Since 2014, Eilean Records has been releasing electroacoustic ambient music. It is made clear on their website that, to the label, the definition of what it means to be electronic is fluid. Despite the non-profit and independent record label being based in France, “eilean” is the Scottish Gaelic word for “island.” The label is built around the idea of an imaginary island where 100 points or locations exist. Each release on this label represents one of these points. The musical artist shapes what this region of the island looks like–the colors, the shape, all the details–and when all 100 locations of the island have been defined and the map is full, the label will end.
Tatsuro Kojima describes his approach to music as being directly tied to his specialized education in visual art. The Japanese artist, born in 1977, is also an active web designer, graphic designer, and mobile app developer. His music takes a form that might be closer to that of paintings and sculptures. The visual cues that are so important to Kojima’s work lend themselves perfectly for the map projected of Eilean Records. A landscape is effortlessly built on the spring green shores of the eastern coastal island Kojima contributes to the Eilean map.
The album opens with “1111” setting a playful standard for the sound of the rest of the album. Bright synths and pianos sound with a youthful ignorance as if gleefully exploring every timbral option available. The synth sounds slowly thin in texture and fade out leaving a solo piano for a brief moment acting as a final breath satisfied and exhausted by the exploration that took place.
“Transparency” slowly fades in. We begin with distance between ourselves and the sound. The intimacy of the sound increases revealing metallic percussive hits and chimes that take up the foreground without overpowering the more opaque and breathy background. A melodic loop is introduced and begins to phase with the rest of the layers creating melodic variations that stem from the original chimes.
Behind pensive piano chords, the sounds of children and their parents occupy “Flutter.” Early in the track these sounds present themselves as joy, but as the track continues this line is blurred. With a melancholic tone continuing to come from the piano I begin to wonder if these screams are truly ones of joy. Could these be more screams of discomfort or even pain? The crowd noise becomes increasingly more dense before fading and leaving a sustained organ.
“0103” leaves me feeling slightly empty. The music-box-like bells provide a nice continuation in the theme that has been established in the sound, however the track presents itself as very emotionally ambiguous. It is certainly a track about stillness.
“Katai Hikari” is the longest track on the album, yet I felt hypnotized to the point where its 10-minutes almost stood still. The sound of filtered wind noise and closely mic’d footsteps suffocate the early moments of the piece before a melody reminiscent of what you might hear from a clock tower enters. Tremolo is used sparsely throughout giving it some movement and glimmer. The simple clock tower melody is soon being played on multiple instruments and is spliced together with each instrument contributing a note or two. This creates an interesting effect tricking the brain into hearing these separate timbres and coming from a single event.
The album closes with “Pipo” and a feeling that a sense of unity was found. From the opening moments of a -> b, an exploratory tone is set. The seemingly random nature of the first track gives a feeling of beautiful disorganization. In terms of instrumentation and timbre, “1111” and “Pipo” feel related. The synths in “Pipo” have found a harmonious and organized way to coexist and shine brightly in the album’s closing number.
Point number 11 on the Eilean map is established with a youthful and organic glow through the eyes of Kojima. His deeply visual approach to music paints vivid textures that come from an effortless blend of field recordings and electronic elements.
øjeRum hails from Copenhagen, Denmark. Known as a both a musician and collage artist, he continues a trend of Eilean Records contributors whose crossover between the sonic and visual artistic mediums lead to strikingly vivid depictions of landscapes on the island of Eilean.
For øjeRum’s second release on Eilean we travel to the north-eastern part of the island during a white and grey winter. Comprised of 15 tracks, Nattesne is a window into a delicate and desolate world.
“I” feels from the past, almost ancient. There is distance between the slow swells and the listener. Echoes of what sound like the wood innerworkings of the instrument begin to sound breaking up the consistent and mostly high-pitched melody. This is our introduction to one of the two main styles of tracks that appear on the album.
“II” brings the attention and focus closer to the listener. The first five notes of a minor scale are repeated over again with a faint echo following. Played on a hammered dulcimer, the sound is piercing and metallic even in its lower register. This brittle and cold sound represents the second style of track that appears on Nattesne. The two styles switch off of the entirety of the album.
“V” features vocals and vocal arrangements by Siri Ann Flensburg. Just as a familiarity with the two presented textures is gained, the addition of vocals brings an undeniable warmth to the cold and barren landscape. Along with middle to low register piano notes, the vocals coat the landscape providing a new lens for the listener to hear through.
“VI” returns to the hammered dulcimer, but is played more freely. Each phrase is speeds up and slows down at the will of the performer. The end of the phrase is given a moment to decay letting the individually attacked notes form a clear sonority.
The entirety of the album displays a somber, still, and overall gloomy temper. “XIII” is the first track, however, where a clear weeping motive sticks out in the texture. Also clear from this track is the division between sounds in the swelling texture. Prominent in the bass that comes near the end of the phrase are two notes that descend, or weep, with authority.
“XIV” is chaotic. Seemingly random attacks create a swelling cloud of hammered dulcimer notes. As the 3-minute 30-second track unfolds, one’s brain begins to make sense of sections of this cloud putting together melodies and rhythms. It is an organized chaos that feels like an attempt at bridging the two different styles presented on Nattesne.
The spirit of collage feels alive on this project. Hard lines or cuts are created between each track as there is clear separation in timbre and style. Shrill and cloudy harmonies swell for half of the project while a hammered dulcimer provides some sense of meter on the other half. It is a cold and forsaken, but never void of emotion.
Originally Posted on June 16, 2018
In 2002, French musician, Boris Billier started the first major shift in his career. A sound technician for cinema since 1998, Billier left this industry to focusing on soundfield based composition. For the next 10 years, he travelled choosing live publication of his music rather than recorded. He cites having traveled “with his own auditoriums” as he played his compositions for small audiences anywhere except for concert venues. 2012 marked the next transition for Billier, this one towards making music using what he calls “more usual tools” with a specific interest in the piano. Many of Billier’s collaborations up to this point were with contemporary theater groups. These collaborations continued all throughout Europe, but Billier began releasing music online under the pseudonym of Aries Mond. Come On Let’s Wait is Aries Mond’s the debut album released on Eilean Records.
Come On Let’s Wait defines location #18 on the label’s imaginary island. Location #18 sits in isolation off the northwestern shores. This secluded point is defined by Aries Mond’s use of one of his favorite “more usual tools,” the piano, the sounds of which dominate the frequencies of this album. Set in the winter time to a white and grey backdrop, the album unfolds slowly and deliberately. It is hard for me to see the location of this album on the map and not hear the album unfolding like a tide. The first six tracks seem to build in to a brilliant shimmer which is the seventh track, “So Long.”
The album opens with “Come.” There is an exploratory element to this track. The sound of the piano is introduced and found along with the distant and glitchy atmosphere created in the periphery. The second track, “Again,” reminds us that we are not alone. If the piano was the main character introduced first, the subtle noises and breaths made by a female mouth and a male hum are the supporting characters for the rest of the album. The use of space and silence within these tracks and throughout the album creates the push and pull of the tides. There is a nonlinear but noticeable build in texture, pulse, and sometimes (but rarely) volume leading into “So Long,” which is what I hear as the high tide of the album. A jovial voice overtakes the piano which gleams brightly before exhaling into “Once Again,” the album’s closing number. A steady pulse remains mirroring the consistency of the tides, but distance and space return. The piano retreats until it is nothing more than an echo in the final moments of the album.
Even though the medium through which Billier chooses to perform his music has changed since 2002, the spirit in which he wishes his music to be heard is still very much alive in Come On Let’s Wait. This album is an intimate experience. You are subjected to the sounds of whispers and breathing that are so close an element of claustrophobia could very well set in. The listener is pulled in extremely close to the piano; every element of the mechanical structure of the piano becomes an instrument and a color of the landscape. There is solitude ingrained in this album that forces you to bask in the loneliness of location #18, far from the crowds of familiar concert spaces on the mainland, just as Boris Billier wishes.