EP Reviews: Yea Big and Tatsu Aoki, Urhosson, Fractured Wrist, Night Gestalt, Kamil Kowalczyk

Photo by Valeriia Miller

Yea Big and Tatsu Aoki - The Hand and The Moon, Part One

When Bloomington, IL multi-instrumentalist Stefen Robinson, AKA Yea Big, first heard the work of Japenese traditional musician Tatsu Aoki, who primarily performs solo on the shamisen, a three-stringed Japanese instrument, he knew he wanted to collaborate. Inviting the musician to Bloomington, the duo performed together for the first time in front of an audience. The symbiotic energy of the two musicians landed in strange and deep places. Robinson's spontaneous and unwieldy bass clarinet seems to contradictorily reign in Aoki's wandering yet rhythmically capricious, highly expressive playing. Wanting to recapture the essence of their original performance, the duo set about recording "The Hand and The Moon, Part One", a wordless dialogue between two musicians documented with the simplest means, a bare-bones recording void of effects or studio trickery. The effect is a romantic and charming collection that imbues the listener's day with a sense of freedom and excitement. Traditional music almost always sounds samey, and contemporary classical is almost always virtuously pretentious. We find both of these elements here, and there's little deviance from the anything-goes attitude of both players (even when Robinson makes his bass clarinet sound like a didgeridoo), though they more often than not compliment each other and offer a profound and rewarding listening experience. ★★★★


Urhosson - Dream Research, Pt. 1

Finnish electronic musician Urhosson has recently released the first instalment of his Dream Research series, and the collection sees roving ambient soundscapes, soothing solo piano, and electronic flourishes marry freshly. The opening track, "Velvet", is mainly loosely structured ambient, though the artist isn't shy about adding loud and aggressive drum hits to his otherwise heavenly sounds. "Submerging" is a comprehensive track chock-full of wonderous sonics, and while they primarily fall on the typical neoclassical/instrumental side of things, with a silver screen-ready melody, Urhosson keeps it decidedly breezy, none of his bolts are too tight. "Adventures In" and "Strange Float" follow suit, featuring visceral synths and undefined margins that inspire visions of the saturated colours of videogame landscapes, though a marked sense of melody is somewhere behind the recondite. The closing track, "Pearls in the Sky", includes birdsong and lulling tones before the dream ends and reality crashes back. The dreamlike quality of Urhosson's recent work lends an adventurous spirit to his already intrepid toolkit, and one might wonder if his research into dreams will turn nightmarish in part one. For now, we can enjoy the respite the music affords. ★★★½ 

Fractured Wrist - Initial Sketches I 

One can hear the fragility of seasons changing on "Initial Sketches 1", a gossamer collection of lo-fi home experiments courtesy of Scottish hermit Fractured Wrist. Nestled away somewhere in Scotland's central belt, Fractured Wrist introduces themself on their debut EP with patient guitar lines, distant synths, and unshackled song structures. These elements don't always match up in any semblance of coherent timing. For example, "Deep Red" has a rickety constitution, barely holding itself together except for its insistence on dream-mongering the audience with repeating guitar riffs and luminous synth strikes. The artist recorded the EP at home on a 4-track, lending the collection a rough-around-edges homespun charm that sometimes translates to waffling arrangements ("Cat Claw") and slightly-out-tune instruments ("New Years"). However, the overall vibe achieved is inquisitive, with vague questions of the artist answered with something strangely serene. ★★★

Night Gestalt - Field Rituals, Vol. 1

Swedish composer, producer, and sound artist Olof Cornéer releases his high-concept work under the cheery moniker Night Gestalt. His recent collection of music-cum-art is Field Rituals, Vol. 1, a highly personal and expressive collection of wandering ambient instrumentals played and recorded at geographical places and times that held meaning for the artist, such as the island of Öland at midnight while the rhythmic twinkling of the city lights on the horizon informed the nonformulaic nature of the peaceful music. Though it's not all bucolic, Cornéer captures peculiarity with equal ambition. For example, Night Gestalt recorded two tracks in an abandoned slaughterhouse, and "Elegy For A Siren" juxtaposes children playing in a schoolyard while the tri-monthly Swedish air raid siren test goes off. Cornéer joins these disparate elements with a fine thread of sonic sound, never pulling too tightly on the structures, weaving an absorbing sonic portrait of fleeting moments. ★★★ 

Kamil Kowalczyk - Radio Transmissions 

Polish audionaut Kamil Kowalczyk is at it again, plummeting to the depths of the human psyche via oceanic tones. It's no wonder the term "ambient pressure" describes "the atmospheric pressure of a given location", especially when listening to Kowalczyk, who goes for depth where other artists trodding a similar path might go for the sky. The soothing tones on the artist's recent release, "Radio Transmissions", begin to feel like pressure building up in the mind, yet it's hard to turn off once you've been invited down the rabbit hole. The two tracks on the EP, "Deep Transmission Part One" and "Deep Transmission Part 2", are over twenty minutes and feel expansive as they play out. For some reason, part two comes before part one, though however thematically backwards this may seem, it makes sense sonically, with part two being harsh and part one softer. In any case, the music has a cosmic impressiveness to its simple profundity.  ★★★½