Review: Alongside regular studio partner Andreas Baumecker, Sam Barker has released a swathe of admired singles and a couple of on-point albums on Ostgut Ton. Here he returns to the much-loved German imprint with his most significant solo release to date: a debut album of drowsy, sun-baked electronic positivity that expertly melds elements of hazy ambient, dub techno, off-kilter electronica and the classic kosmiche synthesizer soundscapes associated with Tangerine Dream. It's a lot less dancefloor-focused than much of his previous material, but that's not a criticism: indeed, the fact that it's warm, opaque and prioritizes fuzzy, slowly shifting musical movements is the album's greatest strength.
Review: Experienced experimentalists William Basinski and Lawrence English have long been friends, growing closer over the last half-decade thanks to a string of chance encounters in cities around the globe. Finally, they've joined forces on their first collaborative set, an album that was reputedly "simultaneously recorded in Brisbane and Los Angeles". It's a thing of beauty, with both of the long, poignant and slowly shifting ambient cuts being tinged by melancholy brought on by the loss of their mutual friend, experimental filmmaker Paul Clipson. Like "Selva Obscura", Clipson's work celebrated the act of getting lost in experiences that lie beyond everyday understanding.
Review: Over the past few years, Be Svendsen's releases have showcased his growing maturity as a producer, with the straight-up club fare of old replaced by a range of far more intriguing and musically complex cuts. There are further signs of maturation on this long awaited debut album, which cheerfully shuffles between melodious, mid-tempo Balearic deep house ("Falling"), jazzy and folksy soundscapes (the brilliant title track), dub disco-influenced wonky synth-pop ("Drop The Gun"), Italo-disco revivalism ("Andromeda"), blissful ambient business (the delightful "Moments"), cosmic rock ("Hazy Eyes") and dewy-eyed vocal numbers ("October Letters"). In other words, he's finally delivered the album he's been capable of for some time.
Review: It's startling to think Bibio has been comfortably nestled on Warp Records for 10 years now. The folk-leaning beatsmith has taken his sound in subtly shifting directions while staying true to his delicate, melodious identity. On this latest album "Ribbons" he's sounding sweeter than ever, twirling up a 60s reverie of finger-picking guitar and tender vocals guaranteed to bring on sunshine, real or imaginary, no matter what time of year you pop it on. There are some more crooked moments to be enjoyed for fans of the more beat-oriented Bibio sound - "Pretty Ribbons & Lovely Flowers" has a wonderful crunch to it, but for the most part it's a treat to get lost in the pastoral reverie of the album's main themes.
Review: Transatlantic twosome Billow Observatory (AKA Detroit-based Jason Kolb and Copenhagen resident Jonas Munk) tend to take their time over albums, but more often than not the results are worth the wait. "III: Chroma/Contour" definitely fits into this category. The result of two years of work, it bristles with effervescent soundscapes, delay-laden instrumentation, shape-shifting aural textures and gently unfurling compositions. Their particular brand of luxurious ambient music makes great use of Jonny Nash style glistening guitar sounds, the fluid chord progressions of Gigi Masin, the emotion-rich movements of Brian Eno collaborator Mark Shreeve and the synthesizer-fired dreaminess of 1980s new age composers. It's a stylistic blend that not only guarantees great results, but also some of the most beguiling and becalmed ambient music you'll hear all year.
Review: Norwegian ambient veteran Biosphere has enjoyed something of a renaissance of late, thanks in no small part to a series of essential reissues of his 1990s work. His latest release, "The Senja Recordings", is not a reissue, though, but rather his most significant and extensive new album in years. Icy, windswept and atmospheric, it was apparently recorded during extended stays on a Norwegian island over the course of four years. There's plenty of sparse, dark ambient material, of course, but also plenty of distorted but quietly melodic compositions that mirror the loneliness of his remote surroundings. He brings us closer than ever to those surroundings via extensive use of field recordings made during his time on the island, something that only enhances the listening experience.
Review: On his three previous solo albums as Blanck Mass, Fuck Buttons member Benjamin John Power offered up abstract but enjoyable blends of ambient, drone, IDM and electronics. On "Animated Violence Mild", his first full-length for two years, Power has decided to take a far more dystopian path, blending ear-catching, synth-pop influenced melodies with thrusting, doom-laden techno rhythms, growling aural textures, industrial strength noise and hybrid electronic power-pop. It's an ear-catching affair, with highlights including the boisterous, distorted techno-pop of "House Vs House", the post-apocalyptic power-trance rush of "Hush Money", the hypnotic, maximal ambient movements of "Creature/West Fuqua" and the pulsating intensity of "Wings Of Hate".