The duo Autumn’s Grey Solace has been staggeringly prolific. Since their debut in 2000, they have gradually moved away from their gothic pop roots, creating ambient music with traditional rock instruments. Their eleventh album Eocene is a tapestry of echoey treated guitars, heartbeat-like rhythms and ghostly voices. Instrumentalist Scott Ferrell uses a variety of techniques in layering stringed sounds—sustained notes that sound like bells, chimed, and harps. Singer Erin Welton uses her voice like a lead instrument, and whatever lyrics she sings are tumbled into the epic wall of sound, crafting a kind of sonic palimpsest. While the 38 minute digital album works as a whole, like a song suite, there are still individual songs that standout. The lovely melodic “Deep Wild” could almost be a single, as could the dark, driving “Extinction,” which flirts with progressive metal. Too tranquil to be “just” shoe-gaze pop, too dark to be New Age, this atmospheric mini-album has the perfect balance of tension and delicacy, like a spiderweb resiliently holding its shape beneath an onslaught of rain.
Bandcamp Link: Autumn’s Grey Solace
Amialluma/ Chloë March and Todd Tobias
A collaboration between musicians Todd Tobias and Chloë March, Amialluma is an album’s worth of atmospheric ambient music that desultorily drifts between a whimsical and eerie tone. All ten compositions have a distinct hauntological ambiance. The soundscapes have the feel of the soundtrack to a forgotten children’s movie. Music box melodies, echoed bell-like tones and 60s Sci-Fi sounds are woven together, mostly in a halcyon mood that gets disturbed by the occasional dark chord progression. March sings, purrs, trills, murmurs and chants words in an invented language that manages to be both soothing and disturbing, like a feral child raised by nature. The resulting suite (which is how it is supposed to be listened to) reminds of me of the work of the English band Pram, (who share a similar tonal palette crossed) with the Cocteau Twins at their most tranquil.
As much as I like traditional pop music and classic song structure, I love instrumental music. It’s the stuff that I write to, and that gives me ideas for fiction and scenes. The field of electronica and ambient is as white, straight and male as you can get, so it’s always a pleasure to find artists from marginalized communities appear on the scene. I recently discover two such artists that make electronic music that’s disturbing and beautiful.
Both Arca (Alejandro Ghersi ) and Yves Tumor (Sean Lee Bowie, or not!) are queer men of color who infuse their electronic sound collages with a queer sensibility. Their ominous soundscapes, combine subgenres like EDM, industrial and hauntology, both of them play with genderfuck in their performances.
Prolific “ethereal-wave” Florida band Autumn’s Grey Solace just independently released their 9th album—the digital only “Windumaera.” The short album is kind of a mirror/sister album to “Monajifyllen,” released in 2014. Where that previous album was becalmed and angelic, this one is over so slightly darker. Sunlit melodies will suddenly turn sinister and menacing, resulting in a more dramatic sound.
AGS has drifted away from clearly delineated lyrics and song structures into something much more vaporous and atmospheric. It’s drifting ambient music made by electric guitars. Multi-instrumentalist Scott Ferrell manipulates his guitar into waves of chimes and ripples. The orchestrated guitar parts sound like bells and harps. Erin Welton’s voice soars over these soundscapes in coloratura swoops and swirls. For the most part, the lyrics are unintelligible, and though random phrases in English drift up, they are submerged by the virtuosic vocal technique.
ref: Cocteau Twins, Cranes, ambient music