Tag Archives: field hymns

Snakes of Pennsylvania – “Snakes of Pennsylvania”

Snakes of Pennsylvania’s eponymous release was among Field Hymns’ final releases of 2016. It should be noted that last year was a fantastic year for the label, and it remains one of my favorites. Field Hymns is usually my go-to spot for analog synth jams, but I always like a good deviation from expectations.  The album remains in fairly subdued territory throughout, so maybe we aren’t too far afield after all.

Starting from the middle, with “Instrumental One,” we find a simply stated, spacious, analog synth-based track. There are a limited number of layers, which keeps the texture uncomplicated and focused. “Instrumental One” is based around a simple, descending minor third motive entering after a brief ambient introduction. A dissonant second line then begins to counter the motive, before fading into a lulling and bright coda.

The track that follows, “The Human,” may contrast arrangement-wise, but is agonizingly beautiful nonetheless. The hushed guitar melody comes from the same world as the quiet moments of any Explosions in the Sky song. However, here a single guitar fills the role of Explosions’ three while still managing to capture the ambiance in between the notes as they gather.

“Attack of Lyme” adds to the album’s already varied palette with a plucked steel string acoustic adding more presence to the sound. Synth sounds skitter across the landscape as fingers skid down guitar strings in the foreground. A similar acoustic guitar sound appears throughout “Kolbojnik,” which features an even more patient construction by taking long breaths between fragmented melodies within a minute long framework.

“Snakes of Pennsylvania” successfully melds ambient analog synth sounds with guitars that both compliment and contrast.  The synth sounds end up adding, surprisingly, to the Americana sounds generated by steel string guitars.
Find “Snakes of Pennsylvania”:
A limited number of cassettes are still available on the Field Hymns bandcamp page. As with any album on bandcamp, of course it is available as a download in any format you can imagine.

The Snowfields – “How to Get Good Sound from a Dead Ear”

The Snowfields’ first release in 7 years comes out on Field Hymns today. That’s right, today. That should be all you need to know, because I find that there really is no way of going wrong with a Field Hymns release. But if you do need some more convincing, after listening to the track “Inner Peace has Jass Hands” above, then please read on.

I think the element that really sets this album apart from most of the analog synth stuff that I have heard recently is the guitar on this one. That is the element that really pulls me in. The Snowfields have really captured that “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” vibe, especially on tracks like “Inner Peace Has Jass Hands.” It’s kind of haunting, but also deeply affecting.  Imagine “Wish You Were Here”-era Pink Floyd mixed with more recent Boards of Canada.

“Diet Rainbow,” however is probably my favorite track on the album.  The guitar adds a particularly  emotional edge on this one, with a guitar tone that is perfect for cutting right through the synths to take center stage.  It really just creeps in there in the background, shimmering through the haze. That little guitar riff immediately brings to mind the opening motive of the song “Shame” from The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Adore” (their best album). The tone of a gently plucked guitar ringing through the distance under a few layers of synth. That one little detail really makes the track.

There are plenty of gems on here from the catchiness of the songs described above, to those that border on ambient like “Two Tone Emergency” and the slow, dramatic growth of “Golden Twilight.” All around, another really solid release from the good folks at Field Hymns.

The album is out now. Pick it up.

And while we’re at it, here are some other Field Hymn tapes that I recommend: Oxykitten, Black Unicorn, Cane Swords, Mattress.


Week in review: January 27th-31st, 2014

In case you missed a few posts this week, here is a really quick rundown of what was going on:

Monday: Some experimental instrumental jangly art rock in the style of Women and Captain Beefheart. Check out Herbert Powell’s release “Hell and Sebastian” on their bandcamp.

Stream: Herbert Powell – “Hell and Sebastian”

Tuesday: The tenth part of my continuing series that recounts growing up with Sonic Youth. This week I talked about their 1998 album “A Thousand Leaves.”

In Memoriam Sonic Youth Part X: “A Thousand Leaves”

Wednesday: New psychedelic synth work from Black Unicorn and Cane Swords, both out of Akron, Ohio, and both with tapes coming out on Portland’s Field Hymns.

Stream New Music from Field Hymns: Black Unicorn and Cane Swords

Thursday: Take a listen to Spray Paint’s abrasive detuned sound with songs from their latest, “Rodeo Songs.”

Stream: Spray Paint – “Rodeo Songs”

Friday: Check out the perfect pop of Jasmin Kaset whose album “Quiet Machine” was just released this past week.

Stream: Jasmin Kaset – “Quiet Machine”

Stream New Music from Field Hymns: Black Unicorn and Cane Swords

Some brand-new, not yet released, stuff coming your way today from Field Hymns records. I’ve written about some of their releases before and I’m always impressed with what I hear. In case you aren’t aware, Field Hymns is a small label based out of Portland, Oregon, and they release a fairly steady stream of electronic and experimental tapes. Today I’ve got two new ones to share with you.

Black Unicorn - "Traced Landscapes"
Black Unicorn – “Traced Landscapes”

First up is Akron, Ohio’s Black Unicorn with their album “Traced Landscapes.” Trance inducing, retro synthed out 8-bit landscapes come in and out of focus. One minute pulsing delicately, while buzzing melodies cut through the atmospherics the next. Tracks are focused squarely upon one idea, and that singularity holds time in place for just a little while before it’s gone, only to be replaced by the next hypnotic transcendence.

Listening to a track like “Seafowl in Silhouette” one can’t help but focus their thoughts inward. Think of Boards of Canada slowed down 100x. The waves of sound don’t so much crash over you as they do envelop you. Black Unicorn is able to create the kind of sonic space that, in some pretty amazing ways, completely shifts our temporal perceptions.

There are also songs like “Trans-Dimensional Railway” that pay due to Kraftwerk. The kraut-rock, electro pulse is definitely there, even floating there in the background after everything around it completely falls apart, leaving us with the sensation of temporarily floating through space. It’s as though the ground has been pulled completely out from under us and instead of falling we float off into the night sky. Pretty interesting way to have temporal considerations create the divisions between sections of a song.


The next release that I have is “Temple Swords” by Cane Swords (also from Akron), a self described “synth exploration.” Comparing and contrasting with Black Unicorn, Cane Swords also create music that breaks free from music’s traditional treating of temporality, but they are doing so in completely the opposite way. Where once there was a homogenous landscape that created hypnotic trances, there is now an ever changing and intricately woven fabric of sounds that whirl in and out of range. Much more spacey, ethereal and in a lot of ways, kind of intense. Recommended if you like Morton Subotnick, as it says on their release, is pretty accurate. Tape composition practices are given an updated process, creating similar highly descriptive sound collages.

They do also have their darker, more ambient moments. Slower development across a long form composition, such as the “Telegraph One” and “Telegraph Two” suites, take a bit of a different approach to sound collage, stripping away some material to create a more homogenous sound. Overall the entire tape is full of some pretty enchanting stuff.

Both these tapes will be released on February 14th and will make the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for that special person in your life. Check out all the stuff that Field Hymns has to offer over on their site, including info on future releases, and listen to the tracks above. There are plenty more on the Field Hymns Soundcloud and Bandcamp pages.

New Release: Oxykitten – “Escape from New Amsterdam”

Oxykitten - "Escape from New Amsterdam"
Oxykitten – “Escape from New Amsterdam”

Another day, another new release from Portland’s Field Hymns recordings. When they sent out the notice for their new Fall 2013 releases I couldn’t resist either of them, so that’s the reason for the two in a row one day after the other deal.

Pretty much the stark opposite of the Mattress tracks that you may have heard here yesterday. Where Mattress is heavy, dense and dark, Oxykitten is buzzy, bright, and full of energy and motion. Portraying a purposeful anachronistic sound with analog synths that conjure images akin to Blade Runner, depicting a futurist film-noir ambience.

The press release reads “Recommended if you like: Dr. Octagon, Add N To X, minimal synth,” which of course I agree with, but I would also add to that list RJD2′s album that he did under the moniker The Insane Warrior, “We Are The Doorways.” A lot of the material on “Escape from New Amsterdam” create similar sounds, or at least work with similar timbres as The Insane Warrior’s album. All instrumental, buzzing saw-waves pulsating into focus and shooting from one direction to another, like some sort of 8-bit sunbeam.

Dance grooves are omnipresent, and a little hint at Boards of Canada shows up in “Beholding.” I guess, in short, if you are into analog synths, dance grooves, and catchy hooks this is definitely an album worth having.

Quick close: my favorite tracks are “Dick Ray,” “Springtime for the Dead,” and “40oz. Nipple.”

Do yourself a favor and pick this one up from Field Hymns right now. Follow the link below to check out 2 more tracks and to order the tape. And follow Field Hymns on twitter, because they are releasing a non-stop steady stream of awesome all the time, so don’t miss anything.



New Release: Mattress – “Fuck the Future”

Mattress - "Fuck the Future"
Mattress – “Fuck the Future”

Portland’s own Field Hymns Records has some new fall releases from two of the city’s own.

First up is Mattress with 6 tracks of deep baritone and synths swirling around creating a dark haze. The release is bottom heavy, pulsating and drowning in a sea of menacing sounds. Rex Marshall’s voice can sound like James Murphy one second (“Beautiful Moment”) and then Scott Walker and Nick Cave’s lovechild the next. He inhabits a world somewhere in between the two. Yes, that would be a truly strange world, like the strangest dance party in history.

The title track picks up the pace a bit, with bouncier analog synths. Marshall’s voice on that track gets anthemic as he states the refrain, “fuck the future. fuck the future,” with an urgency in his voice before returning to a flatter affect. Most of the other tracks are built in a similar manner to this one, where there is a basic repeated pattern that circles around the penetrative vocals. At times it can sound as though all hope is gone, while at others it’s perhaps maybe open to the idea that maybe at one time there was a memory that there was a possibility that there may have been hope at one time or another, but now is currently not that time.

The soundworld in which the songs exist fall somewhere between the Cure and Joy Division. The guitar in “Arrested” points toward the former while “Pretend” is evidence of the latter.

“Fuck the Future” is music for people that have made peace with the fact that everything is coming to an end. But the album is only, maybe, that dark on the outside. There are some hints at light, like the chorus of “Pretend,” that provide a contingency plan. Check out the track “Arrested” below and then head over to Field Hymns and grab the tape.

Field Hymns: Facebook//Twitter//Soundcloud//

Album review: Foton – "Omega"

Foton - "Omega"
Foton – “Omega”

From Portland, Oregon’s Field Hymns Records, Foton has produced an album full of electronic, mostly ambient sounds that fall somewhere between Boards of Canada and more experimental, free-form soundscapes that are (what I imagine to be) like field recordings from a trip to Mars.

Melodies and pulse fall in and out of focus across much of the 30 minute album. For example “There Was the Ruby Glade” keeps trying to leave the ground but sputters into Wagon Christ territory before concluding. Instead of one solid structure, or one solid idea, we have fragments of surging electronics that glitch and buzz,  held together by droning ambience.

“Slope 7F” provides the longest melodic line of any of the songs that hauntingly rings out unsupported by any harmony before the sound of a pipe organ comes crashing through in a swell of sound, that again is cut off completely. The song builds and falls continually leaving the listener hanging, before the lengthy melody returns only to be defeated by scratches of howling distortion and drums. This is probably the finest song on the album.

The closing track, a 15-minute magnum opus of pure, throbbing, ambient sound that builds to a loud organ sound once again, retaining the same harmony throughout and eventually fading away after several shifts in timbre. What’s interesting here is not so much what happens structure wise across the sprawl of 15 minutes, but it’s what happens timbre wise that changes the almost physical shape of the sound that emerges. The form is not in the division of sections here, because there is only one part, rather the form lies in how the pitch envelope is shifted slightly over that time.

This album is an interesting experiment in sound, creating shifting ambient soundscapes that aren’t afraid of straying from that archetype to allow melody and pulse emerge if need be.

Head to the Field Hymns page for Foton to purchase this release (out now!) for only $6, or click through the bandcamp link below. The album is being released on a limited edition of 100 cassettes, so don’t delay. Instant download upon purchase.