Common Ground Vol. 3

Various Artists – Common Ground Vol. 3 (Safe Ground Records, 2023)

Safe Ground Records extends a sequel to its Common Ground series. While goosebumps run down your arms, exclusive material is once again offered here by the finest names in the experimental and ambient scene. Work that introduces you to artists or, if you already know them, solidifies their status even more. A clever selection that fits together like a long flow. As always, ‘Common Ground’ can be listened to like a radio show. The immaculate transition between, for instance, the work of British composer Victoria Wijerante and American JJJJJerome Ellis, leave you in doxubt that you have entered a new track. Before you are overthrown by Colin Self‘s angelic and enchanting ‘Vale of The Crested Mire’, Poland’s Martyna Basta, with field recordings, a diligent plucking of her violin and those dishevelled, distinctive, elegiac voices, reaffirms her status as a rising star on the European experimental scene. Using almost exactly the same elements, London-based Damsel Elysium creates a completely different sonic universe where alienation is nonetheless central. An ultra-short ambient soundscape that tempts for more. That lurking hunger for more of this, is further whetted by Aho Ssan‘s rougher but controlled ‘Blue Tears’. The compilation hums on. You are unobtrusively dropped off at the next artist. Sometimes it breaks radically. As with Chantal Michelle‘s compelling, engaging and abrasive ‘Study for Fuses’. And again with the work of Brussels-based Liew Niyomkarn, who this time makes her signature whispers echo louder, up against clashing rhythm patterns. ‘Don’t Die Out There’. Proceeds from Common Ground go to the NGOs Sea Watch and Choose Love. Themes and titles that are all closely linked to Lamin Fofana‘s work. His ‘Love’s Shadow’, a hauntology-rich bath of sound wrapped in crackling vinyl, brings you to inner silence. A silence that Edinburgh-based Alliyah Enyo takes advantage of. She brings reverb, masses of reverb in ‘Look Godly in Your Eyes’. Her voice, her instrumentation, the atmosphere. Intoxicating and enchanting. One last time, goosebumps unabashedly run down the arms.

Marta De Pascalis – Sky Flesh

Marta De Pascalis – Sky Flesh (light-years, 2023)

Marta De Pascalis releasing her latest record ‘Sky Flesh’ on compatriot Caterina Barbieri‘s label is no surprise. As soon as the first notes resound, you are bathed in that same arpeggio lushness. Like Barbieri, De Pascalis also limits her instrumentation to one item this time, the Yamaha CS-60. A leaden, analogue synthesiser from 1977 that, in its limitation, feels like an acoustic instrument. Barely programmable, worthless presets and anything but heat-resistant. An instrument that challenges the user, and De Pascalis was only too happy to feel those beads of sweat trickling down. It leads to mostly short songs where a baroque abundance defines the melodies. In the first three, headed by opening track ‘voXCS60x’, she reveals the reverberating and oscillating malleability of that Yamaha CS-60. After which, on the dreamy ‘Yueqin’, she seems to master the machine in a different way. Exploring and playing exchanged for a wistful composition in which she exposes the soul of the machine. Technology versus the maker. Technology versus emotion. She continues on that momentum with ‘Glider’ and ‘Harmonices Infinity’. To search again for delirium with ‘Commas Light’ and ‘Cut Off Horizon’ between the exuberance of the musical tones she extracts from her machine and the minimalism you’d suspect from De Pascalis. ‘Sky Flesh’ is an album that demands constant attention in all its oscillating generosity. Intrusive but rewarding. And for that, some of the responsibility also lies with closing duo ‘L├ásciati’ and ‘Equal To No Weight At All’. The experimentation and zeal has died down. The sweat gushes off the machine. The upbeat meandering melodies of before are tempered by a harmonic calm. The Pascalis is working towards an end. As refreshing as that first rain shower after an intense heat.