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Posts tagged “Instrumental

Dolphin Midwives – Liminal Garden

BNSD031_Dolphin+Midwives_cover

Available Formats: LP & Digital

Time: About 40 minutes

Labels: Sounds et al: ETAL011 & Beacon Sound: BNSD031

dolphinmidwives.us

soundsetal.com

wearebeaconsound.com

Tracks: 1) Grass Grow, 2) Junglespell, 3) Castleshell, 4) Flux, 5) Temple IV, 6) Mirror, 7) Labyrinth I, 8) Temple V, 9) Satya Yuga, 10) Iridesce

From an early age I have been fascinated by the sound and look of a harp.  While some watched the Marx Brothers for the comedy, I was waiting for the ritual of Harpo’s performance—the calm respite from the chaos.  Later, it was Bach Partitas played by Nicanor Zabaleta and other harpists and ensembles, and then improvisations and atmospheres played by Andreas Vollenweider (who was unfortunately pigeon-holed in the ghastly ‘New Age’ record bins in the 1980s).  Thank goodness there’s a new generation continuing to make music with their harps.

No matter the genre, hearing music from a harp can be a riveting and even a mystical experience.  A harp can supplement the atmosphere of a larger work of music or it can stimulate on its own, generating inner subconscious reactions (as instrumental music tends to do).  It can be abstract or symbolic—cascading water, sun in the clouds, soft gentle repetitions to calm or to be invited into another realm beside the present.

Sage Fisher composes and performs with a harp, percussion, effects, and her voice.  She is an experimental sound artist from Portland, Oregon, and Dolphin Midwives is the name of her performance project.  As far as I can gather Liminal Garden is her second full length album (Orchid Milk appears to be her first in 2016—available on her Bandcamp page).  I think that Liminal Garden has mystical or spiritual references that I am not qualified to interpret (some mysteries are better left unsolved), but I speculate that this album is a journey of exploration in two episodes, whether it is experienced as a two-sided LP or as a continuous thread in a digital music stream.

 

Each of the two parts starts with an abstract centering and cleansing vocal prologue (Grass Grow and Mirror), where short themes are established and then altered with looping effects, samples and down and up octaves—a loosely narrated trip that gradually arrives at an altered state, where a sense of time can be lost.  It could even be the beginning of an escape from our current unstable world condition.  The two interconnected meditations then have sharp contrasts throughout—think of slipping from the comfort of a hot pool of water into the shock of one that is frigid.  There is a momentary shudder, but then the realization that the entire experience is about an awakening of all the senses to understand and embrace the whole.

Once fully absorbed, Junglespell is a transition from a peaceful start into a star gate sequence akin to Bowman’s journey of enlightenment near the end of 2001 A Space Odyssey.  Here there is no vocal to guide, and there is a transformed sense of perception leaving subconscious thought to interpret.  Not only is the sound entrancing, but watching it being created is equally as fascinating.

 

Once released from Junglespell, a slow awakening begins in Castleshell, arriving somewhere else, perhaps a bit dazed from a dream, out the other side of that star gate.   The sharp contrast of Flux stimulates other parts of the mind that have been quietly idle.  There is an electric energy of realignment, a jarring altered-state glitchy repetition.  Then balance returns in the absorbing Temple IV with short tangible loops and a short melody that meanders within a tight range.

Part two of the journey is somewhat different and is introduced with Mirror.  It has layered cascading vocals in varying octaves altered with electronic effects, octaves and loops.  Rather than continuing on into a hypnotic state, another contrast is entered in Labyrinth I, which is disorienting with stimulus from all sides, seeking and not finding a way out.  From the cold pool to the warm, the immersive and enveloping Temple V’s melodic percussion reminds me of Kraftwerk’s Klingklang (Kraftwerk 2 – 1972).  Then there is a clear return of the harp with a gentleness and purity of the enlightening Satya Yuga, a respite of reflection and balance from the prior experiences.  The epilogue to the album is Iridesce, a colorful stuttering of altered voices and electronics.

One cannot know the calm without experiencing the chaos.  On what mesmerizing journey will Sage Fisher take us next?

 

The album was recorded by Jason Powers, and mastered by Rafael Anton Irisarri (Black Knoll), and the artwork is by Bijan Berahimi.

****

This is a solicited review.


Silmus – Laaksum

Laaksum Silmus

Volkoren 82 – CD Time: 43:53

1) Laaxum 2) Dancing On The Pier, Discovering The Sea 3) Hectanred 4) The Spirit of Morning Light 5) Raise Up 6) Meeting At Stonerow 7) Silence Is Black 8) Sacred Place 9) Wintering 10) Lay Myself Down

Gert Boersma (electric guitars, bow, khim, bass, melodica, harmonica, synthesizers, percussion, samples, effects and field recordings) is from the Netherlands, and is supported by musicians Jan Theodoor Borger (piano and effects), Minco Eggersman (drums, percussion), Guy Gelem (cello), and Mirjam Feenstra (vocals)

It’s been almost five years since we’ve heard from Gert Boersma of Silmus, but in the contemplative realm, seeking inspiration and summoning creativity can be an unpredictable long-term pursuit, and so, our patience is now rewarded.

There is a certain degree of speculation in reviews like these, but I feel relatively confident that Laaksum is inspired by evoking and honoring memories of a place, and I perceive that they are generally fond and formative recollections.  The album is a sonic memoir of sorts, a solitary contemplation, and it delicately hovers between reverence and melancholy, but it is bereft of sentimentality.

 

Laaksum, the place, where I have never been, is on the shore of a remote inland bay in the province of Friesland, in north of the Netherlands, and is well-protected, apparently peaceful and a place where time might seemingly stand still.  Memories are an inner form of time travel, and can return with seeing or holding an object, smelling a fragrance or hearing a sound—and any one can evoke all the others.  I’m guessing, judging by the cover illustration that it starts with the appearance of a feather, and then what returns are the memories of the time spent at the jetty, the stand of trees, seeing flocks of seabirds, all of which are depicted in photographs and are the inspiration for the artwork within the tri-fold sleeve and booklet of the CD, envisioned with minimal embellishment by Daniel Thomassen.

Laaksum, the album, is mostly delicate, warm and peaceful.  It’s impeccably recorded with a clarity and crispness of a clear noon sky in Spring—an auditory purity that is not overly precious.  The instrumentation is widely varied, mostly acoustic, woody, but when it’s lush, it’s not self-indulgent.  Boersma has taken great care in conveying his perception of that place from another time.  It is a welcome and contemplative meditation in our current rather thoughtless and unsettled period in our collective history, an escape.

 

Laaxum, the track, seems to be symbolic of the catalyst where the memories return, but it is apparent that there are no storms here; mostly calm waters as those appearing in Dancing On The Pier, Discovering The Sea.  The melodies in Hectanred are teased and appear as short tonal mantras—caught and then released, fleeting as a daydream lost in the ether.   There are momentary diversions of perceived mystery or tension, as in Meeting At Stonerow or the ancient sounding Silence Is Black with occasional microtonal notes and dissonant chords, but overall the comfort and warmth prevail.  The Spirit Of Morning Light has perhaps the most tangible clarity, as the rising sun reveals the sights and colors of the day.

As the seasons change, Wintering has both the layered vocal chill of the outside, but the comfort of a warm stringed suite on the inside.  The epilogue, Lay Myself Down is perhaps an overall reflection, where the flood of the many years past is at first unclear and drifting, until a calm and clear melody gently presses through, where the memories from long ago become sorted and clarified, and where they can be forever held and retold.

****

This is a solicited review.


Karl Culley – Last

Karl Culley Last

 

Format: Digital only

Time: About 74 minutes

Tracks: 1) Perfection Only Exists In The Mind 2) Nastassya 3) In A Sky Of Infinite Suns 4) Listen 5) Mistakes 6) The Föhn Wind 7) Wedding And Funeral Shoes 8) Amethyst 9) Devil In A Damn Fine Suit 10) Being Alive 11) 1, 2, 3 12) Delivered (My Maja) 13) Windows 14) Ghost Made Blood 15) Reality Is Like The Sun 16) How It Works 17) The Siege Of Antioch 18) Dale 19) St. Crispin’s Day 20) Embers 21) Looking Back Blues

Some readers may remember my review of Karl Culley’s 2015 album, Stripling.  His new album Last (to be released on September 1, 2018) was recorded over the last three years in Culley’s home of Krakow, Poland.  The good news is we have new music from Culley, and he is also now a father of a young daughter.  The sad news is the turmoil in his life, a divorce, and due to various responsibilities he has decided this will be his “last” album of music.

The engineers for this album are Jaroslaw Zawadzki in Poland and Daniel Webster in England (the two tracks: Nastassya and Listen, with Webster playing all instruments, except for Culley on acoustic guitar).  At first, I listened to this album at home, in my little studio, then I took it on a long road trip to and from the Adirondacks (in upper New York State), to get to know it better.  It’s an excellent road trip album, by the way.

The subjects of this collection are both within the mind (things that can be imagined) and actual experiences (both joyous and painful).  This album is pretty dense, and with 21 tracks, I found that I needed about two sittings to get through it, which is NOT at all a negative comment.  Just the opposite, since the album is of a quality that demands a listener’s rapt attention.  In my opinion, this is not a collection of background music.  Coincidentally, at the mid-point of the album, is the metronomic instrumental 1, 2, 3, which serves as a bit of an intermission, before part two.

Culley deftly conveys the emotion of a given moment or the subject with only his acoustic guitar (ignoring the lyrics, for the moment), since the rhythms, strumming and picking reveal the intent of the song, like gently descending notes (like Embers falling in a fire) or a galloping heart beat (Being Alive) or the tender waltz (rocking cradle) beat and comfort and contentment in Delivered (My Maja)Maja also plays tricks with time, at first it’s the marvelous intimacy of having a newborn child on one’s chest, and then four lines later to “…unfurl to your consorts…”  In a sense, preparing to release her to the world in her later years (children DO grow up quickly, as I can attest).

 

Without knowing (or wanting to know) the details of Culley’s private struggles over the last three years, it’s clear from this album that there are many complexities to love, relationships, and resentment.  Have a listen to the darkness in Nastassya (which I am told is based on Dostoyevski’s The Idiot) or the anger and harsh reality in How It Works.

One of my clear favorites on this album is In A Sky Of Infinite Suns, with its snappy taut rhythm–I found that I kept hitting replay on my car CD player to keep the energy going.  Another of the near-breathless pieces is Being Alive, with its galloping rhythm of angst “…just being alive hurt so much…looking into the mouth of a liar…like walking through the fire hurt so much…” (also sounding like a fast-beating heart with the lyric “…swells in the blood…”).  By contrast there are contemplative meditations like Listen, and Reality Is Like The Sun that are both reflective and perhaps self-analytical (just like the more energetic and playful Mistakes).  I wonder if KC finds that his own music can function as a form a therapy?  I certainly find music to be quite therapeutic, whether energetic or comforting.

There are moments of keen observations of the bizarre, but absolutely true aspects of life, like in Wedding And Funeral Shoes, as well as moments of levity, Devil In A Damned Fine Suite.  Overall, Last is a fine balance of musicianship and storytelling in a similar vein to the earlier acoustic works of Gordon Lightfoot, and if one listens carefully, one might pick-up the descending tones reminiscent of the opening to Nick Drake’s Chime Of The City Clock in The Siege Of Antioch (a pretty heavy observation on the First Crusade).  The last song on the album, Looking Back Blues, is a reflection of sadness for a time past, but (perhaps) an appreciation that the passage of time can yield after the breakup of a relationship…there will always be a connection, especially when a child is involved.

 

I am sorry that Karl Culley is leaving the music scene, alas the realities and responsibilities of life somehow do take over, but I hope KC finds other rewarding endeavors for his talent and creative spark, and hope he enjoys watching his daughter grow up.

Take care and best wishes, Karl.

***

This is a solicited review.


Gone Quiet…

…in words, but not in music…

Please have a look and listen, and stay tuned.

https://wajobu.com/sounds/

Thanks for listening and reading.

A teaser…


Review: Almost Charlie – A Different Kind Of Here

Label: Words on Music WM43  CD Time: 36:55

Label: http://www.words-on-music.com/almostcharlie.html

Band: http://www.almostcharlie.com/

Tracks: 1) Shadow Boy 2) Ambivalent 3) The Sadness Of The Snow That Falls In May 4) Defective 5) The Loneliness Of Sharks 6) Waiting 7) Robot 8) A Different Kind Of Here 9) Sunset In The Elysian Fields 10) Expect For Her Name 11) Gold 12) I’ll Still Be Missing You

At last, the songs of Dirk Homuth and lyricist Charlie Mason return, in the latest Almost Charlie album A Different Kind Of Here.  It seems that the older I get, the more I lose track of how quickly time passes—it’s already been about 4-1/2 years since their last album Tomorrow’s Yesterday.

It’s so easy to get drawn-in by the inventiveness and wit in their well-crafted songs, the melodies, hooks and restrained arrangements.  All of the songs in this album can be quickly committed to memory, and there they remain, added to the playlist of the mind, but they are not simplistic.  These songs are deftly efficient, and don’t overstay their welcome—each of the twelve is about 3 minutes long, with the last, longest and most sonically impressionistic, I’ll Still Be Missing You. There are connections between the moods of the music, arrangements and subjects.  Listen in …Missing You for the wistful sounds of an implied telephone busy-signal layered back in the mix of the sound effects.  In Waiting, the rhythm is like the finger-tapping of impatience.  Yet there are contrasts, the upbeat tune of The Sadness Of The Snow… deals with the unexpected and unwelcome shivers of a late winter storm after experiencing the tease of Spring.

Homuth’s singing (with a voice reminiscent of John Lennon’s) varies from near-whispers in Defective to full-throated vocals with a spirited string quartet arrangement in Gold.  What’s different from their previous albums: A lyrics booklet is included with this album (YAY!), and while the subjects of the songs is still largely about relationships, they are far more introspective, and some are darker and tend more towards melancholy.  The Loneliness Of Sharks is initially stark, and gradually adds layers symbolic of the pressures of the deep and the isolation of power.  There is also a short and reflective piano instrumental, Sunset On The Elysian Fields.

Overall, the recording of the album is remarkably spatial.  Initially, I listened to the album sitting at a distance in a chair, in my car while driving, and then sat closer to the speakers in my music room, and felt like I was in the studio with the musicians while they were recording—so praise to the musicians in addition to those involved in the recording (Rob Cummings in Berlin is credited).  The title track, A Different Kind Of Here, in particular is just plain gorgeous, the acoustic guitar, especially.

And imagine, the two songwriters still have never met (according to all that I have read).  Despite the distance, the magic remains.  Next time Charlie, please don’t wait so long before returning.  This album, like their others, immediately gets put in the “hit replay” category.  The Words On Music label (celebrating their 20th anniversary as an independent music label) sells it direct from their website for a great price, but it’s also available through your favorite music sellers.  While you’re at it, buy the rest of Almost Charlie’s back catalog, you won’t be disappointed.

Here’s a three track sampler of the album:

****

This is a solicited review.


Braeyden Jae – Fog Mirror

braeyden-jae-coverLabel: Whited Sepulchre Records WS001

http://whitedsepulchrerecords.com/

https://whitedsepulchrerecords.bandcamp.com/

White Vinyl LP limited to 260, 30 premium include an ant’lrd split cassette with specialty insert.  Time: About 42 minutes

Tracks: Vanishing Procession, More Washed Feeler, Obscured and Waiting, Two Mirrors Looking, Fogged Placer

With respect to music genres, where does ambient end and drone begin?  Can music help to offer a refuge, focus the mind or distract it?  Fog Mirror flirts with all of these possibilities.  I admit to being puzzled at times on why some music needs to be so heavily shrouded with the melodic aspects pushed nearly out of reach, yet unexpected benefits can occur, like vanquishing a worrying thought, eroding it with sound.  Admittedly, I don’t always understand the approach, but I appreciate the intent, especially if the quality of the recording is full and not bleached-out into an unpleasant monophonic haze.

Remember the moment in the original Star Trek pilot episode The Cage when Captain Pike and Mr. Spock touched a plant on the forbidden planet Talos IV?  The layers of sounds emanating from the alien plants and the remaining ambient atmosphere were revealed…Spock even smiled.  Never seen it?  Here’s a reminder…

The point is, there is often an overall gestalt to sounds, music and atmospheres, being greater than the sum of their parts, and there is mystery and intrigue in imagining how those sounds were created if those parts were to be disassembled.  The layering creates unexpected harmonies and overtones, and even unrelated memories of events can be activated.

Braeyden Jae’s latest album Fog Mirror (Braden McKenna’s nom de plume) clears the mind yet it can steer its focus in rather curious ways.  Each piece has a perceptible aggregate tone (whether major or minor, deliberate or unintentional), and some tracks stay relatively stable, almost devoid of a perceptible melody, whereas others meander and ruggedly thrash beneath the haze.  McKenna carefully disguises the sources of his sound generation, which I’m guessing are varying degrees of fuzz applied to an electric bass, piano (literal in Obscured and Waiting, but veiled elsewhere), along with various effects, treatments, noise and perhaps some field recordings.  The illusion of water and wind, which appear to be created synthetically, are prominent throughout, offering the effect of cleansing, even if it suddenly appears as a deluge.  Another quality of the recordings is the “Did I just hear that…?” aspect of the layering, like walking in the dark and seeing something move nearby or the flash of something moving beneath the surface of a body of water.

 

Vanishing Procession is like sitting behind a gentle waterfall with occasional peeks through the cascading water to a scene beyond, or sitting on an open porch with rain falling as time passes slowly by.  There are some similarities the works of Nicholas Szczepanik, but McKenna’s variations in the layering of the sounds are more subtle.  In contrast, More Washed Feeler is practically a deluge with a undercurrent of recirculating ascending and descending notes, a sonic mantra of sorts.  Seven minutes into the piece, the torrent is forced open slightly to reveal a swirling undertow.

A steelier resonance is present in Obscured and Waiting, with a slow pulsing piano.  This is the most identifiable, melodic and peaceful track on the album with a wooly-fuzz bass occasionally piercing the quietude off in the distance, sounding like shortwave radio sawtooth-wave interference.  The piano evolves into sounding like far-off carillon bells. This is a rough-edged version of portions of Budd and Eno’s The Plateaux of Mirror.

bj-tt

There’s a veiled rhythmic gait working against a counterpoint of concealed peeling bells in Two Mirrors Looking.  It’s more industrial-sounding with an undercurrent of an old shipyard recorded just below the surface of the water with a sudden harmonic shift at about 6-1/2 minutes as perhaps a ship’s screw passes by on its journey out to sea.  The last and longest track on the album, Fogged Placer, I actually perceived as being the shortest—a rather odd time-shifting experience.  This track allowed a memory of mine to return, back to the days when I commuted periodically to the Adirondack region of New York as a passenger in a twin-engine Piper aircraft—sitting in the back listening to the two engines shift the timing of their revolutions slightly, generating hypnotic vibrations and harmonics that were transmitted into the plane’s fuselage.   At certain moments, it also sounds like watching a blanketed symphony performance, with my ears isolating the cellos and double-basses.

Finding a semblance of peace in absolute silence these days can be rather difficult (especially when unwanted tinnitus randomly appears), and an album like this can help achieve a frame of mind that allows an imaginary escape to evocative places and memories.

****

An aside, I wonder if Braden McKenna has ever heard the opening side of the 3 LP set of Consequences, by Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, produced in 1977?  I could hear some similar background atmospheres, although the resulting piece is quite different.


On Sabbatical, Except…

As perhaps some of you have noticed, I’ve been on a bit of a sabbatical from regular reviews.  I haven’t stopped doing reviews at all, but I have less to say for the moment.  Instead I’ve been focusing more on my day job (designing buildings) and making some noise of my own (which better informs music reviews).

Please do continue to submit requests for reviews, but keep in mind that I might be more selective with what I choose to review.

Please also have a listen at the following link, I offer any of this music to young filmmakers, free of charge, and only ask in return for credit if you download and use any of this original material: https://wajobu.com/sounds/

Thank you for continuing to read and listen.


M. Ostermeier – Tiny Birds

Ostermeier Tiny Birds James Luckett consumptive dot orgCD: Home Normal 071

Time: 34:28

Website: http://homenormal.com/

1) glide 2) of a feather 3) rafters 4) watcher 5) duo 6) flutter 7) flying south 8) head cut off 9) nesting 10) caged 11) skitter 12) twin crested peaks 13) albatross

M. Ostermeier: piano and sounds

Christoph Berg: violin on glide and of a feather

Photography: James Luckett – consumptive.org

In my part of the world, some birds that used to winter elsewhere now seem to stay here, but many still migrate: from swallows by the millions (spectacular departure throughout October) to songbirds like warblers to the more solitary bald eagles that pass through here on their way to nesting areas along local rivers and up to the Adirondack mountains in upper New York State.  Just before the first break of Spring, woodpeckers return or emerge and the local forests can sound like giant marimbas as the oversized pileated variety pronounce their territorial claims, rapping on hollow trunks.

still

M. Ostermeier’s latest album is the avian themed Tiny Birds. There is a slightly different approach to Tiny Birds compared with his prior album still on Ostermeier’s Tench imprint. The piano instrumentals on still tend to meander somewhat with more liberated abstract forms whereas Tiny Birds is a more controlled series of repetitive melodic vignettes with variations—perceptive yet humble etudes with minimal embellishment or peregrinations—some more dulcet than others.

Despite their apparent simplicity there is still a great deal of subtle texture and depth in the recordings, and notwithstanding initial minimalist appearances, Ostermeier is quite adept at layering and revealing micro-sounds into his recordings, as in his earlier album The Rules of Another Small World.  Soundscapes can be taken in as a larger whole while in a place or one can focus on the intimate.

The overall mood in Tiny Birds is mostly comfort with varying passages ranging from delicate to vibrant, but never jarring.  The point of view is that of a bystander in quiet contemplation observing the moments, and as a result the music evokes visual memories.  I try to resist comparisons to the works of others, but this one locked in my head and I couldn’t shake it: there are connections with some of Satie’s works and the pace (without vocals) is reminiscent of Brian Eno’s two meditations: Julie With and By This River from his 1977 album Before and After Science.

 

Aside from Ostermeier’s piano and delicate melodic and percussive treatments, Christoph Berg enhances the first two tracks, glide and of a feather with deftly restrained violin accompaniments.  It also sounds like there might be some cello in the somewhat mournful flying south, adding weight to the depth of the long cyclical journey.  A piano is generally the foundation throughout, and in glide the violin moves in and out of earshot like a golden eagle riding thermals high-up in the sky on the edge of human sight.  Of a feather has slight chordal shifts and Berg responds to the piano phrases with a gentle sway.

m ostermeierIn summer days of my youth, some of my family used to help a farmer hay his fields and then methodically transfer hay bales from carts into an old barn loft while barn swallows were on the wing above in the rafters—this reminded me of those days, many years ago.  Alighted and above, in the breezes, is the watcher, with languid wind chimes below, in a subtle duet.  And as if in mid-conversation, duo picks up a somewhat less structured dialog between two birds in trees (is it an actual transcription?), like sometimes at dawn when windows are open and two great horned owls are conversing from opposite ends of the yard, or two robins singing their evening-song at dusk.  Some visceral low frequencies pass through this too.

The most musical piece on the album, flutter, is at first a duet, then a trio, perhaps even a quartet, with brisk playful variations on the original melody.  head cut off is a slow meandering stagger of sobering paired tones (no birds were harmed in the recording of this…I assume!).  Gentle rustling with more intimate microphone placement at the piano, nesting has a slightly voyeuristic quality of a webcam keeping an eye on birds and chicks in a tree, safe from dangers below while swaying quietly in the breezes.  The monotony of confinement is depicted in caged, where there are few changes with the passage of time.  Skitter has five, perhaps even six sections with both an untreated and a slightly phased piano, punctuated by pure tones in between the melodic phrases.  Twin crested peaks is a hypnotic call and response, with the regularity of an EKG taken at rest.

alba

albatross can have several meanings, a golf term (AKA double-eagle, a rare three under par—a bird reference!), a psychological burden or the majestic sea bird with an enormous wing span (up to an incredible 12 feet) and they are often long-lived.  There is a tagged female Laysan albatross named Wisdom that has returned to Midway Island for at least 63 years, and this year she mated and had another chick (estimated to be her 36th)– truly remarkable.  This closing track is graceful of flight and steady, yet it carries the enduring burden and insight gathered with the passage of time.

My favorite tracks on the album are: glide, of a feather, flying south and albatross.

****

This is a solicited review.


Salvatore Passaro – Overwhelming

SP Overwhelming Cover

Label: mopstudio  CD-R (Gatefold case with artwork by Mahnaz Esmaeili): MST 001  Time: 51:59

CD available at: http://www.mopstudio.com/site/

Digital files available at: https://salvatorepassaro.bandcamp.com/releases and at iTunes

Tracks: 1) Stone 2) Touch 3) A Light 4) Dream 5) Memory 6) Next 7) Circular 8)Blue 9) Overwhelming 10) Early Morning 11) Settembre 12) It Is 13) Trip 14) Sinestesia

There’s a somewhat enigmatic quality to this album: the instrumentation, what might have inspired the work and to a certain extent, Mr. Passaro himself.  What I do know is Italy-based Passaro’s last work, a collaboration with Carlo Cossu entitled Earth, was released approximately 15 years ago, and there are some excerpts from that collaboration scattered around the internet (which I chose not to sample).  Since I’m a bit of an equipment geek, I normally find background helpful, although I’m told by some musicians, “…never reveal your secrets…”  Despite the album’s title, Overwhelming is a relatively calm offering that exists within a fairly narrow emotional range, with minimal sonic distractions and melodic directions.  Whether spontaneous or scripted there are moments where Overwhelming leans toward the ambient music genre with an occasional sense of place, and others where it’s nearly sleep-inducing devoid of an identifiable physical realm, yet the music generally hovers somewhere in between.

Salvatore PassaroThe instrumentation (real and/or virtual?) appears to be primarily electric guitar, piano and some electronic keyboards with various effects and treatments.  The strongest sonic nudge is the opening track, Stone with purer sounds that are woven and sustained.  Only near the end more forceful tones and grit enter the soundscape.  Touch is more spacious with grainier qualities.  Then the album settles into a more pleasant, swaying and peaceful interlude with A Light, Dream, Memory and Next.  In this section places and memories are evoked with veiled sounds of a shoreline, wind, voices and the outdoors.  Next is the most restful.

Many of the pieces seem to be improvised with minimal underlying structure (I could be entirely wrong).  Circular has drifting voices co-mingling with piano and keyboards.  Blue continues with even more random bell-like notes (perhaps on a heavily processed piano) until there appears to be momentary references to Vangelis’ Memories of Green.  Ironically, the title track Overwhelming is one of the more sedate pieces on the album with gently rolling voices mixed with guitar and keyboards.  Whereas, relatively true to its title, Early Morning has sounds emerging and blending much like the rising Sun as colors of a new day are gradually revealed as darkness wanes.  Settembre is plucky, gritty and random.  Phased, flanged and wandering is It Is, and Trip gently winds-up and then coasts with scenery wisping by in slow-motion.  Sinestesia closes the album and is the haziest, layered and trance-inducing track, and it doesn’t stray far from its central sonic focus.

 

The CD version of the album is available directly from the artist at the website noted above with digital versions available at Bandcamp and iTunes.

****

This is a solicited review.


Western Skies Motel – Buried and Resurfaced

WSM - B & R

Twice Removed TR051 CD-R Time: 29:21

Label: https://twicerememberedtwiceremoved.bandcamp.com/

Artist: https://westernskiesmotel.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Western-Skies-Motel-310816295732546/

Tracks: 1) Awakening 2) Black Sea 3) The Quiet Rust 4) Passage 5) Echoes 6) Behind These Walls 7) Thaw 8) Distances

Buried and Resurfaced is the final release, of 60 albums and EPs, from the Twice Removed record label.  Label curator Gavin Catling, in far away (from me) Perth (western) Australia, has done a fine job of bringing artists and musicians to our attention since 2011, and I’m sorry to see him put the label to bed, but understand his desire and need to bring the project to an end.

 

This album arrived here at an interesting moment; I had recently done some reading on the gradual and tragic decline of the Aral Sea between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.  Some of what I have read and imagined about the decline of that landscape seems to have parallels in René Gonzalez Schelbeck’s musical creation, even the title.  I have also just seen Guy Maddin’s adventurous, liquid-time-bending and bizarre film, The Forbidden Room, and in many ways Buried and Resurfaced could have been a soundtrack for that film.  The film is an homage to old lost and often quirky movies, which Maddin reimagined, and they are collected as an amorphous omnibus that is almost beyond description and, at times, comprehension.

Another parallel to Buried is it can be beheld as either individual pieces or part of a larger whole with a real or imagined narrative.  The tape-decayed and modulated passages in Buried blend remarkably well with Maddin’s visuals (firmly planted in my memory—it’s an intense film).  The possible album storylines I have posited are two possible accounts, but there are many others, despite what might be the actual intent (if any) of RG Schelbeck.

Rene Gonzalez Schelbeck

There is an ancient and mysterious quality to the music from the start.  Tape decay and flutter produces wrinkles in the perceived time continuum.  The electric guitar is also well disguised with bowing, modulation, and effects, often yielding qualities akin to a long-neglected Mellotron or Chamberlin.

Awakening is the languid preparation for the journey and pending storm.  Black Sea has a dark foundation and buffets with macabre winds lashing a hull at sea and occasional sonic breaching of the portholes (this piece is an especially perfect match for Maddin’s film).  Quiet Rust is a peaceful yet unsettling aftermath to the storm with its sustained and reverberant atmosphere (this track is well mated with Schelbeck’s companion video: scenes of San Francisco after the devastating 1906 earthquake).  It also reminds me a bit of Kane Ikin’s and David Wenngren’s collaboration Chalk from their 2012 album Strangers.

Being cast adrift in an increasingly dense fog is the texture of Passage with expanding and layered dark droning strings.  Echoes pulses above and near before vibrating from the depths (a subwoofer helps to enhance this).  Sounds move near, then are distant and fade into the ether.  The most active and sweeping of the tracks is Behind These Walls, as if the storm of Black Sea returns, this time on land with squalls lashing relentlessly.  I think I hear the warm and familiar hum of a tube amplifier in Thaw, with the percussive plucking of strings, as if water is dripping from ice in a warming sunshine.  Buried and Resurfaced closes gently with the reflective and contemplative Distances with far off sounds of (perhaps field recordings of) nature absorbed into the haze.

 

My one criticism of the album (also a compliment), is the abbreviated timing of some of the pieces makes them seem rather elusive.  Just when settling into the immersive aura of the music, some tracks fade away too soon, and I was left hoping that each would last longer for a more deeply enhanced experience.  Perhaps extended versions might appear at some point in the future?

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Trailer to Guy Maddin’s The Forbidden Room

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This is a solicited review.