“I needed to begin Lontano Series,” says Andrea Porcu, founder of the Berlin ambient label. Prior to Lontano’s genesis, Porcu had made a name with his label Rohs! Records, an imprint dedicated to electronic and reggae music—but something clicked for him once he met Andy Mintaka, aka Bodyverse.
“[Mintaka] asked me to visit Berlin,” Porcu says. “We started a collaborative ambient album together, and a dub/trip-hop project called Ondarituale. I then moved permanently to Berlin, leaving Belgium in July 2016. It’s thanks to her good musical taste, help, and friendship that I discovered many great artists, had the opportunity to attend to some awesome ambient concerts, and professionally run the label here.”
“Lontano” is an Italian word meaning far away, a definition reflected in the label’s logo—a range of mountains seen from a distance. There is a wistful, dreamlike aspect to much of its discography, too; Porcu’s ambient project is even called Music For Sleep. The oneiric and the somnambulant have pronounced relevance to the label. They can be felt in the music’s patient blossoming, seen in Lontano’s visuals—the familiar and the alien, the natural world and the industrialized—and touched upon in statements from the artists regarding their recordings.
Ten months into operations, Lontano has released eight titles. They’re all available digitally, but Porcu is dedicated to creating lovingly crafted limited physical releases: cassettes, CDs, lathe cuts. “Everything is done in a DIY way,” Porcu says. “We print the graphics for sleeves and J-cards at home. I pick up the lathe cuts, pressed by a long-time friend, a 10-minute walk from my recording studio here in Berlin.” Believe it or not, the lathes sound incredible, clearly standing out against other releases on the precarious format—listeners don’t have to crank up their receiver or deal with skips with lathes from Lontano, something indicative of the label’s dedication to the listening experience.
Lontano’s first release in August 2018 was an album by Toronto’s Bradley Sean Alexander Deschamps, aka Anthéne. In addition to creating his own music, Deschamps runs the highly-curated ambient/drone label Polar Seas Recordings. Divisions is filled with wonder and longing, using both guitar and electronics to create dynamic, interlocking harmonies. “Sunray” is a standout—the high-register notes peek out from a swirling orchestra like the sun gently cresting a mountain range. Divisions doesn’t relegate itself to one side of human experience, tackling the light as well as the dark—songs like “Eclipse” are elegiac—still filled with beauty, and even wonder, but mournful.
I Could Go Lucid
Bodyverse is the aforementioned Andy Mintaka, who helps Porcu with the label’s graphic design. Her collection I Could Go Lucid is gorgeous; opener “Pink Sunsets Were Very Calm” establishes the atmosphere early, with a soft passage of ascending notes, before adding a continuous stream of harmonious layers. Mintaka alludes to the importance and allure of lucid dreaming in her description of the album—the lack of inhibition in her dream world pairs with her internal lexicon to form a profound, personal universe of sound. This idea carries over to her compositional process, improvising while keeping the structural integrity of each work. Nothing for the recordings was planned and there was no post-production. “I became an explorer, or a traveller with an uncertain destination,” she writes.
By The Sea
Porcu contacted Shuta Yasukochi via email after falling for his available work. A self-described “music nerd,” Porcu admits to spending most of his time tracking down new artists and music. Yasukochi is a multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar, keyboards, and Eurorack synthesizers—on By The Sea, it’s hard to tell exactly what instrument is doing what. On the second song, “Wander,” there’s a clear pattern of synth sequences weaving in and out of each other, but Yasukochi adds what could be a scraping modulated field recording, creating texture for his gentle melodies. The album manages to be both structured and surprising, as synth arrangements and organic sounds undergo light transformations through the course of each composition while never veering too far off their original course.
When The Light Went Out
A piano-driven album by Italy’s Lorenzo Bracaloni, who, in addition to making ambient music as Fallen, records psych and folk as The Child of a Creek. When The Light Went Out is about “hidden fears, scariest life events, bad dreams at night,” but it’s not overwrought with darkness—in fact, it sounds more like leaving the darkness behind. Album closer “Peaceful Words Mean Everything” combines an undulating atmosphere with pensive, sparse guitar,and swelling synthesizer. It sounds like an exhale, getting rid of the negativity that informed the past, trading it for hope.
Seki Takashi begins his seven-piece collection Faded Clothes with the masterful “You Keep Repeating,” a narrative composition that begins with ambient synth background before piano and bowed sounds come into the fray. Faded Clothes’s instrumentation makes for an immersive listen, especially where string sections are concerned—the orchestration, and furthermore the sonic scale, is cinematic. There is an overwhelming melancholy to the album, too, even a sense of oppression, which the song titles allude to: “Stuffy Atmosphere,” “March in Silence,” “Sit Down and Do Nothing.” Every song is an emotional suckerpunch, but “Hard Work” sounds like it could fit into a Béla Tarr movie, with its morose strings. A beautiful listen, but a heavy one.