A few months back a weird thing happened, one that has never happened in the history of EvilSponge (14 years and counting!). In the space of a few weeks, we got two different promo requests from two different promo companies for two different releases on two different labels BY THE SAME BAND.
I suppose it's not that odd --indie bands release stuff on all kinds of different labels as they try to build a career, but i thought it was a strange coincidence.
The band in question is called Halcyon Chamber, and they are band from Philadelphia that combines ambient electronics, classical music, and dreampoppish singing. It is a blend that i have never heard done exactly like this, and i really like it.
At the end of December, Everything Is Chemical released Halycon Chamber's debut in their Virtual 7" series. It's an EP, but i guess if it was a 33 1/3 RPM (virtual) 7" the music could all fit on it. There is about 14 minutes of music on this release, which is totally free, just like everything in the series.
It opens with Parallels, a minute of synths sliding against each other: tinkling, droning, ebbing and flowing. It fades out and a more piano-like keyboard bit comes in for Coalition of Circuitry. After a few seconds, a slide guitar drones by and a female voice starts singing, lightly, delicately, almost lost in the mix. It is amazing pretty, with shades of Devics.
Phosphene Dream is layers of piano, her wordless half-heard singing, and sawing strings. It is a really light, sparse tune, with the strings and piano echoing in wide space. Another really beautiful tune.
The debut virtual 7" ends with The Space Between The Words. This song reminds me a lot of Hammock, mostly because the guitar is back here, but echoing instead of sliding. The vocalist, one Jasmine C, sings lightly while the guitar chugs slowly (in a very Robin Guthrie fashion), and keyboards tinkle. Eventually there is a typewriter sound and a sample in French.
After i listened to that 7", i sat in awed silence for a while. It's a hell of a debut.
About a month after the virtual 7" came out, Fluttery Records released Halcyon Chamber's debut self-titled EP, which you can buy from the label in physical form, or download for free from the band's Bandcamp page. I got a promo download a week or so after the promo download of the debut 7” came in. I grabbed it immediately…
The EP starts off with The Space Between The Words, that one song linking these two releases.
The next tune is Vignettes, which starts with a drone and her voice, both distant. The sounds grow organically with strings and a chugging, sampled beat joining. The overall effect is like GYBE trying to make a song to be in a Baraka-like ambient movie. It’s another really beautiful song. Our Dance Under a Lake is a similar song, with a really nice piano melody, Robin Guthrie-style guitars, and slightly less Baraka-esque tone. I guess this is more like The Moon and the Melodies, which is a great comparison in my book.
The slide guitar is back on Fading Sky, paired with piano, soaring strings, and her voice lightly aahing.
And finally the EP ends with Death of the Universe. This is a 10 minute piece, the band really stretching out here, taking time to let the ambience spread. It's the sparsest piece in their two debut releases as well, for that same reason. That said, i think there is potential here, but that Halcyon Chamber just haven't quite figured out long form ambience as much as they have shorter pieces. This kind of music can easily come across as unfocused, and that is sort of what is happening here. Still, it's a noble effort, and i am not complaining.
I cannot tell you how long it has been since a band's debut has struck me like this. I am simply amazed, and i want everyone to listen to this. There is a lot going on in each song, but in a mellow and enjoyable way.
And it's all free, so get downloading.