An ongoing stream of ambient sounds gives Early Morning Migration, a collaborative outing from Morgan Packard and Microcosm label head Ezekiel Honig, a natural, outdoorsy dimension. Though most of these noises are more allusive than literal, they still evoke the lake and forest; soft waves appear alongside the hazy keyboard glimmerings of "Planting Broken Branches Pt. 2," for example, while creaking and water noises in "Window Nature" suggest fishing boats leaving port at sunrise. Such environmental detail gives the work an expansive dimension that contrasts with the music's introspective and comparatively more hermetic leanings.
Collaborative in this case doesn't mean the two artists worked together on a given piece; instead, their separately created songs often alternate in sequence and, while that might be jarring in other contexts, it isn't the case here; despite different compositional styles, they share a kindred sonic sensibility, clearly shown in the opening songs. Embedded in ambient blur, "Tropical Ridges" gently rolls in with Honig's glowing Rhodes chords floating lazily above a shuffling pulse. The following piece "Balm" is Packard's and, while it's slightly more ambient than Honig's, there's little sonic difference. The major deviation from this unanimity occurs when horn sounds add contrast to the gossamer shimmer of Packard's "White on White."
With their subtle hint of techno, Honig's minimal pieces tend to be slightly more song-like while Packard's are closer to classically-influenced ambient settings. Honig's material often hews to a clanking 4/4 pulse with melodies etched by warm keyboard tones. Prodded by a whirring creak, a subtly swaying skip animates "A Lake of Suggestions Pt. 1" (and reappears in "Planting Broken Branches Pt. 1") while Packard's "Hibernate," by comparison, toes a still placid though more static line with its waves of hiss and intermingling of acoustic bass lines and minimal Rhodes melodies. Those differences recede in other songs, however, like Packard's gently pulsing "Billow" and Honig's "A Lake of Suggestions Pt. 2," an ambient exercise in fluttering textures. That sound flows into the final piece, Packard's almost eleven-minute "A Long Time Ago," a meditative soundscape of hazy surges and shudders that brings Early Morning Migration to a dreamy close. Names like Eno and Harold Budd may come to mind as one basks in the understated and carefully sculpted beauty of Honig and Packard's work.
Here comes the first remarkable release in a while the realm of minimal electronic music between abstract, reduced rhythms and floating ambient has to offer. Ezekiel Honig and Morgan Packard are two young creators from NYC who have gained reputation with their not necessarrily similar previous solo work, and this is their first collaborative attempt. "Early Morning..." consists of both quiet, soundscape kind of elements and traces of dynamic dance music, whereas the point that both beats and melodies are kept so low-key and fragile that the CD never really takes off is exactly what makes it such an exciting listen. A welcome change from the dubby experimentation that's become so abundant in this genre, the faint rhythms and beautiful textures that at once support and seemingly subdue each other form a refreshingly new, original type of music. Available from the label's online shop.
This first collaboration by North Americans Honig and Packard has refused to give up its complexities after days of repeated playing. Ezekiel Honig confesses that the pieces on this CD are inspired by weather and nature, but also conceal a blizzard of musique concrete sources and treated domestic sounds that would even confound a serial avant-garde noise truffle hound. Honig further confesses that some of the treated noises include dropped plastic bottles, rain, microphone stands falling over, crackling fires (shades of John Cage's Inlets) and other improbable sound sources.
The first impression of the mesmerising Early Morning Migration, augmented by sonorous trombone, guitar, bass and other conventional instruments, is that it is comparable to John Adams's early minimal/electro work, Light Over Water, but then the layers in Honig and Packards' work began to reveal themselves. They're already being remixed on the US electro underground scene. The beautiful architecture of their music excites unlikely but appropriate comparisons with Duke Ellington and Gil Evans. However, they're also inveterate improvisers, playing out live with an improvising computer video artist. If you own anything by Autechre or Seefeel, you owe yourself a copy of this haunting, richly textured, multi-layered music.
(John Gill - The Wire)
Despite the dancing silhouette adverts, people seem to be using their iPods in much more sedate ways. The headphone cord hinders motion, after all; countless iPods clatter under treadmills daily due to runners entangled in cords. Instead of dancing with them, people are simply substituting iPods for jukeboxes. As a home stereo, the iPod particularly excels, due to its large memory and random playlist function. And while an iPod only plays what is inside it, the term "iPod music" could describe the minimal electronic background music that many urban iPod owners favor. With Early Morning Migration, Ezekiel Honig and Morgan Packard have created quintessential iPod music.
Strangely enough, Honig and Packard both cut their teeth on late '90s drum & bass. Honig was a DJ, and Packard was a producer, but each moved away from d&b as the music stagnated. On Technology Is Lonely and Peoples Places & Things, Honig added a uniquely emotional spin to the glitchy minimal house of Mille Plateaux and Force Inc., while Packard delved into academic music with composition studies and software programming. Although the two wrote tunes separately for this album, the result sounds like one person. Honig's clean tones and simple (but not simplistic) melodies combine with Packard's deep sound design and emotive harmonies for a pensive, soothing vibe.
The album begins with the slow-motion shoegazing of "Tropical Ridges", which has a grainy yet full-bodied ambience, with a hint of kick drum underneath. "Balm" follows, and it's exactly that. Its gorgeous, gauzy tones, along with "Window Nature" bring to mind Shudder to Think's lovely (and ill-used) soundtrack to High Art. In general, Honig and Packard alternate tunes here; Honig's are slightly more rhythmic, creating a gently undulating listen. The album peaks with the found sound percussion of "Planting Broken Branches, Pt. 1", then returns to beatlessness with the trembling, Bill Frisell-esque "A Lake of Suggestions Pt. 2" and the jellyfish pulsation of "A Long Time Ago."
Early Morning Migration could be called "ambient", but it has no spacy synth washes or new age-y melodies. It's ambient in the Brian Eno sense, enhancing the atmosphere of whatever room it's in. The album does reward active listening; repeated spins uncover deep bass melodies in "Hibernate", rich brass (!) harmonies in "White on White", and the polyrhythms of out-of-time loops in "Planting Broken Branches, Pt. 2". But at low volumes, this album shines as a soundtrack to everyday life. Wake up to it, fall asleep to it, read a book to it, or skin up to it -- the ceiling's the limit.
Refreshingly free of overbearing ego, Early Morning Migration practices a sort of Zen restraint. NYC minimalist composers and labelmates Honig and Packard collaborated by proxy on an album easily described-in all seriousness-as a wonderfully droning, guided meditation. The artists get out of the way, concentrating instead on a sustained idea of tone and rhythm. Echoey, otherworldly signals meld with delicate electric piano, brief horn flourishes, and a repeated percussion motif that sounds something like the sampled ambient clatter of a ship's rigging or brittle sticks rubbed together in dry palms. The overall effect is a continuous impression of the naked mind-smooth, clean, inspiring, and reminiscent of that first hour after a good night's sleep, when things fascinate by the mere fact that they exist.
(Stewart A. Williams - Resonance)
It should be a split album, with both producers conceiving and producing their music separately, then sprinkling their tunes amongst each other. Though the reality is that without the aid if the liner notes you would never be able to tell. This is due to the duo's shared aesthetic, of gentle low-key progressions, deep warm bass tones and the desire to use plenty of space within their sparse electro acoustic tracks. And it's gorgeous and inventive work, a gentle kind of ambience similar in size to Susumu Yokota, though operating closer to the edges of electronica. In fact it's this proximity that provides much of the interest, widening the gap between sound art and electronica and cheerfully occupying the middle ground with occasional visits to either side. Both Honig and Packard have a history in drum and bass, though at some point they moved away and there is very little evidence of their past here. What they do have is far less tangible and far more valuable with Early Morning Migration filled with numerous tender moments of subtle though innovative beauty.
More shuffling textured rhythms arrive from this rather sweet label, Microcosm Music. Early Morning Migration is a collaboration between the labels owner Ezekiel Honig and Morgan Packard.
The result is an album of warm, shadowy ambient tracks with muffled tones and fragmented clicks and cuts. You have to admire the patience and methodology that has gone into a work of this type, where wholly electronic sampled sounds are used to depict the most natural of dimensions, and succeeding with resonating ambience. It is only left to track titles such as Tropical Ridges, Window Nature, Hibernate, and Planting Broken Branches to give literal explanations.
Trombone appears on White on White, adding the only true conventional digression from Honig and Packard's wholly sculpted electronic expressionalism. A modern-day equivalent to the likes of Budd/Eno, but still a side-shift from the modern day field recordings espoused by the likes of Marsen Jules, Fennesz or Pan Sonic, Early Morning Migration is a dreamily elusive album, albeit friendly and passively melodic.
Although the tracks on Early Morning Migration are split evenly between labelmates Ezekiel Honig and Morgan Packard, the album sticks closely to the somnambulant ambience of Honig's solo output, with none of the meatier drum&bass Packard is known for. However, that doesn't make this collaboration any less of a beauty. Early Morning Migration trickles elegantly into the subconscious with whispered percussive elements and the clicks and skitters of artificial (or real?) pebbles falling on pavement. Variations do develop, as repeated listens reveal a muted interplay between the slightly off-kilter effect of Honig's "found sound" pastiches and Packard's more pristine melodic loops.
(Anna Balkrishna - XLR8R)
This is the first collaborative release for New Yorkers Honig and Packard and produces a rich and seductive demonstration of lo-fi electronica. Swathes of interference battle with intermittent percussion and random clunks and clicks in opener 'Tropical Ridges' while as the title suggests, 'Balm' is a much gentler affair.
There are loads of naturalistic references in the song titles such as 'A Lake of Suggestions' and 'Planting Broken Branches' but the title 'Early Morning Migration' might as easily be about commuting through the city as anything in the countryside. The sound is electronic, but also vaguely soothing. It is introspective, but also expansive in approach. Maybe this is the tautness that comes of the new found collaboration.
Some tracks are so minimal that they hardly seem to exist at all. You wouldn't know they were whirring away in the background but for a few well placed keys ringing through every few seconds. But sometimes less is more and this is a record of boundless textures and moods to lift the soul, but in a gentle way.
(Shane Blanchard - Tasty Fanzine)