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Posts tagged “Darla

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

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.


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


MOLE – What’s The Meaning?

CD: RareNoiseRecords RNR027: 70:39

Website: http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/mole-store/whats-the-meaning-cd

Album samples: http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/jukebox/mole/wtm/

Also available at: http://darla.com/

Mole Productions at Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MoleProductions

Tracks: 1) PB; 2) Stones; 3) Trees And The Old New Ones; 4) Flour Tortilla Variation; 5) What’s The Meaning; 6) Greenland; 7) Grass; 8) Grubenid

Spirited, funky, and at times reflective is the vibe of the debut album What’s The Meaning from the Mexican, Argentinean and American contemporary jazz quartet known as MOLE.  Originally started as a duo about eight years ago, Mark Aanderud (on piano and composer, from Mexico) and Hernan Hecht (on drums, from Argentina) sought out New York guitarist David Gilmore for his diverse recording credits and touring experience with Wayne Shorter, Steve Coleman’s Five Elements and others, as well as Jorge “Luri” Molina (on bass, also from Mexico).

Mark Aanderud and Hernan Hecht

So, the music?  Think food…GOOD food…Mōl-eh!  The album starts quietly and mysteriously with PB.  The individual ingredients are being prepared for what will become a great meal.  PB develops as the quartet gradually mixes together, an exchange of themes and solos.  In Stones, the drums take a powerful lead and the solos gather around.  With each track the intensity of the album grows, although there are some pauses along the way.  The most delightful is Trees And The Old New Ones.  It has some calming shades of Metheny and Mays’ 1981 album As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls (September Fifteenth in particular).  Bowed bass and cello (played by Dorota Barova) almost mournfully open the piece.  The woven piano and guitar themes echo each other throughout along with skilful and gentle percussion.

Flour Tortilla Variation has a driving drum, piano and bass opening.  Solos are traded and echoed between guitar and piano, including a closing guitar solo reminiscent of Al Di Meola’s expressive work.  Brooding and syncopated is the feeling at the start of the title track, What’s The Meaning?  Initially, a gentle piano and drum exploration between Aanderud and Hecht (think Bill Bruford’s Earthworks), which then weaves in Gilmore’s guitar to explore with piano interludes, and builds to a closing solo by Gilmore with chops reminiscent of Carlos Santana.  Hecht and Molina lay down an upbeat foundation on Greenland for Aanderud and Gilmore to vamp and solo over—it’s a spirited romp.

Greenland

 

Grass is a languid piano and bass pulse with a repeated piano and guitar theme and is one last pause before the last track; Grubenid gets its funk on.  This is a great piece with plucky shades of Stanley Clarke.  After the guitar and bass opening vamp it stomps and Aanderud and Gilmore carry the somewhat off-key main melody.  Gilmore then leads the rhythm with a growling and energetic solo and Aanderud responds.  Guitar and piano return to the original theme before the rhythm section fades.

Let’s hope MOLE does some touring to support this album—they’re cookin’!

****

This is a solicited review.


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.


David Fiuczynski – Planet MicroJam

CD: RareNoiseRecords RNR025: 60:51

Website: http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/david-fiuczynski-store/planet-microjam-cd

Also available at: http://darla.com/

Artist Website: http://torsos.com/  Album Website: http://www.planetmicrojam.com/

Album samples: http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/jukebox/fiuczynski/pmj/

Tracks: 1) Micro Emperor; 2) Mystic MicroJam; 3) Meditacion; 4) Sun Song; 5) Horos Fuzivikos; 6) Drunken Longing; 7) Madoka Blue; 8) En Secreto; 9) Green Lament; 10) Apprehension; 11) Ragaku

Have you ever had a friend or acquaintance that you might see every five or ten (even fifteen) years, and then for some inexplicable reason they disappear into the ether?  When you next see the friend the conversation picks-up where it left off, without skipping a beat?  The intervening years are important and they might filter into the new conversation, but immediately the old connection is solid again.

The last time I saw David Fiuczynski he was with John Medeski and I am embarrassed to say that it was…eighteen years ago…it was a Lunar Crush back then.  I have stayed in touch with Medeski and his compatriots, Martin and Wood, but I do not have any excuses for why I have not seen Fiuczynski in quite some time.  So, after all these years, we reach again, this time on Planet MicroJam. This is where Brand X could have traveled after Moroccan Roll had they hit the teleport button to a laterally warped microtonal universe.

I will say it now: I think this is a great and colorful album.  This is one of those times when the connection for me is instantaneous, even when it is challenging.  The reason is the interest in exploring, pushing the edges of musicality, and at the point where it seems like it might break apart, there is a sonic magnet that pulls it all together, and that is the Fuze.

This time guitarist David Fiuczynski is microtonally jamming with Evgeny Lebedev on keyboards, David Radley on violin and Takeru Yamazaki on keyboards.  Special guests also include Kenwood Dennard, Jovol Bell, Jack DeJohnette and Eric Kerr on drums with appearances by Trout (Fuze’s pup).

The album opens with Micro Emperor (based on a fragment of Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto) and it slides and twists immediately into stimulating fretless territory.  Mystic MicroJam starts with a lazy vamping rhythm, strums on the piano soundboard with twisting guitar and keyboards syncopating.  After a speedy refrain, meandering violin joins and all peregrinate and then return to edgy indolence and then solos play off each other.

Meditacion starts with playful chordal-quartertones by Fiuczynski and then drums, violin, guitar, bass and piano meander in a delightfully light-hearted banter.  The piano at times harkens back to Corea’s work on Romantic WarriorSun Song is based on Sun Ra’s piece of the same name with polite melodic percussion and guitar on the edges and in between.  As the piece continues, layers are added into a soothing fabric.  Horos Fuzivikos is a spinning tarantella that does stop and then romp with a great spirit.

Horos Fuzivikos

 

Drunken Longing is a traditional Chinese interlude.  Madoka Blue’s guitars and keyboards cascade then guitar, bass and drums have a layered conversation with strategic interjections from a treated piano—a bit like a herd of wrens in the trees.  En Secreto’s trio furtively creeps and is based on a quartertone string quartet by Julian Carrillo.  Green Lament is a subdued guitar solo.  Apprehension starts by taking it easy, then the rhythm quickens, sound expands and dissonance appears.  Takeru Yamazaki solos on violin, trading themes with guitar and piano and the structure switches between chaotic and rhythmic.  There are times when John Goodsall-like phrases appear.  Ragaku is a Far Eastern postscript and there are percussive stops emphasized with growls and barks by Trout.

For some, this work will be an acquired taste (quarter and micro tones can take some getting used to…for dogs too), but if you are in for a tonal adventure, I say take the leap and turn it up.

So David, let’s stay in touch more often, OK?  I know; it’s entirely my fault.

Photo of Fuze by Gaspard Duroselle

***

This is a solicited review.


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

 

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*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.

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


Bring Me The Head Of —> Kyle Bobby Dunn

Record Label & Sound Samples: Low Point (2012) LP049

http://lowpoint.bandcamp.com/album/bring-me-the-head-of-kyle-bobby-dunn

Artist Website: https://sites.google.com/site/kylebobbydunn/

CD 1 Time: 57:34      CD 2 Time: 64:10

Tracks CD 1: 1) Canticle Of Votier’s Flats; 2) La Chanson De Beurrage; 3) Ending Of All Odds; 4) Douglas Glen Theme; 5) An Evening With Dusty; 6) The Hungover; 7) Diamond Cove (And Its Children Were Watching)

Tracks CD 2: 1) The Troubles With Trés Belles; 2) Innisfal (Rivers Of My Fathers); 3) The Calm Idiots Of Yesterday; 4) Parkland; 5) Complétia Terrace; 6) In Search Of A Poetic Whole; 7) Kotylak; 8) Moitié Et Moitié

I consider listening to Kyle Bobby Dunn’s work to be like how I imagine time travel could be; sitting in a chair in a dimly lit room, the button is pressed, and the journey begins.  Then the walls and world around dissolve and nothing matters, but everything is there through the passage of time.

A Young Person’s Guide To…

Being a relative newcomer to KBD’s work (having A Young Person’s Guide To… , Ways Of Meaning, and this double CD), I find his work to be mysterious and boundless.  I also sense in some of his writings (around the internets and within the liner notes of his albums) that KBD has a rather wry sense of humor (I note the “beurrage” and the stick of butter on CD 1)—an homage to the mundane, but pleasurable.  The instrumentation (I have read) is mostly processed guitar, loops and treatments, yet throughout the album almost none of the sounds are readily identifiable—makes it all the more mystifying.  The ethereal simplicity of the resonance belies its depth.

 

Ways Of Meaning

While his work can sound serious at times, there is a charming and timeless delicacy that instills a sense of wonderment and discovery, but without overt sentimentality.  It is like being set free in weightlessness and seeing new things at every turn or blink-of-an-eye and wanting to see and hear more.  There is also a sense of being at peace and a reverence to places (of note, Votier’s Flats, Douglas Glen and Diamond Cove; areas close together in the Calgary, Alberta, Canada locale…and is Innisfal actually Innisfail?).   I think there are deeply cherished memories in this work.

This latest double-CD has a mix of long and short tracks.  Canticle Of Votier’s Flats (in Fish Creek Provincial Park) is a short preamble to the journey.  There is soft warmth in the slow layering of La Chanson De Beurrage and imagery of trains or ships in the far away during a deep night in Ending Of All Odds.  There are some points where there are comparisons to the works of others (not SOTL!).  There is a subtle idée fixe that appears in the Douglas Glen Theme that is reminiscent of An Ending (Ascent) from Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks by Eno, Lanois & Eno (which just happens to be one of my favorite tracks from that 1983 album).  And what about An Evening With Dusty?  I smile.

Douglas Glen Theme and The Troubles With Trés Belles have the slightest of hints of sonorous brass similar to the recent Tape Loop Orchestra (Andrew Hargreaves – CD 2) album The Burnley Brass Band Plays On In My Heart.  The latter KBD piece possesses a deeply held sense of another time and place, as if the journey is temporarily paused to have a look around…and to remember.  The expansiveness of Parkland contrasts with the apparent visceral darkness of the introverted Complétia TerraceIn Search Of A Poetic Whole gracefully surges like an awakening.  The album closes with two rather somber pieces and I speculate that Kotylak is a calm dissonant statement of reaction.

Works such as this take time to gestate—they’re not just knocked-out in the studio.  Understanding memories (often appearing in dreams) are sometimes nebulous, and with time to ponder and sculpt, do clarify into ageless and timeless music such as this.  The cinematic parallels are also clear…when I see the long takes of Tarkovsky’s Solaris (flowing water, sinewy highways…) it is as if KBD has translated visions into fluid sonorous existence.

This is powerful stuff and I would love to hear it live too.


Simon Scott – Below Sea Level

Record Label: http://12k.com/ #12K1071

CD Time: 43:10

Artist Website: http://simonscott.org/

Tracks: 1) __Sealevel.1; 2) __Sealevel.2; 3) __Sealevel.3; 4) __Sealevel.4; 5) __Sealevel.5; 6) __Sealevel.6; 7) __Sealevel.7

Simon Scott has given us a great gift—finding music in nature, while the rest of the World is flashing by.  Below Sea Level is not only an expansive work of academic and historic significance, but it captures the feeling and sounds of being in and near the Fens of East Anglia, UK.  The work often abstracts the literal and produces a sense of contemplative reverence for an area that has endured great and tragic changes since the 17th Century, due to ill-advised human intervention over nature.

Simon Scott – Courtesy of 12k

I have been fortunate to explore some parts of this region (as far north as Stiffkey—both farm and fen).  Taylor Deupree’s 12k record label has assembled this beautiful work including a deluxe edition (CD, illustrated hardbound journal, inked sketch by Scott and a 34 minute live recording download).  I recommend purchasing this edition, though the CD alone is a fine alternative and is also beautifully packaged.

Below Sea Level is clearly an exploration with some very personal roots and memories, “Over the two years I visited the Fens to record, my childhood memories were reawakened and I realised as I explored a landscape that was personal to me, but contained unfamiliar and hidden acoustic details.”, writes Scott.  With each track, the listener is taken ever-deeper into this mysterious landscape.

__Sealevel.1 is almost as if eyes open from a dream, and we are in the Fens, first observing from the outside before entering.  The birds, insects, water underneath, and the drifting breezes fill the vision, as a lone electric guitar is the beacon for the marvelous journey.  Other treatments and electronics weave their way into the flora and fauna.

__Sealevel.2 rises as of the morning sun, geese fly overhead and the fabric of the environmental and instrumental sounds is woven deftly and seamlessly.  The attention to the production of this work is so masterful that it is often difficult to discern where the natural and synthetic begin and end.  Water filters through, rhythmic buzzing and guitar arpeggios mesh together with ambient sounds and avian denizens.  As this piece closes, first there is a building drone of sound and then it subsides into a hint of acoustic guitar.

__Sealevel.3 begins in the visceral depths (low frequencies) with birds aloft overhead.  It’s the feeling of pushing deeply into the unknown of the mysterious Fens of peat while getting lost in the droning electronics and deep rumbling and distorted guitar before reemerging.

__Sealevel.4 is near the water, at the edges and down low.  The instrumentation is reminiscent of flowing water weeds and marsh grasses as they pass by on the journey, ever-deeper into the marshland.

__Sealevel.5 begins with the shrill and mystical and then a return to an identifiable acoustic guitar theme, which to me, appears as the human element observing the landscape, before being absorbed again back into the sounds of the surroundings.  The memories of Scott’s childhood seem to filter in with a short passage from a music box before fading.

__Sealevel.6 is dense with an almost sensory overload of sound; the layered and diverse gives a sense of the incredible simultaneous activity occurring even in this natural landscape.

__Sealevel.7 closes the work with a calming and melodic aquatic voyage, flowing slowly and soon returning to the ambient sounds of insects above the water that inhabit this expansive other-worldly realm.

In an era where the artist and their works are often undervalued (file-sharing, Spotify and the utter drivel being released by many of the corporate record labels), it is so heartening to see, yet again, an independent record label such as 12k paying tribute to a work such as this.  Simon Scott has produced in Below Sea Level an authentic, thoughtful and informative work that is a real treat to behold and explore.

 


Somewhat eclectic listening today…UPDATED

Will the Circle be Unbroken

On Capitol Nashville, various artists (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band et al…cast of many)

In honor of the passing of Doc Watson I’ve been listening to this (two CD set from 2002).  It was originally released in 1972 as 3 LPs and 3 cassette tapes (my LPs were long ago worn out).  My favorite is Doc Watson’s version of the Jimmie Driftwood song Tennessee Stud.

 

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Dictaphone – Poems From A Rooftop

#sonicpieces013 – http://sonicpieces.com/sonicpieces013.html

The title taken from Iran’s Green Revolution…more on the album at the link above.  Really interesting sonics, rhythms, instrumentation and delightfully quirky.  My favorite on the album is Manami.

 

Video of the handmade limited edition CD cover:

 

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Brian McBride – The Effective Disconnect

Kranky #KRANK150 – http://www.kranky.net/

Music composed for the documentary Vanishing of the Bees

One half of the duo Stars of the Lid.  A really beautiful soundtrack and I’d love to find the film.

 

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Small Color – In Light

#12K1057 http://www.12k.com/index.php/site/releases/in_light/

Yusuke Onishi and Rie Yoshihara, really charming minimal electro-acoustic Japanese pop.

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And then there’s this gem of an album…

Aspidistrafly – A Little Fable

http://www.kitchen-label.com/catalogue/ki007-aspidistrafly-a-little-fable

The first edition has sold out. So a second edition of 2,500 copies will be released shortly.  Both the book and music have a delightfully ancient quality about them.  Ambient sounds, chamber music, vocals and electro-acoustic music.  As one friend put it, “…it’s a lovely album.” It really is.  There are sound samples at the link above.

This is available at: http://darla.com/

Homeward Waltz is my favorite piece:

 


What’s Spinning At Work Today? **UPDATE**

Cortney Tidwell’s – Boys:  A really interesting (and at times experimental) exploration of songwriting and sound.  This and her previous albums, one self-titled from 2005 and “Don’t Let The Stars Keep Us Tangled Up” from 2006 (with Kurt Wagner and William Tyler of Lambchop) have also resulted in some inventive remixes (by Hands Off Cuba) and videos.  Available from: http://www.cityslang.com/

Savvas Ysatis + Taylor Deupree’s – The Sleeping Morning:  A four track EP resulting from a 2007 collaboration.  Electro-acoustic, peaceful and recorded directly to multi-track with minimal editing.  The CD might still be available at some distributors, but a download is at: http://www.12k.com/ Try also…looks like the CD is still here: http://darla.com/

Lambchop’s – Damaged: Another in the canon of  calming beautiful works with delightful wordplay as in the opening track “Paperback Bible”.  Available at: http://www.mergerecords.com/

Gareth Dickson’s – Collected Recordings: After listening to Gareth’s latest album “Quite A Way Away” on the http://www.12k.com/ label, I hunted around for his previous work and found this, a collection of recordings from the previous five years on the http://driftingfalling.com/ label.

KORT’s – Invariable Heartache: This is actually the album that got me familiar with Cortney Tidwell’s solo work.  A great album of re-recorded songs that were once on the Chart record label (run by Cortney Tidwell’s grandfather, Slim Williamson).  Kurt Wagner of Lambchop is the collaborator, so Cort + Kurt = KORT.  You can get this album here: http://www.mergerecords.com/store/store_detail.php?catalog_id=846

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Afternoon Postscript:  OK, I was slow and missed the chance to get the original issues on CD and vinyl, so I settled for a 12k/iTunes download and burned CDs, so this is what’s on this afternoon:

Marcus Fischer – Monocoastal: I’m just listening for the first time as I type this.  A combination of field recordings, found sounds, harmonics and textures woven and inspired by Fischer’s wanderings up and down the west coast for 20 years.  This is Marcus Fischer’s website: http://unrecnow.com/dust/about

Taylor Deupree + Marcus Fischer – In A Place Of Such Graceful Shapes: This was originally issued as a small box with a CD and clear vinyl 7″.  It really looked beautiful and am sorry to have missed out on it.  More electro-acoustic heaven.  More about this album and both artists here: http://www.12k.com/index.php/site/releases/in_a_place_of_such_graceful_shapes

A video excerpt is here:

 


Winter Garden: Eraldo Bernocchi – Harold Budd – Robin Guthrie

RareNoiseRecords – RNR021 – CD 2011 – 47:21

Available from: http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/bernocchi-budd-guthrie

Also available from: http://darla.com/index.php

Tracks: 1) Don’t Go Where I Can’t Find You; 2) Losing My Breath; 3) Winter Garden; 4) Entangled; 5) Harmony And The Play Of Light; 6) Heavy Heart Some More; 7) White Ceramic; 8) Stay With Me; 9) South Of Heaven; 10) Dream On

There are certain situations, places, visions, works of art or music that evoke emotions or memories that defy explanation; reactions that are beyond words, or perhaps descriptions that cannot do a sensation or experience justice. They are in effect, indescribable.  This is the alluring feeling I am left with after listening to “Winter Garden”, the first simultaneous release by Eraldo Bernocchi (Italian musician and producer), Harold Budd (pianist and composer) & Robin Guthrie (producer, guitarist and founder of Cocteau Twins and Violet Indiana) on the RareNoiseRecords label.

In the December 2011 issue of HiFi Zine I reviewed Harold Budd’s latest solo work, “In The Mist”. (Please see: http://www.hifizine.com/2011/12/harold-budd-in-the-mist/ ).  I won’t dwell much on Budd’s many prior collaborations, other than to say that he has worked with many artists, including Robin Guthrie on at least seven releases.  I am familiar with Budd’s work with Eraldo Bernocchi on Music For ‘Fragments From The Inside”–music for an art installation by Petulia Mattioli (a long time collaborator of Bernocchi).  “Fragments…” was recorded live in 2006 and released on Sub Rosa as catalog #SR239 JC.  Coincidentally, Petulia Mattioli provided the graphic design and photos for “Winter Garden”.

I admit to knowing little of Eraldo Bernocchi’s extensive prior work, and that exploration is for another time, so I will stay focused here on what I know.   For background, I offer some brief thoughts on recent overlapping collaborations with both artists and Harold Budd: the 2011 Darla release entitled “Bordeaux” with Robin Guthrie, as well as “Fragments…” with Bernocchi.  In “Fragments…” Budd’s piano work presents as a languid yet grounded introduction to Bernocchi’s electronic peregrinations consisting of treatments, rhythms, samples and deep pulses.  Budd’s piano seems to reach for and tame the electronic wanderings while sensuously weaving, almost teasing Bernocchi’s explorations.  To close the seven-part work of “fragments”, Budd’s piano returns as the foundation of the work—how this related to the video installation, I don’t know.

With “Bordeaux”, the nine named tracks aren’t driven by rhythm, but by Guthrie’s guitar work forming fabrics of textures, colors and emotions for Budd to gently punctuate.  The feeling of this work is of warmth and sensuousness.  Guthrie usually leads-in with his layered shimmering guitar before Budd responds, to play off the direction and mood that Guthrie has set.  There are exceptions to this on pieces like “So Many Short Years Ago”, “The Belles of Saint Andrew” and “Southern Shore” where Guthrie’s textures respond to Budd’s piano phrasing and chord changes.

In “Winter Garden”, as the album’s title suggests, there is a chilled and mysterious sense of expansive desolation throughout.  It is imbued with the vividness of the changing color of a winter sky; sharp golden light to warm the blue-grey chill of the winter air.  There is also a dream-state cinematic quality to this album.  The trio of Bernocchi, Budd & Guthrie play as a meshed ensemble with each artist taking the lead, depending on the piece or feeling being expressed.

I posit that this album is more than just collected individual tracks, but it is a sonic novella.  The titles and accompanying music express a direction, emotion or location in a somewhat enigmatic unknown story.  Perhaps it is imagined or real, or a combination of both.  It is evident that the opening track “Don’t Go Where I Can’t Find You” is a beacon cast as the main theme (played by Budd) that later returns in “Winter Garden” and again in track 9 “South of Heaven”, each in slightly altered forms.  I speculate that track 9 is the actual ending of the overall “story”, with track 10 “Dream On” being a postscript.  To me, this album presents in sound, as a cohesive and plausible story.  A brief overview of the tracks:

1) Don’t Go Where I Can’t Find You: Budd’s piano takes the main theme with Guthrie’s layered guitar and light treatments from Bernocchi.  The theme is an entreaty of sorts and there is a feeling of longing and desolation in the music.

2) Losing My Breath: There are long pauses that create a sense of tension in the theme, played by Guthrie, with brief responses from Budd.  A sense of suspension and anticipation is apparent with slow movement to arrive at a destination.

3) Winter Garden: The title track, with main theme by Budd and supporting chords and bass line by Guthrie and Bernocchi.  Despite what seems to be a desired arrival and sense of place, there is a dissonance in the sound overlays that I perceive as portraying doubt, a possible foreshadowing. Yet, there is also comfort and resolution in the theme.

4) Entangled: Bernocchi begins with a pulsing bass line, a sense of apprehension, but also movement with descending keyboard tones as the piece progresses.  The “conversation” is between Budd’s treated and bending piano and Guthrie’s guitar melodies and chords, with Bernocchi overlaying rhythmic intrigue.

5) Harmony And The Play Of Light:  A soft bass pulsing with layered keyboards and guitar, but here the piano is compressed, piercing the background and giving a sense of brightness.  There is also a feeling of suspension and anticipation.

6) Heavy Heart Some More: The feeling in this track is somber, with a foreboding as it advances: deep piano and bass notes creating a sense of darkness.

7) White Ceramic: This track, to me, seems to be a pause of sorts (and I admit to having some trouble placing this is in the overall story).  Perhaps it’s an aftermath.  The tones are bell-like and the phrasing and melodies are wandering, and seem to me to be searching.

8) Stay With Me: A quiet beginning, piano and layered electronics leading to a subtle rhythmic backdrop and then movement, a sense of traveling somewhere again, perhaps from the winter landscape to return to an unknown destination.

9) South Of Heaven: The recapitulation of the slightly altered opening theme on piano, layered in shimmering guitars and bending electronics and subtle (deep) comforting bass notes, suggesting an ending and perhaps resolution.

10) Dream On: As if the sun is descending on a chilled landscape, a chorus of guitars and layered electronics move with the waning sunlight, a flowing bass line in support and piano as if thoughts are wandering…in reflection.

The recording of “Winter Garden” is expansive and crystalline.  I found it so easy to listen to with rapt attention.  It draws one into whatever the story that is being told.  As soon as it ended, I wanted to begin again–gorgeous.

Stay With Me (Track 8):

Note: This article will be published shortly at a music & audio equipment-related online e-zine and IS a solicited review (although I already had purchased the recording).


Forthcoming Reviews

“Winter Garden”, the new instrumental CD by Eraldo Bernocchi, Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie on the RareNoiseRecords label: http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/ The album is also available at Darla Records: http://darla.com/ This IS a solicited review, but I already owned the recording.

“Beyond the Shrouded Horizon”, Steve Hackett’s new album available on the InsideOut label and through the artist’s website: http://www.hackettsongs.com/


M. Ostermeier – The Rules of Another Small World

Tench Records – TCH04 – 37:11

http://www.tenchrec.com/ & http://www.words-on-music.com/mostermeier/

1) Micro Forest Updraft, 2) Streambed Arrangement, 3) Sunlight on My Desk, 4) I Took Out Your Picture, 5) Floorboards, Well-worn, 6) Trickle Down, 7) Fast Darters, 8) Underwater Drifting, 9) Retreating Night, 10) Suspicions, 11) Ngth

I’ll admit it; I was first intrigued with this album because of its cover, images of an abandoned sci-fi pod-style housing project in northern San-Zhr, Taiwan taken by photographer Craig Ferguson.  Coincidentally, I had recently purchased the band Should’s sharply crafted album “Like A Fire Without Sound” on the Words on Music label.  Little did I realize, but M. (Marc) Ostermeier is also part of Should, along with Tanya Maus & Marc’s brother, Eric.  Marc is also co-owner of the Words on Music label.  After rather experimental sampled-guitar beginnings in Austin, Texas, Should’s music has evolved into rather direct (and often very catchy), yet introspective, post-rock works sometimes classified as the “shoegazer” genre.

“The Rules of Another Small World” certainly takes some cues from Brian Eno and Harold Budd’s ambient works together and it sounds as if one is exploring the environs of what is depicted on the album’s cover.  In contrast to Should’s directness, this is music-on-the-edges of consciousness or the fringe of a dream, with great depth.  It evokes, for me, a feeling of having vivid memories without remembering all of the details, yet still being left with strong images, sounds and colors.  The album has an almost early-era Kraftwerk beginning, similar to “Kling Klang” from the 1972 album “Kraftwerk 2”.  In that work, bells, gongs and chimes of various types start and then drift into a muffled drone of flute, guitar and electric piano.

Audio Tracks “Micro Forest Updraft” & “Underwater Drifting”: the-rules-of-another-small

Ostermeier uses electronic and acoustic instruments (piano and possibly a vibraphone) effectively and melodically throughout with various treatments. There are ambient sounds, real and electronically created.  The recording is penetratingly clear and broad, but not overpowering, so the result is a very relaxing and sensuous exploration of an ethereal musical realm.  This is music with a direction, not free-form ambient sounds, at all.  With each subsequent listen, I hear new things and focus on different parts and counterpoints in the recordings.  Marc previously released an equally intriguing album “Chance Reconstruction” TCH01, with another beautifully decorated sleeve of black and white forest images.

TCH01 Chance Reconstruction


My Online Reviews Currently Appear At…

http://affordableaudio.org/Affordable$$Audio/Current_Issue.html and http://www.hifizine.com/   Stay tuned for additional online locations.


Will Samson – Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends – CD

2011 PLOP/NATURE BLISS Distributed in USA by Darla

http://willsamson.bandcamp.com/ & http://willsamson.co.uk/

Tracks 1) My Broken Mirror, 2) Panda Bears, 3) Meet me at Home, 4) Find me in the Ocean, 5) Violins and Polaroids, 6) Sleeping, 7) Friends, 8) Great Plains

I know very little of Will Samson’s prior project “Himalaya” other than some youtube video uploads, but I picked up his new album “Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends” after reading a description at online music merchant Darla.com, and I took a chance.  After a number of years of searching for, acquiring and tweaking various pieces of vintage and new audio equipment, I have finally turned back to finding new music as well as revisiting old friends and their new material on both CD and vinyl.  I like all sorts of music, except angry-man-head-bangin’ rap and heavy metal of a similar ilk.

Samson is of diverse national heritage (Chilean, Indian and Italian), born in England, lived in Australia and currently resides in Berlin, Germany.  I was instantly struck by the power of this deeply personal album.  It’s a real gem.  Most music takes time to grow on me, often with eight or ten listens of an album, and even then, I might have only two or three favorite pieces.

It is evident that the young Mr. Samson is on a voyage of discovery—both sonic and life.  I was also drawn to the story behind the music (journeying though Europe, Asia and the Himalayas at 19, one way ticket, self-doubt, celebration, loneliness & joyfulness), but only after hearing the album and wanting to know more.  Some might classify his work as ambient, folk, indie and when loaded into iTunes it curiously comes up classified as “pop”.  This music just takes the World and slows it down allowing for contemplation of the music and perhaps various issues that consume one’s own life.  The songs are beautifully crafted, in a way, similar to F. M. Cornog’s (of East River Pipe), yet they lack the edgy subjects and politics that F. M. often explores.

The first piece on the CD, “My Broken Mirror” starts with a shimmering of acoustic guitar and what appears to be a light electric guitar overdub used almost like a horn, to beckon the listener mournfully “Ooo…it’s going to get easier…”.  Yet the spirit of the music is uplifting and optimistic.  Later on in the CD ,“Friends” is reminiscent of Anthony Phillips’ beautiful piece “God if I saw Her Now” from his first solo album “The Geese and the Ghost”.  Every piece on “Hello Friends…” stands on its own, yet all function well together as a collective whole.

The recordings are stark (made with an eight-track recorder, a gift from his father before his travels and mixed by Samson) and there are many ambient sounds deep in the soundstage, footsteps across a room, the inner workings of a piano or the click of the recorder’s controls.  Will Samson mixes his normal and falsetto voices in various pieces, almost chants of sorts and for some this may be bothersome, but stick with it.  The supporting instrumentation appears to be parlor guitar, electric guitar with some effects, bass and piano with minimal electronic treatments and light percussion.

The album is an intimate personal meditation, yet is sonically broad like the mountainscapes depicted in the cover art.  The CD’s jacket is a small gate-fold LP, typical of many Japanese releases.  The album is little over thirty-eight minutes, which is far too short and leaves me wanting more, but one can be rewarded again with the replay button.  This is the kind of album that makes me want to buy copies and give them to as many friends as I can think who would appreciate something as beautiful and rare as this album is.

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Appeared in the September, 2011 Hifi Zine: http://www.hifizine.com/issues/september-2011/