Philadelphia trio Hotel Neon has earned a loyal following presenting the sort of audio-visual performances that an audience can lose themselves in. Escapism is at a premium these days. And so, as has happened throughout history, the artist’s role has gained both prominence and importance. When so many are looking to immerse themselves in something other than the news of the day, artists have a responsibility to create work that is worthy of the public’s attention.
Hotel Neon member Andrew Tasselmyer is part of two successful efforts to do just that. Hotel Neon’s Means of Knowing is their fourth album (and ninth release). The album’s notes describe it as “an exchange with the world, an effort to know it and ourselves more deeply. … it is an album full of constantly evolving interplay between natural and imagined sound sources.”
The 12-track double album is a lovely example of what a group of skilled, self-assured ambient artists are capable of. They’ve been together since 2013, a relatively short time given how advanced this music is.
Tasselmyer also has a remarkable new solo recording for us called Places Real and Imagined. He’s compiled field recordings, textures and tones to produce a grittier, more intricate release than Hotel Neon’s.
But it is no less enjoyable. As is often the case with discs of this nature, the found sounds have a beauty all their own. Paired with warm, lush drones, Tasselmyer turns the mundane into high art.
“The Air in Philadelphia” is less a hometown tribute than it is a tour of a punishingly cold winter day. “The Bottom of the Bottle” echoes gently, transforming the cliché into a physical space one can actually imagine getting lost in. “The Sewer System” takes us down, below the hum of traffic, to a dank world where everything seems to either creep or crawl.
It’s not all quite so dark. “The Coast on Maui” is peaceful and uplifting. So too is “The Shore On Stockholm’s Harbor.”
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