Review: David Wenngren & Jonatan Nästesjö – Below
Soundscaping 005 CD: About 34 minutes
David Wenngren: http://librarytapes.com/ Jonatan Nästesjö: http://jonatannastesjo.com/
Tracks: 1) Something There, 2) Feel Nothing, 3) Before I Leave, 4) Still Nothing Moves You
Writing reviews is a tricky business. One tries to be objective and in the end arrives at mostly subjective. Try writing a review for audio equipment, like for speakers, often the quickest way to create a flame-out with audiophiles (even with qualitative test data)*. Writing about different types of music is also a challenge; some folks just don’t like Bluegrass, Jazz or Folk music, for example. Writing about Ambient, Electro-Acoustic, Electronic or other types instrumental music often proves to be the most challenging. Many listeners just can’t grasp (we’ll call it generically) “ambient” music since there are often limited tangible melodies, lyrics or other references unless there’s an artist’s statement or a known concept behind a given work. I find that when writing about instrumental music, it’s most helpful to reference the work of other artists (who might be familiar reference points) or try and describe how the music makes me feel, or what I see or where it takes me.
Often, music enhances experiences, and at times nothing is better than a restful sonic journey to the quietude, and Below helps to get us there.
I’m more familiar with David Wenngren’s work as Library Tapes, Murralin Lane and other collaborations, but Jonatan Nästesjö’s work is new to me (and he also has used the nom de plume Woodchucker for some of his earlier work). Both are from Sweden. Instrumentation in this work is not readily identifiable compared to most of what I know of David Wenngren’s work, but as a point of reference I’d place Below closest to Wenngren’s recent collaboration with Kane Ikin entitled Strangers.
From the first gentle whispers of the ineffable Something There to the broadest fullness of choral passages of Still Nothing Moves You this album presents an ever-changing yet serene oasis of sound. There is mystery within, and a sensitive audio system is almost essential for this album (*-you pick whether the music is through speakers or headphones, and no, I won’t advise on what system is best). Throughout Something There are fleeting ethereal apparitions that emerge from high up and then they are absorbed back into the haze. Part way through the piece there is a moment where the dream subsides, and seemingly the mind reaches back into the scene to complete it, before it disappears into the ether.
Feel Nothing appears as if from the edge of a drifting consciousness—at times the faintest of voices can be heard. One floats through time, soft sound-light appears and diminishes and there are moments when a tangible clarity focuses, but it’s still gentle as one moves through the broad spaces created by the music (hence the term often used to describe this type of music: “cathedral electronic music”), yet this album resists being majestic.
Before I Leave is more intimate and centered initially, and then almost undetectably a tide (of organs, perhaps) builds on loops and expands as if rising and withdrawing on a broad sandy coast before receding slowly back to the horizon. Still Nothing Moves You closes this sonic novella with veiled choral and Mellotron-like flute passages and after building the sound is gradually lost in the distance. The effect is reminiscent of Holst’s Neptune [The Mystic] from The Planets.
Whether leaving a listener with a feeling of walking through a quiet forest (as depicted on the album’s cover), on foot in gentle breezes at a beach or escaping to another realm, Below is a fulfilling and tranquil way to leave the here, for the there.
Photo of Jonatan Nästesjö and David Wenngren courtesy of Soundscaping
This is a solicited review.
A List Too Small – My Favorites of 2012
Thank you to all the artists and record labels for such wonderful and diverse music.
This is one list of many, it’s my list, and it leaves off many other favorites that I have enjoyed over the year in addition to the thousands of other albums and single tracks that make up music throughout the World. What has helped me arrive at this list is what I have always loved about music: Does it move me? In addition, is it creative, well recorded and produced with a degree of care that makes me pay attention to it? There was a time when I was obsessed with highly produced and tightly engineered works, then I learned about artists such as East River Pipe and Sparklehorse, and many other genres of music were opened to me.
If you don’t see your favorite album on this list (or even your own album), it doesn’t mean a thing. If an album has been reviewed on my website this year, it’s meaningful to many others and me, but this is only a very, very small slice of the music world. Often people ask me about new music, and what I recommend. When I started this website in late January, 2012 it was first a means to write about music that I enjoyed, but also to get to know other artists and learn about new music that they create, so I could pass it on. Often, the best new music is that referred by a friend. Please feel free to send me your comments and recommendations.
Special note: There are still three or four late 2012 releases that are either enroute to me, have yet to be released or have just arrived. I need to spend proper time listening to and absorbing these albums. Rather than delaying this list further, and if after listening to those last 2012 releases I feel that they hit a sweet spot, I’ll review those albums in early 2013. I know of at least two 2012 releases that I’ll likely not receive until 2013.
I have three categories: Albums (12), Individual Tracks (6), and Special Releases (3) that don’t necessarily fit into a category.
Albums (Artist – Album Title – Record Label)
1) Twigs & Yarn – The Language of Flowers – Flau
2) Lambchop – Mr. M – Merge Records
3) Zammuto – Zammuto – Temporary Residence
4) Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited II – Inside Out Music
5) Taylor Deupree – Faint – 12k
6) Billow Observatory – Billow Observatory – Felte
7) Gareth Dickson – Quite A Way Away – 12k
8) Pill-Oh – Vanishing Mirror – Kitchen. Label
9) Brambles – Charcoal – Serein
10) Almost Charlie – Tomorrow’s Yesterday – Words On Music
11) Cody ChesnuTT – Landing On A Hundred – One Little Indian
12) Stick Men – Deep – Stick Men Records
Individual Tracks (from other albums)[vimeo http://vimeo.com/46499688]
1) Library Tapes – Sun peeking through (from the album Sun peeking through) – Self Released
2) Cock & Swan – Orange & Pink (from the album Stash) – Lost Tribe Sound
3) Alex Tiuniaev – Daylight (from the album Blurred) – Heat Death Records
4) Kyle Bobby Dunn – In Praise of Tears (from the album In Miserum Stercus) – Komino
5) Kane Ikin & David Wenngren – Chalk (from the album Strangers) – Keshhhhhh
6) Olan Mill – Bleu Polar (from the album Paths) – Fac-ture
1) Celer & Machinefabriek: Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake, Numa/Penarie, Hei/Sou – Self Released
2) Birds Of A Feather: Michael Frommer – The Great Northern Loon, Porya Hatami – The Black Woodpecker, Darren McClure – The Black Kite, The Green Kingdom – The Great Blue Heron – Flaming Pines
3) Simon Scott, Corey Fuller, Marcus Fischer, Tomoyoshi Date and Taylor Deupree (Recorded live in Japan October, 8, 2012) – Between (…The Branches) – 12k
Record Labels Noted Above
Merge Records: http://www.mergerecords.com/
Temporary Residence LTD: http://temporaryresidence.com/
Inside Out: http://www.insideoutmusic.com/
Kitchen. Label: http://www.kitchen-label.com/
Words On Music: http://www.words-on-music.com/
One Little Indian: http://indian.co.uk/shop/landing-on-a-hundred-1.html
Stick Men Records: http://stick-men.net
Library Tapes: http://librarytapes.com/
Lost Tribe Sound: http://www.cockandswan.com/ Note: I have not listed the weblink to the record label as Google has noted that the website MAY be compromised.
Heat Death Records: http://www.heatdeathrecords.co.uk/
Kesh (Simon Scott’s label): http://www.keshhhhhh.com/
Machinefabriek & Celer: http://machinefabriek.bandcamp.com/ & http://www.thesingularwe.org/fs/
Flaming Pines: http://flamingpines.com/
Review: Taylor Deupree – Faint
Record Label Website and Links: http://www.12k.com/ & http://www.taylordeupree.com/
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.
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
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-Room. Aidale (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.
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)
4) Parlour (Variation III)
5) We won’t need you anymore
6) End of the summer
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.
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.
Kane Ikin + David Wenngren – Strangers
CD KESH017: 45:54 (Mastered by Taylor Deupree of 12k)
Record Label: http://www.keshhhhhh.com/
Available at: http://www.experimedia.net/
1) Swell; 2) Call; 3) Veil; 4) Chalk; 5) Drifter; 6) Strings + Interlude
*This posting has been updated upon further listening*
This is the first joint work created by Kane Ikin (one half of Solo Andata) and David Wenngren (Library Tapes). I have read that “Strangers” Ikin and Wenngren did not meet during the recording and that the structure and overall sonic feel of the album was not planned. This and other similar works mark a continuing re-emergence of instrumental music by a new generation of creative and technically inclined musicians that craft layered sound atmospheres (often referred to as “electro-acoustic minimalism”), yet the music is engaging and stimulating.
I have been an avid listener and collector of synthetic electronic music since the early 1970s, yet there is something to be admired about the production of fine instrumental music with an ambience and mystery of electronics, being created with cleverly disguised analog instruments (acoustic or amplified) as well as found, ambient, looped or processed sounds.
Historical context: While they abandoned their early legacy when they issued their boxed set “The Catalogue” in late 2009, Kraftwerk’s work started with a similar experimental spirit to “Strangers”, based on analog instrumental drones of guitars, flutes and rhythms of found percussion on pieces like “Kling Klang” from the 1972 album “Kraftwerk 2”.
Kling Klang Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50M7RLgipNc
Same with early works by Tangerine Dream and others, before they switched to early sequencers and then hefty modular synthesizers, like the Moog (or later more portable and somewhat less reliable EMS VCS3) as well as tape-based samplers like the Mellotron or Chamberlin. Early works by Evangelo Papathanasiou (Vangelis) were mostly created with organ, clavinet, woodwinds, piano and percussion processed with reverb, delay and other effects, as in “Creation du Monde” from the 1972 soundtrack to “L’Apocalypse des Animaux” by long time collaborator and filmmaker Frederic Rossif.
Creation du Monde: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0QQJfPi3ps
In “Strangers”, there is meandering warmth to the album, a peaceful sense of comfort and meditation with a tangible awareness of humanity and nature (an absence of the synthetic). Layers of guitar, bass, piano (deep soundboard), percussion (low register bells and gongs) and strings appear throughout. From the collaborators there is a joint sense of discovery and response as each layered track progresses. This method of joint remote authorship is risky, yet very intriguing and the results are quite successful.
The titles of each track do seem to symbolize the development of the sonic ideas. “Swell” is akin to Ikin’s gorgeous recent work “Contrail” with apparent glissando drifts of guitar and layered keyboard peregrinations. “Call” has the feel of time-shifted incantation with repeated musical phrases. The intensity of the “call” increases as it progresses. While there is a general feeling of the pastoral in this track, there are times where layered sounds mesh to a point of tension, later to be diffused to a calming resolution. “Veil” starts with a repeated tonal beacon and gradually it diffuses into a suspended wash of winds, harmonics and tonal percussives. “Chalk” is hypnotic and haunting with a sense of a distant faded memory returning. “Drifter” contains repeated sampled phrases that establish a building tension as the fabric of the piece intensifies. Washes of noise (almost like lashing waves in a storm) enter the piece until they subside (this piece, to me, does appear to be chopped a bit at the end). “Strings + Interlude” builds slowly, and pulses as layers and sounds are introduced. It has a feeling of darkness, yet it’s punctuated with sounds that introduce light and color into the soundscape. Then the strings disappear and the interlude is a peaceful and mysterious aftermath–this piece, along with “Chalk” and “Swell” are the most cinematic.
This video using “Chalk” will give a sense of what I mean…rather unusual historic footage:
Gone are the soulless interfaces of MIDI and sequenced boxes of beat, and with “Strangers” we are presented with a thoughtful, visual and distinctive journey into an ethereal realm of musical authenticity.