Ambient is something we cover quite a bit at Stray Landings, yet often it comes packaged as part of something wider; an interlude alongside more beatific music or an aside to a more aggressive central project. London based Alex Ives, aka Specimens however seems to be fully committed to the genre.
Following his debut cassette, ‘II’, on Shimmering Moods Records in 2015, Ives released the Sculptures LP last year, a conflicted, tension-fraught journey through warped orchestral timbres and manipulated field records.
The release also made up the debut album Ives’ label, First Terrace Records, which he co-runs with close friend Joe Summers. “To be honest, starting a label was something I was pretty convinced I would never do” he begins when asked about the label’s origins. “Sometime in mid-2016 I started to think it would be nice to put together and release some of the artists that had shaped my listening over the last few years. Initially I thought about just doing a big compilation LP of ambient/drone/noise artists; the idea of a full blown label was a bit daunting at the time. I kept the ideas largely to myself initially, but one evening when chatting with Joe, he put the idea into my head that doing something a little more substantial could be better.”
“Not long after this Joe and I started doing a radio show together. I thought it would be nice to release some of the smaller artists from the show as a yearly compilation. I approached Joe to see if he would be up for working on the compilations with me. At that stage I figured I’d work on doing albums alone, and do compilations with Joe. I can be a bit of a control freak sometimes and if I have an idea I’m not always that keen to compromise! However, Joe is one of the few people I could envisage doing this with and very quickly after chatting about doing the compilations with him it was clear he not only shared my vision for what the label could be as a whole but had some cool ideas that really excited me. Between the two of us we started planning ideas for releases and worked together on solidifying what First Terrace Records would come to represent.”
Succeeding the Sculptures LP and the first of their compilation series, Summer and Ives released Sunday Songs last month by The Beacon Sound Choir. Sunday Songs is a little different from most records I encounter. The choir was rallied together by Peter Broderick, consisting of 35 members, all with varying degrees of experience. Recorded in a record shop in Portland, Oregon, Sunday Songs is peppered with the occasional live misnomer; such as on ‘Elongated Easter Egg’ which closes with the group breaking into chat, as if recorded without their knowledge. The effect is to put you right in the heart of the recording; an intimate and personal experience. “I came across The Beacon Sound Choir last year” Ives offers when quizzed about the record’s origins. “We were putting together ideas for one of our radio shows and Joe played me this really cool one-sided gold 10”. It was just two tracks of vocal drones, released through the wonderful Infinite Greyscale label. I went home and ordered a copy that day and it was by far the best thing I heard all year.”
“I was chatting with Joe about artists we wanted to work with on First Terrace; at the top of our list was Beacon Sound Choir. To our knowledge however the choir was over and Peter [Broderick] had since moved away from Portland. We were resigned to the fact that we wouldn’t be able to do a record in the immediate future but maybe we should send a speculative email just stating how much we loved the 10” and if they ever got back together we would love to do something with them. To both our surprise (and joy), Peter got back to us within a day with a lovely email and sent us a bunch of music. Even though the choir was indeed on indefinite hiatus, Peter had a selection of songs which were recorded previously. He seemed pretty excited about releasing the music and had even mixed and laid out the tracks in an order he felt worked. Joe and I were absolutely thrilled what he sent over was as good as the tracks we’d previously heard and decided pretty quickly that we had to do this record!”
Given the LP’s release last month, we decided to invite Ives to contribute to our podcast series, providing what he terms “a snapshot across my listening spectrum”. Alongside the expected ambient and neoclassical offerings from the likes of Hauschka and Lawrence English, there are also more beatific elements such as Beatrice Dillon’s tape-echo head-spinner, ‘Curl’ or Matthew Herbert’s jazz-inflected House classic, ‘I hadn’t Known (I Only Heard)’.
Stream the mix below and keep an eye on First Terrace Records’ Facebook page for more updates. With a new split 12” series to be announced presently and new material in the works from both Summers and Ives, we’re assured of a busy schedule over the coming 12 months.
C.Diab - Is Winter Mike Country? [Isolated Now Waves]
Jefre Cantu Ledesma - Pale Flower [Mexican Summer]
Herbert - I Hadn’t Known ( I Only Heard) [Phonography]
Lawrence English - Object Of Projection [Room40]
Beatrice Dillon - Curl [Alien Jams]
Hauschka - Blue Bicycle 
Puce Mary - Night Is A Trap II [Posh Isolation]
Tape Loop Orchestra - I Was Born When She Kissed Me [Facture]
Thee Oh Sees - Nervous Tech (Nah John) [Castle Face]
Klein - Marks Of Worship [Howling Own Records]