These Clouds… by Various Artists (Review)

Sound in Silence’s 100th release is an excellent introduction to their curated ambient aesthetic.
These Clouds - Various Artists

Since its formation in 2006, the Athens-based (that’d be Greece, not Georgia) Sound in Silence label has developed an impressive catalog, releasing ambient, post-rock, and experimental music from a truly illustrious group of artists that includes Amp, Bvdub, The Declining Winter, Eternell, The Green Kingdom, Western Edges, and Yellow6, to name but a few. To celebrate their hundredth release, the label has released These Clouds…, a compilation that serves as an excellent intro to the label’s curated aesthetic.

Given that they were released to celebrate an impressive milestone, you might think that these eighteen songs would strike up a celebratory mood. But in keeping with Sound in Silence’s moniker and aesthetic, the album’s 80 minutes consist primarily of subtle, contemplative, and even elegiac soundscapes — and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Australia’s Panoptique Electrical kicks things off with upbeat-titled “Slowly the Sorrow,” in which twinkling piano keys shimmer through downcast string arrangements. “Everything, and Then Nothing” is one of Yellow6’s finest moments, a minimal and reserved piece of plucked guitar and drones that slowly grows in complexity for four-and-a-half minutes without ever compromising its delicate nature. The Green Kingdom’s “Unspoken” is as lush and dreamy as you’d expect from Michael Cottone, and weaves in eerie melodic turns that give it some interesting tonal shades.

The tremulous ambience in Akira Kosemura’s “Echoes of Water” pools around the listener like half-remembered dreams, ghostly and comforting at the same time. SineRider’s “Vermilion” is my favorite song on the compilation, and not surprisingly, it’s the most ambient and ethereal of the eighteen songs, filled with sunset-colored drones and nostalgia-laden piano notes. The ambient washes on Hotel Neon’s “Shadowed” possess a similar tone, albeit one that’s a bit darker and more nocturnal, as befitting its title. Finally, Hainbach’s “Trans-Atlantic” ends the compilation on its loudest, most aggressive note with harsh, harrowing sounds and feedback-laden drones.

With their limited edition runs and handmade packaging, Sound in Silence has made a career out of proving that quality does, indeed, trump quantity. These Clouds… makes it abundantly clear that label owner George Mastrokostas — who also records under the Absent Without Leave moniker — has an excellent ear for intriguing music, a fact that bodes well for the label’s next hundred releases, and hopefully beyond.

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