This first compilation from Magnanimous Records comes complete with DIY-style packaging and is individually hand-numbered (sold out. Available as download only). M1 is comprised of tracks created by Shepherdstown, WV based recording artists. The second Magnanimous compilation can be viewed here.
"...effectively portrays a solitary landscape under shifting storm clouds. Rarely does music achieve such vividness...there are ghosts in Shepherdstown, quietly haunting its music." - Melissa Amos, Splendid
Here's an extremely solid and exciting ambient music compilation from Magnanimous Records, a relatively new label from what I can gather. It features eight tracks from eight different artists and nary a misstep among them, which given the relative variety of the music contained herein is quite the accomplishment.
Things start off in a dark and disturbing yet eerily beautiful vein with "prayer to infinity" from ligo. Swirling drones with a whistling characteristic carry the lead while two separate vocals are present: a distorted echoed female singing voice and a slowed-down vocoder-type spoken word vocal. The words are probably decipherable if one were to take effort and time to do so; what I heard sounded like pretty heavy duty stuff. Things lighten up with the next track, "read my dust" from jamesvanpilato, a low-key yet catchy slice of glitch ambient, with midtempo shuffling beats and what sounds like guitar loops. It's too short, though, at less than two minutes - I sure wish it was longer! greenie2600's "laid bare" is a minimal drone ambient soundscape, with the sound of wind discernible in the background. A whistling tone emerges from the shadowy darkness as well as a slow measured bass beat rhythm. As the track progresses, polar-cold synth lead lines grace the song with the warmth of the northern lights, along with haunting choral effects. This is one beautiful ambient track! And, at almost seven minutes in length, it gets its due. Seiss' "unattended analogue" is a miasma-ish whirlpool of liquidy drones and strange burbling noises, textured with tonal and atonal synth notes peppered here and there, some sounding like far off church bells. The track gets eerier as it unwinds, but never to the point of distraction, as the bells come forward in the mix and whooshing sounds intermix with reverberating crashes (I swear this sounds like it was sampled from sound effects from Forbidden Planet).
"ruretiflurems" by matthew p is an aphex-like glitchy ambient number, mixing spacy keyboards that have a '50s SF movie sound to them with contemporary skitch beats. When the beats drop out all of a sudden and a brief flurry of "pretty" ethereal bells twinkle in the blackness, I thought of another SF movie soundtrack, that being Bernard Herrman's work for The Day The Earth Stood Still (maybe all these artists are closet SF freaks like me?). Yet another type of ambient music is present on "the other side" from artist red orchestra. The sound of crickets is balanced against a quavering keyboard wash in the background, soon joined by arrhythmic hand drums and strange bird-like whistling tones. There is a faint feeling of retro electronic music to the cut, bringing to mind early works from Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause, e.g. In A Wild Sanctuary.
The standout track for me is a "standout" in more ways then just being superb music. "sonic seahorses" by d-ork is the only uptempo cheery number on the compilation, and it's a stunner! Percolating pulsing bass beats and all manner of synthetic EM textures (some melodic and some more machine-like in nature) propel the track along a sunny ribbon of cyber-highway. Analog-sounding (mini-moog-ish) synths bring a great big grin to my face every time I play this song, and the ultra-catchy rhythms get the ole feet a tapping to keep time with the mid-to-fast tempo of the beats. At a few ticks over eight minutes in length it's the longest track here and every inch of it is a lot of fun.
The album closes with natrul's "descending part 1," a return to darker, more sinister sonic territory. Glitch beats, lots of panning effects, and what are probably the most bizarre assorted electronic textures on the recording all come together to craft a fairly weird listening experience, although not overtly unlistenable (although certainly more afield from the mainstream of ambient than everything else here).
As an introduction to a new label, m1 is outstanding, but it's also just a great album, period. Being a compilation, there is a certain lack of continuity, but the whole is much more cohesive than you'd expect, I'll wager. Dark ambient fans will doubtless enjoy almost the entire trip here, and maybe they'll also be glad for the relief of "sonic seahorses." Unlike a lot of dark ambient music, most of the songs on m1 offer more than just garden-variety drones and boring monotonous desolate landscapes. In order to get the most out of this recording, though, headphones are recommended. Speaking of recommended, I obviously do just that with this fine recording! -Wind and Wire
After being introduced to Magnanimous Records with the release ďThe halo effectĒ by Paradigm9 I was expecting quite a bit from this record. Itís a 8 track compilation featuring artists like Ligo, Jamesvanpilato, Seiss and many more. I hadnít heard from any of these bands before, and sadly the webpage didnít give much information either (yet). The compilation comes in a beautiful stamped carton cover, with an inlay telling what is what on the record.
It starts out with a dark and haunting piece by Ligo, consisting mainly of strangly deformed human talking, that sets a dark mood for the rest of the record. The second track, by Jamesvanpilato, seems to be made of an echoing synth supported by equally echoing field recordings of some basic ethnic drumming. After the opening track itís a bit of a disappointment. The track by Greeni2600 (track 3) though is more in style with the opening again. A deep dark drone layer supports a repeating high melody, that is soon joined by a echoing bass line giving the track rhythm and structure. The track by Matthew P. is probably the best track of the compilation. Delivering original, very slow beats, with almost voice-like synths ghostly hoovering over them, sometimes joined by a high melody that made me think a lot of the track ďThey nicknamed me evilĒ by the band Cinema (recorded sound library).
The rest of the tracks didnít really work for me, but they all stayed in style, never breaking the mood of the record, with one sad exception. The track by D-ork I found greatly disappointing. Sounding like your average Fruityloops tracks with a few extra effects it almost did break the so well set mood of this record.
Maybe you should compare this record to a book with a collection of ghost stories, with one or two Edgar Allen Poe stories in it. You do read all the stories, because they are entertaining, but you realise that writing ghost stories is a true skill. Itís the same with this record. Composing dark ambient tracks is a true skill. And altough 7 out of 8 tracks are good, only two really stand out (tracks 3 and 5). -Funprox
M1: A Magnanimous Compilation collects eight tracks from eight different ambient and electronic acts from Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Though it's a small community, the town has apparently fostered quite a fertile base of new, experimental electronic music. This cheap (six dollars), limited-to-100-copies release is recommended for those few music fans willing to give a new scene a try.
The main problem with this compilation will be its limited genre range. There are many ambient music fans out there, but most might be hesitant to buy a disc filled with a bunch of no-name artists. This is unfair, however, as lots of this record's material is quite good.
If one is able to overlook their obsession with brand-name electronic music, they will likely be pleased to discover quite a few positively enjoyable offerings on M1. Matthew P.'s "Ruretiflurems," for example, is a brooding, evil soundscape, and Natrul's "Descending Part I" is engagingly dark. A few of the tracks drag a bit however - Red Orchestra's "The Other Side," for example, is needlessly long and tiresomely uneventful.
Overall, this is a very solid compilation from a scene most people are likely completely unaware of. I could see it being noticed more by the public if it were given away as a freebie or sold at a bargain basement price.
Glitch-pop indie music, spurred by successes that achieved near ubiquitous popularity with cloyingly sentimental songs of love and loss, is everywhere now. The unstoppable juggernaut of smoothly polished, ignorably pleasant production and precious, instantly accessible vocals pours in from all sides. Neither North America nor Europe can shoulder all the blame; everyone is equally at fault, even Canada. It is because of this then that the resilience of the Electronic underground should be celebrated now more than ever. In the face of popular appropriation of their art form and the sudden real possibility of general acceptance, the true heart of electronic experimentation has stuck to its guns and continued to produce surprising, progressive music without any compromises. Whats better still is the fact that this music has started to come from entirely unexpected places. While large cosmopolitan cities (and all of Germany) continue to produce as much glitch and dark-noise as ever; smaller, unexpected locales are beginning to show off their own scenes, and the fresh perspectives coming out of these places are producing some great tracks. Like defiant mission statements, the Compilation CDs offered by Shepherdstown, West Virginias Magnanimous Records and Richmond, Virginias 804 Noise Collective show two very different young, experimental record labels doing some really interesting things. While the styles presented on the discs present different aspects of the progressive electronic spectrum they both show evidence of strong scenes with a strong sense of stylistic enterprise.
For the most part, the artists of the Magnanimous Records compilation stick to a palette of relatively organic sounds. Most tracks blend thick, open background harmonies with high end tones, blips and voices dancing in and out of the track. Noise washes and organic found sounds add texture, and what rhythms occur usually plod slowly from one texture to the next. The effect of this compositional mix is a more natural sound than most experimental electronic music, and while it stays away from instrumental post-rock diddling, it still evokes the same soundtrack feel that that music creates. With the obvious exception of a later track by D-ork, which stands out as a fairly standard low-key electronica track on an otherwise largely ambient collection, it seems as if the members of the Magnanimous crew have a singular stylistic vision. Indeed, the tracking on the disc is so smooth that if one didnt know better, the album would seem to be the work of one artist. This ends up being a very good thing. Rather than ending up largely forgettable but for a stand-out track our two, as most compilations turn out, the Magnanimous compilation ends up seeming like a single work; a purposeful body of music whose individual pieces are more complete as part of the whole. While the similarity in style and composition of these tracks has been emphasized, there are still a few among them that can be identified as exceptional examples. Ligos track, Prayer to Infinity, which opens the album, is an example of a simple idea that is made great by the skill of its execution. Various voices, some artificially deep and others effected beyond recognition, play off each other over a slowly moving bass harmony and little else. This is not a new or particularly inspired idea, but the attention paid to the crucial details of the sounds adds a level of craftsmanship to the track that puts it at a level of quality that is much greater than the sum of its concepts. If the disc has a standout, it is the fourth track, Unattended Analogue, by Seiss. An oscillating low frequency backdrop leads into nervous, high-frequency motifs and space-evoking washes and bell tones. The piece packs a lot of thematic movement into an ambient track, and expertly wraps up when its ideas have reached their limit, an idea more ambient musicians should embrace.
804Noise is a collective of experimental electronic artists based in Richmond, Virginia, including Harm Stryker, whose self-titled E.P. was one of my favorite experimental acquisitions last year. While some of this disc is in that same vein of tense dark-ambient composition, the 804Noise folks are not to be so easily classified. Including tracks of pleasantly melodic IDM, harsh instrumental hip-hop and dark ambient, the 804Noise compilation is an exhibition of stylistically diverse artists linked by their deft talent and a penchant for a range of digital tones that can either ease minds or peel paint. My high expectations due to the quality found on the Harm Stryker release were completely met by this collection, and I was pleased by the knowledge that such a forward-thinking musical exploration is being conducted a mere hour and a half down I-95. The 804Noise comp starts Sixteen with a soothing IDMish track by Laferrerra that puts a crisp, stuttering drum beat over a walking vibraphone-tone and intricate background harmonics. Harm Stryker contributes a track of their brand of paranoid dark ambience to the compilation, building tension with throbbing bass tones and extremely soft, minimal glitchy stabs that are briefly interrupted with popping staccato percussion, only to fade into abstractions again with broken bass sweeps. The track is skillfully implemented, and shows a group that is coming to really refine and master its sound. Bloc-Notes, by Metal, is one of the most interesting tracks on the album. Compared with the ambient pieces that precede it, Bloc-Notes is full of energy and relatively upbeat. Reminiscent of early IDM styles, plucked-string and harpsichord-like sounds interact over minimal beats, clicks and laser sounds. To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie add Zin to the mix, a track that is noted as being unfinished. While indeed it never seems to quite find itself, with its general amorphous nature, lack of identity is perhaps the songs greater musical direction. Slipping from one form and sound pallet to the next, the track is a skilled, if dizzying trip through a variety of harsh, ambient styles. If a final version of the track is indeed intended, it would be interesting to see what the artist has in store for the piece.
While indie-pop culture appropriates the IDM underground to make frequently saccharine sing-alongs, it is good to know that young, talented musicians continue to produce intelligent, experimental electronic sounds. While experimental electronic, dark-ambient and power electronic music enthusiasts should already know record labels like Germanys Ant-Zen and Austrias Mego, there is a rise of small scene artists that deserve attention as well. Both Magnanimous Records and 804Noise present high-quality tracks by mid-Atlantic artists. While operating at a lower profile, some of these artists already are or could easily develop into peers of those more prominent in the experimental electronic music community. I highly recommend 804Noise to anyone interested in harsh beats, dark-ambience and sketched out IDM. Fans of a more natural ambient sound will appreciate the drifting tones and haunted quality of the Magnanimous artists.
Thematically, the tracks on the Magnanimous Compilation make up some sort of cadre of ambient music from an X-files episode. Let's just say you won't put this on the stereo when your friends are coming over for a party, unless you've got some very, very gothic friends. Well, maybe if it's a Halloween party! The eight tracks from eight different artists make up a swiftly tilting planet of ambient noise and quiet synth driven ruminations. One part Sigur Ros and two parts Vangelis makes for a very interesting mix of music.