Thankfully, independent labels such as Italy's Old Bicycle Records are producing releases that satisfy both of these criteria. Take for example the recent split cassette release between Stefan Christoff and Post Mortem, Tape Crash #12.
Packaged within a beautifully silk screened wrap-around case, Tape Crash #12 features two sides of music that nicely fulfills both of the above stated needs.
Stefan Christoff's contribution on side A, recorded in Montreal in the years 2013-15, have him playing generally slow tempo, introspective works for solo guitar, organ, and piano. On piano pieces such as reve populaire a Montreal and piano in the atmosphere, his melodic approaches are emotionally charged and moving, seeming to hint at times at loneliness and possibly sadness, with touches of some kind of overcoming. Granted, these are just projections on Disaster Amnesiac's part, but they just have that sound of late-night piano ruminations that tend to evoke those types of feelings. His six string playing on correspondance has great High Plains, wind-swept strummings, and I really enjoy the slow pace of its movement. Perhaps Christoff's most experimental moves on Tape Crash occur during his organ pieces, fenetres sonores, with its backward sounding loops, and the 1960's-style Minimalism of organ rhythms under the rain, but even these two are plenty chill and meditative. Overall, Stafan's side is a fine fusion of relaxed, atmospheric playing and experimental questing. Disaster Amnesiac has found these sounds plenty soothing after tough days with challenging students.
On the B side of Tape Crash #12 can be found Dutch artist Jan Kees Helms, aka Post Mortem. His one long piece, Waasland, has a more musique concrete feel, with long, ambient sound washes, watery piano samples, strange, metallic-sounding percussion, floating voices, and the like. Waasland is certainly more on the more purely experimental side, but Disaster Amnesiac has found its tones to be equally calming. I suspect that this has much to do with Post Mortem's pacing: over the course of twenty three minutes, his sounds are never pushed hastily. Indeed, the mental impression that I have had is one of a dreamy river of sound that flows languidly past the perceptions. It may seem like a point belabored, but, again, this music provides plenty of mellow, yet compelling listening as Disaster Amnesiac has wended his way home during the work week.
A few years back, Disaster Amnesiac wanted to describe the music that fuses introspective, meditative vibes with the harder edges of the more purely experimental tones as "Blackened New Age". I don't know if the artists whose work is presented in Tape Crash #12 would be comfortable with, or even like that appellation, but it seems, in some ways, appropriate. I do know that their sounds are helping me to relax, while not boring me to tears, after long, generally stressful days within my particular zone of the "rat race". For that, I am grateful.