Modern Institute

Bardcode magazine - I always look forward to releases from this excellent label, always something different, melodic - one of the most underrated labels around in fact. Modern Institute's Excellent Swimmer is no different, a deeply emotive instrumental album that combines Teho Teardo's melancholly cello with electronic synth sounds and guitar. It's always good to hear an artist who knows how to play a traditional instrument well and then skilfully focuses electronic elements around it - and that's certainly the case here. The album opens, however, with the solely electronic track ECM Haircuts - as glitchy sounds flicker around swirling, calm synths. Teardo's cello is first incorporated into the following, Stairs, weaving to and fro amongst speckled tones and a churning rhythm - it has a semi- classical feel to it. Teardo is also an accomplished guitar player, as proven on the delicate refrains of the ambient Munibabe, where plucked strings reign over swelling brass tones and complex found sounds.

Excellent Swimmer continues this modus operandi throughout, but actually improves towards its close. The haunting Ambientone, again centered on Teardo's cello, has a darkly cinematic ambience and is highly emotive, the acoustic-led Sign Everyone In Iceland flourishes to become even more so - perfectly integrating string harmonies with iridescent melodies. Meanwhile, Two Hours Without Ego is another sumptous ambient drifter, this time using piano as its primary focus, and surrounding it with splintered sound fragments to a delicate beat. The album closes with Me Neither, this time more abstract and introspective as gritty feedback delays over piano droplets and heaving cello. All in all, a great little ambient-acoustic album and one of the best from the Expanding label to date.