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!
Record Label Website: http://www.flamingpines.com/
Soundcloud Page: http://soundcloud.com/flaming-pines
Bandcamp Page: http://flamingpines.bandcamp.com/
I am always looking for new and interesting music, and often works with a message or a foundation. Late in 2011, I came across a label from Sydney, Australia named Flaming Pines. I first noticed an EP release by Marcus Fischer and then realized that it was part of a series entitled Rivers Home. The first series consisted of 5 separate 3 inch CDs, each with works by a different artist (Marcus Fischer, Kate Carr, Field Rotation, Broken Chip and Billy Gomberg). There was also a common theme to the CDs, and I immediately took note of the striking cover artwork. Rivers Home (and its later Part Two with releases by The Boats, Seth Chrisman, Dan Whiting, Savaran, and All N4tural) “…celebrates the wonder of rivers at a time when many of them are particularly vulnerable. Many of us dream about rivers, ride along rivers, take ferries along rivers and sit on river banks. This series is a musical exploration of the ways we influence rivers and they influence us.” The founder of Flaming Pines it turns out is Kate Carr, whose work is also featured in the series. Kate also produces the artwork for the covers. I ultimately bought the entire set. Many of Flaming Pines’ releases are mastered by Taylor Deupree of 12k.
Marcus Fischer – Willamette River
The Boats – River Calder
Recent releases include a split album by Kate Carr (Blue) and Gail Priest (Green), which is an exploration of sound and color. The last track of each side serves as a transition to the other side of the LP, and the color references are subtle (as colors are muted at dawn and dusk), and reveal the natural world with field recordings and gossamers of acoustic and electronic instrumentation and effects. The LP silences the distracting world around and reveals the many things missed in the background as the days and seasons come and go all too fast. The LP is a co-production of Flaming Pines and Metal Bitch Recordings.
Kate Carr – Excerpt from Blue
Gail Priest – Excerpt from Green
Just released in September is the next series of EPs on a theme, this time Birds Of A Feather, and the covers keep getting better! The first two are the Black Woodpecker by Iran’s Porya Hatami and Great Northern Loon by Canadian Michael Trommer. Carr notes of this series, “…the role of birds as muse, as musical guide and inspiration has been well documented in classical music, from Mozart’s pet starling to Beethoven’s birdsong filled Pastoral Symphony and Sibelius’s swan hymn to Messaien’s birdsong compositions. Birds Of A Feather celebrates the role of birds in ambient music, and the beautiful fragility of birds more generally.” Both of these EPs are deeply layered soundscapes with field recordings of the chosen birds and environs mixed with acoustic and electronic instrumentation that heighten the experience. It’s like getting lost in the woods or paddling a canoe on a hidden lake.
As with Rivers Home, Birds Of A Feather will be a series of about 12 three inch CDs released as pairs in editions of 100 over the next year. The next pair of CDs will be by The Green Kingdom and Darren McClure.
My favorite of the cover artwork thus far is the expressive Black Woodpecker.
Michael Trommer – Great Northern Loon Excerpt
Porya Hatami – Black Woodpecker Excerpt
The latest October release is a debut by Michael Terren entitled Bythorne, who lives in far western Australia in Perth. In June of this year, he strapped his piano to a trailer and drove it 200 kilometers to a farm of his childhood. There he recorded this EP of six compositions (Cureaking, These Ones, All Nine of Them, Midiology, Bythorne and Dardyboys). The tracks echo the surroundings and ever-changing weather (from placid blue skies to sudden stormy weather in from the Indian Ocean) as well as the pastoral timelessness. I get a strong feeling of the sense of place from the beautiful title track. The sleeve is handmade and the EP is limited to 100 copies.
Michael Terren – Bythorne
Tape Loop Orchestra – The Word On My Lips Is Your Name & The Burnley Brass Band Plays On In My Heart
CD 1: Time: 45:00 #TL001: The Word On My Lips Is Your Name – Subtitle: A compendium of tape loop experiments
CD 2: Time: 45:00 #TL002: The Burnley Brass Band Plays On In My Heart
Artist’s Website: http://oursmallideas.tumblr.com/
I trace my interest in electro-acoustic and electronic music back to the late 1960s and early 1970s when I built crystal radios and electronic circuits, and started listening to shortwave radio broadcasts. Searching the radio dial late into the night, I often found the spaces on the radio dial between the stations as fascinating as the broadcasts from far away lands. Drifting in and out of sleep, it was the sounds of unfiltered carrier frequencies, blended oscillations, static and hiss, high-speed Morse code, and fading music and voices that I found so alluring.
This brings me to the mysterious realm that Andrew Hargreaves occupies in his third release under the moniker of Tape Loop Orchestra. Andrew is also one half of the duo known as The Boats (the other half being Craig Tattersall), and their most recent CD Ballads of the Research Department is a delightful collection of dreamy instrumental and vocal works released on the 12k Label: #12K1068 (http://www.12k.com/index.php/site/releases/ballads_of_the_research_department/).
The first CD in this two CD set, The Word On My Lips Is Your Name is an interconnected anthology of Andrew’s recent sonic explorations, deeply shrouded layers on metal oxide tape, no doubt for later use in a broader context. These linked recordings project a feeling of being cast adrift on a gently rolling sea, while fading in and out of consciousness. The pieces vary from deeply veiled Mellotron-string harmonies, muffled bell-tones, placid swells of dissolving piano, and cello (by Danny Norbury) on the edge of a choir. Every so often, a familiar instrument appears, but there is clarity only long enough to establish a presence in the loop before it blends into the other-worldly haze. Some portions are reminiscent of my favorite Edgar Froese album, the lush (largely Mellotron-ic work from 1975): Epsilon in Malaysian Pale/Maroubra Bay. There is a thoughtful (yet often ethereal) romanticism in this collection.
In the second CD, The Burnley Brass Band Plays On In My Heart, I feel a deeply held sentimentality for an era of long ago. It is a sonic (and also quite visual) tour filled with an indescribable yet comforting melancholy. It starts as a largo of highly obscured brass (of some sort). The journey shifts from obscurity to clarity as each connected section of sound layers emerge from the mist of clicks, blips and gentle tape hiss. The transitions are subtle as different layers of instrumentation are introduced and others drift away. There are soft winds blowing, restrained choirs with distant horns, hints of an orchestra, perhaps a church organ, and a string quartet. The looping introduces a calming pulse, and as the journey nears an end, the somber brass largo returns with added strings and fading choir.
Works such as this, is what brought me back to listening to electronic and electro-acoustic music in the last couple of years. I felt like so many instrumental works of this genre in the 1980s and 1990s sounded hollow, synthetic and inauthentic. This collection from Andrew Hargreaves of Tape Loop Orchestra is like a pleasant distant memory of the nights of long ago, hearing far-off lands and dreaming of how those places might have been, while drifting in and out of reverie late into the night.
A short excerpt…
Post-script: Perhaps intended? The timing of each CD (and the resultant total) is not lost on me—a tribute to the 90 minute cassette tape format.