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Posts tagged “Instrumental

Review: Taylor Deupree – Faint

Record Label Website and Links: http://www.12k.com/ & http://www.taylordeupree.com/

http://www.12k.com/index.php/site/artists/taylor_deupree/

Taylor Deupree’s Discography: http://www.taylordeupree.com/music/

12k2025 (CD, Deluxe CD & Digital)

Tracks: CD1 57:17 1) Negative Snow; 2) Dreams of Stairs; 3) Thaw; 4) Shutter; 5) Sundown & CD2 38:38 1) Thaw (Reprise)

Whether it’s his music, photography, collaborations, and even the work from his record label 12k, Taylor Deupree is an Artist (emphasis on capital A).  I’m a relative late-comer to his work, and I’m not even quite sure how that I came across his work or the 12k label, but I think that it had something to do with a 12k sampler CD, and then as I often do, I took a dive into his back catalog, focusing on physical releases (since those tend to be my preference—I’m old fashioned that way).

While Deupree has an extensive solo output, he also is an active collaborator with a wide range of artists (follow the discography link I noted above) in addition to many other musicians not listed for concerts and tours.  He also actively experiments with new approaches and directions in his work—reinvention invigorates.  Just as in his musical works, there is a peaceful desolation in his photography.  I’m drawn to many of his photos, especially his landscapes (I’m fortunate to have a copy of his book of photos and CD Sea Last), but this is one of my favorites:

Moss, Kyoto (linked from Taylor Deupree’s website)

I also enjoy his Instagram photos posts, many of them are taken on outings in the woods, the fields and a reservoir nearby his home.  It’s evident in his mastering of his own work and those of other musicians that the quality of the sound is important too (I often seek out music, not only for the artist, but the studio, sound engineer, producer and mastering engineer).  Each release by 12k, whether CD, LP, standard or deluxe edition, receives special attention in the design, execution and promotion of the work.  I admire this greatly—the time and attention is worth the money and the effort.

Faint is Taylor Deupree’s new album.  It’s available in the latest 12k packaging as a standard release, as digital files or in a deluxe edition (pictured here) with a second CD of extended version of the track Thaw as well as twelve prints of photos taken by Deupree with a handmade camera.  Faint overall is more restrained and pared-down to elemental sounds (though not at all stark) compared to his other recent work, yet it has a warmth that makes this album deeply comforting (hints of this are in the track titles).  I’m not sure of the timeline in the recording of this album (beyond that it was recorded over a two year time span), but there are similarities in Negative Snow to the environment in Simon Scott’s expansive album Below Sea Level.  It’s like taking a walk in a field that still has a foot in Winter, but the cold is subsiding in the sun and streams are returning to refill vernal pools.

Dream of Stairs is a gorgeous track with a lightly guiding keyboard thread (sounding like a Fender Rhodes piano) weaving through whispers of treatments, gentle guitars, remote looped voices, and ephemeral sounds of an almost intangible reality that might be captured on the edges of a dream.

 

Thaw (with a longer reprise on CD2 in the deluxe issue, akin to Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon) has a broader aura, like a fog lifting on an very early Spring morning where the air is warmer than the still-frozen ground.  There is an ethereal suspension into which a distant organ-like sound appears and retracts back into the haze—like gentle waves on a flat sand beach.  It has an ancient and mysterious sound like that in Creation du Monde, a very early post-Aphrodite’s Child soundtrack by Vangelis.  Shutter has a hazy analog-reverberant foundation behind a placid and heavily treated electric guitar solo that is later joined by gentle reminders of Dream of…  Sundown at first is a like a quiet seascape, watching distant ships passing and hearing far-off signals as a day draws to a close.  Closer sounds enter to illuminate the scene, like fleeting afterglows that fill a sky once the sun disappears below the horizon—nature’s reverberation of what was, before entering darkness.

It’s a restful and warm journey.


Review: Naked Truth – Ouroboros

RealNoiseRecords RNR029 (CD & Digital) Time: 49:51

Record Label Websites: http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/

Sound Samples: http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/jukebox/naked-truth/ouroboros/

Tracks: 1) Dust; 2) Dancing With The Demons Of Reality; 3) Garden Ghosts; 4) Orange; 5) Right Of Nightly Passage; 6) Yang Ming Has Passed; 7) In A Dead End With Joe; 8) Neither I

Ouroboros, the eternal consuming and replenishing serpent can be seen in the singular (nothing outside of itself) or in a broader societal context.  In this case, my interpretation is more of a collective urban consciousness.  This is an album of motion, not of rest, an album of experiences, not of contemplation (at least until after the intense experience is over).  It’s a fusion-brew of industrial, urban and cosmic sounds, and a potent follow-up to the 2011 album Shizaru (the lesser-known fourth primate of see, hear, speak, and DO no evil).

Graham Haynes has joined the Naked Truth quartet on electric cornet and trumpet (following Cuong Vu’s departure) along with original members, King Crimson alum drummer Pat Mastelotto, English keyboardist Roy Powell, and Italian Lorenzo Feliciati on electric bass and guitars.

Shizaru from 2011

First a warning: Prepare your audio system (and your ears) for a workout.  Ouroboros will shake out the cobwebs.  The opening track Dust is the warm-up, the testing of the systems.  It’s a more keyboard dominant, brass punctuated bookend before entering the fuzzed sonic maelstrom.  It has the atavistic fibers of many eras, and I’m old enough to have been around for the many incarnations of King Crimson, Weather Report and other Jazz-Fusion, Progressive Rock variants, and it’s all there–the solid musicianship and the sometimes angst-filled drive.  There’s also a hint of Miroslav Vitous’s 1976 spacey funk inspired album, Magical Shepherd.

Track One: Dust

 

Next, place yourself in a traffic jam with an impetuous case of not-so-mild road rage (in the aggressive spirit of KC’s Neurotica, sans vocals), and that’s Dancing With The Demons Of Reality.  The pauses are the waiting at traffic lights, restoring momentary sanity, but tension builds with pressurized chromatics, electronics and percussion before subsiding.  Garden Ghosts is a respite; at first a progression of sonic fragments, a meandering prepared piano, percussion and fuzz-bass.  The trumpet is the roaming spirit joined by a languid beat, murky electronics and guitar background; ultimately it ends as a brass-teasing percussive danse macabre.

At the start of Orange it’s disguised as an atmospheric piece, a quiet evening perhaps—serenade with cornet, but then diverts quickly with syncopated rhythms (bass, guitar and keyboards reminiscent of Kazumi Watanabe’s work), before returning to the more sedate themes.  Right Of Nightly Passage is an instrumental recasting of the driving rhythmic “heat in the jungle” anagram.  Clustered horns interlace with the cadence of the frenetic scene.  The spirit of Miles Davis’s later more electronic work is channeled in Yang Ming Has Passed.  It’s a menacing and deeply rhythmic piece (sounding like it could be dock-side in a shipping yard) with traded riffs between bass, percussion and trumpet meshed together by a high-cover of electronics.

The heavy backbeat continues in the darkly raucous In A Dead End With Joe.  The trumpet soars and trills against the syncopated drums, electric guitar and keyboard phrases.  Neither I is the other keyboard-textured closing bookend of the album.  It displays some Far Eastern influences, and is more experimental and atmospheric with clustered brass, melodic percussion and roving piano before finding its beat.  By contrast to the rest of the album, it closes with a gentle yet furtive purity.

Ouroboros is an adventurous and deliciously brash album that reveals glimpses of the eternal and sometimes daunting cycle of existence from different perspectives.  Naked Truth is a sturdy, tight and vibrant quartet, and I’ll be very interested to see and hear where they take us next.

Naked Truth – courtesy of RareNoiseRecords

****

This is a solicited review.


Updated: What’s Spinning Today – Robin Guthrie, Olan Mill, Machinefabriek and A Winged Victory For The Sullen

Robin Guthrie – Fortune ***Updated with Souncloud link sample***

Soleil après minuit – SM1203CD – CD and 300 copies forthcoming on Vinyl

Robin Guthrie, long ago, moved on from his work with Cocteau Twins.  Some fans want him to keep looking back, but frankly, I’m glad that he has continued on with his own work (albums and EPs) and numerous collaborations with Harold Budd, Eraldo Bernocchi and others as well as film soundtracks.  Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy my CT albums, and nothing is more searing, emotionally than the CT track (from their last album, Milk and KissesViolaine.

Fortune is a personal work, putting his life, emotions and experiences into his layered, chorus-and-echo-filled guitar sound.  I sense intense memories too.  I find that Guthrie’s work is filled with sound-color, which is also why I am so drawn to it.  My favorites include the languid ladybird, the refreshing like water in water, the tender and deeply-toned melody of perfume and youth, and and so to sleep, my little ones, which picks up where the EP Songs To Help My Children Sleep leaves off—enchanting.

 

Artist Website: http://robinguthrie.com/

Available also at: http://darla.com/?fuseaction=item_cat.ecom_superitem_detail&item_cat_id=41313

****

Olan Mill – Home

Preservation CIRCA512 – limited 300 copy CD release and Digital

With each Olan Mill release, I am drawn all the more to their work.  There is a subtle lag between rhythms, melodies and harmonies that gives a tidal flow, similar to some works of Ralph Vaughn Williams or Claude Debussy.  Also, I’m not sure how this will be taken by some current listeners of this genre, but some of Olan Mill’s work reminds me of early to mid 1970s compositions of Evangelos Papathanassiou’s, especially the soundtrack to the Frédéric Rossif  film La Fête Sauvage.

Record Label: http://www.preservation.com.au/product/olan-mill-home

 

Album overview at Experimedia:

 

****

Machinefabriek – Secret Photographs

Important Records – IMPREC366 – CD and Digital

This is a three track (more than 70 minute) soundtrack for a forthcoming film about Alvin Karpis (notorious bank robber and longest serving prisoner at Alcatraz Prison) by Mike Hoolboom.  Karpis was released from prison in 1969, moved to Spain and wrote a memoir.  He took photographs in the closing years of his life, and never shared his work with anyone until the collection was found for sale on ebay.  Rutger Zuyderfelt’s response to the work is separated into three parts (black and white, color and black and white).  It is a subtle guitar and electronics-based composition that gives the sense of taking a hushed and private tour through chambers of secluded memories.

 

Artist Websites:

http://www.machinefabriek.nu & http://machinefabriek.bandcamp.com/album/secret-photographs

****

A Winged Victory for the Sullen – A Winged Victory for the Sullen

Erased Tapes – ERATP032 – Vinyl, CD and Digital Files

Released about a year ago, the eponymous A Winged Victory for the Sullen album is the work of Stars of the Lid’s Adam Wiltzie and LA composer Dustin Halloran.  I didn’t realize that there was a connection between Adam and Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse), but it was ultimately that connection and colleague Francesco Donadello that brought …Winged Victory… together.  Large spaces, grand pianos, string quartets and delicate woodwinds and brass are the framework for this lush and stunning album.

 

Artist Website: http://www.awvfts.com/

Record Label: http://www.erasedtapes.com/artists/biography/16/A+Winged+Victory+For+The+Sullen


Some Recent Kitchen. Label Releases

Record Label Website: http://www.kitchen-label.com/

Soundcloud Page (Excerpts of Albums): http://soundcloud.com/kitchen-label/sets

Available at: http://www.darla.com/

I am always on the lookout for new music, especially from record labels that are doing something different, something special, and I don’t mind spending extra money for well crafted, limited or richly illustrated art editions.  In a way, it’s my reaction against the trend of digital only releases, which include not only music, but e-books (I still prefer finely crafted, bound books).

I’ve missed some of Kitchen. Label’s earlier releases that have gone out of print, but to date I have acquired four albums from their US distributor, Darla (their first release being in 2008 and they are an outgrowth of their design firm Kitchen, founded in 2005).  K.L is based in Singapore and specializes in releasing art-editions of talented emerging artists, and label founders Ricks Ang and April Lee take great care in all aspects of their work, from the engineering of the recordings to the diverse and creative designs.

***

ASPIDISTRAFLY – A Little Fable – Kl-007 – 2011

ASPIDISTRAFLY is composer and vocalist April Lee and producer Ricks Ang, and their work tells charming and delicate stories.  Their second album A Little Fable was released in 2011 and it has the presence of a secret garden.  I find the depth and airy quality of Homeward Waltz to be particularly enchanting–it’s like chamber music.  Their first album I Hold A Wish For You was also released on K.L.

Homeward Waltz

 

Landscape With A Fairy

 

***

FJORDNE – Charles Rendition – Kl-006 – 2011

FJORDNE is the solo project of Tokyo-based composer, Fujimoto Shunichiro.  His work has a timeless richness that is brought to life with acoustic instruments and a laptop computer.  Music for a quiet night of contemplation.  Charles Rendition is his 5th album.

Constellation Live

 

Gathering

 

***

Pill-Oh – Vanishing Mirror – Kl-010 – 2012

Pill-Oh consists of electronic artist Hior Chronik and classical pianist Zinovia Arvanitidi, both from Greece have been working together since 2009.  They each have established solo careers of composing for theater, film, documentaries, and art performances.  Zinovia is recording her 2nd solo orchestral album, to be released within 2012.  Their album Vanishing Mirror is like the soft and hopeful first-light of a spring day.  The feeling is sometimes reflective, but not sentimental.  In this music there is restful comfort along with accomplished musicianship.  The track Melodico is my favorite.

February Tale

 

Melodico

 

***

Szymon Kaliski – From Scattered Accidents – KL-011 – 2012

Szymon Kaliski is a multi-media artist from Poland.  From Scattered Accidents is his fourth album.  His work combines familiar acoustic and invented instrumentation.  His work has a tranquility that often evokes a suspension of time within a vast sonic depth of field.

Of Symmetry

 

Interlude I (with Peter Broderick)

 

***

The music at Kitchen. Label is never strident, but it can challenge some norms of straight-up ambient, post-classical or electro-acoustic genres.  There are even some jazz influences (FJORDNE, especially), yet the compositions are often ethereal and filled with memories of nature and surroundings of daily life—rediscovering the forgotten in the familiar.


Review: Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited II

InsideOut Music 0506240 (Ltd 2 CD & Book, also 2 CD & 4 LP)

Time: CD 1: 73:18 CD 2: 71:27 minutes

Record Label Website:

http://www.insideoutmusic.com/ & http://www.insideoutmusic.com/artist.aspx?IdArtist=458

Artist Websites:

http://www.hackettsongs.com/ & http://hackettsongs.sandbag.uk.com/

Photos of Musicians on the Album:

http://www.hackettsongs.com/gallerySub/gallery82.html

Tracks CD 1:  1) The Chamber of 32 Doors; 2) Horizons; 3) Supper’s Ready; 4) The Lamia; 5) Dancing With the Moonlit Knight; 6) Fly on a Windshield; 7) Broadway Melody of 1974; 8) The Musical Box; 9) Can-utility and the Coastliners; 10) Please Don’t Touch

Tracks CD 2:  1) Blood on the Rooftops; 2) The Return of the Giant Hogweed; 3) Entangled; 4) Eleventh Earl of Mar; 5) Ripples; 6) Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers…; 7) …In That Quiet Earth; 8) Afterglow; 9) A Tower Struck Down; 10) Camino Royale; 11) Shadow of the Hierophant

It has been 16 years and many life changes since the last Genesis Revisited album by Steve Hackett (subtitled Watcher of the Skies) in 1996.  Although the span of time recounted musically is similar, 1971 through 1976; the breadth of the work on GRII is far more comprehensive.  It’s also worth noting that in 1987 Steve was a special guest on an orchestral reinterpretation album of Genesis work, We Know What We Like: The Music of Genesis (led by arranger David Palmer conducting The London Symphony Orchestra), although in that case it includes works after Steve had left the band (from albums And Then There Were Three and Duke).  On that album is perhaps the best example of how well the work of Genesis transfers to an orchestral format: Can-utility and the Coastliners.  As much as I love the instrumental section with waves of Mellotron on the original recording, the full orchestra adds great depth and power to that track.

I’ve read (and I’m paraphrasing) that Steve didn’t want to literally re-record these works (as some Genesis tribute bands so painstakingly perform), rather enhance them with the lens of time, since many were recorded somewhat hastily between concert tours in the 1970s.  Another added benefit is that some recording technologies have improved, and this is quite clear in the warmth and clarity of GRII.  Frankly, I rather liked many of the reinterpretations on the last GR album, and there was the added track Déjà vu originally penned by Peter Gabriel and SH, then set-aside, to be revived and beautifully completed with Paul Carrack’s vocals.

As much as I wanted the limited 4 LP vinyl set, I opted for the 2 CD version along with the extensively illustrated and annotated small format hardbound book—a quite worthy trade-off (designed by Harry Pearce of Pentagram Design).  It’s clear that this album was an enormous undertaking (with a special mention for the co-production, recording and mixing by collaborator and keyboardist, Roger King), with some 30 guest musicians and vocalists (including brother John Hackett, SH Band alum Nick Magnus, and the members of the most recent touring and recording SH Band: Roger King, Gary O’Toole, Nick Beggs, Amanda Lehmann and Rob Townsend).  I have provided a link above to a page on the SH Website showing a complete list (with photos) of all who participated on GRII.  A matrix of the album track performers in included in the credits.

Throughout the album there are a number of acoustic guitar introductions (like the opening to the potent The Chamber of 32 Doors), variations and electric guitar solo fills by Steve that are not on the original recordings; they reflect journeys and musical influences from his many years as an artist.  Horizons and Supper’s Ready are preserved in their pairing from the original Side B of Foxtrot.  The solo acoustic guitar of Horizons has long been a mainstay of Steve’s live shows since the early days of his solo career, and here it’s just as pure, unrushed and striking as a morning sunrise or evening sunset at one’s favorite place to be.  The vocals and instruments on Supper’s Ready are powerful, clear and Steve’s guitar is “up” in the mix (as it is on much of the album).  The treatment greatly invigorates the original, and made me want to take the time to listen to the entirety of the track repeatedly.  The Apocalypse in 9/8 and the closing section of As sure as eggs is eggs (aching men’s feet) just sends chills up the spine as from those concert days long ago.

The purity of Nik Kershaw’s vocals on The Lamia is different from Peter Gabriel’s more raspy treatment of the song, and to my ear it’s a stunning performance (brighter than the original).  Again, the instrumentals have a clarity superior to the original (although, I’ll never turn my back on the Charisma/ATCO recording of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway—too many aural historic memories there).  SH’s closing solo echoes the original while adding a smooth lyricism.  I’d be interested in knowing how and why Kershaw was chosen for the track.  After a brief acoustic guitar link of Greensleeves, Francis Dunnery’s (It Bites et al) vocals on Dancing With the Moonlit Knight are probably the closest to channeling Peter Gabriel and the Selling England by the Pound performance as on any of the album’s tracks.  As has been the case during recent concerts, drummer Gary O’Toole performs the vocals on the Lamb’s two tracks Fly on a Windshield and Broadway Melody of 1974.  Both are broad and authoritative performances.  O’Toole’s voice is his own.

I have always wondered why Anthony Phillips isn’t credited as a songwriter on The Musical Box, since he and Mike Rutherford wrote and recorded the early demos in 1968, when the track was known as F Sharp, but anyway…  TMB opens with an almost Raymond Scott-like musical box fantasy, before entering into the realm of the long ago Nursery Cryme album.  Sung by Nad Sylvan (who also provides vocals on Chamber and Eleventh Earl), this interpretation has an intimate sound, chamber-music-like, with clustered and freer vocals, before breaking into the raucous guitar-centric bridge and to the familiar closing that was performed in concerts during the mid to late 1970s.

As noted above, I think one of the most powerful and diverse Genesis tracks from the early days, which is frequently overshadowed by Watcher of the Skies or Supper’s Ready, is Can-utility and the Coastliners.  Steven Wilson (solo and Porcupine Tree) provides the vocals.  This version has the “soft bits and loud bits” and combines the oceanic strings (violins/violas) and bass pedals with the rawness of FoxtrotPlease Don’t Touch (from the 1978 album) closes CD 1 and was a track originally to have been linked with the instrumental Wot Gorilla on the 1976 album Wind and Wuthering.  One of the reasons SH left Genesis (well documented) was he felt at that time his contributions to the band were being overlooked, so when he appeared officially as a solo artist, this track was the perfect, aptly named, composition to strike out on his own.  It has had many incarnations, including sections of a 1986 track Hackett to Bits from the eponymous GTR album with Steve Howe et al.  I remember concerts from the late 1970s and early 80s that would end with this track at ear-splitting volumes.  This version is dark and authoritative.

CD 2 contains many tracks co-written with single Genesis members rather than the full band (exception is Hogweed and In That Quiet Earth), and one of my personal favorites is the timeless (and still topical) track penned with Phil Collins, Blood on the Rooftops.  For years, SH played small sections of this track as a teaser during his acoustic “breaks” at concerts, and then in the early 2000s, the full track appeared in concerts and live recordings.  This piece has a great deal of meaning to me—like entering a time machine to another place.  Steve opens with a small fantasy on his nylon string guitar before the track begins, and I consider it a great gift to his fans that it has been recorded again (vocals by Gary O’Toole and woodwinds by Rob Townsend).

The Return of the Giant Hogweed is a different type of track in the Genesis oeuvre that starts with an attack (or rather, an infestation!).  It also displays SH’s early fret-tapping technique.  Although this video is not the recording from the album, it has a similar spirit and same vocalist, Neal Morse (taken from the 2010 High Voltage Festival by Transatlantic with SH as the guest guitarist).

 

Entangled was written by Hackett and Tony Banks—the dreams and nightmares of an altered mind.  The vocals (fuller than on A Trick of the Tail) are by Jakko Jakszyk with backing vocals by Amanda Lehmann (guitarist and vocalist in the SH Band, and Jo Hackett’s sister).  Eleventh Earl of Mar (Banks, Hackett, Rutherford) has a much deeper and clearer sound that I always found lacking in the original recording (and all of the reissues…for some reason the David Hentschel engineering that sounded so great in the Seconds Out live album, just sounded so flat and compressed).  Nad Sylvan also adds layers to the spirit of the original Phil Collins vocal harmonies and channels the voice of Noel McCalla at times.  Nick Beggs’ bass energetically drives the piece.  Amanda Lehmann skillfully adapts the Collins’ vocals on Ripples, adding lyrical depth to the chorus (also a tribute to the engineering, recording and mixing of co-producer Roger King).  The instrumental sections are faithful to the original.  Lehmann returns again on the closing track Shadow of the Hierophant, which was co-written by SH and Mike Rutherford on Hackett’s first solo album from 1975, Voyage of the Acolyte.

Grouped together are (Hackett and Rutherford’s) Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers…, followed by the group-written …In That Quiet Earth, and Tony Banks’s deeply melancholic Afterglow, the closing tracks of the last official album that Hackett recorded with Genesis (excluding the 1977, 12 inch EP Spot The Pigeon).  SH improvises more freely on his guitar in …Quiet Earth and the solos that close (including Rob Townsend’s soprano sax) are more rugged than the original.  The strong and familiar voice of John Wetton anchors the close of the trio from W&W.

 

It’s exciting to hear a reinvented A Tower Struck Down (from 1975’s VotA) with a true orchestral opening (Dick Driver on double bass, Rachel Ford on cello, Christine Townsend on violin and viola and John Hackett on flute).  The solid bones of the Tower from Acolyte are present, but in a completely different, even darker skin.  Steve Hackett notes that he had dreams of Genesis playing the chorus of Camino Royale (written by SH & Nick Magnus).  This track dates from the 1982 solo album Highly Strung, and was always a great concert piece, from when Nick collaborated with Steve in the late 1970s and 1980s—full of spirit and rhythmic precision, a great addition to this collection.  This track also includes jazz influences from the Hungarian band Djabe (Steve has collaborated with Djabe on some of their recent albums and concerts).  As does Voyage of the Acolyte, Genesis Revisited II closes with Shadow of the Hierophant.  This version is more up-tempo and potent, and Rob Townsend’s flute peregrinates throughout the shadows.  It closes as it has since it was first recorded with the hierophant traveling on the long journey of seeking and interpreting the sacred and the arcane.

The one thing some (purist) listeners might find missing in GRII is the grittiness of the original recordings, but the defects of these compositions from long ago have been deftly exorcized, and the sonic foundations treated with such care that Hackett not only preserves the legacy of his former band, but enhances it for future listeners.  These recordings are not meant to replace the originals; they are akin to variations by composers of the past.  In a way, Steve Hackett is the archivist of the musical spirit of Genesis from that time.  Sit back and enjoy this brilliantly crafted set of recordings with all the 21st century enhancements.  You will not be disappointed.

The Hackett Band will be on tour with many of these recordings in Europe, the UK and America in 2013.  I can’t wait!

Steve Hackett in 1981 – Spectral Mornings © by wajobu


Review: Roger Eno – Ted Sheldrake

Backwater Records OLKCD023 – Time: About 42 minutes (CD & Digital Files)

Record Label Website: http://www.backwaterrecords.com/

Artist Websites: http://rogereno.co.uk/ and http://rogereno.com/

Tracks:  1) You’re Just A Bloke; 2) All In A Garden; 3) The Old Queen’s Head; 4) There’s Something Wrong With Ted; 5) The Cold Night Is Over; 6) Marrers; 7) My Old Bike; 8) You’re Just A Bloke (Ted); 9) Moon Waltz; 10) Ever True; 11) Sally; 12) Bittersweet; 13) Ted’s Funeral Music

I find it hard to believe that my original LP copy of Apollo (Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno) will be thirty years old in 2013, but there it is—one of the great albums of the ambient music genre.  When I think of Roger Eno’s music over the years, three words come to mind: thoughtful, quirky and sometimes playful.  Whether lyric or instrumental, RE’s works tell stories that can either be tightly sewn threads or loosely knitted yarns.  Often, the subjects are quiet ruminations, but they can also be spirited and cheerful.  His works can also be rather enigmatic, as noted in an autobiographical analysis from his website: [He is] “On an ongoing and heterogeneous musical journey which twists and turns and goes whichever way you think it won’t.”

Roger Eno entered the professional music scene with Apollo after music lessons and college to study music (as a multi-instrumentalist and singer), as well as running a music therapy course at a local hospital.  In addition to working with his brother Brian, Roger has collaborated with artists including Bill Nelson, Kate St. John, Lol Hammond, Peter Hammill and Michael Brook, and has provided soundtracks for films and advertisements.

RE’s most memorable albums for me (of his 25 or so) include: Voices (1985), The Familiar (w/ Kate St. John, 1993), Automatic and Excellent Spirits (both with Channel Light Vessel, 1994 and 1996), Lost In Translation (1995), Swimming (1996), The Music of Neglected English Composers (1997), and more recently Fragile (Music) (2005), Anatomy (2008) and Flood (2008, a reinterpretation of a soundtrack constructed for Salthouse Art Festival in North Norfolk).  I hope that Roger works again with Kate St. John and Bill Nelson; their work together on The Familiar is some of the most touching and enchantingly inspired work that I have in my music collection.

Ted Sheldrake is a departure from Roger Eno’s instrumental ambient work; originally a quiet neighbor and later a friend, it’s a tribute to a life, and even though it takes place in recent times, it could have just as easily taken place a hundred years ago—in many respects it did.  It’s a familiar story in literature as well.  In Victorian times, Richard Jefferies told the stories of common labourers, from the farm fields in his books like Green Ferne FarmRound About A Great Estate (both from 1880), The Life Of The Fields (1884), and in newspaper articles during that time in the late 19th century.  In the first half of the 20th century Henry Williamson also wrote of life in a West Devon village known as Ham (The Village Book and The Labouring Life in 1930 and 1932, respectively) and described the country life in the narrow village streets, fields and hedgerows, “local colour”, and stories of the “everyman”.

The compiled, mostly song-oriented work traces Ted in East Anglia (Suffolk and Norfolk, UK), being from a family of hearty stock, farm labourers and fishermen, and he spent his years working on an estate and living in a village where the pace of life was slower and the work was hard, but satisfying.  In his younger days Ted learned to play a melodeon (hand organ), and as the years passed he became known for composing and performing songs in local pubs and village halls.  In his later years, following his retirement, TS suffered the loss of his beloved wife, and something changed in him and it comes through in his music.

 

The album is divided, the way I see it, into two sections (observations and then reflections) and includes a number of recordings (songs, spoken word with accompaniment, and instrumental) made on location with cast of characters and talent connected to his life.

You’re Just A Bloke is an introduction to Ted’s work through the voices of others; a group interpretation of this universal and common man.  This is the first indication that Ted’s work and life isn’t embellished with ornate descriptions, he’s the “real stuff”, with genuine words.  Village life includes folks gathering in thatched cob or flint-walled cottages, village halls or pubs, and the jolly and perceptive All In A Garden brings this experience to life.  Ted’s songs are also a bit like tiny memoirs, recounting special occasions and getting spiffed-up for The Old Queen’s Head.

As time passes, Ted’s meager existence and loss of friends weighs on him.  Some around him sense a change in his countenance.  There’s Something Wrong With Ted tells the worry of a friend, layered austerely with piano and a keyboard.  The Cold Night Is Over is the beginning of Ted’s reflections of melancholy and pastoral memories of the farm fields and long views to the sea.  Marrers (marrows or zucchinis) is perhaps the most beautiful track on the album—deeply reflective, and one of the main reasons Ted would still rise in the morning—for his garden; at first a lone piano, then an open and sincere expression of longing.  The melodic theme is expanded modestly (and somewhat cheerfully at first), this time overlaid with memories in My Old Bike.  Ted’s is a simple life in the village, never needing to leave East Anglia, and now missing his dear wife.

 

The original version of You’re Just A Bloke is rendered by Ted—directly, perhaps even more so than Hemingway.  The last section of songs (with piano) present Ted’s most personal feelings, the endearing yet untrained voice, and uncomplicated romanticism of Moon Waltz and Ever TrueSally is an instrumental tribute to his wife, which is proud and forthright.  Bittersweet is apparently Ted’s last song, interpreted by an ensemble of his mates (documented by local schoolteacher Miss Kemp—Ted didn’t write music, he just played it).  The final tribute to his life is the piece Ted’s Funeral Music, which sounds like it’s played on an old harmonium or church organ.

So, slow the world down, set a spell, and get to know Ted Sheldrake and his humble existence.  He might turn out to be someone you know, and it’s a simply delightful chronicle.

Ted Sheldrake will be released on January 7th, 2013.


Review: Good Weather For An Airstrike – Lights

Sound In Silence SIS011 – Time: About 40 minutes (CDr & Digital Files)

Record Label Website & Contact: https://www.facebook.com/soundinsilencerecords & http://www.myspace.com/soundinsilencerecords E-Mail: soundinsilence@hotmail.com

Artist Website: http://goodweatherforanairstrike.bandcamp.com/

Tracks: 1) A Quiet Day; 2) Thinking Of You; 3) Storm Fronts Collide; 4) The King XXVI; 5) One Of These Days; 6) Escape; 7) An Ode To Fring; 8) Rescue

The sounds that keep one up at night; they could be the house creaking, babies crying, traffic on the streets, the sounds of animals stirring outdoors, and my personal favorite the hoots of owls sending messages to each other in the dark.  In the case of Tom Honey (aka Good Weather For An Airstrike), what keeps him up at night is the ringing in his ears—tinnitus.  So, in 2009 Tom started his GWFAA music project as a means to help him relax and get to sleep (sounds like a candidate for a Slaapwel project too).  I know of at least six releases by GWFAA since 2009 (with labels Hibernate, Rural Colors, Bad Panda, Audio Gourmet, Sonic Reverie and his own Hawk Moon Records), but I’m sure that there are more, including his most recent and lovely tribute EP to his wife Lauren entitled This Is As Good A Place As Any.

His latest album Lights is to be released by the small independent Greek record label Sound In Silence (their contact information is noted above) in a hand made sleeve and is limited to 200 copies.  The album is arranged a bit like a meditation session, with instrumentation including guitar, banjo, strings, piano and percussion.  The sound is steadier and fuller than many recent ambient albums, and I’ll resist the temptation to compare GWFAA’s sound to the works of others.

A Quiet Day begins softly before introducing a calming and guiding pulse with a mantra first from a piano and then supplemented by gentle percussion.  Once in a more focused state Lights goes deeper, into the tranquil canon-like Thinking Of You.  There isn’t a feeling of yearning here for what cannot be or the unattainable; there is just an idyllic state of belonging.

Thinking Of You

 

As with any period of slumber, the brain still sends signals to be processed, and periodically there are voices, broadcasts and sounds that appear to be sorted-out.  Dreams send flashes that are discernible and other times are fleeting and out of reach.  Storm Fronts Collide returns to the time of the Paris Peace Accords and the VietNam War in 1973—voices from the past (forgotten by some and unknown to others, except those who lived through those times); the codified yet unratified tragic melancholy that sometimes enters the drifting mind.  The King XXVI and One Of These Days are also brief episodes in the sequence of reverie with the sounds of the outdoors and the cheerful voices of children.

Escape is a transition to the last section of the album, an arrival at pleasant and calmer memories.  The mind is no longer distracted and has returned to the center in An Ode To Fring, perhaps from halcyon recollections of East Anglia, Norfolk.  Rescue closes the album, and it is both the final state of slumber and the slow return to the conscious world.  The opening theme of the album is more broadly reprised like the rising sun not yet seen, but still a signal to an awakening.  Enjoy your travels, and the weather.

Photo Courtesy of Sound In Silence

****

This is a solicited review


Review: Will Samson – Balance *UPDATED with VIDEO*

Karaoke Kalk 69LP – Time: About 34 minutes (LP, CD & Digital Files)

Record Label Website:

http://www.karaokekalk.de/ & http://www.karaokekalk.de/will-samson-balance/

Artist Websites:

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

Recorded & Mixed By: Florian Frenzel & Will Samson  Mastered By: Nils Frahm

Tracks:  1) Oceans Are Wilder; 2) Cathedrals; 3) Hunting Shadows; 4) Eat Sleep Travel, Repeat; 5) Painting A Horizon; 6) Music For Autumn; 7) Storms Above The Submarine; 8) Dusty Old Plane

Some may recall my review of Will Samson’s last album Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends (there’s a link to it on the right of this page, near the bottom of the list or use the Search box).  HFGF was timely; it rang like a beacon of hope.  It was a pretty special thing to think that a 20-something had such an affect on this 50-something, but there are all kinds of wisdom floating around and sometimes age really doesn’t matter.  I don’t mind admitting this at all, as it has been music that has helped me at many times throughout my journey in this life.  So, at the first mention from Will that he had another album in the works, I was excited; resisting temptation to listen to early previews, preferring to wait for its full and formal release.  So, I ordered the LP, with the striking cover photo by Scott McClarin.

It was worth the wait.

From the first celeste (vibraphone?) notes and soft vocal harmonies of Oceans Are Wilder, I knew that there was a great synergy in Will’s work with Florian Frenzel and Nils Frahm—complementing the music and lyrics so well.  As the album progresses it moves from a soft state of consciousness to a deeper meditation (with one brief diversion).  There is a lovely balance of instrumentation, vocals, ambient sounds and the outdoors.  These are songs of friendship, strange journeys, and visits to places real and imagined.  The mix of six vocal songs and two instrumental respites is a bit like Nick Drake’s second album, Bryter Layter.

 

Samson continues to use his upper register (and falsetto) voices prominently, although there are times when full-throated harmonies are blended.  Vocals are also fuller in the mix of this album, and the overall sound is different; the result of using venerable analogue equipment, tapes (old cassettes, a Tascam 8-track) and working with Florian Frenzel’s salvaged organs, analogue tape delays and old microphones.

The ambiance of the analogue equipment is strongly present in Cathedrals, it gives a misty quality to the sound, a sense of the ancient, like the foxed pages and deckled-edges of aged books or the opening title sequence to an old film.  In particular, I think the layering of sound is particularly strong, starting with simple acoustic guitar, then unadorned vocals, then vocal harmonies added ending with the lyric “That spin so separately…” and then an abrupt and lyrical chord change into “Impossible became much easier…” and shifting to an electric guitar drone to the end—it’s mystical and soulful.

 

Hunting Shadows is an outdoor walk, and the music and treatments take the place of moving light, shadows and the lightly moving breezes of a new day.  Eat Sleep Travel, Repeat has the ambiance of being aboard a ship at sea late into the night, composing (acoustic) music by candlelight and the stars, with slow swaying movements, as does the more electric (with broad vocal harmonies) Painting A Horizon.  The trombone solo in Eat Sleep is an impeccable complement as are the banjo and cello on Painting.  There are similarities with the more plaintive side two of Brian Eno’s album Before and After Science, the three tracks Julie With…, By This River, and Spider and I.

Eat Sleep Travel, Repeat (Premiere Video)

 

The second instrumental piece (again, with cello) on the album is Music For Autumn.  It’s as if the sun is lowering in the cool night sky and as the track closes, Samson adds a warming chorus of voices.  The brief diversion noted above is Storms Above The Submarine, which starts playfully, with furtive notes, sounding a bit like some sonic experiments of Raymond Scott.  Then a somber throaty organ mixes with Will’s overdubbed voices (which are treated to sound a bit like a mournful saxophone) and altered guitars.  Dusty Old Plane (and oh so beautiful, it is) closes the album, with practically a whisper of droning keyboard, reverberant electric and acoustic guitars and Samson’s harmonies.  Listen carefully; there are birds in the background.  This peaceful track is a sonic blessing, and a farewell of sorts.  I also note that this album is dedicated to his father.

Please keep making music Will; you have a true gift.

****

A postscript: I have only one (hopefully received as constructive) comment on what is otherwise a brilliant album, and that is to recommend to not let the desire to use aged and lumbering analogue equipment for ambiance shroud the quality and beauty of the music too much.


Flaming Pines Label

Record Label Website: http://www.flamingpines.com/

Soundcloud Page: http://soundcloud.com/flaming-pines

Bandcamp Page: http://flamingpines.bandcamp.com/

I am always looking for new and interesting music, and often works with a message or a foundation.  Late in 2011, I came across a label from Sydney, Australia named Flaming Pines.  I first noticed an EP release by Marcus Fischer and then realized that it was part of a series entitled Rivers Home.  The first series consisted of 5 separate 3 inch CDs, each with works by a different artist (Marcus Fischer, Kate Carr, Field Rotation, Broken Chip and Billy Gomberg).  There was also a common theme to the CDs, and I immediately took note of the striking cover artwork.  Rivers Home (and its later Part Two with releases by The Boats, Seth Chrisman, Dan Whiting, Savaran, and All N4tural) “…celebrates the wonder of rivers at a time when many of them are particularly vulnerable.  Many of us dream about rivers, ride along rivers, take ferries along rivers and sit on river banks. This series is a musical exploration of the ways we influence rivers and they influence us.”  The founder of Flaming Pines it turns out is Kate Carr, whose work is also featured in the series.  Kate also produces the artwork for the covers.  I ultimately bought the entire set.  Many of Flaming Pines’ releases are mastered by Taylor Deupree of 12k.

Marcus Fischer – Willamette River

 

The Boats – River Calder

 

Recent releases include a split album by Kate Carr (Blue) and Gail Priest (Green), which is an exploration of sound and color.  The last track of each side serves as a transition to the other side of the LP, and the color references are subtle (as colors are muted at dawn and dusk), and reveal the natural world with field recordings and gossamers of acoustic and electronic instrumentation and effects.  The LP silences the distracting world around and reveals the many things missed in the background as the days and seasons come and go all too fast.  The LP is a co-production of Flaming Pines and Metal Bitch Recordings.

Kate Carr – Excerpt from Blue

 

Gail Priest – Excerpt from Green

 

Just released in September is the next series of EPs on a theme, this time Birds Of A Feather, and the covers keep getting better!  The first two are the Black Woodpecker by Iran’s Porya Hatami and Great Northern Loon by Canadian Michael Trommer.  Carr notes of this series, “…the role of birds as muse, as musical guide and inspiration has been well documented in classical music, from Mozart’s pet starling to Beethoven’s birdsong filled Pastoral Symphony and Sibelius’s swan hymn to Messaien’s birdsong compositions.  Birds Of A Feather celebrates the role of birds in ambient music, and the beautiful fragility of birds more generally.”  Both of these EPs are deeply layered soundscapes with field recordings of the chosen birds and environs mixed with acoustic and electronic instrumentation that heighten the experience.  It’s like getting lost in the woods or paddling a canoe on a hidden lake.

As with Rivers Home, Birds Of A Feather will be a series of about 12 three inch CDs released as pairs in editions of 100 over the next year.  The next pair of CDs will be by The Green Kingdom and Darren McClure.

My favorite of the cover artwork thus far is the expressive Black Woodpecker.

Michael Trommer – Great Northern Loon Excerpt

 

Porya Hatami – Black Woodpecker Excerpt

 

The latest October release is a debut by Michael Terren entitled Bythorne, who lives in far western Australia in Perth.  In June of this year, he strapped his piano to a trailer and drove it 200 kilometers to a farm of his childhood.  There he recorded this EP of six compositions (Cureaking, These Ones, All Nine of Them, Midiology, Bythorne and Dardyboys).  The tracks echo the surroundings and ever-changing weather (from placid blue skies to sudden stormy weather in from the Indian Ocean) as well as the pastoral timelessness.  I get a strong feeling of the sense of place from the beautiful title track.  The sleeve is handmade and the EP is limited to 100 copies.

Michael Terren – Bythorne

 


Review: Animation – Transparent Heart

RareNoiseRecords RNR028 – Time: 76:59 (CD & Digital Files)

Label & Soundfiles: http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/jukebox/animation/transparent-heart/

Artist Website: http://www.animationismusic.com/

Band: Bob Belden: sax/flute; Peter Clagett: trumpet & effects; Jacob Smith: bass; Roberto Verastegui: keyboards & samplers; Matt Young: drums

Tracks: 1) Terra Incognito; 2) Urbanoia; 3) Cry In The Wind; 4) Transparent Heart; 5) Seven Towers; 6) Provocatism; 7) Vanishment; 8) Occupy!

Bob Belden is a composer, arranger, conductor, musician as well as past head of A&R for Blue Note Records.  He is also has a strong sense of the history of Jazz, including being a scholar of the works of Miles Davis, and having received Grammy Awards for the reissues of Miles Davis’s work on Columbia Records.  In his own work, Belden is a story-teller of the lives of others, whether orchestral, jazz-fusion or soundtracks.

Perhaps his best known works are the 2001 Grammy Award-winning Black Dahlia (the mysterious tragic death of actress Elizabeth Short’s in 1947) and the more recent collective world jazz fusion productions (with Miles Davis alums) Miles From India (2008), and Miles Español – New Sketches of Spain (2011).  In the guise of the project known as Animation, Belden released the album Asiento in 2010, a live interpretation of Miles Davis’s 1970 album Bitches Brew, along with a 2011 3D60 surround sound remix of the album, entitled Agemo (both on RareNoiseRecords).

Belden’s latest album Transparent Heart represents a shift in his work; this time the story is his own.  It is a musical memoir of his life in New York City for more than the past three decades, and the dramatic changes seen since his first arrival in Manhattan in 1979 with Woody Herman’s band—the post-disco era.  Not only is this album personal, it’s also a social and political history and commentary of this period.  There are common threads throughout the decades (not the least of which is fear: from Communism to terrorism and the latest, the corporate takeover of America and the rise and fall of Wall Street and the financial sector and the revolt against it and corporate dominance).

During this period there was a gradual change from the mean streets of the 1970s (as depicted in the films French Connection, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico and especially my favorite Taxi Driver) to the gentrification and commercialization of many areas throughout the five boroughs of NYC.  We have seen huge changes since the 1970s in the music and arts scene, and in places like Times Square, Harlem and Greenwich Village.  New York City in 1979 was a LONG way from Belden’s own home in Goose Creek, South Carolina.  For Transparent Heart, Belden assembled a group of young musicians from his alma mater, the University of North Texas, ranging in age from 19 to 32.

Like the opening to a 1970s era film, Terra Incognito is the overview, the panning shot of Manhattan with its cavernous avenues of towers, and Belden’s first impressions seen wide-eyed with young optimism.  It’s a majestic and confident arrival, although a view from above.  By contrast, in this new city, there is another side; despite the city’s size and population there is isolation and the unknown, and living in the rough neighborhoods, a long way from home is what Urbanoia is about (and the old NYC time clock on the other end of the phone, a companion to some).  The track also has a contrasting section, more up-tempo giving the impression of a city on the move; pulsing and lurching.  Trumpet and soprano sax trade solos like people dodging the traffic of the rhythm section in mid-town or up-town.  There are phrases in this track that remind me of works by Weather Report (funk and fusion), Miroslav Vitous’s Magical Shepard, and even sections of Deodato’s (popular at the time on the radio) 2001 Space Odyssey, a reinterpretation of Strauss.

As big as New York City is, there is also the personal side to the city, and encounters with people in need.  Cry In The Wind recounts the aftermath of a woman in Belden’s neighborhood being stabbed, and him staying with her until help arrived.  It’s the somber voices of solo flute and trumpet, and the isolation of the moment.  Some of the hopeful opening themes are reintroduced in Transparent Heart, this time with a more turbulent undercurrent pulse of the city and stronger rhythms.  This is the era of Herbie Hancock’s Future Shock (with the ground-breaking hard-hitting percussive and inventive track Rockit) and a bit later, Miles Davis’s Tutu.  This was also the time when there was a great effort by NYC authorities to fight crime and clean-up the streets.

In some respects Seven Towers begins its life in February of 1993 with the first terrorist bombing on the World Trade Center.  First-responder and air-traffic control radios open the track, and the undercurrent of rhythm and state of alert and fear that surrounded the south of Manhattan for eight years until September 11, 2001 when the bottom fell out of everything (security and economic).  The track deteriorates into a frenzy of chaotic and searching rhythms and solos as the events unfold.  Scattered electric piano, flute and drums continue in the middle of the track as if they are the ongoing cloud of debris and smoke that existed for days after the attack as determined rescuers cleared the debris and searched for survivors.  The track closes with a building and re-energized rhythm and trumpet solo, as if Manhattan is determined to recover, and get back to normal.

 

After the 9/11 attack lower Manhattan was a different place, businesses closed, clean-up began, people were searching for missing loved-ones, and NYC was in a constant state of alert.  Posters and memorials appeared spontaneously as people ventured out onto the streets to see the aftermath of the attacks.  Provocatism is about the post-9/11 experience, survival, surveillance and exploration in the neighborhoods, with an energetic pace of fighting for survival.  Much like the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, many residents in lower Manhattan, including artists and musicians left the area and could no longer afford to return as damaged neighborhoods were redeveloped.  Vanishment is the embodiment of this sense of loss; a lone flute, mournful rhythm, and the lament of a muted trumpet.

With the Recession economic meltdown of the mid to late 2000s, it was the big banks and Wall Street financial institutions that received the bailouts, not the people whose jobs, assets and homes were lost due to risky bundled investments sold by the very institutions that received the bailouts (perceived by many as economic terrorism by corporations against citizens who ultimately would pay the bill).  The reaction was (and still is) the Occupy Wall Street movement that spread across America.  The final track Occupy! expresses the anger and frustration of the protesters and law enforcement trying to contain the crowds.  In this the full band plays the part of the crowds of protesters (sometimes organized chaos) and solos are the voices of the town halls and mike-checks interlaced with field and law enforcement recordings.  Glimpses of the original (although altered and subdued) trumpet and sax theme return from Terra Incognito to illustrate that it’s still Manhattan, but things have changed with the passage of time.

Transparent Heart is an album of discovery, wide-eyed optimism, conflict, activism, conflicting ideologies, displacement, and the results of terrorism (warfare and economic) on a city, its art-scene and most of all, its people.  This is not an album for sitting down and relaxing to; it’s a thoughtful, skillful and eye-opening musical diary that forces reflection about the state of our world, politics and economic foundations in the spirit of composers and activists like Stravinsky and Copland.  It’s thought-provoking and riveting.

 

****

This is a solicited review.


Review: Brambles – Charcoal

Serein SERE003 – Time: About 38 minutes (CD & Digital Files)

Record Label Website: http://www.serein.co.uk/   Artist Website: http://iambrambles.com

Mastered by: Donal Whelan at Hafod

Tracks: 1) To Speak Of Solitude; 2) Such Owls As You; 3) In The Androgynous Dark; 4) Salt Photographs; 5) Pink And Golden Billows; 6) Arête; 7) Deep Corridor; 8) Unsayable

I am a relatively new listener to works on the Serein label, which was founded in 2005, originally with works available as free digital downloads.  In 2009, Serein switched to “carefully considered commercial” releases.  Serein is a name taken from the natural world, being a fine rain that falls from a clear sky after sunset (a phenomenon more common in the tropics, but I can’t say that it doesn’t occur in ancient, pastoral and industrialized Wales, where Serein is located).  I first became acquainted with Serein after looking for back catalogue work by Olan Mill, and there I found their beautiful album Pine.  So, another record label on which to get hooked!

Brambles is the alias of Mark Dawson, a musician born in the UK, a resident of Australia, and from what I have read, he is traveling throughout Europe (and currently in Berlin, according to his Twitter-feed @brambles, for those who adventure into the Twittersphere).  Charcoal, his debut release, was largely recorded (piano, strings, woodwinds and field recordings) while in residence at The Painted Palace, a low-environmental-footprint communal house of artists and thinkers in Melbourne, Australia.

For me, Charcoal is an album of observation and contemplation at opposite ends of a given day.  Beginning at the end—at dimmity*, the settling-in to night then shifting to first-light and awakening.  The moods range from brooding (though not gloomy) to amorous (a deep feeling of warmth and comfort).  There are times when the album verges on haunting, as in the dark visceral (and unexpected) tones of Deep Corridor.

 

Charcoal opens with the resting heartbeat of plucked strings and piano of To Speak of Solitude; to me it’s as if observing the setting sun, viewing the horizon and skies in contemplation.  The pace slows further with similar instrumentation and gentle woodwinds, to a meditative state in Such Owls As You; the silence of a late candle-lit night.  There is a slow Jazz vibe to In The Androgynous Dark, which has a feeling of reflection, of what might have been.  It’s a quiet and mournful trio of drums, piano and woodwinds (with some electronic atmospherics).

The album gently stirs with Salt Photographs, as time passes with sounds of exploration.  Soft pulses of keyboard (electric piano?) and nylon guitar narrate, and bowed strings entwine the rhythmic foundation and probe to awaken memories before fading away.  Pink And Golden Billows is a light-hearted, plucky, meandering awakening to dawn.  By contrast, Arête opens with a stark yet expansive scene, punctuated by a lone cello, like a knife edge of rock (the arête) cutting the view.  A somber piano responds, the balance.  It could be a scene of surveying a mountain ridge, and then making the decision to traverse it, represented by the quickening rhythm, as if hiking across to a destination.

The most mysterious and atmospheric of the tracks on the album is Deep Corridor.  It is as if spelunking an uncharted cave with a dim head-lamp, with sounds (and some of earthly-low frequency) all around from unknown sources.  I’ll date myself and note that there are times when it sounds like Tangerine Dream’s Desert Dream from their 1977 live album EncoreCharcoal closes with the whispering lament Unsayable, on what sounds like an old saloon upright or pin piano; reminiscent of some recent works by Harold Budd or Nils Frahm.

Once again, the best discoveries in music for me are the result of lateral associations with other artists or their record labels.  I am happy to have discovered the Serein label and Brambles.  While Charcoal is seemingly a personal work, so fortunate we are to have a window into Mark Dawson’s journey.  His debut work is peaceful, timeless and transcendent.

*- Dimmity or dimmit-light (twilight), an old West Country (Devon, UK) term used by Henry Williamson, to open the original text version of his book Tarka The Otter, published in 1927.

****

This is a solicited review.


Twigs & Yarn – The Language Of Flowers

Flau28 CD – Time: About 43 Minutes (Also available in 12” vinyl LP)

Artists Website: http://www.twigsandyarn.net         Record Label Website: http://www.flau.jp

Mastered by: Nick Zammuto: http://www.zammutosound.com

Tracks (*Note: Track order according to iTunes readout appears to be in reverse order, although the music order is correct.  The track order that follows is properly sequenced with the sound files on the CD and has been confirmed with the artist.)

1) Laverne; 2) Static Rowing; 3) If Were An Artery; 4) Conscious Strings; 5) Mermaid Wetness; 6) An Honest Moment; 7) Rosy Cheeked Pumpkin; 8) Bristle Of Mundane; 9) Flowers Thirsty; 10) Marigold Ride; 11) Strings Of Complacency; 12) Learning To Glisten

I sometimes listen to shortwave radio, late into the night, or in the early morning, as signals and sleep drift; voices and sounds emerge and disappear.  Every so often my radio will lock in on a clear signal, and for a time there are voices from foreign lands, interesting new music, field correspondents reporting, or the strange sounds of open carrier frequencies waiting for a signal to fill them.

The Language Of Flowers is the enchanting (and often quirky) new album by Twigs & Yarn, and it has some parallels to late night radio listening, a mixing of familiar sounds, music and fleeting recollections.  Both artists and musicians, Stephen Orsak resides in Texas, and Lauren McMurray is in Japan, and their work takes shape over the airwaves, satellites and international cables via computers and ftp servers.  I didn’t discover Twigs & Yarn on my own; I have Michael Cottone of The Green Kingdom to thank for introducing me to their works.  I come across new artists by exploring record label websites, visiting the few record shops that are left and (often the best method), word of mouth from musicians and friends.  I don’t yet have the LP version, but the CD is packaged in a letter-pressed hand decorated collage (each one is slightly different).

The album opens with the mysteriously diaphanous Laverne, which shimmers like filtered sound-light on a bright morning, then passes quickly into the gentle swaying of Static Rowing.  The fourth track Conscious Strings is both the clear reality of a solo acoustic guitar, combined with the meandering voices of a daydream.  Some tracks seem to blend together as observations shift, and there is peaceful warmth in the sounds of a given day, whether inward looking as in Mermaid Wetness (with ingeniously repeated cadenced sound-samples) or outward as in the strangely discordant An Honest Moment which merges into street sounds, bells, voices, and then into a tranquil music box and electric guitar reflection in Rosy Cheeked Pumpkin reminiscent of Daniel Lanois’ pedal steel work on his album here is what is.

Bristle Of Mundane is an unexpected contrast, which opens with a heavily-distorted music box, eventually settling into gentle waves.  The experience of late night radio listening is present in Flowers Thirsty, tuning in and out from pop-music radio samples to a distant ebb and flow of music and whispers, the mind drifts late into the night, until being awakened by the radio-alarm (this is my favorite piece on the album, mysterious and great keyboard sounds).  The gentle pulsing organ of Marigold Ride contains a soft repeated vocal, flowing into acoustic guitar of Strings Of Complacency (sounding a bit like some recent solo guitar work of Ant Phillips combined with light treatments from Eno’s Julie With from the album Before And After Science).  Learning To Glisten is the postlude to the album, the purest of all the tracks, with little sonic movement, and is a soothing close.

 

The Language of Flowers is like rotating a radio tuning knob late at night, or peering into a window overlooking a secret garden, or ephemeral visions in a dream.  It’s an assemblage of existence all around, from the broadest landscapes down to the tiniest whispers, and even memories of childhood games as in the gently spirited and delightfully melodic third track, If I Were An Artery.  The music, field recordings, samples and instrumentation are assembled with an idiosyncratic aplomb that yield a very cohesive and soothing quality, like a less energetic, more contemplative version of works by The Books combined with gossamers of the dearly departed Sparklehorse.  So, it makes complete sense that Nick Zammuto (ex-Book) mastered this album; a symbiotic chemistry.

Videos

Static Rowing

 

Mermaid Wetness

 

Marigold Ride

 


Kane Ikin – Sublunar

12k1071 CD – Time: 53:33

Artist’s Website: http://www.kaneikin.com        Record Label Website: http://www.12k.com

Tracks: 1) Europa; 2) Slow Waves; 3) In The Arc; 4) Ebbing; 5) Rhea; 6) Titan; 7) Sleep Spindle; 8) An Infinite Moment; 9) The Violent Silence; 10) Black Sands; 11) Lo; 12) Prometheus’ Tail; 13) Oberon; 14) Compression Waves; 15) In The Shadow Of The Vanishing Night; 16) Hyperion;

 

I don’t know exactly on what plane Kane Ikin exists, but I can tell you that I’d like to get there.  There is a sense of deep mystery, the fleeting ethereal and a curious otherness in his musical travels.  I’ll gladly get on his spaceship, anytime.

Kane Ikin is one half of Solo Andata (along with Paul Fiocco, both being from Australia), and he has also collaborated with other artists including David Wenngren (aka Library Tapes) on their February 2012 album Strangers (KESH017).  I first encountered Solo Andata’s work in the 2009 self-titled 12k release.

Earlier this year, Ikin gave us a taster EP entitled Contrail (clear vinyl 7”, and a separate download of four tracks), and the title track alone was worth the price of the entire EP, not to mention the marvelous job that 12k did with the packaging.  Also, of note, Sublunar is packaged in 12k’s new (no plastic, and I assume, recycled cardboard) sleeve design.

 

Ikin’s music is decidedly lo-fi in production (tape loops, altered field recordings, sampling, warped instrumental recordings), but the quality and care that he takes in combining tangible instrumentation with highly manipulated sounds gives the end result an indescribable yet comforting quality.  His solo work also tends (so far) to focus on shorter format recordings (the longest track Oberon on Sublunar is 4:51).  Also, while I consider his work to be highly original in form and sound; there are occasional (intentional?) references to works of others.  At the risk of driving my readers bonkers, I’ll again reference Kraftwerk and their track Kling Klang from the 1972 album Kraftwerk 2, which came to mind when I first heard the gongs and bells in track (6) Titan.

Sublunar is a series of short journeys, just enough time to experience the sense of place Ikin is depicting, but not so long that one feels the urge to get to the next destination too quickly.  I’m going to resist the temptation to describe each track (there’s a full single track sound file for Europa and an Experimedia sampler of excerpts from the entire album), because I think that might diminish a sense of self-exploration for the listener.  Some tracks meander with little guidance from a recognizable beat, whereas others have highly treated percussion with extended decay.  I especially like how Kane treats the sound of strings in the mix; he uses the entirety of an acoustic guitar’s resonance.  Sublunar is a potent musical experience, and I hope Kane Ikin continues his voyages of experimentation, because I’m completely hooked.

****

Sublunar‘s Teaser Video

 

Experimedia’s Sampler of the Album

 


Marcus Fischer + The OO-Ray – Tessellations

Optic Echo – oe010 LP limited to 250 LP copies

Marcus Fischer: http://www.mapmap.ch/index.php/recordings/tessellations/

Ted Laderas (The OO-Ray): http://15people.net/ & http://eatguide.tumblr.com/The-OO-Ray & http://waveguideaudio.com/

Record Label Website: http://www.opticecho.com/OE/News.html

LP Time: about 43 minutes.  Digital Time*: about 49 minutes with Track 8*.

Credits: Mastered by Taylor Deupree at 12k.  Cut by Rashad at Dubplates & Mastering.  Cover Design: Marcus Fischer

 

Tracks: 1) belong; 2) cold spring; 3) bokeh; 4) fourier; 5) unfold; 6) ghost lights; 7) tessellate (tessellation); 8) music for caverns*

Improvisation is about taking risks, experimenting and responding to the immediate results.  It is the outcome of the instantaneous transition from thought to motion, and then to sound.  It sometimes takes practice, and it requires chemistry between the artists; the kind of vibe evident between Marcus Fischer and Ted Laderas (aka The-OO-Ray).  Music can yield a far timelier reward compared to other slower [art] forms, like in architecture or science, where the results of research and collaboration can often take years to behold.

This has been a busy year for Marcus Fischer with at least five published recordings, touring, and new projects in the works.  I’ve certainly enjoyed all of them, solo and collaborative.  It is thanks to Fischer’s work that I have become familiar with Ted Laderas (The OO-Ray: self-professed on his Twitter bio “Half Scientist, Half Cellist, All Shoegazer”) and his electro-acoustic chamber-drones.

Tessellations is the result of a series of long-form improvisations between the Fischer and Laderas.  It was commissioned by the Optic Echo label in 2011.  The instrumentation is largely stringed (acoustic and electric guitars, cello, lap harp) with percussion, loops, processing and minimal synthesizers.  The album has a dynamic richness with a combination of soothing observation and introspection.  I also appreciate that this is an album of largely non-electronic instrumentation, not necessarily a rejection of sequenced analog or digital electronics, but a return to earlier tangible instrumental roots, and a sense of the ageless.  It kind of takes me back to some of Kraftwerk’s oft-forgotten earlier works from Kraftwerk 1 and 2, and Ralf and Florian; like the guitar portions of Tongebirge (Mountain of Sound) from 1973.

The album opens with belong, rising like the sun on a dewy morn; crisp and hopeful with a gentleness that avoids any sense of melancholy.  Stark and mysterious is the ambience of cold spring with OO-Ray’s cello seeking the edges, and hints of Harold Budd’s Boy About 10 from the album By The Dawn’s Early Light.  The largo metronomic of the bass line maintains the focus of bokeh as cello, keyboards and other instrumentation blurs the musical depth of field.

The shifting of sounds, interlocking, matching and then contrasting (much like a moiré pattern) is the sense presented in fourier, which is perhaps the most densely packed and expansive of the tracks.  By contrast, unfold is perhaps the most peaceful track on the album, a private [waterside] contemplation with gently flowing cello, meandering lap harp layered and a soft droning veil.  Then, the mystical and shimmering reverb of ghost lights emerges, and is reminiscent of the recent Unrecognizable Now album (Fischer’s collaboration with Matt Jones, KESH018) Two Rooms, with shifting chords and bowed strings (and has some of the sound I noted earlier in Tongebirge).

tessellate is the longest (about 10 minutes) and most subtle of the tracks on the album (titled tessellation on the download).  It has the most nuanced transitions, with Fischer and Laderas trading themes and responses, and weaving phrases back into the fabric of the piece.  It brings the LP to a placid close.  *music for caverns is the bonus track with the digital download, and is a warm postlude to the day that started with belong, and in some respects is similar to the closing tracks of Eno, Lanois & Eno’s album,  Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks—one of my favorite of Eno’s collaborative works.

Marcus Fischer + The OO-Ray have deftly assembled in their collaborative improvisational work both a cohesive sonic realism, and impressionistic vision with a timeless authenticity.

Marcus Fischer + The OO-Ray – Photo by Seth Chrisman


Review: Every Hidden Color – Luz

Label: Streamline #1033 12” Vinyl LP (no digital download) – Tracks: I – 17: 04 & II – 18:00

Album available from NSZCZ: http://www.nszcz.com/a-few-copies-of-luz-are-for-sale/

Nicholas Szczepanik http://www.nszcz.com/  http://soundcloud.com/nszcz

Federico Durand http://www.federicodurand.blogspot.com/ http://soundcloud.com/federicodurand

More information on album and available at http://www.dragcity.com/artists/every-hidden-color

 

Every Hidden Color is a collaboration of two hemispheres and opposing seasons: Nicholas Szczepanik in North America (Chicago) and Federico Durand in South America (Buenos Aires).  The work of these two artists to date is, to my ears, quite different, and the results in Luz are intriguingly harmonious.

Szczepanik’s work tends to be more serious and deliberate, and at times quite dense with broad masses of sound.  Of his most recent work, my strongest connection, is to his album Please Stop Loving Me, which is indescribably beautiful and yearning in its meshing of sound and emotion.  I am less familiar with Federico Durand’s work, but I have heard portions of his albums La Siesta del Ciprés (The Nap of the Cypress on the Spekk label) and the more recent (and bad luck for me it’s sold out!) album El Extasis de las Flores Pequeñas (The Ecstasy of Small Flowers on the Own Records label).  Durand’s work tends more towards the introspective and ethereal, deftly woven with field recordings.

The pulsing of cicadas, crickets and a streetscape is how Luz opens before drifting into gentle winds (or is it the noise of a distant highway…or does it really matter?) and then a rhythmically swaying melody appearing like a soothing mantra, to then disappear into a sparsely layered and introspective suspension of reality.  From there, come gentle rains, soft guitars, birds in the nearby trees, and then all drifts into the softest of walls of sound and finally gentle voices.

This is an album of contemplation and a sensitive appreciation of the world around us, from the smallest sound to the broadest landscape, and also to the light—Luz.


The Green Kingdom – Incidental Music

Tench – TCH03: CD Time: 39:58

Record Label Website: http://www.tenchrec.com/

More on this release: http://www.tenchrec.com/TCH03.html

Artist Website: http://thegreenkingdom.wordpress.com/

Available at: http://darla.com/

 

1) Three Friends Of Winter; 2) Backyard Epiphany; 3) Over Treetops; 4) Cherry Theme; 5) Slow Bloom; 6) Green Theme; 7) Floatation Themes; 8) rshda; 9) Whispered Through Pines

Whether in a conscious state of reverie or in the pre-waking hours when fleeting visions come forth into the camera obscura* of the mind, there are moments where hanging onto the edges of dreams is perhaps more desirable than even slumber.  And after the dreams end, in the glistening haze of the morning, The Green Kingdom’s latest album, appropriately titled Incidental Music, is the soundtrack for this quietude.

My first experience with Michael Cottone’s work was on the Home Assembly’s #HAM004 album from 2010 entitled Prismatic, and his more recent album Egress on Nomadic Kids Republic #011.  Incidental Music holds time in suspension with subtle rhythms, and gentle yet tangible instrumentation (crystalline guitars, keyboards, kalimba and minimal processing) that encourage a calm wandering state of mind.  Although different and original in his approach, there are some similarities in the feeling and sound in Cottone’s work to Dictaphone’s recent album Poems From A Rooftop (Sonic Pieces) and The Boats album Ballads Of The Research Department (12k), two albums that I like very much.  It is evident that great care was taken in the recording of this album, and it has been beautifully mastered by Tench’s M. Ostermeier.

Three Friends Of Winter is the placid introduction, a point of awareness without a concrete reality.  Backyard Epiphany is serene in its sense of movement and passage of time.  Over Treetops is the beginning of a gentle awakening.  There are Satie-esque moments of allure as in Cherry Theme and Green Theme, even after a chimed nudge opening in Cherry ThemeSlow Bloom and Floatation Themes blur the sense of time.  rshda is the most ethereal track on the album; the moment before stirring, where reality is still beyond reach.  The album closes with a gentle awakening in Whispered Through Pines.

There was a place-holder for album #TCH03 at Tench Records for some time.  Now the mystery is solved, and the void filled with these delightfully tranquil scenes and halcyon musings from The Green Kingdom.

* Tip of the hat to Mr. Williamson.


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.


Caught In The Wake Forever – Against A Simple Wooden Cross

Hibernate Recordings – HB43: Time: 41:27 – Edition of 250 – Cover photo by Chris Gowers

Record Label Website: http://hibernate-recs.co.uk

More background information on the album: http://hibernate-recs.co.uk/releases/caught-in-the-wake-forever-against-a-simple-wooden-cross/

 

1) Scottish Grief; 2) The Quiet Beauty Of The Northern Lakes; 3) Waiting Rooms & Chemists; 4) After The Blackout; 5) Western Medicine Failed Me; 6) Last Of The Heroin; 7) Point Sands

Caught In The Wake Forever is the nom de plume of Fraser McGowan, who lives in Paisley, Scotland where he composes and records his works at home.  McGowan has been recording music in various incarnations since 1998.  I recently became acquainted with CITWF’s work through a Hibernate Recordings collaboration with Yellow6 (Jon Attwood), entitled The Slow Manipulation Of Dying Light (now sold out, but digital files are still available for download).  And so, I started to dig further…

 

McGowan’s latest album, Against A Simple Wooden Cross is a surprisingly open and stark account of his recovery from a lifelong affliction with chronic anxiety, and ultimately a complete mental breakdown in 2011.  As is often the case, the crash was not only debilitating to him, but also to family and friends (and I suspect the title of the album is a reaction to those who don’t often understand all the circumstances; a feeling of guilt that can also hinder recovery).

Despair and melancholy permeate this album.  Recordings vary from a six month period when McGowan was heavily medicated to a time when more effective alternate methods of treatment were found.  As a result those pieces are more hopeful as resolve and clarity develop.  There is also an ancient and timeless quality to the album (similar to Cock and Swan’s album Stash and other works by Sparklehorse AKA Mark Linkous…oh, I miss ML).  In this case, it is the concept that recovery takes time, time for a worthwhile cause—rebuilding a life worth saving, on one’s own terms.

I am also attracted to this album in a similar way that I admire self-examination in the works of East River Pipe (F. M. Cornog); although the songwriting and atmospheric approaches are quite different.  In particular, the stark simplicity of penultimate song on the album, Last Of The Heroin.  Not being fully aware of all the circumstances (and not wanting to speculate blindly), I have made some notes on some of the tracks, but I think that some interpretation is best left to the individual listener.

Scottish Grief opens with field recordings from a holiday before his breakdown.  As the tragic nature of the events is revealed, the piece transforms into a dirge.  Conflict grows represented by increasing dissonance and ultimately a shredding electric guitar. Despite dealing with conflicting feelings and thoughts, there is a determination to keep moving and not give up, even at this early stage.  The track builds in layers slowly, perhaps symbolic of the pace of treatment, and closes with an excerpt from (what appears to be) a demo where it is evident that hopelessness still weighs heavily.

The Quiet Beauty Of The Northern Lakes opens with a simple rhythm and acoustic guitar, where re-building a life begins.  The struggles are evident: “It’s hard to keep a light on…”  Eventually, piano and keyboards layer with McGowan’s almost-whispered vocals and a chorus of a Gizmo-like (bowed) electric guitar.  Waiting Rooms & Chemists is atmospheric with acoustic guitar, and the feeling of endless waiting and being alone.  After The Blackout starts with melodic rhythmic blips and then blends acoustic guitar and vocals.  The track is reminiscent of Recorded With You In Mind (from the 2011 EP All The Hurt That Hinders Home**).  Western Medicine Failed Me is instrumental, with acoustic guitar and a veil of electric guitar reminiscent of Frippertronics in Robert Fripp’s 1979 album Exposure (that which simmers below the surface).

Point Sands closes the album, and it appears to look back on the beginning of the journey to getting well, and as I understand it, the title of this track is taken from the location heard in the field recordings in Scottish Grief; a pleasant memory perhaps held onto and another piece of the journey back.  Some might feel that this album goes too far into the abyss of despair and is too personal, but it is also the case that music such as this occupies a space that seldom gets explored, or even understood, as it is often hushed with whispers.

**Recorded With You In Mind from the EP All The Hurt That Hinders Home:

****

This is a solicited review.


SRFélix – SRFélix

My Little Cab Records MLCR#031 CDr limited run of 100 (Review copy is #25)

Timing: 23:56 Mastered by Emmanuel Nogues

Website and Ordering: http://mylittlecabrecords.bandcamp.com/album/srf-lix

Tracks: 1) We Walk Until The End; 2) The Wind Dies; 3) Leaving Home; 4) A River In Winter; 5) Old Memories; 6) Until The End

S. R. Félix lives and records his works at home, between Lille and the shores of Brittany in France.  His self-titled debut release on My Little Cab Records is an enchanting sonic novella that alternates between states of observation and contemplation.  Most of the instrumentation is acoustic (piano, guitar, strings and treatments), and there are similarities with the instrumental portions of recent works by Will Samson and Gareth Dickson.  There is deep sense of reverence for place and time.

We Walk Until The End announces a departure on a (perhaps imagined) journey with a layered and expansive beckoning, which gradually develops into an exultant march before fading.  The Wind Dies shifts to a more introspective piano meditation.  The recording preserves the ambient sounds of the inner workings of the muted piano*.  Leaving Home continues the sense of reflection, this time with a solitary electric guitar lament.  It starts quietly and grows more intense during the choruses.  A River In Winter is a more outward looking and expansive sonic vision; a desolate scene encountered as the journey continues.  Old Memories has a metronomic muted piano (layered with shimmering guitar).  It expresses the passage of time, and gives the sense of viewing faded photographs.  Until The End is perhaps the arrival at the destination, to a darker yet more serene realm.  The sound is deeper and moves in waves to the close.

 

My Little Cab Records is a French DIY record label that has released mostly limited edition CDrs since 2004.  The CD sleeve has an intriguing pine forest panorama spanning the front and back covers of the expressive and fully hand-lettered sleeve (with pressed dried flowers). S. R. Félix is working on his next album, to be released in 2013.  Although this eponymous debut release is more akin to an extended EP than a full LP album, I find it to be a solid introduction to Félix’s work, and I look forward to the future release, as well.

*-Recording note: There is a slight vibration at the edges of the sonic peaks on this track. To be certain that it was not my equipment, I switched between multiple pairs of speakers and the vibration remained.  It is not too distracting, but it is noticeable on certain equipment.

****

This is a solicited review, although I had already purchased a copy of the album.


Library Tapes – Sun peeking through

CD Time: 29:11 #auecd006

Website and available from: http://librarytapes.com/

Julia Kent – Cello (3, 4, 8 & 9), Sarah Kemp – Violin (2 & 6), Danny Norbury – Cello (7), David Wenngren – Piano

Tracks: 1) Variation II, 2) Parlour (Variation I), 3) Found, 4) Parlour (Variation III), 5) We won’t need you anymore, 6) End of the summer, 7) Lost, 8) Sun peeking through, 9) Parlour (Variation II), 10) Variation I

Music takes me places, always has.  Sometimes there is emotion, a memory or colors, but it is always spatial.  Although a relative newcomer to some artists, it is not that I am unfamiliar with David Wenngren’s work, but as for Library Tapes I have some catching-up to do.  A while back I reviewed his hypnotic album with Kane Ikin entitled Strangers, and I have both albums Our House Is On The Wall (as the moniker of Murralin Lane with Ylva Wiklund), and The Meridians of Longitude and Parallels of Latitude, his collaboration with Christopher Bissonnette.  All are different explorations of sound and place, but Sun peeking through seems more personal. Wenngren’s piano is deftly blended with a spare ensemble of strings.

Something a bit different this time; I won’t attempt to describe where Wenngren is taking me, but I will show you where I have been.  These are often places I don’t want to leave once I am there (even if melancholy is involved).

1) Variation II

 

2) Parlour (Variation I)

 

3) Found

 

4) Parlour (Variation III)

 

5) We won’t need you anymore

 

6) End of the summer

 

7) Lost

 

8) Sun peeking through

 

9) Parlour (Variation II)

 

10) Variation I

 

The title track (to me) is beautiful, almost beyond words—a deeply reflective meditation.  David Wenngren as Library Tapes has assembled a collection of poignant vignettes, and a treasured diary of sound memories.

And now, off to explore more of his previous recordings.

****

All photos (except album cover) are by wajobu.


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.


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.