Alan Lockett, furthernoise.org
«Purveyors of fine ambience since 2001, Infraction serves up its first of 2009 in No Traces, a new ceremony wreathed in old skin of vinyl scratch and radio crackle.
Noise annoys, the song goes, but after initial qualms, it calms, even allures.
Alexander Ananyev and Stanislav Vdovin are the agents guiding these psychonavigations through Russian mind-fields.
Sleepy Town Manufacture, once a trio now Ananyev alone, was in the vanguard of the 90s Russian invasion (IDM division).
Stanislav Vdovin was in there too, his Unit 21 mission “to find a balance between unexpressed-by-words emotionality and delicate sound design, based on minimal structures of techno and ambient music”.
Here he leans the latter way, maybe swayed by his mate's muse (cf. Beautumn). It began with Vdovin’s record library being plundered, phonics re-tooled, parts pitch-shifted to oneiric slow-motion, sepia stretches spun into sleepy tones.
We then get variations on a theme of these snatches of sonorities swimming through a bristling backdrop, with languorous keys adding to a murky swell.
“Athena” sounds the keynote, a crackling tract of ground over which a field of sombre songlines extends.
Spectral figures float up from amid the fluting and warbling of radio-waves and vinyl-effluvia in a sub-lit shadowplay.
A blither spirit inhabits “Blooming Woods”, its pillowed drones streaked and grazed in the pebbly ooze that continues, here with cycling panning motions, there with echo remotions.
While the crackle river that runs through it may remind of the microsonic 'pop'-architects of recent glitch-story, No Traces' texturalism is descended not from the lo-fi studio-fallout of Pole or the digital error-smithery of Oval so much as the handmade layerings of Gas and shades of Namlook / Inoue's effulgent ambience.
That FAX signal is strong on “You'll Never Know”, which could be a frayed offcut from 2350 Broadway's floor.
Elsewhere mood-skies are darkened by a miles-deep melancholy, drawn, perhaps, from the collective unconscious of the duo's motherland; on the sombre “Solitude”, source sound is down-pitched to a crawl in a threnody for a lost world - a spooked wooze of time-lapsed pianos and splayed-out strings.
“Swollenguest” hosts a state(ly) processional wending past in grainy remotion, the soundtrack to old newsreel of some Soviet solemnities.
And when “Continent” is reached, the pall slowly lifts, and pacific forces gather for a finale of elegiacs and hope.
No Traces joins a growing canon of ghost ambient, but its roaming sound spectres and slow-unfolding drone vectors conjoin not in dark-doom atonality, but in haunted euphony.
Its strange spell takes time to take hold, slow-release charms inviting repeat revisits to be fully felt.»
Caleb Deupree, Classical-Drone
«One of the first CDs that arrived in 2009 was from the Ohio label Infraction, a collaboration between two Russian musicians called No Traces.
Alexander Ananyev records here as Sleepy Town Manufacture (he also has a couple of Infraction releases as Beautumn), and he pairs here with Stanislav Vdovin, recording here as Unit 21.
One difference between No Traces and the Beautumn albums is that the former is a continuous piece of music, whereas the Beautumn tracks are separate from each other.
Although No Traces has tracks and titles, the connecting material is so strong that the listener has the impression of a single piece.
Another difference is the presence of extended samples, more like quotations.
The first track, Athena, includes a wordless female vocal line singing a melodic fragment that wouldn't be out of place in a hippy beach epic, and the second track, Blooming Woods, does the same with a flute.
Solitude has some dialogue, probably in Russian or at least, not a language I recognize.
But these aspects pale next to the most striking element of this album: massive amounts of vinyl noise.
It is considerably more prominent here than in turntable artists like Philip Jeck, more comparable to the bruitiste approach of Martin Tetreault, who cut records apart and glued pieces of different ones back together.
The scratches open up a world of contradictions, whose play generates a sense of wonder about the project as a whole.
Ananyev has used scratches before, most significantly on the long Beautumn track Blanket, released on the Top 40 netlabel in 2004 and reissued as a limited bonus disc with the Infraction release Northing in 2006.
But where the crackling on Blanket is fairly chaotic, perhaps like a fire or rain drops, No Traces uses vinyl unabashedly.
It appears in a loop, like vinyl; the scratches aren't clean, but have that unique vinyl crunch that comes from really dirty records.
But No Traces was only released on compact disc, a format touted for its pristine sound (and the vinyl noise here is rendered in stark, crisp detail).
And the title, No Traces, is completely incorrect for the highly audible traces of worn-out grooves, neglect and decay that pervades the album.
The lavish artwork reflects this general decomposition.
In addition to the cover photos, five cardboard prints on heavy chipboard stock all in various shades of brown, macro photographs of empty rooms: baseboards on the cover, a floor corner littered with plaster chips, other photographs so washed out as to be unrecognizable.
Behind all this detritus is gorgeous, slow ambience, sometimes melodic, sometimes nearly static, sometimes with little percussive embellishments.
Gentle throbbing drones struggle to escape the crackling.
Deep chordal bell sounds combine with loops, perhaps nighttime field recordings to create a subdued ethereal atmosphere.
But the crackling is an integral part of the music, synchronized to the extent that I would check for skips if it was an LP.
The overall effect is a bit disconcerting, a slight unease between the ambient music and the sounds of decay, an effect often achieved in more subterranean releases, and all the more welcome here for the uniqueness of the total.»
«From the imperial stables of ambience, Infraction records, gallops a champion stallion going by the name of No Traces, a fine 2 headed beast.
It's creators Sleepy Town Manufacture & Unit 21 throw woozy waves of languid synth at your ears, morphing underneath a constant roll of earthy static whilst distant hazy yodels and meandering piano tones crawl quietly beneath the beautiful murk.
You really need headphones to appreciate the many layers on this album.
Some of it sounds like a worn down Tangerine Dream record, what with the absorbing melee of fuzz surrounding the blissed gusts of pacifying emotive drone underneath.
On 'Blooming Woods' a flute (or maybe a piccolo or some wild reed instrument) goes joyously dancing in and around your lug holes but there's this dreamy detachment about it's snaky progress that makes it sound like it's being played outside your front door, waiting to be allowed entry!
Overall i'm reminded of Pole's classic trilogy of crackle & static gems under laid with the essence of Global Communication's '76:14', this is a very beautiful 8 tracker full of stately drones, moving tones, ghostly effects, subtle percussive delights & profoundly moving passages, full of wonder & intrigue.
A gorgeous package too, with INITIAL copies arriving with a bonus 3" in a little booklet and some designer postcards, all housed in a posh laminated card gatefold.
A labour of love indeed from our Russian friends, and I mean friends.
They can stay at mine anyday if this is the kind of noise they make!»
«*Limited CD + 3" CD version*
This fits in so beautifully with the other Infraction releases I must say.
I don't know whether it's just me but I associated Sleepy Town Manufacture with a more purist elecronic sound (possibly because of the net releases on Sutemos I think) but this collaboration with Unit 21 is simply a gorgeous piece of atmospheric and soundscape-driven music par excellence.
Deep and dense textures, lovingly crafted melodic elements and plenty of delicate processing give this a flowing ambient feel - just right for relaxing to after a hard day at the office!
The tracks on the limited 3" are more along the lines of Celer or adam Pacione and, once again, sit very happily indeed in with the rest of the catalogue.
A really lovely piece of work and a cracking start to 2009 for this most excellent label. A recommendation, then.»
pi micron, Sound Proector
«The latest for the moment release of American label Infraction pleasantly surprises by its unique package - two dense sheets of the basic envelope hide 5 square cardboards with photos printed on them.
These photos were made inside an old house battered by time.
Stylish artificial 'agedness' is exactly what's needed - the album's cover becomes the entrance door to the room of dusty, rough sound crackling under the years' pressure.
As if we had entered the room and started deepening into its atmosphere, watching the life moments seen by its walls – life of several generations who lived here.
Such interesting alloy was created by two Russian musicians - Alexander Ananyev (aka Sleepy Town Manufacture) and Stanislav Vdovin (aka Unit 21).
Ananyev made the ambient cover of slow electronic backings and field records, Vdovin textured this substance by his master clicks and vinyl plates' crackling.
By means of sounds various views are drawn inside the imaginary room, these are the pictures of the past and dreams of the future.
Further, in the middle of the album clicks and crackles sound already a little bit persistently.
It seems it was a blunder to over-stress them and draw to the foreground of general composition.
In general, in some places the impression form the album is spoiled by unpleasant low-frequency 'rubbish' as for example turn up buzzing 'charges' in the last track “Continent”.
They properly warmed up my inside and neighbors' nerves.
That's why I think it's better to listen to this album in headphones.
Headphones (at least my ones) level the 'droning effect' heard in some places, also they create more intimate atmosphere for contact with this music.
Creative work of both musicians was familiar to me earlier and the album didn't surprise me by anything except its interesting cover.
I think it's not the best their work, though in general 'No Traces' can be called a pleasant, memorizable release with its unique mood.»
Brian Bieniowski, Zap Town
«Another incredible ambient release on Infraction, and certainly a contender for 2009’s best.
Sleepy Town Manufacture (also known as Beautumn) takes Unit 21’s LP collection and cobbles together a Tarkovsky-esque trip through the Zone.
If you liked last year’s Parks album, imagine that mixed with samples from 1950s stereo-test records and obscure soundtracks.
This whole record is a tour de force, from the ample packaging to the bonus disc.»
«“Отсутствие следов” — вторая совместная работа Александра Ананьева (Sleepy Town Manufacture) и Станислава Вдовина (Unit 21), записанная в возвышенном и умиротворяющем эмбиентном стиле.
Для создания плавно разворачивающегося мечтательного пейзажа используются виниловый хруст, микролупы и эффекты, пиано переливы, акустические инструменты, и конечно же, утончённые синтезаторные слои самых различных модификаций.
Обволакивающий и всепоглощающий минимализм выстроен по всем канонам жанра, звук кристально чист и прозрачен, содержание глубинно и насыщенно тонами.
Прослушивание альбома сопровождается игрой и встречами со своими самыми отдалёнными мыслями и фантазиями.»