Tim Hecker – Love Streams...

It won’t appeal to all tastes, but Canadian composer Tim Hecker’s ‘Love Streams’ is a strangely beautiful listen.

Drombeg – Earthworks...

Fans of Max Richter, Nils Frahm and other luminaries of the ambient classical genre will find much to admire in this debut album by Drombeg (aka Thom Brookes)

Daughter – Not to Disappear...

A worth successor to their stellar debut album – Daughter deliver with Not to Disappear.

Max Richter – Sleep...

Apple’s iTunes has often been cited as a contributing factor to the death of the traditional album – the advent of mp3 technology and iTunes in particular, gave consumers the ability to cherry pick tracks and created the ‘shuffle’ generation. As a by-product of this, our collective attention span when it comes to music seems to have taken a nosedive – if those thirty second audio clips don’t reel us in, it’s a case of ‘next please’ and we have wandered somewhere else. How richly ironic then that ambient classical composer Max Richter presents the full length version of his latest album to the world exclusively through iTunes, a mammoth, eight hour excursion into the world of sleep, designed to be an aid to, and an enhancement of, an experience that takes up just under a third of our lives. The irony is compounded by the fact that Richter operates in a genre where patience is a pre-requisite for listeners – ambient classical music is completely devoid of instant thrills, the antithesis of the iTunes generation. Richter has been at the vanguard of the ambient/classical  movement and with Sleep, he has created his most challenging but arguably his most rewarding work to date. It’s hard to establish just how serious Richter is when he invites listeners to press play and drift off to this 31 track recording, that flows seamlessly from one piece to the next – to do so reduces it to nothing more than some bog standard, slight and inconsequential piece of New Age fluff – it is anything but that. There is too much beauty here in Richter’s delicate piano pieces, adorned by sombre strings and a melancholic serenity that takes the breath away.  ‘Dream 1 (before the wind blows it all away)’ is based...

Slow Meadow – Slow Meadow...

On very rare occasions, we discover new music and it feels like we have uncovered buried treasure. All attempts to ‘review’ or critique this kind of music are rendered useless; we are forced to let the music weave its spell, take a deep breath and just gush. Slow Meadow is the first release on Post Rock duo Hammock’s new label. It is the latest project from respected ambient artist Matt Kidd and it is utterly gorgeous.  So much of the music of the ambient genre acts as nothing other than a gentle wash of sound, but there is much more going on here. The slowly shifting chords form the backdrop as guitars, synths, strings and cello sob and sigh their way through a suite of instrumental songs that is at times, incredibly moving. The music makes the perfect soundtrack for this time of year as summer slowly drifts towards the heavy melancholy of autumn – the airy, pastoral feel of Linen Garden (Part I) conjures up  images of blue skies and summer magic – by the time we reach Part II, the final piece on the record, the mood has changed to one of bittersweet beauty. In between we get the breathtaking ‘Summer Vigil’ and the shoegaze melancholy of ‘Every Mournful Breath’, profoundly beautiful compositions that move at the same glacial pace, but never once is the spell broken across these eleven tracks. Hammock guest on the opening and closing tracks but their influence is subtle and sympathetic to the mood of quiet rapture that Kidd creates.  Listening to this record on headphones, it is easy to lose track of time, to immerse yourself in the wondrous textures and wordless magic of music as astoundingly lovely as this. A rare and precious find –...

Colm Mac Con Iomaire – Agus Anois An Aimsir...

Guest contributor Pat Barrett of the Hedge Schools is smitten by the new Colm Mac Con Iomaire album ‘Agus Anois an Aimsir ‘.

Inventions – Maze of Woods...

Inventions is the result of two talented musicians from very different genres leaving their respective comfort zones to create something compellingly unique. Matthew Cooper has been writing and recording under the moniker Eluvium for nigh on twelve years now. He is one of the most innovative artists on the ambient classical scene; Copia, released in 2007 is an essential album for fans of that genre. Mark T Smith is a guitarist with Texan doyens of the Post Rock movement, Explosions in the Sky. Both have been so successful in their respective niches, that they are in danger of becoming slaves to the expectations of their fans, somewhat bound to the rigid, formulaic blueprint of their chosen genres. Inventions affords them the opportunity to push the envelope a little, and Maze of Woods, the second album recorded as Inventions, is a side project that may have delivered the best music either has produced in quite some time. Of the two, the influence of Eluvium seems more pronounced; Maze of Woods definitely edges a little closer to Ambient/Classical than it does to Post Rock – the guitar fireworks that are such a feature of the music of Explosions in the Sky are not evident anywhere here. But there are other elements that neither musician has utilised on any of their previous recordings; the cut up vocal snippets and stuttering beat of opener ‘Escapers’ is very different to anything either has done before. ‘Springworlds’ features the kind of ambient textures synonymous with the music of Eluvium, with Smith adding some nice, understated guitar work into the wash. On ‘Wolfkids’ and ‘A Wind From All Directions’ Inventions show a hunger to experiment with different sounds and textures while the beautiful ‘Moanmusic’ is based around a simple piano motif set against a jarring sonic backdrop. While...

A Winged Victory For The Sullen live @ the Pavilion Theatre 10 February 2015...

Magic in the air: A Winged Victory for the Sullen at their bewitching best live at the Pavillion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire.

10 Essential Ambient/Classical Albums Feb09

10 Essential Ambient/Classical Albums

Ahead of A Winged Victory for the Sullen and Olafur Arnalds visit to Dublin this month, we take a look at ten of the very best albums of the Ambient/Classical genre

Aphex Twin – Syro...

Pioneering electronic musician Richard James drops a new album some 13 years after the last Aphex Twin record and its a dazzling return.