems of the Great Lakes-Saint Lawrence River region. Westcott’s dome of enclosed sound is initially all restraint, silence abounding, then a deal of metallic hiss as a backdrop for an odd back-quack; the further it peels, the more it reveals, ending in a kind of intense long thin wire drone. The second piece sets out like an industrial dryer before chatter enters followed by remote reverbed clank, the whole then drowned out by a passing plane. If, as the sleeve has it, Canada Council for the Arts funded this, I’m putting in a proposal. In the meantime, a virtue with c60 / tmkutekt is definitely patience.
A propos of patience, Ithaca Trio offers Music For Piano & Patience. With previous on Hibernate and Under The Spire, Oliver Thurley plots a path from a lowlight Leeds with a set of nicely reel-to-reeled piano loops. Obvious reference point is Lord of the Decadent Tinkled Ivory Loop, William Basinski, but these two half-hour pieces are sui generis; the first lets loops spool out somewhat scatter-gun, with a warm grain of tape saturation, skips and crackles, weathered-seeming—as if from some unearthed old vinyl find from a loft stash; the second—more structured—sounds like someone stopping off for a pensive plonk at an old Johanna in a deserted church.
Far from—let alone up—any notional alleys approaching the al wing of Earslend Towers is Place For One Day—trailed as a sort of alternative minimal-electro-folk record—by a project called Birdt (violin/vocals - Janne Mansens|accordion, synths, vocoder, glockenspiel - Sascha Schmitt|bass clarinet - Gareth L. Davis|guitar, vocals & lyrics – with a bunch of mates playing, singing & helping along). Likewise leaving your LMYE scribe’s chimes unrung, though undoubtedly well-crafted, is At Home - Piano Book (Volume One) by Sardinia-based Stefano Guzzetti—a set of ivory-tinkling lyricism to please Dustin O’Halloran types.
Chronovalve aka Mike Engebretson has been under the radar for some time now plying his ambient trade; associated with the (now sadly defunct) Smallfish enterprise half a decade or so ago, he (re-)surfaced last year with Trace of Light which has oodles of lush textured ambiance and a few neo-choral wisps with lashings of synthi-ness. For the sleep-deprived, this is the right somnific stuff—cloud-watch micro-symphonies, billowing, undulant drift, reminding of the days/daze of fave ‘snooze-to’ records (Somnium, DJ Olive, anyone…?). Currents swirl, waves coalesce in fleeting intermesh, then peal off in a rendering of sonic light bathing sounding object in halation effect.
Finally, commemorating its 5th birthday is a 5-disc comp, Elements, featuring 60+ artists from Home Normal past, present and future, raising money for 5 different charities.
Last word to HN: ‘In this modern digital age with its constant stream of information, we've sought to work as quietly as possible, firmly rooting our ethos that things can be released in a subtle, quiet way. 'Organic' has always been the key word, and we are so thankful that people seem to still appreciate the natural path we've chosen, ignoring all the noise that surrounds our chosen way.'