The second release on Tessellate is our first attempt at a compilation album and an ambitious one at that, clocking in at 2 hours long. Earthtones spans the internet-based contemporary ambient music scene, with a concept that helps us concentrate more on the geography that lies between each artist. In making worldwide communication easier, the internet has made it easy to forget the sheer size of our planet. Not only has each artist supplied an unreleased track for Earthtones; they have also provided an image of their local surroundings to accompany it to help further drive home the theme. Some are of local landscapes, others are personal places of interest to the respective artist. When you download the album, these images will show with the tracks when you listen to them on your laptop or mp3 player and as the tracks change, you’ll transport across the globe and back again, acting as a sort of postcard from the artist to you, the listenerThe loose plans for Earthtones were laid out when Tessellate Recordings began operation early last year. It was only following my unexpected redundancy in the summer that I was forced to take a serious look at the label after I was unable to finance it. After toying with the idea of folding the label, I have put together a plan which involves three stunning physical releases in the future. These will all start from the money made from Earthtones –everybody who purchases will be helping us to fund the next CD release!
Curated by Harry Towell
Mastered by Byron Christodoulou
Cover artwork by Vlna
Additional photography by artists, unless stated
Bonus artwork by Stephen Spera
“Earth Hour is not solely, as some may say, a symbolic act. The campaign is a universal cry for help, aiming to reach all four corners of the drought-feverish, rain-swept, tornado-hit, turbulent climes of the Earth. The hour raises awareness on the outspoken and controversial subject of climate change, and also helps to substantially reduce the amount of energy we all use, if only for an hour per year. As the hour strikes, the presence of artificial light vanishes, but so do our fears, anxieties and apprehensions. The new-found darkness allows us the ability to connect deeply with our surroundings on Earth, and as reflection descends, the whole experience transforms into an incredibly relaxing hour, with no lights or electrical sources ready to distract the mind. It’s a sensation that attracts an amazing clarity, one for both the mind and our thoughts, stimulating senses that were previously subdued by the freedom in vision. For only one hour, a very refreshing, pure peace filters through amid a calm silence. And ambient music is a perfect filter for the music of the Earth, loose in the air, all around us like a loving spirit. It’s an opportunity to be truly at one with our surroundings, and it is a sensation that we have, perhaps, neglected, but it is one that our predecessors must have thoroughly enjoyed. Deep thoughts are allowed ample space to breathe, and the spiritual seeds that the healthy soul depends on are nurtured and restored to the full. Seeing is, for some, believing, but it’s quite an eye-opener (sorry) to realise just how dependent we are on the sense of sight. Seen through the filter of the eyes, the beauty of the Earth, and of all that surrounds us, is spectacularly viewed, but it is the soul that really takes in the gorgeous sight of it all, and it is the soul that is truly affected; the eyes are only the window. An epiphany of appreciation dawns as thoughts circle: the purpose of our place on this Earth, not even a grain of sand along the beach of infinity. Our reliance on light and energy is a subtle enslavement; we really don’t appreciate, or show the necessary awareness, our impact drives into the Earth. Our interactions leave constant footprints on her soil, as she leaves her imprints on the human body. The pitch-black hour highlights in red ink just how much we’ve come to rely on artificial light, as our species drains the planet of her beautiful gifts and sustaining resources. The only problem is that in the dark – in front of our eyes – the red ink disappears.
The dazzling blue eyes of the Earth are at once gazing and glazing over. Our planet is just as beautiful with the lights out. If we embrace the light of the night as we do the light of the day, then sixty minutes may potentially become a way of life. You’ll even get to see the stunning Milky Way Galaxy up in the heavens, with no light pollution to conceal it – and that’s a pretty good deal.
Earthtones is a collection soaked in the falling rain, sent of clouds and found in the upper atmosphere; a flowing ambience living out a vibrant, life-drenched day at high altitudes. At almost two hours in length, the record sails along and never veers into indulgence; it’s natural and beautiful music for a natural and beautiful rocky planet. In fact, the music could just as easily take up twenty-four hours, for this is the music of the Earth. You’ll find no artificial light on Earthtones, the latest release from Tessellate Recordings, which itself aims to fund new arrivals. And with ambient music as deep as this, from such a rich line-up of musical talent, it’s a very worthy cause.
A new day dawns, and Earthtones is alive. Another sunrise sits on the horizon, a warm air breezes over the running rivers, lakes and crescent valleys lit by the ascension of the sun. Earthtones attracts this kind of radiance. Shining oceans reflect off of clean electric guitars (‘Restbelief’), as crystal clear as glass across a sea of emeralds. Prismatic colours gleam through, as the oh-so-clean tones reflect the stunning purity of our beautiful planet. It can be found all over the world, in every corner and in every region, and the music flows an unbelievable fountain of peace found in nature’s arms. A trickle of clear water sprinkles over a dusty, melancholic piano melody, putting out the forest fires with cool tones but fading, fading, as if it were an awareness campaign lost on the trail, finally ending in disintegration. She has her own struggle, brought on by carrying 9 billion people and millions of species; the year-on-year assault on the environment, her atmosphere and the degradation of resources – not to mention our struggle to find renewable energy – all come at a cost. Earthtones is, above all, pure ambience, revelling in diversity and alive to the full. Ambient atmospheres act as a coating, like an ozone layer above the troposphere.
Dehydrated deserts deprived of water seem to thirst for this refreshing tone, and they lap it up as if it was fresh water on the shoreline of the soul.
A dazzling blossom of lucid, tropical colours burst in front of the eye like a skyline inked by soaring birds (‘Toxic Artificial Sea’). This is one of the most beautiful tracks on an album that is awash with revealing beauty. Palm-trees seem to sway as an ambient, turquoise breeze plays with sun-dappled leaves, in a brilliance of light that is both deep and warm to the approaching touch of outstretched palms, inviting the air closer. Drones are substantial, but they still feel as light as a feather (‘Raspberryhill Lane’), and sprinkled by rain.
‘Three Eight’ (Ekca Liena) uses up all of the electricity and energy as if it was the last, unstable fossil fuel left, running currents shaped like lightning-bolts on waves of distorted static, carving out electrical shocks like daggers sinking into the Earth’s soil and soul. ‘Limbus’, and her lush, green forests so vibrant with life, releases a trail of light that peeks through the branches in the midst of silent trees.
A beautiful piano section flows through ‘Riverside Park’, offering a retreat away from it all. A positive progression takes place among the floor of leaves and knotted vines, in a place where nature flourishes.
Peace may be found here.
Airy drones shower the background, adding a density to the environments and somehow making them seem and feel all the more real, in place and in substance. A beautiful still image complements every track, and the imagery inside the music complements each photograph. These musical places are very real, tied to the Earth through sound.
As Earthtones progresses, the air turns a deeper shade of blue, increasingly chilled amid the chirps of light, electronic static and the free-flow of ambience in nature. Chiming bells ring out the peace of the day, lost in the echoes and the blur of the seasons. The voice of humanity can be heard in the streets (‘Around The Block’), just as a reminder of our place on the planet – for now – but it isn’t long before the natural tones and drones displace these voices. Deep, almost tribal rhythms enter, but they’re only an obscured reverberation. The sound seems to arise from the East, but its origins are lost in the air; it doesn’t matter if it’s the orient, or Africa, or South America; it all falls under the music of the Earth. Birdsong dawns as the sunrise brings renewed light; Earth’s own sleeping hour is over. Exotic animals cry out from the jungles, as if the shrieks are their own cry for help, or the Earth’s voice made audible through a species walking her terrain, until it is brutally cut.
Earthtones carries an appropriate tagline: ‘We are from everywhere’. It is truly an international record, but it doesn’t shout it out. Earthtones is the quiet, thin layer sitting above the clouds and above the stratosphere, a heart-felt dedication to our beautiful planet Earth. If you listen carefully, you may hear her breathing as she continues to spin.
She’s still alive.” – Fluid Radio
“The digital era has been hard on music labels, and especially hard on the production of physical copies. Thankfully, this crunch has also inspired a bout of creativity. Tessellate Recordings, led by Harry Towell (Spheruleus) has just launched an ambitious effort to raise funds. The selling point is clearly the music, an overview of modern ambience that gathers 28 artists on 26 tracks for two hours of meditative glory. The unique aspect is the intentional and literal mapping of each artist, a demonstration of the global nature of the genre. In addition, each artist has provided a photo of home or local surroundings that pops up whenever the digital track is played. This latter aspect helps listeners to connect to the musicians as well as to the music. For anyone even remotely interested in ambient music, this is a must-hear; and to anyone interested in keeping the scene going, this is a must-buy. Over half of the artists have already been featured on A Closer Listen, and the others fit in nicely as well.
When presented with this much music, one naturally begins to ruminate on the state of the genre. Must ambient music always be soft, or relegated to the background? What makes particular artists and tracks stand out? If it stands out, is it still ambient? Whatever one may think of the necessity of ambient music to sound like other ambient music, the truth of the market is that the field is glutted with similar performers. While a lack of originality may be fine for the average listener, it seldom translates into memory, reviews or sales. Certain Earthtones tracks contain an extra element that the others lack; to this reviewer, these tracks point toward a continued evolution in the genre. Listener favorites will vary, but to this reviewer, a few are particularly noteworthy.
Ruhe is a newer performer who has been impressing us over the past few months, thanks to a series of releases (A Beautiful Weakness, Organs, Easing) that have varied in their timbre, but not in their quality. ”45°51’37.94 N, 122°40’11.24″ succeeds by including a generous amount of sound sources ranging from tape loops and field recordings to guitar and dulcimer. The ear needs variety, which Ruhe is happily willing to provide. The same is true of Danny Clay‘s “Silent Snow Secret Snow”, whose music boxes might have found a home on A Beautiful Weakness. The key to this track is the bed of tweets and crunches, a combination that brings out its wintry intentions. The prolific Wil Bolton continues in this vein with the stuttered guitar and foreground traffic of “Descent”. These selections share an interdisciplinary connection; instead of simply implying the outdoors, these tracks include the outdoors, but without the tired overuse that all-too-often plagues the genre.
The compilation also includes a few tracks that don’t sound like what listeners might expect. Ekca Liena‘s “Three Eight (Earthtones Version)” delves into drone by incorporating elements of filtered abrasion. In the same manner as the previously highlighted pieces offer horizontal variety, “Three Eight” offers vertical variety, enough to make the listener sit up and take notice. Lauki tackles the same subject in a different manner on “Barcelona”, with percussive glitches and the sound of what might be a sampled foghorn. Must ambient music be soft? Apparently not ~ and these tracks prove the theory. Finally buried deep in the album is Felix Gebhard‘s “Around the Block”, which sounds like a typical ambient piece until a marching band passes by, conjuring pleasant associations with Sigur Rós ”Se Lest” and concluding with the notes of live brass.
Should you purchase this compilation? Here’s a simple test: if you’ve read this far, then you’re the right person for Earthtones. Purchasing the album is a great way to show one’s support not only for Tessellate, but for the physical format and for ambient music in general.” – A Closer Listen
“Tessellate Recordings is a new label started by Harry Towell, well-known for curating tons of fine music for the Audio Gourmet netlabel, and of course for his own music as Spheruleus.
Just picking a few names from the contributor list: Caught in the Wake Forever, Wil Bolton, Maps and Diagrams, Savaran, Ekca Liena, Bartosz Dziadosz (Pleq), James Murray, Damian Valles, Monolyth & Cobalt, Lauki, Offthesky, Radere, The Inventors of Aircraft. – I guess that’s enough to get you interested….
Not only did the artists contribute a musical track: they also provided ‘an image of their local surroundings to accompany it to help further drive home the theme’.
The tracks contain these images as a personal ‘track cover image’, so when playing back the album ‘you’ll transport across the globe and back again, acting as a sort of postcard from the artist to you, the listener’.
Contributors come from all over the world, and together they present a wide array of different styles that are nowadays filed under ‘ambient’.
Tessellate Recordings has made an impressive start with these first two releases, and it’s definitely worth spending a few bucks to help fund their future releases.
Especially when these bucks also get you a compilation album like this!” – Ambient Blog