The Billow Observatory’s self-titled album released last year was both highly anticipated (six years in the making) and hugely rewarding for many of us shoegaze inspired ambient listeners. The combination of Jonas Munk (who you should be familiar with already on ASIP with isolatedmix 21) and Auburn Lull guitarist Jason Kolb was a tantalising recipe and it turned out to be one of the best records of the year.
Almost exclusively analog, and painstakingly crafted into a world of textures through numerous amps, mics and further treatments, Billow Observatory nailed a soft, euphoric sound that struck many-a-chord and heartstring of us all. Kolb’s ambient guitar work, and Jonas’ wealth of experience as a producer in his own right resulted in a sound that is hard to withdraw from – an all engrossing world of warm guitars and atmospheres.
Jonas and Jason met in the summer of 2004 after Jonas was introduced to Jason’s work as Auburn Lull, and it’s obvious the warm hazy days have had a lasting effect on both their sound and inspiration. With a brilliant introduction by Jason and extensive accompanying track notes, I needn’t say any more apart from a big thank you to them both for soundtracking what looks to be an amazing summer.
Introduction (by Jason Kolb from Billow Observatory):
I’m almost psychotically seasonal with my listening habits. There are songs/records that I strongly associate with certain times of year, almost down to the month and time of day. The first time I listen to a record or hear a new song is typically the time of year I always end up associating with that record. I have a very hard time listening to things “out of season” and this feeling is strongest in summer. To me, “summer songs” hit the hardest because I tend to associate a lot of them with the euphoria of long, lazy warm days spent outdoors, the nostalgia of childhood summer vacations, and generally trying to maximize what always feels like the shortest time of the year. The tracks I picked for this mix are those which instantly transport me back to summers past.
01. Lovesliescrushing – Halo
02. Slowdive – Moussaka Chaos
03. Landing – Migration
04. Waterwheel – Jejune
05. Auburn Lull – Gunpowderbluedragon (Kiln rebuild of ‘Arc of an Outsider’)
06. Fennesz – A Year in a Minute
07. JD Emmanuel – Part V, At-One-Ment
08. Tape – Root Tattoo
09. Boards of Canada – Ataronchronon
10. The Verve – A Beautiful Mind
11. To Rococo Rot – Die Dinge Das Lebens
1. Lovesliescrushing – Halo
A good friend of mine came home from the record store one summer day in ’94 or ’95 with a copy of ‘bloweyelashwish’ and said something really mundane like, “this is supposedly some cool guitar stuff made by some local guy”, which was a funny understatement. Lovesliescrushing was a really interesting product of mid-Michigan in the 90s formed by Scott Cortez. Dense, lush, and formless without being thoughtless, this record came into my life just as I thought droning, blissful guitar sounds were dying out. -Jason
2. Slowdive – Moussaka Chaos
‘Souvlaki’ came out as an import in the US in late Spring of ’93. As a teenager who had recently just gotten a license to drive and was about to be on summer break from school, this record was truly a soundtrack for those hazy days of a teenage summer. “Souvlaki Space Station” was the track that really hit me initially. For this mix, I included the alternate version from the ‘Outside Your Room’ EP. -Jason
3. Landing – Migration
Landing is an incredible band from Connectitut that has always seemed to remain in obscurity despite releasing one fantastic album after another. Their music has a kind of rural American atmosphere that I love (which actually can be said about a number of artists on this mix) – even though most of their influences, such as krautrock and shoegaze, are of European origin. Their music spans a wide range of genres but there’s a unique sense of drift that runs through all of their work. This blissful track is from their latest, self-titled album, released last summer. -Jonas
4. Waterwheel – Jejune
Waterwheel is a splinter project off of the Kiln/Fibreforms tree. The ‘Panchroma’ LP came out in ’97 and was hugely influential on me. There were a lot of interesting people doing interesting things locally (mid-Michigan) at the time, but this (along with Kiln’s ‘Holo’ LP) just seemed to come from another planet altogether. This particular track always reminds me of walking around my practically deserted home town in the summer, seemingly having the whole place to myself. -Jason
5. Auburn Lull – Gunpowderbluedragon (Kiln rebuild of ‘Arc of an Outsider’)
It feels a little awkward to include a track from the other project I’m in (Auburn Lull), but this is a very unique and special cut that I particularly enjoy at dusk during “peak summer”, around mid-July. We asked Kiln to remix tracks from our last record and ended up with two absolutely stunning ‘rebuilds’, of which this was the first. It would be unfair to call this merely a “remix” because they completely overhauled the original track and re-shaped it into something entirely fresh and new. I prefer this to the original version and wish everything could turn out this way.
6. Fennesz – A Year in a Minute
I was very late to the ‘Endless Summer’ party and I don’t really know why. It took years after the release before I finally heard it. It’s really hard to find something original to say about a record so hyped and highly lauded. The funniest thing is that I bought the record because it had the word “summer” in the title. The first time I listened to it was on an oppressively hot day – one of those days where you almost can’t move. I just sat there and listened intently, wondering why this record came into my life so long after its release. -Jason
7. JD Emmanuel – Part V, At-One-Ment
JD Emmanuel is a pretty obscure artist from Texas who has been doing hypnotic synthesizer music since the late 1970s. This track is from his 1982 album Wizards, which is a perfect crystalization of his vision. This stuff is really timeless and holds up well today. You can hear the minimalists (expecially Terry Riley) in this stuff, which gives the music a distinctive American flavour that sets it apart from most of the synthesizer music of the period. -Jonas
8. Tape – Root Tattoo
Tape is an extremely underrated trio from Sweden. I discovered them by accident nine years ago when I was invited to play at a small summer festival way out in the Swedish countryside. One night after hanging out at a bonfire with some of the other artists (and a local didgeridoo player) drinking cheap wine and chatting, I decided to go back inside an check out whoever was playing and I walked into Tape’s set. It was completely mesmerizing, and looking back on it this was probably the perfect place and circumstance to see these guys. They really capture the unique serenity of open skies, trees, wildlife and summertime in Scandinavia. Every summer I listen to Tape’s albums. -Jonas
9. Boards of Canada – Ataronchronon
The Campfire Headphase propably is my favourite Boards of Canada album. It has a laid-back, breezy and otherworldly vibe to it. This little piece is truly gorgeous. -Jonas
10. Verve – Beautiful Mind
This is (The)Verve at their creative peak, right before going horribly downhill in my opinion. Everything they put out up to and including ‘A Storm in Heaven’ was incredible and influenced me profoundly. Picking one song was really tough, but I’ve probably listened to this track more than any. Incidentally, this record came out only a month or so after ‘Souvlaki’ in the summer of ’93. -Jason
11. To Rococo Rot – Die Dinge des Lebens
To Rococo Rot’s The Amateur View is one of my alltime favourite electronic releases. I bought this album in June 1999, a few months after it was released and it still has vibes from that summer all over it. It’s one of those albums I keep coming back to, every June, year after year. And this piece is just perfect. And it’s based on a sample from a Gigi Mason track from the 1980s by the way. -Jonas