When Simone Merli (see also: the Patti Smith-approved Soundwalk Collective) and Luca Calo (a.k.a. the ambient DJ Born In 1986) decided to launch their own ambient label this year, they set Concentric Records’ bar for the stratosphere with its first three releases.
Rather than slide into a steady album cycle, the duo tapped a wide range of like-minded artists for a trilogy called The Profile of the Lines. Just look at who lent exclusive tracks to the looming series, in alphabetical order: ASWA, Christina Vantzou, Daniela Huerta, Echium, Etapp Kyle, Jimmy Billingham, Hotel Neon, Jake Muir, Jana Winderen, Kareem Lofty, Max Loderbauer, Petre Inspirescu, Pole, Samuel Rohrer, Soundwalk Collective, Supply, Vladislav Delay, and William Selman. Part one dropped this week, promising everything from an early look at Pole’s next LP to a long-forgotten Vladislav Delay leftover that still sounds like it was beamed from the future.
In the following exclusive, Merli and Calo reveal some of their favorite stress reducers — proven reference points for what they hope Concentric Records will become as its catalogue takes shape….
BRIAN ENO & RICK HOLLAND – WEST BAY
Simone Merli: Brian Eno is the first ambient music I ever listened to in my teens. Aside from the many classics and masterpieces, “West Bay” is a piece that came a lot later and that I always found very moving. We often feature it as an opening track in Soundwalk Collective’s ambient sets as opening track. Rick Holland’s words (“alone on this island”) were particularly resonant during these recent times of confinement.
THOMAS KÖNER – TEIMO
Luca Calo: This track means a lot to me, and is probably one of the reasons why I embarked on this journey with Concentric Records. I see myself reflected in it — the part of me that remains a little obscure to people, and that perhaps not everyone can perceive. Here I find all those emotions that I desire and that I love to discover when I listen to a record. It touches me profoundly.
OVAL – DO WHILE
Simone: Another piece I had on loop in my teens. Mesmerized by the particularly dreamy feel of this track, 94diskont. was my favourite Oval album and an early reference of ambient electronica and glitch music. Disdaining the use of synthesizers, Oval instead deliberately mutilated CDs by writing on them with felt pens, then processed samples of fragmented sounds to create a very particular electronic style.
DATACIDE – MINDLOOP
Luca: A musical masterpiece made by two artists who influenced me a lot. Tetsu Inoue and Atom™ are definitely fundamental to my music culture. This work, which features them together, left an indelible mark on me. I still remember the emotions I felt the first time I listened to it.
VLADISLAV DELAY – E.L.E.
Simone: “E.L.E.” was featured in slightly different versions on both the first and second album of Vladislav Delay. Weaving in between ambient, dub, minimalism, and IDM, Vladislav Delay’s early work defined a new hybrid. “E.L.E.” creates a very evocative and intimate space; AllMusic called the album (Entain) “barely conscious ambience with an unsettling atmosphere.” One of my favorite compositions of his, “Six,” opens the B-side of our first release, Profile of the Lines. In my opinion, it revisits so much of his sound in one very physical yet delicate piece.
APHEX TWIN – CLIFFS
Luca: Aphex Twin is one contemporary artist who unites all those who love electronic music. It is certainly difficult to say what his most beautiful work is, but “Cliffs” is one of those tracks that best identifies my way of seeing and listening to music.
SPACE AFRIKA – GWABH
Simone: This is the first track Luca played to me when we talked about starting an ambient label together. It resonated with me instantly, and allowed me to imagine one thread we could explore through the label’s work. Heavily inspired by the industrial architecture of Northwest England, its sonic framework evokes images of rust and disintegrating concrete; the sound somewhat inspired the artwork for our first LP.
TONY ALLEN & JEFF MILLS – ON THE RUN
Luca: My favorite track on their Tomorrow Comes the Harvest EP. An incredible collaboration between two of the most inspiring artists in contemporary music, and a beautiful memory of Tony Allen, who sadly passed away recently. If you didn’t know the release date, you could hardly say in what period it was produced; it’s definitely timeless.
JAN JELINEK – MOIRÉ (PIANO & ORGAN)
Simone: The opening track off Jan Jelinek’s second studio LP. The title is derived from his production approach on the album; tracks are built around second-long samples sourced from 1960s and 1970s jazz records and manipulated beyond recognition.
ISORINNE – 9:21
Luca: Isorinne is one of those artists that I follow with great pleasure. His works always have something that inspires me. In his music I find emotions that not everyone can transmit. “9:21” is perhaps the track that struck me most — released on Northern Electronics, one of the current labels I follow the most.
KMRU – CONTINUAL
Simone: Joseph Kamaru (KMRU) is a sound artist and producer based in Nairobi, a pioneer in the East African experimental music scene and regular of the Nyegenyege festival. “Continual” is an emotionally loaded atmospheric piece, utilizing field recordings and synthesis to create an intricate sonic soundscape.
ASWA – SPATTERNS (A – ÉTUDES)
Luca: To me, “Spatterns” represents an explosion of emotions — emotions I found hard to control the first time I listened to this piece. ASWA is a very talented artist; I have been very keen since the beginning to have him part of Concentric Records. His new piece will be featured in the next release of our label. When I listened to this track I instantly wished we could have released it on Concentric, obviously if it had not already gone elsewhere.
JANA WINDEREN – EVAPORATION
Simone: Jana Winderen visited Greenland for the first time in July 2007, when did did hydrophone recordings 80 meters under and inside the ice itself. Inspired by the notion of evaporation — the slow process by which molecules in a liquid state spontaneously become gaseous. Generally seen by the gradual disappearance of a liquid from a substance when exposed to a significant volume of gas. Jana is a most inspiring artist when it comes to field recordings in the context of environmental awareness. Her practice pays particular attention to audio environments and to creatures which are hard for humans to access, both physically and aurally – deep under water, inside ice, or in frequency ranges inaudible to the human ear.
THE FIRES OF ORK – A WAY TO FOCUS THE MIND
Luca: A collaboration between Pete Namlook and Biosphere, two artists of great depth. I am a big fan of both and consider them great influencers of the scene. I chose this track because it conveys a feeling of peace, and leads us to a sense of introspection at the same time.
ANDY STOTT – LEAVING
Simone: Fragile, light and dark, hazy and unsteady. The last track off his stunning album Luxury Problems; written at a time of change and inverted sleep patterns, shortly after he gave up his day job to concentrate full-time on music. The vocals are especially moving to me — on the edge of being intelligible, extremely touching melodic lines, layered and washed out into a space of their own, driving the whole piece.
AUTUMN OF COMMUNION – EARTH WAITING
Luca: Released on Fax Records by Pete Namlook — the last one on this label, which unfortunately stopped operating after Pete’s death. Fax Records is one of my Top 5 key labels. I feel enormous respect for the work they put out, and for the number of wonderful artists who collaborated with it. My culture and approach to music very much resonates with this label.
WILLIAM BASINSKI – ON TIME OUT OF TIME
Simone: William Basinski utilized deep space recordings on this piece. The MIT and Caltech-operated Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (or LIGO) recorded the actual sound of gravitational waves for the first time in 2016 — sound produced by two colliding black holes 1.3 billion years ago.
FFT – A SINGLE SECOND
Luca: This track was just released on a cassette tape for the new label BRUK. I didn’t know the artist until I discovered this release, which very much caught my attention. I really like the atmosphere that the artist has created, a sense of sensuality that makes it very touching.
MICA LEVI – LOVE
Simone: “Love” is the main theme from Mica Levi’s score for the Jonathan Glazer film Under the Skin. The pitch-bending strings are both seductive / perverted and compassionate. They create a very unique feeling of uncertain motion — an arrival and departure all at once. In one quick shift, you go from feeling grounded to being lifted and dropped in mid-air.
BRIAN ENO – FRACTAL ZOOM
Luca: Impossible not to mention an Eno track. Everything started from him — the artist who opened my eyes and who has accompanied me for years. His influences are very strong. Back in my university days, I loved listening to his songs at night; they never made me feel alone.