Sean Hellfritsch is sitting by the side of a lake at the edge of a forest. In front of him is his 'lunchbox', not a conventional one, filled with sandwiches and soft drinks, no, this one is filled with dials, switches and wires. It is the modular system and that allows him, whilst wearing his fingerless woollen gloves, to make the unique music of Cool Maritime.
It is an approach that Hellfritsch favours, taking inspiration from outdoor locations, responding in sound to the nature he is experiencing around him and the results, as heard on his latest album 'Sharing Waves' are fascinating. The tranquil Forest Bathing flows gently like a peaceful river, whilst Secret Caves, with it's cascading rythms is a delightful adventure.
Best of all are the twinkling lights and percussive patterns of Climbing Up, a tune with so many intoxicating layers that it has been reinterpreted three times on the equally enchanting remix album 'Shared Waves'. An essential companion piece.
Whereas most remix albums are unfulfilling cash ins that feature very little of the original artist, 'Shared Waves' which was released so close to it's parent album, feels more like part of a collaborative project.
Hellfritsch's Leaving Records label mate Matthewdavid contributes two mixes. Firstly, he chops up the lovely Mossage and adds stuttering drum patterns, then later he extends the tranquil A Restful Place into a meditative piece with sprinkles of Laraaji like zither effects. It is a wondrous transformation.
I hate to make presumptions but I would hazard a guess that Cool Maritime is more than a little familiar with Brian Eno's ambient classics Discreet Music, Music For Airports and, in particular, Music For Films. These are the albums that formed the template for what we understand as ambient music.
Hopefully, he may have also listened to the 6 CD box set Music For Installations that was released this year. This is music that has accompanied Eno's art installations throughout the world for much of the last thirty year. Outsideleft reviewed this collection in May and marvelled at the diversity of sounds, several of which took the listener to darker and more unsettling places than anticipated.
In the same month we also heard Jon Hopkins latest album: Singularity. Although the first half refines the shuddering techno of its predecessor (Immunity) to new euphoric levels, the second section is a far more hushed encounter. The delicate piano and sweet choir of Feel First Life is an almost spiritual experience, Echo Dissolve feels like a modern take on Eric Satie minimalism and the closer Recovery is a calming lullaby that dissolves in a blissful haze. Check out those reviews here
If there is one artist though that has combined ambient, electronic, classical and even jazz into his repertoire, it is Nils Frahm.
All Melody marks a confident step forward in Frahm's music, instead of assembling his projects at home, the new album was recorded in Frahm's new studio - a former East Berlin broadcast facility that was built in the 1950s. On a practical level, Frahm now has the physical space to work with other musicians, but it has also brought about an emotional development in his music, as All Melody has a new sense of warmth to it. The music flows freely, the instruments blending seamlessly together in their new surroundings.
It is his most engaging album to date. Read our full review here.