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Janek Schaefer - Lay-by Lullaby [12K - 2014]


Prolific deep listening electronic composer's latest CD "Lay-By Lullaby" is an unstated upper atmospheric ambient poem.  It's one of 3 albums he released this year, the other two being LP only releases.

Each track of 3-7 minutes features a different softly crackling texture, in which the source sounds have been muted and muffled into rounded, distant harmonics.  One must turn the volume up very loud to hear any of the sound coming from this disk.  The whistling tones, like the forlorn wail of strong wind, have an emptiness and melancholy to them, but are certainly soothing to hear as well.  It's the kind of ambient album one can sleep to, containing no jarring moments.

A lot of the album is loop-driven, with circling repetitions of vinyl hiss and imperfection often occupying the foreground, rather than the background they are traditionally assigned to.  On numerous occasions, there are field recordings taken from streets, and audible cars and traffic passing by.  The doppler effect of a passing vehicle is a characteristic re-occuring sound of this album, used as punctuation mark between more melodic, emotional moments.

These emotional moments are handled by more traditionally melodic instruments like piano, guitar and harp, quite likely not performed by Schaefer himself but cleverly extracted from vintage recordings.  The looping process he's used extends each single moment of these old performances into a vast, cascading space.  The consonant tonalities explored are much like dub techno without its accompanying rhythm, and achieve the same feeling of endless bliss.

I highly enjoyed everything about this album.  If you're at all interested in subtle, understated soundscapes, or already enjoy the output of minimalist labels like 12k (who released this album) and Line, I highly recommend "Lay-By Lullaby".

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Josh Landry
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