Soundlab: A listening guide for post-winter reminiscences SE01EP01: We’re all ears - a listening guide for post-winter reminiscences

Piotr Wojnar, a music aficionado, producer and aspiring philosopher presents a series about sonic art, and the way sounds in general combine with other aspects of human creativity. Subsequent monthly entries include album recommendations, descriptions of their tonalities, cultural context and overall vibe.

Hi and welcome to the first installment of my series! Today I’m going to talk about a few albums that were particularly present in my every-day playlists during winter months. I appreciate short winter days a lot, because I believe it’s easier to focus on music when it’s dark. You might even say this selection is seasonally affected.

We will listen to some other-worldly sound-bending; a bit of delicate IDM; new approaches to solo instrumental work (with a saxophone, of all instruments!); a Scandinavian soundtrack to a sunny Saturday morning and last but not least an urban-noir epic that happens to be my favorite release of the last year. Headphones on and let’s go! 

Aho Ssan – Simulacrum

Taking inspiration from the famed conception of French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, Niamké Désiré’s creates a debut LP that, much like The Precession of Simulacra might encourage You to rethink the way You experience art, and human-made artifacts in general. Simulacrum consists of seven tracks that, while abrasive and cold tone-wise, present a surprisingly warm and inviting sense of melody, rarely seen among producers who are able to bend digitally-generated sound with this level of fluency and ease.

Post-Exai Autechre and Tim Hecker influences are what comes to mind upon first listen, but after few repeats it becomes clear that Niamké came up with a way of expressing himself that really is one of a kind. While noise as a genre description applies to this album correctly, the actual music found on it would be better described as beautiful chaos.

Skee Mask – Compro

Munich’s Ilian Tape is one of the few labels that keep the quality and aesthetics of their releases this consistent. Compro, second LP from Bryan Müller encompass the absolute best Zenker Brothers’ enterprise has to offer. While the IT’s signature breaks and AFX-flavored ambient is still there, Skee Mask’s unique approach to composition and melody adds a liminal sense of longing to the tried and tested formula.

Across twelve tracks, Compro paints an impressionistic picture of a sunny winter morning in a highly urbanized area. While inclusion of breakbeats and BPMs slightly higher than your usual day-time tracks might make You think of a club-oriented sound, this is without a question an album that works best as an individual listening experience; a work that seems to reveal new layers each time You apply it in a new context. 

Bendik Giske – Cracks

On his second album, Bendik Giske further develops his sui generis approach to the saxophone and ritual-like breathing techniques. While his instrument of choice may come as a surprise when one takes into account that Bendik himself mentions Berlin-style techno as his main inspiration, upon listening to five tracks that constitute Cracks it becomes clear that it’s hard to imagine a better way for Giske to translate his emotions into sounds.

The idea of a single-instrument album isn’t particularly revolutionary, but Cracks is much more than a showcase of its creator’s technical ability. It’s a rare example of a studio recording that, thanks to the usage of contact microphones and state-of-the-art production, gives You an ASMR-level feeling of presence and mindfulness. It’s not just a melody that’s recorded, it’s a whole experience of the sound being performed.

Loke Rahbek & Frederik Valentin – Elephant 

The way Scandinavia is portrayed in global consciousness (thanks to their prolific thriller output I believe), makes the phrase joyful Scandinavian music read like an oxymoron. On Elephant, two Copenhagen-based artists show us that Scandinavian happiness, albeit visibly (audibly?) different than what we would usually call joy, is a legitimate feeling. 

Loke Rahbek, (founder of Posh Isolation label) is usually focused on more beat-oriented sounds, but his collaboration with Frederik Valentin results in gloriously cheerful album, that still maintains his unique approach to sound design. Delicate synth lines combined with acoustic instruments (both heavily processed and organic ones) make this one a pleasant Saturday morning soundtrack.  

Space Afrika – Honest Labour 

Have you been through what I’ve been through? Was the question then-Manchester-based duo of Joshua Inyang and Joshua Tarelle used as a title of their mixtape created as a way of response to the 2020 civil unrest in US. The spoken-word/field recording/sound collage mix showed a stylistic departure from their debut work, which was more of a dub techno-oriented effort. 

If anyone was uncertain whether this is the method in which Space Afrika would continue their artistic endeavors, Honest Labour lays all the doubts to rest. Across 19 tracks, artists portray a mixture of feelings difficult to name, and difficult to explain if you haven’t been through them. The combination of Burial-esque urban ambience, heartfelt spoken-word pieces and yearning synth lines makes the listening experience akin to watching a noir movie. A perfect soundtrack for long, night-time walks. 

That’s it for this episode. I genuinely believe that those few albums encompass the best that the gloomy and cold time of year that winter is has to offer, and I hope you’ll find them as immersive as I did. Until next time, and safe travels on your sonic journeys! 

P.S.: One more thing: my monthly album selection will be available as a Spotify playlist, but as more and more artists voice their concern with the way Spotify is being managed, it happens that they decide to take their work down from the platform. In those cases, I’ll provide alternative ways of listening to those records. This time, it’s Skee Mask’s Compro, that as of the time of writing this entry is only available at his label’s Bandcamp page.

Listen to the full Spotify playlist here:

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About The Author


Aspiring philosopher, musician and music aficionado, speciality coffee enthusiast. He holds bachelor degrees in Swedish Linguistics and Philosophy. Interested in all kinds of sonic arts both as a producer and listener. Currently working on the topic of social ontology.

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