Stan Stewart (aka @Muz4Now) – Healing Melodies

Lush, organic sounding neoclassical that would probably serve pretty well for ambient fans as well. Creative arrangements and instrumentation paired with rich, vibrant production give these two tracks a widescreen, cinematic energy that sucks you into another sonic world. 

“Healing Inergy” uses an incomprehensible (either singing in a language I don’t know, singing wordless syllables, or simply obscured by the production/effects) female vocal to excellent effect, pairing it with what sounds to be a harp as the lead. “Healing Vibe” pushes the (actual) vibes to the front, letting the percussive tones fill an imaginary space and lightly accompanying it with some lovely synth textures. If you like these two, good news: there are six more in this vein coming soon!

Redmaker – Just Few Things

Dark, atmospheric electronic meditations that live in the realms of breakbeat ambient, if that is a thing. “Swallow It Up” is a skeletal beat hung with shards of synth textures to form a ghostly track for the first half. In the back half it picks up a bit, adding another layer or two of percussion and something like a minimal bassline. Spare and haunting. 

“Eight and Three Half Drum Machines Dessert” lives up to its title: a drum machine workout based on an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of mechanistic rhythms and percussive timbres. “At the Shores of a Nameless Sea” offers up a real sense of space as its lowkey beats come in and out of focus behind a pretty, repeating synth motif. Closing track “For Dad” is called out as a tribute to the creator’s father, who introduced him to classic electronic music via late-night drives. No surprise then that this sounds like a perfect distillation of that old-school electronic music (Tangerine Dream and Vangelis both leap to mind, with a taste of John Carpenter thrown in for good measure) channeled into a soundtrack perfect for late-night drives.

(Listened to tracks 4, 7, 10, 15)

Ulrike Mod – les beaux oiseaux

This collection is billed as “embellished piano improvisations” and that’s a fair assessment. The core elements here are the aforementioned piano improvs and field recordings (captured from the studio window, it seems) that typically feature the “beautiful birds” of the title. Added to these parts are touches of synthesizer pads and washes, most on the delicate and/or haunting side of things. 

Falling somewhere between ambient and New Age (and yes, I know some people would suggest those are the same thing, but I am not one of them), these pieces manage to be both delicate and weighty at the same time, offering a sense of fragility paired with considerable substance. Pretty and easy to get lost in, this is a perfect soundtrack for a melancholy (but gorgeous) afternoon.

(Listened to tracks 1, 2, 7 and 12)

Ravetracer/NGC 24 – moods

Seven tracks of classic-style ambient – lots of synth washes, an inoffensive arpeggiated synth here and there, the very occasional hint of a beat – each tied to a separate mood. The sound design is solid, showcasing a decent variety of typically ambient textures, with the occasional  dip into synthwave territory. 

The titles are a good guide to the music within – the track called “joy” is a nice picker upper without straying far from ambient territory; “drowning” is much darker, with an undercurrent of mild danger. In true ambient fashion, this one is easy to get lost in – put it on, turn it down and zone out while it does its thing.

(Listened to the entire album)

Phainopepla – “The Wolf at my Door” – “Atmosphere”

A fascinating and inventive reinvention of the classic rock and roll formula. To the base mixture of guitar, bass and drums, Phainopepla adds violin and vibraphone, more or less coequal with those core elements, adding some intriguing new dimensions to the classic sound. That’s then topped with an elastic and expressive female lead vocalist who definitely lives in the same area as PJ Harvey without actually sounding all that similar in execution.

“Wolf at the Door” is a thumpy, swampy, primal rock beat that puts the vibraphone and violin to some excellent use, shaping the vibes (pun intended) to maximum effect. “Atmosphere” takes that same blueprint and uses it to build an incredible cover of the classic Joy Division tune; more personal and intimate than the towering edifice of the original, and very cool for the changes.

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