Someone whose name I can't recall once described the effect of heroin in the blood as "the feeling you get when you have to get out of bed but you stay five minutes further underneath the duvet ... multiplied by fifteen". Understandably, we are not advocating here that you call your dealer, ask him for a bag of “brown” and pull out a syringe, though we are alluding to the secure sense of being between sheets detached from the ugly reality of daily life, as in the foetal state. It should be experienced more often. Much more often. We mean musical emotions are varied: there is a range that extends from pain to the most aggressively rewarding vegetative state. We mean that living in times of social turmoil, with riots on the streets (look at Greece! What is going on?), what has already been coined the "Con-Dem" coalition government of Britain, and a feeling of general all-round insecurity, there is nothing better than staying put. By the heater, with your butt well lodged into a plush sofa, by a table laden with magazines and books, illuminated by a blue light flex... just picture it, it could be heavenly. Even more so if listening to a carefully chosen soundtrack appropriate for a horizontal state with a mix of IDM, ambient; soothing noises and music which is gaining fans and that is what today in this column we’ll try to filter, love and describe. Of course, without having to set a foot outside. This section is called Cocooning because, according to more a precise definition, "Cocooning is the act of insulating or hiding oneself from the normal social environment, which may be perceived as distracting, unfriendly, dangerous, or otherwise unwelcome." Now that the walls are sheltering you, let’s press play.
Helios: “Unleft” + “Live At The Triple Door” (Unseen) Ezekiel Honig: “Live In Carpi, Italy” + “Live In Torun, Poland” (Anticipate)
I once went to a Helios concert and I wasn’t won over: the guy's singing was morphing from the cinematic to the folky, à la the Red House Painters. Shortly afterwards, he released "Ayres" (Type 2007) which is not his finest work. At that time the limited edition, homemade "Live At The Triple Door" was also doing the rounds as a testament to his incurable stage fright and the fragility of the sounds, which was always better when less dependent on the structure of the song. Now, Helios has launched his own label, rescued that Seattle recording of that live work with nice artwork, and is also releasing a remastered version of " Unseen " - a selection of previously unreleased material which will be a required acquisition for anyone who truly believe that Keith Kenniff practices some of the most thrilling music of the globe. And speaking of live, and even if you can't get it because the edition is limited to 50 copies, the two live segments pressed onto CD-R by New Yorker Ezekiel Honig are beautifully packaged in a cardboard envelope covered with printed vegetable paper. They are a very appropriate (though less accurate in the handling of found sounds, but this is ok, it’s live, not in the studio) extension of his crystaline and nervous ambient style on the majestic "Surfaces Of A Broken Marching Band" (Anticipate, 2008).
Emeralds: “Emeralds” (Hanson) + “Does It Look Like I’m Here?” (Mego)
There comes a time when one renounces keeping tabs on what Emeralds is up to because the Ohio trio is not so much a a discreet production outlet but more a cosmical sonorrea which could force you to re-mortgage your house - though retain your integrity - if you wanted to buy all the vinyl, cassettes and the rest of zodiac trips they regularly decide to share with their small but loyal core of fans. I imagine that is the advantage of not having a Myspace or Facebook account (the latest in cocooning is not to use social networks, what's the point?) and devoting all the time that would be lost in those pantomimes / circuses to squeezing hypnotic sequencers and emulating the Tangerine Dream of the post- "Phaedra" era (the more mellow one), and the late 70's period of "Ash Ra Tempel,” and not forgetting, of course, the cocky Klaus Schulze from "Floating", with the 30 minutes long A side "Moondawn" (1976) ...! Discogs counts 8 Emeralds releases in 2006, 15 in 2007, 6 in 2008 and another 6 in 2009. "Emeralds," originally released on vinyl, is now reissued on CD but without any aded extras, so if you like the Manuel Göttsching side of the band, go ahead. The big question is: why are Emeralds with their imminent "Does It Look Like I'm Here? " (it even has a huge Mike Oldfield moment) and Oneohtrix Point Never signed to a label as annoying as Mego, if both projects have such a solid new age background?
cliffordandcalix: “Lost Founding 1999-2004” (Aperture Records)
Mark Clifford (Seefeel ex, ex Disjecta) and Chantal Passamonte (aka Mira Calix) are part of the old Warp aristocracy, two of the figures who were in the fold when intelligent techno -of the more danceable Detroit family, of course- became just IDM, and with it more angular, dehydrated and raucous. Clifford had recorded legendary tracks for the label, then still located in Sheffield, while Mira Calix was doing press for the label until launching her own musical career and getting married to one of Autechre. Soon the two started sharing a studio and recording music that remained hidden in a drawer: a torch singer and distorted gritty beats brought to breaking point by rust, which seem to belong more to Disjecta’s language. In fact, the roles were exchanged, mucking about with software and synthesizers, and it was not until Andrea Parker created a space in the landscape that this compilation of lost material was exhumed, now coming to light to complete a series of genuine English electronic sagas for us to survey. Is this better than Scala, the electronic pop group formed by Seefeel’s other members when Clifford broke up the band? Doubts are justified, quite frankly.
Walls: “Walls” (Kompakt)
We must remember that Kompakt bases its decision to release in physical or digital formats depending on the surrounding vibes at the time each recor is upcoming. We say this because, a while back, the Cologne label branched into a pay by download division because "not everything could get published in the conventional way," and so we were deprived of "Gaps In The Sun" (2006) by Andrew Thomas on CD. As it happens, Komp3 only worked for one release. Of course people who consume this kind of indoor music usually pay for it or appreciate it the physical object, but to pay for an mp3 you can download for free within a week is nonsense. So we welcome the return of the physical disc by Kompakt on their aesthetic "pop ambient" production line. Recently they gave Andrew Thomas what had been left out before, the beautiful "Between Buildings And Trees" (2010), and now have signed Walls with an album somewhere between shoegaze and ambient rhythms that stirs with glitches buried between layers of light distortion, not by an atmospheric quilt of fragility or aquatic transparency. It includes a good double trick by Natalizia Alessio (Banjo Or Freakout!) and Sam Willis (Allez-Allez) of dimensional oblique planes.
Rafael Anton Irisarri: “Reverie” (Immune)
If it comes to living in a bubble, do not hesitate. "It All Falls Apart" (Ghostly, 2010), by The Sight Below, is a record of an unquestionable pedigree. But Rafael Anton Irisarri’s annual miracles do not end there: two have been named "Lit At Dawn" and "Embraced," both ambient light paths that can be complemented without any false hype of The Sight Below pseudo-dance excitement, although the really glorious nature of this EP is the fourteen minutes from the flip side, a version of "Für Alina" by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt which indicates several things. For many young artists who are developing in the overlooked area of new instrumental music with an academic persuasion, Pärt is god. Irisarri’s tribute is neither forced nor by chance: the choice of "Alina," his best work, shows respect and admiration yet conveys the irresistible need to get to the bottom of everything. How inspiring this music is: Irisarri uses synths, a piano that seems to melt and a crunch noise, and presents original compositions that, in fact, could have been created by a generation of desperate and lonely souls an eternity ago.
Edward Larry Gordon: “Celestial Vibration” (Universal Sound)
The series "Ambient" by Editions EG counts with a mythical first two installments: "Music For Airports" (1978) by Brian Eno, and "The Plateaux Of Mirrors" (1980) by Harold Budd and, again, Eno. The third round was signed by Laraaji ( " Ambient 3: Day Of Radiance "), and he began to cultivate a concept that the 80 would acquire considerable significance thanks to Jon Hassell, Eno and David Byrne: fourth world, or ethnic music re-imagined from the west. Laraaji is Brahman-sounding name, but in fact it was the name behind Edward Larry Gordon, Portland musician who in those days was discovering Oriental spirituality and began to experiment with other civilizations sounds, in this case the electrified sitar and kalimba. That "Ambient 3" felt like his debut recording, but Laraaji had infact already released one album on vinyl in 1978 for a very short run and a via tiny label (SWN). This is now reissued by Universal Sound, the Soul Jazz imprint to complete a necessary documentary vacuum. The content is no longer dazzling, but in those post-hippies years, healing the trauma of the Vietnam and the Cold Wars, these two long improvisations that sum up together nearly 60 minutes on a tide of musical notes, a back and forth of heavenly texture to a virtually executed at the sitar, a sound like this would have attracted more than a fragile spiritual persona by Buddhist texts, transcendental meditation and Bikram Yoga.
Casino Versus Japan: “Night On Tape” (Attack 9)
Boards Of Canada's long periods of silence -one unreleased track on the retrospective 20 years of Warp compilation doesn't count- are making us to forget about them like a much-loved souvenir cornered by newer and flashier objects around the house. If Boards Of Canada looks like a translucent duo, what will become of those artists that ten years ago were ploughing through the soft terrain of idyllic electronica? Other prizes also go to whoever knows the whereabouts of Marumari, o9 or Freescha - and knowing that he produced a track for Britney Spears does not swing it. The same thing almost happened to Erik Kowalski, aka Casino Versus Japan, missing in action since 2004 and now, suddenly, alive again on a "Night On Tape," which is not a new album but an orderly collection of up to 20 unreleased tracks now compiled on a double CD to enjoy until you drop for those of you who like lyrical images of moonbeams filtering through a thick forest, summer nights in a light rain falling, and all kinds of hypnotic effects, of the magnetic tape, and the space of the IDM of the old Flying Saucer Attack. This will scratch the itch.
Loveliescrushing: “CRWTH (Chorus Redux)” (L-ne) + Pjusk: “Sval” (12k)
L-ne was for a long time one of the most minimalist labels on the planet. White designs, silent music with imperceptible rhythmic pulses and sounds sketched in short and straight lines. Pure formalism and digital militancy with which Richard Chartier, his mentor, became the American response to Raster-Noton. Then came the time when L-ne followed in the footsteps of its parent company, 12k, and slowly began to turn emo, to include melodies from clicks'n'cuts cobwebs, fusing pianos with affectionate computers. More to the point, L-ne has recently become a label more interested in landscapes than mathematics, which some find offensive and others will appreciate the “siesta” inducing qualities. That 12k releases acts like a Pjusk the Norwegian glitches duo ( "Sval" is high-quality audible heroin) is nothing of the ordinary, but it is curious they release material like "CRWTH (Chorus Redux)" right next door. Who is Lovesliescrushing? It is Scott Cortez, who in "Chorus" (2004) captured a dazzling work of deconstruction and treatment of Melissa Arpin-Duimstra’s vocals to the point that they were not voices anymore, but drones , textures, rhythms and melodies that sounded like guitars, synthesizers and white noise. Now, five years later, he has returned to the same voices and has combined them in a different way to make an album with the same effect: a superb and charming ghost story.
Dirac: “Phon” (Valeot) + Films: “Messenger” (Noble)
Both Films and Dirac come into the elusive category of "chamber music," although in both cases the approximation is divergent. Films, for example, are expressive, rich in melodies and strings, at times near Michael Nyman or Angelo Badalamenti’s work for actual films, and generally always to the point where classical music becomes caramelized and for all audiences. The trio Dirac, however, continue the Spekk tradition, in previous release "Emphasis," offering a 40-minute piece in which acoustic instruments are intertwined with dark lanes by a microscopic electronica that adds tension, restlessness and deep abstraction. Day and night. Both, in each other, excellent records.
Matthew Hawtin: “Once Again, Again” (Plus 8)
Sometimes one dreams of records that do not exist. Once we subscribe to the hope for some sort of megamix side which joins together, in generous timing with a wide variety of selected pieces, the story of the nebulous and sweetly ambient, like amniotic fluid, that's the only truly secure area of complete peace of mind that will have ever been. This is an ambient of the style of labels such as Apollo, SSR, Fax, or Universal Language; the ambient of artists such as The Irresistible Force, MLO, Sun Electric, Pete Namlook and Solar Quest. That ambient is already lost as an opposition to rave culture: an oxygen chamber, a warm bath foam, the calm after the storm. Once upon a time, there were DJs who played it. Matthew Hawtin (brother of, of course), for example. Matthew was playing it at Detroit Hardest parties, so that the ravers threw themselves on cushions to take a rest from rushing. As an act of nostalgia , "Once Again, Again" is exactly the album we had dreamed. I offer my undying gratitude.