Shrine & Mytrip – Descent

Shrine & Mytrip – Descent 7”EP Amek Collective / Corvus Records 2022

For this short two-track release, these two Bulgarian artists have teamed up with an apparent intent on bridging the gap between their respective sounds. To be a little more specific on that assertion, Shine are typically known for deep cinematic dark ambience tinged with organic toned field recordings, while Mytrip is concerned with electronic-ambient soundscapes which also push towards rhythmic and beat-driven spheres.

The first track is Ruin Dweller is concerned with inky black tonal washes, deep guttural drones and lighter echoed textures to provide the perception of sonic depth. Minimalist orchestral synth pads provide a melodious edge, and a mid-paced flow pushing the track forwards its six or so minutes pass rather quickly. The flip side brings Dark Rays of Light which is a tad (‘ahem’) lighter, where the soundscape has a slightly less forceful ebb and flow, instead settles into a central melodious churn. Of note, the minimalist rhythmic textures sitting within the background have a clear fingerprint of Mytrip, while the widescreen shimmering textures bring clearly to mind Shine’s approach.

Ultimately Descent is a successful release that delivers an interesting but all too short EP of sonic material that sits comfortably at the sonics midpoint of the two contributing artists. A high gloss gatefold cover completes the package.

Angel Simitchiev & Linus Schrab – Airborne

Angel Simitchiev & Linus Schrab – Airborne MC AMEK Collective 2021

Although this tape is a collaboration I am only familiar with one of the contributors prior work, being Angel’s main recording project Mytrip. So given I am not familiar with any of Linus’s music it feels like I am then unintentionally downplaying his contributions. But on that front a strong impression I get from this tape is it is very much like a more mellow and ambient version of the sound and tone of Mytrip‘s music, except where the use of rhythmic structures and beats in that project have been excluded here.

Airborne features in the order of 45 minutes and seven tracks of instrumental music, where there is a cinematic edge to the general ambient drone and electronica drift of proceedings. Opening track Initiation has a continuous cinematic streak, further underscored with muted post-industrial rumble. On the following track This Is Our Garden, the fragile intertwining melodies and slow programmed pulse of has a strong experimental electronica tone, which would not be out of place with current material being issued on the Posh Isolation. A Smoke That Will Never Clear then see the merging of cinematic drone and slow rhythmic bass pulse, while the title track as the final piece on Side A which offset sustained higher pitched tone with sweeping sonics and dour melody line. Side B delivers a further three compositions, where Phoenix Down is a short introductory track of muted tensile loops, before leading into the Spores of Humanity. This extended offering is based on muffled industrial rumbling textures while minimalist melodious lines float above. As the piece progresses, the tone takes a step up through the gradual increasing of sonic layering and sustained tonal loops, but the constant feel retains a forlorn mood. This feel continues on the final track Hope Singals, yet the final more active moments of shimmering and sweeping melodious tonality bring to mind the late era works of Fennenz.

Given the various noted references to ambient electronica and cinematic drift, Airborne can very much be appreciated as a soundtrack to a nameless dystopian focused film. The end result is a very enjoyable tape for the melancholic moods it evokes with ease.

Krāllār – big sad

Krāllār – big sad MC AMEK Collective 2020

Another unknown Bulgarian project for me, Krāllār is the solo project of Ivan Shentov who appears to have been releasing material under this name since around 2015. Evidently the material on this tape was commissioned by the label following a live performance, where the recording itself was captured in studio in a single take.

As for the instrumental sonics on big sad, they inhabits the between spaces of experimental electronica, drone, dark ambient and noise which are artfully combined to be anything but one dimensional. In essence shrill feedback, interweaving melodious noise and partially abstracted synth melodies are meticulously layered, and metaphorically speaking this smeared combination of sonics reflects the chosen cover artwork rather well. Yet despite the bulk and heft of the sound, there is also a fragility it is general tone and atmosphere, while the melodic undercurrent dwells in spheres of melancholy thus giving a clear nod to tape’s title. Select tracks such as Fuck The Light Of Day are embedded with a semi-buried droning rhythmic pulse which drives the sound forwards. Self-diagnosed/self-medicated follows a similar prevailing maudlin tonal trajectory, but does include some louder noise slashes and shill feedback for good measure. Likewise Blackest Swamp is framed around heavily dourly heavy bass synth melody, as the backing noise ebbs and flows like waves on a shore.

With an experimental yet clearly cinematic quality, and artful approach to composition and flow, the seven tracks span a run time of around 45 minutes and is an extremely evocative and engaging listen. A great discovery and very enjoyable tape overall.

Mytrip – Keeper

Mytrip – Keeper LP Amek Collective 2020

It has been a couple of years since I last checked in with the activities of Mytrip, but their 2016 album Filament was an excellent release which has received occasional spins over the years. In my review from 2017 I noted it: ‘operates at the border regions between dark ambient, drone, (modern) industrial and (abstracted) experimental techno, therefore encompassing a sound that defies easy categorisation’ (full review here). Keeper is the brand-new six tracks album and while continues also substantially builds on the earlier sonic framework by blending its elements in more varied yet unified way. Also, according to the promo blurb, the core of the album has its basis in a 2018 live performance at the Bulgarian National Radio, which has been further expanded and reworked.

Eyepiece opens the album with amorphous and ethereal drones blended with jittery programming and functions to immediately draw focused attention, before the mid-track it twists off in a different direction with sustained synth melodies. We Are All Shadow People follows and has a sense of stationary motionlessness resulting a series of duelling looped textures and abstracted synth lines. In then arcing away from this stasis, Unsealing Colossus divergently features widescreen vistas with sweeping ‘wind textured’ drones, muted melodious pulses and other semi-fractured rhythmic elements. Blood Black Like Water is then as brooding as the title suggests, based around a murky aquatic churn and throbbing base pulse, while a slow bass kick edges the track forwards. Upheaval shifts the mood again and is extremely filmic in tone, given its driving / throbbing techno pulse and maudlin cinematic synths, while the album’s concluding piece Warmth Patterns, is perhaps the most melodious track of all, with interweaving ‘glimmering’ textures (and perhaps draws a fleeting compassion to the likes of Fennesz).

Each of the six album tracks sits at around the five-minute mark, meaning the total run time is around 30 or so minutes, yet given its compositional variation it nebulously feels to be much longer than this. Equally the abstracted line-work found within nature as illustrated on the the cover is a suitable visual metaphor for the flowing complexity of the music. More varied, freeform and self-assured than Filament, Keeper is equally immediate as it complex in sonic construction, meaning it draws attention on first listen and maintains it on repeated rotations. Recommended.

Ergomope – Етиологии

Ergomope – Етиологии 2xMC AMEK 2019

AMEK are a Bulgarian underground experimental label and while I have not followed all of their output, from what I have heard they are releasing a decent amount of atypical post-industrial music. In this context I have not come across the Ergomope project before, but that is also perhaps explained by the fact that Етиологии appears to be their only release to date.

Opening with short experimental and evocative piano motif which has been layered and treated in studio, it immediately catches attention in the most positive of ways, before shifting off into a length 15-minute track framed around grey hued sonic treatments of obviously urban based field records. But not to be based on raw field recordings alone, those elements are coupled with sonically melodious and shimmering drones which blend and intertwine and carries the material forward at a generally unhurried pace. Likewise, though a number of tracks the minimalist field recordings elements have been looped for vaguely rhythmic effect, while on occasion the drones and field recordings elevate in pressure and force towards an heavier post-industrial frame of reference, where the sound builds to a peak before recedes again. In other sections there appears to be what sounds like abstracted playing of a treated piano, and sections of shrill orchestral strings and percussion which have been mutated in a studio environment. Of individual note, lengthy track Whiteout functions as a sort of album centrepiece given its more prominent musicality, including layered piano playing, plucked string instruments, and elevating melodious drones late in the track.

Clearly there is lot to digest across the two cassettes, amounting to a run time of around 80 minutes. But with emotive experimental ambiental music such as this, appreciation is rewarded from an unhurried listening, allowing the shifting and morphing sonics to unfurl at their own pace. For the sake of comparison, the likes of the material released on Touch, and specifically the likes of Fennesz and BJ Nilsen comes strongly to mind, which is testament to the quality of this material, despite its relative obscurity. In then noting that the Black Sea is referenced in the promo text, and is a title of a Fennesz album, perhaps my comparative impressions are more than mere coincidence? Either way this has been both an enjoyable and rewarding listen.

Mytrip – Filament

Mytrip – Filament LP Amek 2016

Although not having come across this Bulgarian solo project before, sole member Angel Simitchiev has issued a dozen releases since 2007, with ‘Filament’ being his latest offering.  And although the project is billed as an ambient / drone project, this release operates at the border regions between dark ambient, drone, (modern) industrial and (abstracted) experimental techno, therefore encompassing a sound that defies easy categorisation.

‘All Black’ opens the album with a slow spiraling, vortex inducing drones (…think of a more mellow Yen Pox), while the following cut ‘Fibre Mask’ blends some excellent micro-tonal textures, smattering of keys, slow throbbing kick and deep ‘dub’ rhythm to drive the mood (…and consequently is the first album standout).  ‘Dust’ then rounds out the first side with a short piece of mid-toned shimmering synths, combined with deep bass addled drones and minimalist rhythmic programming towards the end for good measure.  Another album highlight in the form of ‘Lustre’ opens the flip side of the vinyl, which after an extended, laid back droning introduction adds a driving mid-paced kick-drum, moody synths and additional swirling drones.  ‘Adaptive’ regresses with sub-orchestral vortices and a dour synth melody (…coupled with some seriously heavy bass rumbles), while ‘Soft/ Outer’ closes out the album with a dark and heady mix of moody minimalist dark ambient, bass driven drones and laid back beat (…a sublime conclusion).

Sonically and visually this release would slot quite easily into the current rosters of the likes of Posh Isolation, Hospital Productions or Northern Electronics, which should give a clue to the hallmarks of this as a high quality production. Also after having used the group’s Bandcamp page to first sample this release, I can say that online listening does not do this release full justice, as the vinyl mastering really elevates the sound through its deep and heavy bass production.  Perhaps this release slightly deviates from the usual types of releases reviewed herein, but ‘Filament’ demonstrates some clever intermingling and styles and influences without being overtly slavish to any one particular genre. A slick matt card gatefold cover rounds outs the visual and physical presentation, with the music pressed on the black vinyl being worthy of investigation if this review has raised any interest or intrigue.