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Posts tagged “ElectroAcoustic

Zammuto – Anchor

trr227-233x233  trr227_deluxe

 

 

 

 

 

 

Temporary Residence TRR 227 LP (CD and D/L) Time: About 39 Minutes for 11 LP Tracks

Artist: http://www.zammutosound.com/ Label: http://temporaryresidence.com/

1) Good Graces 2) Great Equator 3) Hegemony 4) Henry Lee (Trad) 5) Need Some Sun 6) Don’t Be A Tool 7) Electricant 8) IO 9) Stop Counting 10) Sinker 11) Your Time 12) Codebreaker* Bonus on Deluxe LP download with silkscreened cover

zammuto-studio-real-1Many scientists have labs and equipment, and there are parallels between science and the creation of music.  Discovery and creativity take hard work, inspiration and many tools—some of the work is also drudgery and can take a long time to complete.  Some experiments succeed and some don’t, but research presses on.

Nick Zammuto’s lab is in Vermont and while Zammuto’s current work is more accessible and song-oriented than work of his previous collaboration with Paul de Jong (The Books), Nick and his bandmates are still looking for music and inspiration in unexpected places (sometimes in quirky infomercial videos, physical inventions, admonitions from a parent and odd audio samples).  Sounds are discovered, altered, created and spun into a fabric of song, and more often than not the results are downright fun.

It took about a year from the very successful IndieGoGo campaign to the release of Anchor, but along the way Nick Zammuto kept backers well informed on progress and entrusted early previews of the final tracks, along with the background for inspiration and in-depth technical information on how many of the sounds were developed.  The resulting album varies from calming drones to chest pounding beats along with idiosyncratic melodic turns and spirited lyrics.  Many of the tracks are based around odd rhythms, some created with scratches deliberately made on LPs at planned intervals.

scratchAlthough I’m not always an advocate of loud music, I think this album better with the volume knob UP—it’s often an absolute romp.  Most of the music is also well suited to their live shows, where Nick Zammuto and his bandmates know how to have a good time, often with accompanying videos.  I can attest it’s also a great album for driving (at safe lower volumes!).  In general, I find this album to be more reserved (almost cautious, at times) compared than their first.

After Good Graces eases-in, the more dynamic tracks like Great Equator, Hegemony, Need Some Sun, Electricant and the aggressively percussive IO give the album its verve.  Anchor also has its quieter and more drone oriented moments, and can be quite introspective at times, as in Henry Lee, Stop Counting, Your Time and the acoustic percussion and guitar swells of Sinker.  The bonus track Codebreaker is a syncopated keyboard, guitar arpeggio and electronic percussion pattern study.

I think my only criticism of Anchor is that Zammuto might consider exploring some longer form works.  Peculiar and energetic always work for me.

TRR227_ColoredVinyl_WEB

The limited edition deluxe LP with silkscreen print cover

 

Photos are courtesy of Zammuto’s website, but I participated in the campaign and got myself a deluxe LP.


Gareth Dickson – Invisible String

Gareth Dickson Invisible String

Sleeping Man Records SMR005 – CD Time: 70:16

Also available on vinyl from Unwork Inc. or cassette from Beacon Sound

http://www.garethdickson.co.uk/

1) This Is The Kiss 2) Once Upon* 3) Song, Woman & Wine 4) Agoa 5) Like A Clock 6) Jonah 7) Get Together 8) The Dance* 9) The Big Lie* 10) Fifth 11) Technology 12) Noon 13) Nunca Jamás 14) Harmonics 15) Two Trains 16) Climbing 17) Amber Sky*

* - Not previously available as a studio recording

These are live recordings from a 2012 tour in support of Dickson’s album Quite A Way Away (and includes songs from his Collected Recordings CD, resissued by 12k) with concerts in Reims, Istanbul, including an apartment lobby in Caen, France.  I reviewed Quite A Way Away in early 2012.

****

From the moment this album begins, it’s magic.

The deeply resonant chords, the natural reverberation, the open tunings and Gareth Dickson’s hushed voice all combine to create a captivating and magnetic sonorous atmosphere.  Whether it’s gentle incantations, trance inducing vocal meditations or arpeggios this album is exquisitely gentle, yet curiously riveting and at times hypnotic.

There isn’t much more that I can say except buy it, and see if you can find the source of the album’s title.

 


Harold Budd – Jane 12-21

HB Jane 12-21

CD: Darla DRL289 2014 Time: About 39 minutes

CD available at this link to Darla (To be released on September 9, 2014)

Tracks: Jane 12 through Jane 21 with track Jane 16 subtitled (For Pale Saints)

I took some time off from writing reviews; primarily to just take some time off, but also I have been awaiting preorders for a number of releases as well as getting more serious about making some music instead of just listening.  It’s a hard road training old fingers to do new things, but it’s about the journey for me, not just the destination.

What a treat it is to return to a new album by Harold Budd (and I understand that another collaboration with Robin Guthrie has been recorded and will be released in early 2015, the title will be Another Flower).  Jane 12-21 is another fine example of Harold Budd sitting at a piano (or other instrument) and just playing without rehearsal or embellishment, one take without revisiting and then moving on.  There are some apparent treatments and minimal overdubs.  It’s difficult for me to tell if the percussion is actual or keyboard-based sampling, but it does sound like actual percussion most of the time.

This album is simpler and less adventurous compared to Jane 1-11, and that’s not a criticism at all, just an observation.  The cover design is also rather stark by comparison, with one panel by artist Jane Maru and minimal information about the tracks, recording and times, adding a bit to the somewhat mysterious nature of the album.  Jane 1-11 was created in response to videos created by artist Jane Maru (which were later released as a companion CD/DVD: Budd Maru Collaboration ) so without the benefit of input from Harold Budd (so far), I wonder if Jane 12-21 was created as a response to further videos by Maru (see video for Jane 8 below).

The album contrasts between recordings that are intimate and those which are spatially broad, more distant (whether the distance and reverberation were achieved with actual spaces or electronically, I don’t know).  To briefly describe each of the tracks on the album: Jane 12 is a stark and up-close, yet resonant piano with brief references to Debussy’s Clair de LuneJane 13 also uses a piano with light melodic percussion.  After the first two tracks Budd moves to more experimental territory and Jane 14 consists of melodic percussion (bells, glasses) with reverb and has a very calming effect.  Distance, like a dream on the edge of consciousness is how Jane 15 sounds, with hushed piano and a spatial reverb.  Whether intentional or not, I do find some of the pieces referring back to other previous Jane 1-11 pieces.  Jane 16 does this for me—reminds me of Jane 8.  It’s placid keyboard chords with gentle piano accompaniment and minimal apparent treatments.  The piano is responding to the chord movement of the keyboard.

Air moving through pipes is how Jane 17 starts, it’s a strong sound with treated piano and minimal percussion, and a pronounced flow and movement.  Jane 18 bends and twists with a somewhat downcast sonorous keyboard.  The melodic references to the first Jane series return with Jane 19, again keyboard and resonant chimes.  It sounds a bit more reflective to me with shades of Budd’s earlier work.

Jane 20 has a breathy keyboard melody, somewhere between wind chimes and woodwinds along with a gamelan (at times sounding like vibraphone) and deep percussive overtones.  This track more than any other in the series evokes a scene from a film with a vast landscape of mystery.  Budd closes this collection with Jane 21, a modest and delicately resonant cross between piano and celeste and themes appearing in various other Jane tracks, making it part of the larger cohesive whole.

Harold Budd’s work takes me to a place where I like to be, and return there as often as I can.  I think you’ll want to add this album to your collection.


Miguel Isaza – Levedad

Isaza - Levedad

CDr éter-06 Time: 38:42  Edition of 70

Tracks: 1) Pneuma, 2) Infraleve, 3) Indeleble, 4) Transparencia, 5) Levedad, 6) Gravedad

Links: http://eterlab.bandcamp.com/album/levedadhttp://miguelisaza.com/

Label: http://eter-lab.net/en/eter06/http://eter-lab.net/en/https://soundcloud.com/eterlab

 

I listened to Levedad a few times and instead of immediately formulating thoughts about it, I moved on to some other activities allowing the impressions to coalesce in my subconscious.  A day later I listened again and found myself thinking about cosmology, and the mystery that we cannot see or explain approximately 95% of the mass and energy in our Universe—what has come to be known as: Dark Matter and Dark Energy.  It’s a conundrum of knowing that something is there out there, but not knowing what exactly it is.

Although I have no expertise in astrophysics, I have read some of Stephen Hawking’s and Carl Sagan’s works.  Why I had this macro-scale reaction to Levedad, I’m not sure.  By sharp contrast, there’s also a micro scale parallel as in the communications between (nerve) cells, the electrical impulses that pass via dendrites and synapses (which we KNOW to exist and have been observed in real-time using powerful laser and electron microscopy).  And what of the 5% of the Universe that we can describe, see and hear?

In this album I think I would equate the tangible 5% of the Universe to the micro-sounds that populate the sonic ether throughout the six pieces on this album…like the flash of a small meteor that almost fools the eye when it disappears as quickly as it appears, the electrical pulses of a distant quasar captured with a radio telescope or the intensive shimmering ribbons of an aurora borealis.  The vast remaining aura of sound is the indescribable and unknown.

****

Miguel Isaza studies sound and philosophy and conducts cross-disciplinary research on listening.  His work includes composing, exhibit installations, performance, visual art (including computer generated images) and research.  Isaza explores the relationship between creators, educators and students with workshops, talks and publications as well as creating, recording and producing music.  He works with museums, academic institutions and on web-based projects.  He co-founded the Éter label along with Alejandro Henao in Medellín, Colombia and also runs the Monofónicos, Invisible Valley and Sonic Terrain music labels.

****

Levelad is a series of micro-montages that are akin to the recent long exposure Hubble Deep Field images of a fraction of our visible night sky.  The longer the time of the exposure the greater the detail that is revealed and the further back in time one travels visually; like letting one’s eye adjust to the dark and eventually more stars appear in the dome of the sky.

In my brief e-mail correspondence with Isaza, I asked if there are any underlying concepts for the album, and he had a reply that was curiously similar to my impressions (after I had already listened to the album and formulated my opinions):

“The work has for me a sense of nothingness, inspired on thin, delicate and suspended activity of bodies…”

So my reaction to the album, I have concluded, is plausible in the broadest sense.  The album has varied textures and moments of contrast from crystalline (almost piercing) individual tones to broad and intense walls of sound.  There are some recurrent sounds and themes giving a sense of familiarity within the largely ethereal sound-scape.  It’s my opinion that the aura of two of the latter tracks (Transparencia and the title track Levedad) somewhat belie their titles, but that in no way diminishes the listening experience.  Perhaps they were titled with a somewhat Duchamp-esque irony.

Pneuma (roughly translates to a vital spirit or creative force) opens the album with a vibrant clarity.  It begins in relative silence and then merges into sonorous glassy environs, and moves briefly into cavernous and buzzing electric depths.  Infraleve gives the impression of being nearby an audio jet-stream with micro-sounds and other sonic activity dancing below and in front of the high and fast-moving heavens.  There is somberness in Indeleble, as if evoking a distant memory during a passage of time.  In contrast to the jet-stream of Infraleve there is a feeling of an almost brooding undercurrent.

 

As noted above, and despite the title, there is a broad three-dimensional frontal density to Transparencia.  It meanders a bit with the faintest sounds of distant voices.  For me, Levelad (lightness) is ever so slightly referential, sounding mildly like the Opening Titles and backgrounds to the soundtrack of the film Bladerunner where Deckard is reviewing surveillance photos, which is followed by the Blush Response segment.  Eventually a layered drone blends into the piece, but is delicately penetrated with avian sounds of an outdoor environment.  Gravedad is appropriately grounded and has familiar sounds of nature, perhaps marking a return from the exploration of the unknown.

Enjoy the flight.

Isaza - Levedad 2


Silmus – Shelter

Silmus Shelter a

Volkoren 58 – Time: 39:46 Format: CD, also available as a limited edition of 35 copies (see Bandcamp link), recorded in the northern Netherlands

Website: http://www.silmus.com/ Record Label: http://volkoren.com/

Available at: http://silmus.bandcamp.com/

1) Deeply Beloved 2) Remembrance 3) Set In Stone 4) You Are Tenderness 5) Leaving Darkness 6) Shelter 7) You Have The Words And I Listen 8) Bare 9) Sadness Covers Me 10) Follow Me

The word shelter has different connotations, and I recall an assignment in my early design studio days exploring that word in terms of space, light and structure. I think the new Silmus album is perhaps less about spaces or places, rather being more about people and seeking or finding the comfort and shelter of a person, friends or within a family. It’s the soft comforting embrace of a loved one—the holding on or the letting go, the giving or receiving shelter in or from a given situation.

 

Dutch musician Gert Boersma (acoustic and electric guitars, piano, synthesizers, ukelele, samples) returns along with producer Minco Eggersman (electric guitar, harmonica, synthesizer, effects), Jan Borger (piano and bass) and Mirjam Feenstra (vocals). In his debut album Ostara that I reviewed last year, Boersma explored the delight and wonderment of the cycle of life and parenthood.

Silmus Shelter b

Shelter is presented within a soothing yet relatively controlled dynamic range and shorter form instrumentals are more dominant on this album compared to Boersma’s last. There are moments when rhythms appear and a direction is established (as in the initially stark then hopeful Leaving Darkness or the firm acoustic presence of Remembrance). At other times the music peregrinates for a time and suddenly expands into a broad sound-scape (as in the stark moodiness of Bare, punctuated with electric guitar that emerges from the cover of an acoustic steel guitar).  Some pieces are like brief visions of a mood or an experience, but others are self-contained and complete. Each track has a foundation, whether it starts with acoustic or electric guitar or piano, and gradually layers and responses are built to establish the atmosphere. It does seem that the album, taken in its entirety, represents a full cycle of feelings or reactions to a particular set of circumstances.

The CD opens with the meditation Deeply Beloved with repeated phrasings offering a gentle mantra of stability. Set In Stone has a clear voice of electric guitar, which is ever so gently treated with a phased chorus effect. You Are Tenderness opens with restrained orchestral strings and then a gently voiced piano, which is enhanced with light electric guitar.

The title track Shelter expresses the intent of its title—it starts delicately then the melody and harmonies are held firmly and uplifted within a secure bass line. In You Have The Words And I Listen the piano is treated as a voice. An enmeshed drone opens until the voice appears, then a conversation begins. The voice remains steadfast throughout the responses and delivers a message. A reflective piano opens Sadness Covers Me and is later coupled with a softly bowed electric guitar. The album closes with the steady hopefulness of Follow Me.

 

For those seeking a point of reference, I place this album within the gentler versions of Robin Guthrie’s solo work or perhaps the more contemplative instrumentals by Cocteau Twins. There is indeed a sense of warmth and comfort in this album, and it’s a pleasant place to be.

***

This is a solicited review.


Spring At Last! What’s Spinning at Studio wajobu

Lest you all think that I only listen to Ambient and Progressive Rock music, I also listen to many other genres including Country music…wait, WAIT, don’t close the window–you won’t regret it!

Sturgill Simpson

Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (High Top Mountain):  This new album by SS is the real deal. Great country songs about real stuff with great music, and even better the first single released is Turtles All The Way Down (with a nod in the title to Stephen Hawking) and it’s deliciously psychedelic with reverb, phasing-shifting and Mellotron. Give it a listen:

Shearwater

Shearwater and Sharon Van Etten – Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (SubPop):  From Record Store Day 2013, I missed this single, but I found it on RSD 2014 in the back of the singles bin—aha! The A side is by Tom Petty (which I can take or leave), but the gem is Jonathan Meiburg’s A Wake For The Minotaur—it’s just plain stunning. This live version features vocalist Jesca Hoop.

SongsOhia

Songs: Ohia – Journey On Collected Singles (Secretly Canadian):  Not much I can say about the tragic loss of Jason Molina that hasn’t already been written. Thank goodness we have Molina’s musical legacy, including his last band Magnolia Electric Company—great songs and music and many of subjects of Molina’s songs turned out to be prophetic. Long before he died, his last label Secretly Canadian was discussing releasing a boxed set of the early singles of Songs: Ohia, many of them quite rare and long out of print. Unfortunately Jason didn’t live to see it. It’s a beautiful blue cloth wrapped boxed set of nine 7” singles with a separate book of the original artwork and song histories and a CD compilation of all the singles. These were available on Record Store Day 2014 and they disappeared quickly…I was very fortunate to find a copy. Here’s a video on the set. If you can find one, buy it, you won’t regret it.

Mutual Benefit

Mutual Benefit – Love’s Crushing Diamond (Other Music Recording Co.):  Bob Boilen from NPR’s All Songs Considered got me to this album. Part folk, part psychedelic and reminds me a bit of a softer Grizzly Bear (the band) at times.

Hendra

Ben Watt – Hendra (Caroline – Unmade Road):  I’ve been a fan of Everything But The Girl (ETBG) since their early days and then Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt put that project on an indefinite hold while they pursued other musical endeavors and had a family. Tracey has released a number of excellent solo albums and this is Ben’s first solo album—very introspective. My favorite song is The Levels and David Gilmour plays slide guitar. This is a live version:

Lee Gobbi

Lee Gobbi – Purple Prose (www.leegobbi.com):  Lee is a fan of Progressive Rock music and the influences are clear on his self-produced debut album of mostly original songs with guest appearances by alums of the original 1970s and 80s Steve Hackett band. There are strong shades of The Beatles, ELO and the vibe of George Harrison’s work in this album. There are a couple of covers, a Stu Nunnery tune Madelaine (remember Stu Nunnery from the early 1970s?!) and a haunting version of Nick Drake’s Parasite. A brilliant first album, and I hear that there is a second album in the works—stay tuned. I’ll post some sound samples when they are available.

 

John Pizzarelli

John Pizzarelli – Double Exposure (Telarc):  This album from 2012 is of song interpretations and some pairings by Jazz guitarist (and son of Bucky Pizzarelli) and Popular song-man. The album is largely covers, with an original by Pizzarelli and his wife Jessica Molaskey Take A Lot Of Pictures (picking up where Michael Franks left off with his song Popsicle Toes). My favorite is the soulful Neil Young song Harvest Moon.

Elaine Radigue

Elaine Radigue – Trilogie de la Mort (Experimental Intermedia):  When I reviewing Nicholas Szczepanik’s latest album Not Knowing, I noticed the dedication to French composer and electronic music pioneer Elaine Radigue (born 1932) and I was reminded of this 3 CD trilogy that was composed as a tribute to her son upon his death. It’s very minimal with gradual layers in parts and intense at others. Like most of her other work it was composed on an Arp 2500 modular synthesizer. Since 2001 she has composed on and for primarily acoustic instruments.

Superchunk

Superchunk – I Hate Music (Merge Records):  This is the band that started Merge Records (http://www.mergerecords.com/i-hate-music) and if you have a chance read their book Our Noise – The Story of Merge Records. I heard FOH (stands for Front of House) just before the album was released and ordered it instantly (and then waited, since it was a preorder). Be careful, it’s raucous!

Tomotsugu Nakamura

Tomotsugu Nakamura – Soundium (Kaico):  I have Tench and Words On Music label’s Marc Ostermeier to thank for getting me to Nakamura’s work. He is a sound artist from Tokyo and Soundium is an album of microtones, springy and glitchy rhythms and fractional sound samples. The sounds and instrumentation are so pure—this is a great album and delightfully quirky at times.  http://naturebliss.bandcamp.com/album/soundium

 

Lateral reference: Soundium reminds me of the absolutely enchanting album In Light by 12k label’s Small Color (and I think that everyone should buy this album): http://www.12k.com/index.php/site/releases/in_light/

Federico Durand

Federico Durand – El estanque esmeralda (Spekk):  I find this album to be Durand’s most melodic work so far. Many of his previous albums and collaborations focus on longer form field recordings combined with bells, wind chimes and other instrumentation. This album concentrates on childhood memories of places and times, presented in delightfully concise pieces . The three latest Spekk label releases are in the larger format CD sleeves and they are a welcomed change from small digipacks, jewel boxes or (worse yet) plain sleeves. The music AND the art matters.  http://www.spekk.net/catalog/esmeralda.html

 

Celer Zigzag

Celer – Zigzag (Spekk):  Will Long AKA Celer is well known for his extensive ambient works and soundtracks. This is a more rhythmic (albeit subtle) electronic work. Have a listen:  http://www.spekk.net/artists/celer.html

 

Melodia Saudades

Melodia – Saudades (Kaico):  Melodia is a collaboration of Federico Durand and Tomoyoshi Date. I missed the original LP on the Own Records label, so I was quite pleased that Kaico released a CD version. More here: http://kaicojapan.tumblr.com/

Opitope Hau

Opitope – Hau (Spekk):  This is the first album by Tomoyoshi Date and Chihei Hatakeyama. Micro-tones, found sounds, ambient and field recordings along with instrumental (acoustic and electronic) improvisation make up Hau. The album is charmingly subtle at times and crystalline at others. The pieces are observations and explorations of places and experiences.  http://www.spekk.net/artists/opitope.html

Opitope Physis

Opitope – Physis (Spekk):  This is the latest CD from Opitope. The pieces are longer form than on Hau and curiously feel more like minimalist Jazz, at times. The instrumentation is more direct (recognizable), yet the environmental and visual influences are still present.

 

William Tyler Lost Colony

William Tyler – Lost Colony 12” 45 RPM EP (Merge Records):  Unlike Tyler’s recent (and fabulous) album Impossible Truth, which is a solo guitar album, this EP is a band release and Tyler reinterprets the track We Can’t Go Home, covers Michael Rother’s Karussel and the entirety of Side A is devoted to Whole New Dude. Dude is a ramble with a meandering opening (with excellent pedal steel by Luke Schneider) and then sets off on a driving rhythm (drums, guitar, pedal steel and bass) for the duration. It’s a traveling song, heading out “there” to explore, and Tyler lets it rip towards the end.  http://www.mergerecords.com/lost-colony

 

Orcas Yearling

Orcas – Yearling (Morr Music):  Orcas are Benoit Pioulard (another guise of Tom Meluch) and Rafael Anton Irisarri. This is the follow-up to their first eponymous collaboration in 2012. Yearling is part environmental instrumentals and part songs. The opening instrumental track Petrichor reminds me of Brian Eno’s The Spider and I from the 1977 album Before and After Science. I complained about the tone and mastering of BP’s most recent album, but this album sounds MUCH better. The songs are lush with vocals and harmonies by Pioulard—really nice music with oft-catchy refrains.

http://www.morrmusic.com/artist/Orcas/release/1705

 


Peaceful Wrath – Fields

PW F Cover

Label: Whispered CD WR001CD Limited to 500 hand-numbered copies Time: 36:54

Available at: http://whisperedlabel.bandcamp.com/album/fields

Tracks: 1) Cristaline (Flux), 2) Copper Traces, 3) Elements, 4) Archaique, 5) Rubis, 6) Pudgala, 7) Myth, 8) Canvas, 9) Cristaline (Reflux)

 

Fields is the first album to be released by the Whispered label and opens with a solo piano and the sounds of a distant shore.  The music is from the imagination of Stéphane Vandezande in his guise as the Peaceful Wrath, and the work is part minimalist and part chamber orchestra along with delicate electronic and environmental treatments.  The spirit is somber at times, as in Cristaline, but can change quickly to be playfully furtive like in the track Elements.

PW F Cover CD One moment, the music appears to be from a discreet scene from an imaginary film (as in Pudgala) whereas at others it depicts a broad conceptual sonic portrait, much like in the track Rubis.  The presentation of the compositions is never brash, but the starkest of tracks can be the most powerful, even more so than those more broadly orchestrated (in a way, the power of silence).  In Copper Traces, Vandezande also plays with rhythm and syncopation and has elements similar to Johannes Schmoelling’s solo oeuvre.  There are also brief moments of humor in the variety of the orchestration in Elements and I was instantly reminded of Eno Moebius Roedelius’s 1978 album After The Heat.

PW F Back

Voices also appear like momentary distractions in dreams, but are gentle enough to allow a return to the comfort of the music; this occurs in Myth as it advances cautiously from solo piano to cello and then bass (or treated synth) and then into a section of chamber music, which quickens rhythmically.  It’s one of my favorite pieces on the album.  Canvas shimmers, rumbles a bit and even growls before the “reflux” of Cristaline.  Vandezande notes that Fields was recorded under rainy skies in Brussels and in a small village in the French countryside, and he recommends as companions, “…a log on the fire and a nice cup of hot chocolate…”; sounds like an excellent idea, and I can also attest that it works well on warm sunny days too, a very nice listen with beautiful cover artwork.

****

This is a solicited review.


Orbit Over Luna – Transit

OOL-T Cover

Label: http://polarseasrecordings.com/  Artist: http://orbitoverluna.com/

Available at: http://polarseasrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/transit

Polar Seas Recordings PSR-007: CD-R Limited to 50 (Time: 64:02) with hand stamped numbered envelope, 8 page booklet and unique numbered art card by Shannon Penner.  Review copy is 35/50.  Album is also available as a digital download, but the first seven tracks only.

Tracks: 1) The Breathing of Roots, 2) Saturnine, 3) Chambers of the Sea, 4) Sungazing, 5) Ylla, 6) Un Jardin Des Cieux, 7) In The Decay of Shadows, Bonus CD tracks: 8) Equinox, 9) In The Decay of Shadows (Piano)

It’s all a matter of relative perception…a transit at sea, in the sky or on land and the paradox of experiencing the direct speed of travel from within or observing from afar a celestial body in space, a vehicle on land or a jet in the sky moving very slowly, when in reality in it could be traveling hundreds or even thousand of miles per hour.  Time can seem to stand still…

Shannon Penner is Orbit Over Luna and he is an animator, sound designer, composer and multi-instrumentalist from Toronto, Canada.  His work draws from many influences and instrumentation in his work varies, but it’s primarily guitar-based (often with ample reverb) with select moments of piano.

SP Headshot

Penner’s album Transit is both about being in the moment and observing from afar while experiencing the sense of movement on land, at sea or in air (or perhaps even floating in space).  The album is quite serene and comforting, but it holds one’s attention weaving through a variety of sonic territories.  I compare the album (as much as I like the competitive side of sailing) to spending a delightful afternoon on a sailboat in the warm sunshine with gentle breezes and my hand occasionally creating a gentle wake in the water.

The Breathing of Roots announces what follows almost like a distant fog horn at dawn, to gently nudge one’s attention that it’s time for a journey.  Saturnine seems a bit of a misnomer, because rather than being gloomy, it’s a slow drift on that boat (and not in the doldrums) allowing the distractions of the world to dissolve and to focus instead on the gentle and calming movement…a languid afternoon on the water.

 

I’ve read Shannon Penner’s oeuvre being compared to a number of different musicians, but the closest for me is the work of Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) and in particular his trilogy of recent EPs entitled Angel Falls, Songs To Help My Children Sleep and Sunflower Stories.  Penner’s work, however, is not as rhythmic or melodic when compared to Guthrie’s; instead it focuses more on atmospheric imagery.  Throughout the album there are occasional broad wave motions that yield gossamers of a tangible melody, but it’s the exception rather than the rule.  In The Decay of Shadows, which follows the transit of the Sun in the sky, has a minimal and complementary piano melody to the guitar chords that emerges and disappears gently like shadows created from clouds passing across the sky until the Sun sets below the horizon (one of the bonus pieces is the isolated piano track).

OOL-T Copy 35

Sungazing has moments of distorted guitar as if shielding one’s eyes from the Sun’s glare and as a more comfortable view emerges the sound clarifies and the panorama of the landscape comes into focus.  Ylla is a celestial passage and it makes me wonder if it’s a nod to one of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles of the same name.  And the farthest and most ethereal transit of all is in Un Jardin Des Cieux (The Garden of Heaven).  In The Decay of Shadows is the postlude to the album, but there are two bonus tracks on the CD, the first is Equinox, the two points in our year on Earth where we travel about the Sun and where day equals night, before summer or winter, as we pass through time…and the older we are the shorter our relative perception of time becomes.

Enjoy the ride!


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.


ILLUHA – Akari

ILLUHA Akari

Label: http://www.12k.com/index.php/site/releases/akari/  CD 12K1080 Time: 58:54

Artist Website: http://illuha.com/

1) Diagrams Of The Physical Interpretation of Resonance 2) Vertical Staves Of Line Drawings And Pointillism 3) The Relationship Of Gravity To The Persistence Of Sound 4) Structures Based On The Plasticity Of Sphere Surface Tension 5) Requiem For Relative Hyperbolas Of Amplified And Decaying Waveforms

ILLUHA’s new album is a more introspective progression from their previous works, some of which have been recorded in large spaces with vast natural reverberation (like their last studio album Shizuku – 12K1067).  Akari is like the successively magnified views in Charles and Ray Eames’s film The Power of Ten, while still being in the dome of the sky, the experience of the sound moves inward, and despite being ever closer to the point of focus a vastness of even more detail is revealed.  The album has a comforting intimacy, and from the first quite unexpected (to me!) muted acoustic guitar harmonics there is also a deeply tactile quality.  The instrumentation on the album is diverse, but it never distracts; each sound or ensemble has the space it requires and it tangibly enhances the experience.

The recording is profoundly crystalline and as one meanders through the scenes there are moments of illumination to be discovered…finding light in the darkness where color and detail are exposed.  The broader ambient sounds that open many of the tracks are subtle (like The Relationship of Gravity…) forming a backdrop for the journeys that Corey Fuller and Tomoyoshi Date lead us through.

I think the quality of sound-light in some of the passages of Akari is like the photo below that I took on a walk, early in the Fall of 2012.

Find a comfortable place to rest and get lost in this.

Light

 

One of my favorite ILLUHA pieces is a live recording from their CD Interstices (see the excerpt of Interstices III below, CD also available from 12k).

 


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