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Posts tagged “Scotland

Karl Culley – Stripling

Stripling cover

Label: Sound of Jura http://www.soundofjura.com/

SOJCD1501  CD Time: About 36 minutes

Websites: http://karlculley.co.uk/

Lyrics: http://karlculleyblog.tumblr.com/

Sounds: https://soundcloud.com/karl-culley

Tracks: 1) Semi-Precious, 2) Come Over To Me, 3) School Of The Heart, 4) Spinneret, 5) The River To The Cave, 6) If We Were Free, 7) Namesake, 8) Mote, 9) Infinity Pool, 10) Whey-Faced Phantoms, 11) A.J., 12) Memory’s Like A Hunting Hawk

Youth, on the verge of adulthood, in search of meaning and perhaps companionship.  Young enough and determined to look forward and hope and old enough to reflect on memories and retain some wisdom from experiences; this I interpret to be the theme of Karl Culley’s latest album Stripling.  This is Culley’s fourth album, and he now lives in Krakow, Poland, where the album was recorded, but still with strong roots remaining in the north of England and Scotland.  His previous albums are: Bundle of Nerves, The Owl and Phosphor.

The songs on Stripling range from hypnotic meditations to something that might cause a gathering of folks (in a pub, perhaps) to spontaneously dance (or at least vigorously toe-tap).  The sonics are relatively intimate and unadorned: It’s Culley, his guitar and his voice, but it’s a deeply resonant recording.  Contrary to some of his finger-style guitar contemporaries like William Tyler, Daniel Bachman or James Blackshaw there are no lengthy rambling instrumentals.  The songs are penetrating and get right to their point with an atmosphere, a memory or story.  While others have made comparisons to the work of John Martyn and Bert Jansch, I’ll add the early acoustic works of Gordon Lightfoot (with echoes of his subtle vocal warbles) and the technical crispness and vigor of John Jorgenson and Tommy Emmanuel.

Judging from the reflective nature of his lyrics, it seems like Culley’s work takes time to gestate, but once a piece is fledged it’s cohesive and thoughtfully formulated.  There are curious ironies and juxtapositions between rhythms and words.  The somewhat brief Come Over To Me seems to be based on heavy subjects, yet the meter, fingerings and melody are lively, but not exactly upbeat.  Mote has lyrics (“Floating like a mote through sun or angels trapped in amber, we fall…”) that reference the abstract yet there is a steady grounded rhythm and melody.  Whereas Semi-Precious, School Of The Heart, Spinneret and Namesake are reflective, even tender meditations, with the rhythmic fingerings of Spinneret reminiscent of some of Nick Drake’s work—and there is a humble elegance in Namesake.

Karl Culley Pic

The mood of a song and lyrics can also be direct and related like the more serious The River To The Cave—not sentimental or wallowing, but observant of circumstances.  Vibrant lyrics and melody align in If We Were Free, with much of the verses being slightly-pitched spoken word observations with the final incantation “3 men are lowered into the ground…” abruptly punctuated with silence before returning one last time to the vigorous refrain (reminds me of Richard Thompson’s work).

Stripling isn’t without musing, delighting in the possibilities of enjoying a figurative or literal swim in the reverie of an Infinity Pool—it also is curiously similar rhythmically to the acoustic version of Layla that Eric Clapton recorded a number of years ago.  There are also moments where advice is presented or experiences recounted as in Whey-Faced Phantoms, which evolves into a cautionary mantra and A.J. recalling the desolation of unexpected endings—in both, the melodies and harmonies echoing the starkness of a mood.

 

The album closes with Memory’s Like a Hunting Hawk, intensively focused with desire.  There is, however, a pensive gentleness in the longing…solemn and hauntingly lyrical all at once.  Also of special note are the pen and ink illustrations that decorate the CD and cover, as if from a notebook of youth: pondering, exploring, even brooding yet freely expressing.  This CD made a long journey to me, and I’m glad it finally made it.

Stripling BackStripling CD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

****

This is a solicited review.


Review: Chris Dooks – 300 Square Miles Of Upwards

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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


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.

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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

 


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