Independent Music Reviews & Music Label

Archive for September, 2012

Twigs & Yarn – The Language Of Flowers

Flau28 CD – Time: About 43 Minutes (Also available in 12” vinyl LP)

Artists Website: http://www.twigsandyarn.net         Record Label Website: http://www.flau.jp

Mastered by: Nick Zammuto: http://www.zammutosound.com

Tracks (*Note: Track order according to iTunes readout appears to be in reverse order, although the music order is correct.  The track order that follows is properly sequenced with the sound files on the CD and has been confirmed with the artist.)

1) Laverne; 2) Static Rowing; 3) If Were An Artery; 4) Conscious Strings; 5) Mermaid Wetness; 6) An Honest Moment; 7) Rosy Cheeked Pumpkin; 8) Bristle Of Mundane; 9) Flowers Thirsty; 10) Marigold Ride; 11) Strings Of Complacency; 12) Learning To Glisten

I sometimes listen to shortwave radio, late into the night, or in the early morning, as signals and sleep drift; voices and sounds emerge and disappear.  Every so often my radio will lock in on a clear signal, and for a time there are voices from foreign lands, interesting new music, field correspondents reporting, or the strange sounds of open carrier frequencies waiting for a signal to fill them.

The Language Of Flowers is the enchanting (and often quirky) new album by Twigs & Yarn, and it has some parallels to late night radio listening, a mixing of familiar sounds, music and fleeting recollections.  Both artists and musicians, Stephen Orsak resides in Texas, and Lauren McMurray is in Japan, and their work takes shape over the airwaves, satellites and international cables via computers and ftp servers.  I didn’t discover Twigs & Yarn on my own; I have Michael Cottone of The Green Kingdom to thank for introducing me to their works.  I come across new artists by exploring record label websites, visiting the few record shops that are left and (often the best method), word of mouth from musicians and friends.  I don’t yet have the LP version, but the CD is packaged in a letter-pressed hand decorated collage (each one is slightly different).

The album opens with the mysteriously diaphanous Laverne, which shimmers like filtered sound-light on a bright morning, then passes quickly into the gentle swaying of Static Rowing.  The fourth track Conscious Strings is both the clear reality of a solo acoustic guitar, combined with the meandering voices of a daydream.  Some tracks seem to blend together as observations shift, and there is peaceful warmth in the sounds of a given day, whether inward looking as in Mermaid Wetness (with ingeniously repeated cadenced sound-samples) or outward as in the strangely discordant An Honest Moment which merges into street sounds, bells, voices, and then into a tranquil music box and electric guitar reflection in Rosy Cheeked Pumpkin reminiscent of Daniel Lanois’ pedal steel work on his album here is what is.

Bristle Of Mundane is an unexpected contrast, which opens with a heavily-distorted music box, eventually settling into gentle waves.  The experience of late night radio listening is present in Flowers Thirsty, tuning in and out from pop-music radio samples to a distant ebb and flow of music and whispers, the mind drifts late into the night, until being awakened by the radio-alarm (this is my favorite piece on the album, mysterious and great keyboard sounds).  The gentle pulsing organ of Marigold Ride contains a soft repeated vocal, flowing into acoustic guitar of Strings Of Complacency (sounding a bit like some recent solo guitar work of Ant Phillips combined with light treatments from Eno’s Julie With from the album Before And After Science).  Learning To Glisten is the postlude to the album, the purest of all the tracks, with little sonic movement, and is a soothing close.

 

The Language of Flowers is like rotating a radio tuning knob late at night, or peering into a window overlooking a secret garden, or ephemeral visions in a dream.  It’s an assemblage of existence all around, from the broadest landscapes down to the tiniest whispers, and even memories of childhood games as in the gently spirited and delightfully melodic third track, If I Were An Artery.  The music, field recordings, samples and instrumentation are assembled with an idiosyncratic aplomb that yield a very cohesive and soothing quality, like a less energetic, more contemplative version of works by The Books combined with gossamers of the dearly departed Sparklehorse.  So, it makes complete sense that Nick Zammuto (ex-Book) mastered this album; a symbiotic chemistry.

Videos

Static Rowing

 

Mermaid Wetness

 

Marigold Ride

 


Kane Ikin – Sublunar

12k1071 CD – Time: 53:33

Artist’s Website: http://www.kaneikin.com        Record Label Website: http://www.12k.com

Tracks: 1) Europa; 2) Slow Waves; 3) In The Arc; 4) Ebbing; 5) Rhea; 6) Titan; 7) Sleep Spindle; 8) An Infinite Moment; 9) The Violent Silence; 10) Black Sands; 11) Lo; 12) Prometheus’ Tail; 13) Oberon; 14) Compression Waves; 15) In The Shadow Of The Vanishing Night; 16) Hyperion;

 

I don’t know exactly on what plane Kane Ikin exists, but I can tell you that I’d like to get there.  There is a sense of deep mystery, the fleeting ethereal and a curious otherness in his musical travels.  I’ll gladly get on his spaceship, anytime.

Kane Ikin is one half of Solo Andata (along with Paul Fiocco, both being from Australia), and he has also collaborated with other artists including David Wenngren (aka Library Tapes) on their February 2012 album Strangers (KESH017).  I first encountered Solo Andata’s work in the 2009 self-titled 12k release.

Earlier this year, Ikin gave us a taster EP entitled Contrail (clear vinyl 7”, and a separate download of four tracks), and the title track alone was worth the price of the entire EP, not to mention the marvelous job that 12k did with the packaging.  Also, of note, Sublunar is packaged in 12k’s new (no plastic, and I assume, recycled cardboard) sleeve design.

 

Ikin’s music is decidedly lo-fi in production (tape loops, altered field recordings, sampling, warped instrumental recordings), but the quality and care that he takes in combining tangible instrumentation with highly manipulated sounds gives the end result an indescribable yet comforting quality.  His solo work also tends (so far) to focus on shorter format recordings (the longest track Oberon on Sublunar is 4:51).  Also, while I consider his work to be highly original in form and sound; there are occasional (intentional?) references to works of others.  At the risk of driving my readers bonkers, I’ll again reference Kraftwerk and their track Kling Klang from the 1972 album Kraftwerk 2, which came to mind when I first heard the gongs and bells in track (6) Titan.

Sublunar is a series of short journeys, just enough time to experience the sense of place Ikin is depicting, but not so long that one feels the urge to get to the next destination too quickly.  I’m going to resist the temptation to describe each track (there’s a full single track sound file for Europa and an Experimedia sampler of excerpts from the entire album), because I think that might diminish a sense of self-exploration for the listener.  Some tracks meander with little guidance from a recognizable beat, whereas others have highly treated percussion with extended decay.  I especially like how Kane treats the sound of strings in the mix; he uses the entirety of an acoustic guitar’s resonance.  Sublunar is a potent musical experience, and I hope Kane Ikin continues his voyages of experimentation, because I’m completely hooked.

****

Sublunar‘s Teaser Video

 

Experimedia’s Sampler of the Album

 


Marcus Fischer + The OO-Ray – Tessellations

Optic Echo – oe010 LP limited to 250 LP copies

Marcus Fischer: http://www.mapmap.ch/index.php/recordings/tessellations/

Ted Laderas (The OO-Ray): http://15people.net/ & http://eatguide.tumblr.com/The-OO-Ray & http://waveguideaudio.com/

Record Label Website: http://www.opticecho.com/OE/News.html

LP Time: about 43 minutes.  Digital Time*: about 49 minutes with Track 8*.

Credits: Mastered by Taylor Deupree at 12k.  Cut by Rashad at Dubplates & Mastering.  Cover Design: Marcus Fischer

 

Tracks: 1) belong; 2) cold spring; 3) bokeh; 4) fourier; 5) unfold; 6) ghost lights; 7) tessellate (tessellation); 8) music for caverns*

Improvisation is about taking risks, experimenting and responding to the immediate results.  It is the outcome of the instantaneous transition from thought to motion, and then to sound.  It sometimes takes practice, and it requires chemistry between the artists; the kind of vibe evident between Marcus Fischer and Ted Laderas (aka The-OO-Ray).  Music can yield a far timelier reward compared to other slower [art] forms, like in architecture or science, where the results of research and collaboration can often take years to behold.

This has been a busy year for Marcus Fischer with at least five published recordings, touring, and new projects in the works.  I’ve certainly enjoyed all of them, solo and collaborative.  It is thanks to Fischer’s work that I have become familiar with Ted Laderas (The OO-Ray: self-professed on his Twitter bio “Half Scientist, Half Cellist, All Shoegazer”) and his electro-acoustic chamber-drones.

Tessellations is the result of a series of long-form improvisations between the Fischer and Laderas.  It was commissioned by the Optic Echo label in 2011.  The instrumentation is largely stringed (acoustic and electric guitars, cello, lap harp) with percussion, loops, processing and minimal synthesizers.  The album has a dynamic richness with a combination of soothing observation and introspection.  I also appreciate that this is an album of largely non-electronic instrumentation, not necessarily a rejection of sequenced analog or digital electronics, but a return to earlier tangible instrumental roots, and a sense of the ageless.  It kind of takes me back to some of Kraftwerk’s oft-forgotten earlier works from Kraftwerk 1 and 2, and Ralf and Florian; like the guitar portions of Tongebirge (Mountain of Sound) from 1973.

The album opens with belong, rising like the sun on a dewy morn; crisp and hopeful with a gentleness that avoids any sense of melancholy.  Stark and mysterious is the ambience of cold spring with OO-Ray’s cello seeking the edges, and hints of Harold Budd’s Boy About 10 from the album By The Dawn’s Early Light.  The largo metronomic of the bass line maintains the focus of bokeh as cello, keyboards and other instrumentation blurs the musical depth of field.

The shifting of sounds, interlocking, matching and then contrasting (much like a moiré pattern) is the sense presented in fourier, which is perhaps the most densely packed and expansive of the tracks.  By contrast, unfold is perhaps the most peaceful track on the album, a private [waterside] contemplation with gently flowing cello, meandering lap harp layered and a soft droning veil.  Then, the mystical and shimmering reverb of ghost lights emerges, and is reminiscent of the recent Unrecognizable Now album (Fischer’s collaboration with Matt Jones, KESH018) Two Rooms, with shifting chords and bowed strings (and has some of the sound I noted earlier in Tongebirge).

tessellate is the longest (about 10 minutes) and most subtle of the tracks on the album (titled tessellation on the download).  It has the most nuanced transitions, with Fischer and Laderas trading themes and responses, and weaving phrases back into the fabric of the piece.  It brings the LP to a placid close.  *music for caverns is the bonus track with the digital download, and is a warm postlude to the day that started with belong, and in some respects is similar to the closing tracks of Eno, Lanois & Eno’s album,  Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks—one of my favorite of Eno’s collaborative works.

Marcus Fischer + The OO-Ray have deftly assembled in their collaborative improvisational work both a cohesive sonic realism, and impressionistic vision with a timeless authenticity.

Marcus Fischer + The OO-Ray – Photo by Seth Chrisman


Review: Every Hidden Color – Luz

Label: Streamline #1033 12” Vinyl LP (no digital download) - Tracks: I – 17: 04 & II – 18:00

Album available from NSZCZ: http://www.nszcz.com/a-few-copies-of-luz-are-for-sale/

Nicholas Szczepanik http://www.nszcz.com/  http://soundcloud.com/nszcz

Federico Durand http://www.federicodurand.blogspot.com/ http://soundcloud.com/federicodurand

More information on album and available at http://www.dragcity.com/artists/every-hidden-color

 

Every Hidden Color is a collaboration of two hemispheres and opposing seasons: Nicholas Szczepanik in North America (Chicago) and Federico Durand in South America (Buenos Aires).  The work of these two artists to date is, to my ears, quite different, and the results in Luz are intriguingly harmonious.

Szczepanik’s work tends to be more serious and deliberate, and at times quite dense with broad masses of sound.  Of his most recent work, my strongest connection, is to his album Please Stop Loving Me, which is indescribably beautiful and yearning in its meshing of sound and emotion.  I am less familiar with Federico Durand’s work, but I have heard portions of his albums La Siesta del Ciprés (The Nap of the Cypress on the Spekk label) and the more recent (and bad luck for me it’s sold out!) album El Extasis de las Flores Pequeñas (The Ecstasy of Small Flowers on the Own Records label).  Durand’s work tends more towards the introspective and ethereal, deftly woven with field recordings.

The pulsing of cicadas, crickets and a streetscape is how Luz opens before drifting into gentle winds (or is it the noise of a distant highway…or does it really matter?) and then a rhythmically swaying melody appearing like a soothing mantra, to then disappear into a sparsely layered and introspective suspension of reality.  From there, come gentle rains, soft guitars, birds in the nearby trees, and then all drifts into the softest of walls of sound and finally gentle voices.

This is an album of contemplation and a sensitive appreciation of the world around us, from the smallest sound to the broadest landscape, and also to the light—Luz.


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