tucking into the back catalogue of SLOW FLOW REC - part 1
Delving into the musical underground is a lot like astronomy. You find millions of stars and it's more than you can take in but then you find new galaxies all filled with millions of stars themselves. Discovering a new label feels like discovering a new galaxy sometimes. So, when Japanese label Slow Flow Rec sent me a package containing various points in their back catalogue, it felt like one of those moments, a whole new sonic galaxy opening up inside my ears.
It feels like a good place to start would be the “Sounds of Slow Flow Rec Vol.1” from 2008. So far the only volume, this is a compilation album on CDR of ten tracks of deep ambience. Opening with subtle field recordings and gentle sonics of Pawn’s “Through The Square”, the scene is set for a delicate selection of some of the genre’s finest. Following on from that is Celer with the typically icy wonder of “Stilettos At Sunrise”. This is a track that does seem to gain warmth as it goes along but retains that mysterious aloof atmosphere that Celer do so well.
Elsewhere on the album, Cloudburst weigh in with the epic and very deep fifteen minute drone work-out “Salt”. Elian stops by for a three and a half minute headmash of stuttering percussion, shimmering percussion drones and crackle. Segue delivers the aptly named “A View Of The Frozen Lake”, a mysterious selection of soft drones and subtle soundscapes. Ian Hawgood finishes it all off with “Arctic”, a bright but chilly composition of neoclassical dazzle. There’s also stand-out work from Ryonkt, Porzellan, Glenn Ryszko and Entia Non.
The haunting, dark, dawn-noise of Fabio Orsi's 'Winterreise', a 2010 release, is one that evokes the strange beauty of late winter mornings. The mix blends together sounds so they are identifiable enough to be familiar but the sonic blurring retains their mystery and makes their identity hard to perceive. There is some chiming, shimmering guitar, some sort of choral sound processed into etherealness and other things, perhaps some sort of affected organ. That’s just part 1. Part 2 is awash with haunting synths swathing across each other like vapour trails in the cold, cold sky.
Orsi seems so in tune with the world around, as though he can translate his gaze into a vivid sonic photograph. He changes palette frequently, taking in piano and what could possibly even be strings or perhaps just an approximation. It is hard to tell because they form a partial component of an organic whole and you find yourself so lost in sound that particular details remain elusive. This is ambient at its most evocative and natural.
Concern’s release “Caesarean”, also from 2010, presents three new tracks followed by two tracks previously released by those masters of the limited, Students of Decay. It begins with the broken sounds of “Discrete Memorial”, a high tech deconstruction of neoclassical other-worlds which then erupts into a crescendo of twinkling pianos. It then crumbles away into a deep void of sound then nothingness. It is a stunning start and evokes comparisons with William Basinski and Charlemagne Palestine.
“Caesarean” constantly dazzles with its intense layering of sounds, zoning in and out of volumes and complexities. Some ambient music is constructed in such a way that you could put it on at bedtime and drift away as you focussed on it but I think this album is as hazed as an opium dream and would be too much delirious information for then. It does not sit quietly in the background; it is loud and dense and demands your attention.