Following several releases of ambient and light electronic music, experimental composer Billy Yfantis reached peak minimalism with his 2021 album ‘Noises From The Outer Space’. It was so paired down it made even Tangerine Dream’s most ambient sounds seem busy, and so wantonly empty in places that it couldn’t actually be called music in the traditional sense. …And yet, somehow, the blankets of electronic sound – often no more than white noise, taking Eno’s idea of “room colourant” to extremes – managed to conjure various mental images and create something surprisingly effective.
Following on from 2019’s ‘Everything Is Coloured’, ‘We Were The Moon’ is another fine, mellow yet complex work from Dutch instrumental act Eskina. Its ten ambient oriented pieces have very strong roots of chamber music, with a dominant cello and viola used effectively throughout, and by twisting through arrangements with slight overtones of prog and plenty of massive soundtrack-like moods, the musicians create something that’s both rich and rewarding.
One of the UK prog scene’s true underground talents, Vincent Carr’s complex acoustic work and love for pastoral soundscapes has helped create some interesting recordings over the years. On 2016’s ‘Rekindled’ he injected a very strong British folk rock vibe into some largely instrumental pieces, and on the follow up, ‘New Paeans’, he truly unleashed his inner Mike Oldfield on lengthy arrangements that blended prog, new age sounds and a hefty dose of acoustic complexity. Obviously he was working on a thousandth of Oldfield’s basic 70s budget, but the outcome certainly wasn’t in any way inferior. After that, Vince released a couple of ambient, improvised works that showed off yet another side to his talent. Those were approached with interest by a few of his biggest online champions, but were never designed for mass acceptance.
On the follow up to 2020’s ‘Entering The Solar System’, Billy Yfantis delves even deeper into a world of ambient sound and disquieting electronica. Although feeling very much like a continuation of previous works, in some ways, ‘Noises From The Outer Space’ offers a very different listening experience. ‘Solar System’ gave listeners fairly easily digestible bursts of sound, best demonstrated via ‘Venus’ (a collection of very retro sounding synth noises and laser bursts not too dissimilar to an old Jarre work) and ‘Sun’ which dispensed most elements of melody in favour of a scratchier synthesized backdrop which quickly sounded like a musical shorthand for feeling detached. By contrast, ‘…Outer Space’ opts for massive blankets of sound of a far more minimalist nature.
Vincent Carr’s fifth album ‘Rekindled’ (released under the name Vincent Carr’s SUMIC in 2016) was one of the year’s most pleasant surprises. Taking influences from Nick Drake, John Martyn, various 70s prog bits and a smidgeon of trad English folk, the album took the listener on a very pastoral musical journey. Traces of Freddie Phillips’ children’s TV scores also added to the album’s very English qualities. It was an album only heard by a relative few, but those who did, invariably loved it.