Audio Saturdays! Alaskan Tapes

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re fully aware that the new La Sudar album, The Debussy Loops, is available to stream and download now. Some call it post-drone. Some call it space elevator music. We don’t know. We’re glad it’s finished. So for the next couple of weeks, while we bask in the post-release glow, we’re going to shift the spotlight over to some of the artists we’ve discovered on Bandcamp this year.

This week: Alaskan Tapes: For Us Alone

Alaskan Tapes‘ brilliant new album “For Us Alone” starts in a typically ambient way. Synths fade in, with soundscapes layering in on top of them. Are they field recordings of waves? Some keyboard sound effect distorted and washed out? There’s a crest, a falling, and then another wave of synths come in. It’s very pretty, calming, and was very quickly edging its way to the front of my after-work walk playlist. This is beautiful, I thought. There’s nothing crazy happening, nothing too crowded, just beautiful space. From the beginning it’s clear the artist has a wonderful sense of composition.

Track two, “Floating, Completely” starts in a very similar way, but those soundscapes are a little clearer this time. Sounds like… a ride cymbal? Then very clearly, a bass note, way up the neck, and finally, something I never expected to hear surfing the ambient channel: a snare drum. There’s a full kit here, anchoring a full trio. It’s perfect, actually. Strings come in supporting the main melody, and just like that, everything drops out, leaving just the ambient sounds that have been present throughout.

Curious, I scroll through the album to find the other tags the artist uses to describe the record I’m enjoying. The normal ones are there: ambient, drone, chillout, but also some new ones I quickly click on and follow: focus, lowercase (??) and compositional ambient, a term I hadn’t heard before. It seems to fit: the trio, which comes and goes throughout the album, is the source of a lot of the album’s power, but the heart of the album flows through the very deliberate construction of the music and the artist’s gift for soundscaping.

There’s other field-recording stuff worked in throughout: phone-in-pocket style capturings of jingling keys, fence creaks, faraway voices. Synth tones suggest elevator dings. Floorboards creak. Piano phrases loop mournfully. But as the album rushes towards its incredible climax, the band trio pushes back towards the front of the stage.

It’s worth considering the band dynamic and the simple, gorgeous string arrangements in the context of ambient music. What separates what’s happening in “ambient” music from what’s happening in music stuck with the odd “post-rock” label might be the subject of another column. But when I think of “post rock” bands like Godspeed You Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky, I think of tension and release, I think of storytelling using samples and themes to build a narrative. But to combine that urgency with what Eno calls the “ignorable” quality of great ambient music is quite an achievement. I’m not sure if that’s what the artist means by “compositional ambient”, but it shines through on this record.

Don’t believe me? Check out the monumental, heroic finale, “The Sky Sings Its Chorus (For Us Alone)” parts 1 & 2, which is some of the most beautiful music I’ve heard all year. The album fades out much the way it came in – inconspicuously – but front to back, this is one of the most satisfying listening experiences I’ve had in a while.


Big Congratulations to JOHN PAVLOU, the winner of the most recent Songwriting Prompt Contest! We’ll be featuring his song “Undo” in a column in the near future, so watch this space. In the meantime make sure you GET ON THE MAILING LIST so you don’t miss the next one!!

Astoria, Queens, July 2021

Audio Saturdays! CELER

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re fully aware that the new La Sudar album, The Debussy Loops, is available to stream and download now. Some call it post-drone. Some call it space elevator music. We don’t know. We’re glad it’s finished. So for the next couple of weeks, while we bask in the post-release glow, we’re going to shift the spotlight over to some of the artists we’ve discovered on Bandcamp this year.

This week: CELER: It Would Have, But it Wasn’t

When surfing through Bandcamp tags to find new artists to soundtrack our after-work walks, it varies what inspires us to check out one artist or another. We’ve always been partial here at Sunshine and Wind to great cover art, or a provocative title, but a lot of times it was just random clicking. As you can imagine, this can be a frustrating method, as there is a LOT of music out there. But every once in a while, we would find an artist where their first few notes would ring out and it would be like opening a door to an air conditioned room on a hot day. It just felt right immediately. Celer (Will Long, an American artist working in Tokyo, Japan) is one of those artists. They have a lot of music on their bandcamp page which we encourage you to check out, but we’re going to review their most recent release, It Would Have, But it Wasn’t.

The first piece, “An Implosion, a Smearing; Turns to Dust” is a gorgeous assembly of misty, welcoming major key synths stacked and staggered and looped. Within each loop there are many layers, yet nothing clashes, leaving so much to discover as the piece progresses. As with any great looped piece, everything is so seamlessly working together that there’s no definitive beginning or end. One is able to latch on to any moment as a starting point. The first time you may focus on the C-F major key single notes, on the next you may be drawn to the cracking rainwater hiss, and on another maybe it’s the strange resonance of a particular overtone that pops. As the title suggests, the piece disintegrates into a sustained, evaporating tone around the 16 minute mark, and the effect is of having been led somewhere only to look around and see your guide is no longer there. In the silence, you await instructions.

The second piece, At a Loss For, is the resolution to this journey. Just as engaging as “An Implosion…”, but more haunting, it is built on similar principles and its execution is just as fulfilling. The piece is built around a simple descending triad in D major, but the lush synths which round it out are less gentle, more immediate, and a single off-note, not quite dissonant, not quite in harmony with the rest of the music, gives a slight edge to the relaxing, pillow-y soundscape. There are similar effects and sounds here which serve as callbacks or flipsides to “An Implosion…” and creates a sense of unity that enriches the entire album.

If “An Implosion…” is a welcoming, “At a Loss For” is the other side of the coin. The back nine, the realization that you’ve crossed the halfway point of the journey and are being led away. There’s as much to see, and as much wonder to experience, but it’s always going to be tinged with a slight melancholy. As this album was originally released on limited edition cassette (sadly sold out at the time of this writing), the entrance/exit, yin/yang vibe of the album can easily be turned on its head. We can imagine picking up the tape, not knowing which side we put in first, and letting that dictate our journey. If Side B goes on first, we can have an entirely different experience of the piece. We applaud Celer’s wonderful explorations here, and hope to hear much more from this artist in the future.


We’ll be back next week with another review. And we’ll also be announcing the winner of our Songwriting Prompt Contest! Get in the game and GET ON THE MAILING LIST so you don’t miss the next one!!

Audio Saturdays! HOTEL NEON

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re fully aware that the new La Sudar album, The Debussy Loops, is available to stream and download now. Some call it post-drone. Some call it space elevator music. We don’t know. We’re glad it’s finished. So for the next couple of weeks, while we bask in the post-release glow, we’re going to shift the spotlight over to some of the artists we’ve discovered on Bandcamp this year.

This week: HOTEL NEON

Texture. It’s easy enough to understand the concept when talking about physical objects. If someone speaks of the texture of sandpaper, or the bark of a tree, you know what they’re referring to. When it comes to music however, it’s a little harder to define. Clearly the word is thrown around when describing how a piece of music, especially ambient music, sounds. But what does it mean? Is it describing the way a certain tone hits your ear? Is it calling out the way the music approaches the subject it’s meant to evoke? It’s easy enough to say “I know it when I hear it” when talking about musical textures, but a little harder to pin down. Which makes it all the more impressive when we hear an artist with a firm grasp on texture and how to use it in minimalist music.

This brings us to All is Memory, the most recent album by Philadelphia, PA artist Hotel Neon. The album is a masterclass in ambient texture and how to use it effectively. We know personally, from our own forays into ambient composition, how difficult it is to apply texture to instrumental music. One track might sound great, but lacking. So other sounds are built on top of it. These might sound nice on their own, but added to the original track, the textures clash and the piece falls apart.

There’s no such clashing on All is Memory. The soundscapes presented here are “dense” and layered, but completely harmonious. Every track has a lot going on, but never becomes busy. Every note or tone has ample room to breathe, even as other elements swirl in and out. The first two tracks introduce these themes gently, and as the album progresses, there are callbacks to tones and certain textural elements. One example is a specific crackling tone that depending on the song’s context, evokes several different things: a campfire, crumpling a piece of paper, trees rustling, or rain falling. The overall effect of playing this album is like being in a room with many windows, and each track is like a window opening. As you look out the window, the sounds rush in. You hear the clouds, the buildings, the rolling hills. Then with the next window, you’re looking at a lot of the same landscape, but it’s a different perspective. Shifted slightly. In this sense the album is perfectly sequenced: by the time you’ve reached the fifth or sixth window, your experience of the other windows informs the current one.

All is Memory rewards close and return listens. And we don’t want to give the impression it’s just textures and sounds. They just happen to be the effective canvas on which this music is drawn. Out of these textures, music emerges: breathy synths on standout track “The Hope of Becoming”. The crisp plucked piano strings on “Blossom in Ruin” give a suggestion of space (this is the track that inspired the room-with-many-windows metaphor) as they slap off the walls of some small room, and get tighter and closer. The textures overwhelm. On what is, for us, the emotional centerpiece of the album (track 6 “Tidal”) an actual field recording of running water is used to evoke a riverside stroll, which builds to a fantastic moment which recalls the intense sensation of the sun peeking out from the clouds for the first time on an overcast day. It’s deeply moving in every respect.

This is what the best instrumental music does for us. It guides us to a place where we can use its story to inform our story. While All is Memory is exemplary ambient music, its effect is not limited by genre. While we were a little late getting on the bus (it was released in December 2020), this is not a record you want to miss.


We’ll be back next week with another review. Until then don’t forget about our Songwriting Prompt Contest!! Entries are closing soon so get them in!!

Finally- here’s another picture of Astoria’s most beautiful cat, Maple. She loves our record cabinet! I like to think she’s trying to get me to whip out those Bartok quartets. It’s been a while.

the Maple 🍁