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Posts tagged “Piano

Review: Almost Charlie – A Different Kind Of Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a three track sampler of the album:

****

This is a solicited review.


Braeyden Jae – Fog Mirror

braeyden-jae-coverLabel: Whited Sepulchre Records WS001

http://whitedsepulchrerecords.com/

https://whitedsepulchrerecords.bandcamp.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

****

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


M. Ostermeier – Tiny Birds

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

Time: 34:28

Website: http://homenormal.com/

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

M. Ostermeier: piano and sounds

Christoph Berg: violin on glide and of a feather

Photography: James Luckett – consumptive.org

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

alba

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

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

****

This is a solicited review.


Silmus – Shelter

Silmus Shelter a

Volkoren 58 – Time: 39:46 Format: CD, also available as a limited edition of 35 copies (see Bandcamp link), recorded in the northern Netherlands

Website: http://www.silmus.com/ Record Label: http://volkoren.com/

Available at: http://silmus.bandcamp.com/

1) Deeply Beloved 2) Remembrance 3) Set In Stone 4) You Are Tenderness 5) Leaving Darkness 6) Shelter 7) You Have The Words And I Listen 8) Bare 9) Sadness Covers Me 10) Follow Me

The word shelter has different connotations, and I recall an assignment in my early design studio days exploring that word in terms of space, light and structure. I think the new Silmus album is perhaps less about spaces or places, rather being more about people and seeking or finding the comfort and shelter of a person, friends or within a family. It’s the soft comforting embrace of a loved one—the holding on or the letting go, the giving or receiving shelter in or from a given situation.

 

Dutch musician Gert Boersma (acoustic and electric guitars, piano, synthesizers, ukelele, samples) returns along with producer Minco Eggersman (electric guitar, harmonica, synthesizer, effects), Jan Borger (piano and bass) and Mirjam Feenstra (vocals). In his debut album Ostara that I reviewed last year, Boersma explored the delight and wonderment of the cycle of life and parenthood.

Silmus Shelter b

Shelter is presented within a soothing yet relatively controlled dynamic range and shorter form instrumentals are more dominant on this album compared to Boersma’s last. There are moments when rhythms appear and a direction is established (as in the initially stark then hopeful Leaving Darkness or the firm acoustic presence of Remembrance). At other times the music peregrinates for a time and suddenly expands into a broad sound-scape (as in the stark moodiness of Bare, punctuated with electric guitar that emerges from the cover of an acoustic steel guitar).  Some pieces are like brief visions of a mood or an experience, but others are self-contained and complete. Each track has a foundation, whether it starts with acoustic or electric guitar or piano, and gradually layers and responses are built to establish the atmosphere. It does seem that the album, taken in its entirety, represents a full cycle of feelings or reactions to a particular set of circumstances.

The CD opens with the meditation Deeply Beloved with repeated phrasings offering a gentle mantra of stability. Set In Stone has a clear voice of electric guitar, which is ever so gently treated with a phased chorus effect. You Are Tenderness opens with restrained orchestral strings and then a gently voiced piano, which is enhanced with light electric guitar.

The title track Shelter expresses the intent of its title—it starts delicately then the melody and harmonies are held firmly and uplifted within a secure bass line. In You Have The Words And I Listen the piano is treated as a voice. An enmeshed drone opens until the voice appears, then a conversation begins. The voice remains steadfast throughout the responses and delivers a message. A reflective piano opens Sadness Covers Me and is later coupled with a softly bowed electric guitar. The album closes with the steady hopefulness of Follow Me.

 

For those seeking a point of reference, I place this album within the gentler versions of Robin Guthrie’s solo work or perhaps the more contemplative instrumentals by Cocteau Twins. There is indeed a sense of warmth and comfort in this album, and it’s a pleasant place to be.

***

This is a solicited review.


Hallock Hill – Kosloff Mansion

Kosloff Mansion

Hundred Acre Recordings HA06: 12” LP (copy 18/40 signed, 200 total LPs & digital download)

Label: http://www.hundredacrerecordings.com/ Arrangement and production by Tim Noble

http://www.hundredacrerecordings.com/artists/hallock-hill/hallock-hill-kosloff-mansion-2014/

Hallock Hill Website: http://hallockhill.com/

Tracks: Side A: 1) I Light The Lamp And Sit Down, 2) The Good Dead, 3) The People Without Tears, 4) Death Was A Bird, 5) Villages Of The Black Earth, 6) A Secret It Remains, 7) Another Light; Side B: 1) Workbench Atheist, 2) Demons In The Birchwood, 3) Farewell, Pale Corpse Of Many Sins, 4) The Immortalisation Commission, 5) We Looked For You For 52 Years, 6) Massed Bands And Megaphones

Ask a person cold about a particular moment in time and the recall on specifics might not be immediate or complete, but drop a needle on an LP or press play on a CD and the instant the music starts (even if it has been unheard for 30+ years) that same person’s recollection of a memory could be lucid, with the place, time and circumstances remembered in vivid detail.  Music is often a key that unlocks chambers in a memory palace.  While not necessarily as far back as 30 years, there are moments while listening to Kosloff Mansion that visions of the past coalesce and the aura of the album further enhances that experience.  Perhaps Tom Lecky had different intentions from my own experience for the inspiration of his fourth album, but that’s the power of music when combined with synapses, dendrites, proteins and whatever…

 

I often associate the works of HH’s with layered compositions for acoustic and electric guitar (as in the albums The Union or A Hem of Evening), but this LP is mostly rooted in solo piano with production and treatments by collaborator Tim Noble (of  The Lowland Hundred).  It’s hard to know where Noble’s contributions specifically appear, but I think of Lecky’s work as being mostly austere, without apparent structure at times, although intricately layered (some juxtapositions being left to chance).  I was fortunate to have ordered this LP early enough to obtain a copy signed by Lecky and Noble, along with a hand written short poem by TL.

Kosloff Mansion starts gently, like the rising Sun with beams of light reaching into the morning, or rather, a candle’s flame penetrating the darkness.  It could be an unhurried day or evening in a cabin in the woods, just sitting contemplating nothing (or everything) and listening without distraction—the types of moments of which we need more.  Briefly, a storm interrupts in The Good Dead and this triggers the vision of a very late night deep in the Adirondacks (of New York) with lightning and thunder that a (then) very young son wanted to end, but I wanted (privately) to continue, to hear the storm echoing through the mountains.  With assurances that the storm was increasingly distant, there was comfort enough for the younger to sleep and so the elder could continue listening and pondering that particular night before a loon emerged and greeted the dawn.

Instrumentation sometimes changes from solo piano to bells, or perhaps it’s a celeste, but they fit while shifting with the breezes, moonlight and stars reflecting in the lake of the vision.  A Secret It Remains blends liquid and tones before landing in the austerity of Another Light with only hints of ominous strings rolling in on an imaginary tide of a lurking then emerging spirit…before fading.

Workbench Atheist seems to be more of the morning; soft music with a light rain or is it the creaking of an ancient wood floor?  Demons In The Birchwood is a darker, but livelier spirit and the celeste returns with a deeper Leslie-esque treatment, before merging into a wraith-like Farewell, Pale Corpse Of Many Sins, which at times is unsettling yet ironically at peace.  A reverie is freed to peregrinate in The Immortalisation Commission and it builds to a crescendo and then gently disperses.  There is a firm perseverance in We Looked For You For 52 Years, a feeling of reverence is also present.   Massed Bands And Megaphones punctuates Kosloff Mansion with a blend of a celebratory whimsy and sounds reminiscent of fireworks echoing in the distance.

At times Kosloff Mansion is mysterious, yet halcyon moments come forth and while different in sound and instrumentation from his previous works, it’s very much rooted in what I have come to appreciate in Lecky’s work—a really brilliant and different kind of music experience.

****

Added bonus! Hallock Hill live on WFMU, along with Tim Noble (HH segment starts at about 30:00, but enjoy the entire show!): http://wfmu.org/playlists/shows/55533


Benjamin Finger – Listen To My Nerves Hum

Benjamin-Finger-vinyl-shop-500x500

Time Released Sound – TRS 030 CD – 16 tracks/031 Vinyl – 11 tracks (300 copies)

http://timereleasedsound.com/ – Mastered by Lawrence English

[Frank] Benjamin Finger is a freelance photographer and director from Oslo, Norway who has completed several short films and music videos in addition to his work in television and photo exhibitions.  He has two previous albums Woods of broccoli (2009) and For you, sleepsleeper (2011).  More on his previous music work is here:

http://benjaminfinger.bandcamp.com/

Listen To My Nerves Hum is a curious album—it took a few listens to settle-in with me.  It’s neither soundtrack nor is it a cohesive album of music with a connective tissue other than the pieces are built upon simple (and often repetitive) phrases on piano (co-mingled with voices or field recordings).  I tried to find a thread that would tie things together.  The album (for me) in the end is more like incidental music to shorts scenes in a film either built upon visions or daydreams.  Some tracks conceal mysterious hosts and surroundings (like Birthslides and Consonace of Fear), others sound celebratory (Ano Nuevo Acid Crackers’ fireworks and Ode To Blissa’s marching band with prominent snare drum cadence).  Some tracks are somber, almost funereal as on Fearless VK.  In particular, I found the first track Birthslides to be appropriate for the approaching Halloween season—rather furtive and mysterious.

Consonance of Fear (Vocals by Inga Lill-Farstad)

 

Some parts of Listen are quite pleasant and tranquil (Road To Salema, By Sinus and Outside of You), and others I found quite dissonant or distracting (such as Das Paris Des Second Empire Benjamin).  I also detected that when adult voices were part of a given mix, the metronomic piano was played on the lower pitch end of the keyboard whereas with the sounds of children upper register notes were used.

Road To Salema

 

bf-box-1

It’s a pity that I didn’t get to see one of the original 70 deluxe CD version before it sold out (boxes with collages and a small hanging sculpture made from antique piano parts known as The Hammerheaded Wippin Bird, Time Released Sound being well-known for their handmade releases): http://timereleasedsound.com/shop/releases/benjamin-finger-listen-to-my-nerves-hum-deluxe-version/

The vinyl LP (limited to 300 copies) is available here: http://timereleasedsound.com/shop/releases/benjamin-finger-listen-to-my-nerves-hum-vinyl-version/

Perhaps the label might consider releasing Tracks 12 through 16 as a digital EP to accompany the vinyl LP.

The CD version has 16 tracks, 11 tracks are on the LP: 1) Birthslides 5:06, 2) Consonance Of Fear Vocals – Inga-Lill Farstad 3:13, 3) Bogatynia In Mother 2:30, 4) Leaving Linjavegen 3:56,  5) Das Paris Des Second Empire Benjamin 2:22, 6) Road To Salema Vocals – Inga-Lill Farstad  2:50, 7) Ano Nuevo Acid Crackers 3:46, 8) Editions Du Scorpion 3:12, 9) Sevilla On Tape 5:00, 10) Returning To Birthslides 4:06, 11) Ode To Blissa 3:00, 12) By Sinus 2:40, 13) Fearless VK 4:08, 14) Lapse 2:54, 15) Voice Crackers 3:06, 16) Outside Of You 2:30

****

This is a solicited review.


Album Review: Zinovia – The Gift of Affliction

Zinovia - TGOA Front

Tympanik Audio: CD TA079  Time: About 49 minutes

Music – Zinovia [Arvanitidi]: www.facebook.com/ZinoviaMusic

Label – Tympanik Audio: www.tympanikaudio.com/artists/zinovia

Artwork – Shift: http://www.futurorg.com/

Available at: http://tympanikaudio.bandcamp.com/album/the-gift-of-affliction

Mastered by Alexander Dietz  Mixed by John Valasis

Tracks: 1) The Blue Shade Of Dawn Covered Your Skin, 2) Communicating Vessels, 3) Chimera, 4) Entangled, 5) Emerge To Breathe, 6) Attached, Our Eyes Wide Open, 7) Sucking The Smoke From Your Lips, 8) Beneath A Stellar Sky, 9) A Time To Make Amends

I suspect that most of us live pretty ordinary lives, but every once in a while finding oneself on the cusp of an adventure seems rather tempting.  A while back, author David Schickler wrote a book Kissing in Manhattan; it’s mysteriously haunting and strange—as if eavesdropping on people, places and their situations; the kinds of experiences that only happen to others.  So, imagine arriving at home some night and seeing a note pinned to the door: “Meet me at ___ at 9 pm”, signed “___” (you fill in the blanks).  Would you go?

Zinovia - TGOA BackI’ve mentioned it before: my strongest connection to music is when it takes me somewhere—whether an escape, a fantasy, to relax or to find a groove, and Zinovia’s The Gift of Affliction is a nearly perfect connection; even better, it’s beautifully recorded and produced. This album has the broad pulse of a city, its dark spaces and verve with occasional tender moments. It tells a story with many possible beginnings and endings.

First, I posit that the sounds in this album have a connection to the vast works of fellow Greek countryman Vangelis Papathanassiou (listen to his 1990 album The City, and passages in the dark soundtrack to the film Bladerunner)—if only for historical influences or connections, yet Zinovia’s album has a clear and freshly expressive voice of its own.  I also wonder, given the recent political and economic times in Greece, if there are any political undertones or foreboding woven into the narrative.

Second, I am most familiar with Zinovia Arvanitidi’s recent collaboration (on Kitchen Label) with Hior Chronik as the duo Pill-Oh, their Kitchen Label release Vanishing Mirror was a favorite of mine in 2012.  I love the reflective track Melodico.  It’s a compassionate album, but The Gift of Affliction is quite different in every way, except in the strong musicianship and production.

Zinovia 1

Throughout the entire album there is a constant shift from the ethereal to the grounded, reality to fantasy, electronic to acoustic; and as quickly as we are in a sonically amorphous zone, the vibe moves from solitary to a full ensemble of electronica or jazz undertones—a genre-bending and cohesive swirl.

It could be late at night or in the early hours of a morning; from the first plaintive beats of The Blue Shade Of Dawn Covered Your Skin all the characters are furtively introduced into the narrative with an broad ambience, beats, melodica and piano (the latter two, perhaps being the voices of the main characters).  Unexpected sounds enter and vanish in Communicating Vessels; there is movement of people, vehicles and information in this new place, yet despite all the motion there is a comforting presence of the familiar (the recurrent melodica and piano).  One doesn’t want to be swept-away too quickly. But adventures are not without complications, but why not enjoy the ride?

 

The mythic shift begins in Chimera, a fantasy of sound and voices, expansive, getting absorbed into the experience and the implausible.  Momentary introspection follows in Entangled—the deep and centered beats, one of the most absorbing (and longest) tracks on the album—I think my favorite too.  The narrating melodica returns, in conversation with the piano, they weave into each other, in and out of the pulse.  Emerge To Breathe is a shift from interiors to exteriors, traveling, sounds of rails and stations (like Kraftwerk’s Europe Endless, but more ominous).

Zinovia 2

Attached, Our Eyes Wide Open is the darkest and most vulnerable of scenes on the album, yet there is an alluring comfort in the melody of a solo piano (with string accompaniment).  Key shifts are slowly introduced, along with an emotional realism and sense of doubt, yet still one is drawn further  into the fantasy of…

Sucking The Smoke From Your Lips and its out-of-focus depth of field with moving colored lights—a sonic tilt-shift in a smoky jazz club with the liberation of dream-like voices.  The adventure nears its end with Beneath A Stellar Sky, out in the open, holding onto the escape.  It’s a reluctant emergence and one last taste of the vibrations of the night.  A Time To Make Amends is the return from fantasy, the pensive melancholy, with a reflective and intimate close, accentuated all the more with the sounds of the internal workings of Zinovia’s piano.

In case you’re wondering, I did take the note from my door and went on the adventure, and you should too.

****

This is a solicited review.


Review: Chris Dooks – 300 Square Miles Of Upwards

300SMOUa300-back-500px

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Record Label: http://www.idioholism.com/   Album Time: About 32 Minutes

Chris Dooks’ Website: http://www.dooks.org/

LP or Digital available via: http://chrisdooks.bandcamp.com/album/300-square-miles-of-upwards-2013-blue-vinyl-digital-album-hd-film

Tracks:  Side 1 – 1) Gardening as Astronomy; 2) The Greeks That I Love; 3) Morse Mode; Side 2 – 1) Conversation with a Boy (album mix); 2) Gwiazdozbiór Andromedy; 3) Pinpricks; 4) Katrina

For those old enough to remember, Carl Sagan wrote a book and produced a television series in 1980 for PBS (USA) entitled Cosmos*.  In that series he probed our knowledge of the Universe and explained in remarkably accessible language what scientists and astronomers knew at that time, and theories on the yet undiscovered.  On one hand we humans are bound by the limits of our Earth and our observations, yet beyond there are seemingly boundless realms to be explored and understood.  As noted by Dooks (in the detailed liner notes that I highly recommend reading) on each of the deep space Voyager probes (that have now left our Solar System) there is mounted The Golden Record, a phonograph LP containing sound recordings of Earth and pictograms explaining our location in our Milky Way galaxy–a collective memory of our humanity.

300SMOUc

300 Square Miles Of Upwards (subtitled: Tales for a Dark Sky Park) is the second album of Chris Dooks’ Idioholism Trilogy, the first being The Eskdalemur Harmonium (the link will take you to my previous review and an explanation of the overall project).  As with the first album, the graphic design and presentation (by Rutger Zuyderfelt AKA Machinefabriek) are impeccable; this time the motif and LP vinyl are the primary color blue.  The liner and cover photos are by Dooks, relating to the same color.  Dooks also has a marvelous online archive of his photographs here: http://d7000000.tumblr.com/

 

300 SMOU is a calming meditation and memory archive relating to science, astronomy, conversations, and music, and relationships to earthly flora.  The album’s title refers to an area of the Galloway Forest Park in Scotland (near Dooks’ home) and is a Dark Sky Park for observing the night sky.

The album’s recordings (a film soundtrack, field recordings, interviews and readings) are deftly interlaced with Dooks’ minimalist compositions (on piano and other instrumentation).  The works occupy an experimental realm somewhere between ethnographic documentary akin to Alan Lomax or Hamish Henderson and experimental (looped and altered) music by Laurie Anderson (Big Science) and The Books (The Lemon Of Pink).  Dooks has imaginatively woven the music, sounds and reflections on the night sky into an almost hypnotic opus.  Within the intricate, clarity is revealed.

If digital download is your usual mode, consider purchasing the LP–a beautiful presentation overall.  I’m looking forward to the third part of the trilogy.

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* – For interested readers, Cosmos is available via streaming at Netflix.


Review: Roger Eno and Plumbline – Endless City/Concrete Garden

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LP/CD or Digital Time: 37:43 Hydrogen Dukebox Records: Duke 157djv

Released May 20th in Europe and July 2nd in US and Canada

Label and Album: http://hydrogendukebox.com/ and http://www.endlesscityconcretegarden.com/

Roger Eno and Plumbline: http://www.rogereno.com/ http://www.neutralmusic.com/

Tracks: Side A: 1) Taking Steps, 2) Geometry, 3) Codewords, 4) Suspended Animation, 5) Ulterior Motives, Side B: 6) The Weather Inside, 7) Back to the Beginning, 8) The Artificial Cat, 9) Pulling Strings, 10) Beauté de Passage

Time plays tricks as one gets older…what used to seem like an eternity might now seem like months, weeks or even a blink of an eye.  In the proper hands, time can bend under the spell of music.  Transparencies, the last album by Roger Eno and Plumbline (Will Thomas) appeared about six years ago…seems like a while ago, but the memory of it is clear enough that hearing their new album Endless City/Concrete Garden, is like picking up a conversation with an old friend that paused mid-sentence and then continued, flow uninterrupted after an unexpected reappearance—like they never left.  But something is different, new experiences have somehow changed things.

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A paradox exists in this album, on one hand there is an apparent idée fix of love, loss and tragedy (as noted by reference to the curiously obscure works of the poetess Arlette Feindre) yet the album is not gloomy; it is woven with ethereal moments of warmth, reflection and comfort, beginning with the familiar gentle cascades of piano in Taking Steps.  There are scenes of rhythmic playfulness, as in Codewords, with a gamelan-like opening.  Also an ironic solitude is present in some tracks like Pulling Strings where one could be walking alone late at night in a city full of people and noise, yet remain focused on more powerful inner thoughts (a strange loneliness in a crowded place).  Despite the calming softness to this album, it isn’t amorphous; it has a purposeful direction.

 

Like their album last together, Endless City/Concrete Garden has taken its form across an ocean and between time zones, the contrasts of cities (New York City and Los Angeles) and the countryside of East Anglia in the UK.  The pieces this time around often have a foundation in more recognizable instrumentation: piano, guitar and even a koto, with arrangements including violin, cello, percussion and electronic treatments.  Percussive mantras also form the basis of some pieces as in The Artificial Cat. Treated field recordings make appearances throughout (I could swear there is a train horn hidden within The Weather Inside).  It’s not always clear from whose hands the sounds are created, but Roger Eno’s piano work is unmistakable, as in Back to the Beginning…it starts out like an etude and then moves on to tell a story.  The haunting Beauté de Passage appears to open with what sounds like Frippertronics, but with closer listening, I think it could be a treated accordion…how appropriate, how French. C’est tragique, mais enchantant aussi.

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Note: The album is being released as an LP with CD included or as digital files.  It’s not yet clear to me if the CD will be available on its own—no word from the record label on this.


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.

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All photos (except album cover) are by wajobu.