I need some warmth on these cold winter days…
Ron Sexsmith - Forever Endeavour
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
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 By, Old Shanklin Sunset and Mina and Marco (with a delightful melodic phrase sample borrowed from composer Edward Elgar).
Daphne Lee Martin - Moxie
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
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.
The Boats - Our Small Ideas (2012 Edition)
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
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
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
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!
Thank you to all the artists and record labels for such wonderful and diverse music.
This is one list of many, it’s my list, and it leaves off many other favorites that I have enjoyed over the year in addition to the thousands of other albums and single tracks that make up music throughout the World. What has helped me arrive at this list is what I have always loved about music: Does it move me? In addition, is it creative, well recorded and produced with a degree of care that makes me pay attention to it? There was a time when I was obsessed with highly produced and tightly engineered works, then I learned about artists such as East River Pipe and Sparklehorse, and many other genres of music were opened to me.
If you don’t see your favorite album on this list (or even your own album), it doesn’t mean a thing. If an album has been reviewed on my website this year, it’s meaningful to many others and me, but this is only a very, very small slice of the music world. Often people ask me about new music, and what I recommend. When I started this website in late January, 2012 it was first a means to write about music that I enjoyed, but also to get to know other artists and learn about new music that they create, so I could pass it on. Often, the best new music is that referred by a friend. Please feel free to send me your comments and recommendations.
Special note: There are still three or four late 2012 releases that are either enroute to me, have yet to be released or have just arrived. I need to spend proper time listening to and absorbing these albums. Rather than delaying this list further, and if after listening to those last 2012 releases I feel that they hit a sweet spot, I’ll review those albums in early 2013. I know of at least two 2012 releases that I’ll likely not receive until 2013.
I have three categories: Albums (12), Individual Tracks (6), and Special Releases (3) that don’t necessarily fit into a category.
Albums (Artist – Album Title – Record Label)
1) Twigs & Yarn – The Language of Flowers – Flau
2) Lambchop – Mr. M – Merge Records
3) Zammuto – Zammuto – Temporary Residence
4) Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited II – Inside Out Music
5) Taylor Deupree – Faint – 12k
6) Billow Observatory – Billow Observatory - Felte
7) Gareth Dickson – Quite A Way Away – 12k
8) Pill-Oh – Vanishing Mirror – Kitchen. Label
9) Brambles – Charcoal – Serein
10) Almost Charlie – Tomorrow’s Yesterday – Words On Music
11) Cody ChesnuTT – Landing On A Hundred – One Little Indian
12) Stick Men – Deep – Stick Men Records
Individual Tracks (from other albums)
1) Library Tapes – Sun peeking through (from the album Sun peeking through) – Self Released
2) Cock & Swan – Orange & Pink (from the album Stash) – Lost Tribe Sound
3) Alex Tiuniaev – Daylight (from the album Blurred) – Heat Death Records
4) Kyle Bobby Dunn – In Praise of Tears (from the album In Miserum Stercus) – Komino
5) Kane Ikin & David Wenngren – Chalk (from the album Strangers) – Keshhhhhh
6) Olan Mill – Bleu Polar (from the album Paths) – Fac-ture
1) Celer & Machinefabriek: Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake, Numa/Penarie, Hei/Sou – Self Released
2) Birds Of A Feather: Michael Frommer – The Great Northern Loon, Porya Hatami – The Black Woodpecker, Darren McClure – The Black Kite, The Green Kingdom – The Great Blue Heron – Flaming Pines
3) Simon Scott, Corey Fuller, Marcus Fischer, Tomoyoshi Date and Taylor Deupree (Recorded live in Japan October, 8, 2012) – Between (…The Branches) – 12k
Record Labels Noted Above
Merge Records: http://www.mergerecords.com/
Temporary Residence LTD: http://temporaryresidence.com/
Inside Out: http://www.insideoutmusic.com/
Kitchen. Label: http://www.kitchen-label.com/
Words On Music: http://www.words-on-music.com/
One Little Indian: http://indian.co.uk/shop/landing-on-a-hundred-1.html
Stick Men Records: http://stick-men.net
Library Tapes: http://librarytapes.com/
Lost Tribe Sound: http://www.cockandswan.com/ Note: I have not listed the weblink to the record label as Google has noted that the website MAY be compromised.
Heat Death Records: http://www.heatdeathrecords.co.uk/
Kesh (Simon Scott’s label): http://www.keshhhhhh.com/
Flaming Pines: http://flamingpines.com/
12k1071 CD – Time: 53:33
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
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)
4) Parlour (Variation III)
5) We won’t need you anymore
6) End of the summer
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.
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
*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.