FJORDNE & stabilo — Andrew

From approaching silence to finding the sound inside of it, I'm so excited to introduce a new label to Pound for Pound, a perfect follow-up to our last post. Sound In Silence is about as perfect and perfectly obvious choice for us as possible, specializing in ambient, drone, lower-case sounds. As the label's bio tells us, "Sound In Silence is a small diy record label based in Athens, Greece. The label was established in spring 2006, trying to release exclusive high quality new music by a wonderful international roster. All releases are in limited editions, presented in collectible handmade packaging with beautiful cover designs." It's the latter aspect that might appeal to me the most right now, the handmade, DIY nature of the entire operation. While Sound In Silence has been around for a decade, there have been only 35 releases in that time (with 20% of those coming in the last year alone); that mix of the handmade and the unhurried reinforces the sense that this is an entity operating at its own time, on its own time, undisturbed by markets and trends.We're going to take a look at the label's two most recent releases this week and then dig into the back catalogue in the near future. For anyone who reads this site, I am confident that any of their releases will be right up your alley; therefore, I highly recommend heading to the Sound In Silence Bandcamp and get a jump on things by buying a few albums and supporting another amazing ambient entity.

I wanted to start this focus with a look at Andrew, the recent split EP featuring two longer tracks from Stabilo and two shorter etudes from FJORDNE. It is a good indication both of the complexity of sounds that the label curates, a sort of more than meets the ear aesthetic, and its cosmopolitanism, as evidenced by the Greek-based label highlighting to relatively obscure Japan-based artists on this CD; this No Borders practice is essential today, happy to see it at the heart of labels I love.

Both artists were new to me, so I will rely on the label for more info on the two. Stabilo is the solo project of Hiroshima-based Yasutica Horibe, a member of the post-rock/shoegaze band Speaker Gain Teardrop. Beginning in 2002, Horibe has been releasing solo electronic music as Stabilo on labels such as U-Cover, Novel Sounds and Mimi Records. FJORDNE is the solo project of Tokyo-based Fujimoto Shunichiro, through which he has released 6 albums and 1 EP on labels such as Kitchen Label, White Paddy Mountain, Dynamophone Records, and Ryoondo-Tea. Both artists mix acoustic and electronic instruments, although Stabilo's music seems to begin from the electronic side while FJORDNE's emerges from the other side. 

On first listen, I would have said that it was half ambient drift (Stabilo), half classical piano compositions (FJORDNE); pleasant enough, but nothing that struck me as anything more than background music that you would hear on a Spotify Music To Help You Study playlist. Ah, how wrong first impressions can be! This one has been a slow burner for me, as it didn’t really take hold until I had listened to it multiple times. Interestingly, its short duration initially was a main problem, as the album felt too brief to really dig in; however, because it was only 22 minutes of music and I have no real social life to speak of, I was able to keep coming back to it without feeling daunted, like I had to commit a sizable chunk of time to it. Through repeated listens, I began to notice the background of this background music and was blown away. These quieter sounds that elude notice suggest a layered space, that as one gets better at listening closely, one will notice a deeper and more complex world was right there all along.

In Stabilo’s case, this means two tracks of a shoegazed, monolithic fuzz that gradually erodes over the course of 7 minutes, as piano notes, field recordings, glitchy clicks and cuts and dark drones wear away at the totality. Closer "Alison" is the highlight for me; it's the darker of the two tracks, as the haze feels more ominous and thicker on this one. Perhaps because of that thickness, more sounds are able to emerge over its duration. The first half of the track, with its water and wind sounds, give the feel of being on the coast seeing the dark clouds forming and knowing that a storm's coming in. But while the volume and activity increases over the second half, the storm never materializes; instead, these beautiful, plaintive piano notes ring out, suggesting not a sudden storm but a slow heartbreak is unfolding. It's wonderful stuff that confirms this is an artist to pay attention to. 

FJORDNE's track are the true revelation, as what at first sounds like nostalgic piano music that you'd hear in a Woody Allen movie during a sappy Manhattan scene turns out to be a gentle clash between the classical and modern, pretty and ugly. The lovely piano notes find themselves gradually subverted over the course of 3+ minutes, as bleeps, noises and even human voices strike notes of discord. Listen to  "Aquainted" ASAP, as it is my favorite track on the record (right now at least). The best description I can give is that it sounds like a live concert recording of a solo jazz piano recital, with the sounds of the lobby and a classical concert happening in an adjacent room leaking in to the mix. It reminds one of sound's ability to evade, of how there is sound even in silence, setting up a gentle, but productive clash between genres. It's really nice and unexpected and worth a listen.

Head over to the Bandcamp store to get your own copy of the release. I'd highly recommend grabbing a physical copy, as not only is the music top-notch, but it is a beautifully packaged object with a stark cover design. As of this writing, there are only 20 left of the edition of 150; if you want your own, buy it right now. For those who can wait, it will be available as a download once the CDr sells out. As always, I can't stress how important it is to support this type of music and the people who making it available. We'll have more to say on Sound In Silence, see you back here in a few days.