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Posts tagged “Experimedia

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.


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: 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.


Marsen Jules – The Endless Change Of Colour

12k1074

12k Label – 12k1074 – CD Time: 47:00

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

Broken Chip Wonga Pigeon

The Wonga Pigeon by Broken Chip

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

* – And so, I hit repeat!

 

Simon Whetham The Phoenix

The Phoenix by Simon Whetham

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

 

Kate Carr Landing Lights

Landing Lights by Kate Carr

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

My Brother Came To Stay

 

Thunderstorm

 


Review: Cory Allen – The Great Order and Pearls

TGOPearls

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

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

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

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

TGO

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

 

 

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

Pearls

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

 


What’s Spinning – Deep Winter Edition

I need some warmth on these cold winter days…

Ron Sexsmith - Forever Endeavour

RS 4EVRNDVR

http://www.ronsexsmith.com/

I love Ron’s work (another thoughtful Canadian songwriter—imagine that?!).  He writes such great songs.  My problem with his work, at times, is that sometimes his songs are just too sad, but Ron has a gift for making a sad song curiously uplifting, like Michael and His Dad from his last album Long Player Late Bloomer.  I started listening to Ron’s work in 1997 with his third album Other Songs (produced by Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake—coincidentally Froom produced Suzanne Vega’s Nine Objects of Desire the previous year, another favorite album of mine).  Forever Endeavour is sparsely arranged, but strings, horn, percussion, pedal steel or electric bass are right there when they’re needed.  Other than that, the songs are Ron’s voice, and his acoustic guitar.  He has a gift for wordplay and expressing emotions with a deft efficiency that flow so naturally with his melodies.  Some songs on Forever Endeavour are ironically upbeat, like Nowhere Is and Snake Road—in a sense, keeping the faith.

The CD has two bonus tracks (songs written with Don Black and recorded by Don Kerr), Life After A Broken Heart and Autumn Light, and they are just plain gorgeous additions to this album.

Nowhere To Go

 

Lorna - Heart of Wire

WM34_300

http://www.words-on-music.com/index.html and http://lornatheband.com/bio/

This is Lorna’s third album on the Words On Music label.  The collective from Nottingham, UK creates dreamy contemplative songs with shy vocals and delicate harmonies.  I’ve read of some comparisons to Yo La Tenga, but Lorna’s instrumentation tends to be more complex, and chamber-like at times.  I think that this is their most direct album of the three for Words On Music—their sound is more confident, but they haven’t lost the softness and (at times) melancholy of their lyrics.  I think the strongest songs on this collection are As She Goes ByOld Shanklin Sunset and Mina and Marco (with a delightful melodic phrase sample borrowed from composer Edward Elgar).

 

 

Daphne Lee Martin - Moxie

DLM Moxie

http://daphneleemartin.com/ and http://telegraphrecordingcompany.com/

A woman after my own heart—part record store owner, part musician; for many years, Daphne has been part of the New London, Connecticut-based band Raise The Rent.  Moxie is the first of two releases (the forthcoming being Frost), and is a sultry collection of songs of the (only mildly) lurid backstreets of her imagination (with the added bonus of occasional Mellotron accompaniment!).  There are shades of the cheekiness of the Squirrel Nut Zippers and the “heat” of mid-1970s Maria Muldaur in this well-produced album.  I have an idea for what to expect from Frost—counterpoint!

 

Heligoland - Sainte Anne

Heligoland Sainte Anne

http://heligoland.org/ and http://heligoland.bandcamp.com/

Sainte Anne is the latest EP from the Paris-based Australian quartet known as Heligoland.  Their work in the last few releases has come under the wispy spell of producer and musician Robin Guthrie (who also plays occasional keyboards and bass), so it was only natural that I try their work.  My favorite tracks on this EP are Sleepless and 22 Miles—peaceful ethereal guitar and bass balanced with gently pulsing drums and Karen Vogt’s warm and full vocals (channeling, at times, the sound of Christine McVie with a bit of vibrato).  Other band members are Dave Olliffe (guitars and keyboards), Steve Wheeler (bass) and new member Antti Mäkinen (drums and percussion).  Their previous albums and EPs include: Bethmale (recorded in 2010 and released in 2012), All Your Ships Are White (2010) and A Street Between Us (2006).

 

 

Corazón from their album All Your Ships Are White

 

And even more wonderfully creative releases from the Flau label in Japan…  I can’t possibly buy them all, so one must be…somewhat…selective.

http://flau.bandcamp.com/ and http://www.flau.jp/top.html

The Boats - Our Small Ideas (2012 Edition)

The Boats OSI

http://oursmallideas.tumblr.com/

I have thoroughly enjoyed the various releases by The Boats (Craig Tattersall and Andrew Hargreaves with Danny Norbury, Chris Stewart and others).  Our Small Ideas is a re-release and enhancement of an original 2008 CD-R.  Contained in this work are the often quirky and sometimes fragile and nascent threads of pieces to be released later (and some are quite recognizable).  This album is not unlike the approach of CD #1 of Tape Loop Orchestra’s The Words On My Lips Is Your Name/The Burnley Brass Band Plays On In My Heart.

Sound samples are here (since The Boats seem to eschew Soundcloud): http://www.flau.jp/releases/r09.html

El Fog - Reverberate Slowly

El Fog RS

This is a solo project of Berlin-based vibraphonist Masayoshi Fujita, a light blend of acoustic instrumentation with a tranquil late night aura of electronics and subtlest of glitchy rhythms.

 

Masayoshi Fujita – Stories

MF Stories

http://masayoshifujita.com/

Stories is an album of solo acoustic vibraphone works (with occasional violin and cello).  Whether struck gently (as in Snow Storm) or bowed (as in Cloud), Fujita paints vivid, yet tender sound pictures.  Some pieces are rhythmically playful, and could form the foundations for musical conversations (much like those between Bill Bruford and Michiel Borstlap on their album Every Step A Dance, Every Word A Song).  This is an appropriate soundtrack for gently falling snow.  The album is beautifully mastered by Nils Frahm.

 

 

Swan and Morning Dews

 

Graham Gouldman – Love and Work

GG Love And Work

http://www.grahamgouldman.info/

Graham Gouldman has been writing songs since the days of The Yardbirds (For Your Love), and many others like Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, before formally crossing paths with Eric Stewart, Lol Creme and Kevin Godley (Hotlegs) who later became 10cc with a long string of albums with sharp, witty and often sardonic songs.  Love And Work is an album of twelve beautifully crafted and wide-ranging songs.

The album dedicated to the memory of Andrew Gold, and the song Daylight is about Andrew.  They worked together as the duo Wax and earlier on some of 10cc’s later albums.

 

I’ve seen Graham and Ron Sexsmith appear together on BBC Songwriters Circle programs.  Perhaps Graham and Ron will work together someday…

 

 

For Your Love

 

Happy Listening–Stay Warm!


Chris Dooks / Machinefabriek – The Eskdalemuir Harmonium

Eskdalemuir

LP Title: The Eskdalemuir Harmonium

N-LRoS-EH

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

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

Record Label: http://kominorecords.com/

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

IMG_3212

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

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

Pre-Master Recordings from Three Hundred Square Miles of Upwards

 

The third album will be CIG{R}LES.

Pre-Master Samples from CIG{R}LES

 


Review: Celer – Without Retrospect, the Morning

Celer WR,tM

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

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

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

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

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

Album Samples

 

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

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

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

Distance and Mortality

 

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


Review: Taylor Deupree – Faint

Record Label Website and Links: http://www.12k.com/ & http://www.taylordeupree.com/

http://www.12k.com/index.php/site/artists/taylor_deupree/

Taylor Deupree’s Discography: http://www.taylordeupree.com/music/

12k2025 (CD, Deluxe CD & Digital)

Tracks: CD1 57:17 1) Negative Snow; 2) Dreams of Stairs; 3) Thaw; 4) Shutter; 5) Sundown & CD2 38:38 1) Thaw (Reprise)

Whether it’s his music, photography, collaborations, and even the work from his record label 12k, Taylor Deupree is an Artist (emphasis on capital A).  I’m a relative late-comer to his work, and I’m not even quite sure how that I came across his work or the 12k label, but I think that it had something to do with a 12k sampler CD, and then as I often do, I took a dive into his back catalog, focusing on physical releases (since those tend to be my preference—I’m old fashioned that way).

While Deupree has an extensive solo output, he also is an active collaborator with a wide range of artists (follow the discography link I noted above) in addition to many other musicians not listed for concerts and tours.  He also actively experiments with new approaches and directions in his work—reinvention invigorates.  Just as in his musical works, there is a peaceful desolation in his photography.  I’m drawn to many of his photos, especially his landscapes (I’m fortunate to have a copy of his book of photos and CD Sea Last), but this is one of my favorites:

Moss, Kyoto (linked from Taylor Deupree’s website)

I also enjoy his Instagram photos posts, many of them are taken on outings in the woods, the fields and a reservoir nearby his home.  It’s evident in his mastering of his own work and those of other musicians that the quality of the sound is important too (I often seek out music, not only for the artist, but the studio, sound engineer, producer and mastering engineer).  Each release by 12k, whether CD, LP, standard or deluxe edition, receives special attention in the design, execution and promotion of the work.  I admire this greatly—the time and attention is worth the money and the effort.

Faint is Taylor Deupree’s new album.  It’s available in the latest 12k packaging as a standard release, as digital files or in a deluxe edition (pictured here) with a second CD of extended version of the track Thaw as well as twelve prints of photos taken by Deupree with a handmade camera.  Faint overall is more restrained and pared-down to elemental sounds (though not at all stark) compared to his other recent work, yet it has a warmth that makes this album deeply comforting (hints of this are in the track titles).  I’m not sure of the timeline in the recording of this album (beyond that it was recorded over a two year time span), but there are similarities in Negative Snow to the environment in Simon Scott’s expansive album Below Sea Level.  It’s like taking a walk in a field that still has a foot in Winter, but the cold is subsiding in the sun and streams are returning to refill vernal pools.

Dream of Stairs is a gorgeous track with a lightly guiding keyboard thread (sounding like a Fender Rhodes piano) weaving through whispers of treatments, gentle guitars, remote looped voices, and ephemeral sounds of an almost intangible reality that might be captured on the edges of a dream.

 

Thaw (with a longer reprise on CD2 in the deluxe issue, akin to Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon) has a broader aura, like a fog lifting on an very early Spring morning where the air is warmer than the still-frozen ground.  There is an ethereal suspension into which a distant organ-like sound appears and retracts back into the haze—like gentle waves on a flat sand beach.  It has an ancient and mysterious sound like that in Creation du Monde, a very early post-Aphrodite’s Child soundtrack by Vangelis.  Shutter has a hazy analog-reverberant foundation behind a placid and heavily treated electric guitar solo that is later joined by gentle reminders of Dream of…  Sundown at first is a like a quiet seascape, watching distant ships passing and hearing far-off signals as a day draws to a close.  Closer sounds enter to illuminate the scene, like fleeting afterglows that fill a sky once the sun disappears below the horizon—nature’s reverberation of what was, before entering darkness.

It’s a restful and warm journey.


Updated: What’s Spinning Today – Robin Guthrie, Olan Mill, Machinefabriek and A Winged Victory For The Sullen

Robin Guthrie - Fortune ***Updated with Souncloud link sample***

Soleil après minuit – SM1203CD – CD and 300 copies forthcoming on Vinyl

Robin Guthrie, long ago, moved on from his work with Cocteau Twins.  Some fans want him to keep looking back, but frankly, I’m glad that he has continued on with his own work (albums and EPs) and numerous collaborations with Harold Budd, Eraldo Bernocchi and others as well as film soundtracks.  Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy my CT albums, and nothing is more searing, emotionally than the CT track (from their last album, Milk and KissesViolaine.

Fortune is a personal work, putting his life, emotions and experiences into his layered, chorus-and-echo-filled guitar sound.  I sense intense memories too.  I find that Guthrie’s work is filled with sound-color, which is also why I am so drawn to it.  My favorites include the languid ladybird, the refreshing like water in water, the tender and deeply-toned melody of perfume and youth, and and so to sleep, my little ones, which picks up where the EP Songs To Help My Children Sleep leaves off—enchanting.

 

Artist Website: http://robinguthrie.com/

Available also at: http://darla.com/?fuseaction=item_cat.ecom_superitem_detail&item_cat_id=41313

****

Olan Mill – Home

Preservation CIRCA512 – limited 300 copy CD release and Digital

With each Olan Mill release, I am drawn all the more to their work.  There is a subtle lag between rhythms, melodies and harmonies that gives a tidal flow, similar to some works of Ralph Vaughn Williams or Claude Debussy.  Also, I’m not sure how this will be taken by some current listeners of this genre, but some of Olan Mill’s work reminds me of early to mid 1970s compositions of Evangelos Papathanassiou’s, especially the soundtrack to the Frédéric Rossif  film La Fête Sauvage.

Record Label: http://www.preservation.com.au/product/olan-mill-home

 

Album overview at Experimedia:

 

****

Machinefabriek – Secret Photographs

Important Records – IMPREC366 – CD and Digital

This is a three track (more than 70 minute) soundtrack for a forthcoming film about Alvin Karpis (notorious bank robber and longest serving prisoner at Alcatraz Prison) by Mike Hoolboom.  Karpis was released from prison in 1969, moved to Spain and wrote a memoir.  He took photographs in the closing years of his life, and never shared his work with anyone until the collection was found for sale on ebay.  Rutger Zuyderfelt’s response to the work is separated into three parts (black and white, color and black and white).  It is a subtle guitar and electronics-based composition that gives the sense of taking a hushed and private tour through chambers of secluded memories.

 

Artist Websites:

http://www.machinefabriek.nu & http://machinefabriek.bandcamp.com/album/secret-photographs

****

A Winged Victory for the Sullen – A Winged Victory for the Sullen

Erased Tapes – ERATP032 – Vinyl, CD and Digital Files

Released about a year ago, the eponymous A Winged Victory for the Sullen album is the work of Stars of the Lid’s Adam Wiltzie and LA composer Dustin Halloran.  I didn’t realize that there was a connection between Adam and Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse), but it was ultimately that connection and colleague Francesco Donadello that brought …Winged Victory… together.  Large spaces, grand pianos, string quartets and delicate woodwinds and brass are the framework for this lush and stunning album.

 

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

Record Label: http://www.erasedtapes.com/artists/biography/16/A+Winged+Victory+For+The+Sullen


Some Recent Kitchen. Label Releases

Record Label Website: http://www.kitchen-label.com/

Soundcloud Page (Excerpts of Albums): http://soundcloud.com/kitchen-label/sets

Available at: http://www.darla.com/

I am always on the lookout for new music, especially from record labels that are doing something different, something special, and I don’t mind spending extra money for well crafted, limited or richly illustrated art editions.  In a way, it’s my reaction against the trend of digital only releases, which include not only music, but e-books (I still prefer finely crafted, bound books).

I’ve missed some of Kitchen. Label’s earlier releases that have gone out of print, but to date I have acquired four albums from their US distributor, Darla (their first release being in 2008 and they are an outgrowth of their design firm Kitchen, founded in 2005).  K.L is based in Singapore and specializes in releasing art-editions of talented emerging artists, and label founders Ricks Ang and April Lee take great care in all aspects of their work, from the engineering of the recordings to the diverse and creative designs.

***

ASPIDISTRAFLY – A Little Fable – Kl-007 – 2011

ASPIDISTRAFLY is composer and vocalist April Lee and producer Ricks Ang, and their work tells charming and delicate stories.  Their second album A Little Fable was released in 2011 and it has the presence of a secret garden.  I find the depth and airy quality of Homeward Waltz to be particularly enchanting–it’s like chamber music.  Their first album I Hold A Wish For You was also released on K.L.

Homeward Waltz

 

Landscape With A Fairy

 

***

FJORDNE – Charles Rendition – Kl-006 – 2011

FJORDNE is the solo project of Tokyo-based composer, Fujimoto Shunichiro.  His work has a timeless richness that is brought to life with acoustic instruments and a laptop computer.  Music for a quiet night of contemplation.  Charles Rendition is his 5th album.

Constellation Live

 

Gathering

 

***

Pill-Oh – Vanishing Mirror – Kl-010 – 2012

Pill-Oh consists of electronic artist Hior Chronik and classical pianist Zinovia Arvanitidi, both from Greece have been working together since 2009.  They each have established solo careers of composing for theater, film, documentaries, and art performances.  Zinovia is recording her 2nd solo orchestral album, to be released within 2012.  Their album Vanishing Mirror is like the soft and hopeful first-light of a spring day.  The feeling is sometimes reflective, but not sentimental.  In this music there is restful comfort along with accomplished musicianship.  The track Melodico is my favorite.

February Tale

 

Melodico

 

***

Szymon Kaliski – From Scattered Accidents – KL-011 – 2012

Szymon Kaliski is a multi-media artist from Poland.  From Scattered Accidents is his fourth album.  His work combines familiar acoustic and invented instrumentation.  His work has a tranquility that often evokes a suspension of time within a vast sonic depth of field.

Of Symmetry

 

Interlude I (with Peter Broderick)

 

***

The music at Kitchen. Label is never strident, but it can challenge some norms of straight-up ambient, post-classical or electro-acoustic genres.  There are even some jazz influences (FJORDNE, especially), yet the compositions are often ethereal and filled with memories of nature and surroundings of daily life—rediscovering the forgotten in the familiar.


Kane Ikin – Sublunar

12k1071 CD – Time: 53:33

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

****

Sublunar‘s Teaser Video

 

Experimedia’s Sampler of the Album

 


The Green Kingdom – Incidental Music

Tench – TCH03: CD Time: 39:58

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

More on this release: http://www.tenchrec.com/TCH03.html

Artist Website: http://thegreenkingdom.wordpress.com/

Available at: http://darla.com/

 

1) Three Friends Of Winter; 2) Backyard Epiphany; 3) Over Treetops; 4) Cherry Theme; 5) Slow Bloom; 6) Green Theme; 7) Floatation Themes; 8) rshda; 9) Whispered Through Pines

Whether in a conscious state of reverie or in the pre-waking hours when fleeting visions come forth into the camera obscura* of the mind, there are moments where hanging onto the edges of dreams is perhaps more desirable than even slumber.  And after the dreams end, in the glistening haze of the morning, The Green Kingdom’s latest album, appropriately titled Incidental Music, is the soundtrack for this quietude.

My first experience with Michael Cottone’s work was on the Home Assembly’s #HAM004 album from 2010 entitled Prismatic, and his more recent album Egress on Nomadic Kids Republic #011.  Incidental Music holds time in suspension with subtle rhythms, and gentle yet tangible instrumentation (crystalline guitars, keyboards, kalimba and minimal processing) that encourage a calm wandering state of mind.  Although different and original in his approach, there are some similarities in the feeling and sound in Cottone’s work to Dictaphone’s recent album Poems From A Rooftop (Sonic Pieces) and The Boats album Ballads Of The Research Department (12k), two albums that I like very much.  It is evident that great care was taken in the recording of this album, and it has been beautifully mastered by Tench’s M. Ostermeier.

Three Friends Of Winter is the placid introduction, a point of awareness without a concrete reality.  Backyard Epiphany is serene in its sense of movement and passage of time.  Over Treetops is the beginning of a gentle awakening.  There are Satie-esque moments of allure as in Cherry Theme and Green Theme, even after a chimed nudge opening in Cherry ThemeSlow Bloom and Floatation Themes blur the sense of time.  rshda is the most ethereal track on the album; the moment before stirring, where reality is still beyond reach.  The album closes with a gentle awakening in Whispered Through Pines.

There was a place-holder for album #TCH03 at Tench Records for some time.  Now the mystery is solved, and the void filled with these delightfully tranquil scenes and halcyon musings from The Green Kingdom.

* Tip of the hat to Mr. Williamson.


Review: Almost Charlie – Tomorrow’s Yesterday

Words On Music – WM33: CD Time: 42:17

Record Label Website: http://words-on-music.com/

More on this release:

http://words-on-music.com/WM33.html & http://words-on-music.com/almostcharlie.html

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

Available at: http://darla.com/

 

1) Hope Less; 2) Open Book; 3) Sandsong; 4) Man Without A Home; 5) A Nice Place To Die; 6) Tomorrow’s Yesterday; 7) Still Crazy ‘Bout You After All These Years; 8) Cummings; 9) Youth Is Wasted On The Young; 10) Undertow; 11) When Venus Surrenders

I have a broad rotation of albums, all sorts of genres (I listen to more than ambient and electro-acoustic works, despite what some might think from my reviews).  Since its release in 2009, Almost Charlie’s album The Plural Of Yes (TPOY) hasn’t been too far away from my CD player.  It’s a great album of songs written in the tradition of Elton John and Bernie Taupin or Burt Bacharach and Hal David, musician and lyricist working separately.  In the case of Berlin’s Dirk Homuth (singer and multi-instrumentalist) and New York City’s Charlie Mason (lyricist), they still haven’t met in-person and aren’t separated by “two rooms”, but two continents and an ocean.  It’s evident, however, from their work together that they communicate well, no matter what the distance.

Tomorrow’s Yesterday is the latest release, and I’m really happy that Almost Charlie has returned after three years with more beautifully crafted and skillfully recorded songs.  There are familiar faces in the band: Sven Mühlbradt on bass and Pelle Hinrichsen on drums and percussion with the addition of Bert Wenndorff on piano as well as other supporting musicians.

For those unfamiliar with Almost Charlie, I find similarities to the songwriting and sound of bands like The Beautiful South, The Autumn Defense and some of the less raucous songs of the Fountains of Wayne.  I’d even compare some songs to works by 10cc (either written by Eric Stewart/Graham Gouldman or Kevin Godley/Lol Creme).  Similarities to the Beatles are also unmistakable (especially the voice of John Lennon with a bit of George Harrison on the track Still Crazy ‘Bout You After All These Years).  There are marvelous wordplays, edges of wit and subtle metaphors in the lyrics resulting in this latest collection of musical gems.

The feeling of Tomorrow’s Yesterday is a bit more pensive and acoustic than TPOY, but there are upbeat, playful and spirited tracks too.  Instrumentally, the foundation of most of the songs is guitar, bass, drums and piano, but many of the tracks are delightfully punctuated with brass, woodwinds, sitar and dobro guitar.  Some of the finest moments are simply acoustic guitar and Homuth’s vocal harmonies, as on Sandsong, which is a bit melancholy and reflective.  In this album there are songs of relationships, a sense of realism, but not resignation; acceptance and contentment, but also a feeling of hope as in Cummings.  I also appreciate that the recording is crisp and sounds like a live performance in the studio with minimal processing.  There was only one point (at the end of the last track) where the recording was sounding saturated on my equipment, but I stress this is a minimal issue.

 

Hope Less (a song of setting expectations) begins with acoustic guitar and harmonies and then advances into a march of sorts.  This and Open Book are great examples of the smart wordplay in the lyrics, double-meanings, literary references and a deft efficiency of expression.  Man Without A Home and Youth Is Wasted On The Young are ironically upbeat ruminations with shades of The Byrds (electric guitars), syncopated rhythms and are gently arranged with brass and strings respectively.  A Nice Place To Die has a lively rhythm and bluegrass roots-music vibe with dobro and violin solos.  Tomorrow’s Yesterday is a stark and melancholy observation on the passage of time, and perhaps more than any other track Homuth is channeling John Lennon’s voice (literally and figuratively).

Undertow (a favorite of mine) has power in its symbolism and realism; the words and music combined are indeed greater than the sum of their parts.  The passage “The more I try to fight it; Its grip on me is tightened…Overwhelmed by the undertow” is about as close to perfect as it gets.  The closing track When Venus Surrenders builds from a quiet beginning, and is the longest and most ambitious song on the album, similar to the spirit of The Monster and Frankenstein from TPOY with a nod, I think, to The Beatles’ Let It Be.

 

As The Plural of Yes was in 2009, Tomorrow’s Yesterday is one of my favorite song-albums of 2012.  Perhaps next time lyrics could be included in the package, since they are such an integral part of the songs.  The Homuth and Mason formula works, the chemistry is still there, and I hope they continue to write songs together and we hear much more from Almost Charlie in years to come.


Autistici – Beneath Peaks

Autisici BP-1024x1024

Hibernate Recordings - HB44: Time: 46:30 – Edition of 250

Record Label Website: http://hibernate-recs.co.uk

More on this release: http://hibernate-recs.co.uk/releases/autistici-beneath-peaks/

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

1) Asleep Beneath Nests (Fieldhead); 2) Edall; 3) Mam Tor Soarers’ Workshop; 4) Styx; 5) Edge Over Millstone View; 6) Padley Gorge; 7) Noe (Upper Booth); 8) Mulgrave’s Dining-Room; 9) Aidale; 10) Peveril’s Open Door; 11) Sleep State For Carl Wark

Beneath Peaks (Autistici’s debut release on Hibernate Recordings) is an interpretive sound narrative of a walking and camping tour through the Peak District in the central UK; a luminous and expansive journey with a strong sense of place.  The region is geologically diverse with moorland plateaus, expanses of millstone grit escarpments, limestone and demarking zones at the edges of the long-ago eroded strata.  I have been fortunate to take long walks in similar places: Devon (The Burrows in Saunton) and on Exmoor in the southwestern UK, and Beneath Peaks is certainly an enticement to travel to this varied pastoral upland region.

Even before the music, I was struck by the hues, varying landscape and seemingly endless sky in the cover photo (quite similar to Exmoor in some respects).  The photo is also illustrative of Autistici’s work, which ranges from outwardly expansive to inwardly minute explorations; the literal and abstract in a landscape that is both known yet still mysterious.

Instrumentation throughout the album is both recognizable and veiled, and includes piano, guitar, synthesizer and electronics, in addition to sculpted fragments of extensive field recordings captured during the trip (processed with the help of Christopher Hipgrave’s software module AMBIENT).  Additional guitar on Edge Over Millstone View was provided by Erik Schoster.

 

Beneath Peaks is book-ended by two sleep-states: an awakening (the beginning of the journey at a campsite named Fieldhead) and a closing to slumber and inward contemplation (at the ancient Carl Wark).  Throughout there is a deep sense of observation and contemplation, both in the literal field recordings and abstract sonic interpretations of the journey.

Asleep Beneath Nests (Fieldhead) is a deftly woven tapestry of field, avian and human sounds, rising with the sun (while human slumbers).  Edall is the sound of breathing and pulsing; movement through this timeless area.  Edall is a 16th century variant spelling of the village of Edale and was once known as the “Valley of the River Noe”; the start of the Pennine Way, a trail in this district.  Mam Tor Soarers’ Workshop; starts in what appears to be in a woodworker’s shop.  This is a region known for hang and para-gliding.  As this track progresses, it transitions from being grounded to having a sense of weightlessness.  The latter section (and I am speculating) appears to be a bit of an homage to Raymond Scott’s rhythmic and melodic electronic Bass-Line Generator (of 1967).  Styx is a brief and quiet transition into Edge Over Millstone View.  The sound is sharp and panoramic in contrast to other areas of rolling pasturelands elsewhere in this region (a reference to the geology, I speculate).

The rocky echoed sounds of Padley Gorge give the sense of passing through the deep narrow wooded valley near the village of Grindleford.  Burbage Brook is at the base of the gorge.  Noe (Upper Booth) is a small tributary to the River Derwent and forms a sonic respite before a pulsating encounter with Mulgrave’s Dining-RoomAidale (I believe, another early variant spelling of the village Edale) is at first, a delightful contrast to Mulgrave’s; a meandering solo piano, which then drifts into an altered dream-state and transitions to the apparent sounds of traffic passing or is it time bending?  Peveril’s Open Door brings us to the environs of Castleton and the nearby Peveril Castle, which overlooks the village with sounds of birds, nearby waterway and the piano returns.  The end of the journey is Sleep State For Carl Wark, the rocky promontory in Hatersage Moor (believed to be the site of an Iron Age hill fort).  It is here that memories of the distant past flow into and blend with the present, and sleep returns with music box and strings; the end of a captivating journey.

Autistici is Sheffield-based (UK) sound artist David Newman.  He is the curator of the Audiobulb (where I discovered the marvelous work of Monty Adkins) and Audiomoves record labels.  To date, Autistici has released a number of acclaimed albums on the 12k, Home Normal and Keshhhhhh labels, amongst others.

Updated sound files will be posted when available.

****

This is a solicited review.


Library Tapes – Sun peeking through

CD Time: 29:11 #auecd006

Website and available from: http://librarytapes.com/

Julia Kent – Cello (3, 4, 8 & 9), Sarah Kemp – Violin (2 & 6), Danny Norbury – Cello (7), David Wenngren – Piano

Tracks: 1) Variation II, 2) Parlour (Variation I), 3) Found, 4) Parlour (Variation III), 5) We won’t need you anymore, 6) End of the summer, 7) Lost, 8) Sun peeking through, 9) Parlour (Variation II), 10) Variation I

Music takes me places, always has.  Sometimes there is emotion, a memory or colors, but it is always spatial.  Although a relative newcomer to some artists, it is not that I am unfamiliar with David Wenngren’s work, but as for Library Tapes I have some catching-up to do.  A while back I reviewed his hypnotic album with Kane Ikin entitled Strangers, and I have both albums Our House Is On The Wall (as the moniker of Murralin Lane with Ylva Wiklund), and The Meridians of Longitude and Parallels of Latitude, his collaboration with Christopher Bissonnette.  All are different explorations of sound and place, but Sun peeking through seems more personal. Wenngren’s piano is deftly blended with a spare ensemble of strings.

Something a bit different this time; I won’t attempt to describe where Wenngren is taking me, but I will show you where I have been.  These are often places I don’t want to leave once I am there (even if melancholy is involved).

1) Variation II

 

2) Parlour (Variation I)

 

3) Found

 

4) Parlour (Variation III)

 

5) We won’t need you anymore

 

6) End of the summer

 

7) Lost

 

8) Sun peeking through

 

9) Parlour (Variation II)

 

10) Variation I

 

The title track (to me) is beautiful, almost beyond words—a deeply reflective meditation.  David Wenngren as Library Tapes has assembled a collection of poignant vignettes, and a treasured diary of sound memories.

And now, off to explore more of his previous recordings.

****

All photos (except album cover) are by wajobu.


The To-Listen Stack

I’m slowly working my way back to a stack of LPs that I have been avoiding due to the summer heat.  My main turntable is connected to a pair of tube amps, and in hot weather tube output only makes a warm room…hot!  So, time to move a “sand amp” into place until cooler weather.  Here’s what I’m spinning:

Kink Gong – Xinjiang: An “ethno electronic collage” with incredible field recordings combined with electronics recorded by Laurent Jeanneau in China.  Jeremy Bible at Experimedia recommended this in one of his (what I now call “dangerous Friday e-mails”).  Available at: http://www.experimedia.net/index.php?main_page=product_music_info&products_id=5182

 

Hands Off Cuba – Volumes of Sobering Liquids: More sound experiments from a number of musicians who have worked in Lambchop over the years.  Available at: http://www.sebastianspeaks.com/

William Tyler – Behold the Spirit: Long time guitarist with Lambchop and Hands Off Cuba, this is William Tyler’s latest solo work.  Available at: http://www.tompkinssquare.com/william-tyler.html  A short film on the release is here:

 

Jonas Munk – Pan: I know Jonas Munk’s work mostly from Manual (Confluence, I think is the best album under that moniker).  Available at: http://www.elparaisorecords.com/content/jonas-munk-pan-cd

 

Mark Fosson – Digging In The Dust: Taken from the long lost home demo recordings of 1976 after Mark Posson had just acquired a 12 string guitar; even the final version of this recording was shelved and went unreleased until 2006 as The Lost Tokoma Sessions on Drag City Records.  Available at: http://www.tompkinssquare.com/mark-fosson.html  You can stream the record here: http://www.fretboardjournal.com/audio/mark-fosson-digging-dust-exclusive-stream


unrecognizable now – two rooms

CD Time: 33:14* #KESH018

*With forthcoming excerpt remixes by Simon Scott and Kane Ikin

Record Label: http://www.keshhhhhh.com/

Artist Website: http://unrecnow.com/blog/

Sound Samples & More Info: http://kesh.bandcamp.com/

More on Matt Jones: http://www.matthewjones76.com/Unrecognizable-Now-1

More on Marcus Fischer: http://mapmap.ch/index.php?/ongoing/unrecognizable-now/2/

Tracks: Track 01, Track 02, Track 03, Track 04 (mastered to have seamless transitions)

unrecognizable now is an occasional collaborative project of Matt Jones and Marcus Fischer.  They consider their work to be “gradual layered music” based on live improvisation, found sounds, a range of instrumentation, and laptop computers.  In 2004, Jones and Fischer scored various experimental films by Portland, Oregon filmmaker Rob Tyler.  The relationship of sight and sound was further explored by Fischer, Jones and Tyler in the first of a series of events in 2006 entitled Vision+Hearing.   Fischer and Jones released their debut CD in a cave or a coma in mid-2006 on the Pehr Label (with 10 tracks and a short film by Tyler).  In 2008 a live performance of unrecnow was captured on self-released limited edition CD entitled for sleeping it off.  Marcus Fischer is a well known solo and collaborative sound artist, to date releasing more than ten recordings on labels such as 12k, Tench and Flaming Pines.  Matt Jones is a photographer, artist and sculptor.  Both are based in Portland, Oregon.

While two rooms is a further exploration of the electro-acoustic improvisation realm, this project also seems to nod to earlier works like Brian Eno’s seminal Ambient 1 – Music For Airports (1978) and the somewhat darker Ambient 4 – On Land (1982).  unrecognizable now including a diagram of how the music was recorded is not unlike diagrams included on the reverse of both of the noted albums by Eno.  This release is not only the literal music recording, but an in-situ analysis of how and why it exists as it does.  Not a “field recording” per se, rather an interior anti-studio recording, one where it is important to document not only the music, but the ambience of the setting as well as the process.

The microphone placement for two rooms (in the basement of a downtown Portland office building), with the varying distances from source material and varying sound decay rates gives a tangible sense of space.  This treatment also counters a sense of claustrophobia that one might expect, being recorded in a concrete tomb, of sorts.  It has a remarkably expansive sound (historical note: the vocals for the David Bowie song Heroes were recorded using a series of remotely placed mics similar to this).  Since this is a live improvised recording, it includes all the sounds associated with movement and production of the work by the artists (walking, changing instruments, etc.); adding a sense of transparency and intimacy.

The progression of this work is similar to Fischer’s recent 16 minute live release EP At Frame. Non-representational yet (depending on the listener) it can evoke memories or visions.  For me, parts are like being on a sailboat, anchored or just drifting in light wind, and at others like wandering through an old dark factory and wondering about the history of the place.  two rooms has the pleasant effect of allowing the mind to wander while occasionally being nudged by recognition of a particular instrument in the soundstage.

unrecognizable now photo by barry hill

The feeling in Track 1 is largely one of comfort. This section is more guitar and string-based (with some bowing) with pedal effects.  Track 2 transitions to more keyboards, and then strings blend and the sound is fuller and brighter.  After a graceful lull, deep and gentle waves begin at about the midpoint.  There is a slight recurrent low-register plucked-string theme and then one is cast adrift at about 9:00.  Track 3 is more ethereal than the other parts, especially at the beginning.  Guitars return again at 1:30 and are blended into the omnipresence.  At about 3:00 the density increases and bowed strings return to then be consumed into a cavernous silence.  Late in this track there are various percussive effects to announce the transition to Track 4.  This section is plucked, strummed and somewhat simplified; in a sense returning to the beginning and later an overlay of a nearly hidden repetitive melody appears and vanishes as the piece closes.

two rooms will be released on July 16th and digital files will be available for download, but if you are so inclined for a physical release, there will soon be 300 CD copies available in numbered and letter-pressed recycled card sleeves and related artwork—reasonably-priced, for such a beautiful work of sound art.  This is an intriguing exploration of sound and space (an interior “field recording” of sorts), evoking different images and experiences.  Perhaps now, rather than incidental music to a short film, this piece could be the creative inspiration for a visual work of its own.

*Postscript on the forthcoming remixes – More information on these soon (to be released on July 28th), but the Simon Scott remix is taken from the second half of Track 2 (one of my favorite sections) and finishes with the sound of a vinyl runout groove.  Given Simon Scott’s recent work on his Below Sea Level project, I can see why he would be attracted to what I think is the most marine-like section of this work.  The Kane Ikin remix has mysterious origins (to be discovered by the listener) with added treatments and loops.

***

This is a solicited review, although I have the physical release on pre-order.


Machinefabriek – Stroomtoon

Artist website: http://www.machinefabriek.nu

Available at: http://machinefabriek.bandcamp.com/ &  http://www.metamkine.com/

Label: Nuun Climax #Nuun 11 CD: http://www.nuun-records.com/?page_id=718

CD Time: 35:51 Tracks: 1) Eén; 2) Twee; 3) Drie; 4) Vier; 5) Vijf

Prolific composer, artist and performer Rutger Zuydervelt (known as Machinefabriek) has written that the intent of this short-format album is to experiment with the sound of electricity using a new live set-up tone of analogue tone generators, effect and loop pedals.  As I have noted in a recent review, I also keenly appreciate his background in graphic design—the quality of the visual aspects of his work, the design, layout and presentation of a given album’s artwork.  Perhaps unintentionally, Machinefabriek has evoked some historic sound explorations in a similar vein to those made by Kraftwerk in their 1975 album Radio Activity (though without the seminal electro-pop sound).

The first time I listened to Stroomtoon, I immediately thought of the Kraftwerk track The Voice of Energy.  The overall feel of the album is like touring a large industrial building late at night, passing through mechanical rooms or an electrical generation station.  The recording is sharp, with piercing clarity at times and the visceral depths at others.  This is not a conventional music album; it is experiential and visual ambience.  Stroomtoon consists of one long format piece, followed by four shorter glimpses.

Eén is an industrial-strength ambient world.  It is like a tour through a power station with turbines winding and cranes moving equipment overhead. This track starts with a sound akin to the long wind-down of electric motors. It is hypnotizing, and the layering gives the sense of descending while remaining in suspension. Ascent begins at about 8:00 as other incidental sounds enter the scene.  It has some shades of the opening titles of Louis and Bebe Barron’s soundtrack to Forbidden Planet.  At about 14:00 it is as if we have moved into an electrical switchgear room.  A high-pitch whine permeates the space and the clicking, beeping and thuds here are like the systems within a building (even the sound of high pressure steam passing through pipes above).  The piece builds almost to the point of the threshold of pain, and suddenly at the close there is an expansive low frequency cluster and the large switch is thrown—OFF.

Twee pulses and pumps, like a heart.  This track builds slowly with a sharp clicking edginess of static electricity.  Low frequencies push in, switches are thrown, and adjustments made then…click into a quieter zone, yet with radio interference.  Drie opens with low frequencies and a sense of building tension; an ominous rhythm shadows and there is a sudden deep buzz like passing through an energy field.  Gradually, chaos builds as radio interference overtakes and builds to a sudden full stop.

Stroomtoon (Preview)

 

Vier is pure tones; high, low, blending and slowly warping.  There is tranquility in it.  It is more the sound of systems at rest, on stand-by, and monitoring.  Vijf is the sound of perhaps the giant transformers at the heart of this power station.  Here there is deep humming with blending harmonics, as if moving between enormous pieces of electrical distribution equipment.  As the track continues a door seems to be opened and the listener is transported into a vast room of pulsing energy; made me think of scenes of the long abandoned outpost of The Krell.

At first, I was concerned that I would have a hard time relating to a recording like this; I tend to gravitate to more musical works.  Yet the intent of the recording is quite compelling and the results very effective—a cinematic journey through a densely energized realm, a really fascinating work.  One last note: Because of the wide range of frequencies and the great clarity of the recording, be aware that Stroomtoon may challenge some audio systems.  It could even be considered a reference recording for audio system evaluations.

Photo of Rutger Zuydervelt by Michel Mees

*****

This was a solicited review.


Celer Machinefabriek – Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake – Numa/Penarie – Hei/Sou *UPDATED sound links*

Artist website: http://www.machinefabriek.nu

Artist website: http://www.thesingularwe.org/celer/

Available at: http://machinefabriek.bandcamp.com/ and http://www.experimedia.net/

Videos by Marco Douma: http://www.marcodouma.com/

“Having a great time, wish you were here…”

While some on holiday are sucked into over-crowded commercial tourist traps, and others are off in their resorts or private villas, some of the most memorable places and experiences are the somewhat unusual, even off the beaten-path locales.  Picture postcards often contain brief accounts or memories of travels to these places, being descriptive, cryptic or comical anecdotes of a given day’s events, compressed into a few short phrases—a substitute for longhand letters.  They also serve to freeze a moment in time in a more permanent and retrospective fashion than the immediacy of a quick e-mail or photo sent via the internet.   These moments in time are what the trilogy of releases by Celer (Will Long) and Machinefabriek (Rutger Zuydervelt) are like.

It started when they performed together in November, 2010 in Tokyo, Japan and then decided to collaborate remotely on a series of short releases beginning in October, 2011 between Tokyo and Rotterdam.  The pieces started as larger works and eventually were edited into musical postcards, or drone poems* of sorts, evoking a place, event or state of mind.  Artwork found by Long in Tokyo has been used for the covers of the 7 inch vinyl releases with design and graphic layout by Zuydervelt.  As much as I appreciate the convenience of digital-format music, there is something quite special about the 7 inch record, packaged in artful sleeves of re-purposed postcard and souvenir images.  Even better, each piece is accompanied (via download) by a beautiful and timeless video interpretation by multimedia artist Marco Douma.

The soon-to-be-released Hei/Sou is the last in this trilogy.  Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake and Numa/Penarie were the first two releases.  Digital files are also available and the vinyl pressings are limited to 250 copies each (Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake vinyl is now sold out).

 

Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake are readily identifiable places.  Maastunnel is a tunnel in Rotterdam and this track has some mystery.  The piece opens on the outside approach to the tunnel (with the ambient sounds of water).  There is an apparent twist in the plot where voices can be heard, “I didn’t see his face…he might have been just anybody…just anybody.”  Suddenly, a break to the interior where vehicles are passing over expansion joints creating pulses that resonate throughout the underground structure before a quick return to the roadway above-ground.  Mt. Mitake is a contrast to the underworld.  It starts with a sense of floating in the clouds.  The second section creates a sense of tension with the calming effects of the first section in the background; kind of a panoramic view with scenes changing.  The peaceful opening section returns to close the track.

 

Numa/Penarie are more obscure experiences.  Numa is almost like a collection of sounds experienced throughout the day; clusters of lights buzzing, bell-like sounds, subways braking, jets taking off in the distance.  The second section is more intense (again, a feeling of being underground), expansive and layered with lower frequencies underneath.  The close brings a return of lighter and higher frequencies, returning somewhat to the opening themes.  Penarie is perplexing; it’s dense, electric and unrestrained.  It expands and contracts with clusters of tones.  Then there is a pleasant interlude of Mellotron-like waves before mixing with the original themes and sounds, while being accompanied by a clock and then fading quickly, almost like a fleeting dream.

 

The forthcoming Hei/Sou is the more contemplative of the three releases, and the most abstract.  Hei starts with a cymbal-like percussive and then drifts into a gentle sustained keyboard mantra with a wandering background of gentle buzzing and contrasting deep bell-like tones.  The cymbals return and are combined with a placid cluster of sound.  Sou opens with a Morse-code-like pulse and omnipresent warping tones that gradually combine with a fabric of lightly sequenced rhythms, and there they hang in suspension as the pulsing grows stronger and then fades.  Gradually an undertow of deep liquid sound emerges to the foreground and the rhythms are overtaken and then disappear.

These self-released sound postcards are beautifully presented visions of places and experiences.  Where will Celer and Machinefabriek be traveling to next?

Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake Preview

 

Numa/Penarie Preview

 

Hei/Sou Preview

 

***

*Drone Poem: Like Tone Poems, a shorter format single musical work, within the drone or electro-acoustic genre, based on or evoking the content of a poem, story, place or event.  The term initially inspired by some of the recent shorter-form works by Nicholas Szczepanik on his album We Make Life Sad.

***

A solicited review, but I have purchased the first two releases and now preordered the latest.


Kane Ikin + David Wenngren – Strangers

CD KESH017: 45:54 (Mastered by Taylor Deupree of 12k)

Record Label: http://www.keshhhhhh.com/

Available at: http://www.experimedia.net/

1) Swell; 2) Call; 3) Veil; 4) Chalk; 5) Drifter; 6) Strings + Interlude

Album Preview:

 

*This posting has been updated upon further listening*

This is the first joint work created by Kane Ikin (one half of Solo Andata) and David Wenngren (Library Tapes).  I have read that “Strangers” Ikin and Wenngren did not meet during the recording and that the structure and overall sonic feel of the album was not planned.  This and other similar works mark a continuing re-emergence of instrumental music by a new generation of creative and technically inclined musicians that craft layered sound atmospheres (often referred to as “electro-acoustic minimalism”), yet the music is engaging and stimulating.

I have been an avid listener and collector of synthetic electronic music since the early 1970s, yet there is something to be admired about the production of fine instrumental music with an ambience and mystery of electronics, being created with cleverly disguised analog instruments (acoustic or amplified) as well as found, ambient, looped or processed sounds.

Historical context: While they abandoned their early legacy when they issued their boxed set “The Catalogue” in late 2009, Kraftwerk’s work started with a similar experimental spirit to “Strangers”, based on analog instrumental drones of guitars, flutes and rhythms of found percussion on pieces like “Kling Klang” from the 1972 album “Kraftwerk 2”.

Kling Klang Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50M7RLgipNc

Same with early works by Tangerine Dream and others, before they switched to early sequencers and then hefty modular synthesizers, like the Moog (or later more portable and somewhat less reliable EMS VCS3) as well as tape-based samplers like the Mellotron or Chamberlin.  Early works by Evangelo Papathanasiou (Vangelis) were mostly created with organ, clavinet, woodwinds, piano and percussion processed with reverb, delay and other effects, as in “Creation du Monde” from the 1972 soundtrack to “L’Apocalypse des Animaux” by long time collaborator and filmmaker Frederic Rossif.

Creation du Monde: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0QQJfPi3ps

In “Strangers”, there is meandering warmth to the album, a peaceful sense of comfort and meditation with a tangible awareness of humanity and nature (an absence of the synthetic).  Layers of guitar, bass, piano (deep soundboard), percussion (low register bells and gongs) and strings appear throughout.  From the collaborators there is a joint sense of discovery and response as each layered track progresses.  This method of joint remote authorship is risky, yet very intriguing and the results are quite successful.

The titles of each track do seem to symbolize the development of the sonic ideas.  “Swell” is akin to Ikin’s gorgeous recent work “Contrail” with apparent glissando drifts of guitar and layered keyboard peregrinations.  “Call” has the feel of time-shifted incantation with repeated musical phrases.  The intensity of the “call” increases as it progresses.  While there is a general feeling of the pastoral in this track, there are times where layered sounds mesh to a point of tension, later to be diffused to a calming resolution.  “Veil” starts with a repeated tonal beacon and gradually it diffuses into a suspended wash of winds, harmonics and tonal percussives.  “Chalk” is hypnotic and haunting with a sense of a distant faded memory returning.  “Drifter” contains repeated sampled phrases that establish a building tension as the fabric of the piece intensifies.  Washes of noise (almost like lashing waves in a storm) enter the piece until they subside (this piece, to me, does appear to be chopped a bit at the end).  “Strings + Interlude” builds slowly, and pulses as layers and sounds are introduced.  It has a feeling of darkness, yet it’s punctuated with sounds that introduce light and color into the soundscape.  Then the strings disappear and the interlude is a peaceful and mysterious aftermath–this piece, along with “Chalk” and “Swell” are the most cinematic.

This video using “Chalk” will give a sense of what I mean…rather unusual historic footage:

 

Gone are the soulless interfaces of MIDI and sequenced boxes of beat, and with “Strangers” we are presented with a thoughtful, visual and distinctive journey into an ethereal realm of musical authenticity.



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