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Posts tagged “Electronica

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


Hallock Hill – Kosloff Mansion

Kosloff Mansion

Hundred Acre Recordings HA06: 12” LP (copy 18/40 signed, 200 total LPs & digital download)

Label: http://www.hundredacrerecordings.com/ Arrangement and production by Tim Noble

http://www.hundredacrerecordings.com/artists/hallock-hill/hallock-hill-kosloff-mansion-2014/

Hallock Hill Website: http://hallockhill.com/

Tracks: Side A: 1) I Light The Lamp And Sit Down, 2) The Good Dead, 3) The People Without Tears, 4) Death Was A Bird, 5) Villages Of The Black Earth, 6) A Secret It Remains, 7) Another Light; Side B: 1) Workbench Atheist, 2) Demons In The Birchwood, 3) Farewell, Pale Corpse Of Many Sins, 4) The Immortalisation Commission, 5) We Looked For You For 52 Years, 6) Massed Bands And Megaphones

Ask a person cold about a particular moment in time and the recall on specifics might not be immediate or complete, but drop a needle on an LP or press play on a CD and the instant the music starts (even if it has been unheard for 30+ years) that same person’s recollection of a memory could be lucid, with the place, time and circumstances remembered in vivid detail.  Music is often a key that unlocks chambers in a memory palace.  While not necessarily as far back as 30 years, there are moments while listening to Kosloff Mansion that visions of the past coalesce and the aura of the album further enhances that experience.  Perhaps Tom Lecky had different intentions from my own experience for the inspiration of his fourth album, but that’s the power of music when combined with synapses, dendrites, proteins and whatever…

 

I often associate the works of HH’s with layered compositions for acoustic and electric guitar (as in the albums The Union or A Hem of Evening), but this LP is mostly rooted in solo piano with production and treatments by collaborator Tim Noble (of  The Lowland Hundred).  It’s hard to know where Noble’s contributions specifically appear, but I think of Lecky’s work as being mostly austere, without apparent structure at times, although intricately layered (some juxtapositions being left to chance).  I was fortunate to have ordered this LP early enough to obtain a copy signed by Lecky and Noble, along with a hand written short poem by TL.

Kosloff Mansion starts gently, like the rising Sun with beams of light reaching into the morning, or rather, a candle’s flame penetrating the darkness.  It could be an unhurried day or evening in a cabin in the woods, just sitting contemplating nothing (or everything) and listening without distraction—the types of moments of which we need more.  Briefly, a storm interrupts in The Good Dead and this triggers the vision of a very late night deep in the Adirondacks (of New York) with lightning and thunder that a (then) very young son wanted to end, but I wanted (privately) to continue, to hear the storm echoing through the mountains.  With assurances that the storm was increasingly distant, there was comfort enough for the younger to sleep and so the elder could continue listening and pondering that particular night before a loon emerged and greeted the dawn.

Instrumentation sometimes changes from solo piano to bells, or perhaps it’s a celeste, but they fit while shifting with the breezes, moonlight and stars reflecting in the lake of the vision.  A Secret It Remains blends liquid and tones before landing in the austerity of Another Light with only hints of ominous strings rolling in on an imaginary tide of a lurking then emerging spirit…before fading.

Workbench Atheist seems to be more of the morning; soft music with a light rain or is it the creaking of an ancient wood floor?  Demons In The Birchwood is a darker, but livelier spirit and the celeste returns with a deeper Leslie-esque treatment, before merging into a wraith-like Farewell, Pale Corpse Of Many Sins, which at times is unsettling yet ironically at peace.  A reverie is freed to peregrinate in The Immortalisation Commission and it builds to a crescendo and then gently disperses.  There is a firm perseverance in We Looked For You For 52 Years, a feeling of reverence is also present.   Massed Bands And Megaphones punctuates Kosloff Mansion with a blend of a celebratory whimsy and sounds reminiscent of fireworks echoing in the distance.

At times Kosloff Mansion is mysterious, yet halcyon moments come forth and while different in sound and instrumentation from his previous works, it’s very much rooted in what I have come to appreciate in Lecky’s work—a really brilliant and different kind of music experience.

****

Added bonus! Hallock Hill live on WFMU, along with Tim Noble (HH segment starts at about 30:00, but enjoy the entire show!): http://wfmu.org/playlists/shows/55533


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!


Pjusk / Sleep Orchestra – Drowning In The Sky

P-SO DITS Cover

CD DR-21 Time: 56:34 – http://dronarivm.com/

http://pjusk.no/ & http://www.sleeporchestra.com/

Tracks: 1) Donitsk, 2) Daithn, 3) Skdiv, 4) Aoleeignal, 5) Rionzemef, 6) Vansunbarth, 7) Pleq Remix of Rionzemef

I’ve been a bit out of the loop with Dronarivm label releases for the last six months or so, but one of their new albums caught my ears—the collaboration with Pjusk and Sleep Orchestra.

Drowning In The Sky initially strikes close to home in its sound aura since we are just emerging from a VERY long winter here in the northeast USA.  Pjusk’s (Rune Andre Sagevik and Jostein Dahl Gjelsvik) music is often rooted in their Norwegian locale being inspired by weather, landscape and nature and Sleep Orchestra’s work (as noted by Christopher Pegg) is often influenced by science fiction or imaginary soundtracks to “…movies in your head…”

From what I have heard of their prior respective works, I wouldn’t have necessarily thought that their musical styles would merge comfortably, but after listening to Drowning In The Sky the combination works quite well.  The album does indeed seem very much like a soundtrack to a short film of an imagined journey that starts in a stark and harsh landscape of wind, snow and ice—not exactly a comforting place to be, but the solitude brings a focused awareness of the surroundings (Donitsk).  Eventually the scenes change and there is a transformation from an outdoor landscape into more industrial and metallic-sounding scenes (Daithn) with sporadic rhythms.  Taut and glitchy beats emerge and then there are layers of cavernous spaces, like giant shipyards or factories with remote gantry cranes (Skdiv), sharpened with a solo trumpet.

In time the scenes are darker (Aoleeignal), although still quite spatial with sounds dancing within the mix, and there is a strong visceral undercurrent and an increased sense of motion.  There is a return to an outdoor environment: water and wind in Rionzemef and an auditory sense of being in a vehicle of some sort (a large truck, train or ship perhaps) while experiencing a storm and pulsing undercurrent from outside the vehicle.  The environment, despite being a long way from the desolation of an Arctic plain continues to intrude into the soundscape and at a windshield or porthole…or in the mind.  Vansunbarth appears to be the arrival at the imaginary destination, where furtive sounds move quickly, muffled announcements, signals ring and footfall moves in a foggy haze, disorienting as if being awakened suddenly from a traveling slumber.

 

The album is a journey of contrasts, from the far reaches of harsh yet pristine tundra to the gritty environs of an industrial zone, from desolation and isolation to population.  Pleq’s remix of Rionzemef gently sways and is more hypnotic and comforting than the original track.

P-SO DITS Closed

A historical comparison: Drowning starts off being quite similar to Envangelos Papathanassiou’s chilling soundtrack to the film Antarctica and ends up more in a post-apocalyptic and highly cinematic realm of Bladerunner.  Also of note, (and I always prefer a physical release to digital) Dronarivm has changed their CD sleeve to a quite effective recyclable folded heavy cardstock slide-out package; my only comment would be to ask that the inner portion slides out another centimeter farther for easier access to the CD.

P-SO DITS Open


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

****

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. 


What’s Spinning – Autumn Equinox 2013 Edition

There’s so much great music out there, I just can’t get to it all (let alone afford to add it to my collection!).  And so, another installment of a brief overview of the best of what’s playing here.  Since the temperature has moderated with the season, I’ve been able to fire-up the tube amplifiers again.

Pausal

Pausal – Sky Margin (Own Records) http://ownrecords.bandcamp.com/

Simon Bainton and Alex Smalley return after their most recent album Forms.  Sky Margin is a series of mystical “flights”, with some tracks grouped (Vapour-Distance-Trails, Celestial, Balance-Topography, Solstice-Utopian).  Whereas Smalley’s work as Olan Mill tends more towards the melodically and harmonically directional, Pausal’s compositions are of the “out there.”  The music flows as from drifting gossamers with ethereal layers of instruments and field recordings.

 

Federico

Federico Durand – El idioma de las luciérnagas (Desire Path Recordings) http://www.desirepathrecordings.com/releases/federico-durand-el-idioma-de-las-luciernagas/

I live in an area where the sound of the night is anything but silent, but it’s not the sound of a city or machines, it’s the sounds of fauna (small mammals, birds and insects).  So, I have to admit that when I first cued Durand’s new album I had to look and see if I had left a window open.

I have missed-out on some of Federico’s recent albums (like El éxtasis de las flores pequeñas and Saudades by Durand and Tomoyoshi Date AKA Melodia), but I really enjoyed his collaboration with Nicholas Szczepanik (as Every Hidden Color), Luz on the Streamline Label.  El idioma is a blend of the outdoors, pastoral chimes, sensually treated piano, gentle guitars and many other instruments—a subtle and restful tapestry of sound.  Tracks like El espejo de mil años are in good company with Harold Budd and Brian Eno—peaceful, on the edge of a dream.  There is also a familiar melody (to my ears) in the title track.

 

Julianna

Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe (Dead Oceans)

http://deadoceans.com/artist.php?name=barwickjulianna

After Barwick’s last album, The Magic Place on Asthmatic Kitty, I was curious to see if she could take her music to other places—without seeming like a repetitive formula of her last album…and on Nepenthe she has.  This time her inspiration is taken from a new sense of place, the stark and raw beauty of Iceland, in conjunction with producer Alex Somers (Sigur Ros and Jónsi associated).  The album has a sense of searching and loneliness, and Barwick’s voices are combined with rhythms and melodies, more so compared to her last album.

 

Juliette

Juliette Commagere – Human (Aeronaut Records)

http://www.aeronautrecords.com/Aeronaut/releases.html

Late in 2010 Commagere released her album The Procession on Manimal Records—a diverse combination of songs with dense and gorgeous vocals instrumentation—part art-rock, progressive and electronica.  Commagere has returned with another beautifully recorded album of lush songs with her strong vocals and support from husband Joachim Cooder, Ben Messelbeck, Amir Yaghmai, Ry Cooder and recorded by Mark Rains and Martin Pradler.  The sound is deep, full, inventive and often fantastical—she is doing her own thing, and I love it (catchy melodies and all).  There are times when she channels Elizabeth Fraser as on Low.

 

Meridian Bros 2Meridian Bros 1

Meridian Brothers – Desesperanza (Soundway) and Devoción (Staubgold)

http://www.soundwayrecords.com/release/meridian-brothers/meridian-brothers—desesperanza-sndw049

http://www.staubgold.com/en/album/139/devocion-works-2005-2011/?PHPSESSID=8757662324ab25ade22bf300633f8635

I have NPR’s program Alt Latino for getting me to the delightfully quirky Meridian Brothers.  I characterize their work as part Equivel, part Joe Meek and part Raymond Scott.  Just go along for the ride, it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard.  Devoción is a collection of earlier recordings and Desesperanza is their latest album.

 

 

Laith

Laith Al-Saadi – Real (Weber Works)

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/laithalsaadi3 http://laithmusic.com/

I first saw Laith and his trio perform live at an audio festival in northern Michigan a few years ago, and then saw him again a couple of years later.  He is an artist who puts his heart and soul into his music, mostly Blues (as does the rest of his band).  For this extended EP (six tracks with two alternate takes) producer Jeffrey Weber assembled Al-Saadi’s dream-band (Jim Keltner, Lee Sklar, Larry Goldings, Jimmy Vivino, Tom Scott, Lee Thronburg, Nick Lane, Brandon Fields and others) and recorded this album of original compositions (except for Robbie Robertson’s Ophelia) live to two track with no overdubs, treatments, mixing, editing, limiting, or compression.  Have a listen to the samples—great music, solid.


Album Review: Zinovia – The Gift of Affliction

Zinovia - TGOA Front

Tympanik Audio: CD TA079  Time: About 49 minutes

Music – Zinovia [Arvanitidi]: www.facebook.com/ZinoviaMusic

Label – Tympanik Audio: www.tympanikaudio.com/artists/zinovia

Artwork – Shift: http://www.futurorg.com/

Available at: http://tympanikaudio.bandcamp.com/album/the-gift-of-affliction

Mastered by Alexander Dietz  Mixed by John Valasis

Tracks: 1) The Blue Shade Of Dawn Covered Your Skin, 2) Communicating Vessels, 3) Chimera, 4) Entangled, 5) Emerge To Breathe, 6) Attached, Our Eyes Wide Open, 7) Sucking The Smoke From Your Lips, 8) Beneath A Stellar Sky, 9) A Time To Make Amends

I suspect that most of us live pretty ordinary lives, but every once in a while finding oneself on the cusp of an adventure seems rather tempting.  A while back, author David Schickler wrote a book Kissing in Manhattan; it’s mysteriously haunting and strange—as if eavesdropping on people, places and their situations; the kinds of experiences that only happen to others.  So, imagine arriving at home some night and seeing a note pinned to the door: “Meet me at ___ at 9 pm”, signed “___” (you fill in the blanks).  Would you go?

Zinovia - TGOA BackI’ve mentioned it before: my strongest connection to music is when it takes me somewhere—whether an escape, a fantasy, to relax or to find a groove, and Zinovia’s The Gift of Affliction is a nearly perfect connection; even better, it’s beautifully recorded and produced. This album has the broad pulse of a city, its dark spaces and verve with occasional tender moments. It tells a story with many possible beginnings and endings.

First, I posit that the sounds in this album have a connection to the vast works of fellow Greek countryman Vangelis Papathanassiou (listen to his 1990 album The City, and passages in the dark soundtrack to the film Bladerunner)—if only for historical influences or connections, yet Zinovia’s album has a clear and freshly expressive voice of its own.  I also wonder, given the recent political and economic times in Greece, if there are any political undertones or foreboding woven into the narrative.

Second, I am most familiar with Zinovia Arvanitidi’s recent collaboration (on Kitchen Label) with Hior Chronik as the duo Pill-Oh, their Kitchen Label release Vanishing Mirror was a favorite of mine in 2012.  I love the reflective track Melodico.  It’s a compassionate album, but The Gift of Affliction is quite different in every way, except in the strong musicianship and production.

Zinovia 1

Throughout the entire album there is a constant shift from the ethereal to the grounded, reality to fantasy, electronic to acoustic; and as quickly as we are in a sonically amorphous zone, the vibe moves from solitary to a full ensemble of electronica or jazz undertones—a genre-bending and cohesive swirl.

It could be late at night or in the early hours of a morning; from the first plaintive beats of The Blue Shade Of Dawn Covered Your Skin all the characters are furtively introduced into the narrative with an broad ambience, beats, melodica and piano (the latter two, perhaps being the voices of the main characters).  Unexpected sounds enter and vanish in Communicating Vessels; there is movement of people, vehicles and information in this new place, yet despite all the motion there is a comforting presence of the familiar (the recurrent melodica and piano).  One doesn’t want to be swept-away too quickly. But adventures are not without complications, but why not enjoy the ride?

 

The mythic shift begins in Chimera, a fantasy of sound and voices, expansive, getting absorbed into the experience and the implausible.  Momentary introspection follows in Entangled—the deep and centered beats, one of the most absorbing (and longest) tracks on the album—I think my favorite too.  The narrating melodica returns, in conversation with the piano, they weave into each other, in and out of the pulse.  Emerge To Breathe is a shift from interiors to exteriors, traveling, sounds of rails and stations (like Kraftwerk’s Europe Endless, but more ominous).

Zinovia 2

Attached, Our Eyes Wide Open is the darkest and most vulnerable of scenes on the album, yet there is an alluring comfort in the melody of a solo piano (with string accompaniment).  Key shifts are slowly introduced, along with an emotional realism and sense of doubt, yet still one is drawn further  into the fantasy of…

Sucking The Smoke From Your Lips and its out-of-focus depth of field with moving colored lights—a sonic tilt-shift in a smoky jazz club with the liberation of dream-like voices.  The adventure nears its end with Beneath A Stellar Sky, out in the open, holding onto the escape.  It’s a reluctant emergence and one last taste of the vibrations of the night.  A Time To Make Amends is the return from fantasy, the pensive melancholy, with a reflective and intimate close, accentuated all the more with the sounds of the internal workings of Zinovia’s piano.

In case you’re wondering, I did take the note from my door and went on the adventure, and you should too.

****

This is a solicited review.


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.

sound005back_square

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: Brainkiller – Colourless Green Superheroes

Brainkiller - CGS

RareNoiseRecords CD RNR033 Time: 45:53  (LP version coming soon)

http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/brainkiller-store

Tracks: 1) The Vindicator Returns, 2) Scribble, 3) Empty Words (featuring Coppé), 4) Top Of The World, 5) Orange Grey Shades, 6) A Piedi Verso Il Sole, 7) Plates, 8) Noodlin, 9) Labratorio, 10) Secret Mission, 11) Otaku Goes To A Rave, 12) Viv, 13) To Be Continued

Band: Jacob Koller: Piano/Fender Rhodes/Keyboards, Brian Allen: Trombone/fx, Hernan Hecht: Drums

Wit and subtlety are often hard to find in much of what passes for music today.  Then there’s music that takes itself so seriously that it might collapse under the weight of its own ponderous self-importance.  Music isn’t always about the sound, it’s sometimes about the spaces and the silence—it doesn’t necessarily have to be a full-frontal assault on the senses.

A few years ago Brainkiller released their first album The Infiltration on RareNoiseRecords (#RNR010).  Initially, this album caught my attention because it was a trio with a trombone, their music sounded playful and quirky, and it had some roots in other artists whose work I admired (Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Brand X, Godley-Creme, Weather Report, Return To Forever).  Here’s a sample track, Casketch from their first album:

Casketch 

Colourless Green Superheroes is a series vignettes (some atmospheric like Empty Words, and some funky) exploring melodic, rhythmic and at time ethereal motifs and the tracks don’t rest long on a given theme before shifting direction.  In a way, this album is a soundtrack in search of a film.  There is also a restful ease throughout the album (making it perfect for a languid summer day or when the night is young), but there are moments when cool breezes blow and there is a jaunty awakening, as in Scribble.  The spirited Fender Rhodes opening phrases take me back to Brand X’s Disco Suicide*.  There is, however, an unexpectedly laid-back funky response from trombone and percussion, a bit like The Tortoise and the Hare—as if the Tortoise retorts, “Chill, I’ll get there…”

Scribble

The themes introduced in the anthemic opening track The Vindicator Returns are explored further in Top Of The World, at first on a solo piano before the full trio plays off the rhythms and melodies.  As in their first album, there are moments of recorded studio banter or live voices, which add a sense of spontaneity—also evident in the veiled conversations during the furtive Orange Grey Shades (my favorite track on the album).  One can make up their own story to accompany the music.

The Vindicator Returns

There are times when the album is more contemplative as in A Piedi Verso Il Sole, a reflective lament of sorts.  Yet the album shifts (before the vibe gets too heavy) to more raucous themes in Plates.  The mood lightens further with Noodlin—a spirited piano solo (think a leisurely evening at a night club…at first), before moving to lighthearted voices (steering the improvisation), muted trombone solos and ultimately a vigorous trio romp.  The upbeat repartee continues with the march-like Labratorio and perhaps the most vigorous track on the album Secret Mission (like a chase scene from one of the Bourne films)—see the video below for an excerpt.

 

Earlier themes are again revisited in the closing tracks of the album Otaku Goes To a Rave (my other favorite track on the album) mixing in some Scribble[s] and polyrhythms from the drums and piano.  There’s an interesting combination of 1970s-era electric piano work combined with energetic phrasings similar to what the band Zammuto (ex-The Books) is working on these days.  The album closes with the peculiar and brief Viv—a prepared piano musing, followed by To Be Continued, a reflective and somewhat subdued “roll credits” piece.

This album functions well as both incidental music or for straight-on listening and as soon as it ends I wonder where the time has gone…and so, REPLAY!

BrainkillerPic2

Photo of Brainkiller Courtesy of RareNoiseRecords

* – For those curious about Disco Suicide by Brand X: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdAPEEW-OUA

***

This is a solicited review.


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/ 


Review: Berserk! (Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari and Lorenzo Feliciati)

BERSERK_600600_72DPI

RareNoise Records CD RNR031 Time: 49:41 (vinyl soon and hi-res digital)

http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/berserk and www.facebook.com/berserkband

Tracks: 1) Macabre Dance, 2) Fetal Claustrophobia, 3) Blow, 4) Not Dead, 5) Clairvoyance, 6) First, 7) Dream Made Of Wind, 8) Wait Until Dark, 9) Latent Prints, 10) Dream Made Of Water

Band: Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari (Voice, Electronics, Organ, Guitar) and Lorenzo Feliciati (Electric and Upright Bass) with: Gianluca Petrella: Trombone & Effects (tracks 1,2,4,5,7,10), Fabrizio Puglisi: Piano & ARP Odyssey (6,8,9), Jamie Saft: Keyboards (1,2,9), Eivind Aarset: Guitars (3,4,7,9,10), Sandro Satta: Alto Sax (3,9), Cristiano Calcagnile: Drums & Effects (4,5), Pat Mastelotto: Drums & Effects (6,8,9), Simone Cavina: Drums (1,2)

Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari aka LEF and Lorenzo Feliciati form the core of Berserk!, along with some other familiar names in the RareNoiseRecords stable, including Feliciati’s fellow Naked Truth bandmate Pat Mastelotto.

We all need a venting catharsis now and then—some folks resort to primal scream therapy, but generally I’ll pick music to assist with exorcising my darkened bilious tendencies.  The new self-titled album from Berserk! seems like an effective cure for those intractable days when the pile gets too deep and the unrelenting Myth of Sisyphus comes to mind.  Despite the band and album moniker, there is a broad mix of dynamics in the album and it’s marked by many (nearly neck-snapping) contrasts in sound and rhythm.

Berserk! isn’t a broad spectrum motoric assault on the senses, but it deftly selects its points of release, building like a suspense thriller with the rage boiling over every so often.  The album also teases and mocks (from the gently maniacal whistling in the opener Macabre Dance to the background telephone ringing in Fetal Claustrophobia…yes, I turned my head to see if my phone was ringing!).  There’s also a brief moment of saxy playfulness (albeit dark) in the reflective interlude Blow before entering the backstreets and dark alleys of Not Dead (shades of the growling Tom Waits and Sparklehorse duet Dog Door from the 2001 album It’s A Wonderful Life) with raspy voices and clusters of percussion pushing against an unyielding darkness.

 

Feliciati’s bass work throughout the album is reminiscent of Percy Jones’s work with Brand X, particularly the earlier freer-form improvised and less commercial version of “The X”.  The aggressive horns, meandering piano, fast-changing rhythms and moods (as in Fetal Claustrophobia) also remind me a great deal of one of my favorite King Crimson albums, Lizard (under-appreciated until Steven Wilson remastered it with Robert Fripp).  The treatment of Gianluca Petrella’s horns throughout much of the album often sounds like the thundering Mellotron horns used in Lizard.  The sharp inventive contrasts in instrumentation also remind me of Frank Zappa and early albums by Godley and Creme (as in the albums L and Freeze Frame).  Yet, there’s little humor in Berserk!—the focus is strictly business.

The middle portion of the album is furtive and contemplative in spirit (like the tracks Clairvoyance and First) and eventually LEF’s vocals (sung here, not spoken) break through, channeling John Wetton.  Note: Don’t forget to listen for R2D2.  There’s a brief pause (the calm before the storm?) with ethereal atmospherics and horn work in Dream Made Of Wind before the closing section of the album begins with a tender solo piano largo and transition to a massed rhythmic vocal and ultimately a full band assault in Wait Until Dark leading into an alto sax ensemble of Latent Prints (the feeling of KC’s Lizard returns) and moves into a roaring full-clustered rip.  The album closes with the ominously thunderous and raging vocal domination of Dream Made Of Water—there’s the Berserk!

Had a tough day in the trenches? Hold the rage at-bay (warn the neighbors, shut the doors and turn up the amp) and have a listen.  I think you’ll feel better.

LEF_FELLorenzo Feliciati and Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari – Courtesy of RareNoiseRecords

****

This is a solicited review.


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.

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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

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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.

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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

 
 

Concert: Stick Men – Infinity Hall and Bistro – March 27, 2013

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Stick Men: https://www.facebook.com/stickmenofficial

Tony Levin: http://www.papabear.com/

Pat Mastelotto: http://patmastelotto.com/

Markus Reuter: http://www.markusreuter.com/

Stick Men dot Net will take you to: http://iapetus-store.com/album/deep

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I’m not often prone to numerical connections, but it occurred to me last night on the long quiet drive home from the woods of northwestern Connecticut that here I was in year 13 of this century and it has been (almost to the day) 31 years since I had last seen Tony Levin on stage in Syracuse, New York with the 1982 incarnation of King Crimson (Fripp, Bruford, Belew and Levin) in support of their incredible return album Discipline.  Although Tony Levin might disagree, to my eyes his energy and spirit hasn’t aged a day in those 31 years.  Last night’s concert in Norfolk, Connecticut was an incredible display of musicianship, sound and an intimate connection between the musicians and the audience (especially in a small hall like Infinity with great acoustics, sound system and a beautifully restored historic building).

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In one way or another this trio of Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto and Markus Reuter all have a connection to King Crimson (and Robert Fripp) in various incarnations and ongoing KC ProjeKcts, but Stick Men while embracing KC’s influential work, have continued to develop their own voices in progressive rock including vital relationships with other bands, artists in addition each members respective solo work.

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The Bows Come Out!

The set list last night was largely from their new album DEEP (all but two tracks) in addition to some real treats.  Tony Levin made a special point to express appreciation to the audience for being so receptive to the new material, rather than insisting on hearing only the old (including many King Crimson favorites)–in effect progressive rock music…PROGRESSES.  One thing that I wanted to see after listening intensively to DEEP is just how much of the melodies each instrument would take, and I was surprised to see that many sections that I thought were coming from Reuter’s Touch Guitar turned out to be melody exchanges between Reuter and Levin (the Chapman Stick being an extremely versatile instrument—not just for the bass line).  Here are the tracks (along with some brief notes…not on every track, and nothing that I can write will do justice to the intensity and clarity of the sound last night–something to be experienced first-hand!):

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1) Nude Ascending Staircase: As is the beginning of the album DEEP, this performance set the tone for the entire night, a seriously raucous (and fun) sound with deep visceral notes from Levin’s stick.

2) On/Off

3) Crack In The Sky

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4) Breathless (from Robert Fripp’s 1979 solo album Exposure): This Fripp album is incredible, and it’s still as vital as when I first placed the LP on my turntable in 1979.  This was an absolutely shredding performance of this piece.  Markus Reuter’s faithful interpretation of Fripp’s work (searing guitar) was just chilling.  The trio seriously cooked on this.

5) Cusp

6) Infinity Improv (free improvisation): Tony Levin noted that they record each of their performances (and I had noticed some stage and ambient microphones on stage before the show) in the hopes that some of the improvisations and recordings could lead to future releases.

7) Horatio: Thunderous!

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8) Whale Watch: Tony Levin noted that despite his many years of having played the Chapman Stick, he was still learning more about what the instrument could do (and its often unpredictable results).  He noted that some nights Whale Watch could turn out differently, depending on whether the instrument needed to be wrestled to the ground (I’m paraphrasing).  It’s the story of being on a whale watch, from the start of an ocean journey to spotting, pursuit and arrival to see a whale up-close.

9) Industry (from the 1984 King Crimson album Three of a Perfect Pair): The growl and electronic percussion.

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Pat is A-blur

10) Hide The Trees: The growing tension, exchange and release in this piece is deliciously enticing.

11) Open, Pt. 3 (from Stick Men’s 2012 improvisation-based album Open)

12) Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part 2 (from the 1973 King Crimson album Larks’ Tongue in Aspic): It was exciting to hear this piece live again, as it was in the concert in 1982 (and previous KC concerts that I had attended)—also, on the heals of the recent 40th anniversary release of the re-mastered album.

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Tony Levin playfully taking a stage photo for the ongoing Crimson Chronicles

13) Encore: A Stick Men arrangement of Stravinsky’s Firebird: Let’s hope that this ends up on a future live album—a forceful and experimental rendition of Stravinsky’s 1910 work.

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After the Encore

It was a real treat to observe the persona of each musician on-stage: Tony Levin’s classic broad stance and kinetically expressive movements (resulting in many blurry photos!), Markus Reuter’s calm scanning of the crowd as he switched from touch-fingering his guitar to using it in a more conventional guitar-stance, and Pat Mastelotto’s highly expressive performance on percussion and electronic devices—and just when I thought that he had no more tricks in the bag, out he’d pull even more paraphernalia, including a bow!

At one point during the night Tony Levin noted that King Crimson was still alive, not broken-up, yet (somewhat comically) Levin noted that Robert Fripp had recently attended a Stick Men show (and paid for his ticket, despite a guest pass) and in response to a question about when a King Crimson tour might occur again, Fripp responded “Pain.”  I think Mr. Fripp has moved on, and is enjoying his semi-retirement and over-seeing of the re-mastering and re-releasing of their massive archive of concerts and other recordings.

Stick Men Deep

If you’re within striking distance of a Stick Men show—please go see them!  They’re appearing at the Iridium Jazz Club this Friday (March 29) and Saturday (March 30) nights in New York City.  I’m sure they’ll be on the road again soon.  Bravo and thank you to the Stick Men!  Oh, and buy their new album DEEP–see also this great review of the album by my friend over at Horse Bits: http://horsebits-jrc.blogspot.com/2012/11/deep-by-stick-men.html

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Note:  Click on any photo to see an enlarged version.  Please contact me if there are any factual errors in what I have written above.  I have many other high resolution photos of the show, and if you chose to copy or repost any of the photos, please credit me “wajobu.com”.  You can’t see them, but the photos ARE watermarked.

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Cheerful Pat!


Marsen Jules – The Endless Change Of Colour

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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.

 


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