9 albums for finding a new clarity by Sean Conrad
Sean Conrad is an artist and musician based in Oakland, California. He predominantly records as Channelers and Ashan. He also recently started a collaborative duo with Michael Henning recording together as Skyminds. Next to making music, he also runs the Inner Islands label since 2014.
Both as a creator and a curator, Sean is drawn to sharing honest and heartfelt sounds that are often peaceful, positive and inward-looking. They mostly find inspiration from the natural world and are rooted in improvisation which he once shared as “a pathway and a tool for delving into and revealing the inner world.”
Happy to have his releases in store, we asked Sean to put together a mood list. He shares with us 9 albums for finding a new clarity. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time, as we enjoy a new season and gradually tiptoe out of lockdown almost everywhere in the world.
“I feel a new clarity come over me when I engage with certain sounds that expand my perception and awareness both deeper into the mundane and into the unseen. There can be a sense of being grounded in the physical moment while having an experience of the ethereal reality that is ever-present. These are sounds that can help me wake up to those realities because I feel them resonate within these sounds. Perhaps it’s simply my projection, but either way they do the trick.”
Yialmelic Frequencies – Yililok
This is one of the most tactile-evocative collections of music that I’ve ever heard. Every sound feels so deliberately chosen and dialed in. I sometimes feel like I can hold these sounds in my hands. They have such a physicality about them. The shapes and textures are foreign to me, but they feel as if part of a benevolent alien ecosystem. This album is probably the closest thing I’ve experienced to ASMR.
Popol Vuh – Spirit Of Peace
Florian Fricke created a personal devotional music, which draws upon so many different religious music and ideas from around the world, but is ultimately a crystallization of his own spiritual experiences. Spirit Of Peace, to me, feels like a very pure distillation of that work. It is one of the most minimal Popol Vuh albums, and it has so much heart and spirit in every track. It is always an uplifting listening experience.
Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe
There has always been something magical about Julianna Barwick’s singing to me – ever since I first heard her work while on a sleepover at a friend’s house 12 years ago. The way she layers her virtuosic and emotive singing can feel so resonant in my own body. The mingling of hush and power in her voice overlays such depths of joy and sadness and everything in between. This album always helps me return to my emotional reality.
Dylan Henner – Great Prairie Plains: Studies of American Minimalism
I love Henner’s take on these two pieces because they feel both minimal and ecstatic. The repetitions and subtle movements which flow through these pieces help foster a sort of trance that keeps me in a prolonged state of catharsis.
Joanna Brouk – Hearing Music
So much of Joanna Brouk’s creative process is also a listening process: playing one note on a piano, synthesizer, gong, or whatever it may be and waiting/hearing/feeling what the next note should be. The music reveals itself to her, as it is revealed to us on these recordings. These sounds often feel in tune with the cosmic hum and put me back in touch with that most simple and essential presence.
Alex Crispin – Idle Worship
I think the title of this album actually says a lot more than being a cute play on words. This collection of pieces does indeed feel like a view into the divine through the everyday – the simple act of being as a prayer. This album is both lush and spacious, verdant and meditative. It feels like it was written by someone who knows how to watch the plants grow.
Emily Sprague – Water Memory / Mount Vision
Listening to this album gives me visceral memories of being on an ocean shore and being in love with the ebb and flow of the waves and all of the subtleties of sound and motion contained therein. Some parts of this album also give me vivid recollections of sitting in a forest and feeling the abundance of life all around me. These sounds can put me back in touch with my reverence for nature and how otherworldly it can feel at times.
John Carroll Kirby – Tuscany
This album is all about capturing the spirit of a place with a couple of solo piano outings. One track is channeling the aqueous motion of a frequented waterfall. The other track is a meditation on the site of a WWII era massacre. Each piece is a loose improvisation around a melodic theme or mood and there is an organic freedom in that mode of playing that makes each of these pieces feel all the more alive and evocative of their sources of inspiration. I feel like I’m right there with John.
Laraaji – Unicorns In Paradise
Laraaji’s work always feels in some way extra-dimensional. This album is no exception. For me, it feels like a bridge to another plane that exists alongside this physical one. Experiences of that place are translated through vibration to give us a window into its feeling-tone. It has mysterious depths and it means us no harm.