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The sound of chill

Austin blogger Brad Barry explores the icier sounds of atmospheric, electronic acoustics

In this series, we hand a page over to the excellent Brad Barry, whose blissful C60 Radio has soundtracked many a late night in the office. After the mix series went down a few months, we've been so desperate for him to start up again that we decided to commission him. Every month he'll explore a different strand of the vast and wonderfully fruitful tape / outre underground. You can see all his previous posts here.  

As we press on into the hot, sticky days of summer here in Texas, I’m finding myself fixated on glacial imagery. There’s something mesmerizing about the organic patterns of wear from wind and water decorating the surface of something so monolithic. With this mix, I collected pieces that balance that feeling of something grandiose and slow-moving with the intricate detail and rough edges brought about by the elements.

01. Benoît Pioulard — “Calder” Plays Thelma [Desire Path; 2011]

This first piece, from Benoît Pioulard, perfectly captures the slow elegiac movement of the glacier without skipping over the jagged edges. Thomas Meluch, the artist behind Pioulard, has an amazing ability to carve pop songs out of dense, layered sounds, but as he explores a more pure form of ambient music on this release, one can tell that he is just as capable of creating moving music without words or strict form. 

02. Balmorhea — “Palestrina” Constellations [Western Vinyl; 2010]

The sustained, crystalline strings and disembodied snatches of choral music in this piece from Balmorhea’s Constellations album continue to bring to mind a slow-moving, frozen world. Using acoustic instruments, the Austin, Texas-based band has mastered this type of sweeping, cinematic soundscape. With its throbbing pulse and crisp, unexpected acoustic guitar, “Palestrina” is a perfect realization of this picturesque natural phenomena.

03. Softland City Singers — “Beyond the Sun” Softland City Sampler [Softland City; 2010]

As half of guitar drone duo Blood on Tape, Kevin O’Sullivan put out long, smoldering releases on labels like Reverb Worship and Stunned. Now, with his Softland City Singers solo project, things have gotten a little more delicate. With this piece, O’Sullivan builds a gorgeous sustained drone that floats airily along, but there’s obviously a dark undercurrent flowing just below the surface. It’s a perfect mixture of the primal and the ethereal.

04. Radere — “Beginnings” Dreamless [Full Spectrum; 2013]

Gradually building from small guitar figures, “Beginnings” from Carl Ritger’s Radere slowly evolves into an intricate, shimmering field of sound. Calling to mind glints of sunlight reflecting off the ice on a bright day, the piece unfolds into a gorgeous fractalized vision that is one of the highlights of this fresh tape from the Full Spectrum camp.

05. Noveller — “St. Powers” Paint on the Shadows [No Fun Productions; 2009]

Brooklyn’s Sarah Lipstate brings us “St. Powers,” another piece built from organically developing guitar loops. One of the most melodic works you’ll find on noise music pioneer Carlos Giffoni’s No Fun Productions, there’s still an unpolished quality to this piece that hints at the unpredictable nature of such a large mass.

06. Infinite Body — “Drive Dreams Away” Carve Out the Face of My God [Post Present Medium; 2010]

After transforming an undulating layer of piano into a bed of frozen sound, this piece from Los Angeles’s Kyle Parker is punctuated by icy blasts of noise. One of Parker’s hallmarks, consistent through a variety of small-run cassette and vinyl releases, is his ability to temper beauty with a little bit of violence.

07. Pausal — “Lapsing” Lapses [Barge Recordings; 2010]

Calling to mind smooth, wind-blown contours, the final piece from Pausal mirrors the majestic, deliberate evolution of the ice. There’s no rush as the Hampshire-based duo of Simon Bainton and Alex Smalley layer wide-open synthesizers in slowly rising waves. Wispy but substantial, I’ll be looping this piece as I continue my online search for someplace a little cooler.