Independent Music & Equipment Reviews & Music Label

Archive for May, 2012

Somewhat eclectic listening today…UPDATED

Will the Circle be Unbroken

On Capitol Nashville, various artists (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band et al…cast of many)

In honor of the passing of Doc Watson I’ve been listening to this (two CD set from 2002).  It was originally released in 1972 as 3 LPs and 3 cassette tapes (my LPs were long ago worn out).  My favorite is Doc Watson’s version of the Jimmie Driftwood song Tennessee Stud.

 

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Dictaphone – Poems From A Rooftop

#sonicpieces013 – http://sonicpieces.com/sonicpieces013.html

The title taken from Iran’s Green Revolution…more on the album at the link above.  Really interesting sonics, rhythms, instrumentation and delightfully quirky.  My favorite on the album is Manami.

 

Video of the handmade limited edition CD cover:

 

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Brian McBride – The Effective Disconnect

Kranky #KRANK150 – http://www.kranky.net/

Music composed for the documentary Vanishing of the Bees

One half of the duo Stars of the Lid.  A really beautiful soundtrack and I’d love to find the film.

 

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Small Color – In Light

#12K1057 http://www.12k.com/index.php/site/releases/in_light/

Yusuke Onishi and Rie Yoshihara, really charming minimal electro-acoustic Japanese pop.

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And then there’s this gem of an album…

Aspidistrafly – A Little Fable

http://www.kitchen-label.com/catalogue/ki007-aspidistrafly-a-little-fable

The first edition has sold out. So a second edition of 2,500 copies will be released shortly.  Both the book and music have a delightfully ancient quality about them.  Ambient sounds, chamber music, vocals and electro-acoustic music.  As one friend put it, “…it’s a lovely album.” It really is.  There are sound samples at the link above.

This is available at: http://darla.com/

Homeward Waltz is my favorite piece:

 


Anthony Phillips & Andrew Skeet – Seventh Heaven

CD1 & CD2 #VPD555CD: Total Times: 46:43 and 51:08 Released 2012

Artist Website: http://www.anthonyphillips.co.uk/

Artist Website: http://www.andrewskeet.com/

Record Label: http://www.voiceprint.co.uk/

Tracks CD1: 1) Credo In Cantus (vocal by Lucy Crowe); 2) A Richer Earth; 3) Under The Infinite Sky; 4) Grand Central; 5) Kissing Gate; 6) Pasquinade; 7) Rain on Sage Harbour; 8) Ice Maiden; 9) River of Life; 10) Desert Passage; 11) Seven Ancient Wonders (vocal by Belinda Sykes); 12) Desert Passage (reprise); 13) Circle of Light; 14) Forgotten Angels; 15) Courtesan; 16) Ghosts of New York; 17) Shipwreck of St Paul; 18) Cortege

Tracks CD2: 1) Credo In Cantus (instrumental); 2) Sojourn; 3) Speak of Remarkable Things; 4) Nocturne; 5) Long Road Home; 6) The Golden Leaves of Fall; 7) Credo; 8) Under The Infinite Sky (guitar ensemble version); 9) The Stuff of Dreams; 10) Old Sarum Suite (five parts); 11) For Eloise; 12) Winter Song; 13) Ghosts of New York (piano version); 14) Daniel’s Theme; 15) Study In Scarlet; 16) The Lives of Others; [sic] 18) Forever Always

When many think of the music of Anthony Phillips, often they first remember his association with the early days of the band Genesis, even though it has been more than forty years since he left that band.  After formal music training in the early 1970s, Ant did continue to collaborate with Mike Rutherford on The Geese and the Ghost and Smallcreep’s Day, in addition to Ant’s other solo works such as Wise After The Event and Sides in the mid to late 1970s.  Ant has released about thirty albums to the general public, in addition to the many compilations of his extensive catalog.

Anthony Phillips

The younger Andrew Skeet has worked as an arranger and orchestrator for George Michael, Suede, Unkle, Sinead O’Connor and Hybrid.  Since 2004 Skeet has worked with Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy on three albums as musical director, arranger, and playing piano as well as touring throughout Europe.  Andrew Skeet also established the music production company Roxbury Music with Luke Gordon (former Howie B collaborator) and together their music has been featured in film, television and commercials: The Apprentice, Dispatches, and Banged Up Abroad.  Skeet has also orchestrated and conducted scores for The Awakening and Upstairs Downstairs.  The album The Greatest Video Game Music was produced in 2011 by Andrew Skeet along with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and has been one of the most successful classical releases in many years.

Andrew Skeet

Ant and Andrew crossed paths when Universal Publishing Production Music commissioned Ant to write a collection of cinema-related music for UPPM’s  Atmosphere label.  Much of Ant’s music career for the last twenty or so years has been writing what is often referred to as “library music” or stock music composed for use in films, television or commercials in addition to other commisioned and self-produced works.  Periodically Ant has collected these tracks, edited and in some cases re-recorded them for his Private Parts and Pieces, Missing Links or other album releases that are available to the general public (primarily through the Voiceprint and Blueprint labels).

It is always of particular interest to me to dig through Ant’s music to find the roots of some of his library work.  I do miss the days of his more rock-oriented albums and singing, but recognize that getting that kind of work published these days is not easy or commercially viable.  Ant goes through periods where his work is more keyboard oriented, but in 2005 he released a gorgeous double CD entitled Field Day filled with varying acoustic guitar work written and recorded from 2001 to 2005 (the exception being a re-recording of his 1975 piece Nocturne from PP&PP2 Back to the Pavilion…one of my favorite albums of his earlier solo works).

Field Day forms the basis for portions of Seventh Heaven where some of the solo guitar works have been orchestrated in addition to pieces that Ant and Andrew co-wrote later.  Ant is credited with having written ten of the thirty-five compositions. The orchestrated pieces from Field Day that I can identify include: Credo, Nocturne, River of Life, Sojourn, Rain on Sag Harbour and the exquisite Kissing Gate.  Each of these pieces is lightly orchestrated and perfectly complements the original to heighten the sentiments of the composition.

For fans of Ant’s prog-rock work this album might be a stretch, but if listeners enjoyed the album Tarka (the orchestral collaboration with Harry Williamson released in the late 1980s) then I think this Phillips and Skeet collaboration will be well received.  The orchestration and recording is lush yet is not overdone.  Many of the compositions are quite visual and evoke certain moods or a sense of place.  The orchestrations vary from solo instrument (guitar, piano) to full orchestra, chamber or ensemble.

There are some really gorgeous tracks, from the opening of CD1 Credo In Cantus (based on Ant’s Credo from Field Day) and the transition into A Richer Earth and the dramatic Under The Infinite SkyGrand Central evokes a sense of motion as in a view taken from the station in New York on a busy morning.  Desert Passage by contrast is a stark and dramatic piece based around (I think) a mandocello with Middle Eastern themes along with woodwind soloist (and collaborator from PP&PP6 New England) Martin Robertson.

CD2 opens with an instrumental reprise of Credo In Cantus and ties the two discs together.  A spirited orchestral version of Sojourn follows and then the mysterious piano of Speak of Remarkable Things links to the poignant and beautiful guitar Nocturne from long ago—it has an ageless quality to it.  Long Road Home has the image of a beginning (and it is quite cinematic in its breadth) with first full orchestra followed by solo woodwinds and closing with piano.  The Golden Leaves of Fall continues a similar piano theme and to me the two pieces seem strongly connected.  Mid-disc is Old Sarum Suite in five short movements and it has a brilliant range of instrumentation and themes, and shows the versatility of Phillips and Skeet’s collaboration.  It has an historic feel to it similar to Henry: Portrait From Tudor Times from “Geese”.  CD2 closes with an introspective piece Forever Always, (a common thread, reflection, in Ant’s own work since “GeeseCollections/Sleepfall: The Geese Fly West).

 

There are extensive liner notes with the CDs as well as photographs of the recording sessions with the orchestras and biographies on the soloists and principal players (John Parricelli, Belinda Sykes, Martin Robertson, Lucy Crowe, Paul Clarvis and Chris Worsey).  The works were recorded in three phases (from 2008 through late 2011), with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir in Prague, then with string section at Angel Studios and then some tracks were re-recorded at Abbey Road along with recordings at Ant’s studio.  The only quirk that I noticed is that CD2 actually has seventeen tracks, although it skips from 16 to 18 in the liner notes (typo!).

Seventh Heaven is both a collaborative work with Anthony Phillips as well as a splendid introduction to the work of Andrew Skeet.  Whether a fan of Anthony Phillips’s prog-rock, instrumental or library compositions, I think this is a great addition to his oeuvre.  Seventh Heaven is an expansive, sophisticated, and elegant work.


Cock and Swan – Stash

CD #LTS0011: Total Time: 43:25

Artist Website: http://www.cockandswan.com/

Record Label: http://losttribesound.com/

Recorded by: http://dandeliongold.com/

Soundcloud Samples:

 

Tracks: 1) Sneak Close; 2) Stash; 3) Raging Chisel; 4) Sympethizer; 5) Happy Thoughts; 6) Unrecognized; 7) Unserious; 8) Clear Sighing; 9) Remember Sweet; 10) I Let Me In; 11) Orange and Pink; 12) Walking Up Dandelions

Bonus MP3 EP: 1) Comfort Zone 2 (acoustic); 2) Raging Chisel; 3) Stash (Part Timer Remix); 4) End Sinister; 5) Random tracking; 6) Soft Setting; 7) Stash (Vieo Abiungo Remix)

Not so long ago I took a chance on purchasing an album based on a brief write-up and it turned out to be a real gem— Will Samson’s Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends.  It has happened again with Cock and Swan’s Stash.  I read a summary, and I also noticed the great care that Lost Tribe Sound had put into their limited edition release (cloth binding with mixed hand made papers).  I could not resist, and what an enchanting surprise this album is.

Cock and Swan are Johnny Goss (bass, guitar, percussion, vocals and production) and Ola Hungerford (vocals, piano and clarinet).  Supporting musicians include, Adam Kozie (drums), William Ryan Fritch (vibraphone, marimba, saxophone, flute and cello). Paintings are by Robert Klein and photography by Angel Ceballos.

Photo courtesy of Cock and Swan

There is something delightfully ancient and psychedelic about Stash.  I won’t dwell for too long on what other albums I am reminded of—the percussion (including deep bass drums), woodwinds, soft and dreamy vocals.  First, the ballads feel like they are drawn from the same cloth as Comin’ Back to Me from Surrealistic Pillow by the Jefferson Airplane (1967).  Second, the drums—rough, full and sometimes behind the beat are very close to Michael Giles on both Cadence and Cascade from In The Wake of Poseidon by King Crimson (1970) and the alternate lyric version (by B. P. Fallon instead of Peter Sinfield) Flight of the Ibis from the eponymous album McDonald and Giles (also from 1970).

Some of the tracks on this album are acoustic remakes of more obscure electronic versions from their two prior albums (Unrecognized, Unserious, Sympethizer, I Let Me In, Stash, Tectonic Plates).  It is evident that Cock and Swan were searching for a sound to fit the songs and I think in this album they have found it—softer, comfortable and more accessible (and with a hint of the sadly departed Sparklehorse).

Sneak Close and Stash both have guitars sounding like dulcimers, drum sticks counting time, whispering woodwinds, Ola Hungerford’s ethereal vocals and the overall sound of an old music box working against its well-used mainspring.  Raging Chisel is an excellent combination of the obscure and edgy sounds of their earlier albums woven with melodic instrumental and vocal passages.  Sympethizer is a short instrumental and Happy Thoughts moves slowly with a contrasting faster interlocking rhythm and subtle use of electronics.  Tectonic Plates has a lush beat, sounds are layered (ambient and instrumental) and Ola’s voice floats in between.  It’s easy to be drawn into this peaceful and dreamy realm.

The drums are strong, but never overpowering on Unrecognized and there is a charming mix with ambient sounds and solo acoustic guitar.  The largely instrumental Unserious has a stately piano backdrop with woodwinds and soft percussion.  Clear Sighing is a short instrumental percussion and woodwind link leading into the vocally and instrumentally beautiful Remember Sweet (with one of my favorite touches…a background of pin-piano during the choruses).  I Let Me In has a rhythmically languid, but swaying vibe.

The standout piece on this album for me is Orange and Pink.  Acoustic guitar, mallet-struck percussion and piano start with lightly teasing interplay until Ola and Johnny’s vocals feather into the mix and then yield to a hovering piano counterpoint before fading—it’s simply gorgeous.  The album closes with the soft anthem Walking Up Dandelions, a combination of many of the sounds throughout the album.

 

While the arrangements are relatively simple throughout, the layering of the instruments, vocals and ambient surroundings give the album a lush quality.  My only wish?—that a lyrics sheet were included.  Other than that, this album is just wonderful.

Tectonic Plates Video:

 


Monty Adkins – Four Shibusa

CD #AB040: Total Time: 43:13

Artist’s Website: http://www.montyadkins.com/

Record Label Website: http://www.audiobulb.com/

Sound samples: http://www.audiobulb.com/albums/AB040/AB040.htm

Tracks: 1) Sendai Threnody 9:00; 2) Entangled Symmetries 11:04; 3) Kyoto Roughcut 14:38; 4) Permutations 8:31

I am likely less-than-qualified to discuss this work since it is steeped in layers of academia and has densely studied connections with artistic subjects.  Yet, with all that Four Shibusa is a beautiful and very accessible collection of music on its own.  It has a stark clarity that I am coming to understand and appreciate more in the recent works of Monty Adkins.  I am most familiar with two of Adkins’s prior works, Five Panels from 2009 and Fragile.Flicker.Fragment from 2011.

This is an example of Monty Adkins’s work from Fragile.Flicker.Fragment

Remnant:

 

There is a companion video to “Remnant” here and I think it’s gorgeous:

 

Monty Adkins studied music at Pembroke College in Cambridge, UK where he specialized in French Medieval and Italian Renaissance music.  After an introduction to electronic music by ECM artist Ambrose Field, Adkins formally studied acousmatic music (a form of electroacoustic music).  More information on his studies and background can be found at his website noted above.  In addition to his own solo works, Adkins has been commissioned to create musical works for art installations, dance and other performances as well as curate collections with other composers of electronic, ambient and musique concrète (influenced by the pioneering work of Pierre Schaeffer).  He is on the faculty at the University of Huddersfield Music Department in the UK.

Shibusa is the concept of seeing the inherent simplicity and beauty in everyday objects.  This has been the basis for an artistic collaboration between visual artist Pip Dickens and Monty Adkins (both having an interest in Japanese culture and thought) that recently culminated with the release of this album along with a book and exhibition entitled Shibusa – Extracting Beauty, edited by both artists.  I have not yet had a chance to see the visual works (though some illustrate the CD cover) or book, in person.  I have read that the visual work is an exploration of color, pattern, rhythm and vibration in Japanese Katagami stencils and fabrics and the interplay of light, shadow and color—relationships which can range from spirited to introspective and reflective.  The CD, Four Shibusa is a collection of thoughtful and precise music compositions.  At times, their simplicity belies their great depth.

More information on the artistic collaboration is at this link:

http://www.pip-dickens.com/audio-visual-collaboration.htm

Sendai Threnody, I posit, is a lament resulting from the massive and tragic 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  This piece is brilliantly played by clarinettists Heather Roche and Jonathan Sage.  The subtlety of the blending of consonant to dissonant tones adds to the power and serenity of this tribute.  Minimal electronics supplement this track.

Entangled Symmetries returns to sound explorations similar to Fragile.Flicker.Fragment, yet with a greater sense of restraint.  There is a deep inner reflection in this piece.  The more complex portions seem to be taking cues from the visual works of collaborator Pip Dickens where sonic patterns combine and vibrate.

Kyoto Roughcut has a distinctly mysterious quality.  It opens with very subtle and not readily discernable combinations of electronics and clarinets.  There is a building tension and the sounds expand with chattering and visceral undercurrents.  As the piece progresses, the clarinets are revealed with shrill edges, full tones and liquid electronics are woven and pulsed into the fabric of sound until it overtakes and floods the entire soundstage and gently wanes.  The clarinets return briefly and then all gradually fades.

Permutations opens with solo clarinet and a growing misty undertow of electronics with sounds reminiscent of meshed tonal percussion, strings and choral voices.  It is a somber theme similar to Sendai Threnody—almost like a beacon calling out in a steady rain.  Eventually, the clarinet melody shifts and the electronics gradually transform to purer tones like the clarinets and then the combined atmosphere of sound subsides, leaving a lone clarinet.

There is a meditative purity throughout Four Shibusa, but it is in no way a sterile.  The timbre of the clarinets adds a warmth to the overall work.  In each piece, there is a masterful sophistication and balance, and despite the use of electronics, the sound is never synthetic.  Sometimes the power is in the silence and the spaces, not always in the sound.  This I am coming to understand more with each new work by Monty Adkins.  As a record label, Audiobulb has again held fast to their tenet of being “…an exploratory music label designed to support the work of innovative artists.”

More information about clarinettists Heather Roche and Jonathan Sage:

http://heatherroche.wordpress.com/ and http://www.jonathansage.co.uk/


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