Jaykits Vol. 15

It’s the time of the year that my annual ambient mix (The ‘Jaykits’ Series) gets put together. I’ve no idea why I do this in August/September when the end of year would make more sense. Maybe next year I’ll rectify this.

As always, I’ve loved putting this together. A majority of this was formed of the lockdown walks, often in the evening sun. The field recordings were either recorded in my garden or out in the woodlands of Perth (as was the cover photo). The early days of lockdown meant the bird song was just that bit more prominent and easy to capture. Reverb has been added to the field recordings and used throughout the mix.

In terms of the music, selecting the tunes was easy. The first track chosen was the The Slow Descent Has Begun by A Winged Victory for the Sullen from The Undivided Five. The album came out at the start of November 2019 by which time Jaykits Vol. 14 was done. After that the tunes on the mix are presented in some sort of chronological order. Motionfield, Jonas Munk and Federico Mosconi were early year favourites. The rest has been released since the world changed. That is except for the Virginia Astley track. The title track From Gardens Where We Feel Secure is included. I will forever associate that time with her album. A classic from the early 80s that I was lucky enough to discover this year. The mix finishes with Bella Ciao (Version Lenta) from Money Heist. We discovered that show during lockdown. It will long live in the memory.

I very much hope you enjoy.

Jaykits Vol. 15 – 1hr 11mins

Intro – Blackbird field recordings May/June 2020

1. CoastsLoscil

2. Always There Part 9Motionfield

3. Eastern HorizonsJonas Munk

4. Il Tempo Della Nostra EstateFederico Mosconi

5. From Gardens Where We Feel Secure – Virginia Astley

6. All Human Beings Part 3 – Max Richter

7. Blacklight TrailTineidae

8. Fleeting PremonitionASC & Sam KDC

9. Abyss Forms (i) Eluvium

10. The Slow Descent Has Begun – A Winged Victory for the Sullen

11. Visit Me Mogwai

12. Mad Rush Bruce Brubaker & Max Cooper c/w Blackbird field recordings

13. For Now I Am Winter (Nils Frahm Rework) Ólafur Arnalds

14. No Sleep No Dream’- Gia Margaret

15. Bella Ciao (Versión Lenta de la Música Original de la Serie la Casa de Papel / Money Heist) – Manu Pila

Jaykits Vol. 14

The annual Jaykits mix. It’s been a good year.

1.     ‘Tuning Out’ – Halftribe

2.     ‘Capsules of Energy’ – Max Wurden

3.     ‘You’ve Arrived’ – Cocoon

4.     ‘The Assassination’ – Martin Phipps

5.     ‘Purples’ – Sebastian Plano

6.     ‘Eventually’ – Helios

7.     ‘Her Angled Beauty’ – Levi Patel

8.     ‘Severance’ – Ian Hawgood

9.     ‘String Quartet No. 2’ – A Winged Victory for the Sullen

10.   ‘Fevrier’ – Tiny Leaves

11.   ‘Moving On’ – Laurent Eyquem

12.   ‘Dawn Chorus’ – Thom Yorke

13.   ‘Explosions in Slow Motion’ – BvDub

14.   ‘Our Reflection’ – Max Richter

15.   ‘Rudderless’ – Chris Weeks

Pop Ambient 2019

It’s the end of the year and decent music releases have tailed off. The Christmas albums flood the retailers. Buble and Slade are everywhere. One thing I can always rely on is the November release of KompaktsPop Ambient series. The 2019 edition is textbook. Another compilation of such a high standard, a standard that has been the trademark of the Pop Ambient series over the 18 years it has been in existence.

I read some pre-release marketing that describes this instalment as a departure for the series. A ‘change of pace’, more experimental/avant-garde. To me it’s not. It feels the same as, at least, the last 4 releases, certainly to my untrained ear. I’m very happy about that as I love the Pop Ambient series and its subtly evolving ways. If you’re not familiar with the brand, focus on the Ambient part of the series name. Many of the genres big guns have been part of Wolfgang Voigt‘s Pop Ambient over the years. Some are present on this release, eg. Leandro Fresco to pick out just one.

This years collection has a very strong beginning. From the sprawling Alles Wird Gut opening by stalwart Thore Pfeiffer through the filmscore-esque strings of Coupler‘s A Plain Of Reeds to my personal highlight, the heavily filtered angsty vocals of The Uncertainty Principle by Black Frame, it is clear that this is another special release from Kompakt. Kenneth James Gibson delivers another swirling drone adding tension as the track develops. Morgen Wurde provides Schien Immer, a track that could accompany any space programme, it’s big and it’s beautiful. The album then enters a particularly dark phase. A sweep that includes Gregor Schwellenbach, Last Train To Brooklyn and Max Wurden. It’s easy to get lost in this section. It provides a certain structure to the mix (it’s about this point I realise it’s mixed rather than merely sequenced). Special mention to Last Train To Brooklyn as its twinkling and reverb lift the middle section gloom (slightly). Thomas Fehlmann delivers a fairly structured piece. A soporific rhythm leads into a trademark Leandro Fresco ambient wash (I’m writing this whilst watching the most amazing sunrise-perfect). Yui Onodera provides Cromo 3. Strings at their best. Only 3 minutes long but an attention grabber. Aden by Triola is the weakest piece on the album. It is better suited to a Cafe Del Mar album rather than Pop Ambient. To close, Max Wurden gets a second outing with the wonderful Core, a glorious ending.

All hail Pop Ambient, 18 years old and still as good as ever.

2018 Album List

I’ve spent a lot of 2018 revisiting old music, call it my age or a lack of imagination. Talk Talk, King Creosote and the Cocteau Twins consumed a lot of the year. As did my new found love for The War On Drugs (first to the party as always). Anyway, 2018 did provide some wonderful albums. Here’s the obligatory end of year list:

I’m writing this listening to the great Pop Ambient 2019 release. However, this came a little too late to make the cut.

1. = VeriditasHelios

1. = OccasusGoldmund

I flipped back and forth over which of Keith Kenniffs albums I preferred. I came to the conclusion that they couldn’t be separated. To me this could be one of the best double albums ever released but bringing out Occasus in the spring and Veriditas late summer meant there was a supply of glorious ambience throughout the year. The albums also reflect the seasons. Veriditas contains Eventually which was by far my favourite tune of 2018. Occasus comprises pure melancholy throughout. I’ve heard both albums virtually everyday since I bought them. I will remember 2018 through these 2 masterpieces.

3. All MelodyNils Frahm

This was worth the wait. A variety of styles forming a near flawless body of work. Nils is a genius. Shame the gig in March was cancelled due to the ‘Beast from the East’. Maybe I’ll see him next year as his world tour comes back to Scotland. Full review here

4. From When I Wake the Want IsKathryn Joseph

I saw Kathryn play this album in September and it was an intense experience. As near an exact replica of the album as you can get. An amazing singer songwriter with a voice sitting somewhere between Bjork and Kate Bush.

5. All That Was LostStray Theories

A beautiful album from an artist that can do no wrong. No drones just beautiful melody. Micah is a genuinely nice chap to boot. A back catalogue worth checking out.

6. ParallelWarmth

Drones ‘n’ stuff. An album to entice sleep. Warmth are well named. A blanket of ambience.

7. Bottle It InKurt Vile

Only found out about this later in the year. Woozy, blissful and catchy. Tunes from this album still run through my head.

8. Tranquility Base Hotel & CasinoArctic Monkeys

I was unsure of this at first. A complete change of direction as they do from album to album. Over the summer this grew on me and became a favourite – Mark speaking….

9. Consequence ShadowsIan Hawgood & Guilio Aldinucci

My first purchase of 2018. It’s dark, really dark. A huge building sound. Only 5 tracks including a 20 minute original/remix combination. A beast of an album.

10. KinMogwai

What can you say about my favourite band. They never disappoint. Whilst this soundtrack didn’t reach the heights of Atomic or Les Revenants, it was a very good album including another vocal following on from Every Country’s Sun. Scotland’s finest.

Helios – Veriditas

I was getting a little concerned. Each of the last 4 years have produced an album that I’ve been obsessed with, played almost daily, often daily. Mogwai, AWVFTS, Max Richter, and last year Ben Lukas Boysen and Sebastian Plano with Everything. August was nearly over and there had been albums i’d liked, liked a lot, but no de facto album.

August 31st saw the release of Veriditas by Keith Keniff, aka Helios. The aforementioned albums, from the last 4 years, all tell a story. They either soundtrack a movie, a sleep pattern, a game or are just sequenced to perfection as with ‘Atomos’. Veriditas, in my mind, isn’t a story, with no narrative as such, but is a wonderful collection of highly emotive music, delivered in a variety of styles. Incidentally, it has been a great year for Keith Kenniff as he was also responsible for Occasus via his Goldmund project. However, that is for another day.

From first listen it was clear Veriditas was special. From the opening tones of Seeming the listener is wrapped in a warm blanket of ambience. By track 4, the amazing Eventually, the listener is immersed in sheer beauty. In fact, tracks 3 (Dreams) and 4 alone make this album worth owning. Eventually evokes time gone by and then the horns emerge towards the middle of the piece and take it in a different direction completely to a swirling synth of an ending. Dreams produces tears and smiles in equal measure. The power of beautifully considered keys.

It is difficult to speak in detail about specific tracks on Veriditas as I am way too ignorant on the tools used to do them justice. What can be said is there is a beauty I haven’t heard on many albums this year. Even the darkness of North Wind isn’t overly oppressive. The guitar work on Upward Beside the Gate accompanied by a haunting backdrop displays another side of ambience, showing a master at work. Silverlight, is warm with the main section drifting in an out. Additional layers keeping the listener in the moment. This is music for sleep however, i’ve often found myself engaging with the music at night rather than drifting along with it.

Veriditas is music for night time made at night. Take a bow Keith Kenniff, thanks for making 2018 all the better.

Listen on Spotify:

Jaykits Vol. 13

The 13th annual Jaykits mix. Some old, some new, always ambient. I hope you enjoy.

Intro: Summer Sunrise Field Recording

1.    ‘At Last (Becalming the Storm)’ – DJ Healer

2.    ‘Reflector’ – Warmth

3.    ‘Embarking Shadows’ – Ian Hawgood & Giulio Aldinucci

4.    ‘Radiant’ – Halftribe

5.    ‘Gone’ – DJ Healer

6.    ‘Long May It Sustain’ – A Winged Victory for the Sullen

7.    ‘Embrace’ – Stray Theories

8.    ‘A Season In Waters’ – From the Mouth of the Sun

9.    ‘Ég heyrði allt án þess að hlusta (A Winged Victory For The Sullen Rework)’ – Johann Johannson

10.  ‘I Knew It Then and I Know It Now’ – Tone Color

11.  ‘As You Know’ – Goldmund

12.  ‘We Were There’ – Federico Albanese

13.  ‘Fundamental Values’ – Nils Frahm

14.  ‘Feel First Life’ – Jon Hopkins

15.  ‘Sisamaat’ – Nanook of the North

From the Mouth of the Sun – Sleep Stations EP

It’s been a few years since I first heard Woven Tide by From the Mouth of the Sun. It was one of these albums that blew me away immediately and has continued to. There were so many different styles on the album, but all ultimately creating lush ambience. I can still remember the day I was listening to the album on a hot summers day, laying in my hammock. At the start of this summer, Aaron Martin and Dag Rosenqvist, released their latest project – Sleep Stations EP. Cue, much excitement at Jaykits HQ. Over the course of the last 2 months this EP has had, pretty much, daily outings. There were epic moments on Woven Tide that aren’t present on Sleep Stations. It is a more mournful affair, but no less emotive. It’s an EP, so it’s short by definition. However, the evocative nature of the work isn’t diluted by this fact.

The guitar intro of About the Birth of Stars is soon enveloped by the violin and synths. It is very reminiscent of Opening track of A Winged Victory for the Sullen for their soundtrack for the French movie Iris. Almost whimsical, it soon moves into the strings that pepper the EP. The mournful Reaching When Nothing Is There evokes memories of a time gone by. The stars theme continues (we have the birth, life and death of stars on the EP), ‘..life’, curiously is the track with the least ‘life’ on the EP. It’s minimal and gentle and serves as a bridge to the title track. Sleep Stations is a drone with floating strings emerging halfway through, disappearing and reappearing, keeping the listener in the moment. This piece particularly brings a dreamlike texture to the EP. About the Death of the Stars is a string led piece of melancholia with the piano playing second fiddle. In an album of limited ‘moments’ this is easily the peak. EP closer – A Place We Cannot See – brings the keys to the fore. Whilst not exactly upbeat, it ends the EP on a less sombre note.

From the Mouth of the Stars continue to release beautiful material. If you want an intro to the act, Sleep Stations is as good a place as any. I would however, strongly suggest tracking down Woven Tide as it’s quite something.

It’s been a good summer of music.

Listen on Spotify:

Stray Theories – All That Was Lost

Stray Theories, aka Micah Templeton-Wolfe, creates emotion through music. Even Though We Sleep was a favourite of mine back in 2012 (I used the title track to close Jaykits Volume 7). As a collective body of work, it was short but perfectly formed. The follow up, Those Who Remain, was strong but sadly, it was five years ago. There’s was a 6 track EP in 2014, We Never Left, and a smattering of remixes and collaborative releases since. Therefore, a new album was greatly received.

All That Was Lost contains all the key elements that underpinned the emotive quality of the first 2 albums. Opener, How Long, sets the scene for what’s to follow. A pulse/a beat, sits just beneath the surface with the keys providing the heart. Challenge floats my own proverbial boat and is most reminiscent of Even Though We Sleep. It breaks down around the 3 and a half minute mark into a darker film-score style. Night State evokes thoughts of the dark hours, almost breaking out into a tribal rhythm but thankfully never actually doing so. Leave and, particularly, Begin are pure emotion and would soundtrack any sunset. Embrace builds and threatens to kick off but ultimately winds down despite the temptation and expectation. All Our Tears, with its’ keys and strings, leads into album closer Us. Us is the most electronic piece on the album and is similar to the work of Hammock and Good Weather For An Airstrike but without the crescendos those artists produce. To be honest, every time I listen to All That Was Lost I hear something new to love, something different that catches the attention. The sign of an album that will have longevity.

Micah has a skill, he draws the listener into his world through relativity short pieces (short for the ambient genre that is – who says ambient music needs to be long and drawn out to fully immerse the listener?) Here is a feeling of space created in a small area. It’s lush, it’s full, it’s warm, often understated but always beautifully produced. Sitting here on a train to work, looking out at an overcast view of our capital, I find All That Was Lost an ideal accompaniment. It’s good to have Micah back, don’t be a stranger now.

Buy on Bandcamp:

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=2144550205/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/artwork=small/transparent=true/

Listen on Spotify:

Warmth – Parallel

I love Warmth, there I’ve said it. You know what you’re getting with Warmth before you listen to it. Warmth is Valencia based sound smith Agustín Mena and also aptly named as that’s exactly the feeling engendered by the 3 releases to date. Previous releases Home and Essay set the groundwork, Parallel, the 3rd album, is not exactly a radical departure. It is perhaps, ever so slightly darker in tone but still inherently Warmth: minimal, atmospheric, repetitive, dreamlike soundscapes. That’s a collection of adjectives that epitomises what I love about the ambient genre. Incidentally, Essay Revisited is also worth checking out as there are some cracking remixes on the album, whilst still maintaining the vibe of the original. With Parallel there is a formula at play – moody 2-3 chords drawn out with a supporting synth. It is simple repetition and it works perfectly. I should qualify, that a ‘formula’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is actually one of the key strengths of this release.

Album opener Reflector is a beautiful wash of warm sounds with waves crashing in the background. Receiver is similar with a slight shift in mood. The title track is possibly the darkest moment on the album. I say darkest but I really mean a little less light. The tone is ever so slightly deeper but it is almost imperceptible.

To say the album piggybacks across styles is perhaps pushing it a bit but there are subtle changes in the feel from the darker opening. The track Spherule reminds me of certain tracks in Aphex Twins Selected Ambient Works Volume 2. The key is simplicity and why alter what works? Concave and Convex are so similar that they just blend into each other without attention being brought to this fact (as the titles suggest). With Concave, the crashing waves are back – an ambient stalwart.

Album closer, Saros, is the only track that differs much from its predecessor. The only difference is through the addition of, what I believe, is a field based recording (of what I don’t know). Again, it is very subtle and does not have any impact on the overall feel of Parallel. It does stand out, but ever so slightly.

This is a music for sleep album if ever there was one. No surprises, no downsides, just sheer tranquillity. Beautiful stuff.

Buy Warmth – Parallel:

Ian Hawgood & Giulio Aldinucci – Consequence Shadows

Ian Hawgood teamed up with Giulio Aldinucci to create the phenomenal Consequence Shadows, released at the start of 2018. This followed quickly on the back of Faintly Recollected but is sonically very different from its’ predecessor.

Even before donning the headphones to listen to this, the tone of the album is set. Firstly, the title suggests this is an outcome, perhaps borne of a dark event. If something has a consequence then there is generally a connotation associated with it. Secondly, the black and white long exposure shot that forms the album cover evokes memories of solitude and decay and perhaps something that is not easily attainable, all set against a fairly unwelcoming horizon.

On first listen, as with a lot of ambient work, the album appears relatively straightforward in approach. However, the more listens, the more different layers reveal themselves. Those layers fit perfectly with each other creating, in my view, an almost faultless album. The stalwarts of ambient music are present: fields recordings, stretched/echoed guitar work, keys and drones. No single component is ever overused, each one placed exactly where it should be.

Many albums in this genre can be considered ‘samey’, hammering home the drone and not shifting style from one track to the next. However, this is an album that begins in relative darkness and moves towards the light. Album opener, Embarking Shadows, starts in an unassuming manner, but then an ethereal, almost choir like overlay brings this track to life and sets the scene for the remainder of the album.

Only Microns is a stuttering, Aphex Twin like, ambient piece that is underpinned by a haunting set of keys. This is darkness and light existing together. The Wasted Consequence brings it back to down a notch, if that was possible, still preserving the keys which made the previous track such a moment of beauty.

Album closer, Other Ashes, in total is approaching an astonishing 40 minutes. It is a hope filled behemoth created in collaboration with Belgian artist Stijn Hüwels who undertook the remix work. Although one piece is the original and one is the remix, they are 2 very different tracks. The original changes course around the 7-minute mark when a light synth envelops the track along with some well considered field recording work. After 10 minutes it returns back to the darker drone that began the piece. Again, dark and light in a single track, albeit it a long one. The Stijn Hüwels remix remains true to the original but has less peaks and returns. A nice end to the album as it drifts out.

The album may only be 5 tracks long including a remix but it is a beautifully considered body of work. Highly recommended.