The Sound of Silence – Three Ambient Albums You Might Have Missed

All different, sometimes challenging listens, but all eminently worth it

Dakota Suite - The Night Just Keeps Coming In, Olafur Arnalds - Dyad 1909, Nils Frahm - Wintermusik


Three records, all different, have been out for a while, and - as all good releases lumped in that mysterious category we know as ambient – ones that have taken a little time overcome their quiet nature to ingratiate themselves properly with this reviewer. Still: better late than never, eh?


The person the uninitiated may have heard of is Olafur Arnalds who released the fabulous Found Songs project via Twitter back in 2008-9 (thankfully collated and released as a proper LP). Now he’s released Dyad 1909 on fabbo label Erased Tapes. Dyad is a score penned for choreographer Wayne McGregor and performed at Sadlers Wells. Now the uninitiated may think this all sounds very worthy and suspiciously like one of those many highbrow-meets-new-media “projects” that can signify very little creatively, but think again as this is a beautiful work. Lasting about 25 minutes, and mainly based round the interplay between piano and strings and snippets of new technology (okay, laptops as heard on Til Enda…), the music on Dyad 1909 boasts an extraordinarily wide emotional pallet. Sounds and moods range from quiet, almost suffocating melancholy ('Frá upphafi and Við vorum smá) to insistent and bombastic especially on the on tracks - such as Brotsjor and 3326 - where the strings take the lead.

Mr Arnald’s Erased Tapes label-mate is Nils Frahm, and we are concerned here with his recent LP Wintermusik. Apparently these recordings were made for his chums to celebrate Christmas to, but – for reasons best known to him – he released Wintermusik back in June 2009. Anyway, it’s a surprisingly light and airy work given the title The LP consists of three tracks again, (like Arnalds’ LP) mainly piano-based, but with the Celeste and reed organ providing a beautiful sonic pay-off. The whimsical opener Ambre somehow reminds this listener of one or two moments off Yann Tiersin’s Absinthe and the plinky sounds of Nue are almost in Rodelius territory, especially his Lunz LP. Both tracks are kept within remarkably strong and clear frameworks with only the most essential sounds informing the music’s direction. Last (and longest) track is Tristana, which is darker and more textured and really given an added dimension with the Celeste’s dolorous contribution. It’s a marvellously informative and relaxing listen.



Finally Dakota Suite’s The Night Just Keeps Coming In – re-released on marvellous label Karaoke Kalke - is a full remix of Dakota’s very Gothic LP The End of Trying. Lots of worthy names contribute, names such as Peter Broderick, Hauschka, and Greg Haines. Now, please note, this is a quiet but brilliant listen, and Machinefabriek’s tense One Day Without Harming You sets the pace. Broderick’s track This Failing Sea is magnificent, and a lot softer and more suggestive than the original recording. Highlights for me are Hauschka’s beautiful A Quietly Gathering Tragedy, the blippery of The Boats’ take on The Night Just Keeps Coming In, the wonderful piano-led melody of Emanuelle Errante’s Second Hand Light, and, I have to say, the noise of Greg Haines’ take on The End Of Trying Part II; which plays a similar role to Ohrworm on Cluster’s Zuckerzeit: in that it completely upsets the slightly orderly mood with its dissonant electronic splurges.

All different, sometimes challenging listens, but all eminently worth it