Ambient music takes on many forms and characteristics. We often focus on the heavier, weirder, and darker types. Below are two releases, one upcoming and the other from September, that explore this wide-open musical space.
Jeļena Glazova – The Dream of Hans Castorp (2023; HEM Archive)
It has been four years since we last reviewed anything from sound artist and poet Jeļena Glazova. Here, she reinterprets Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain in a set of dense, textural drones across three tracks that are each 20 minutes in length. The oscillations shimmer and vary in frequency, sounding at times either mechanical or organic. Glazova builds and evolves these pieces deliberately and with palpable tension. From oppressive walls of sound to a burbling soup, she integrates various tempos and levels of dynamism. The result resembles electroacoustic experimentation as much as it does drone. Thus, there is not much in the way of traditional melody or harmony herein. Nonetheless, we are all that much better off for it.
Daniel McClennan – Unfurling Redemption (2022; Cruel Nature Recordings)
On this album, composer and sound artist Daniel McClennan employs a combination of drones, electroacoustic elements, fortepiano dynamics, and cut-ups to create a detailed and lively mix of textures and soundscapes. These amalgams include brief passages of melodies, chords, beats, rumbling structures, and processed static. But perhaps the most prevalent features are the sudden waves of sound that burst from your speakers, giving the album a strangely cinematic flair. But to be sure, this is experimental music. As Unfurling Redemption goes on, piano takes a more prevalent role, often with minimalist repetition of themes. If McClennan’s goal was to make a 25-minute EP that does not have a clear sonic reference point, then mission accomplished.