Alan Morse Davies

Alan Morse Davies

Life is full of reappearances and memories. Several months ago, I disappeared from some of your social media radars. No worries, I wasn’t ghosting you, but various issues of real life came up, both with difficult and enjoyable aspects. The difficult ones have disappeared, probably different ones will reappear, and the wonderful times still remain.

Long before that one of my favorite musicians Alan Morse Davies intentionally disappeared from the free music scene. Everything on vanished. This was his gig, I get it, everyone has got to do what is best for them at the time. His album Amusement Park Phases on 4–4–2 Music has been one of my favorite albums since it came out in 2007 and if the netlabel scene has some classic albums this would be one of them.

Over the last five months, I have been downloading and listening to lots of music. Lots. I’ve listened to over 300 albums with even more unlistened to. It gets daunting sometimes. 

As I was gearing up to write some more reviews, Alan quietly released some new work on his netlabel At Sea Music. The first was Recovery Songs. These three ambient tracks are laden with sweeping synthesizers and beautiful church-like vocals. The album feels like a requiem, but instead of death, the songs, guided by the album title Recovery Songs, point to a rebirth, “it is full of quiet joy” as Alan writes.

Alan Morse Davies’ “David”

The second release is a compendium of work that Alan completed between 2011 and 2013. How to Contact God When He’s Out of Cellphone Range is vastly different, most ambient and others out rightly experimental, but it is the loneliness of being an expatriate, a Welsh man living in Hong Kong, that ties these works together, whether it is “Ffarwel i Gymru” in this album or “Under Cardigan Bay” on Recovery Songs. Though I enjoyed the ambient works, I was more drawn to “The Adams Life Insurance Company”.

Alan Morse Davies’ “The Adams Life Insurance Company”

I’m back and, more importantly, Alan is back. We both have things to do. The free music scene will always continue to have reappearances, but hopefully we will always have the music. Alan has also released a work with Dave Seidel entitled Porch, Rain, Thunder back in March 2016.

Title: Recovery Songs
Netlabel: At Sea Music
Release Date: May 2016
License: CC BY-NC
Download mp3: zip

Title: How to Contact God When He’s Out of Cellphone Range
Netlabel: At Sea Music
Release Date: May 2016
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Download mp3: zip

C. Reider – Certainty Reducing Signals

C. Reider - Certainty Reducing Signals

Feeling like David Wallechinsky of late, I itch to get back to reviewing. One of the albums released on Netlabel Day is C. Reider’s Certainty Reducing Signals on the netlabel Happy Puppy Records which is run by Lee Rosevere. Both men are big proponents of sharing music, the Creative Commons culture, and the Netlabel scene. Rosevere is a radio producer in western Canada, and beyond running the wonderful Happy Puppy Records for 15 years, he is also a accomplished musician and composer. You can find his work on Free Music Archive and Bandcamp. C. Reider’s began his musical sharing journey in the tape trading culture of the 90s. The Coloradan composer has released many experimental albums as well running his own netlabel, Vuzhmusic.

I bring up their biographies, such as they are, any discrepancies are of my doing, because I wanted you to understand that their connections to the Netlabel scene run deep and strong. It is simple enough to share one’s own music, but to promote other musicians’ work, for free no less, shows a wonderful sharing spirit.

C. Reider’s Certainty Reducing Signals is both a fragile and harsh record. Reider talks about the quiet noise (or let us say, the fragility of music), ambient works that embrace the world noise and process it into an opaque musical pieces. The easy opposition, the yin to the yang, of quiet noise would be something like a harsh noise wall, but that’s really not what Reider’s music is about. I don’t know if Reider has a harsh noise wall record in his discography and I would not be surprised if he did, but the coarseness found in Certainty Reducing Signals is not that and it is not necessarily an anti-ambient statement, rather Reider’s music expands on the instability and agitation of ambient sound.

There is no signifying C. Reider sound as each album stands in its own place and time, each is a by-product of Reider’s encompassing environment; he is quite open about this. The ten tracks on Certainty Reducing Signals are a testament to the diversity of Reider’s approach to music; listen to “Twisted Bridge Dub” and “Unpermissive” as an example. Though these tracks might be different from each other, they derive from an artist confident in sound and space. Like many musicians, Reider speaks publicly about his artistic insecurities, though it’s Reider’s uncertainty which builds a auditory world of strength coexists with frailty. A wonderful example of this is “A Harsh Bunny Town”, an whimsical and contrary title, that explores Reider’s sonic outlook which is full of bends, augmentation and reduction.

Artist: C. Reider
Title: Certainty Reducing Signals
Netlabel: Happy Puppy Records
Release Date: July 2015
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Download mp3: zip

Anonymous – Cuckoo

Anonymous - Cuckoo

I am going to assume here that the Anonimo (transaltated as Anonymous) release on the netlabel ozky e-sound is by an unknown artist or an artist which to remain anonymous rather than someone calling themselves Anonimo. Because really that would not make much sense. It would be like an live band calling themselves TBA, To Be Announced. That all said I find the licensing choice of non commercial and no derivatives to be odd. Why not Public Domain? I guess we will never now.

My guess is that the musician behind Cuckoo was wondering if their releases were being downloaded because of their name or because the music was good. Even though Cuckoo is a good ambient/experimental record, this album has only had just over 100 downloads since the beginning of the year. I guess that the originating artist was proven correct. That said 100 downloads isn’t a bad thing either.

Cuckoo may be best described as an experimental ambient album. It comes in just over 20 minutes and strays throughout the ambient spectrum. It’s a wonderful work without being too pretty or beautiful.

Artist: Anonymous
Title: Cuckoo
Netlabel: ozky e-sound
Release Date: January 2015
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Download mp3: zip

Cinchel – Not knowing what to say…

Cinchel -  Not knowing what to say but saying something anyway (existing in a perpetual state of inadequateness)

Cinchel’s foray into ambient music is exceptional in that is follows what Brian Eno said some 25 years ago, “Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.” With this review, I am trying to make it such that the reader can either experience the page as it is or, or if they like, attend to it, read it.

Cinchel’s album that has quite a long name, Not knowing what to say but saying something anyway (existing in a perpetual state of inadequateness), so long that I was thinking of referring to it only as “Not know what to say…”, but I realized that you can either read the name or gloss over it letting the name just be.

Cinchel wrote in the liner notes, “This show was part of the Glad Cloud Ambient series. The focus of the night is to not be the focus. People will hear but not be distracted.” He has definetely captured this with Not knowing what to say but saying something anyway (existing in a perpetual state of inadequateness). During my times of not listening to it, I read Twitter, took a nap and read Helter Skelter on a train. Usually when I write reviews, I listen to the music as I write, playing again, listening to that part again, etc. But with Cinchel’s Not knowing what to say but saying something anyway (existing in a perpetual state of inadequateness), I have decided not to listen. I sit on my back porch as the neighbor’s girls practice lacrosse, the ceiling fans blow, and the dogs get up periodically to walk around before the resting again. That’s the point of ambient, right? It’s either hear or not.

Listen to a track on SoundCloud.

Artist: Cinchel
Title: Not knowing what to say but saying something anyway (existing in a perpetual state of inadequateness)
Netlabel: Self-released
Release Date: June 2015
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Download mp3: Bandcamp

Textures of Hiroshima

Gallery Six - Hiroshima

Though long-form experimental/ambient/noise music is very much the rage these days, it is also a very difficult feat to pull of successfully. More often than not, musicans are unable to do so. However, Gallery Six aka Hidekazu Imashige, who currently lives in Hiroshima, is able to produce quite an accomplished extended composition. Gallery Six’s Hiroshima on Element Perspective netlabel engages the listener with a variety of affecting sounds, field recordings and noise, as well as fluid movement throughout the track.

Artist: Gallery Six
Title: Hiroshima
Netabel: Element Perspective
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Download mp3: zip
Release Date: 6 January 2014

The Typewriter as Music


While watching Ben Affleck’s Argo, I started feeling old as the movie was filled with items from the 70s that are going extinct: TVs one had to get up and change, big-framed glasses, smoking inside office buildings and typewriters. The typewriter, whether manual or electric, was always filled with wonderful and meaningful noise. The click-clack of the keys meant that work was getting done, maybe a book being composed or a memo being written. Something was happening.

The typewriter is no stranger to the music world either: Leroy Anderson’s The Typewriter (1950), The Boston Typewriter Orchestra, or even Ergo Phizmiz’s find Pitman’s Gramophone Course of Typewriter Keyboard Instruction.

Most typewriter music is percussive, but Jørgensen & Martinsen’s Triumph Standard 12 on the Treetrunk netlabel veers away from the pulsating cliché and enters into the world of ambient experimental noise. Though the only instrument being played is a Triumph Standard 12 typewriter from 1930s, the results are processed into disconcerting and twisted sounds. A striking work by the founders of the Petroglyph Music netlabel.

Artist: Jørgensen & Martinsen
Title: Triumph Standard 12
Netlabel: Treetrunk
License: CC BY-ND
Download mp3: zip
Release Date: 5 January 2014.

The photograph used at the top of this post is by Karl432 and is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors

Aortha - Chronotope

Over the past year, the netlabel Haze has released a series of compilations that called on Creative Commons musicians to interpret the writings of various exceptional authors from the 20th century from Camus to de Saint-Exupéry. Interestingly, I found that I had read all but one of the writers featured and, though, I take slight issue with Stephen King being added to a pantheon which includes Cortázar and Joyce, it is but a quibble.

The manager of the Haze, Dzmitry Ladzes, under the alias of Aortha, has released a compilation of his tracks, Chronotope, that were included over the last year in the Sound Interpretation series. Most of the tracks are field recordings layered and looped upon each other with some processed sounds that produce a wonderful ambiance of noise and glitch. With Chronotope, Ladzes brings the coherence to his 12 tracks mainly through his careful ordering of the tracks, take a listen to the transition from King to Cortázar to Kafka. Chronotopeis a superb slice of ambient noise.

Artist: Aortha
Title: Chronotope
Netlabel: Haze
Release Date: 27 August 2013
Download mp3: zip