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Posts tagged “Drone

twincities – variations for the celesta

Eilean [02]

Eilean: [02] – Eilean Records: CD-R (an edition of 80) Time 48:16

Tracks: 1) Prelude in E Major, 2) Evenings Wait; The Morning’s Break, 3) Early Ferns, 4) The Sun Looks Quite Ghostly When There’s A Mist On The River And Everything’s Quiet, 5) Faint Whirs Of The Smallest Motor, 6) They Carried Teapots And Tiny Gas Canisters, 7) A Ship’s Bell (Sings), 8) The Weight Of The Frost On A Branch, 9) And The Guitar Plays War Hymns, 10) (Sings)

Long ago I found myself curiously attracted to an old celesta (celeste) in the back corner of my high school band room. I’d plug it in when I was sure that no one was around and adjust the controls and the small piano-like instrument made pleasantly sonorous yet mysterious sounds: belltones with alluring sustains and tremolos…

Eilean Records is a new French-based label run by Mathias Van Eecloo and twincities – variations for the celesta is the label’s first release (although ironically labeled [02]). Long Islander (New York) Fletcher McDermott creates music in his basement studio in the guise of twincities (funny, when I think of “Twin Cities” I think of Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota).

Eilean Bottle

Eilean is Scottish Gaelic for Island and the label’s works will each relate to a point on an imaginary map with up to one hundred predetermined locations. Coincidentally, McDermott lives on an island (albeit a rather large island). Eilean releases will vary in quantities from 75 to 200 physical copies and there will be up to 100 releases with hand made covers and related artwork in this map series. Connections to the place where the music is created will be memorialized with an image of a small bottle containing the soil from the musician’s locale. On the reverse of the image with be the map quadrant assigned to the musician. Each release will be a part of the puzzle of the overall map…the music connected to the artist, a point on the map and a small vial of soil. In effect, an imaginary hybrid island with a small yet tangible existence. Islands of the imagination, islands of the mind, perhaps even islands of isolation. Have any of you ever read the short story The Man Who Loved Islands by D. H. Lawrence?

Eilean Map

I’ve noted before that I’ve listened to shortwave and ham radio operators for decades and in some respects this album is like roaming the radio dial late into the night on an old analog shortwave set using the fine-tuning knob. The music is like traveling and it takes the listener to different places. The feeling of being taken on a tour through a shortwave realm isn’t literal like in Kraftwerk’s song Radioland (from their 1975 album Radioactivity), rather it’s more subtle in the background and doesn’t distract from the aura created by the music and other sounds. The album at times also evokes Godley and Creme’s song Get Well Soon from the 1979 album Freeze Frame (waxing rhapsodically about Radio Luxembourg and Radio Caroline late into the night), although that song is more melodic.  The celesta isn’t the dominant sound generator in this album, but each piece has a strong thread weaving throughout along with other well-disguised instrumentation, found or ambient sounds and faint voices. Rather than repeat the track names, I’ll just reference the track number in my overview:

1) variations opens with rapid-fire automated Morse code, soothed with slow comforting celesta responses. 2) The celesta is transformed into restful wind chimes with long passages of deep resonant tones and distant faint melodies. There are some comparisons to the recent works of Kane Ikin’s otherworldly explorations (seek out his recent 12k label releases). 3) Is like hanging on the edge of a dream while awakening in the misty early morning light—the calm and the quietude. The celesta treatment is like it could be from portions of the soundtrack to Forbidden Planet—rather mysterious, almost ominous.

 

4-7) This collection of tracks seems like a suite, at first sonorous, gentle and deep tones and mysterious atmospheres (in time, a slower Morse code reappears), transitioning into an edgier realm (6) and finishing in a gritty drift across the radio dial, sharper sounds with kalimba-like percussives. 8) Sways gently and is the most peaceful track on the album. It evokes some of the feeling of Robert Rich’s recent album Nest. 9) This piece is a broad soundscape (in some respects like those created by the band Lambchop as links between songs…William Tyler’s moody electric guitar drones). The celesta is treated like chimes sounding like church bells, in memoriam. 10) A gritty close, like the beginning, and the distant music returns one last time from a far away island.

twincities cover

Eilean Records is off to a fine start with twincities variation for the celesta. Visit their website soon for the next planned destination which will be released on 5/5/14 and monthly thereafter.

 

Photo of TC by TJ Boegle

Photo of twincities by TJ Boegle

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This is a solicited review.


Nicholas Szczepanik – Not Knowing

NSZCZ Not Knowing

CD TANGENT001  Time: 52:56

Label: http://www.desirepathrecordings.com/ Artist: http://www.nszcz.com/

Auditioning long form musical works take time and with the many modern distractions it’s often difficult to dedicate an extended period to focused listening, but for Not Knowing I think you’ll want to make the time (especially if you are familiar with Nicholas Szczepanik’s previous work such as Please Stop Loving Me).  In fact, if one is in the right frame of mind (like in a state of meditation, self-hypnosis or deep relaxation) the sense of time is often compressed, and one wonders ultimately where the time has gone.

This piece was originally available in a shorter version on the limited 12 part release CD3 series Ante Algo Azul from 2011, and it was a favorite of mine back then.  So, I was delighted to hear that an extended version would be released by Desire Path Recordings as part of their new Tangent series.

I liken Not Knowing, which is different in form and sound from PSLM, to a dream sequence in roughly four parts, although there are threads of sound that keep the piece connected throughout.  The first 12 minutes or so is a deeply pulsed and hypnotic mediation that brings one to where memories and dreams might become lucid, but still out of tangible reach.  It’s at this point where an imagined orchestra appears from the ether and it flows.  Is it a literal sample of another piece or is it combined with electronics?  It appears like unresolved memories in a dream.  I can hear chords of Elgar…wait, then Dvorak…but wait, there’s the flow of Debussy, a sleight of hand used by other composers, hiding themes from elsewhere, leaving the brain to search for a source, and the sound is ethereal and uplifting (dare I say even heavenly for the non-believers?).

 

Then the music and perceived vision seems to drift out of reach and almost dissolves.  At the point in a dream when one loses touch, but wants to return to the visions, and then the melodies and harmonies arrive again, but in a shrouded form with layers of choral vocals.  And within this new realm the piece moves into a less recognizable and deeper unknown territory before gently returning to the original sonic thread, albeit in an altered and transitional chordal-tone state and ultimately the arrival back into the warmth of the visceral pulses.

Although quite different in presentation and instrumentation, I compare the journey in this album to that of some other favorites of mine like Vangelis Papathanasiou’s Rêve from the album Opéra Sauvage and Tangerine Dream’s Desert Dream from their double live album Encore.  The development and sound architecture of the piece is clearly influenced by the works of French electronic composer Éliane Radigue, to whom Szczepanik dedicates the album.


Review: Benoît Pioulard – Hymnal Remixes

Hymnal Remixes

450 CD copies, first 15 copies signed by BP, also digital (to be released January 21, 2014)

Remix label: http://losttribesound.com

Available at: http://losttribesound.bandcamp.com/album/hymnal-remixes

Artist website: http://pioulard.com  Original recording label: http://kranky.net

CD 1 Remixes – 44:51: 1. Mercy (Fieldhead), 2. Margin (William Ryan Fritch), 3. Excave (Squanto), 4. Litiya (The Green Kingdom), 5. Homily (Cock and Swan), 6. Florid (Brambles), 7. Censer (Field Rotation), 8. Reliquary (Part Timer), 9. Margin (Zachary Gray), 10. Foxtail (Graveyard Tapes)

CD 2 Remixes – 53:29: 1. Hawkeye (The Remote Viewer), 2. Censer (Segue), 3. Knell (Widesky), 4. Florid (Loscil), 5. Foxtail (Radere), 6. Gospel (James Murray), 7. Reliquary (Benoît Honoré Pioulard), 8. Margin (Ruhe), 9. Gospel (Window Magic)

****

I want to note that sound quality and production are very important to me, almost as important as the music itself.  So, given that statement, please read this review carefully.  Comments seen as criticisms are not of the music or the writing, but largely on the choice of production methods and sound quality.  I think very highly of the music penned and played by Tom Meluch (in his guise as Benoît Pioulard).  With that in mind, please read on.

****

Hymnal

Hymnal – The Original

I’ve enjoyed Benoît Pioulard’s previous kranky releases as well as the more experimental vinyl EP Plays Thelma on Desire Path Recordings, so coupled with the early press accounts of Hymnal I was hopeful that it would be a great album…

I feel that there are many exceptional songs on Hymnal (Hawkeye, Reliquary, Excave, and especially Margin, and Litiya) along with some comforting drones (like Censer), but in general I feel there is a lack of presence in the recordings—they sound flat, out-of-phase and firmly entrenched in a claustrophobic mid-range (nothing at all like the sumptuous reverb of the intended muse “religious architecture”).  Pioulard’s songs on this particular album are lost in a limiting boxy haze.

I’m a big fan of lo and mid-fi recordings and some musicians do it so well; East River Pipe (FM Cornog), more recently Will Samson and especially (one of my favorite albums of 2013) Bryan Ferry’s The Jazz Age (recorded in monaural with Jazz-era microphones).  Granted, some artists and writers create works within strict limits and can be quite successful (shades of a single color, certain textures or excluding a specific vowel in a written work), but with all the praise I take a contrarian view on the technical execution of Hymnal.  The quality and depth of recordings matter to me, unless there is a stated goal for why sound must be altered so dramatically.

I learned recently of Benoît Pioulard’s other off-label work, such as his 2011 digital EP Lyon (and in support of how I think Meluch writes some great songs).  Have a listen to the gorgeous and unadorned song Tie:

 

It has some of the qualities of recordings by Nick Drake and Bert Jansch (think The Black Swan).  I’m certainly not advocating that Pioulard chooses between one recording approach or another, I’m suggesting perhaps a sound somewhere in the middle, with the vocals higher in the mix and a fuller sound.

Hymnal Remixes

Hymnal – The Remixes

Original songs can find new life in covers or remixes.  So, when Lost Tribe Sound announced this collection of Hymnal reinterpretations (by artists such as Loscil, Cock & Swan, Brambles, The Green Kingdom and William Ryan Fritch) I thought that some of the depth that I felt was missing in the original might be introduced or restored.

This is a really interesting collection, and the recordings in most cases have the clarity and sonic diversity that I had hoped for in the original album.

The two CDs are split loosely into two categories: 1) rhythmic with vocals and 2) more on the ambient side, largely instrumental.  After a couple of listens I was quite surprised that I found myself leaning more towards the feel and sound of the more actively engaging CD 1.

As with the original album Mercy (I’ll call it track 1.1) opens the collection and it’s a bit of an assault on the ears (the original being a full-on harmonium before the vocals enter), but in the remix version the harmonium is tamed and a slow march beat is overlaid.  The sound is far more spacious, as if entering a cathedral.  William Ryan Fritch’s remix of Margin (1.2) is an almost frenetic orchestration compared to the original and Zachary Gray’s version (1.9), which starts off quite stark with lone guitar and vocal and gradually the instrumentation and soundstage expands—I think both are quite successful, and in Gray’s version the vocals are clear as the song develops (makes me wonder all the more why Meluch chose to shroud such a great song).  Squanto’s remix of Excave (1.3) is a series of repeated fragments made into a rhythm and sounding very much like some of Peter Gabriel’s mid-career work.

The Green Kingdom’s and Cock & Swan’s remixes of Litiya (1.4) and Homily (1.5) are quite enchanting.  The sound of Litya softer, fuller and more comforting than the original—the soft electric guitar and cello overlays give the track such an easy feel, and Pioulard’s largely untreated vocals weave right in, so well.  I have to admit that Homily is one of my least favorite tracks on the original album and Cock & Swan have woven their unusual magic, making it an ethereal journey (supplemented with Ola Hungerford’s vocals) while maintaining some of the original grit, and I assume that the crisp nylon guitar overlay is Johnny Goss’s.  Brambles transformed Florid (1.6) into a (quite unexpected) “chill dance” piece—it has a languid vibe.  Field Rotation put Censer (1.7) into a time machine and it emerged from an old modular Moog during Tangerine Dream’s Stratosphere era.  The original version of Reliquary is furtive and mysterious, and Part Timer (1.8) stretched this concept further with his stark (and at time minimally orchestrated) interpretation.

 

The Remote Viewer’s version of Hawkeye opens CD2 (2.1) and its origins are deftly shrouded, and at first I didn’t care for it much, but it has grown on me—it’s delicately fragmented with some quirky treatments (very Boats-y!) and at times it sounds like Mark Isham’s early experiments from back in his Windham Hill label days (yes folks, I’m that old).  My two favorite tracks on CD2 are Segue’s version of Censer (2.2) and Loscil’s (at times, visceral) remake of Florid (2.4).  Curiously, Censer is given a gentle heartbeat, which despite the motion has a rather soothing effect to it.  The remix of Florid somewhat belies its connotation, elaborate in its sonic depth, but not ornate.

Widesky’s Knell is an expansive fragmentation of the cathedral bells of the original and then all is absorbed into a rather compressed package of the experience (kind of like a snow-globe)—it’s a bit edgy for my ears.  Sorry, but Radere’s version of Foxtail (2.5) just didn’t work for me—too strident.  James Murray’s Gospel (2.6) meanders and bends with a broad color palette and is a contrast to Window Magic’s version (2.9) that is narrower, more primary shaded.

Pioulard’s remix of his own track Reliquary  (2.7) shrouds the original even further; the furtive character is diminished—a curious approach.  Ruhe’s version of Margin (2.8) is an almost unrecognizable adaptation of the original with only the slightest of rhythmic and vocal fragments remaining—in kind of a trance beat.

Sometimes sequels or remakes are better than the original, and that’s how I feel in this case on the production side of things.  Despite my comments on the source material, I urge listeners to purchase a copy of Hymnal and judge for yourselves—some might disagree completely with my assessment on the sound quality.  I’ll continue to look forward to Benoît Pioulard’s future recordings.

SONY DSC****

This is a solicited review. 


Review: Aaron Martin/Christoph Berg – Day Has Ended

Martin-Berg DHE DR-14

DR-14 – CD Time: 36:36 - Limited to 250 CD copies or digital download

http://dronarivm.bandcamp.com/album/day-has-ended

http://dronarivm.com/2013/08/28/aaron-martin-christoph-berg-day-has-ended/

Aaron Martin: 1) Slow Wake, 2) Burl, 3) Comfort of Shadow, 4) Night Never Came

Christoph Berg: 5) Pillows, 6) Today Has Been Alright, 7) Things Are Sorted, Finally, 8) Coda

 

Contemplation is too often overlooked; a time for reflection, giving the mind a chance to wander and resolve the events of a day before moving onward into the night.  The transition into night may come slowly as the Sun sets on the horizon, yet some of the scenes of the day’s past are lost to fleeting time in the camera obscura of the mind.

Listening to Aaron Martin and Christoph Berg’s shared CD Day Has Ended is way to refocus the mind and to put the swiftly moving retrograde of time and visions back into perspective and allow the mind to return to a more natural order.  Martin’s half of the CD (tracks 1 through 4) are starker and more direct despite mixing a variety of instrumentation (electric guitar, acoustic strings [banjo or lute?], organ, voices and the familiar cello—in most cases the calming narrator).  Slow Wake’s electric guitar gently percolates with cello weaving.  Burl is more serious and centered. Comfort of Shadow uses layered voices like gentle breezes with slow, low and enveloping cello harmonies reaching up from below.  Night Never Came opening with an organ is the most solemn and deliberate with a mournful and distant cello, which transitions into…

…Berg’s more broadly orchestrated compositions (tracks 5 through 8).  Pillows starts with a phrasing and melody very reminiscent of King Crimson’s Formentera Lady (from the album Islands), and the cello (with other stringed accompaniment) is the narration before gently dispersing.  Today Has Been Alright is the most reflective piece on the album, the foundation (at first) is deeply rooted, then an idée fixe appears on piano.  The pace quickens somewhat to replay that which is to be contemplated and absorbed.  Things Are Sorted, Finally is as in a dream-state when the thoughts of the day may reformulate and become enmeshed in dreams.  And finally to Coda, the calming end, the quietude.

Day Has Ended is to be released on September 23, 2013.

 


Review: David Wenngren & Jonatan Nästesjö – Below

sound005front_square

Soundscaping 005 CD: About 34 minutes

Label: http://www.soundscaping.net/

David Wenngren: http://librarytapes.com/  Jonatan Nästesjö: http://jonatannastesjo.com/

Tracks: 1) Something There, 2) Feel Nothing, 3) Before I Leave, 4) Still Nothing Moves You

Writing reviews is a tricky business.  One tries to be objective and in the end arrives at mostly subjective.  Try writing a review for audio equipment, like for speakers, often the quickest way to create a flame-out with audiophiles (even with qualitative test data)*.  Writing about different types of music is also a challenge; some folks just don’t like Bluegrass, Jazz or Folk music, for example.  Writing about Ambient, Electro-Acoustic, Electronic or other types instrumental music often proves to be the most challenging.  Many listeners just can’t grasp (we’ll call it generically) “ambient” music since there are often limited tangible melodies, lyrics or other references unless there’s an artist’s statement or a known concept behind a given work.  I find that when writing about instrumental music, it’s most helpful to reference the work of other artists (who might be familiar reference points) or try and describe how the music makes me feel, or what I see or where it takes me.

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Often, music enhances experiences, and at times nothing is better than a restful sonic journey to the quietude, and Below helps to get us there.

I’m more familiar with David Wenngren’s work as Library Tapes, Murralin Lane and other collaborations, but Jonatan Nästesjö’s work is new to me (and he also has used the nom de plume Woodchucker for some of his earlier work).  Both are from Sweden.  Instrumentation in this work is not readily identifiable compared to most of what I know of David Wenngren’s work, but as a point of reference I’d place Below closest to Wenngren’s recent collaboration with Kane Ikin entitled Strangers.

From the first gentle whispers of the ineffable Something There to the broadest fullness of choral passages of Still Nothing Moves You this album presents an ever-changing yet serene oasis of sound.  There is mystery within, and a sensitive audio system is almost essential for this album (*-you pick whether the music is through speakers or headphones, and no, I won’t advise on what system is best).  Throughout Something There are fleeting ethereal apparitions that emerge from high up and then they are absorbed back into the haze.  Part way through the piece there is a moment where the dream subsides, and seemingly the mind reaches back into the scene to complete it, before it disappears into the ether.

 

Feel Nothing appears as if from the edge of a drifting consciousness—at times the faintest of voices can be heard.  One floats through time, soft sound-light appears and diminishes and there are moments when a tangible clarity focuses, but it’s still gentle as one moves through the broad spaces created by the music (hence the term often used to describe this type of music: “cathedral electronic music”), yet this album resists being majestic.

Before I Leave is more intimate and centered initially, and then almost undetectably a tide (of organs, perhaps) builds on loops and expands as if rising and withdrawing on a broad sandy coast before receding slowly back to the horizon.  Still Nothing Moves You closes this sonic novella with veiled choral and Mellotron-like flute passages and after building the sound is gradually lost in the distance.  The effect is reminiscent of Holst’s Neptune [The Mystic] from The Planets.

Whether leaving a listener with a feeling of walking through a quiet forest (as depicted on the album’s cover), on foot in gentle breezes at a beach or escaping to another realm, Below is a fulfilling and tranquil way to leave the here, for the there.

DavidJonatan-hiresPhoto of Jonatan Nästesjö and David Wenngren courtesy of Soundscaping

****

This is a solicited review.


Review: Cock & Swan – Secret Angles

C&S Secret Angles 500x500

Hush Hush Records # HH011 CD: About 38 minutes

Band: http://www.cockandswan.com/ and http://dandeliongold.bandcamp.com/

Label: http://www.hushhushseattle.com/ and http://hushhushrecords.bandcamp.com/

Tracks: 1) Following, 2) Secret Angle, 3) Animal Totem, 4) Night Valley, 5) Looking Out, 6) Red Touch, 7) Inner Portal, 8) Kicking In, 9) Melt Down, 10) I’ve Got A Feeling, 11) Night Rising, 12) Myself Inside

I’m thrilled that Cock & Swan have a new album.  With each release it’s apparent that their confidence is growing, and even better, they’re still experimenting.  From their earliest albums like Drawing From Memory (2007) and Unrecognize (2010) their sound ranged from rough synthesized foundations, tape and microphone experiments to nearly extreme lo-fi acoustic recordings.  The 2012 album Stash (I reviewed early last year) had moved their sound from more electronic towards “…a record focused on acoustic instrumentation…”  For their forthcoming album (to be released on September 10th) Secret Angles they are combining the acoustic instrumentation with more of their electronic roots—the sound is fuller, rhythmically engaging and more up-beat.  Secret Angles moves between many different genres: progressive, electronica, acoustic and electric folk, house, dance and many others—it doesn’t dwell in one realm for long, but the album is not at all disjointed—it’s quite cohesive.

The acoustic and analog roots of Cock & Swan are still strong, and they appear as Following begins with the sound of tape mechanisms and immediately a seductive pulse, electric guitar riffs and Ola’s soft voice initiate their hypnotic spell.  By contrast the title track shifts to a darker, looped and gritty electronic foundation (and we are awakened briefly from our pastoral spell).  Animal Totem is quite reminiscent of the latter day Everything But The Girl’s track Before Today from their album Walking Wounded, when ETBG’s music shifted from coffee house to a darkened house vibe, but C&S’s Animal Totem is earthier and more acoustic with broad clarinet washes added by Hungerford.

 

With Night Valley, the album shifts to an even glitchier more experimental sphere where Ola’s voice and some of the instrumentation are bent and shifted and the sound enters a mysterious territory.  Looking Out continues with electronic, vocal loops, an almost Mellotron Brass sound and what I call “heavy drums.”  As I noted with their album Stash—tracks like these are reminiscent of King Crimson’s earlier work as on In The Wake of Poseidon.  The album also contains some short instrumental and vocal links (Red Touch and I’ve Got A Feeling) which are samples disguised elsewhere in other tracks.

Tracks often start with samples and a vibe that are then absorbed into the mix of a song; Inner Portal illustrates this with Ola’s vocal and breath loops coupled with what almost sounds like a ship’s steam-powered horn and it’s woven together with a heavy dub beat and coarse under-pinnings.  The chorus adds an acoustic guitar (a contrast of the heavy with the delicate).  This is a great track and one of my favorites on the album, along with the first three.  By comparison Kicking In is quite stark in its percussion and rhythm section before gathering momentum into the vocals.  Melt Down is the most electronically layered of the songs, and Ola’s vocals calm the mood and fill the spaces.

 

Only once did I feel like I had a sense of some monotony drifting in during the track, Night Rising—after a while it didn’t really take me anywhere…a bit like some of Edgar Froese’s (Tangerine Dream) solo work of the late 1970s.  It’s a vocal and rhythm-section drone.  The album closes with Myself Inside, which harkens back to Cock & Swan’s stark early work—an acoustic guitar (in the character of a child’s toy piano), a simple rhythm and Ola’s vocals layered with deep breathing.

Since I’m working with a promo recording, I don’t have access to the lyrics or the personnel list for the album, so I’m not sure if there are other musicians on the album besides Johnny Goss and Ola Hungerford.  It’s also worth noting that Johnny Goss provides engineering and recording support for other Seattle-based musicians, including one band that recently caught my attention, La Luz (absolutely infectious 60s surf-pop) fronted by Shana Cleveland.

After Secret Angles, I’ll be very interested in hearing where Cock & Swan takes us next.  Don’t miss this album, and seek out a copy of their last, Stash too.

C&S by Angel Ceballos

Cock & Swan – Ola Hungerford and Johnny Goss – Photo by Angel Ceballos

****

This is a solicited review


Review: Chris Dooks – 300 Square Miles Of Upwards

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Record Label: http://www.idioholism.com/   Album Time: About 32 Minutes

Chris Dooks’ Website: http://www.dooks.org/

LP or Digital available via: http://chrisdooks.bandcamp.com/album/300-square-miles-of-upwards-2013-blue-vinyl-digital-album-hd-film

Tracks:  Side 1 – 1) Gardening as Astronomy; 2) The Greeks That I Love; 3) Morse Mode; Side 2 – 1) Conversation with a Boy (album mix); 2) Gwiazdozbiór Andromedy; 3) Pinpricks; 4) Katrina

For those old enough to remember, Carl Sagan wrote a book and produced a television series in 1980 for PBS (USA) entitled Cosmos*.  In that series he probed our knowledge of the Universe and explained in remarkably accessible language what scientists and astronomers knew at that time, and theories on the yet undiscovered.  On one hand we humans are bound by the limits of our Earth and our observations, yet beyond there are seemingly boundless realms to be explored and understood.  As noted by Dooks (in the detailed liner notes that I highly recommend reading) on each of the deep space Voyager probes (that have now left our Solar System) there is mounted The Golden Record, a phonograph LP containing sound recordings of Earth and pictograms explaining our location in our Milky Way galaxy–a collective memory of our humanity.

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300 Square Miles Of Upwards (subtitled: Tales for a Dark Sky Park) is the second album of Chris Dooks’ Idioholism Trilogy, the first being The Eskdalemur Harmonium (the link will take you to my previous review and an explanation of the overall project).  As with the first album, the graphic design and presentation (by Rutger Zuyderfelt AKA Machinefabriek) are impeccable; this time the motif and LP vinyl are the primary color blue.  The liner and cover photos are by Dooks, relating to the same color.  Dooks also has a marvelous online archive of his photographs here: http://d7000000.tumblr.com/

 

300 SMOU is a calming meditation and memory archive relating to science, astronomy, conversations, and music, and relationships to earthly flora.  The album’s title refers to an area of the Galloway Forest Park in Scotland (near Dooks’ home) and is a Dark Sky Park for observing the night sky.

The album’s recordings (a film soundtrack, field recordings, interviews and readings) are deftly interlaced with Dooks’ minimalist compositions (on piano and other instrumentation).  The works occupy an experimental realm somewhere between ethnographic documentary akin to Alan Lomax or Hamish Henderson and experimental (looped and altered) music by Laurie Anderson (Big Science) and The Books (The Lemon Of Pink).  Dooks has imaginatively woven the music, sounds and reflections on the night sky into an almost hypnotic opus.  Within the intricate, clarity is revealed.

If digital download is your usual mode, consider purchasing the LP–a beautiful presentation overall.  I’m looking forward to the third part of the trilogy.

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* – For interested readers, Cosmos is available via streaming at Netflix.


Review: Harold Budd – Jane 1-11 *Updated with Jane 8 Video*

HB Jane1-11

Darla Records – DRL 281 CD Time: 59:18

Available here: http://darla.com/?fuseaction=item_cat.ecom_superitem_detail&item_cat_id=41841

Tracks: Jane 1, Jane 2, Jane 3, Jane 4, Jane 5, Jane 6, Jane 7, Jane 8, Jane 9, Jane 10, Jane 11

Harold Budd is not complacent and I am thankful that rumors of his retirement actually turned out to be false (he briefly tired of writing and recording).  He is (at 77) producing some of the most interesting work of his long and varied career.  In a way, he is like Frank Lloyd Wright was at about the same age when Wright was hitting his stride with highly original and innovative works like the Kaufmann House (best known as Fallingwater)—always exploring and seeking new edges.  Many might connect Budd’s work almost exclusively with solo piano pieces or his first collaboration with Brian Eno, Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror, but his discography is remarkably varied, and including his joint releases, he has contributed to or been the solo artist on over forty albums since 1971.

The music alone on this album is divine, and even better there will be a DVD later this year including video collaborations with artist Jane Maru (who also produced the beautiful artwork for this album).  Earlier this year a version of the furtive and at times skittering Jane 9 was quietly released on youtube—it’s just a hint of what to expect from this album.

 

This is a work of contrasts; some tracks tease the senses (like the unexpected and at times shrill Jane 1 or sharp-edged Jane 5 or the visceral and ghostly Jane 7) and then the pleasurable counter-effects are later intensified as the music ebbs and flows (as in Jane 2, Jane 3, Jane 4 and the sublime Jane 8). Moods and spaces change, first grounded and up-close and then transform into expansive and liberating flights.  Budd is also exploring new sounds, instrumentation and treatments on this album (percussion [like chimes], electric piano, droning electronics, celeste and harp).  I won’t say why, but Jane 6 evokes some very pleasant childhood memories.  Jane 8 reminds me a bit of Anthony Phillips’ recent work Watching While You Sleep—deeply moving and one of those tracks I don’t want to end.  The expansive Jane 10 is almost a reverse overture, recapitulating variations of sounds and themes from the previous tracks, as if reliving the experiences.  To me, Jane 11 is the reappearance of the spirit of Jane 8—that which I didn’t want to end earlier, returned.  How did Budd know that this is what I wanted?

Harold Budd has an uncanny gift for expressing so much with so little, a poet who just happens to use music instead of words.

 


Review: Roger Eno and Plumbline – Endless City/Concrete Garden

RogerEnoPlumbline

LP/CD or Digital Time: 37:43 Hydrogen Dukebox Records: Duke 157djv

Released May 20th in Europe and July 2nd in US and Canada

Label and Album: http://hydrogendukebox.com/ and http://www.endlesscityconcretegarden.com/

Roger Eno and Plumbline: http://www.rogereno.com/ http://www.neutralmusic.com/

Tracks: Side A: 1) Taking Steps, 2) Geometry, 3) Codewords, 4) Suspended Animation, 5) Ulterior Motives, Side B: 6) The Weather Inside, 7) Back to the Beginning, 8) The Artificial Cat, 9) Pulling Strings, 10) Beauté de Passage

Time plays tricks as one gets older…what used to seem like an eternity might now seem like months, weeks or even a blink of an eye.  In the proper hands, time can bend under the spell of music.  Transparencies, the last album by Roger Eno and Plumbline (Will Thomas) appeared about six years ago…seems like a while ago, but the memory of it is clear enough that hearing their new album Endless City/Concrete Garden, is like picking up a conversation with an old friend that paused mid-sentence and then continued, flow uninterrupted after an unexpected reappearance—like they never left.  But something is different, new experiences have somehow changed things.

RogerEnoPlumblineTransparencies

A paradox exists in this album, on one hand there is an apparent idée fix of love, loss and tragedy (as noted by reference to the curiously obscure works of the poetess Arlette Feindre) yet the album is not gloomy; it is woven with ethereal moments of warmth, reflection and comfort, beginning with the familiar gentle cascades of piano in Taking Steps.  There are scenes of rhythmic playfulness, as in Codewords, with a gamelan-like opening.  Also an ironic solitude is present in some tracks like Pulling Strings where one could be walking alone late at night in a city full of people and noise, yet remain focused on more powerful inner thoughts (a strange loneliness in a crowded place).  Despite the calming softness to this album, it isn’t amorphous; it has a purposeful direction.

 

Like their album last together, Endless City/Concrete Garden has taken its form across an ocean and between time zones, the contrasts of cities (New York City and Los Angeles) and the countryside of East Anglia in the UK.  The pieces this time around often have a foundation in more recognizable instrumentation: piano, guitar and even a koto, with arrangements including violin, cello, percussion and electronic treatments.  Percussive mantras also form the basis of some pieces as in The Artificial Cat. Treated field recordings make appearances throughout (I could swear there is a train horn hidden within The Weather Inside).  It’s not always clear from whose hands the sounds are created, but Roger Eno’s piano work is unmistakable, as in Back to the Beginning…it starts out like an etude and then moves on to tell a story.  The haunting Beauté de Passage appears to open with what sounds like Frippertronics, but with closer listening, I think it could be a treated accordion…how appropriate, how French. C’est tragique, mais enchantant aussi.

RogerEnoPlumblinePic

***

Note: The album is being released as an LP with CD included or as digital files.  It’s not yet clear to me if the CD will be available on its own—no word from the record label on this.


Review: HearCapeCod – SoundSignals and Upstream

HearCapeCod SoundSignals Front

Volume One – SoundSignals – #HCC001

Notes and Detailed Credits: http://hearcapecod.org/soundsignals/

CD 1 (Time: 39:08): Sound Signals: Act 1: On Land, Act II: On Water, Act III: A Year, Coda: Route Six

CD 2 (Time: 46:24): Signals Remixed: 1: Goldmund, 2: Marcus Fischer, 3: Loscil, 4: Taylor Deupree, 5: Neara Russell, 6: FourColor, 7: Steve Wilkes, 8: Simon Scott, 9: FourColor & SoundSignal

HearCapeCod Upstream Front

Volume Two – Upstream by Fordham Wilkes – #HCC002

Notes and Detailed Credits: http://hearcapecod.org/upstream/

CD (Time: 37:08): 1) Gates of Summer, 2: The Language of Birds, 3: GP Road Resonator, 4: Dive Down, 5: Upstream, 6: June, 7: Shifting Sand, 8: Fog, 9: The Message

Websites: http://hearcapecod.org/ & http://www.fordhamwilkes.com/

Sound Archive: http://www.hearcapecod.org/ListView.php

Recordings mastered by Taylor Deupree at 12k Mastering

Since the middle of 2011, Berklee College of Music professor, percussionist and Blue Man Group alum, Steve Wilkes has been working on a project to capture the sounds of Cape Cod over a year and to map those sounds as an aural history of the region (the far eastern end of Massachusetts in the northeastern United States).  The project was funded in part by the Newbury Comics Faculty Fellowship.  The region has undergone many environmental and man-made changes, from rising sea levels and coastal erosion to residential development.  It was Wilkes’ feeling that the region is measured and analyzed in many ways (like bird population counts, temperature and sea levels), but there was yet to be a base-line environmental sound analysis examining animal, environmental and cultural activity in the region.

At this point, the project consists of 3 CDs: 1, a collection of regional sounds; 2, the sounds remixed by a number of musicians who will be familiar to many, and 3, a song-cycle inspired by the region at various times throughout the year (which also incorporates many of the environmental sound recordings and the detailed credit links give an excellent overview of the variety on-location recordings).  The album artwork evokes pleasant memories of worn edged blue-green beach-glass.

HearCapeCod SoundSignals Back

CD 1 is a sonic time capsule, and at first it reminded me of a number of sound effects and spoken word recordings of the 1940s and 50s, and for a brief moment, I thought I was hearing a snippet of the old records by Bert and I.  It also had the immediate effect of taking me back in time to the days when I summered on “The Cape” as a child with my parents in the early 1960s.  The documentation of the region also harkens back to some of the expansive sound archive work by Alan Lomax.  This CD chronicles the sounds of land, water and activities that mark the course of a year from a First Night Noise Parade to the calming summertime beach surf.  It closes with the reading of the poem Route Six by Stanley Kunitz (being the road that travels down the center of the “flexed arm” of Cape Cod, reaching out into the Atlantic Ocean).

Having lived in a beach-town region in nearby southern Connecticut, I am also reminded that a resort region like The Cape has two lives—the times when the summer-folk occupy and the off-season when only the locals remain.  The off-season is the time when locals can take long walks on the shore beaches and see very few people.  Life goes on in a different way after the tourists have left in the autumn.

Taylor Deupree’s Remix

 

Wind Chimes Field Recording That Inspired TD’s Remix

 

CD 2 is a sensitively created set of interpretive remixes by many well known artists in the current electro-acoustic, ambient and electronic music communities (see list above).  The field recordings from CD 1 are delightfully co-mingled with the offerings from each of the artists (well documented at the web link also noted above).  I was immediately struck by the opening notes of the first track by Goldmund (Keith Kenniff), the piano melody being very reminiscent of Anthony Phillips’ Death of a Knight from Henry: Portrait from Tudor Times (from the album The Geese and The Ghost), before drifting into a dream-state with seaside, night-time crickets and Morse Code pulses.

FourColor Remix

 

Field Recording for FourColor Remix

 

Most of the remixes are by artists who have done work strongly connected with outdoor environs and water (as in the Flaming Pines label Rivers Home series), like Marcus Fischer, Taylor Deupree and Simon Scott (to name a few).  The character of this disc ranges from contemplative to glitchy (FourColor) to playfully rhythmic (as in Loscil’s remix).  The remix by Steve Wilkes includes the first HearCapeCod recording made in Truro at Corn Hill Beach in the summer of 2002.  The CD closes with a collaboration of FourColor and SoundSignal (Wilkes) and is the most melodic and rhythmic of the tracks of the album.  This CD forms a strong connection to the foundation provided by Wilkes’ research and recordings.  As much as I’m tempted to suggest that this CD be made available separately, after spending time with the entire set, it is actually a quite inseparable part of the whole.

HearCapeCod Upstream Back

CD 3 Upstream, is a song cycle by the duo Fordham Wilkes (Ginny Fordham: vocals, Steve Wilkes: drums with Crit Harmon: guitars and Keiichi Sugimoto: guitars) and is inspired by years of memories of time on Cape Cod and it is the most personal of the three discs.  Fond recollections of places run deep for many and they have different effects on people.  This is where the project transforms from being objective (CD 1) to the most reflective and personal (while avoiding sentimentality).

The album has a sense of welcoming and ease, enjoying summer breezes, wading in tidal pools, walking in sanctuaries or along beaches.  There is no heavy foreboding or hand-wringing of what was or could be; the feeling is that of the now and hopefulness, and Ginny Fordham’s voice brings a relaxing calm to the album.  Gates of Summer opens CD3 and is forms an instrumental and melodic transition from the last track of CD2.  The Language of Birds plays rhythmically with a juxtaposition and syncopation of the instrumentation and avian field recordings.

GP Road Resonator

 

The Field Recording Forming Basis for GP Road Resonator

 

The ever-present drone of automobile traffic is also a reality of summers on The Cape (whether passing over the Sagamore or Bourne bridges before necking down to Route 6 or at the half-way point to Provincetown, in Eastham) and these sounds are merged with fleeting views to salt marshes in the pensive GP Road Resonator.  As in CD 1, there are songs of Land as well as Water, as in Dive Down and Upstream (as much a metaphor for returning to and rebirth of the area as it is the traffic on Route 6 that one is “swimming” against!).

CD 3 is also a reflection of CD 1’s A Year, The Cape in song over the course of a single circumnavigation of our Earth around the Sun.  As the album progresses through the summer and into the end of a year (June, Shifting Sand and Fog) it grows more contemplative with the advancing of the calendar, melding dreams with reality.  Each Spring many look forward the approaching time outside and then seemingly in the blink of an eye, Summer is over.  The album closes with The Message, an inspiration left in a voicemail, which ultimately is the beacon announcing the sense of place of The Cape that inspired the HearCapeCod project.

****

The release date (May 28, 2013) for this set is at the unofficial “gate of summer” season, just after Memorial Day weekend.  These albums will be available at: Booksmith Musicsmith, Orleans, MA: https://www.facebook.com/BooksmithMusicsmith , Muir Music, Provincetown, MA: https://www.facebook.com/muirmusic5 , The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History: http://ccmnh.org/, CD Baby: SoundSignals On CD Baby, iTunes: http://www.apple.com/itunes/  and Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/ 


Revisiting Old Friends and Meeting New

AP PPAP1-4

Anthony Phillips: http://www.anthonyphillips.co.uk/

Ant’s friend and illustrator Peter Cross: http://petercrossart.com/

Ant’s (too occasional) collaborator Enrique Berro Garcia: http://quiqueberro.com/

Although he was 18 when he departed from the band Genesis in 1970, many still associate Ant Phillips almost exclusively with that band (despite his approximately 40 commercially released solo albums and collaborations since 1970 in addition to his vast output of library music compositions and commission work).  I have been very fortunate over the years to acquire all of these albums, and each time I place one of Ant’s albums on my turntable or a CD player his music takes me to another place and time (the ups and downs of a life).  Ant’s music has been a big part of my life and I owe a great deal of my own creative work to being inspired by his.  I think Ant said it best on his second Private Parts and Pieces album Back To The Pavilion (released in 1980): “This album is dedicated to all those who still champion the “old fashioned” ideas of beauty, lyricism and grandeur in art against the tide of cynical intellectualism and dissonance.”  Many of Ant’s earlier albums are now being completely remastered (from the source tapes) and reissued (often in double CD releases).

Ant and Quique from PP&PPIII – Antiques: Old Wives Tales

 

Also spinning these days are albums by:

ThreeMetreDayCN

Three Metre Day – Coasting Notes

http://www.threemetreday.com/

I have a ceramic artist friend (Hayne Bayless at Sideways Studios) to thank for getting me to these folks (often the best music comes from referrals by friends).  At times their music is somewhat mournful, but always reflective and passionate—this trio from Canada is Michelle Willis, Hugh Marsh and Don Rooke with guest appearances by bassist David Piltch and drums by Davide Direnzo.  The album is up-close, largely acoustic in instrumentation and delightfully musical.

 

Rhian Sheehan SFE

Rhian Sheehan – Stories From Elsewhere

http://www.rhiansheehan.com/

At times the music is delicate and others it’s intense, but it’s always inventive and beautifully recorded.  Rhian Sheehan is from New Zealand and has released 7 albums under his name as well as appeared on many compilations and soundtracks.

 

 

I&WGhost

Iron and Wine – Ghost on Ghost

http://www.ironandwine.com/

I sometimes find Samuel Beam’s work to be a bit too intense and serious, but his latest album is open, hopeful and at times playful.  The first single Joy is beautiful.

 

Wire CBU

Wire – Change Becomes Us

http://www.pinkflag.com/

I kind of lost touch with Wire after their albums Pink Flag and Chairs Missing, but I rediscovered their more recent albums when I updated my original recordings with CD reissues.  If this new album sounds a bit like it comes from the late 1970s and early 1980s post punk era it’s because many of the songs were written back then, and haven’t seen the light of day until now.  The recordings and production are full, with great clarity and this album just makes me want to turn up the amplifiers.

You can listen to the entire album here: https://soundcloud.com/wirehq/sets/change-becomes-us

MM Sk

Montt Mardié – Skaizerkite

Record Label: http://hybr.is/

David Olof Peter Pagmar has taken many identities and until a few years ago he was Montt Mardié (his website is now defunct) and he has since moved on to new projects, but in early 2009 this was his album of excellent pop tunes and ballads—beautifully recorded and produced.  The entire album can be streamed here:

 

Jonas Munk SFB

Jonas Munk – Searching For Bill (Original Soundtrack)

Jonas Munk has released many great albums and collaborations as Manual and more recently as Billow Observatory, but this is his first soundtrack.  The documentary Searching For Bill is Danish director Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s debut and it explores the meaning of life for those living on the edge of American society.  It’s a sensitive and contemplative soundtrack.

 

Many of these albums are available directly from the artists’ websites or at online merchants like http://darla.com/

*****

Happy Listening and Spring (finally)!


Review: Celer – Viewpoint

celer murmur

Murmur Records: MMR – 17 CD Time 78:31

Murmur Records: http://murmurrec.com/ & Celer: http://thesingularwe.org/celer/

 

I’m not sure where to begin with this, but it’s likely best that I write as little about it as possible.  Some of what I write is speculation or perhaps flawed interpretation, but it doesn’t really matter since music listening and appreciation is often subjective.

Will Long’s (Celer’s) new album Viewpoint is simply gorgeous.

I have listened to Viewpoint while walking, reading, on the edge of sleep, awakening in rays of sunshine and listening as I am now on (what I consider to be) proper audio equipment, with sound filling my listening room.  There’s a commentary within the CD cover, and it’s a narrative of (as I see it) the beginnings of a love story, moments in time and place, captured and held in the collective memory of the two who shared it–the connections in words and sound.  It took me a few attempts to remain focused for the entirety of the album, but after re-reading the story and dreaming along with the music I was hooked, deeply.  There are moments when Viewpoint weaves and peregrinates throughout its twenty-six nearly invisible sections, and at times there are some darker moments (life’s unexpected times) and pleasant daydreams, but eventually it all becomes clear and things interlock and harmony prevails, as tightly as the paving stones that decorate the inner sleeve of the bi-folding CD jacket.

Hold fast to the memories, don’t let them go…


Review: Recent Dronarivm Label Releases

Dronarivm Albums

http://dronarivm.com/

Three albums from far away (to me) arrived at studio wajobu yesterday, and my immediate reaction (aside from the excitement of getting a package from Moscow) was when I opened the envelope, I was very pleasantly surprised with the design approach of the album packaging—a heavy semi-gloss stock tri-folded card (about 5 by 7 inches) with really nice layouts, printing and graphics—simple, elegant and compact.

The three albums are the latest collaboration by Machinefabriek and Minus Pilots entitled Signals, the Aquarius project (a collection of 5 minute works by artists including: Federico Durand, The Green Kingdom, Pjusk, Melodium, Simon Whetham, Loscil, Marsen Jules, Fabio Orsi, Pillowdiver, Machinefabriek, Hakobune + Hiroki Sasajima, Francisco López, Pleq + Mathieu Ruhlmann and Yann Novak) and Darren Harper’s release from late 2012 entitled Passages for the Listless and Tired.  What drew me to Dronarivm (at first) was Darren Harper’s album.

dr-09_small

Dronarivm Label – Aquarius

DR-09 – CD: 70 minutes - Limited to 200 CD copies and digital download with extra track

http://dronarivm.com/2013/02/25/va-aquarius/

 

Aquarius, being a sign of the ancient zodiac, representative of one of the many artificial constructs of arrangements of stars in our Universe and on Earth symbolic of undulating waves of water, and in color an aqueous blue.  This album is largely the sound of comfort and peacefulness with only occasional hints of stormy seas or skies (as in Untitled #288 by Francisco López).  There is a broad sonic presence in each 5 minute track that belies their brevity, each telling a complete and unhurried story.  Each track is somehow connected by imaginary links to another and perceptions of the overall whole change if listening is done in the shuffle-mode.  There are so many strong pieces on this album, but I had the strongest connection with the incredible pulsing depths of Loscil’s Hemlock.  This would be an excellent choice for lying down in the grass on a clear dark night with a pair of headphones and staring into the night sky and as the eyes adjust to the darkness, the many secrets of the great depths are revealed.

***

signals-dronarivm-front-e1363330416544

Machinefabriek and Minus Pilots – Signals

DR-10 – CD: About 34 minutes - Limited to 150 CD copies and digital download

http://dronarivm.com/2013/03/15/machinefabriek-minus-pilots-signals/

minuspilots.com & machinefabriek.nu

 

Signals is the latest release from Dronarivm.  Like signals drifting in and out on a shortwave radio far off into the night, Minus Pilots and Machinefabriek have created a sense of mystery and discovery with intertwined and layered sounds.  At first constructed with arrayed loops of electric basses created by Minus Pilots and Machinefabriek blending woodwinds, strings and voices into a loosely woven fabric of sound; the result at times being like conversations between unlikely strangers. There are moments of quiescent contemplation contrasting with more vibrant exchanges akin to morning-songs of birds reacting to the rising Sun.  Sonic moods shift throughout Signals with more dulcet tones appearing at about the mid-point of the piece before more active coils of sound emerge later.  With careful listening, distinct instrumentation can be gleaned from the recording, but blurring the mind yields a gestalt that is like imagining a room full of people (perhaps strangers sitting quietly in an airport lounge or waiting room) with their thoughts being transmitted into the ether, many passing into the nothingness, yet some connecting.

***

dr-07_small

Darren Harper – Passages for the Listless and Tired

DR-07 – CD: About 45 minutes

Limited to 100 CD copies and digital download

http://dronarivm.com/2012/12/02/darren-harper-passages-for-the-listless-and-tired/

http://darrenjh.blogspot.com/

 

This is the album that brought me to the Dronarivm Label.  I don’t recall how I was drawn to it or what landed me at sampling this album, but it must’ve been a lateral association somewhere in the neighborhood of six degrees (or in this case six passages) of separation and then attraction.  The effect of this six-part album is calming, ethereal and curiously grounding.  At times it growls (gently, as in Second passage) and often drifts into delightfully pastoral zones (like the closing Sixth passage).  There are sections with a sense of flying slowly, just above a landscape in a vividly colorful slow motion dream (think Kubrick’s 2001) with deep almost motionless grooves reminiscent of parts of Tangerine Dream’s Rubycon.  At times, the sound reaches, and reaches far, as in Third passage—it just keeps stretching ever closer to an unattainable edge and still onward for more.  Despite being created from improvisation, Darren Harper has achieved a well-planned and deeply satisfying journey.  There is a soft resonant afterglow present in this album.

***

Note: If you live where I do (far away!), it might take a couple of weeks to receive an order from Dronarivm, but trust me—it’ll be well worth the wait and patience.  I look forward to more releases.

CT River

The Darren Harper CD was a direct purchase and the other two are solicited reviews.


Review: North Atlantic Drift – Monuments

North Atlantic Drift - Monument

Sound In Silence #sis015 Limited Edition of 200 CDr in hand numbered sleeve w/ insert

Band: http://northatlanticdrift.com/ & http://northatlanticdrift.bandcamp.com/ & https://soundcloud.com/northatlanticdrift

Label: https://www.facebook.com/soundinsilencerecords?fref=ts & http://soundinsilencerecords.bandcamp.com/

Tracks: 1) Passing Time, 2) Monuments, 3) Concrete Oceans, 4) Sandlab, 5) I Have Never Seen The Light, 6) Scholars Of Time Travel (part 2), 7) Sun Dial, 8) So Long As They Fear Us (on the CDr only)

The overlapping musical origins of Mike Abercrombie and Brad Deschamps have led to a sound that shifts between music genres: Mike’s roots being in electronic music and Brad’s in post-rock.  They share common interests in the works of Eno, Satie, Stars of the Lid and others, and their music is soothing yet with a clarity of awareness of the out there beyond what is often the prosaic miasma passing these days as ambient instrumental music.  It’s kind of like lightly sleeping with one eye open; taking in a view and related sounds while acknowledging what might lurk in the underneath or the above.  At first, the presence of a musical fabric sets a scene and then a transformation to what might be a song in search of a lyric or even a deep transitional groove—it fits well.

At times the change in sound can be more than just a nudge (an unforeseen entrance of percussion or a back beat as in the middle of I Have Never Seen The Light—a wake-up of sorts, as if to ask: “Are you paying attention?—Don’t drift off just yet!”).  It appears like a coalesced awareness from within a dream or as if sleeping in the warm sun when a cool breeze unexpectedly but pleasantly arises (a well known Canadian experience, I suspect).

 

There are threads between pieces on the album (and also to North Atlantic Drift’s first EP) like with the common sonic roots in Passing Time and Monuments (the undercurrent that binds) with the themes further developed with sustained and reverberant electric guitars.  I’m somewhat familiar with their previous album Canvas as well as their two EPs Amateur Astronomy and their first work Scholars of Time Travel, the root of the sixth track SOTT (part 2) on MonumentsPart 2 is the awakened day to the original EP’s quiescent night with first an undertow of processed piano, and then the Sun rises as the undisguised piano is revealed.

North Atlantic Drift Band Photo

I find that North Atlantic Drift’s music has a stronger connection to recent work by Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) as opposed to Eno, Satie or SotL, yet the overall sound is more rooted in tangible instrumentation; the alignment with Guthrie’s work being that moods are set with an opening wash of sound (while a spring is being gently wound) and then a release to a fuller rhythmic soundscape.  The most visually reflective track on the album is Sun Dial, the slow sweep of shadows passing as the light and activity waxes and wanes with the field-recorded ephemeral sounds of a day.  The extra track So Long As They Fear Us on the CDr (not the digital download) is a return to the quietude, like sitting on a porch (in the dark) on a comfortable rainy night with a safely distant thunderstorm.

And don’t forget to go back to their album Canvas—copies are still available.

 

Recent Discography

Amateur Astronomy: http://northatlanticdrift.bandcamp.com/album/amateur-astronomy

Canvas (first full album): http://northatlanticdrift.bandcamp.com/album/canvas

Scholars of Time Travel: http://northatlanticdrift.bandcamp.com/album/scholars-of-time-travel

*****

This is a solicited review.


Concert: Zammuto with Valgeir Sigurðsson and Nadia Sirota at the Spaceland Ballroom, Hamden, CT March 29, 2013

Z Living

Zammuto

http://zammutosound.com/home.cfm http://www.thebooksmusic.com/ http://temporaryresidence.com/

Nick Zammuto – Guitar and Electronics, Nick Oddy – Guitar and Keyboard

Mikey Zammuto – Bass, Sean Dixon – Drums

Valgeir Sigurðsson

http://valgeir.net/ & http://www.bedroomcommunity.net/artists/valgeir_sigurdsson/

Nadia Sirota

http://www.nadiasirota.com/ & http://nadiasirota.bandcamp.com/

Promoter and Venue

http://www.manicproductions.org/ & http://spacelandballroom.com/

V & N 1Valgeir 1 IABNadia 1 IAB

 

 

 

 

I missed the last Zammuto tour in 2012, so I was determined to go see them this time around—and it was a great coincidence that they ended up stopping so close by in Hamden, Connecticut at the new Spaceland Ballroom with promotion by Manic Productions from nearby New Haven.  Valgeir Sigurðsson (producer and founder of Iceland’s Bedroom Community record label and Greenhouse Studios) and violist Nadia Sirota started the evening’s show with an introspective and sensitive performance of work from Nadia’s latest album Baroque and Valgeir’s album Architecture of Loss (in addition to some earlier VS work).  I think that the performance would’ve been enhanced all the more with a better piano and subwoofer system, but their performance ranged from the contemplative (my son says “chill”) to visceral.  I’m less familiar with Sigurðsson’s and Sirota’s individual works, but this performance was a great introduction.  My only other hope for this new venue is that the lighting improves to allow one to see the musicians better during their performances (and perhaps some more tables and chairs).

Z MotherZ Stick

I’ve followed Nick Zammuto’s work since his days with The Books, and have appreciated his mining for music and inspiration in unexpected places, whether from old or new family home movies to skillfully edited (often bizarre) instructional videos.  The humor and wordplay also makes his work all the more attractive.  The difference (to my ears) between The Books and Nick’s latest incarnation in the band Zammuto is that the music is even more rhythmically infectious and at times, downright joyful.  I also appreciate that Zammuto has created in their first eponymous album music created by artists staying true to themselves and their work—always pushing the boundaries and seeking inspiration from the most unlikely of places…making the serious silly and the mundane musical…and to be doing it in beautiful Vermont is all the more enticing.  Their work is also an example of what I see as a proper usage of auto-tune technology—not to correct a singer who can’t sing, but to enhance the statement of the art and sound.

Z Mikey 2 IABZ Nicks IAB

Last night’s set was tight, energetic and enhanced by a multimedia show of short films synchronized to the music.  Much of the songs were taken from the latest Zammuto album on the Temporary Residence (independent) label.  We were also treated to some songs from The Books era, a Paul Simon cover and some unreleased tracks.  This was the second performance by new guitar/keyboardist Nick Oddy and he has immediately absorbed the often intense and delightfully quirky parts that Gene Back (up until recently) contributed to the band—bravo!Z Mikey IABZ Sean Mikey

Zammuto Set List: 1) Groan Man, Don’t Cry, 2) The Shape Of Things To Come, 3) Idiom Wind, 4) Too Late To Topologize, 5) Zebra Butt, 6) FU-C3PO, 7) Harlequin, 8) Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover by Paul Simon, 9) Yay, 10) The Stick, 11) Tahitian Noni Juice – That Right Ain’t Shit – from The Books The Lemon of Pink, 12) Classy Penguin, 13) The Greatest Autoharp Solo of All Time – A remarkable bit of video/sound editing!, 14) Smells Like Content – from The Books – Lost And Safe and the non-encore 15) The Fig and the Finger

Z Finger

If you haven’t seen Zammuto live yet, go see them—it was a very memorable concert.  The link to their current tour is noted above, and I’m told that Nick is working on material for a new album.

****

Please note that all photos are by wajobu.com unless the image is suffixed with “IAB”, in which case it’s by Isaac Burns.  We retain all copyrights to the images, but if you choose to borrow or share an image, please at least credit one or both of us.  Thank you.

Manic Productions ZammutoZammuto Album

 
 

Marsen Jules – The Endless Change Of Colour

12k1074

12k Label – 12k1074 – CD Time: 47:00

Website: http://www.12k.com/index.php/site/releases/the_endless_change_of_colour/

When I was younger and had a completely untrained eye for seeing, as in art of any form, I didn’t realize how many colors went into what I saw, whether in a landscape or an object (same in the musical parallels).  It was later, seeing artwork at a museum (paintings up-close), dramatically enlarged photos, and a friend’s work in college (artist, Allen Hirsch) that I started to understand the density and complexity of color–as well as in sound and music, the overtones, harmonics and phasing in addition to the pure waves.

The Endless Change Of Colour affects me in two ways, creating a state of peaceful timelessness (wondering where that nearly-an-hour went) as well as producing a state of nearly motionless cascades of blending sounds that transmute into a sense of relaxing in a stream bed of flowing water on a warm summer’s day–when all else falls away and what remains is that moment.  All of this from a generative piece of music built from a single phrase on an old jazz record split into three audio stems.  The sounds (and side-effects) that without closer examination and contemplation, we wouldn’t normally sense except for the benefit of the time that this work seems to warp and retrograde during its existence.

There are brief moments when almost familiar sounds enter, only to be absorbed back into the metamorphosing blend.  I hear some parallels to the effects created by Nicholas Szczepanik’s brilliant album Please Stop Loving Me, although the feeling in Endless borders on that of a gentle voice on the edge of a dream–a peaceful sense of belonging.

 


Birds of a Feather – Part 3 – Broken Chip and Simon Whetham

Available at: http://www.flamingpines.com/

Broken Chip Wonga Pigeon

The Wonga Pigeon by Broken Chip

Sometimes there are things that I don’t want to end, but then they do, far too soon.*  This is how I feel about Broken Chip’s dreamy and elusive The Wonga Pigeon contribution to the latest pair of CD3s released in the Flaming Pines label Birds Of A Feather Series.  Broken Chip is one of the musical personas of Martyn Palmer, who is from the Blue Mountains of Australia.  Broken Chip has contributed to other Flaming Pines releases, and Palmer’s other nom de plume is Option-Command, for more electronic oriented works.  The Wonga Pigeon musically recounts a first mysterious encounter with an unknown bird.  Time passed and then the bird reappeared to finally be identified.  Despite the presence of (what appear to be) bird calls within the recording, it’s a piano (in my opinion) that takes on the guise of this particular avian creature.  All sounds, initially, are distant in the recording, indescribable, and ethereal.  Gradually, the identity coalesces, only to disappear back into the ether after a brief second chance encounter.

* – And so, I hit repeat!

 

Simon Whetham The Phoenix

The Phoenix by Simon Whetham

The Phoenix is the second CD3 of this latest pair of Birds…, and starts off like a shower of humidity encountered when disembarking from a plane in a distant land—the sudden shock of relocation.  The wall of omnipresent sound of the outdoors is from Phoenix Island in Cambodia and at first it is intense (mind your amplifier’s volume control!).  Eventually, the body and mind adjusts to this extraordinary new environment, and the sounds around eventually calm, and the vision of what was once like a blinding light comes into focus.  Water, wooded areas, bells and gongs can be heard from sound recordings made by Whetham in June, 2012.  In a way, the piece starts off with the fervor of the war endured by Cambodia and VietNam not so long ago, and the gradual calming could symbolize the peace that has slowly returned to these environs; The Phoenix rising, symbolically.  As with the previous releases in this series, I love the cover illustrations.

 

Kate Carr Landing Lights

Landing Lights by Kate Carr

Also, of note (and I have only heard these samples thus far), I am intrigued by Kate Carr’s latest new album Landing Lights.  I quite like the contrast of the growl of her guitar juxtaposed against the soft, floating keyboards as in the track My Brother Came To Stay…I wonder who the brother could be, in the mix?  I can’t imagine. ;-)  Some samples from Landing Lights are below, so I am definitely interested in hearing more.

My Brother Came To Stay

 

Thunderstorm

 


Review: Cory Allen – The Great Order and Pearls

TGOPearls

http://quietdesign.us/ and http://www.cory-allen.com/

Musicians: Cory Allen: Piano, Mike Vernusky: Bowed Classical Guitar, Nick Hennies: Bowed and Struck Vibraphone, Brent Fariss: Double Bass, Henna Chou: Cello

The Great Order: A: Movement I: 17:53; B: Movement II: 15:38

I enjoy listening to the Quiet Design podcasts with Cory Allen and Mike Vernusky (available free through iTunes).  They discuss observations on art, the world around, how music affects them and their sources of inspiration as well as the musicians and artists they interview, to date: Lawrence English, Simon Scott, Duane Pitre, Taylor Deupree, Sun Hammer, Wide Sky and others.  The topics are wide-ranging, often very entertaining and thought provoking.  I also appreciate the reflective consideration that Cory Allen brings to the development of his work, and to his experimentation with instrumentation (extant and invented).

TGO

From the first sedate piano note of The Great Order, to the almost shy conversation between guitar, vibraphone, cello, and double bass, there is a respectful and somber discipline, a regimen to this largo in two movements.  It is evident that there is a prescribed yet restrained foundation to this all-acoustic instrumental work.  This is an album about relationships and exploration: the musicians to their instruments, the instruments with each other and how the sounds sustain and resonate both in the recording and ultimately in the listening space (or headphones) and the ears of the listener.  No one instrument dominates, and it’s as much about the spaces between the music as it is about the sound.  The first movement is somewhat hushed, and the second movement has a slightly increased density of statement-response and layering among the instruments.  This is an album that also cleanses the mind and encourages contemplation.  The recording has a clarity and live presence that feels as if one is sitting in the room with the musicians, making it all the more intimate.

 

 

The album art and design are by Cory Allen, who has done an impeccable job with the entire package (the covers printed by Stumptown Printers in Portland, Oregon).  The limited edition LP is pressed in translucent clear vinyl.  Also, in conjunction with the release of The Great Order, Cory Allen has issued an LP version of his serene, beautiful and introspective album Pearls (from late 2010).  The first 100 copies of Pearls are pressed in white vinyl and 400 copies in black vinyl.  For a limited time, both LPs can be purchased at a special price from the Quiet Design website.  I’m also looking forward to Cory Allen’s ongoing experiments with his recently created multi-stringed instrument (a sound sample is below).

Pearls

Pearls: A: Strange BirdsLost Energizer 17:09; B: Isozaki CloudsBlue Eyes 18:52

 


Celer – Black Vinyl Series – Parts 4 and 5

Celer Immensity Plasma

Diving Into The Plasma Pool – Part 5 Black Vinyl Series

Side A: Resting On Intensity 20:33  Side B: Swelling That Saves Me From It 20:10

An Immensity Merely To Save Life – Part 4 Black Vinyl Series

Side A: Of My Complaisance 18:27  Side B: Gusts of Hysterical Petulance 19:05

Self-released Limited Edition of 100 copies on black vinyl with matte black paper sleeve with handwritten credits

Celer’s Websites: http://thesingularwe.org/celer/ & http://celer.bandcamp.com/music

Plasma

Insert for Diving Into The Plasma Pool

I almost missed them entirely, but something appeared on my screen in late January, and within 5 minutes I was transported to a perfect sunny day, in the middle of a gently rolling sea, on a reach in a sailboat, and to a sonic warmth that dissolved the doldrums of my winter reality.  It was Diving Into The Plasma Pool, the latest (and I think last) of the five part Black Vinyl Series by Celer (Will Long).  For whatever reason, I missed parts 1 through 3, but as soon as I heard a sample from Resting On Intensity (Side A), I looked to see if there were other LPs still offered—and indeed, Part 4 was (and is) still available.  Part 4, An Immensity Merely To Save Life starts a bit darker with Of My Complaisance (Side A) and then softens with Gusts of Hysterical Petulance (Side B).

Immensity

Insert for An Immensity Merely To Save Life

The subtle enmeshed loops of Diving Into The Plasma Pool flow like Debussy’s Nuages and yearn (although more gently) like Nicholas Szczepanik’s Please Stop Loving Me—they are waves that crest, hold onto a pleasurable edge and then dissolve.  The chords and sounds are right in my sweet-spot.  But enough from me; just listen—better yet, buy one or both of them.  They’re gorgeous, full and resonant—simply magical.

Part 5 (available here): http://celer.bandcamp.com/album/diving-into-the-plasma-pool

 

Part 4 (available here): http://celer.bandcamp.com/album/an-immensity-merely-to-save-life

 


Chris Dooks / Machinefabriek – The Eskdalemuir Harmonium

Eskdalemuir

LP Title: The Eskdalemuir Harmonium

N-LRoS-EH

EP Title: Non-Linear Responses of Self-Excited Harmoniums

Komino K0M1N0-004 (Vinyl LP & Digital w/ EP) Time: LP About 36 Minutes EP About 13 Minutes

Record Label: http://kominorecords.com/

Chris Dooks: http://www.dooks.org/  More on the LP trilogy: http://www.idioholism.com/

Machinefabriek: http://www.machinefabriek.nu/

Tracks LP (LP & Digital): 1) The Pike Knowes The Loupin’ Stanes; 2) Betamax and Dictaphones; 3) Ewe Knowe The Girdle Stanes; 4) Settlement

Tracks EP (Digital): 1) Steady States and Transient Oscillations; 2) Aerodynamic Excitation of the Harmonium Reed; 3) The Motion of Air-Driven Free Reeds

Authentic, synthetic, living, languishing, animate, inanimate, well, ailing, history and the now: these are the explorations of the latest collaboration of Chris Dooks and Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek).  Like many, I have always been drawn to the old and mysterious, wanting to know more about the history of things, the times in which they existed (and in this case, what hands and feet brought these venerable machines to life).  Harmoniums are vestiges of another time (mostly from the late 18th C through the middle 20th C), inanimate objects, strangely biomorphic in their inner workings that are revived with physical exertion, air in their bellows (the lungs) and resonant metal reeds producing the sounds (the vocal chords).  Neglected harmoniums often mournfully creak and object to being revived after long slumbers.  A friend of mine once used the term “lumbering harmonium” to describe his relic on an instrument—curiously descriptive in both reality and material (when the verb is used as a noun).

 

These soundtracks depict a retreat of solitude into the Scottish countryside, one of a series of three projected works and part of Chris Dooks’s PhD research in sound art and medical humanities, as well as response to a chronic illness; the search for comfort and rest through improvised sonic threads (passed between Dooks and Zuydervelt during their development) that were crafted from music, field and voice recordings.  The resulting drone-like ambiance is a fascinating and relaxing journey with sociological, archaeological and radio documentary parallels.  Thanks to the on-location recordings, there is a strong sense of place and memory imbued into this album.

IMG_3212

The recordings, liner sleeve and notes, photographs and graphics are impeccably produced as is the ruby red vinyl LP.  This is the second Komino Records LP that I have acquired (the first being Kyle Bobby Dunn’s In Miserum Stercus, which I reviewed in late 2012).  The digital EP presents additional serene field and harmonium recordings—a beautiful production overall.

The next album in the series will be Three Hundred Square Miles of Upwards.

Pre-Master Recordings from Three Hundred Square Miles of Upwards

 

The third album will be CIG{R}LES.

Pre-Master Samples from CIG{R}LES

 


Review: Celer – Without Retrospect, the Morning

Celer WR,tM

Glacial Movements Records – GM015 (CD) Time: 52:13

Artist Websites: http://thesingularwe.org/celer/ & http://celer.bandcamp.com/music

Record Label: http://www.glacialmovements.com/ & https://soundcloud.com/glacial_movements

Tracks: 1) Holdings of Electronic Lifts; 2) A Small Rush into Exile; 3) Dry and Disconsolate; 4) Variorum of Hierophany; 5) A Landscape Once Uniformly White; 6) Distance and Mortality; 7) With Some Effort, the Sunset;

Although not as indiscriminate as is denoted by the term, I am often a completist when it comes to collecting the works of selected authors and musicians.  Yet, I would be hard-pressed, given his massive output of creative work, to even begin to collect all the music of Will Long in the guise of Celer.  By now, I probably have a dozen or so of Celer’s recordings, but if I had to recommend one and only one recent work, it might just be this almost mystical and entrancing album.   I’m also drawn to this release since it fulfills one of the most significant inspirations for why I listen to music—it takes me somewhere, and the images and sensations are vivid.

Album Samples

 

This is the third work in a trilogy based on water (to some, water symbolizes comfort and freedom).  The two previous albums are Cursory Asperses (2008) and Escaping Lakes (2009)—the former alluding to the slow movements of small streams and the latter to the calmer depths.  The music on this album being inspired in part by Will’s trip to southern Alberta in 2009 (documenting the wilderness in photographs for a local Park Service).

Without Retrospect, the Morning is different from the first two in the series in that it has distinct tracks (versus a continuous thread of sound) and it captures water (or the sense of it) in a different state—a chilled desolation, at times at the edge of an existence where the potential energy is stored and released ever so sparingly in a landscape yearning for Sun and warmth.  It’s therefore appropriate that this album landed at the Glacial Movements record label, a self-proclaimed “glacial and isolationist ambient” label.  I also appreciate that the recording has been mastered with a softness that retains the intricate clarity of the many layers of sound buried in the crystalline strata (to heck with the loudness wars!).  There are also hidden sonic depths, and some passages might be felt before they are heard (as in Dry and Disconsolate).

A lateral effect of this CD is that it triggers (for me) some pleasant, albeit quirky, sonic memories from long ago.  I’m a fan of the original 1960s Star Trek.  There was some great incidental music and ambient sounds used in that series that, to my ears, are recalled in a track like Distance and Mortality (see if you hear the resonance of the wind from the pilot episode, The Menagerie or the sound of the transporter beam).

Distance and Mortality

 

So find a quiet room, bundle-up, get comfortable, and explore stunning breadth of this vast hyperborean landscape.  Just remember to turn the volume back down on your amplifier before you change the sources on your preamp or pop-in another CD.


A List Too Small – My Favorites of 2012

Thank you to all the artists and record labels for such wonderful and diverse music.

This is one list of many, it’s my list, and it leaves off many other favorites that I have enjoyed over the year in addition to the thousands of other albums and single tracks that make up music throughout the World.  What has helped me arrive at this list is what I have always loved about music: Does it move me?  In addition, is it creative, well recorded and produced with a degree of care that makes me pay attention to it?  There was a time when I was obsessed with highly produced and tightly engineered works, then I learned about artists such as East River Pipe and Sparklehorse, and many other genres of music were opened to me.

If you don’t see your favorite album on this list (or even your own album), it doesn’t mean a thing.  If an album has been reviewed on my website this year, it’s meaningful to many others and me, but this is only a very, very small slice of the music world.  Often people ask me about new music, and what I recommend.  When I started this website in late January, 2012 it was first a means to write about music that I enjoyed, but also to get to know other artists and learn about new music that they create, so I could pass it on.  Often, the best new music is that referred by a friend.  Please feel free to send me your comments and recommendations.

Special note: There are still three or four late 2012 releases that are either enroute to me, have yet to be released or have just arrived.  I need to spend proper time listening to and absorbing these albums.  Rather than delaying this list further, and if after listening to those last 2012 releases I feel that they hit a sweet spot, I’ll review those albums in early 2013.  I know of at least two 2012 releases that I’ll likely not receive until 2013.

I have three categories: Albums (12), Individual Tracks (6), and Special Releases (3) that don’t necessarily fit into a category.

Albums (Artist – Album Title – Record Label)

T&Y TLOF

1) Twigs & Yarn – The Language of Flowers – Flau

434_lambchop_mrmet_mini_900px

2) Lambchop – Mr. M – Merge Records

zammuto-cover

3) Zammuto – Zammuto – Temporary Residence

sh-grii-front

4) Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited II – Inside Out Music

12k-faint-cover

5) Taylor Deupree – Faint – 12k

BillowObservatory

6) Billow Observatory – Billow Observatory - Felte

12k10701Gareth

7) Gareth Dickson – Quite A Way Away – 12k

Pill-Oh KL

8) Pill-Oh – Vanishing Mirror – Kitchen. Label

brambles-cover-alt

9) Brambles – Charcoal – Serein

almost-charlie-ty

10) Almost Charlie – Tomorrow’s Yesterday – Words On Music

CodyChesnuTT

11) Cody ChesnuTT – Landing On A Hundred – One Little Indian

SM DEEP

12) Stick Men – Deep – Stick Men Records

Individual Tracks (from other albums)

 

1) Library Tapes – Sun peeking through (from the album Sun peeking through) – Self Released

2) Cock & Swan – Orange & Pink (from the album Stash) – Lost Tribe Sound

3) Alex Tiuniaev – Daylight (from the album Blurred) – Heat Death Records

4) Kyle Bobby Dunn – In Praise of Tears (from the album In Miserum Stercus) – Komino

5) Kane Ikin & David Wenngren – Chalk (from the album Strangers) – Keshhhhhh

6) Olan Mill – Bleu Polar (from the album Paths) – Fac-ture

Special Releases

Celer Machinefabriek

1) Celer & Machinefabriek: Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake, Numa/Penarie, Hei/Sou – Self Released

Trommer%20artworkPorya%20artwork

 

 

 

 

 

Darren%20McClure%20artworkThe%20Green%20Kingdom%20artwork

 

 

 

 

 

2) Birds Of A Feather: Michael Frommer – The Great Northern Loon, Porya Hatami – The Black Woodpecker, Darren McClure – The Black Kite, The Green Kingdom – The Great Blue Heron – Flaming Pines

12k2026_2

3) Simon Scott, Corey Fuller, Marcus Fischer, Tomoyoshi Date and Taylor Deupree (Recorded live in Japan October, 8, 2012) – Between (…The Branches) – 12k

Record Labels Noted Above

Flau: http://www.flau.jp/

Merge Records: http://www.mergerecords.com/

Temporary Residence LTD: http://temporaryresidence.com/

Inside Out: http://www.insideoutmusic.com/

12k: http://12k.com/

Felte: http://www.feltesounds.com/

Kitchen. Label: http://www.kitchen-label.com/

Serein: http://www.serein.co.uk/

Words On Music: http://www.words-on-music.com/

One Little Indian: http://indian.co.uk/shop/landing-on-a-hundred-1.html

Stick Men Records: http://stick-men.net

Library Tapes: http://librarytapes.com/

Lost Tribe Sound: http://www.cockandswan.com/ Note: I have not listed the weblink to the record label as Google has noted that the website MAY be compromised.

Heat Death Records: http://www.heatdeathrecords.co.uk/

Komino: http://kominorecords.com/

Kesh (Simon Scott’s label): http://www.keshhhhhh.com/

Facture: http://www.fac-ture.co.uk/

Machinefabriek & Celer: http://machinefabriek.bandcamp.com/ & http://www.thesingularwe.org/fs/

Flaming Pines: http://flamingpines.com/


Review: Benjamin Dauer – The Pace of Which

Twice Removed Records - The Pace Of Which - cover

Twice Removed Records – Time: About 39 Minutes – Limited Edition CDr (50 copies)

Record Label: http://twiceremovedrecords.blogspot.com/ & http://twicerememberedtwiceremoved.bandcamp.com/

Artist Websites: http://www.benjamindauer.is/ & https://soundcloud.com/benjamindauer

Tracks: 1) Anchors and Roots; 2) Either By Storm Or Low Frequency; 3) With Closed Mouth; 4) Melting Tines; 5) Waiting for the Rain; 6) From Ebb To Flow

Coming from Twice Removed Records on January 1, 2013 (a small label in Perth, Australia that releases short-run limited editions) is the latest (third) solo album from Benjamin Dauer.  I have great admiration for the various interests that BD pursues.  He has diverse accomplishments, from his design and digital media day-job at NPR (National Public Radio) in Washington, DC to raising awareness and environmental activism projects like Save The Pollinators.

I also appreciate BD’s musical pursuits as both a multi-instrumentalist solo artist and collaborator (with other musicians near and far), including his active participation with the Disquiet Junto (an ongoing music-making project where restrictions are used as a catalyst for inspiration).  Recently, I’ve been following with great interest the sound-sketch development (posted on SoundCloud) for a forthcoming album by The Dwindlers (his ongoing collaboration with poet Michelle Seaman).

From what I have heard of Benjamin’s previous solo work, it tends to be less rhythmic, a bit darker and more saturated than his (often Jazz-rooted) work with The Dwindlers.  There is an enmeshed yet subtle grittiness recalling earlier analog electronic and instrumental works (like the 1970 soundtrack to Frederic Rossif’s documentary L’Apocalypse des animaux by Evangelos Papathanassiou), while continuing to explore new aural horizons and narratives.  BD has an interesting quote at his website, which I think reveals that his solo work is less about an arrival at a particular sound, but more about the journey:

“As a musician & composer, I explore the boundaries of modern music through experimentation and play.”

In The Pace of Which, BD seems to be investigating different methods of creating musical atmospheres by blurring distinctions between musical genres (such as ambient, drone or others).  Each track takes a different approach, but there are some common elements in varied intensities.  Some of the pieces focus more on background with minimal foreground, whereas others the foreground elements are more pronounced, as well as the in between.

The background is predominant in Anchors and Roots.  The sound is broad, resonant on the edges, and heavily blended.  There are subtle placements of keyboards into the foreground, along with gentle clicks.  At a point where there seems to be a recognizable rhythm or melody, it disperses back into the haze.

 

Either By Storm Or Low Frequency takes time to develop; initially it has more hushed surroundings, with distance pulses and slow waves.  Sounds are buried down deep, almost immersed in rolling surf, reminding me of the analog warmth of Tangerine Dream’s album Rubycon (one of my favorite TD albums).  BD is quite good at disguising the instrumentation—sounds seeming to be more keyboard-based, with purer tones entering the sound-mantra and slowly dissolving as if being pulled back into a sonic undertow.

The foreground takes a more prominent role in With Closed Mouth.  The contrast of far and near is sharper.  The more dominant sounds could be the concurrent mechanics of the music being created, or blended field recordings.  There is interplay between reverberant sustained guitar and muted keyboards.  The result is a feeling of suspension, yet with some of the most tangible sounds on the album.  Melting Tines returns to clustered tones.  It’s a gentle wall of sound, punctuated by an almost reluctant guitar, and then veiled appearances of a piano.  An environmental-dominant foreground opens Waiting for the Rain.  It could be an early morning street scene of a city coming back to life on a gray morning with placid breezes.  The album closes with From Ebb To Flow, which again blends the sounds of the outdoors with an expanding tonal haze and an undercurrent of low frequency pulses before fading.

Since I tend at times to prefer more discreet sounds in mixes, I found that there were brief moments (particularly in the last track) where I was distracted by a “tape-saturated” ambience, but I stress that this is a particular quirk of mine.  I listen to music in the ambient and drone realms as vehicles to either clear my mind or to transport to a different (and often more pleasurable) zone.  Listening to works on the drone side of the spectrum, however, tends to be a more sensory intensive experience, even if the desired end result is a more numbed state of being.

Benjamin Dauer’s explorations in The Pace of Which will take you to many places with transformative and lush fabrics of sound—his work blurs the edges of the recognizable with richness beyond expected musical genre norms.  I’m looking forward to the further results of his experimentation and play.

***

More on Benjamin Dauer’s band The Dwindlers here: http://thedwindlers.com/

The Pelican and the Girl – From Allegories


Review: Kyle Bobby Dunn – In Miserum Stercus

K0M1N0-003_Jacket_PRESSREADY

Komino Records – K0M1N0-003 (12” LP & Digital) Time: About 36 Minutes

Artist Website: https://sites.google.com/site/kylebobbydunn/ & http://kbdunn.tumblr.com/

Record Label, Etc.: http://kominorecords.com & http://store.standardform.org/

Tracks: 1) Buncington Revisited; 2) Lake Wapta Rise; 3) In Praise Of Tears; 4) Meadowfuck; 5) The Milksop

A sesquidecade ago, I had a pretty regular gig as a lone passenger in a twin-engine Piper Seneca.  I sometimes had work to do as I traveled, but often I was able to sit in the co-pilot seat and put on a closed-ear headset with a microphone and either listen to radio chatter, talk with the pilot or sit silently and look at the scenery.  The travels took me over a mountainous wilderness.  The pilot was a pretty quiet guy, with a very steady hand in rough weather (and we saw some—snow storms too).  I was fortunate to even get a few short flying lessons during the trips, but mostly what I appreciated was the solitude of the vistas, leaving the towns and cities behind.

The views were broad landscapes of largely unpopulated forest areas.  Whether I had a headset on or not, focusing on what I was beholding would often silence the noise of the plane’s engines.  Every so often I’d get distracted and the sound of the synchronized engines would enter my consciousness.  At times the engines would have a slight harmonic pulse, as their RPMs fluctuated in the crosswinds.

Those halcyon memories of soaring above the wilds return when listening to Kyle Bobby Dunn’s latest album (self-deprecatingly titled) In Miserum Stercus.  About 5 minutes into Buncington Revisited is one of those points of distraction, and the harmonic of the Twin Sixes enters the picture, and then is gone and the passing landscape and feeling of seclusion returns.  KBD has his own distinct sound; it’s often just off in the distance and rarely head-on, but despite this tangential nature there is clarity.  And although he sometimes disguises the intent of his work in irony, I feel like there are often lucid memories evoked of places, especially in Lake Wapta Rise*, northwest of Banff, in British Columbia.  The landscape there in many ways is like what I saw on my journeys, although even more dramatic.  There is an expansive desolation in the restrained and blended sounds of this track, although the tones become purer and stronger, before fading.

Machismo apparently isn’t one of KBD’s distinct musical qualities, and so a layer of his thick outer skin is washed away to reveal some lachrymose tendencies with In Praise Of Tears.  Measured, peaceful and resonant waves calm the scene, before leading into the not-so-gently titled Meadowfuck.  Oh the irony of Mr. Dunn.  Although somewhat hushed, this track seems to be making an announcement with its rolling and distant brass-like atmosphere.  It builds, and then dives swiftly into The Milksop, which is staunch and paradoxically titled.  Have a listen…

 

***

So, buckle-up, enjoy the views and happy flying.  Oh, and KBD, don’t be so hard on yourself ;-)

***

* Postscript: I have since been given a geography lesson, on the finer specifics of Calgaric Locus–operative term “Rise”, which just so happens to be one Province east in the plains of Alberta, but I’ll cling to the romantic notion of the mountains.


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