Hotel Neon – Means of Knowing

Hotel Neon have been on my musical radar for quite some time. Shortly after their formation, I’d found the trio of Michael Tasselmyer, Andrew Tasselmyer, and Steven Kemner through Instagram, of all places. It’s not often that artists within our ambient scene operate as more than solo acts, and immediately I was intrigued by the Philadelphia-based ensemble. Since their self-titled debut in 2013, Hotel Neon have grown from strength to strength, boasting album released via labels Fluid Audio and Home Normal, as well as collaborations with Slow Meadow. We find ourselves here: the band’s fourth album, ‘Means of Knowing’, joins trusted company with the Valencia-based label, ARCHIVES.

Continuing to develop their lush, interactive soundscape, the album opens up with the title track: subtle beds of environmental sound rest peacefully under cascading drones, washed out chords progressions, and expansive diffusion. The trio’s ethereal sound and attention to balance is contrasted by their use of degraded field recordings; the support of rainfall and encroaching traffic in ‘Pathways (Part 2)’ and what strikes me as a waterfall in ‘Lift’ provide grounded placement to their transcendent output. By the end of the album’s third track, it is clear that Hotel Neon have together harnessed unmatched development as musicians.


Recognising influence in guitar-based ambient and post-rock acts such as Hammock, Stars of The Lid,Sigur Rós, GY!BE, The American Dollar, and Lowercase Noises, Hotel Neon manage to successfully carve out their own space and firmly establish their own musical identity. ‘Referent’ is a perfect example of slowly evolving progressions, uprooting the listener through repetition, additive approaches to composition, and nomadic use of the stereo field. It is at this point that the trio express what sounds like a veiled orchestra, shrouded by the omnipresence of a much large space that cannot simply be rendered to the listening environment.


As the album progresses, the listener is introduced to a wider sound-palette through glassy pads, careful drones amongst the lower registers, and the driven overtones of bowed guitar. ‘Roke’ introduces a more varied take on the non-musical sounds within the album, hinting towards the humanly randomised approach of electro-acoustic experimentation as degraded guitar loops appear; the vulnerable sound of an unplugged electric guitar can also be heard, creating a momentary offset. Such exploration is furthered in the following track, ‘Divisible Realms’, as the percussive rustling and crunches.


I wish to leave the reader, and eventual listener, here – believe me, there is so much more to come. I’ve already listened through to the album multiple times, both attentively and whilst doing other things. ‘Means of Knowing’ is a listening pleasure from start to finish, heightened by Hotel Neon’s clear artistic development whilst maintaining their unmistakable, atmospheric sound. I’ll continue to listen to the album regularly, hearing something different with each visit, and sinking deeper into the sonic environment Hotel Neon have gifted us.


Hotel Neon – ‘Means of Knowing’ comes out on Monday, May 14th, via ARCHIVES, and is available as a limited edition double vinyl (in clear or black), and a limited edition CD with artwork by Alexander Kopatz. A digital version of the album is also available.