Recommended Listening: Ned Milligan - Enter Outside; jason calhoun - introduction to an apology
I was first introduced to Ned Milligan's music through this review posted to A Closer Listen just about a year ago. At the time, I remember imagining how dreamy Milligan's life must be - the artist sitting on a porch in rural Maine, watching chimes sway in the breeze all day with a field recorder in hand. Having conducted very few interviews at this point in my DC project, I really had no idea what day-to-day life looked like for most musicians. And though I now know that this image of Milligan's everyday routine is likely inaccurate, it is still the one that immediately popped into my head when I received an email from the artist and labelhead a couple weeks ago.
It turns out that Milligan is a teacher, same as me! So maybe he does clock a good number of porch-sitting minutes in June/July/August - those gloriously unstructured months. Milligan actually released two full albums this past Friday on his Florabelle label. One carries his own music, and the other release is a jason calhoun LP. I've been following calhoun since his stellar 2020 work, jedidiah, and because I adore both artists, I've decided to devote a few words to each album in this single post. Like we did for Piano and Coffee the other week, consider this a label spotlight of sorts.
Milligan's album is curiously titled Enter Outside (a phrase uttered once by his young son), and across three extended tracks, he blends his familiar aesthetic with a new element. Typically, chimes and field recordings are the artist's chosen tools, but for most of Enter Outside, Milligan also opts to experiment with a singing bowl, adding depth and texture to his compositions. All three pieces act as meditations, capable of lulling anyone into a state of complete calm. Milligan builds and then holds these drones like deep breaths in, allowing an equal balance of instrumentation and nature sounds to envelop the listener in a warm embrace. The final track, Grace Arrives, is the longest and most notable of the three, as rain strikes Milligan's signing bowl with increasing force - a pretty perfect encapsulation of his unique musical approach.
Conversely, jason calhoun's introduction to an apology is quite a stark departure from his 2020 sound. One expects to hear calhoun sculpting longform ambient constructions laden with texture. Instead, the sound artist presents a number of short vignettes, some of which clock in at just over a minute in length. Milligan described this shift best the other day, when he wrote that the music feels almost like "a pop record" compared to the rest of calhoun's catalogue. The texture is still there, though, even in short bursts. Take, for example, blindsided by my own cowardice. Warm opening tones are overtaken by radio dial static, as snippets of LCD Soundsystem disco and COVID news bulletins blast above the music. Journeying through introduction to an apology feels a bit like a traversing a Flying Lotus release. Just as an idea begins, we are whisked away into another environment. But these jumps make for such an interesting and captivating listening experience.
Find both albums (available to stream or purchase now) on Florabelle's Bandcamp page, linked here. They are very different from each other, but both are so so so good. Make sure to devote time to each of them this week if you are able.