FACTURE HIGHLIGHTS / 2 0 1 1
Paul Jebanasam Music For The Church Of St. John The Baptist
“If the moments of sensual pleasure in the idea, the voice, the instrument are made into festishes and torn away from any functions which could give them meaning, they meet a response equally isolated, equally far from the meaning of the whole, and equally determined by success in the blind and irrational emotions which form the relationship to music, into which those with no relationship can enter.” ~ Theodor Adorno, The Culture Industry Say that to onlookers who attended for this live recording of Paul Jebanasam and they’d aptly dismiss. Disparate parts in a triad: guitar amplifiers; baroque viol; viola coda merge ominously, but dodge fetishized gutter pumps; passionate seriousness is Chef’s Special. Accepted wisdoms that laureats of pre-war literarary criticism – like Adorno – forget the fact that, as with Jebanasam, a fledgling composer of the modern classical genre, intricacies are opined delicacies, spilling out of historical fabric when paired with invention. This live recording, a 25 minute continuous stroking of the sub genre’s outer fringe, casts a powerful spell, onto
not only it’s audience on the night in Bristol’s Old City wall, but peepers looking for holistically fertile happenings outside their comfort zone. Life isn’t a competition to outscore each other in condescension, but “Music For”‘s multiple personality, with convoluted granular synthesis, sure has aesopian arguing toss of the mood. Doomy, dark slingshot drone in a wash basin, catapulting medieval balls of grit at the sides. Then I realise why I love it so: Greg Haines “Submergence” is a comparable arrangement. Long tensions get released, then revert to a breathless murmur, such will your own inhalation technique when captivated by it’s cavernous density. 11 minutes sees a warm foray with the semantron for the first time, recalling Procol Harum’s earnest chord alternations and dirgey melodic contours. I imagine sitting in St. John The Baptist’s Church with this playing out and feeling the serenade leave people piqued and fuzzy. The viola begins to arch at 15 minutes, hereaer careening like a penny dropped
into a whirlpool, swirling soly in the lower registers then establishing firmness. It makes earlier Jebanasam composition appear relentless as it flows beautifully underwater. The coda’s joints unease from bone marrow and swim into the distance, hold broken. It’s gripping stuﬀ, but 8 minutes consecutive you’re serenaded by Arvo Part tensions relieving, announcing an even wider dynamic range. The sole minus point is the recording isn’t longer for the feeling to take full eﬀect. Nonetheless, as a relaunch piece for Subtext, and a taster of Paul’s forthcoming album, “Music For The Church Of St. John The Baptist”, a 14th century church at that, is a recording defiant of the idea that sonic fetishism shouldn’t obstruct sensual pleasure – and an idea to which Jebanasam’s expertise enters great understanding. - Mick Buckingham
Tanner Menard Dark Pianos
The piano… such a familiar instrument… perhaps the most popular of all instruments… Used across so many musical genres, the piano has acquired an ubiquitous place amongst composers and musicians alike, and oﬀers an “easy” means to express intertwined melodic and harmonic ideas. Invented in the very early part of the 18th century, its design has evolved a lot over the years to become the instrument we know today, either as an upright or a grand piano. Despite the many variations of those two basic designs, the timbre of a piano is almost instantly recognisable and has acquired a unique place within the human psyche. It’s precisely this timbre that many musicians have started to alter in the early part of the 20th century (if not before), by placing objects like sheets of paper or cardboard on the piano strings as in Erik Satie’s Piège de Méduse, or by manipulating the strings directly inside the instrument, a practice that Henry Cowell developed in the early 1920s. Those techniques have been
extended by John Cage from 1938 onwards using small screws and bolts for instance, to give the piano a more percussive character, and today many composers use what is known as “prepared pianos” to experiment with the many possibilities of the instrument. A pianist like Volker Bertelmann aka Hauschka is still extremely prolific in finding new ways of exploring those possibilities and, pushing the boundaries of such explorations to their very edge, Stephan Mathieu has been unearthing beautiful and fascinating sound worlds by placing E-bows on the strings of grand pianos and digitally processing those sound sources in real-time, for a result nothing less than extraordinary. While all those fascinating explorations stay anchored within the constrains of existing pianos, one can wonder what would happen if musicians could further their experimentation by altering the physical characteristics of their
instrument? What sonic and musical spaces would they discover then? And from there, what would their imagination push them to create? For instance, how would a 30-feet long grand piano sound and what could be done with it? One could probably build such an instrument but how diﬃcult would it be? Or one could try to leverage the mathematical power of a computer to physically model it within the digital domain. But would it still be a piano then, or could an “extended” virtual piano be seen as an extreme version of the aforementioned prepared piano? Leaving aside the potential debate that might ensue, and considering that the technology is now advanced enough for a “virtual” piano to sounds “exactly” like its “real” counterpart, it would be fascinating to experiment with the possibilities oﬀered by the computer and feed such a physical model with “non-classical” parameters, to see what new possibilities could be explored…
In a long and insightful interview with Tobias Fischer for Tokafi last year, American composer and classically trained pianist Tanner Menard explains how he likes to work with a physical model of a piano: ”I always use a 10 meter long version of the instrument. The reason for this is the type of acoustic phenomenon that I am trying to emulate, basically I am working almost entirely with the resonant portion of the instrument, trying to conjure from it only the decay portion of a very large instrument whose damper pedal is never released… It allows me to work with resonance in a very direct way. I am able to create resonant feed back phenomenon that would be virtually impossible to create with out hundreds of thousands of dollars in the physical world of instruments.” Starting his experimentation with physical models of over-sized pianos in 2006, Tanner Menard composed ‘Dark Pianos’ in 2007. This album was the first in a series of many works, and is now released on Ian Hawgood’ Tokyo Droning. Over nearly an hour and eight tracks, Menard stretches the limits of his virtual instrument to create a seriously engaging and otherworldly sound palette, as alien as it is enigmatic,
questioning the very question of what reality is. ‘Dark Pianos’ is an experimental album in the truest sense of the word: a set of experiments whose outcome remains elusive and uncertain at best, but ultimately opening up vast sonic and mental spaces to dwell in. The conceptual proposition of ‘Dark Pianos’ is deceptively very simple: an intricate series of notes (mostly microtuned) are repeated over and over again, at varying speed and going at times through odd chord changes. There is no melody and no time signature to hold onto, no harmonic progression and cycles of tension and release as such. Gone are the emotions associated with the more “classical” ways of composing music. Only notes… and their overlapping and monstrously extended decay. But with that comes a sea of dense and pulsating harmonic resonances. Resonances turning into ripples – ripples that interact with each other and create evanescent patterns. Transient structures are formed, slowly morphing into one another, spiraling and flickering, and finally fading away. In a way, that’s all there is for us to see: lines, surfaces, shapes and shadows, all appearing out of the void, undulating for a little while and returning to nothingness, to
digital silence. Once we go beyond the oddity of this compositional paradigm, a completely new world opens up: those evanescent undulations, those waves of warbling decay, suddenly crystallise as time stops passing – sounds, notes and drones ceasing to mean anything for the matter. Only remain their luminous textures which, strangely enough, reveal the quietude they were hiding all this time: the music, getting free of itself, is then allowed to float in being over a backdrop of nothingness, undisturbed and un-aﬀected. If John Cage invites us to listen beyond the apparent silence to unearth an unimaginable world of pure sound, does Tanner Menard not show us the exact opposite? Behind the reflection of his dark pianos and their over-decaying sounds lies an astonishing and pure silence. A silence in which we can rest and literally let go of ourselves to, like the music itself, float in being. Those ephemeral drones are like gateway to an ubiquitous world of complete abstraction and profound humanity, where we are ultimately confronted with our own fragility, invited to accept the absence of meaning as a liberating possibility. - Pascal Savy
Dustin O’Halloran Lumiere
In 2010, Dustin O’Halloran made the heads of contemporary classical fans, piano aficionados, and beautiful music lovers in general turn in awe and bow in appreciation for his breathtaking live album Vorleben. Almost ten months later, the solo piano eﬀort of epic emotional eﬀect and dream inducing melodies is being featured on experimental music websites’ year end lists everywhere, including here at Fluid Radio, and now, as if to reserve his place in next year’s lists he presents us with Lumiere. Lumiere is an expansion of the sound Dustin O’Halloran had established in his first two albums, and gives the listener deeper insight into his abilities as a composer. With the strings of New York’s ACME ensemble, Stars of the Lid’s Adam Wiltzie’s guitar, the violin of Peter Broderick and the mixing abilities of Jóhann Johannsson all aiding in making O’Halloran’s compositions come to life, this is a work of the highest order. Forty three minutes of expansive, utterly flawless music. The piano is still there; oh it’s still there, smack dab at the center of almost every movement. Fading in and out at the exact right moments and accented by the other instruments’ performances. That’s not to say that the other instruments are only there to as supporting cast, not at all, but their presence makes the piano shine in all
its glory. Every note is made more significant and each song all the more fuller. Take “We Move Lightly” for example, at heart it is a simple piano melody, moving as naturally and briskly as possible; a projection of O’Halloran state of mind at a given point in time. Nothing is forced or over complicated yet the song has a unique richness to it. The main reason behind that lies in the highly intelligent placement of the string swells, their entrance and their subtlety. On listening to it, one can’t imagine it without these added elements, the texture they add can’t be compromised. The moods on the album vary yet in a way all have a cold, reflective feel to them. “A Great Divide’s” subtle electronics in the beginning introduce us to that feeling, with windswept soundscapes surrounding the scattered piano notes and introducing the mournful violin section which gains in momentum and ushers the return of the piano again to put the finishing touches along with the processed background noises. “Opus 44” then enters as if to narrate the previous track and provide closure. That sequence by which closure is given aer each track, be it joyful or sad, gels the album together until its dying moments. One can’t label any of the pieces as non essential or remotely negligible. Each song has its character and has its spine chilling
moments bringing to memory great albums of the genre such as Eluvium’s Copia, Max Richter’s Memory House and Peter Broderick’s Float. Where each song on the album might seem unrelated to that preceding or following it, but on further listens it becomes clearer and clearer that had these same tracks been placed in any diﬀerent order the logic of the album would have made less sense or felt incomplete. As a reviewer, it’s my job to find blemishes in an album, to criticize the weaknesses I find most obvious and hope it comes as constructive as possible. Very few albums will appear as flawless, and an album that hasn’t the slightest defect in it is probably (hopefully) never going to be made. Lumiere has tested me in doing so; it has made my life harder for the past three weeks or so, listening to it over and over again to find that fateful downfall. Surely it can be said that the album doesn’t cross any established boundaries or that more surprises would have helped it standout that tiny bit more. Then again, what’s wrong with playing it a bit safe when the result is as fantastic as this? One weakness perhaps? It should have been longer! - Mohammed Ashraf
Richard Knox & Frédéric D. Oberland The Rustle of the Stars
For several centuries arctic exploration was spurred by the dream of finding a new trading route to China and India – the socalled ‘Northwest Passage’. The heroism, greed, folly, tragedy, triumphs and failures of this era, and of polar exploration in general, provide a fertile source of inspiration for this first collaboration between Richard Knox (Glissando) and Frédéric D. Oberland (FareWell Poetry). The pair set themselves the task of imagining “a musical passage through the North Pole explorer diaries”, to navigate “a polar journey to the ends of the earth through the arctic sea.” The desolation of polar landscapes finds expression in the rich strings and electric guitars, but it is the human element of the story — the hopes, despairs, and struggles of the men who flung themselves time and time again into the freezing void – that is communicated most strongly throughout the album.
The opening track “Sleeping Land (pt. I)” is a suitable farewell salute as our noble heroes embark on their journey in search of fame and glory; its more somber reprise at the album’s close is a fitting memorial to the many who never returned. In between we are subject to a whole range of emotions, at times inspired by the daring and faith of the explorers, dazzled by the stark and strange beauty of the polar regions, or sobered by the desperate circumstances to which our protagonists are reduced. “Mist” creaks and groans with the slowness of ice sheets, while in “Le Passage du Nord-Ouest” vision is reduced to nothing by a swirling blizzard of piano notes. The music has an aﬃnity with film soundtracks, though Knox and Oberland are free to dri into dissonance and noise without worrying about overpowering any specific images. Their sound palette is diverse, using instruments such as glockenspiels, dulcimer, chimes, crystal glasses, and fuzzy field recordings
alongside the conventional guitar, piano and strings. Adding depth and largeness to the sound are the acoustics of St Margaret of Antioch church in Leeds, which was used for much of the recording. Although many of the early polar explorers le themselves open to accusations of vanity or foolhardiness, their successes and failures nonetheless greatly expanded our knowledge of some of the world’s most inhospitable places. “The Rustle of the Stars” is a stirring tribute to their achievements – sometimes bleak, sometimes discordant, but always powerful. The album continues Gizeh Records’ habit of producing beautifully packaged releases, with an art print and postcard accompanying the heavyweight vinyl. - Nathan Thomas
Christina Vantzou No.1
Christina Vantzou is a Kansas-born artist, film director, and musician living in Brussels. Visual art was her earliest passion; in a July 2007 article for NY Arts she wrote, “Before I could even walk I would accompany my mom to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO, where she taught children’s art classes. Sometimes I got to spend the whole aernoon there…. I still have dreams about it.” Her drawings are quirky, serial, benignly weird. (In a March 2011 interview with Ghostly International, she asserts that the finished pieces “mostly stay in boxes.”) In the first of this Dolphin Gallery series online, an attractive woman in silhouette leans casually against a piano, wearing a perfectly congruous stag’s head, bathed in pastel blue and gray. In another, a young woman in tights stands in a flirtatious, knees-together pose, largely engulfed by a single, campy shark bite. Vantzou’s filmwork demonstrates an altogether separate drive. Her promotional clip for the Sparklehorse track “Heart Of Darkness” is nostalgic and transfixing. Tragic, now, in retrospect. Her video for Dustin O’Halloran’s “Fragile N. 4″ is restrained and completely abstract, a Rorschach in motion with its geometric color patterns and out-of-tempo phrasing. She is also the visual half of The Dead Texan, alongside composer Adam Wiltzie (who in turn co-founded Stars of the Lid and served as live sound engineer for such acts as The Flaming Lips and Jóhann Jóhannsson). Some of the Dead Texan videos find Vantzou returning to her sketchpad, like the “Aegina Airlines” video, in which a hand, disconnected beyond the forearm, plays an undrawn piano. In time the background starts to fill with various
other stylized design elements (it bears mention, Vantzou’s uncanny ability to recreate her own image with only a line or two). Kranky will release Christina Vantzou’s premiere solo album on October 24. Her compositions fulfill as diﬀerent an urge from her films as the films do from her illustrations. The release is titled, simply, No. 1, and was composed with synthesizer, voice, and samples over the last three years. A collaboration with Minna Choi of Magik*Magik Orchestra helped build a 16piece brick-and-mortar recording (“strings, horns, clarinet, flute”) from the electronic blueprint. Her music stands astonishingly upright, even from the opening cathedral moments of “Homemade Mountains,” with its slow string tide, twinkling bells, and triumphant echo. This is a far canyon call from, say, Japanese Garden, but more on that in a moment. No. 1 leans more toward melody than texture, and “Prelude for Juan” follows “Mountains,” taking a discernibly more sinister mood without really drawing attention to the transition (Vantzou first penned the album as a single movement). The spike of fih notes and creepy found sounds tucks us cozily between dark ambient and modern classical, and the influences of Arvo Pärt and Portishead both become clearer. “Super Interlude Pt. 1″ introduces the mournful, renewing qualities of brass, and it is clear within the first ten minutes of this album that Vantzou has brought a dagger into the royal court, which she does not intend on using as a letter opener. And we haven’t even heard the highlights, yet.
“Super Interlude Pt. 2″ is the first of them: a ravishing, an updated string adagio that manages to pull oﬀ moving and bookish at the same time. The synthesizer genesis is more obvious, here, particularly in the uncomplicated intro, a proud, two-note meander across a percolating orchestra. The second act has all of the trappings of an early-career masterpiece: defiantly abstract, undeniably potent. Given recent events it would be careless to declare that the currents become tidal waves, but the reader certainly gets the idea. “And Instantly Take Eﬀect” is the other of the album’s key movements (the track title is a response to that of the preceding one, “Your Changes Have Been Submitted”). Another electroacoustic composition with an unabashed ambient undercoat, “Take Eﬀect” reverses some of the album’s earlier tendencies (melody over texture, plot over theme). This is a gradual, unpreening seven-minute string composition that, with some rearranging, could have concluded the album. Other tracks veer a bit more toward the celestial (think “Adversary” and “Changes”), and it is worth noting that so colorful a visual artist tends toward earth tones in her compositions. No. 1 makes no room for shark bites or parlor tricks. But with all three of her divergent interests — drawing, film, and music — she exhibits a painless and surefooted talent. We can only hope that she will continue the process of mashing the three. And, frankly, it is with the latter of the three that Vantzou seems to display the most promise. This is a terrific debut. - Fred Nolan
Lawrence English The Peregrine
Lawrence English’s latest album “The Peregrine” is an album length ode to J.A. Baker’s novel of the same name, a book described as part existential transformation story, part nature watching guide. Baker spent a year following two pairs of Peregrines that migrated to his home every winter. For his text, Baker wanted to detail not only the Peregrine’s life in minute detail, but also create a map of the landscape the Peregrine traveled on. Although I have only a passing familiarity with the novel, it is oen cited for its poetic prose that seeks to establish a merge between the author and subject (Baker felt he slowly came to identify with his subjects so much that he actually became one of them). Lawrence English has long explored the idea of landscape and environment in his music, and one of the things he states he admires about the book is that it vividly maps a particular landscape at a particular moment in time. Of interest to Baker was that a Peregrine makes a map of its hunting landscape in its mind and ingrains it so completely that even the subtlest change was notable. Baker’s technique for the book relies on repetitive prose and poetic nuances. How appropriate than for English to pick up this same banner to create an album where he both limits his resources and creates a deeply immersive album that ranks with his best. “The Peregrine”, the album, begins with an ommmm sound that resembles the work of Tibetan throat singers. When the bass joins in a few minutes into the first piece it is almost gut rumbling. Soon that gives way to thick waves of harmonic dissonance. Sounds come forward, and then recess into the background. It gives the music a sense of movement while demanding little in the way of bringing in new instrumentation. This is appropriate considering much of the “The Peregrine”, the novel and the album, is about meditation on a single idea. For Baker, it was the Peregrine itself; for English, it is Baker and his prose that serve as the inspiration. The most familiar point of
comparison for this music is “Kiri No Oto”, as English seems to be drawing from a similar pallet. “The Peregrine” has 6 parts to its composition, but really, other than needing to flip the record, it all flows seamlessly as one piece. And this works in English’s favour in that it accents his ability to absolutely immerse the listener in his narrative. This is not music you put on and ignore or do other things while listening to – it demands your attention. And that was part of Baker’s point; that he as author sought a complete immersion with his subject. One of the themes of the novel is that Baker is chasing a ‘hunter’ and eventually identifies himself as having become the hunter, not through an ironic switching of roles, but through a strange symbiosis that comes about through the total immersion in his experience of watching the Peregrines. There’s a natural connection between English’s drone based explorations and Baker’s text in that the book is noted for repetition, particularly so since the Peregrine’s day-to-day actions were so routine. How English incorporates this is to limit the tools at his disposal and to draw from a set pallet to construct his narrative. And this is what sets English apart from so many of his peers, and how perfect that it takes this album to draw attention to this particular nuance of the man’s work: English always takes the listener with him on his journey. These are not the dalliances of a master; this is an artist eagerly aware of his audience and his relationship to them. Throughout “The Peregrine” there is a deep sense that English is desperately aware of the emotive terrain he is mining. And his ability to change the mood of the piece with the subtlest movement demonstrates his pinpoint accuracy in being able to shi between moments of grand, otherworldly awe to introspective solemnity in a matter of only a few bars. In Baker’s ‘The Peregrine’, the landscape that the peregrine travels becomes so vividly rendered that the harmony between
the bird and its home become inseparable. On English’s album, the bass almost becomes like the peregrine, occasionally emerging from the landscape to soar and take the meaning of it all to some other place. And when I said this album has bass: this album has bass. Although English has limited his resources, his use of bass is almost something new for him here. And how appropriate considering that the notion of using the peregrine’s journey as a guiding principal to map out a landscape is a new device for English. There are passages where the bass all but disappears and the listener is le floating. And when it returns, it feels as though some lost guiding force has returned to help us navigate our way through English’s arid then arctic soundscape. Sometimes as a fan of this type of music I like to take a step back and ask myself how it all appears to people who either just don’t ‘get it’ or just plain don’t want to get it. English’s music is abstract. Descriptors of his music oen rely on scarce terms used to refer to sub-genres of sub-genres. But his ideas are crystal clear. And so is his intent. In that sense the album again mirrors the text that he seeks to honour in that he uses abstractions as a means to fully realize something concrete. In a way this is one of English’s most refined works, not in terms of its sound, which is actually quite grand, but in terms of its ideas. Experimedia, who have been on a role of late, have once again released an album that rewards and challenges the listener in equal measure. This is one of those albums so clear in its vision, so raw in its emotion that it speaks to listeners who may not even have an interest in this sort of material. And for those of you who hold “Kiri no Oto” to be of the highest esteem when it comes to the Lawrence English canon, well, let the debate begin. - Brendan Moore
Esmerine La Lechuza
As tributes go, the opening moments here are whimsical and kinetic, with an uptempo marimba line and optimistic string arrangement. The track is named “A Dog River,” and the currents implied by that title are unmistakable: the fabric of overlaying cello melodies, the swelling momentum, the parallel measures of loss and perseverance. Constellation Record’s announcement credits Colin Stetson as a guest contributor to “A Dog River,” although his renown saxophone playing is only evident in subtle bursts of bass accent, during the denouement of the piece. Thus Esmerine introduce their first album in six years, and with expanded membership: Sarah Page (The Barr Brothers) and Andrew Barr (Land of Talk, The Barr Brothers) join founding members Bruce Cawdron and Beckie Foon. All mutual friends of Montreal vocalist Lhasa de Sela, the four came together aer the singer’s untimely death on January 1, 2010, at age 37. The new album is La Lechuza, and the memorial is most evident in “Snow Day For Lhasa,” and “Fish On Land.” The former track features the touching countertenor vocals of Patrick Watson, who recorded
much of the album for Esmerine in his lo. The string prologue absolutely shimmers, like sunlight on ice (the title of the song is literal, as Montreal received snow for four days aer de Sela’s death). This voice and harp pairing is tragic, halting, the heavy mood in the studio clearly palpable. The latter of these two tracks is haunting, literally: “Fish On Land” features de Sela herself, recorded with Cawdron and Foon, in a previously unreleased song. The desperate, oen trembling cello work goes alongside de Sela through a frightening dream narrative, which should be heard, not read. Even so, a preview is fitting: “I had a dream last night, of a fish on land…. Is life like this for everyone? I picked him up, he had a human face.” Devastating. But La Lechuza is not all heartbreak. “Trampolin” carries the scent of the far east with its curious, shuﬄing mid-tempo dance of maraca, harp, cello and voice. Playful clusters of dis-symphony start at the one-minute mark (harp, wind instruments, uncertain others), angular and perfectly textured compositions with a distinctly Forbidden Palace flair. “Sprouts” is similarly eastern, building momentum from Page and Foon’s sparse duet into a downright cheerful composition with a marimba pulse and string palpitations. The
art-house dissonance just past the sixminute mark is unexpected, and welcome. The opening track’s theme of rivers earns a reprise with “Little Streams Make Big Rivers,” and the listener has to wonder if de Sela’s mark on the Montreal music scene — and on the music world at large — was the inspiration for this. It is a magnificent work: brief, psychedelic, with great momentum. An old-school Woodstock saunter breaks into a cosmic sprint, with turbulent violin and saxophone nestled alongside stratospheric cello and battering percussion. Lechuza, Spanish for “owl,” is also a Mexican folk legend telling of a witch who could transform into a bird. Esmerine’s latest oﬀering La Lechuza is an intelligent and meticulous piece of conjuring all its own. Certain pieces are almost too painful to hear, others are alive with color and purpose. Still others, cultured and erudite. La Lechuza succeeds in nearly more ways than we can count, not the least of which are a dazzling collection of talent, a dirge for a departed friend, and a piece of music making with an identity all its own. - Fred Nolan
Christian Fennesz The Interview
The morning aer a haunting performance at Semibreve Festival in Braga, I meet Christian Fennesz for coﬀee to talk about the concert, the recent EP ‘Seven Stars’ and his views on collaborating with Ryuichi Sakamoto… - How do you feel your performance went? The festival is fantastic, the location is amazing and the people are really wonderful but the only problem I had was that the sound on stage was not right for me. Something happened, a kind of distortion coming through the monitor speakers, so I didn’t feel comfortable. Once this happens I just can’t really get into it. My music is really just based on improvisation and for that I have to be very confident, I have to feel relaxed and when there is a little technical problem then it’s diﬃcult for me to get into it. Of course I can still play and it’s OK but I could have done better. - Because you didn’t feel really immersed into the sound? Yes exactly! - But from the audience it sounded really good! Everybody told me it sounded great but I know myself I can go on top of that easily and it happens when I feel really comfortable with the sound. To me the sound on stage is the most important thing. - When you say you want to feel relaxed, you mean you want to bathe in sound on stage? Exactly! That’s what it is: I can get into my own world, of course I care about the audience, but nothing can make me feel nervous. Once I’m just into my own world I can let it go and it just works perfectly. But
when I have to think about problems then I’m not well balanced anymore. - So when you’re really into the sound, you feel cushioned in a way? Yes, that’s what make me play better. And I love to hear my music very loud and clear. But I also like the interactions with the listeners, with the audience. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, I can feel it. Maybe yesterday there was a little bit too much distance between the stage and the audience. - Do you prefer more intimate venues then? It can be big but I have to see them. Yesterday, I couldn’t see anybody. I couldn’t see faces. - How does it impact your music when you play? When I see that the audience is into it – you can see that on people’s faces – then it makes me more falling into this world. This is a feedback loop in a way. - While you were playing you were watching the visuals projected behind you on a few occasions. Obviously I don’t see much when I play, facing the audience, so I just wanted to see what the visual-artist was doing, because I liked what I saw when we were rehearsing and I was just curious to see what he was doing during the actual performance. And when I see the music works well with the visuals it gives me confidence, and I calmed down. - You’ve mention the importance of feeling relaxed and confident. It’s very important for me as a liveperformer, because being on stage is not
so easy. There’s always a level of professionalism that I can only count on so it’s not a problem in itself. But yesterday everything seemed so perfect, the people were so nice, the theater was great and then there were those little technical problems. This could have been an excellent performance and it was just OK in my opinion. - Can you tell us about your last record ‘Seven Stars’ which was released quite recently on Touch and why did you go for the EP format? I love the EP format. I even love the single format! I really love to do small projects. Actually I would prefer it anytime to making a full album. I could make like three to four 4-track EPs a year quite easily. I feel so comfortable with the format because, in a way, you don’t have to carry all the weight of an album. An album is such a statement and you have to be so careful with it because every new album gets compared to the other ones already out. And for some weird reasons, people expect a kind of musical revolution whenever I make an album, which is ridiculous. Why me? I made one anyway with the first two albums. Now each time I make a new record, everybody expect a new style or something. And instead of that, I just want to keep working in my own style and make it better. So, that’s why sometimes, when I think I have to say something I prefer the smaller formats. Two or three years ago I did a 7” single on Touch and I really loved working on that because this is a project you can do in a few weeks. With smaller formats, it more like doing them just for the joy of music, something like: “This is a nice track, let’s just release it!”. There is no big philosophy around that, just nice pieces of music. With an album it’s always more than just the music, at least for me.
- I can see how ‘Seven Stars’ works like a very coherent ecosystem with two framing tracks that have more of a ‘song’ structure, and two more ‘experimental’ tracks in the middle. Well yes, it was planned like that, having two songs as a frame and two more droney works in the middle. The two ‘songs’, the first and the last track, I think they have something in common, they’re very narrative, they’re almost like 1960’s or 1970’s film music with something like Italian accents. - Yesterday you played the guitar part of the first song ‘Liminal’ and, as you say, it is a narrative track but the live version, in a way, felt much more inhabited. It’s a diﬀerent style what I play live. It’s much more expansive. The record version it’s almost impossible to play live. I would have to play it as it is, so I might as well play the record. So I try to find ways to recreate my stuﬀ in a live context. But it’s a diﬀerent mix, it sounds diﬀerent of course. There are some pads I play as well but on the records everything is mixed down so carefully that it’s always diﬀerent live. - The second track ‘July’ on ‘Seven Stars’ sounds much more ‘composed’ compared to the rest of the EP or more generally your music. Yes it is very composed and sometimes I really like to work like that. It’s funny because it sounds very composed but I did it in one day. Actually I played guitar, I recorded that and then I started working on it and re-composing it like an abstract painting, cutting things out and pasting
them elsewhere. Sometimes my tracks are really based on improvisations I do in the studio. That means I play in the studio just like the way I play live but I record everything. I find something interesting and then I start composing but the emotional aspect is already in the recording. And when I mix I can really fall into it so, for me, the mix can be a very emotional process as well. It’s funny because sometimes I can’t even remember how I mixed things. For me the mixing is almost part of the composition. - Another aspect of your career is the live scoring of silent movies. How does it relate to your other activities? It’s not exactly the same thing but of course it’s always me doing the music and I have my own techniques and approaches. But playing live for a film is interesting because it gives you a guideline. The pictures and the story give you a guideline but I don’t think the music should overwhelm the pictures. I think the pictures should guide the music. And that’s what I’m trying to do when I play live for films. - How do you prepare for that? I do see the films before but I don’t play. I just watch and I think about ideas while I watch. But when I play live, I like to keep it fresh. I don’t want to think too much before, just a few parts, some kind of frame. I want to keep everything else quite open so I can react in real time. These are the most interesting things I think. It is risky but this is a challenge. That the fun part! Otherwise that would be too organized, with notes etc. For the movie
‘Dead Man’, Neil Young wrote the music and he just played it live. He had a big screen in his studio room and he saw it for the first time and played it live. - You’ve collaborated with a lot of artists. How does it relate to your solo work? Collaborating is always learning from someone, from their knowledge. My own work is in a way very isolated, my own sound, the things that I create under the name ‘Fennesz’ in the studio is a very special kind of sound. I guess my music is kind of narrative, it’s based on memories and all those things. Not clear memories, more feelings. It’s like films form the past or from the future that are in your head. But when I play with other people it’s more the musician in myself and not the composer, and with this I’m very flexible and I’m happy to learn things from other people but it doesn’t really influence my own work I think. It’s more like communication and there is nothing nicer than playing music with a good friend, it’s a beautiful thing to do. Sure, in a way of course, it does influence you but it’s really more about communication. For instance when I played with Keith Rowe or Toshimaru Nakamura, I played totally diﬀerent things than when I played with Yellow Magic Orchestra which I just did during an American tour recently. Those collaborations are very diﬀerent from each other but they are equally fun for me. And of course I did learn from them. I definitely learned, from Ryuichi Sakamoto how silence is very important in music and how one should take time and not play too many notes. - Pascal Savy
Carsten Nicolai The Interview
A couple of weeks ago, German multidisciplinary artist and Raster-Noton cofounder Carsten Nicolai played a mesmerizing audio-visual set at Semibreve Festival in Braga. I caught up with him just aer soundcheck and we sat down for 20 minutes to talk about his latest album ‘univrs’, his work with visuals and a few other things… - You said that ‘unitxt’ was connected to club music. What about ‘univrs’? When I talk about club music, it’s always club music how I imagine club music. For many years now, things have been very static in a way, and there’s very little headroom at the moment for, let’s say, normal club situations. Only a few clubs try to have a unique sound or try something to be a little bit more outside of ‘normal’ club music. I think it’s not so new actually that Olaf Bender, Frank Bretschneider and myself have always been interested in this kind of crossover between sound design and very careful constructed pieces. At the same time we want to give the music a little bit more of a social context and we want to play it in clubs where people can dance to the music. I think we’ve always done that in a way and for a very long time, it’s not so new for us. But of course when you tour and you play in this kind of situation, those things leave traces and the pieces on ‘univrs’ are mainly developed out of the ‘unitxt’ album that I have played live. And it’s a kind of progression out of that, a logical development from that starting point. - The track ‘uni acronym’, featuring french voice-artist Anne-James Chaton, is a kind of continuation of what you did on ‘unitxt’ . How did this collaboration happen? I met Anne-James a very long time ago when we were both performing at Club Paradiso in Amsterdam and by chance I
saw his performance. I was really interested in what he was doing: I like the words, I like the way he presented things, and how it sounded. Aer we met, we exchanged some emails and then we had this idea to do something together. AnneJames recorded a piece based on notes I had, like an autobiography, something like a poem and he sent me the recording of that. I had this recording on my computer for many years, but I never did anything with it as I felt it wasn’t the right moment. When I worked on ‘unitxt’ though, I thought the moment had come to finally work with Anne-James’ voice, and I made those two songs ‘u_07′ and ‘u_08-1′. For the new album ‘univrs’ I wanted a little bit of a continuation, so I made ‘uni acronym’. By aligning all those three-letter acronyms, a random narrative was created and I was wondering about a political dimension that could potentially emerge from such a narrative. It becomes very political sometimes but it’s really by chance. Because many of those three-letter acronym are quite political or political organisations, so of course when you put them in a row a strange context can emerge. - But there’s also an emphasis on corporations. Yes, and it’s become a very political message. There is one moment when ‘CNN’ comes aer ‘CIA’ for instance, but it’s really alphabetical and it wasn’t intentional. I really tried to not be intentional, and to just use the alphabet. It’s really the alphabetical order that creates some narrative. For me of course the narrative is much more complex because I know the meaning of all the acronyms. There are 208 acronyms and a lot of them are local things like some EastGerman companies, things related to the airport, the public transports in Berlin or local banks. So most people don’t know
them and if they know only half of the acronyms then they create a diﬀerent narrative and the track has an altogether diﬀerent meaning. - ‘univrs’, like most of your musical work, is very connected to visuals. I use a lot of graphical representations of sound, so visuals are very driven by sound analysers. The nature of the sounds I work with or specific events I trigger in my music are oen reflected inside the visuals. For ‘univrs’, there is also a visual version of the album called ‘uniscope’ that forms the basis of my live show, where you can see several ways of graphically represented sound. And there’s not only a coding and programming part to generate visuals but also an analogue hacking part where we hack the signal of the video itself by soundwave sounds. Depending on the situation, when I play I can control how the visuals are generated using controllers, so I can build and customise the visual aspect of my live show as I choose. But for me the visuals are not just a way of representing the musical pieces: I’ve always been surrounded by visuals since I started performing and probably because of the lack of performative moves intrinsic to electronic music, I thought that if I can’t really perform then I’ll let the visuals perform for me. So I can kind of step back and have more freedom when I play, so I don’t have to act and perform. With electronic music, you prepare a lot, you build your instrument, you have to learn it, and to control it. But all the complexity, what is behind, is not visible for the audience, how you play it and how you do everything. There are a lot of things happening inside the computer that have no visual expression. So for me it was very interesting to see that people have a really clear idea that image and sound are really connected and that the image performs rather than me as a person.
- You published the books ‘grid index’ and ‘moiré index’ and I was wondering how they are connected to this audio-visual framework. All those books (grid, moiré and the new one called cyclo.id with Ryoji Ikeda) are quite diﬀerent. They are like my visual archives and I published them so everybody can use them. It’s a kind of dictionary to make visual structures. Sometimes I use them for the live visuals and sometimes I incorporate some concepts. For instance, parts of the moiré book are used a lot for the show with Ryuichi Sakamoto, same with the grid book. I see those books as fundamental sources rather than finished works. - I feel for example that this work with ‘grid index’ and ‘moiré index’ is somehow connected to your album ‘aleph-1′. I agree, this album has a little bit of moiré sonically, rhythmically and maybe melodically. There’s also phasing but not like in Steve Reich phase music. All the grids meet at some point and then go away. But in the end all the patterns share the same fundamental speed and it’s only when some of them are three times faster, for instance, that it creates a very strange timing eﬀect. - How did you approach sound design for ‘univrs’ ? The main work, while making those tracks, was really about choosing the sounds and sculpting them. I mainly work with editing
sowares and I look at every single waveform. I don’t use synthesisers or drummachines as I really prefer to edit every waveform by hand. Sometimes I draw waveforms but mostly I generate simple sounds and I cut little parts that I paste into other waveforms, or I layer the low end of a sound with another sound, so I really sculpt the waveform. I work oﬀ-line and I look at a waveform until I feel I’m finished with the editing. This process takes a lot of time as I don’t use a sampler that would be much faster I think. Then I put one track aer another into what I call a matrix, all sitting into a big file. So basically I make a grid and I delete out of the grid and then it becomes a rhythm. I think it’s a very diﬃcult way of producing, but for some reasons I really like editing sowares. Being completely self-taught, in the beginning I didn’t know that drum machines existed. But later when I used a drum-machine I felt it wasn’t really me creating the sounds but more the machine doing it. I wanted to have this feeling of diﬃculty to feel it was really me creating the sounds. - Changing subject, I’d like to know how the ‘xerrox’ project has evolved between vol.1 and vol.2 and how you see it shaping in the future? When I started with the ‘xerrox’ project it was a very rough idea in the beginning: it was really just a few loops that I liked. So I thought I should really explore this roughness. And later I made those other tracks that had a more cinematic
approach. But for the second CD, I couldn’t repeat the same things as the first one and in a way there is a kind of travel behind, a kind of idea of progression inside that. I hope I can record five albums in total but it takes so much time always. For the second one I wasn’t so strict following those conceptual rules I had in the first one. I was a little bit more seeing it as a soundtrack for something else, like a road trip or something like that. I have this subtitle inside the booklets. ‘xerrox vol.1′ is called ‘Old World’ and ‘xerrox vol.2′ is ‘Towards the New World’ and the next one will be called ‘Leave the World’ so we’ll go outside the world and we’ll see. - In a recent interview microsound composer Curtis Roads said that one of his main sources of inspiration for music was a landscape gardening book. I was wondering how your own background in landscape design has influenced the way you approach your music. I studied architecture and landscape design and those disciplines are of course about the aspect of space and how things are in space. I’ve always been a big fan of Japanese gardens. I’m really interested in them, every detail, how they’re constructed, what stones are used, what plants are used. And even though I cannot exactly explain how, for me there is a very strong connection between making a sound and landscape gardening. Maybe it’s about the contrasts. - Pascal Savy
Gerard Manley Hopkins was a 19th century Jesuit priest, an innovative poet, the son of a writer. His poetry was largely overlooked during his lifetime, and rarely published. He invented the style known as “sprung rhythm,” which he claims to have simply stumbled upon in folk songs. Indeed, upon entering the priesthood, Hopkins burned all of those works he had not already entrusted to friends. As a professor, he became frustrated with his students’ abilities, disillusioned with teaching, and has been posthumously diagnosed with bipolar disorder, or simple clinical depression. A tragic Victorian-era figure, among many. At first glance, Hopkins’ work has very little to do with Polish composer Michal Jacaszek’s forthcoming masterpiece Glimmer. The cover art seems like an inexpensive nod to both “The Windhover” and Spring and Fall, the second line of which very briefly returns in the one-word track title “Goldengrove.” Among others, track title “Dare-gale” is taken from the first line of Hopkin’s The Caged Skylark, while “Evening Strains to be Time’s Vast” comes from the second line of the Jesuit’s Spelt From Sibyl’s Leaves. The most direct reference is closing piece “Windhover,” which is named aer Hopkins’ most notable work The Windhover. Like the gold leafing described in “Spring and Fall,” and
like the gold starting to tear away from its album art, Glimmer is beautiful and delicate, nearly perfect in its precariousness. But a gilded cover image is not enough for a modern, renown composer to bind his instrumental album back to a Victorian age priest. As music habitués, we may find it fascinating when artists combine creative works like this, when they acknowledge their launching points and references, however subtly. It beguiles us especially when those references are from an entirely diﬀerent mode of expression: folk songs in poetry, poetry in music. But why Hopkins? We should save the question until aer a full listen. The old world tug here is irresistible. This is a place of low-register harpsichord, decisive clarinet, de samples and transmission noise, all shot under a fl i c k e r i n g l i g h t t h a t r e l i e v e s i t o f unnecessary color. Jacaszek stated in a 2008 interview that he eschews traditional musical eﬀects like delay and chorus: “One of my most favourite processes is lowering the sound – an octave or more down.” He continued, “I’ve got a piano phrase in my sampler. Then I play it an octave down. The sound I hear is not possible to execute on
any live instrument.” The eﬀect is, indeed, otherworldly: instruments that do not exist, the nearly verbal static, the almost tactile underbrush. “Evening Strains To Be Time’s Vast” is such a massive creature that even its soest breath will rattle the windows. Yet elsewhere — during some of the sudden dips in volume — we practically hear the composer shiing around in his chair. We hear the resonant brush of fingers across guitar strings, and the performer’s exhale into a flute. Such a fascinating duality and, not incidentally, the stated intent: “All my artistic activity is based on the intuition that there is a hidden reality existing behind or beside the material world.” The frequency of twos comes into better focus now. Two is the number of alternates, of mirror images and polarity: tracks numbered two and four (“Dare-gale” and “Evening Strains To Be Time’s Vast” respectively) are wildly diﬀerent compositions from the rest. Exactly two track titles break away from the Hopkins motif. Jacaszek made extensive use of the second lines of Hopkins’ poetry, and in one case made use of the second part of a two-part verse. The two spools, and the two flocks. The two seasons: spring and fall. The two subjects: skylark and man.
Transcendent works such as this beggar comparison, although we can safely report that Glimmer shares the same rich acoustic complexity as Field Rotation’s Acoustic Tales and Vieo Abuingo’s And The World Is Still Yawning. (This fact alone poses an intriguing trifecta for top albums of 2011.) Jacaszek features the clarinet most prominently in “What Wind-Walks Up Above!” — clarinet … wind, clever, no? — which all but narrates the footfalls of creeping static and baritone noise. The three mix for an anxious cocktail. The submerged guitar lines of “Only Not Within Seeing Of The Sun” brown out as if during an adagio storm, always alongside the organic noise and droplets of electronic sound. But where Jacaszek truly raises the atomic number are the two songs we mentioned a moment ago, “Dare-gale” and “Evening Strains To Be Time’s Vast.” Noise in music has traditionally been a subjective pleasure, if that is the proper word. Noise is easy dissonance, without which there is no music at all. Noise helps intensify our search for patterns and therefore helps reward the discovery. Noise helps scour the gloss from all of the
la-la-la prettiness and helps extrude genuine beauty. But it is virtually unheard of for noise to function as objective pleasure: the pattern itself, the beauty itself. This is where the second and fourth tracks truly break new ground. The noise here is ravishing, universally appealing. Not just for the snobs anymore. The opening moments of “Dare-gale” have been described as that lovely explosion, and indeed some kind of detonations seem to stand in as percussion. The nearly arrhythmic spans between harpsichord notes come oﬀ as heartbroken gangplanks. At times it all comes to a hazy stop, as if Jacaszek has put his hand down on spinning vinyl without first removing the needle. The pops of static and bits of sound grafitti are impeccably modern, and the one-minute unraveling from roughly 4:30 on should speak for itself as high art. Two exits further, “Evening Strains To Be Time’s Vast” begins almost conventionally, and at the very least is similar to its surroundings: dark baroque, unrecognizable instruments performed by
hidden musicians, a stalking tempo, compositional restraint. Twice a swirling clamor threatens to unmoor the track, although the second time the “curtain out of dirts and fuzzes” becomes savage, yet still undeniably musical, even logical. Distant machinegun percussion distinguishes this second wall of energy, and the cacophony tapers quickly to silence just moments before it becomes unsustainable. Notwithstanding the numerology of the album — what with its twos, and pairs of twos — this track really should have gone last. So why Gerard Manley Hopkins? Glimmer belongs to us now, so creative intent really is beside the point (Michal Jacaszek only promised “some music based on poems,” not the study guide). So question is ours to answer. Let us start here: Jacaszek and those composers who are refurbishing modern classical for the new century have stumbled upon the sprung rhythms around us, and an entirely undiscovered art form is coming into view. - Fred Nolan
Evangelista In Animal Tongue
“It was raw power, reckless abandon, there was a knife in her voice.” – Carla Bozulich on Patti Smith, Alternative Press, November 1996… Carla Bozulich has performed for Ethyl Meatplow and Geraldine Fibbers, collaborated with Willie Nelson and members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and toured with members of The Dead Science. Her musical favorites include Franz Liszt, Deerhoof, and Motorhead. On the genesis of her 2008 LP Hello, Voyager, she claims “We wrote most of the album the night before each day we recorded the songs. I always do things without thinking about the process very much.” If this all sounds a bit scattershot and reckless, it is. Ingeniously so. Regarding the name of the project, she says: “Evangelista was a concept born in a night of insomnia while sleeping in a bed with two beautiful people…. I needed to say something about the beginning and end of the power we all hold when we build our energy as a group. When we see the horrible things in the world and refuse to give up and we come together, not through “god” but through our common power, SOUND AND LOVE. We love music.” Convinced? We’re not sure, either. But the music is more than convincing.
Her forthcoming In Animal Tongue commences with “Artificial Lamb,” a deceptively slow track, quickened with a reverberant, unceasing pinched-string guitar riﬀ and her urgent, old-soul voice. The lyrics are disquieting, even intoxicating, and in both senses of the word: “Oh darling dear/I feel like God here but I’ll go when you want.” Notwithstanding the synthesizer hum and brief samples that roll in at the halfway mark, “Artifical Lamb” is all Bozulich: bare guitar, defiant voice, and an untamed presence she could hardly contain if she meant to. The title track might be more representative of In Animal Tongue, and of Bozulich’s work at large: distant, almost random percussion and cymbal strikes accompany Bozulich’s eerie, abandonhope spoken introduction (“One time the land was wet…. The slowest sound was grinding down, and the lands turned dust.”) A carnival organ lick and thick vocal canvas join a deep string drone for the remainder: not punk, not jazz, not psychedelia, not rock, and most certainly not art house, although these will certainly come to mind. Bozulich’s work most succeeds when she generates some kinetic energy, and this way closing track is another highlight. The song sheds its first half with what seems like pretty standard fare: processed
stridulation, short-leash feedback, slasher flick ambiance, and guitar abuse. At 1’30″ in the track lurches into an artillery fire percussion lick, and at 1’45″, into a concurrent, warped, tribal aﬀair. It’s mostly an instrumental piece, save for Bozulich’s occasional spoken-word delivery (something about hatching). “Tunnel To The Stars” is downright orchestral and crazy: a dissonant orchestra warm-up, David Lynch saxophone, a lone middle eastern violin somewhere, and the layered sound of Bozulich’s free-form chanting “I don’t much care about any of this/I just want your hair caught in my mouth.” The languid guitar throughout “Enter The Price” is downright bluesy, at delicious odds with the mesmerizing and celestial synthesizer, Bozulich’s menacing whisper, and the creepy samples of what seem like ancient films and kids at play. There is rarely a better way to describe an artist than by asking her to write a few words about her greatest influence, and the same is true in Bozulich’s case. It is raw power, reckless abandon. There is a knife in her voice. - Fred Nolan
The A-Lords S/T
What does it mean to use the sounds of birds and of weather as part of nearly every track of an album of music? In the case of The A.Lords’ new self-titled release, it would seem to be an attempt to bring the music closer to nature, to locate its source and its inspiration in the natural environment… The choice of acoustic instruments, gentle major-key harmonies, and relaxed tempi would also seem a call to return to a simpler way of life, a state of being more in touch with the world that hums and sings all around us. Guitar, piano and glockenspiel meander and jig through the album’s ten tracks, joined now and then by voices human and avian. The press release
lists gardens, churches, a summerhouse and a barn as recording locations, and the occasional pattering of rain and the creaking of barn doors are allowed to bleed into the record. The result is the perfect soundtrack to an English summertime. But how realistic is this picture of nature that is being painted? Where is the violence and destruction we know is part of the environment? The chaos, the randomness, the tendency towards entropy? Does the nature in the picture really exist, or is it constructed, like the English countryside painted by Constable to hang in the drawing rooms of the newly urbanised industrial class? Is ‘nature’ really
how we think we’d want the physical environment around us to be, an imagined primeval source that is in fact imposed in hindsight? A kind of retrospective utopia? Ah, but the music is so beautiful, so blissful, so far away from the actual physical world we’re happily destroying, and that will probably take us down with it… A timeless charm of summer and Englishness, a natural harmony that has always been and always will be… And as the gentle lullaby of “Pyewacket’s Nest” draws the album to a close with the tinkle of a music box, one finds it so easy to dri oﬀ into a dream… - Nathan Thomas
“Exile” is the new Charalambides album, and it drips authenticity in places. Five years in the making, it was recorded between 2006 and 2010 in various locations in New Hampshire, western Massachusetts and New York City, mixed at Black Dirt Studios, and mastered at Sand with Paul Gold. The group remains the core duo of Christina and Tom Carter, with contributions on one track by the string section of Helena Espvall and Margarida Garcia.
several territories, never settling. With so many diﬀerent colours, most listeners will be able to find something to hook onto – be it a melody, a vocal or a heavily overdriven bass note booming through a sparse folk number (‘Desecrated’).
The space in the lingering notes of opening track ‘Autumn Leaves’ display the confidence and swagger that one would expect from such a well established unit, and subsequent tracks follow suit, each a textbook exploration of the full historical spectrum of American folk and blues. The drilling drone of ‘Before You Go’ incorporates shrieking guitar and brushed electric chords with sparse vocals that could have bubbled up from several decades ago. There’s something of a “dueling track” dynamic, where a loud layered piece is followed by a more thoughtful one.
The raw guitar on a number of tracks saves others from tripping over the line to unintentional parody – ‘Immovable’ almost crosses across into overly poetic performance art à la Jeﬀerson Airplane, but is saved from point of no return by the production. Those with a fierce aversion to grandiosity may struggle with some of the material, but the line into self-parody is not crossed (depending on where your opinion of this line may lay). The rawer tone of the introduction to ‘Into The Earth’ is welcome respite from the size of the previous track before its progression into blazing guitar overdubbery.
The album has an interesting texture in this way, and the notes of the opening track may give a false impression for what is to follow; alternating between thickly overdubbed layers and restrained minimal guitar work, the album sweeps across
This album accidentally/coincidentally marks Charalambides’ 20th anniversary, as they made their live debut was in 1991 – since their last album, Tom Carter has released a series of collaborations and solo works on a wide array of labels, while
The chiming picking of ‘Wanted To Talk’ is an album highlight, sounding like a refugee from the credits of a Coen Brothers Western, more Gillian Welsh or Low than Barn Owl.
Christina Carter has been steadily releasing her solo work through labels including her own Many Breaths imprint. Originally a duo the two Carters, Charalambides released a cassette called “Our Bed Is Green” on their own Wholly Other label in 1992 (later reissued on CD and double LP), showing a firm grasp on the haunting nature of American blues and country, as well as a mastery of tape manipulation, a disregard for genre boundaries, and a marked tendency towards vertically stacked guitar drone. A full length album called “Union” was released by the Siltbreeze label, and many other releases followed, both as a duo and trio (first with Jason Bill, and later with pedal steel player Heather Leigh Murray). Although better known as a trio through their various tours with both Heather and Jason, Tom and Christina have returned to concentrating on their duo work in more recent years, fusing introspective, openended, and oen spacious song structures with blasts of feedback and explosive sound oen startling to fans familiar only with the band’s deceptively low-key reputation. The album is out through Kranky this month, and is to be released as a 2 LP vinyl. - Charles Sage
The Book Report Series Volumes 1-3: The Humble Bee, Ohesky, Depatterning
Book Repot 001: The Humble Bee- “The Royal Game” (Sound Report on Stefan Zweig’s “Chess”) The Humble Bee opens up this promising new series with a 22-minute piece that is at once familiar and yet diﬀers from anything we’ve heard from him so far. As the piece opens we hear the familiar hallmarks of a Humble Bee song: the hiss of tape loops, delicate and ghostly instrumentation (in this case piano), but instantly something is diﬀerent. As it should be, this collection of book reports really are to some degree odes to other works – and this is key – WRITTEN works. Of the first three book reports The Humble Bee’s sounds most like a sort of soundtrack to the writing. For those not familiar with Zweig’s story, without giving too much away, it deals with a man who is gied at chess, but his gi is gained via a very dark learning curve. It’s a simple story in terms of its narrative but very complex in terms of its emotional arc. “The Royal Game” is a completely engrossing listen and of the three first book reports feels most like a series compositions interlinked together to form one longer song. It’s a diﬀerent approach for The Humble Bee, as is this long-form approach to songwriting. In the span of 22 minutes the piece is able to take a turn from something lovely and warm, to something abrasive and confrontational, and finally, to something somber and grand. With the help of Emmanuel Witzthum the final minutes of the piece are just made to feel absolutely overwhelmingly haunting and all consuming. There’s not a lot of that warm tape hiss noise either to give us comfort, it’s just Witzthum giving this grand string finale while the piano plays. And finally, there is nothing but the sound of waves. In Zweig’s story all the events take place on a ship, and so it is appropriate that these final notes revolve around water. The combination of this grand string finale giving way to waves hints at the undoing of one man’s life that Zweig’s story plays out so well. As a book report, it’s a loyal rendering and ode to the entirety of
Zweig’s piece, even capturing the emotional arc of the narrative. Book Report 002: Ohesky – “The Door in the Wall” (Sound report on H.G Wells’s novella of the same name) Now I have to say, “The Door in the wall and the Moth” may be one of my favourite Ohesky pieces. I am not at all familiar with the short story –and really this is meant to refer to a collection of short stories. However, as a piece of music… it begins with gentle processed sounds, but is primarily driven by sparse piano. It’s warm and lovely on one level, but also has a sense of unease. It feels so sparse and gentle it may just slip out of existence. And eventually that’s exactly what it does. And the listener is le with the sound of only those processed electronics, until it morphs into a drone-like fog, pressing forward and inescapable. Then the piano returns, but it seems faded and deeper recessed into the background like the last lights of hope (sanity?) disappearing forever. And slowly a swell begins like an orchestra tuning for a Penderecki performance. It’s all very ominous and mysterious – a perfect fit for Wells’s blend of humanity and science fiction. As a longer form composition “The Door in the Wall and the Moth” and the much shorter “The Sea Raiders” work together as an example of the importance of pacing your narrative to achieve a defined eﬀect. Seriously, this one will amaze people in its ability to turn from lovely but haunted to outright horrifying. Book Report 003: Depatterning “The Blasted Heath” (Sound Report on H.P Lovecra’s “The Colour Out of Space”) Now, I was not at all familiar with the work of Depatterning (aka Gary Mentanko, he of Canada and now Ireland) and know Lovecra, but not this particular tale, which deals with an evil that manifests itself in the form of a colour. The idea of a colour being evil to me suggests something that seems innocuous and mundane being a source of something dark and threatening. And that is exactly
how this piece of music works: it takes a variety of sounds and sound sources, and then weaves them together into something wicked and sinister. Again, it’s a single piece spanning over 20 minutes. This one starts oﬀ with a tapestry like feel as elements enter and intertwine then fade out and return. It’s almost similar to Markus Popp’s work as Oval in its ability to take elements that sound almost familiar and twist them into something foreign and alien. It’s an engrossing piece from the outset and begins with a very strange feel to it that never quite settles down – and that is to the composition’s benefit. One can almost picture glowing orbs as you listen, which sits well with the idea of a colour being a lure for evil. Throughout the piece strange sounds come into make it even odder: at one point what sounds like a baby’s cry comes in, another point sounds like an atomic bomb drop diﬀused into a sonic drone. It’s all very unnerving, but something about it won’t allow you to turn away – and something tells me that’s precisely the point of both Lovercra’s piece and Mentanko’s work. As a first time listener of Mentanko’s work this one had me intrigued and interested to hear more of the man’s work. What strikes me about this series is what oen strikes about musicians that make what I would broadly term minimal electronic music, and that is their ability to collaborate in such a generous and complimentary way. Are any of these artists in fact collaborating with the authors of their respective reports? No. But there is a clear respect for the original works referenced and a very apparent attempt to honour the narratives of the original texts. Three book reports in, this is one engaging and rewarding series thus far. And with works from the likes of Tape Loop Orchestra and Marihiko Hara in the pipeline that benchmark for excellence has no indication of dropping any time soon. - Brendan Moore
Danny Paul Grody Morning Light, Day Light, Evening Light
Where to begin, to introduce an article about Danny Paul Grody?
and also his recent projects Believer and Moholy-Nagy.
Where to start?
The nine tracks on “…Light” have a touch more of a sedate element to them than to “Fountain” – the track ‘Ohr’ in particular is more hypnotic than driving. The integration of layered keyboard when paired with big, lazy, open acoustic chords into the mix give songs like ‘Hello From Everywhere’ a glazed tone that is singular and distinctive. The playing is still direct and evocative – ‘Orbits’ in particular is a highlight, an emotive and touching piece that dips, pulses and soars in equal measure; almost like a Leo Kottke back porch bootleg (albeit less frenetic and willfully obtuse) accompanied by thoughtful and articulate piano.
A founding member of iconic San Francisco act Tarentel, member of Temporary Residence stablemate The Dri and solo recording artist in his own right, Grody seems set to become as prolific in the number of his upcoming releases as former Tarantel member and Root Strata label co-founder Jefre Cantu-Ledesma. Grody has been extremely busy it seems, and 2011 sees a number of projects come to fruition. His most recent solo release, 2010’s “Fountain” was universally well received, a complex, themed and intricate solo guitar album also utilizing melodica, keyboard, bow, rain and voice, recorded and mixed at home over the space of close to a year. “Fountain” was also followed by a self released untitled EP of companion pieces that came from the same period, initially put out in the Laminar Excursions mailorder series that included Damien Jurardo, J. Tillman and Richard Swi. Both records are apt demonstrations of his love of the West African kora (a 21 string bridge harp) and Tacoma style fingerpicking – it also hints at the drone experimentation that became prevalent in the latter half of Tarantel’s recorded output. Whilst Tarentel’s earlier material was reminiscent of post rock acts like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mogwai (albeit with a psychedelic tinge), later albums like “Ghetto Beats On The Surface Of The Sun (Volumes 1 & 2)” were virtually unclassifiable; like a musical star going supernova over the space of 23 songs. The chiming, detailed and hypnotic guitar of his two solo releases is now followed by the soon to be released “In Search Of Light”, to be released on a limited edition of 500 vinyl on the Students Of Decay label in September (the first 50 in sky blue, for interested waxheads). The album is a slight shi in tone, with the familiar guitar also joined by other elements in an elegiac tribute to a departed friend. Danny mentions a recent re-acquaintance with Kraut/Kosmiche, and there are elements of this in “…Light”
Album closer ‘Unwinder’ sprawls over its five minutes, hinting at melody and straying at patterns before rounding out a cohesive and direct album. Danny spoke to us about the album over the space of a few weeks, how it came about, his other projects and his loyalty to his instruments; he’s also soliciting for a kora player to collaborate with… ........................... - There seems to be a shi in tone from “Fountain’ to ‘In Search Of Light’; how do the two records diﬀer from each other, in terms of how they were recorded and the material on both? DPG: This record is a homage to my friend Jeﬀ Jacobs who passed in the beginning of 2011. He was somebody that I’ve had the honor of collaborating with for a number of years in a band called The Dri. His primary instrument was trumpet. He had serious chops, but was the kind of player that was not into being flashy or technical. Instead he opted for subtlety, patience, exploration, and abstraction. He was a magician when it came to sound and texture. I’ve always associated his musicality to light. He had this way of always liing the music. In practice, I’d oen stop playing mid song and find myself just listening to him in a sort of trance-like state – beautiful soulful sounds. I wanted to try and bring some of that spirit to this album. A way to acknowledge him
and the influence he had on me as a listener and player. The material was recorded at home with two microphones, acoustic guitar, bells, bows, harmonium, electric guitar, and synthesizer. The synth ended up becoming a particularly fun new element to work with. It seemed to get at this feeling of light I was striving for so I used it a ton. It was recorded shortly aer relocating to a new flat, which for me was an interesting process. I had gotten so used to the feel of my previous room and can clearly see how it shaped the sound on Fountain, just as this new space has with this album. - Sincere condolences for the loss in regards to Jeﬀ; I had seen some mentions of a new The Dri record, was this completed recently? What can you tell us about it? DPG: Thanks Charlie. Yeah, The Dri recorded between January and March of this year, just days aer Jeﬀ’s passing. We did the tracking in one concentrated session, took a break to absorb the recordings, and then mixed. We didn’t know what to expect, but it proved to be a really therapeutic experience for the three of us. Rather than focusing on Jeﬀ’s absence, we went into the recording with the belief than he was with us – a guiding light. It’s important to mention we had been working as a three piece without Jeﬀ for quite some time before going into the studio. He had been battling cancer for the better part of three years and as his illness worsened, we made the diﬃcult but necessary choice to carry on without out him. The music was mostly written within a two year period. Within that time, we had many fits and starts. It was a really diﬃcult period for us. The fact that we have been able to weather it and carry in Jeﬀ’s honor means a lot to us. I truly believe it’s brought us closer as friends as well as collaborators. I’m super proud of the music on Blue Hour. It’s certainly a diﬀerent animal in some ways than what’s come before, but it’s an honest document of what we had been going through as a group… frustration, darkness, grief, acceptance, resilience, and the idea of something beyond.
- How long did ‘In Search Of Light’ take to record?
- How did the record come to Students Of Decay?
DPG: All in all, I’d say it was about a year from start to finish to complete.
DPG: Alex and I had gotten to know each other essentially through music, shared friends, and my work on Root Strata. He and I would chat from time to time on email.
- Was that a long time for a record for you? How long did “Fountain” take to complete? DPG: It really depends on the scope of the music and what kind of expectation you place on yourself, I don’t think a year is a long time to make an album. In the case of In Search Of Light, it was motivated not only by a commitment with Alex at Students Of Decay, but also by very personal reasons connected to exploring ideas of loss and light. That was my jumping oﬀ point. From there, I accumulated material and before I knew it, a year had passed. During that time I was also working on other projects – The Dri, my new group with Jefre Cantu-Ledsma and Trevor Montgomery called MoholyNagy, as well as a duo with Trevor called Believer. All of which made albums this year! Sounds like a lot going on, but it all fed into one another and helped generate a great creative momentum. When it came to making my first album Fountain, there was a lot more space and time involved because it was all new. I had never released anything on my own and had a ton of exploring to do before the music felt developed enough to release. There was no concrete deadline other than the fact that I wanted to make a solo record for Root Strata. Jefre, who runs the label has been a close friend and creative collaborator for many, many years. He was always asking… “So when are you gonna make that solo record?”. I think his encouragement and persistence really helped stoke the fire for me initially. From what I can recall, that album took around two years to take form. - When you say you were striving for a feeling of light, did you have an idea of how you wanted the record to sound like to begin with, or did you find it as you went? DPG: It was really a process of discovery as I went along. The theme of light definitely helped guide the music in tone, but beyond that I purposefully kept things very open-ended. Nothing was out of the question… I prefer to work this way so as not to close any doors before I take a look inside. As the ideas accumulated, I could start seeing patterns form and then begin shaping the music into something more unified and cohesive.
One day he asked if I’d be interested in doing an LP and I said an emphatic “YES!”. He’s been a pleasure to collaborate with. Great label, with a nicely varied roster of music. - I had missed Moholy-Nagy and Believer, have those records come out yet, or are they still in production? What can you tell us about them? DPG: Both projects have recorded new albums which are slated to be released soon. Moholy-Nagy is comprised of myself, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, and Trevor Montgomery. We’ll be releasing our debut full-length entitled “Like Mirage” this October on Temporary Residence. It will be available on CD, LP, and digitally. Our friend Phil Manley (of Trans Am, Life Coach, Jonas Reinhardt) took on engineering duty at a nice studio called Lucky Cat in SF. We also enlisted drummer Damon Palermo (of Mi Ami and Jonas Reinhardt) for the in-studio tracking as well as drummer Justin Pinkerton (of Eyes, Roots Of Orchis). I’m psyched to get the music out there! The core of the band goes way, way back, having all founded Tarentel together. This marks the first time we’ve all made music together since Tarentel’s “Order Of Things” album, circa 2001. Pretty crazy! Believer is the duo of myself and Trevor Montgomery and is largely connected to Moholy-Nagy. We did a small run CD EP early this year that has since sold out. We’ll be re-releasing that EP along with a bunch of unreleased material onto LP for the Under The Spire label later this year. Very much looking forward to getting that music out to a larger audience. - When does the new Dri come out, and when is “In Search Of Light” released? DPG: The Dri album comes out October 4th of this year – CD, Double LP, and digital. It’s actually up for pre order now and folks who order in advance will get copies of the limited pressing color vinyl – marbled grey/navy blue. It looks amazing! My solo album is due later this month/ early October, so very soon! It too is up for pre order and also has a limited number of colored vinyl pressed for early comers.
- How do you approach your material live as a solo artist, given that some of the material is layered? DPG: It varies for me. I sometimes like to play stripped down versions of the recorded material and sometimes I’ll play them closer to the actual multi-tracked recording using acoustic/electric guitars, keyboards, and eﬀects. Recently, I’ve been doing these long-form sets primarily using electric guitar and layers of loops. Half improvised and half structured. It’s been a lot of fun and honestly kind of liberating for me. I plan to record a bunch of new material along those lines as soon as possible. - I’m interested that you mention Fountain was a couple of years in the making, I recently had a listen to the Untitled release on your Bandcamp and I was surprised such good material was le oﬀ the album. Is there more still in storage? How did you make the choices with the tracklisting? DPG: Thanks! Happy you enjoyed that material. Most of it was recorded in and around the same time I had been working on Fountain. I guess you could consider them outtakes for that reason, which is not to say I didn’t feel they stood on their own. When sequencing the album, I was very conscious of avoiding redundancies, m a k i n g t h i n g s fl o w , a n d m o s t importantly… not overstaying my welcome. The last thing I want to do is tire or bore a listener. This also applies for live sets. I take the less is more approach. Better leaving folks wanting more than fatigued by the experience. - How did you come across the kora, and how has it influenced your playing? Does it appear on any of the records, or has it changed your approach/technique? DPG: I first heard the kora through the collaborations of Malian musicians Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté. Love at first listen. It recalled the sound of gutstringed guitar and harp; warm, hypnotic, and at times melancholy. I started to explore Toumani’s catalogue as well as works by other players related to the Diabaté family and beyond. Very inspiring stuﬀ! I’ve never used it on any of my recordings and don’t really intend to, unless of course I happen to meet a player who’d be interested in collaborating. Any takers out there? - Charles Sage
Taylor Deupree & Marcus Fischer In a Place Of Such Graceful Shapes
Over its nearly 15 years of existence, Pound Ridge-based label 12k has been known to foster and nurture a diminutive roster of artists and support their collaborative endeavors, either between themselves or with ‘guest’ musicians. From the awkward object exchanges between Stephen Vitiello and Rutger Zuydervelt giving birth to the fascinating ‘Box Music’, to the near environmental documents ‘Two Lakes’ created in a logcabin by Seaworthy and Matt Rosner, or the improvised gig by impromptu quartet M.O.S.S. in a church in San Jose, the collaborative albums released by the label have always widely varied in modes, methods and aesthetic outcomes, and yet they have been an essential part to the 12k catalogue, oen exploring unexpected creative sideways. Label-head Taylor Deupree is himself constantly oscillating between his ever impressive solo projects and a monumental collaborative body of work, whose diversity is both extremely refreshing and fascinating. It’s interesting to find him working alongside 12k relative newcomer Marcus Fischer, whose album ‘Monocoastal’ released in 2010 has been hailed by Deupree as an album he wished he’d written himself. Even if Deupree’s recent solo eﬀorts ‘Weather & Worn’, ‘Snow (dusk, dawn) or ‘Shoals’ on one side, and Fischer’s ‘Monocoastal’ on the other side are completely diﬀerent records altogether, they share related working methods and aesthetic visions. Both artists have indeed been quite open about their respective creative processes as of late:
amorphic loops made of guitar, bells, small objects etc passed through arrays of eﬀect pedals, ebbing and flowing in a seemingly loose and organic fashion to produce ethereal impressionistic sonic pictures of fragile beauty. In sharp contrast with past collaborations where Deupree’s contribution could oen be clearly delineated (in the Post Piano series for instance), ‘In a Place of Such Graceful Shapes’ has more to do with the emergence of a singular creative entity whose constitutive individualities have slowly dissolved into new forms and shapes, thus allowing fascinating new creative insights to come to the fore. Over the course of nearly 50 minutes, incidental micro-loops, bell-like sounds, worn-out guitars swells, decayed chord progressions, fragile melodic fragments and warm droning textures are carefully assembled, held suspended for a few seconds and immediately dissolved, only leaving evanescent traces of their past presence to create a very intimate and ephemeral landscape whose boundaries are uncertain and colours always changing. As the piece moves along, majestically unhurried, ice crystals form on the surface of grass blades, reflecting oblique rays of light in a sort of aural halation eﬀect. Infinitesimal melodic movements and tiny timbral shis conjure up the life of a microscopic ecosystem watched in slow-motion. The apparent yet deceptive stasis of the piece create a strong sense of place, akin to a spectral meadow at dawn or an hidden-away sunlit pond, whose aquatic inhabitants are still
asleep. More than an elusive echo garden, it’s a sanctuary that Fischer and Deupree patiently creates, a magical place that requires care and protection but that also provides safety and comfort for the listener. The short two accompanying tracks ‘Blanketing’ and ‘Cloudline’, pressed on a separate 7” vinyl, sounds like miniature versions of that intimate place, as if recalled from hazy memories and condensed into a glistening glass ball – two numbers of exquisite and diminutive beauty that are the perfect companion to the nocturnal sleeplessness. ‘In a Place…’ is neither Fischer or Deupree, or a blend of the two but something completely new for both artists. The process at work is yet related to their recent projects but only used as a stepping stone to transcend their past work and access new creative summits altogether. It is not surprising that one of the black and white pictures (taken by both Deupree and Fischer) inside the booklet shows the two men blurred out so their respective identity is carefully concealed. In a way, it perfectly reflects the way this work has been created: less by two separate characters than by two strangers who quickly realized they’d seemingly known each other all their lives and decided to embark upon a journey beyond their own individualities. ‘In Pace of Such Graceful Shapes’ is an album whose beauty and intimacy transform music into a sheltered place where one wants to stay for a very long time. - Pascal Savy
Postcards From Italy: Milan Attila Faravelli / The Li
There’s nothing oﬃcial about The Li. No programme, no website, no phone number. One gets the address and all the relevant info by replying to an email. And yet, this atypical venue just oﬀ Via Padova, Milan’s very own micro Brixton-Bricklane melting-pot, has played host to some of the most interesting electro-acoustic musicians around, including Valerio Tricoli and Robert Piotrowicz, Giuseppe Ielasi, Alessandro Bosetti, Ignatz Schick, mAt Pogo, Claudio Rocchetti, Andrea Belfi, Jim Sangtae, Mark Templeton, Melissa Moore, Dominique Vaccaro, Luciano Maggiore, Nicola Ratti, Kassel Jaeger, Aspirale, John Chantler, and Aspec(t). - How did The Li come about? Attila Faravelli: I took the lead from a number of House-shows I attended during the years and decided to open up my tiny recording space for public performances. It used to be part of a much bigger studio where some big names in Italian pop have recorded, such as Tiziano Ferro. The original 130 square metres have now been converted into three flats. What is le is just a tiny portion, the annex, where tracks were usually mixed. I named it the Li as you get the same embarrassed intimacy between strangers you get in an elevator with an even heightened sense of silence. I was amazed myself when I realized, I could fit two rows of 10 seats. Some performances do suﬀer from the space constraints, but the level of
concentration is unique. What I find intriguing is the way diﬀerent performers have of inhabiting the space. For instance, when Christian Wolarth and Enrico Malatesta played together, you were confronted with two opposite approaches to a drum-kit. Christian was far more controlled, he was almost still when playing, while Enrico’s movements were enveloping giving the impression he was embracing the drums. - How is the program scheduled? Attila Faravelli: There is no program as such. There can be four weekly performances in a row followed by a couple of months break. When I first started, I invited people I wanted to hear perform live and Fabio Carboni’s (from the record label Die Schachtel) helped with a mail out. Nowadays, it works more on a word of mouth basis, and I sometimes get contacted directly by musicians. It is all done informally. There’s no money involved, I only ask for a symbolic donation of 5 euros to cover the artist’s expenses. The response so far has been very good, and when a performance is heavily subscribed, I usually ask the musician to do more than one set per night to accommodate everybody. It is also a chance to meet people and, make friends and interact directly with the musicians. - The acoustics are indeed optimal, where does your interest in sound stem from?
Attila Faravelli: Aside form being a musician myself, I’ve worked as a sound technician and producer. I came from a musical family and have been exposed to music from a very early age. My uncle is musicologist and my father was a choral music conductor specializing in XVI and XVII century music. What has always fascinated me, though, was the way acoustic sound propagates and was generally suspicious of amplified sounds. I then started playing a number of instruments including the electric guitar and the flute. Still, at the end of the 90s, I found myself studying philosophy at collage. Alas, in Italy there are no real work prospects for anyone with a degree in philosophy. I realised then I had to push my own boundaries and try to pursue my own interests. I got myself a studio and for three or four years I investigated what I could do with sound manipulation. Technical costs were becoming more aﬀordable and microphones became cheaper and cheaper, which allowed me to experiment with techniques employed to record and fix sounds in order to compose and construct my own musical language. In a way, I was doing what composers like Pierre Schaeﬀer did in the 50s. My aim, though, has always been to concentrate on the humanistic aspect of the mechanics of sound in order to build a direct relationship with the listener.
- What is your approach to a live performance?
physical space of the venue. They are more intimate.
Attila Faravelli: I always try and work with the space I play in, and tend to avoid the sound system of the venue. I work with a set of seven or eight small prepared speakers, which I distribute throughout the space or, conversely, I group them together to create a localized sound source.
- Collaborations are an integral part of your work.
During the past year, I’ve been working a lot with acoustic reflections. I work with objects that have specific shapes, which allow me to reflect the sound from the speakers I utilize. I always try to have an active approach to sound. Whether I am successful or not, I don’t know, but I aim to give a physical dimension to the bloke behind a laptop cliché of electronic music. Although I still work with a laptop, I physically manipulate the sounds I send to my speakers through diﬀerently shaped objects. This makes sounds almost visible. If I were to use an analogy, I would say my performances are akin to the magic lantern, as opposed to the Dolby stereo sound-surround experience your get in a cinema, which eﬀectively neutralizes the
Attila Faravelli: Yes, when one plays with a laptop, it is oen very diﬃcult to interact with a live musician. For instance, a drumkit inhabits the space in a totally diﬀerent way from a laptop. My solution or rather, the one that works for me, is to create a dialogue between my speakers and a physical instrument through the resonance of their amplification system. I have been experimenting with a number of people under diﬀerent guises, from Nicola Ratti as FaravelliRatti, to Andrea Belfi as Tumble and Nicola Martini, as well as on my own. - The electronic music scene in Milan seems to me quite lively. Any interesting names you’d like to mention? Attila Faravelli: Lorenzo Senni from Presto records springs to mind. He recently moved to Milano from Cesena. Aside from creating a very interesting label devoted to both Italian and International artists he is also a musician in his own right. Giuseppe
Ielasi has also been highly influential to a number of people within the scene. Generally speaking it is a tight-knit community and we all know each other. You have to be highly motivated, though, as there’s no money for this kind of music in Italy and no public financing. Italy is famous for Bel Canto and the human voice has always been centre stage. Alas, there is little room or appetite for electroacoustic experimentation. - If you had to send a postcard from Milan what place would you choose? Attila Faravelli: The Silos Innse, an industrial relic towering in no man’s land under a flyover, tucked away in the Lambrate district. It is an extraordinary place, almost out of this world, where Nicola Martini and I played live. We didn’t just use it as a backdrop, though. By attaching small microphones to its structure, we also incorporated its sound into our performance. - Gianmarco Del Re
Postcards From Italy: Milan Pt.II Nicola Ratti
Nicola Ratti lives and works in Milan. He works as an architect in Gru Architetti, a multidisciplinary team. He runs the art / installation branch of the oﬃce. Together with Fatima Bianchi, he is the co-founder of FeN Bureau, an art entity for the production of video and sound installations… - How did you get onto electro-acoustic music? NR: The first instrument I played was the piano. Alas, I “unlearnt” the grammar of music when I discovered rock music and I found a classical guitar at home, which I used to play, as if it was an electric guitar. In the 90s I was in a band called Pin Pin Sugar a “mathematical rock group”. At the same time, through musicians such as Giuseppe Ielasi, whom I first met at the local library, I became enamoured with experimental music. I found it mesmerising seeing people use unconventional instruments to produce interesting stuﬀ, and I was captivated by the concentration of their sets and the way they used silence. It inspired me to create my own musical language and to venture out on my own. The first things I did were still very much guitar based. My latest album, though, 220 tonnes, released through Die Schachtel is the first work of mine where the guitar doesn’t feature. - In what way collaborations are important to you? NR: Collaborations have a formative value for me. I started collaborating with Giuseppe as Bellows releasing s/t in 2007 for the Swedish label Kning Disc. That album was a sum of its parts in the sense
that it brought together what we did individually, whereas our latest album Handcut, (CD, Alga Marghen, 2010) is the result of “sonic research”. At the time, Giuseppe was based in Tübingen, Germany, and we used to experiment by placing a contact microphone directly onto vinyl as if it was a needle on a record. The mike picked up the tracks on the album in a distorted, but always interesting, way. All we needed to do was to record the sound onto magnetic tape. I then started to use the same technique in my solo work. Giuseppe and I feed oﬀ each other. The same happens with Attila Faravelli, with whom I recorded the album Lieu, (LP, Boring Machines/Coriolis Sounds, 2010) as FaravelliRatti. With Attila, I am able to pursue my experimentation with the electric guitar, while he uses both a laptop and prepared speakers. In a sense, it is a three-way dialogue between me and him and this virtual third member of the group, which consists of my amp and his speakers. We converse as if we were a bass, drums and guitar trio. The focus, with FaravelliRatti, is more on the way sound propagates and inhabits the space. On the other hand, Ronin is a more traditional group with whom I’ve been playing for the past six years. It consists of two guitars, bass and drums. It is a purely instrumental band with no vocals and it is lead by Bruno Dorella who also plays in the bands Ovo and Bachi da pietra. We play music for imaginary films, a kind of desert rock, even though we ended up writing the score for the documentary Vogliamo anche le rose by the Italian film-maker Alina Marazzi. Ronin are as far removed
from the experimental music I play on my own as they possibly can. - What is your approach to playing live? NR: I feel the need to play an instrument. I normally play a small synth with some oscillators placed on a little guitar that I have constructed myself. It functions just like an electric guitar with pick ups and strings even though these are attached to a simple plank of wood which fits into a suitcase and is easily transportable. I do not play it, but I use it to harmonize the oscillations from the synth. It reduces the purely electronic sound creating a richer texture. Also, on a live set, I tend to have a record player with me. I like the performance side of playing live. When I used to use a laptop I felt I couldn’t bridge the gap from the live instrument to the laptop in a satisfactorily way. There was something jarring, which didn’t quite work. Also, there is something quite cold about the musician on stage behind a mac. It depends on how it is done. When I play with Giuseppe and Attila, for instance, they both uses laptops, but Giuseppe does so in an enveloping way, whereas Attila uses it as a means to play his prepared speakers. Generally speaking I would say that 80% of any of my live sets is improvised. I might know what my point of departure and the point of arrival may be, and I might have a play-list in my head, but most of music I play live is improvised. It is the way the venue’s sound system works that dictates the kind of performance I do.
- Your album ésope on the Italian net label Zymogen makes extensive use of field recordings, which is something you seem to have abandoned. NR: I used to rely heavily on field recordings, as I was oen asked to curate the sound design of shows devoted to the city as an architect and musician. Nowadays, though, I am more cautious, as I oen find that field recordings are used primarily to embellish a particular track with no particular thought behind it. I am currently working with Mark Templeton on a project about urban spaces that would connect Edmonton in Canada, where he is based, to Milan where I live. We are not just making recordings of the two cities, though. We are more interested in seeing how Milan and Edmonton react to sound. The idea is to record the music in the studio and then play it live in specific spaces in both cities, which we still need to identify. It is very complicated, though, to get public funding for this kind of venture in Italy, whereas the situation in Canada is far more promising. - What is your relationship to the visual arts? NR: Together with the visual artist Fatima Bianchi, we’ve set up FeN Bureau an art entity for the production of video and sound installations and we’ve done wok for the O’ Artoteca Gallery in the Isola district in Milan. It is something we would like to pursue further. One of the works we have
produced is a video installation called Sedimentaria, which was filmed in the marble quarries of Carrara. While the film was projected, I was feeding three separate magnetic tape recorders, which had loops hanging from the ceiling. The image was then sent to a small monitor and the audio functioned as progressive layers of echoes. We always try not to use to image a backdrop to the music or viceversa, but to make them interact. - What is the electro-acoustic scene in Milan like? There’s a concentration of really interesting labels such as Fabio Carboni and Bruno Stucchi’s Die Schachtel, Lorenzo Senni’s Presto Records, Emanuele Carcano’s Alga Marghen, with an impressive catalogue of historical recordings by the likes of Charlemagne Palestine, Henri Chopin, Philp Corner and new recordings by Ghédalia Tazartès and Walter Marchetti. On a more radical and noise based level, there’s also Hundebiss Records. Then there are Holidays Records and other labels. It terms of playing live, though, there aren’t any venues specifically devoted to experimental music. Giuseppe Ielasi used to curate a really interesting programme for a small art bookshop called A+M, which has since closed. Nowadays there’s only Attila Faravelli’s The Li. The only thing that seems to work are “special events”. It might be a cliché but
there’s some truth in the idea that image and attitude are paramount in Milan. Trendy events draw crowds such as Mi Ami, organised by Rockit and Audiovisiva at the Palazzo del Ghiaccio, but there is nothing specific for electro-acoustic music. It is dispiriting, as I frequently get enquiries from musicians who would like to play in Milan. I would love to be artistic director of a venue, but alas, there is no chance of that happening for the time being. - Is there a particular place/space in Milan that you find inspiring or that you’d take visitors to the city. NR: I am fascinated by early XX century metaphysical architecture. Buildings such as those by Giovanni Muzio, like the Triennale, are quintessentially Milanese. I don’t find them inspiring on an artistic level, but to me they epitomize Milan. In particular there’s a residential building just oﬀ Piazza Repubblica in front of the US consulate called Ca’ Brutta (the ugly house) which I find remarkable. These are places that tend to be overlooked by tourists and occasional visitors . - Gianmarco Del Re
Postcards From Italy: Milan Pt.III Fabio Carboni/Die Schachtel/Sara Serighelli/O
Garibaldi-Isola, a rapidly mutating district in the heart of Milan, is home to Die Schachtel, a record label/publishing house specialising in electronic/concrete/avantgarde music, sound poetry and artist’s records, established in 2003 by Fabio Carboni and Bruno Stucchi. Since 2007 it has been collaborating with O’, an interdisciplinary art space founded by Sara Serighelli and Angelo Colombo in 2001 to promote residency programmes, art exhibitions, lectures, performances and concerts. Projects are mainly site specific and originated by connections, visits, living and lasting relations… - What is the current state of electro acoustic music in Italy? Fabio Carboni: In the last couple of years, the electro-acoustic scene has become increasingly vibrant, thanks to a new generation of musicians who have taken up and developed electronic music in a totally spontaneous and original way. This has not meant a fracture with the past, but neither has it signalled a nostalgic walk down the experimental music lane. What has happened has been an intensification of the activity and interest surrounding all things electro-acoustic, and this has been true not only for Milan. Nowadays, musicians are not just looking for venues to play, but are happy to try diﬀerent approaches and try on new hats. Many of them, for instance also act as producers and not just on their own albums. Some
even open project spaces and invite their peers to play, thus creating a network of musicians who don’t always all know each other, but frequently end up collaborating. Sara Serighelli: It has to be said as well, that with far fewer venues and dedicated spaces for live performances, the scene has became more dynamic out of necessity. Festivals, events, and gigs have become nomadic with musicians always trying to find new and alternative ways of presenting their work. FC: As far as the experimental music scene goes, traditional music venues have become obsolete in Italy, whereas they still seem to function in the UK. To program a series of electro-acoustic gigs is not seen as financially viable in Italy, therefore new initiatives have sprung up with people playing sets in private flats and apartments that are seldom if ever advertised and function by word of mouth. What normally happens is that one gets onto a mailing list and is then notified of the date, time, and location of forthcoming events. There is currently no website connecting all such initiatives, but this is something we are working on. Another reason why Milan is a hub of activity is that the city has always been a centre of production, with recording studios and printing facilities etc, which makes it easier to release albums here. This explains the recent proliferation of
new record labels such as Senufo, Hundebiss, Presto Records, Urashima, etc. Having said that, the experimental music scene is highly developed with new things happening in the Veneto region as well, and specifically in Vittorio Veneto, home of the music label Von, and to a lesser degree in Venice and Padova. There’s also been a kind of renaissance in cities like Florence, Modena, Rome, Naples and Palermo. - What are the main challenges in running a small label like Die Schachtel? FC: Even though we have been operating for eight years now with a good line of distribution we operate at a loss. We started oﬀ by releasing obscure archival material from the 50s up to the 80s by neglected composers who have only been too happy to see their work finally been distributed. We wanted to re-activate the sounds of pioneers of computer music, such as Pietro Grossi, founder of the Studio of Phonology of Florence, and to give voice to seminal, yet little known female artists such as Teresa Rampazzi and Franca Sacchi. Alongside historical analogical electronic music recordings, though, we have also been promoting new works mainly by young Italian musicians, with the odd exception, which is by no means an easy task. What we lack in Italy is the ability to create a cohesive scene, which can be promoted, discussed and narrated as one.
- You both have a very strong connection to the visual arts… SS: When O’ first opened, it was centred specifically on the visual arts, but since I met Fabio in 2007 we have introduced music into the equation. The first artist’s edition we produced was with the Italian sound artist Alessandro Bosetti, and it was the result of a residency. Many others have followed, such as Phill Niblock with whom we released a DVD. Nowadays, people who visit the gallery space expect a show that has some relation to music. FC: In terms of the label, Bruno Stucchi has given a strong graphic imprint to Die Schactel. While he tends to work on his own, leaving me to deal directly with the musicians, he never delves into a personal archive of images but always draws inspiration directly from the music. We recently won the 2011 D&AD Design award for Musica Improvvisa a 10 CD box set in a series of painstakingly designed individual CD/LP sleeves by ten Italian bands that spans from the South to the North of Italy. - Do you ever trigger collaborations between diﬀerent musicians?
FC: Not directly, even though we tend to forward any information we might get about gigs and events where musicians can meet. For instance, when Attila Faravelli came to us with his first album, he did not really know any of the people he has since been collaborating with.
Summer, even though it was for such a short distance, I felt a wave of optimism especially since the election in recent months of the mayor of Milan aer years of right wing administration.
SS: Here at O’ we stage two or three diﬀerent gigs a month oen with several musicians playing on the same night. In the case of Tony Conrad, for example, we had Å playing before him aer which they did a piece together. The same happened with Attila Faravelli and Oren Ambarchi. In same cases musicians end up becoming friends or collaborating, but nothing is ever forced. We have a rich programme of live gigs in Autumn but we are always on the lookout for people to come and play at O’.
- Finally, if you were to send a postcard from Milan which place would you pick?
The Navigli was a system of navigable and linked canals that connected Milan with Switzerland, through Lake Maggiore, and with the Adriatic Sea via the Po river. The North Eastern canals and the entire inner rings of Milan were covered over in the 1930s leaving only the Naviglio Grande and the Naviglio Pavese, which went rapidly into decline.
FC: Milan’s central station because it is such a melting pot of diﬀerent people from all walks of lives. SS: The Navigli. They have been neglected for so long that, when they recently reopend them for navigation during the
- Gianmarco Del Re
Milano Centrale is the main railway station in Milan oﬃcially inaugurated in 1931. Its original plans acquired a monumental dimension when Benito Mussolini became prime minister. Platform 21 became infamous when trains le for AuschwitzBirkenau towards the end of the Second World War. The station also features in the epilogue of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s masterpiece Teorema (1968).
Postcards From Italy: Rome Pt.I Elisa Luu - La Bel Netlabel
Based in Rome, Elisabetta Luciani, aka Elisa Luu, is a musician and the co-founder of La Bèl, one of an increasing number of Italian netlabels oﬀering free electroacoustic music… - Why is it that there are so few women within the electro-acoustic scene in Italy? EL: I am not sure why that is, even when I started playing jazz, I was one of the very few women musicians playing the sax. The situation has improved in recent years with many more women venturing into the jazz scene. I hope it will be the same with electronic music. - In the early 90s you studied under the legendary Italian folk singer Giovanna Marini, before moving onto jazz. How did you end doing electronic music? EL: The saxophone was my passion. I studied it for five years at the conservatory in Frosinone. I then went on to the Berklee School in Perugia and from then on I was playing in jazz quartets and orchestras. It was not easy, though, to find venues to play in Italy, and Rome was no exception. It was frustrating and I wanted to try something diﬀerent. In 2007, I picked up a
laptop to see what I could do on my own. I liked the freedom it gave me. I have not looked back since. - Your music is very much instrument based, it is steeped in digital production while retaining a tangible human quality, it could be said that what you do is electroacoustic music by default. EL: The most important thing to me is the melodic quality of a particular composition, rather than the technical and machine based side of things. I still like to play my own instruments, not only the sax, but also guitars and synthesizers. This remains the basis of my music. I then sample my own stuﬀ, and create loops and process sounds. For a while I was just experimenting, then I started uploading the first tracks onto mySpace. Things took oﬀ quite rapidly. I released Floating Sounds on the British label Phantom Channel. From that came Hidden Shoal with Chromatic Sigh in 2007. - You mentioned your diﬃculties in finding venues to play in Italy as a jazz musician. What has your experience been with
electro-acoustic music and electronic festivals in particular? EL: The dearth of venues is something that applies across the board. In terms of festivals, last year I was invited to Flussi a young electro-acoustic festival held in Avellino, a medium sized town in the Irpinia region, which was severely hit by an earthquake in 1980. Due to budgetary constraints, the 2011 edition had to be scaled down to just three days from the original week long celebration of all things experimental. Nonetheless it remains a very vibrant and exciting event that, in a sense, takes the electro-acoustic scene to virgin territory, away from the usual hubs of Milan, Modena and Florence. Also, really interesting is the Half-Die festival, which takes place every July here in Rome. It is run by Gianni Rosace on the terrace of his house overlooking a Roman aqueduct in the Quadraro district. It is entirely Gianni’s creation with no sponsorship or anything of that kind. Unfortunately, this is sometimes the only way to make things happen here in Italy.
- How did La Bèl come about? EL: I met Adriano Bossola, co-founder of La Bèl, on mySpace. Adriano is based in Biella in the Piedmont region. He is also a musician, who sometimes records under the moniker Di Bois. We got talking, even though we have never physically met, and we decided to start our own label to group together like-minded people. We were thrilled to find a really active and exciting scene in Sardinia. Indeed, the first few releases, such as Menion, Nick Rivera and Ballpen, all came from that region and even the latest one, Adriano Orrù is a double bass player from Nuoro who now lives and works in Cagliari. - Not all your artists are Italian, though. EL: No, the most important thing, at least to me, is the melodic quality of an album. I like it when artists play an instrument and the music is not just about processed sounds. A great discovery was the German guitarist Frank Schültge Blumm, who’s recorded Quatro Covers with the
Colombian but Barcelona based Lucrecia Dalt, a clever reworking of classic songs from the likes of Iggy Pop, Simon and Gerfunkel, Burt Bacharach and Nat King Cole. We also have a Japanese duo N-qia, Plusplus from Britain, and more things in the pipeline. - Do you have a calendar for releases? EL: Adriano would like to release an album every two months, but I am more casual about it. If we find something we like, than that is great, if not we just need to carry on searching. - If you were to choose a place in Rome to send a postcard from, what would that be? EL: The Garbatella district. It is full of sublime architecture from the 20s and 30s and is a great area to explore. Originally, it was going to be linked to Ostia by a navigable canal, hence most of the street names have same reference to waterways or waterworks, but the project was never realized.
- Your clip A Slow Ride Along the River was filmed in Rome. It paints a gentle and idyllic picture of Rome… EL: Indeed, traﬃc is a real problem in Rome and one that no mayor is neither willing nor capable of tackling. We only have two tube lines and everyone drives a car. Rome is not bike friendly, it is more of a moped city. Having said that, there are a few cycling paths which enabled me to film the clip on my iPhone while cycling along the river. The whole thing was done in just a few hours. - Gianmarco Del Re ……………. Built in the 20s and 30s, Garbatella, is the roman equivalent to the garden city movement, with its intricate labyrinth of houses looking onto communal courtyards.
Postcards From Italy: Rome Pt.II Alessio Ballerini
Roman based sound artist Alessio Ballerini, explores real and imaginary landscapes by using field recordings, guitar, piano and digital composition, so that the sound finds its beauty in the harmonic ambient substrate… - Is the electro-acoustic scene in Italy alive and well? AB: There are many people producing really interesting music in Italy. Most are dispersed in diﬀerent parts of the country, from Abruzzo to Sicily. Not many come to prominence, though. Maybe that is because we don’t have well established and influential labels such as Touch Music or 12k. Or it might just be because we have a tendency to always look at what is happening outside the country, and do little to nurture and promote our own local talent. The dearth of venues certainly does not help. It is virtually impossible to do a tour, for instance. Even abroad, an Italian artist might have an occasional single date, but proper tours are rare. In terms of a “scene” it is easier to identify one in cities like Milan, where there is a concentration of like-minded people such as Nicola Ratti and Giuseppe Ielasi. Rome is a diﬀerent case. - Who or what is worth seeking out? AB: Oﬀ the top of my head, I would mention Pietro Riparbelli, a Livorno based composer and philosopher who recently
curated Silenzio: Zero Assoluto –273,15 °C | – 459,67 °F a live event that took place in Milan with Nicola Ratti, Lorenzo Senni, Massimiliano Viel and artist Massimo Bartolini. He is the co-founder of Aedo a platform for the curatorial practice and the production of contemporary music. He now aims to do doing something similar here in Rome. I would also mention Franz Rosati from Nephogram. Aside from being a musician he also creates architectural maps. - Speaking of sound maps, can you tell me something about AIPS, the Archive of Italian Sonic Landscapes you are involved in? AB: A bunch of us, including Enrico Coniglio from Venice and Attilio Novellino from Catanzaro, were talking about the current situation of electro-acoustic music in Italy and Francesco Giannico, who is also a musicologist, launched the idea of creating an aural map of the country. The aim of AIPS is twofold, to promote sonic ecology and to give visibility to artist. The archive is not limited to musicians, though, but is open to anyone working with sound. The first step was part 1 of the Roma Soundscape Project, for which we will create a soundmap for the entire city of Rome. Back in May, Francesco and I did a workshop at Forte Fanfulla, in Rome, and over the course of three weekends, between 6 and 9 pm we recorded the sounds of the Pigneto district. It was a
great experience even though marred with problems. The open call didn’t work quite as planned and we only had 6 participants rather the ideal 15. Also, we didn’t manage to secure any funding. The director of the Discoteca di Stato (the national sound archive) even advised us to seek private rather than public sponsorship as institutions in Italy are like big elephants and move very slowly. They even declined to let use any facilities, as giving us a space for the workshop, for instance, would have meant paying personnel etc. And finally, any help they would give us would “open the floodgates” meaning that they would then have to provide assistance to others. In spite of all this, we were thrilled with the results, which we will be uploading on our site. We are now also looking for a venue for a live performance, which ideally will take place in the Pigneto district with all the participants in the project playing and not just Francesco and I. One day, hopefully, we should be covering the whole of Rome. Another project we are working on, is the field recording of several diﬀerent cathedrals throughout Italy. Luckily the director of the Museo Marino Marini in Florence has expressed interest in holding a site-specific installation with a live performance. We are also hoping to take this project to Chile as, ironically, it seems that in “developing countries” they have more funds available to promote the arts.
- Your music is always strongly connected to the visual arts.
the second one came about one evening when he was stuck in a traďŹƒc jam.
AB: I studied art at college, so you could say that art came before music even though the two go hand in hand. When I was working on Blanc, for instance, I decided to release the album (available as a freedownload on the Italian netlabel Zymogen) with a set of drawings and two animations.
- Speaking of traďŹƒc jams, could you tell me how La radio a pedali/Radio on wheels came about?
- You frequently integrate photography, drawings and moving images in your installations. AB: Yes, Music from the Puddle is a case in point. Colin Herrick asked me to compose the music for a series of polaroids he took spanning over 12 years which picture landscapes reflected in the water. The album was released in a limited edition of 75, which included an original polaroid. I then showed the work as part of an installation comprising of three clips, and a map pinpointing all the locations where the album had been bought. For a while I was also involved in Il posto delle fragole, an art collective that brought together, musicians, filmmakers, artists and writers. The aim was to produce short films and documentaries. The collective disbanded a few years later, but we still collaborate. In fact it was Marco Molinelli who produced two of the clips for Music from the Puddle, Il Est Temps and Night in Day 2. The first was shot in Japan, while
AB: Last May, I was asked to record a special performance organised by Radio Papesse in collaboration with the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Theatre during the live broadcast on Radio Radio 3 of a Beethoven and Liszt concert given by Zubin Mehta. The performance involved between two and three hundred people on their bikes each with their own personal radio and all following a specific itinerary throughout the city of Florence. I got on a bike myself with two microphones at the front and two at the back ad recorded the whole event. I then combined the itinerant and fragmented live broadcast complete with field recordings from the city, adding new material I composed especially for the occasion and the voice of Zubin Mehta himself introducing the concert. I then produce a 25-minute composition for the radio, a three minute sound postcard for the web, a quadrophonic installation and a six track album which I am hoping to release soon on blue-ray with the help of Luigi Agostini, who has developed a specific multichannel 3-D system with his Livorno based company A&G. Trying out diďŹ€erent techniques and technologies is important to me.
- A sense of place seems to be crucial to you. Indeed, field recordings are frequently an integral part of your music. Do you have an archive of sounds you delve into when recording an album or is everything created from scratch? AB: I am into soundscape composition. Field recordings are important, but I also utilize traditional instrument such as electric and acoustic guitars and pianos. I can also sample composers such as Beethoven, Liszt and Mozart, but it always depends on the specific project I might be working on at the time. In the case of Music from the Puddle, the use of field recordings was instinctive and I created everything from scratch. - Finally, if you had to send a postcard from Rome, which part of the city would you choose? AB: I love Rome in autumn. It makes me feel rejuvenated and energized and I particularly love the parks. As a matter of fact, Blanc was created on the grounds of Villa Doria Pamphili, where I sat down with my sketchbook and did all the drawings. That is where I would choose to send my postcard from, rather than the city itself. - Gianmarco Del Re
Tim Hecker Ravedeath, 1972
If there’s one thing that characterises Tim Hecker’s music, it’s a spirit of dichotomy, sitting comfortably betwixt smooth, rounded ambient edges and jagged points of noise. Ravedeath, 1972 continues that dichotomy, and embodies another one, combining the eﬀervescent caprice of live improvisation with the cool consideration subsequently brought to bear on it in the studio. From the outset, this album makes it clear that noise is going to be the order of the day. First track “The Piano Drop”— presumably named for the curious event on the cover—unveils material pushed into overload, although it’s neither harsh nor forbidding, bludgeoning the ears with all the force of a pillow fight. Its spinning surface quickly erodes away due to its own constriction into a more shimmering, pulsating kind of object, that seems to fade rather too quickly (i could happily have listened to this develop for a lot longer). Hecker includes two triptychs on the album, the first of which, “In the Fog”, is the only point where field recordings feature in a demonstrably recognisable way, its chugging boat sounds (which act as book-ends to the triptych) establishing a palpable sense of voyage. ‘Fog’ is certainly an appropriate word for what that voyage comprises, its delicate opening quickly attracting more and more layers around it, including a prominently heard piano. Hecker’s fog is fascinating, with an ever-shiing density that occasionally aﬀords glimpses far into the distance. The sound of a pipe organ—the recording took place in an Icelandic church—protrudes abruptly through the central panel, placing chords that are caught up in incessant loops, accumulating more layers of dirt. Although they form a crust, it’s ultimately shrugged oﬀ by the power of the organ pedals, which force their way into the foreground; at the end, it doesn’t so much
fade as—appropriate for a fog—dissipate, returning to the boat from whence it began. These first few tracks have packed a real punch, captivating and engrossing, conveying their ideas—despite the obfuscation that cakes them—with vivid clarity. But that can’t be said for everything on Ravedeath, 1972. Originating as it does in a day of improvisation, there are times when the music lacks a distinct idea, becoming all about texture, and there’s a concomitant tendency to find one’s attention mirroring the music’s lack of focus. Yet equally there are times when it’s precisely this kind of sonic obstinacy that pays the richest dividends. This is especially the case at the album’s epicentre, the two-part “Hatred of Music”, that spends its first half developing into a stubborn, slightly shrill music from a sonar-like tonic (echoes of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes”). Bass is more or less absent, but it positively overflows with richness nonetheless, and as it passes into its second part, this reluctance to do very much and the emphasis on upper registers is revealed to be the overture to something more potent. It’s a breathtaking moment, the deep bass of the pedals obtruding massively through the now heavilywithdrawn texture, a barely-moving, ponderous figuration that dominates our vision for minutes on end, surrounded on all sides by the remains of earlier material, licking its edges like small flames. It’s impossible to listen to this album without finding oneself drawn into the cover imagery and the titles Hecker has bestowed on the tracks. The album’s cover —portraying an upright piano, poised to be thrown from a roof—is simultaneously violent and playful, and here at the album’s heart, Hecker draws on words evoking strong, violent notions: “hatred”,
“paralysis”, “suicide”. It has to be said, though, that these notions confine themselves to the conceptual aspect of the album (spoken of in the press release, which doesn’t so much prove illuminating as actually come across like a red herring – another example of violence and playfulness combined?). “Analog Paralysis, 1978” is, if anything, less paralytic than either earlier track “No Drums”—which seems to strive at being transfixed, but falls just a little short of that—or indeed “Studio Suicide, 1980” which follows, and is precisely the kind of track I spoke of before, where one’s inclined to dri (but not nod) oﬀ. Despite weaker episodes like these, Hecker reasserts himself admirably in the album’s closing triptych, a counterpart to its predecessor, this time “In the Air”. Its disarmingly simple opening becomes heavily industrialised, as though the sound elements were being progressively pulverised from behind. The piano returns, but the arbitrary collection of diatonic trifles that it proﬀers are quickly subsumed by some of the most dense layers of noise heard on the album. Ultimately, though, the organ and everything else is pushed to the periphery and beyond, the piano taking centre-stage, its single idea slowly revolving and reverberating out of sight. While not without its flaws, Ravedeath, 1972 is Tim Hecker’s strongest, most consistent album to date. Admittedly, for some it will be a challenging listen— lacking the quietude heard on Harmony in Ultraviolet and with more intensity and ambition than An Imaginary Country—but, at its best, the rewards for rising to that challenge are nothing less than mindblowing. - Simon Cummings
Tim Hecker Dropped Pianos
Tim Hecker’s Ravedeath, 1972 is ambient composing distilled to an essence. It is terrific, brawny, but aloof by right. Heavy with personality, but not especially personal.
exquisite, resonant piano and hardwoodfloor reverberations. This is not brawny, not aloof. The compositions are delicate, inviting, curious, and a bit nostalgic, but not exactly sledgehammer-sad, either.
A companion sketches album should only disappoint: engaging only on intellectual grounds, stripped of context, shorn of gravity. (Anyone here remember Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk?) On October 10, Kranky Records will release the counterexample, a “new Tim Hecker release … composed of sketch pieces recorded in 2010 in preparation for what would become the Ravedeath, 1972 album. All of the compositions are piano driven and minimal in nature.” It is titled Dropped Pianos, and it is not some cynical oﬀering for collection fetishists. The release is teeming, luminous, complex. A busy canvas of parallel lines, most of which are echoes, which wards oﬀ the clutter.
“Sketch 2″ appears somewhat more rehearsed, with a discernible melody and deliciously intrusive production. The echoes of what seem to be piano keys fully engaging to the point that they strike the frame is a masterful touch; again, the work seems frank, immediate, performed live and just behind us. It is timeless, but even so the wash of reverberation and some brief, intermittent noise remind us of the year. “Sketch 4″ is probably the most reminiscent of Ravedeath, 1972, setting oﬀ with a stark minimal anterior, similar to the old sepia photographs and unnatural patience of the other eight sketches. But a seamless leap into more familiar turf concludes the piece: whipping synthesizer oscillations and distant one-finger piano tinkering.
The falling Steinway motif may be the same, but everything is diﬀerent, from the power outage, to the meter, to the intimacy. “Sketch 1″ introduces the in-thesame-room ethic, trading in — and this is his term, not ours — “digital garbage” for
The restless, extended introduction to “Sketch 5″ lends the track an unlit, frontier town quality. With three minutes in, the composition changes direction altogether,
with an incisive, three-note riﬀ. Residing in such a surgical space like this, the theme is somehow repeating without lapsing into mere repetition. This is powerful stuﬀ, and evidence of Hecker’s natural instincts. By album closer “Sketch 9,” things are starting to resemble normal again: the placid source piano is bent into almost unrecognizable angles, and aer a minute or so the deep buzzing guitar overtakes center stage. Like most of Dropped Pianos, “Sketch 9″ is fully explored, both in theme and in processing. Disquieted, and unwilling to sit still. The one sheet implores, “This is not a new Tim Hecker album, but rather a peek behind the curtains into the working process.” We’ll be the judge of that. Ravedeath, 1972 was universally acclaimed, by outlets including BBC, Pitchfork, AV Club, and this website. It is a sure bet for 2011 top ten lists worldwide. It is craed, cerebral, even fun. So this should give you all something to talk about for while: Dropped Pianos is every bit the masterpiece as its predecessor. - Fred Nolan
Isidore Ducasse S/T
The world shimmers in a haze of heat. A tongue, what was once a tongue, you peel it oﬀ the roof of what was once a mouth. No sound. A crunch of brittle grass underfoot, but from the once-was-mouth, no sound, no voice. You entered the vast expanse and everything fell silent. Crunch, crunch, crunch. And the dust clings to everything. A film, a western that was never made, a story never told. All the stories we tell about the desert are attempts to stave oﬀ the desert. To hide from its oppressive heat. We want to be sure that the person in front of us is not a mirage, that the silence does not swallow all. You cross the great wilderness, and you come back with a story. If you come back. This story is in fact
the sound of the desert, because in the desert itself there is no sound, no words. The story must be told for the desert to be. So this is the thing about Isidore Ducasse – whoever she is: the music fights oﬀ the silence, even as it lapses into silence. It tells the story of a film that was never made, a story that remains untold. This telling – the telling of the untold story – is the only evidence you have that the story ever existed. That and the dust that still clings to your body. It must be a beautiful story. Haunting, savage, yet beautiful. Full of blistering sun and nighttime cold, miles that rattle by without change. Grinding drones and heady vibrato. Sparse, empty, yet as heavy as the aernoon heat. A story you think you might have heard before.
Isidore Ducasse is both the name for a collaboration between Jefre CantuLedesma and William Trevor Montgomery, and also the title of their first release. They claim it was composed as the soundtrack to an unreleased western, but I don’t know whether to believe them or not – it’s too much like the perfect contemporary western soundtrack to be the soundtrack to an actual contemporary western. Both musicians played together in Tarantel and Moholy-Nagy, as well as releasing solo material under various monikors; CantuLedesma also runs the label Roots Strata. “Isidore Ducasse” is available on 140gram black virgin vinyl from Blackest Rainbow. - Nathan Thomas
Fjordne Charles Rendition
It was like being born for a second time – everything was new, everything was yet to be learned, and we had no prior knowledge we could apply to help us make sense of the overwhelming impressions that were bombarding us from all sides. They told us that we had been found wandering in the forest, completely naked and completely alone, with no sign of how we got there or how we had survived. They said we had no speech then, but communicated between ourselves through glances and the most basic of gestures. They decided we must be brother and sister – how else could two children end up alone together in the woods? – though they had no way of knowing if this was true or not. We were taken in by a distinguished gentleman, one of the most important men in the town, who clothed us and fed us and hired a tutor to conquer our muteness. Our new patron thought that the best way for us to adjust to civilised living was to be immersed in it, so he took us with him wherever he went: to the oﬃce where he managed his factory business, to the meetings of the town council on which he sat, and to the bars and cafes he frequented in the evenings. I was dazzled by all of it, but especially by the nightlife – there was an energy and urgency to it that I did not understand, but nonetheless found intoxicating. Late one night we were sat in our patron’s favourite haunt. He was acting strangely again, as he oen did by this point in the night (drunk, I would later realise). The pianist was playing something slow and dreamy, the notes driing reluctantly
through the smoke. Suddenly I was overcome by a sense of enormous grief and loss, and I realised that I could not remember anything about my life in the forest, before we were found and brought to the town. I looked across the bar at my sister, but I could not recall any memory of her before the moment when the lumberjacks who found us first called out to us with voices that seemed to rend the silence of the world. Aer a couple of years our patron’s business went bust, and he blamed my sister and I rather than his alcoholism, saying that we were bewitched and had brought him bad luck. He threw us out onto the streets, and, aer a few weeks of sleeping under bridges and being spat at by most of the town, we were taken in by an old woman. She was very kind and very poor; she said she’d already had so much bad luck in her life that a little more couldn’t hurt. Together we managed to eke out some sort of existence, until my sister married a man from another town and moved away, and I got a job cleaning cars for a used car salesman. Of course I went back to the forest many times, but it never stirred any memories for me, or revealed to me any secrets of my own past. Then one autumn morning, as I was on the way to work, I was about to cross the street when I saw an amazing sight. In a puddle in the road I saw reflected in the sky behind me what my old tutor, when he was teaching us the Christmas story, would have called ‘a heavenly host’. They even had an organ with them. Of course when I looked up into
the sky there was nothing out of the ordinary there, and when I returned my gaze to the puddle the angelic choir had disappeared. For a moment I was dumbfounded, because I knew instinctively that what had happened was unspeakable, or rather, it was a moment of perfect speech. For the briefest of moments I had been back, I had returned to the forest. All of this happened many decades ago now. My sister died of cancer a while back, though her daughter still comes to visit me sometimes at the care home. I still have no recollection of what happened to me in the forest, and no new evidence has surfaced that might have shed light on where I came from. But I retain the recollection of that glimpse in the puddle, and it has become a kind of placeholder for all that I have lost. Soon I will lose that too, and silence will fall once again on the world. (Fjordne is the alias of Shunichiro Fujimoto, who for his second album on the Kitchen label has created a set of pianoled tracks that act as a soundtrack or musical retelling of a self-penned short story. As this reviewer had access to the music but not to the written text, he had to reconstruct the story for himself using clues in the press release and the music itself. “Charles Rendition” will be available as a digital download and a CD release limited to 700 copies, but you’ll have to buy the CD version to read Fujimoto’s own version of the story.) - Nathan Thomas
Keith Freund Constant Comments
It starts in the Riveria, in “Mont Boron” to be exact, with the sound of French boys playing basketball. A mother voices a brief correction, and a car honks twice with a keyless entry remote. Only now do the clean-tone guitars arrive in unassuming riﬀs: fragrant, agreeably lo-fi, and nothing too cray or clever. Few discernible eﬀects. If the liner notes told us that the guitar was also a field recording, that would be pretty easy to accept. None of this would be terribly moving on its own, but the nostalgia and immediacy of this stimulus-and-response ethic catch the breath in the throat. The telltale static and imperfect volumes of the sample make clear that this was not a staged aﬀair. Instead, a game began spontaneously under a hotel window, and the artist seems to have scrambled for his recorder. He takes a brief sample of the truly constant flow of ambient sound, and leaves a brief commentary of his own (guitar, normally), adding a little to the raw feed. Constant comments: the thesis for an album is born. In this case the artist is Keith Freund, Ohio-based singer and guitarist, founding member of Trouble Books, and former trumpet player for Six Parts Seven. His solo album is set for an August 16 release.
For those listeners who peruse the tracklist first, note the slightly mischievous sense of humor in the song titles: “The Rectumless Flight Of Angels,” “Deep Shit Sunburn,” or “Is Anything Too Hard For God?” (Fitting this particular project, the track titles really have no obvious connection back to the compositions, or to the field recordings.) Non-sequitur “Eye Colorism” takes us back to the playground — a game of tag this time — set to low-volume guitar swells which are largely crowded out by the field recordings. Many of the Comments here are short, clocking in at under two minutes, so eight-minute piece “The Ortzi” stands out quite literally. A slow and winking organ lick sets perhaps the most conventional tempo on the album, while parallel guitar lines weave a luxuriant adornment. The title borrows from an old Basque legend, meaning that lively conversation Freund recounts in installments was more likely recorded in San Sebastián than Madrid. Speaking of Spain, the rainfall throughout “For Broke” completely reinvents the subgenre of downpour songwriting. The track oﬀers up the happy oblivion of steel under light precipitation. In an unrelated tempo — indeed, “untempo” might be a better way to describe it — detached guitar
tinkering strides along for about half of the two minutes of rain. The metal turns out to belong to an automobile hood, or at least that is what Freund implies by the sound of a driver opening the door and getting out. In a nice narrative touch, “Everything Is Real!” takes up immediately aer the door closes, changing guitar licks, and eventually changing thunderstorms. The exclamation point is unnecessary. It is already clear that “Everything” is a pretty serious exaggeration. How to sum up a finite review about ongoing and infinite processes? About the endless stream of moments, and of how we add our own voice to the discussion, loudly or otherwise? For the record, Freund ends his inquiry with “For All Our Dead Pets,” a tongue-in-cheek title for the most intriguing composition on the album: sepia waves of lightly-treading guitar, and some kind of churning, well-manipulated field recording underneath. About the best we can oﬀer is this: listen. On repeat. - Fred Nolan
Mika Vainio Life (...It Eats You Up)
For around seven minutes, you wonder where you are. Extended, sharp, contorted droning outbursts emanate from somewhere, wrestling either to cling to or break free from their origin. It’s like witnessing an alien voice learn how to speak. And then, seemingly from nowhere, IRRUPTION! the music transformed into a massive doom expansion moving with the grace and momentum of tectonic plates. It’s a breathtakingly glorious but agonising moment, one that says everything about what Mika Vainio is setting out to explore on his new album, Life (…It Eats You Up).
minutes. They are each deeply unsettling, presenting a disparate collection of rude, brash fragments and grindings with no attempt at contextualisation. ‘Cage’, in particular, takes the form of an apparent field recording that sends the imagination to a profoundly distressing place, and thereby becomes one of the most horribly memorable snatches of audio you’re ever likely to hear. Vainio allows not a trace of rhythm into these excruciating tracks, but elsewhere he uses them as a crutch upon which to lay the considerable weight of the music.
This album hurts. Which is not to say that it hurts the ears (although, at times, they take no little pounding), but rather that every one of its 58 minutes comes from a place of sheer, horrified and enraged pain. One hasn’t heard an essay as stark and aggressively wounded as this since Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral. Indeed, the first example of regularity on the album, third track ‘Mining’, is built on a rhythmic loop reminiscent of NIN’s ‘Closer’. Those familiar with Vainio’s work in Pan Sonic may expect otherwise, but beats are emphatically not what this album is about; if anything, their presence can appear disorienting, begging the question of what they bring to the otherwise untethered violence. For it is violence with which one is confronted most—although the nature of the confrontation is one of half-spent energy, angular and wretched.
None of them are brisk, neither are they necessarily dependable; the aforementioned ‘Mining’ seems unassailable until its closing moments, when the beats don’t just break down but even lose their stereo focus. ‘Open up and Bleed’ – a fitting description for all the music on this album – uses its laboured beat loops to underpin a gutsy assortment of razor-sharp guitar riﬀs, violently hurled outwards; however, this too finds itself bere at its conclusion, lost and bewildered in a muted, claustrophobic space. Most sporadic of all, coming from somewhere far beneath them both, is ‘And Give Us Our Daily Humiliation’, featuring a laceration for an overture, subsequently piecing itself together from a raw collection of cut-up and distorted beat and bass elements, seemingly dragged from an analogue past.
Despite their size, some of the album’s most acidic tracks are the three miniatures, ‘Throat’, ‘Napoleon’ and ‘Cage’, the longest of which is a mere 2½
Vainio does display traces of introspection amidst the agony; ‘Crashed’ is a contrastingly delicate track, its soer, more distant strains (which haven’t been
heard since the album’s strange beginnings) allowing the guitar to speak in a more immediately recognisable way. This is an isolated incident, however, and the album’s concluding tracks return headlong to the more reactionary, even pugilistic demeanour to which Vainio feels irrevocably drawn. ‘Conquering the Solitude’ lives up to its heroic title, the guitar’s initially wild swingings as from within a sealed chamber finally giving way to a warm, rich, liberated fizz of fuzz, encrusted with all manner of sonic detritus. And for the denouement, a semblance of rhythm returns in ‘A Ravenous Edge’, the beat elements thumping out in the aural equivalent of an infinity cove. Massive buzzing, grinding drones assemble around this thin, punctuating epicentre, aﬀecting an air of tormented solemnity, like some sort of doomed ritual. Concluding in halting metallic sounds, the album finally ends in a weird series of electronic pulses, suggesting life doesn’t just eat you up, it leaves you utterly unhinged. This is not an easy listen; hearing inner anguish writ as harrowingly large as this is not for the faint-hearted or empatheticallychallenged. But there is a glory in Life (…It Eats You Up), a glory that can perhaps only emerge from such an eﬄuvial, white-hot torrent of honesty as this, scalding the ears and the mind, no doubt, but, just possibly, attaining some kind of purification, or clarity, or even just relief. Better out than in. - Simon Cummings
Barn Owl Lost in The Glare
The hoary wisdom-bypassing that lynches rockers: does it have slayer-inducing oomph; is it ready to be pumped loud; can you cherish power divisively, stays mute point with the duo of Jon Porras and Evan Caminiti; their crater and sun LP cover lays flesh bare. It’s wider-ranging topography, ready for the ineﬀectual bird to perch, leaving its penetrating stares on trees, passing humans, and the shrubbery as gliding riﬀs oppose all deficits – what a delight when you can revel in an album, and when it’s a quality as endangered as Barn Owl’s “Lost In The Glare”, a rarity as far as discerning eyes can see… A trio of barn owl typecasts are essential imagery: the ghost owl, night owl, cave owl. Porras’ “Undercurrent”, released on Root Strata in April, priorly reviewed by Fluid,casts a petrol-thick spectre to the campfire. His contributions to “Lost In…” torchlights where night meets day. Reverb: then striking underground, post-Slowdive shoegaze timber, blowing up closer “Devotion II” unimpeachably. Caminiti’s influence of “Souvlaki” and associated 90s guitar tapestry, always matches with distinct calibre in pretence-heavy melt. You’re swung in perpetual motion through a rocky ride that lends itself to no time, no place. Where tracks driven by stopwatches play on relationship between patience and
instrumental circumference, there are few flagrant properties with the sustained drone. As the guitar in wrong grip is prone to poorly detuned playing, whether afresh or bought anew, the drone is already a step ahead by desirable dissonance being an option, not an intrinsic issue. Much like a river of suﬀering: relieving itself in longer spells through a breached utopia, fade in, droop finish, lesser anguish awaits you on first track “Pale Star”, where blending the two worlds bears fruit when segued into the percussive diablo-schism “Turiya”. The LP’s characteristic: an uneven seesaw rode by simmering electric current one side: “Devotion I”; forbearing guitar ripples the next – “The Darkest Night Since 1683″, splay inside cast iron compound, our latter laying oﬀ distortion-scapes for respite, making Godflesh sound less a horror movie injunction. Conjuring storm clouds of chaotic atmosphere all that while, earning the tag ‘instru-drone-metal’ stars and stripes in the freshness department, from its earlier counterparts, more aggressive layering, fewer moments to exhale. Things never get claustrophobic, even on my cans at high volume. “Temple Of The Winds” edges to propulsively strong Folk guitar shimmy, organ panning le to right; a cat chasing its own tail. Round and round it goes, then another tangent hits in “Midnight Tide”, by far the most emotional track present.
Three and a half minutes in, a remarkably shiver-worthy buoying of chords hit you like a circuitboard of tesselating sparks, manipulated cassette recordings adding to the special moods formed. I have heard few works of this kind as moving, almost as if the noise forces response from your neural autonomy. Instruments such as tanpura elsewhere, and gong here speckle the landscape, but it’s very much the guitar and drums that are the LP’s focus, uniting strength and quibble. Since “Light Echoes” re-introduces the frazzled interplay of parts, but as the weakest work doesn’t quite meet previous expectations. A cherrypicked record across a year’s breadth, it sounds like it belongs on 2008′s “From Our Mouths A Perpetual Light”, which is no bad thing counterintuitively to critique. Plus, as a cadence for aforementioned “Devotion II”, you get to feel the immensity of wellprogrammed sequence re-introducing drums to rinse the plate. The results are in: Barn Owl are up with the best of instrumental guitar records of 2011 on “Lost In The Glare”, and unless someone outsmarts their namesake, I can’t see that position changing for years yet. Where there’s a wing there’s a woon. - Mick Buckingham
Machinefabriek Sol Sketches
Under the signature of Machinefabriek, Rutger Zuydervelt has become one of the most well-known names in experimental music circles, drawing praise for his releases on labels such as Cold Spring, Kning, and Dekorder. In 2009 film director Chris Teerink invited him to create the soundtrack for a documentary Teerink was working on about Sol LeWitt, an invitation that Zuydervelt accepted, despite knowing little about the artist. Aer thoroughly researching LeWitt’s work, Zuydervelt found himself responding with enthusiasm, and had soon produced over forty piano improvisations responding to the American artist’s images. Twenty-one of these improvisations have been refined and released as “Sol Sketches”, which, although Teerink’s film has yet to be completed, acts as a sort of presoundtrack, a work-in-progress of sorts that nonetheless stands on its own as a complete product. The music in “Sol Sketches” is dreamlike and evocative, which would seem to put it at odds with its purported inspiration. LeWitt, oen considered as one of the key
figures in the development of conceptual art, wanted his work to be rational, logical, and self-contained, to the extent that he oen did not ‘execute’ the works himself, but instead produced sets of instructions for assistants to follow – as if the art was code to be executed by a machine. But it is precisely by this desire to eﬀace himself – to remove himself from the site of art’s production – that LeWitt inscribes himself at the very heart of that site. The mark of this inscription is the signature that accompanies every set of instructions, guaranteeing its authenticity. The signature is a trace, a ghost of desire that cannot be erased, even if the artwork takes the form of something as impersonal as a calculated series of mathematicallydetermined geometrical shapes. From this perspective, it makes perfect sense that in the open, hanging notes, the insistent ostinatos, the uncertainties and hesitancies of Zuydervelt’s improvisations one finds a certain hauntedness. The piano’s frequent tailing oﬀ into silence, as if turning away or just leaving the room, is the musical quality most evocative of
LeWitt’s flight from the scene of art – sometimes it is as if the music is barely there. I found “Sol Sketches” to be an absorbing and engaging release, standing up well as music despite its ambivalent position as a not-quite-soundtrack; although the twenty-one tracks contain little besides piano and the occasional gentle intrusion of electronics, a subtle invention and that pervasive haunted atmosphere made close and repeated listening a pleasure. “Sol Sketches” will be released as a limited-edition 4 x 10-inch vinyl boxset on Champion Version, as well as a CD version available through Stashed Goods and also directly through Machinefabriek. The CD comes with a neat bonus “gadget” a custom “Sol Sketches”-branded eraser, a reference to LeWitt’s championing of drawing, and perhaps also to the artist’s desire to erase all trace of himself from his art. - Nathan Thomas
Ohesky Appalachia & The Beautiful Nowhere
Originally from Kentucky, Ohesky is Jason Corder who currently resides in Denver, Colorado in the United States. From an early age, Jason experimented with simple piano melody patterns, tape deck recording, tracker soware and 8bit explorations. He went on to teach himself guitar, learning more advanced music production soware and eventually began to translate these ideas into his own tracks. These regularly shiing learning patterns started at the tender age of five, perhaps born out of an early Attention Deficiency Disorder diagnosis. This restlessness is something that Jason is comfortable with in music and embracing it has led to a gradual honing of cra over a lifetime of sound experiments. The more strings that he adds to his bow, the more curious he seems to get; and with each release, he likes to carefully explore his latest ideas and techniques. So for those of you with a few Ohesky records in your collection, you’ll notice a diﬀerent shi and evolution explored within each. In 2006, Jason even decided to change the then Oﬀ The Sky moniker to the unique one-word morpheme ‘Ohesky’. If nothing else, this expresses his desire to hold evolution as a major facet of his artistic process. Magnetically drawn to melody and texture, Jason’s sound typically comprises of a deep and quirky aesthetic that draws in on all his influences. Musically, he cites an early interest in jazz and orchestral music as the foundation to the odd way in which he likes to think about music. Elsewhere, he concedes that he has learnt more about music through film, painting and his own sound experiments along the way. For his latest record ‘The Beautiful Nowhere’, Jason had initially set himself a loose rule to use as many acoustic instruments as possible, whilst limiting the use of heavy electronic processing techniques. Instruments including guitar, harmonium, cello, toy piano, violin, kalimba, vibraphone and voice were recorded in a cabin near Carter Lake, Colorado in the peace of a beautiful, yet remote space. It was this secluded environment that encouraged and an existential state of mind and the resulting
material gleaned of ideas relating to isolation and the surrounding rural landscape. Around the time of recording, Jason also watched a documentary called ‘The True Meaning Of Pictures’, about photographer Shelby Lee Adams. His subjects lie in deep Appalachia; an incredible culture caught on film that has haunted Jason ever since. Fluid was lucky enough to get some time with Jason recently, and he was able to fill us in on ‘The Beautiful Nowhere’, iPads and Shelby Lee Adams… - How long did the album take to complete? JC: A little over a year – though some of the pieces were started a few years ago, le in the dust, revived and finished. The longest I’ve let a song sit before finishing it is about 7-8 years, I think. Just like a good drink, some things perfect with age… - Is that the way you usually work, starting multiple projects and songs and working at them over time? JC: Not until the last few years really. I think it makes more sense to work on a group of songs then set them down for many months, allowing time to blur my perspective of them a bit. Going back to them aer becoming completely unfamiliar with them helps give me to determine new directions to take with them. Also learning how to use the delete button in that process has really helped! - How did the record come to its home at Hibernate? JC: Well, Jonathan and I were in some talks about me putting a record out with Hibernate. I actually sent him a whole diﬀerent album to begin with and he responded with “I’d love to put this out on vinyl, would you mind adjusting it to fit on a record?”. The funny thing was, I had already finished a whole other record and had made it especially for vinyl to begin with. I kind of did that just to go through the process of creating a work for that medium (and with
a little faith that somebody would want to release it on vinyl). So anyway, at that point I wrote Jonathan back and said ‘Hey, I’ve actually got this other record (The Beautiful Nowhere) that was made just for a 45 format’. I’m really happy he loved it instead. The original record I sent him – Endless Yonder – will be out soon via Alex Navarro’s SEM label. I’m very excited for that release as well! - Were you listening to any material during this period that you felt had an influence on the two albums? JC: Absolutely! I’m always trying to soak in some kind of music… actually I got back into classical music a little bit; returning to my childhood years when that was all I was allowed to listen to. Debussy is one name in particular whose melodies I adore. But I also really got into Iron And Wine, as well as Morgan Packard’s latest Anticipate release – some excellent and inspiring music all around! - How would you describe your approach to guitar? JC: Loose and loopy… pretty, melodic and rhythmic too I guess I’m kind of an existentialist when it comes to playing instruments. I typically like to only do like 3-4 takes, and I love it when notes don’t completely hit on the beat or when mistakes just pop up and turn into really golden moments in the song. This always feels better in the end than the songs I’ve created where every note had to be ironed, cut, and edited. During the creation of these records, I also created a live loop system using Max for Live, a broken trigger finger, and Ableton’s Looper eﬀect. I control the trigger finger with my toes (now dubbed it ‘trigger toe’) to start and stop loop. The ‘trigger toe’ has a nice feature of allowing the pressure from each drum pad to transmit a cc – so the harder my toe pushes down on a pad, the more reverb I get on the guitar. But I used this setup on just about every song on these records… .
- At what point did you come to appreciate that spontaneity in your music? Was there a project or song that triggered it?
from the usual tools and tricks and there are some amazing music creation apps for the iPad now…
JC: It’s hard to say. I think working and playing with allot of diﬀerent musicians has really helped me become addicted to embracing the loveliness of spontaneous sonic happening. But I think with my earlier records I ended up, sadly, ironing or editing out too many of the beautiful spontaneous moments because either a label expected me to do something very refined or “professional” or whatever. And I was probably a bit immature and self conscious; feeling I had to make something “perfect” therefore “acceptable” – which is a necessary but diﬃcult part becoming a strong musician.
- I’m really interested in you using the iPad for music. Could you make a whole record that way?
That’s all not to say that putting allot of eﬀort into perfecting a mix or arrangement is a bad thing – it’s not. But an artist should allow for some freedom in their process and just feel okay with leaving in a few screw-ups. Some artists who have inspired me to go this route along the way are Phoenicia (their Brown Out record in particular), John Coltrane, Ricardo Villalobos, and of course Animal Collective. - I’m also taken with the idea of Coltrane as an influence – jazz is a pretty experimental field, and it seems to sit with your style of unconventional musicianship well. Are there any elements that you take from jazz directly? JC: Well, I’ve certainly worked in my fair share of samples taken from old jazz records. I guess you don’t get more direct than that! But anymore I just try and take ideas from the spirit of that kind of music. Like the loose knit performance mentality that permeates jazz. - Did working on these two albums give you a direction for your next? JC: Yes, of course! Lately I’ve been making guitar loops with the iPad using my Behringer FCB1010 floor stomp box and an awesome app called the ‘Every Day Looper’. I guess I want to be like all those weird bands out there who are now trying to make a record using just the iPad. It’s probably worth trying out just to get away
JC: Well aer a couple months of researching various apps and how they are able to interact with each other, I really think it’s 100% possible now – certainly not as easy as just using Logic or Ableton on a higher powered computer but with patience, it’s doable. So through the research, I’ve become obsessed with actually attempting to create a record that uses nothing but the iPad, acoustic instruments and a contact mic – mostly to satisfy my weird internal sense of self competition and to hopefully gain some patience through the process. But there’s a slew of great apps out there that really make it super fun to jam out and make sounds on the iPad (or iPhone). Iasuto is one, similar to Reaktor in the sense that you place modules and wire them up. But there’s the added aspect of each module’s distance from each other eﬀecting various parameters – such as volume levels, pitch, etc. And you can animate the movement of the modules, which makes for some seriously cool dynamic weirdness. Also “Sunvox” is a great “tracker” style app that lets you wire up synths through various eﬀects. So if you can get past the “tracker” style learning curve you can do some wicked sequencing. And then there’s multitrack DAW – a great DAW style app that lets you have up to 24 tracks and a timeline based audio arranger. And you can take recorded sounds created in the other mentioned apps and move them into multitrack DAW for editing/arranging. All without a laptop or internet connection. I could go on and on about all this nerdiness – but once I’ve finished the record I’m going to try and blog about the whole experience. Hopefully that will inspire others of the possibilities of using mobile devices to make music. I know it’s a totally trendy thing to try and do nowadays but the bottom line is it’s a lot of fun. And I’m just happy to be able to
arrange music in some really odd, remote places… - How have you made records in the past, have you always done it yourself? JC: I guess on a majority of my release I’ve done most of the work. There’s a few where it was 50/50 eﬀort (Suspended, Flyover Sound, Further To Find Closer) – and usually I’ll do the final polishing master pass if possible. I’ve been working with pillow garden lately (Sarah Chung) as she has some nice organic ideas and a voice that really works with my music. I’d like to use less of my voice and more of the female voice as it typically contains textural qualities that just seem to fit with what I do on the guitar. She and I just put out a free release via Audio Gourmet called ‘A Dream In A Dream’ – very pretty sleepy washy stuﬀ. But all in all I really love working with diﬀerent musicians as much as possible. New minds add new ideas and angles that I wouldn’t have been able to come up with on my own. It makes for a more dynamic record in the end too. Plus I’m a sampling junky so I love recording musicians who are willing to just play along to my music, impromptu-style. I’ve tried working with classically trained musicians but getting past the dogma of sheet music and oldschool academic thinking usually would get in the way. And of course working in the field recording plants, trees and clouds is always super fun – typically natural things are some of the best performers (and you don’t have to even bug them to play for you!) - How did you become interested in the works of Shelby Lee Adams? JC: Having spent a lot of time immersed in Appalachian culture during my life, I was immediately drawn to his movie and work. He takes incredibly haunting photographs, that some have deemed controversial because they appear to take advantage of the subject matter. But the film about his life and the issues surrounding his photographs, “The True Meaning Of Pictures”, nudged me into deeper research about the musical history of that culture.
- How did this influence work its way into the album? JC: Some time aer watching the film, I ended up driving around to a slew of antique stores in small run-down towns in Kentucky looking for old instruments, records and trinkets that I could feed oﬀ of and soak into the music somehow. Some of the old vinyl featuring gospel hymns and porch side folk tunes are what helped me to come up with some of the song titles, melodies and feelings that went into “The Beautiful Nowhere”. That title itself kind of takes from the idea of rustic beauty that those tiny towns entail. - What was it in particular about Adam’s work that struck the chord? JC: Aside from the beauty of his photos, I found the persistent nature of his approach fascinating – he would spend years and years photographing an entire generation of one family. I’m inspired by artists who really embrace their work and who really stick with it, regardless of the critics crap and regardless of the ups and downs life brings. - Do you avidly dislike music critics? My impression was you’d been fairly well treated by them? JC: I’ve certainly endured my fair share of thrown tomatoes. I think this is a good humbling and cathartic experience for an artist to deal with. And I certainly don’t dislike critics at all; there’s a necessary context for critical review. But I think this kind of review, especially in the indy circuit, can become shallow and pretentious very quickly. It’s a real cop-out for a reviewer to just speil about something they don’t like. The real challenge is for a reviewer to find something good within something they don’t like. - I’m really interested in the Apallachian aspect of the project; I remember reading at one point that it had a strong influence
on recorded music because people testing early phonographs and the like went out to record musicians from that area, and it bled into a lot of early recorded music from the US. Which songs do you think captured this element, and how did the elements you gathered come to play into the record?
so produced anymore that I think it’s harder to find folk or bluegrass music that can really capture the spirit of those old recordings. Those were one take wonders by truly unique people who lived in much diﬀerent times. Also I think musicians back then were far less intimidated by the microphone.
JC: What really inspired me about those old recordings was how live and raw they were. Many times the recorder would set up their gear right there on the front porch and those backwoods banjo players would just go to town so free spirited and natural like while the needle cut straight into that disc. I’m really inspired by that kind of fearlessness to be able to perform and record in such a live fashion. But people were far more fearless back then – they had to face much harder times; so much starvation, constant sickness and death. I think that kind of hard living made for much more passionate musical expressions – people really had to have a way to release!
- True, and I’ve heard it said that aer the players heard themselves played back, their style of playing changed. They’d never heard recorded music before, and actually hearing themselves played back aﬀected the way they played. Does listening to the material you’ve recorded change the way you’ve developed as well?
- Do you think our relative comfort today has changed the type of music we produce? JC: Absolutely. Innovations in technology have made it so we don’t necessarily have to work as hard to achieve results that surpass the styles and standards of yesteryear. But with all this ease of use and the endless ocean of presets, a slew of lazy modern music has emerged like a bad disease. But I love that no matter how drowned in comfort the world becomes, people will always have the will to want and make good heart felt music. That’s just a part of our beautiful design… - Can you still see the influence of Appallachian music in modern music today? Is the DNA still recognisable to you? JC: Those styles today are somewhat watered down I guess. Music tends to be
JC: Certainly so – it’s a healthy move for a musician to record themselves performing then listen back to it. You can get a more objective perspective of the music and it’s easier then to tell if the music is worth sharing with the world or not. Also, I like listening to my music with random people in the room listening. I certainly get a bit self-conscious but that allows me to have a more psychologically heightened awareness of what’s going on in the music. So that helps mistakes or improvements just pop right out of the songs… ................. “People’s faces reflect what God has given them and just as importantly, what others have caused, shunned or propagated. A number of folks simply can’t speak eﬃciently for themselves. I find the faces I photograph easily enough, but society has oen conditioned many to stay as they are, while speaking worlds apart. Only when we as a people learn to accept our complete collective shadow and integrate within society, will we begin to mend.” - Shelby Lee Adams ................. - Charlie Sage
Efrim Manuel Menuck Plays High Gospel
Canadian born musician Efrim Manuel Menuck is best known as a founding father of influential instrumental rock ensemble Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Menuck established amorphous politico side project Thee Silver Mt. Zion, post-rock commotion merchants with a genre bending DIY ethos and aesthetic. He is also part of the quadrumvirate that owns and operates the Hotel2Tango, an analogue based recording studio and practice venue in the mile end of Montreal, which is one of the very few noncommercial venues in Montreal capable of staging live performances. Menuck’s knowledgeable and commanding use of guitar distortion, echo and delay is expertly pooled with ambient acoustics and picturesque phrasing to cra sweeping aural resonances of wistful eminence. This all sits perfectly with a lyrical respectiveness that’s exudes existential eloquence. Our Lady Of Parc Extension And Her Munificent Sorrows is creatively exuberant and employs extensive distortion vacillations to the guitar, encrusted vocal harmonies and ambiguous contextual musings. The end result is a gorgeous and lavish audio amble. A 12 Pt. Program For Keep On Keeping On’ starts with a chorus of cyber insects and a perceptible natural movement of the resident atmosphere. This is immediately followed by penetrative beats, intimidating electronics and vocal samples that form Faustian sonic entanglement.
August Four, Year-Of Our-Lord Blues uses poignant pastoral guitar echoes to form honeyed harmonic heaven that assuages the angst of the previous track. Heavy Calls & Hospital Blues is a humble piano led folksong of personal reflections and revelations. A sense of sadness and regret lingers long aer the piece ends. Heaven’s Engine Is A Dusty Ol’ Bellows opens with a pulsed and illusory spiritual disposition. This is juxtaposed with contrasting and recurring guitar strains that have been streamed through sequences of transmutive and transductive eﬀects pedals. The song is an ontological study that deals with questions concerning what entities exist or can be said to exist, and how such entities can be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and diﬀerences. Kaddish For Chesnutt forms a resolute homage to a dearly departed soul mate. The ghostly, ethereal, almost funereal feel, finally allows reverentially vocalised lyrics to fill the emotional void le by the passing of a cherished comrade. Theirs was a special relationship of a kind seldom actualised in many people’s lifetimes; Efrim expresses heartfelt words of love and gratitude. Chickadees Roar Pt. 2 starts with celestial keyboards and electronics that glimpse and reveal the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing, halfway through a field recording featuring birdsong takes
over. The Chickadee is a small, common songbird, which is found in Canada and the USA. It leaves a suggestion that nonhuman entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle. I Am No Longer A Motherless Child begins with Efrim playing a glorious guitar groove in a Hendrixesque star mangled manner before undulating keyboards and organs take over to form a shamelessly triumphant song of accessible modernity. The song has an Eastern sense of spiritual liberation as the song title is sung over and over again with jubilant and enriching elegance. Parenthood is both a journey and a destination. Aer all, once you are a parent you will always be one irrespective of the circumstance. Make the best of it, take it seriously, and enjoy it. Efrim Manuel Menuck Plays “High Gospel” is a forceful, impassioned and intimate debut solo album that intermingles innovative and progressive guitar methodologies, atmospheric sound refractions, votive vocalisations and a speculative scheme for timbre, pitch and intensity. By cultivating a genuine sense of humanity it may even help you to achieve ultimate happiness in your life. - Dean Rocker
Motion Sickness Of Time Travel Luminaries & Synastry
“I have already told you of the sickness and confusion that comes with time travelling. And this time I was not seated properly in the saddle, but sideways and in an unstable fashion. For an indefinite time I clung to the machine as it swayed and vibrated, quite unheeding how I went, and when I brought myself to look at the dials again I was amazed to find where I had arrived. One dial records days, and another thousands of days, another millions of days, and another thousands of millions. Now, instead of reversing the levers, I had pulled them over so as to go forward with them, and when I came to look at these indicators I found that the thousands hand was sweeping round as fast as the seconds hand of a watch — into futurity”. - H.G. Wells – The Time Machine ...................... With her debut album Seeping Through The Veil Of The Unconscious resulting in Motion Sickness of Time Travel being propelled to the forefront of many experimental music fan’s consciousness, Rachel Evans returns with the full-length Luminaries & Synastry, released on Digitalis.
When an artist gets such widespread and vocal acclaim from critics and fans alike, one tends to expect either of two situations; an overhyped flavour of the month or someone who is genuinely redefining a given genre through their music. Motion Sickness of Time Travel certainly falls in the latter camp and this second full length album oﬀers music created with instruments and tones which are perfectly normal in of themselves, but somehow they culminate to form something new. Take the most formless vocal harmonies of Blondie’s Debbie Harry and perhaps add a little of French synth punk-rock pioneers Metal Urbain and then we may begin to approach a hint of Evans’ sound, but still not quite, she really is original. The album opens with Luminaries and one is reduced to searching for metaphors in an attempt to explain the strange sound with words. An ambient pulsing synth leads the piece and Evans forms a sound of her own, steeped in LFO harmonies, with a definite upliing timbre. The rhythmic electronic synthesis continues forward into Luminaries & Synastry and the artist conjures audial images of a world
reminiscent of H.G. Wells’ Utopian vision for the future. This unique, futuristic sound continues with third number Late Day Sun Silhouettes and Evans’ methods and style remains diﬃcult to pin down. This is the crux of Luminaries & Synastry – the more one attempts to define Rachel’s intentions, the further they slip away from grasp. Better instead to enjoy the whirling, strange and very much otherworldly musical journey. Luminaries & Synastry is an album comprising eleven tracks of a quite particular tone, yet it still sees Evans experimenting in a truly original way. It is truly a beautiful and forward thinking work of electronic tones, achieving much with its mood elevating harmonies. Fitting then that it is a Summer release as it shall no doubt prove a soundtrack to the next few months of long days and warm nights. - Adam Williams
The one sheet for Petrels – Haeligewielle says the album is comprised of ‘songs of water, songs of stone’. It sounds vague, but in truth that’s all you need to know. To say that Petrels is the solo project of Oliver Barrett of Bleeding Heart Narrative is already saying too much. This, his first solo album, oﬀers up a seriously detailed narrative hinted at with the song titles. Combining post-rock, drone and Americana elements; Haeligewielle pits an all-consuming darkness against the frailest slivers of light to create one of the most immersive listening experiences of 2011 thus far. In many ways Haeligewielle is an ode to tales of water and stone, but also specifically William Walker, who is mentioned in the title of the albums final song. William Walker (1869-1818) was a British scuba diver famous for shoring up Winchester Cathedral, a task that involved him re-building the foundation of the cathedral while being submerged underwater in total darkness for six hours a d a y f o r fi v e y e a r s . A l s o o f n o t e : Haeligewielle is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning ‘holy well’. The album opens with “Aer Francis Danby”, a reference to the Irish painter of the romantic era whose work o touched on themes of water and the apocalypse. As for the music, the song opens with the quick fade in of a terse and strained highpitched sound that could be a guitar but also resembles the howling wind. Instantly, the song takes the listener to some place isolated and dark. The song spends the first half combining restrained melody over a layer of drone, and the second half turns into a sort of rock n roll outro. In one song Petrels gives us a song that feels like both a beginning and an end. Second song “Silt” comes on strong with what sounds like a chorus line of bowed string and digital flourishes that seem to emulate water. Silt is granular material derived from stone, in this case probably associated with the sediment that darkened Walker’s hours for those long days. A percolating rhythm underneath the track has the quality of bubbling water. Slowly a new melody emerges over top of the drone elements and brings it all together with a new centrifugal force to
drive the song. If you were to remove silt from the context of water it has the quality of ash. One can almost picture a world of ash (silt?) when listening to the whole record as it has the quality of something almost post-apocalyptic. It brings together something historical, almost classical, but places it in a context where it feels almost alien. This is the sort of dark and claustrophobic emotional terrain not unfamiliar to listeners of Seasons (PreDin). ‘Canute’ likely refers to King Canute, the Danish ruler of England, who was convinced by his people that he was so mighty he could stop the tide from coming in. The story goes that he tried to square oﬀ against the tide and nearly drowned. ‘Canute’ the song emerges quietly and quickly provides the densest layer of hissing-throbbing drone the album provides. Seriously: this song is loud. Is this the soundtrack to Canute almost being consumed by the water? It’s dark and sinister, but again Petrels lets a light shine in. It’s a piece that almost hints at an admiration for Canute’s brave naïveté as much as it does tell the story of how his foolishness almost killed him. “The Statue is Unveiled with the Face of Another” refers to the 1964 incident where a commemorative statue of Walker was unveiled, but due to an error by the artist featured the face of the Cathedral’s engineer rather than Walker. An error the Cathedral tried to keep quiet, thus leading some to believe the face was indeed that of Walker. The song provides the album’s most rustic song, fueled by the sort of Americana found in the work of Aaron Martin. Bowed strings and gently picked guitars take us from the apocalyptic drone of the previous track to a place almost rural and rustic. But is this the future or the past? In a way the piece is reminiscent of William Fowler Collins dusty soundscapes. It’s as if Petrels is giving a musical companion to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. We’re being ushered into a world that is at once new and also scarily reminiscent of the past. “Concrete” provides the album’s warmest moment. It introduces the element of human voice, and boy does it ever. The song is a thick chorus of male voices in a
style the one sheet describes as ‘workmanlike’. The song has the feel of men singing about the world of labour and the lyrics reflect Walker’s task. Despite its title, the song is decidedly human. Rather than something cold and unmovable, it becomes a song about the fragility of life set against a back drop of work, and as ever, water and stone. “Winchester Croydon Winchester” provides the album’s most whimsical moment. Loaded with various keyboard phrases layered over one another it has a playful quality. The title refers to William Walker’s hours long commute from his home with family in Croydon to his work in Winchester. Finally, the album oﬀers up its lengthiest number “William Walker Strengthens the Foundations”. At over 14 minutes in length it brings together all the musical terrain covered in the previous six songs into one solid statement. In the end it adds a darkly industrial almost techno inspired refrain built around a skewed loop that sounds alien even for electronic music. In a way Walker’s story is an odd one for an electronic musician to take the task of telling, his story is so much about the tension between mankind and nature. Psychically though, the story of a man who works away in total darkness to make some small shred of an impact in the larger world is everybody’s. And maybe that’s what drew Barrett to it. Either way, it was Barrett that picked up the torch and told Walker’s story, and probably it would terrify Walker to hear the sonic equivalent of those claustrophobic hours and years played out so well. The good news for the listener is that Petrels has provided us with what has to be the strongest solo debut from a musician so far in 2011. It’s as if Barrett has launched his solo career as Petrels by giving us his own Sisyphus narrative, and somehow it sounds dreadfully authentic – no small feat. Haeligewielle is an album so dense and immersive you sometimes feel as though you are drowning or being smothered, but that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to feel. - Brendan Moore
Vieo Abiungo And The World Is Still Yawning
Vieo Abiungo is William Ryan Fritch, film score composer, member of Sole and The Skyrider Band, producer, and multiinstrumentalist (berimbau, erhu, sarangi, vibraphone and zither, in addition to the more standard fare). Vieo Abiungo released the debut Blood Memory last year, a “genre-agnostic” collection that wove “a kind of imagined Africa together with equally chimerical folk and art musics…. Equally welcome at a village wedding, funeral or ritual blood-letting as a Village lo or art gallery.” With all of the soundtracks credited to Fritch, the reader is forgiven for expecting the description of his music to begin with “cinematic.” By point of fact, the Vieo Abiungo alias resembles literature much more than it does celluloid. Lost Tribe Sound will release Vieo Abiungo’s second album And The World Is Still Yawning on August 30, alongside an almost complete collection of remixes, featuring names like Field Rotation and Nils Frahm. Whether film or prose, there is a discernible plot at work here. Consider only the track names: “With Each Forgetful Step…Progress” becomes “Treading Water.” “Feast Before Harvest” precedes “The Barges Bellow Their Foul Air,” then “Flotsam And Jetsam.” In time “While The Others Sleep,” begets the titular, “And The World Is Still Yawning.” These titles describe the compositions at least as well as the language of music reviews is able to: turbulent sound is adorned with turbulent names, and the whimsical songs, whimsical titles. “Treading Water” is childlike, pure Matisse (Le bonheur de vivre, for those keeping score): a lively spring of tuned percussion, chimes, an uptempo surge, with buoyant vocals and
sparse, intrepid violin work. This is the only track not featured on the excellent remix album, while the similarly exotic and cheerful “Drowsy Salted Morning” was refurbished by two separate artists. There is sure to be a narrative arc in there somewhere, too. Moods here change as suddenly as the skies. “Man Makes Little More Than Water” is a potage of strings, a brief, implied tale of sadness, hope, and futility. The fruitless eﬀorts of man is a fascinating message for a mostly placid, mostly homogenous instrumental piece, and Fritch executes it brilliantly. Choosing a favorite composition here is as uncertain as choosing a favorite book. Here, find “Flotsam And Jetsam,” a quick, modern tango: barely a minute of stalking percussion, erotic violin, and aching harmonies. Or here, find the closing, title track: a soulsick adagio pace, with a lonevoice cello, dissonant and alarming swells of strings, even brief glimpses of Ennio Morricone. The cries of instrumentation in the final moments make clear which of our endeavors has overcome the other: harvest or foul air, treading water or racing. Also in contention, the largely submerged “While The Others Sleep,” five minutes of kinetic and lightfooted intrigue, black-andwhite corporate espionage. A question: the undercoat for the frenetic and bookish cello: is it a plucked violin or a muted guitar? Send in the spies to find out. Time now to take the elephant from the room. In the case of And The World Is Still Yawning, it is perfectly acceptable to love the remixes. Lost Tribe Sound’s promotional film for the album features footage of an airplane’s shadow, shot from
the same cra. Another clip observes a young girl stealing quick glances at a mirror. For an album that makes clear its inquiries into our dual nature, the inclusion of so many alternate versions is fascinating, almost obligatory. The diﬀerences between the original tracks and the remixes can be stark, some evident even before listening. An obvious example is the Need More Sources rework of “Flotsam And Jetsam,” stretched from its painfully short duration of 61 seconds into a near eight-minute epic, the South American taste of the violin work now simmered to a distinctly Central Asian flavor. In other cases the guest artist has also rechristened the song, for example “Still And Tepid Pools” in lieu of “Still And Tepid Waters.” Here Sun Hammer extracts five minutes of complicated electroacoustic from one uncomplicated minute of pluck and bow. By all means, the listener doesn’t need to treat the comparisons between original and remix as a book report. You can always just listen: Aaron Martin oﬀers a sommelier’s interpretation of “Man Makes Little More Than Water.” The result is simply beautiful, and allows the exquisite stringwork of the original to breathe just so. Water to wine. And The World Is Still Yawning is an intelligent and unusual work: a place of agriculture and industrialisation, Utopia and pollution, clear skies and shipwrecks. This is two hours of travel through Prague, along the spice route, now Argentina, west Africa. Don’t pack lightly. You’ll want to stay awhile. - Fred Nolan
Will Samson Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends
I’m a melancholy kind of guy. Sometimes I’ll sit, as the light fades – in a park, let’s say – and drink from an open can, and then another, as the clouds darken and the cars stream past and a man walks by with a mattress on his head, and I’ll remember friends, maybe dead, maybe just gone. Invariably, I will be listening to some music. This album is made for those times. In my head, I used to present a radio show called ‘33 1/3 BPM’, which featured slow, sad love songs for the discerning 3AM listener, kind of like the aural equivalent to the sleeve of Frank Sinatra’s 1959 album No One Cares – you know the one, where he’s sitting at the bar, chin in hand, staring glumly into his whiskey, contemplating his lot. This would have fitted in perfectly. You get the picture. Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends, Will Samson’s latest album on the somewhat unfortunately titled Plop Records, is an overwhelmingly introspective record. Recorded during a period of self-imposed exile in Berlin on a simple 8-track machine, it focuses on the then 22-year-old’s isolation and the consequences thereof: his feelings of being lost, of leaving things behind, of not knowing what will come. Sounds like a right barrel of laughs, yeah? Well, let me tell you something else: Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends, is also
unforgivingly quiet. And slow. I mean, really slow. Add to this lyrics such as, “And I would be lost without you, please don’t leave” (Panda Bear), and “It’s hard when you’re on your own” (Violins and Polaroids), sung in a Bon Iver-ish falsetto, and you could be easily forgiven for steering well clear. But you’d be missing out. For Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends is, despite the odds, quite gorgeous. OK, so it’s not the sort of thing you’d put on while getting ready for a night out looting and burning, but that’s what the Smiths are for, right? Yes, it’s naïve and awkward – and if you listened to it with your hard mates, you’d probably get bashed – but so what? In this world where everyone craves the same fake plastic dreams, it’s refreshing to hear something so honest, something that is personal, something that, you know, actually means something. At its simplest, Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends is a raw and intimate document of Samson’s time in Berlin. A time capsule almost. The songs are steeped in his sadness, his heartache is felt at every turn, the uncertainty of his situation echoes throughout this album, clinging to it like the tape hiss. Everything that went on in those six months can be heard here. The loneliness, the despair, the enduring hope…
Yet this is what is remarkable about this album: considering its self-absorbed nature, it never seems indulgent. In fact, it is utterly absorbing. How Samson manages to pull this oﬀ, I don’t know. But there it is. Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends somehow just draws the listener in. The subtle blend of shimmering guitar, brittle piano and haunting electronics, with the hushed whisper of Samson’s sweet voice results in a seamless album that is intricate and considered, and eerily mesmerizing. It’s rare to find an album so complete, so of itself. Sometimes it’s easy to think there’s enough music already, too much even, you’ve heard it all before, there’s nothing new. And it’s kind of true. This isn’t breaking any moulds, but by God it’s lovely. There are some records that demand more than your time, they demand your attention, a certain commitment – you can’t just listen to them on the bus on your way to work, the setting’s got to be right. This is one of those records. So go on, switch oﬀ your phone, turn down the lights, pull up the sheets, hunker down… Trust me, it’s worth it. - Graham Seon
AR Wolf Notes
The influence of one’s behaviour, attitude and social development as a result of one’s habitat has been the subject of scientific and anthropological study for centuries. Whether Darwin’s theory of evolution or simply the impact of an individual changing their working, residential or personal space, the examination of this change and the impact of one’s surroundings by their environment is both fascinating and important. Performing arts lend themselves perfectly to this form of investigation, particularly from a critical and analytical perspective. For example, studying filmmakers such as Hsiao-hsien Hou and Wong Kar Wai within this context is enthralling. Here we have artists widely regarded as two of Asia’s most accomplished filmmakers, yet their attempts to make films within a western environment proved disappointing. Was this a case of their art being inaccessible in translated form, or a simple case of their comfort zone being broken? The analysis is of course the result of a subjective matter, but there can be no doubt that the change in habitual circumstance had an impact on their creative output. So how does this introduction relate to music and in particular to the critical analysis of our subject – ‘Wolf Notes’ – a new record by Autumn Richardson and Richard Skelton? Having learnt from previous entries into the Skelton canon of the importance of environment in terms of landscape, nature and setting, this opening will set the tone for what will follow, as we look to understand how change as well as subject has allowed ‘Wolf Notes’ to stand as another vital recording from one of Britain’s essential composers. Released under the artist name AR, ‘Wolf Notes’ comes from the collective pseudonym of its two performers. ‘Wolf Notes’ plays homage to the landscape, place-names, flora and fauna of Ulpha which is nestled in Cumbria, Northern England. Here Richard travels further north
from his native Lancashire, a setting for which he had previously commented on under his A Broken Consort guise. From opening track ‘Inception,’ the first of five that comprise this album, listeners are reintroduced to the classic Skelton sound and at first it is unclear whether a change of scenery has aﬀected the composers work. Awash with melancholy, a slow bowing of strings overlaps itself, joined by a so use of cymbals. As the track slowly builds we begin to hear the light semblance of a female’s voice. It only becomes clear that this is indeed the calling of Autumn Richardson as ‘Inception’ seamlessly blends into the album’s second track ‘Rise.’ While previous recordings from the artist have taught us of one of his traits – the use of auditory motifs or repeated and oen looped stringed phrases – ‘Rise’ introduces us to a evolution of the Skelton sound; the voice. Yet in spite of this addition, the sound remains true to form. Here Richardson’s enchanting hums take centre stage forming motifs of their own, while Richard’s string play slowly develops in the background. Relating to this advancement in the composers’s auditory palette, it is interesting to refer this back to our earlier commentary on environment. Here it is clear that the intimacy between both recording artists has translated to their creativity. Does the enveloping sounds of the voice with looped strings symbolise more than just a musical duet or are we witnessing a joining of two beings through musical form? Has Skelton stepped back to allow this new presence in his life to form the centre of his creative output? As before these questions are born through the subjective nature of art, but they prove interesting nonetheless. As ‘Rise’ reaches its crescendo, a subtle change in Autumn Richardson’s tonality transfers us to ‘Decline.’ Here we witness the continuing narrative journey which
again is a customary ingredient to Richard Skelton’s compositions. Again, the same themes exist as prior, but with small changes to drive the story forward. For large portions of this track, we are treated to just strings, while occasionally the ghostly and enchanting qualities of Autumn’s voice reappear. On ‘Rest,’ a much shorter track to the two found previous, large parts of it are built through near silence or the slight reverberations of percussion. Here we hear the occasional note of vocals slowly weave their way into the music before fading to black. The album closes on ‘Return,’ where again we witness a spiralling of string play and vocals working together in tandem. The mysterious qualities of Richardson’s voice take on a more forlorn form as they cry around the piercing loops of Skelton’s string play. ‘Wolf Notes’ is an enchanting release. We hear of a record that will retains the familiar qualities of previous Richard Skelton albums, but one that also builds on these thanks to the addition of Autumn Richardson’s captivating chorus. While this record is without doubt an ode to Ulpha and its surrounding environment – as is referenced again through Skelton’s remarkable attention to the packaging, the album is also an important example of how wider factors can positively influence creativity. In this sense, one can hope that there is a degree of permanency to the AR pseudonym as we look forward to future recordings not only from this duet, but also the continuation of their solo work which no doubt will be inspired thanks to the habitual advancements that have impacted both performers. - Josh Atkin
Farewell Poetry Hoping For The Invisible To Ignite
FareWell Poetry are the latest addition to the rosters of Leeds-based label Gizeh Records, joining the likes of Fieldhead, Sleepingdog, and Conquering Animal Sound. Describing themselves as “a collective of Parisian musicians and an Anglo-Saxon poet and filmmaker”, their first release “Hoping For The Invisible To Ignite” demonstrates the multi-talented nature of the group: the CD and LP editions are accompanied by a DVD with a film by Jayne Amara Ross, whose poetry can be heard among reverberating guitars and mournful strings. The music draws influences from drone, shoegaze, post-rock, and modern orchestral music, without leaning too heavily on any one source. The delicate, desolate guitar lines of opener “As True As
Troilus” recall Dutch trip-rock pioneers The Gathering, before being overtaken by a thunderous storm of noise. Two-part epic “All in the Full, Indomitable Light of HOPE” oﬀers a brighter, more hopeful sound reminiscent of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s major-key moments, while closing track “In Dreams Airlied Out” is a reprise of the melodies from “As True As Troilus”, as interpreted by two old out-of-tune pianos. The stand-out aspect of the group’s sound is Ross’ spoken word performance. Her poetry matches the music for epicness, while her quiet, monotone delivery amplifies the release’s sense of distance and estrangement. Ross’ poetry and film contributions help give FareWell Poetry a distinctive identity in a somewhat crowded
scene of post-rock/shoegaze/modern orchestral instrumentalists. Add to this their flamboyant and powerful live shows, and you have a meeting of minds and talents that could well go places. “Hoping For The Invisible To Ignite” is available in CD+DVD, LP+DVD, and download editions from 26th September. The deluxe LP is limited to 500 copies, and contains something rather special: as well as download codes and an 8 page booklet, a 12″x12″ exclusive art print on recycled board from Alice Lewis is also included, along with three small art prints and a postcard. - Nathan Thomas
*Skura Complete Works
Skura is Proto-Germanic for “mark,” or “tally,” cousin to the English word score. In turn, a score is a soundtrack, or a group of twenty. Richard Skelton’s *SKURA marks a score of scores, or better, a single soundtrack that evolves over the course of twenty movements. There are twenty discs here, so the title is perfect, but not just that. Inspired. Those readers old enough to have listened to the vinyl format the first time around might not be comfortable with the expression “box set”, which is something David Bowie, Led Zeppelin or The Byrds should release. A box set is a reformatting and repackaging of material the buyer already owns (consider the flood of these reissues throughout the late 80s and early 90s, concurrent with the rise of the CD). Think then of *SKURA as a collection, not a repackaging. From the artist’s web site: …presented in a beautiful, hand-craed ash box with sliding glass panel. *SKURA gathers together the artist’s complete works to date – including all previously out-of-print editions published between 2005 and 2010. The collection is completed by a new album, *SKURA, which comprises nearly 60 minutes of new and unreleased recordings. For those readers unfamiliar with Richard Skelton’s work, know that a review does not simply introduce the newcomer with a single gesture. Skelton records openly under several aliases, each with a unique creative vantage. As he said in a 2009 interview with The Line Of Best Fit: “Hopefully you’ll agree that Rimusic is a diﬀerent entity to Heidika, for example.” (He has referred to this impulse
as a “taxonomy,” which is easily the best way you will hear it put.) Other projects include Carousell, Harlassen, A Broken Consort, Clouwbeck, and — only recently — one named “Richard Skelton.” Seven moods, seven introductions. Some of the incarnations occur infrequently, or only once (Rimusic), others are quite prolific (A Broken Consort). Maybe — as Skelton decants more flavors into this broth — we will be treated to a second *SKURA, a score of pseudonyms. Newcomers should know a few more things: first, he is fairly populist, both in his own aesthetic convictions, and in the way he is received by fans and music journalists. He has described his travel through “woods and fields” as “a spiritual reawakening — but one which had no reference to God or any specific religion.” He refers to an early, noncommercial distribution as “a blithe statement about consumerism.” And as interest in his work has gained momentum, he has continued to struggle against the anonymity of mass production. Normally this would be an esoteric, even ideological statement, but in Skelton’s case it is quite concrete. He has oen taken the concept of custom album packaging to its logical extreme, with limited runs of, say, 28 copies packaged together with seeds, dried leaves or other foraged materials. Of the Crow Autumn release, distributed by Tompkins Square in lieu of his own, private label, he says: And most diﬃcult of all was the dilemma over turning something loaded with personal significance into a commodity, which the world may consume, absorb or reject. In an economic and cultural climate where it’s diﬃcult to obtain subsidy for art, and where creativity seems only to be valued in monetary terms, it’s a decision
that many artists can be forgiven for making without thinking. As mentioned above, his reception establishes him as something of a people’s artist. Album reviews and profile pieces regularly lapse into the first person voice, as if Skelton has transcended (and eschewed) the aloof savant role for something more resembling, say, a close acquaintance, a personal correspondent. Articles routinely use the artist’s forename, not the surname, and it is clear that Skelton’s compositions involve the listener in ways that those of his contemporaries do not. This brings us to the other point you should know: the artist does not claim to be any kind of musical virtuoso. Quite the contrary: “it’s a miracle that I make music at all – it doesn’t come naturally. I’ve had to really persevere to get to a stage where I’m just pretty bad, instead of downright awful. Crap musicians of the world, unite, and take over.” The overused idiom about the creative process — the one that ends with the phrase “99 percent perspiration” — would seem totally at odds with Skelton’s own creativity. This is a man who would leave behind copies of field recordings, buried at their source, or leave his journal entries tucked under rocks. Skelton generates raw feed in improvised, outdoor sessions, using the West Pennine Moors as his unwalled studio. He has dedicated *SKURA and all of its component works to “Louise Skelton, 1975-2004.” So this would seem like an artist who leans disproportionately toward inspiration, not like one who emphasizes loops, edits and craing. But we should take him at his word. And we are better for it, besides.
*SKURA: early works, before June 2007 The claim that any artist’s work improves with each successive release may seem careless, a cliché, or an overstatement. In Skelton’s case, it is none of those. Indeed, the reader should expect an evolution as dramatic as this, in light of his continued emphasis on method. By Disc Seven it is clear that we are dealing with an impressive talent. By Disc Fourteen, a true modern composer. But what, then, does this say about Disc One? The diﬀerence between Skelton’s older material and the more recent recordings is dramatic, to be sure, but not impossibly so. Radiohead could have put six more pseudonyms to good use by now. For purposes of this review, let us refer to Discs One through Six as Skelton’s “early” material, that is, anything that predates the first edition of Box Of Birch. By point of fact Disc One (There Is No Cure) reads like a true prologue, markedly diﬀerent from anything else in Skelton’s arsenal. This is a place of guitar, violin and processing, andante pacing, and a
considerable degree of restraint. Few reviews exist: the album was obscure in more than one sense of the word. But in retrospect it seems that these first 22 minutes represent the beginning of a search. Even more, There Is No Cure suggests that the artist was still learning how to search. The stride breaks into a sprint with Disc Three: the Harlassen release, titled A Way Now. The narrative of track titles, the title of the album itself, the heightened musical pulse, and the fact that Skelton employed the Harlassen pseudonym exactly once all suggest a transition point, a sort of resolution, both artistically and personally. We can only speculate about the details, but the result is a tension of kinetic energy and delicious anchoring: a car with both the accelerator and brake pedals jammed into the floorboard. The itch and ache of violin string becomes exotic dissonance, the heavy pluck of a guitar string doubles as a percussion strike. This is music shot through a macro lens. The only problematic disc among the first six is the last one: the self-titled premiere
of Rimusic. Originally released in March 2007, Rimusic is a single, all-butunnamed track, “No. 1.” Here are nearly 20 minutes of diﬀused light: strings and drone instruments chiming in concurrent, complementary, but unstructured melodies. This way “No. 1″ comes oﬀ as layered but patternless, although literally shimmering and very literally cascading (note also his reference to “the narrow stream” in the liner notes). What makes Rimusic diﬃcult gives voice to the only conceivable criticism of *SKURA as a whole: for a project inspired by, and oen meant to simulate nature, there are very few storms. Listen instead to Disc Four, the first installment of Landings, issued under the Carousell mark in June 2006. Also a single, extended track, Landings 2006 is a slow, black-and-white, lowregister portent. The distillment here is moody, menacing and hypnotic: the formation of a necessary storm, the polarization of light under heavy cloud cover.
*SKURA: current works, from June 2007 Aer the Rimusic debut, Skelton released Box of Birch as A Broken Consort, probably the archetypal release in terms of his singular packaging ethic (an edition of 28, named literally: a box of birch). Moreover — for the listener who travels through *SKURA chronologically — Box of Birch is the point where we begin to recognize the Richard Skelton in his current incarnation: confident, deliberate. Clearer in voice and style and intent. The Heidika responsible for There Is No Cure starkly diﬀerent from the one who imprints Tide Of Bells & The Sea (Disc Ten). The composing is still mournful and challenging, but more rewarding with each successive release. Box of Birch track “Weight of Days,” for example, tells a moving narrative both textually and otherwise; a delicate, scarcely-moving, and reflective arrangement for violin and cello. As always, the natural world serves as both inspiration and audience. It is an
eight-minute exploration into types of silence. Skelton’s more up-to-date works leave much more discernible wakes, and the reader is likely more familiar with, say, Black Swallow & Other Songs, From Which The River Rises, or the three-year anniversary sequel to Landings. Reviewing the first of those three (Disc Thirteen), Alex Gibson noted the “occasional chiming percussion, flickering guitar and field hiss” that “fade in and out through the persistent string work,” concluding, that the work is “weighty fare, and demands as much as it returns.” Of Clouwbeck’s From Which The River Rises (Disc Fieen), Michael Vitrano described “overwhelming strings piled over, on top and around one another, rushing in like the balanced undulations of a river,” stating unambiguously, “Skelton again triumphs.” The second incarnation of Landings (Disc Fourteen) needs truly little introduction,
lauded nearly universally by those who have heard it. The listener would be forgiven for concluding that this is Skelton’s masterpiece: thematically whole, exquisite in texture, aching, infectious, timeless. For a collection that shares so much blood and root with the natural world, the violins never sound so alive as they do here. The breaths between sounds, the silences between tracks: never so urgent. It is diﬃcult to resist the word culmination, even when it is not clear whether the artist has achieved more height, or depth, or gravity. There should be a new word, one that implies all three. With so much familiar water to navigate: let us not forget that there is also some new material to be had.
*SKURA, and a question “Wingless” (There Is No Cure), was previously unreleased. “Ford” (Marking Time), is “a newly commissioned piece.” Several tracks were hidden along the way, and revealed here in full. Dyad features three alternate versions of previouslyreleased tracks. A Dead Bridges Into Dust was released in November 2005, and the first Landings album dropped in June 2006: both were limited to nine copies. It is certain that the listener will find plenty of new music in the first 19 albums, but the last is a full-length record of altogether original material: seven tracks, 57 minutes, four diﬀerent faces of the taxonomy. The album opens with “Bark, Xylem,” by Heidika (that the *SKURA disc features four pseudonyms, a “Part Two” and an alternate version suggests that these songs are drawn from earlier sessions, and not necessarily composed since, say, February 2010). “Bark” is not out of place, to be sure. A hazy violin and ringing guitar put sound to the two propositions of the song title. Skelton names nothing accidentally, so the interested reader
should note that xylem is a vascular tissue in some plants, similar to veins in animals, although in this case the lifeblood is a stream of fluid and nutrients. The song moves in scarcely-perceptible waves, and quietly nourishes. “Proximity” is aptly titled. This Carousell arrangement features an in-the-sameroom lead violin, turbulent cello flooring, and disengaged swells of cymbal. The listener can only wonder if Skelton gets enough credit: a track like this from a lesser-known artist would make the album. *SKURA ends with “The River Beneath,” nearly 20 minutes of A Broken Consort, likely the most fascinating of Skelton’s seven aliases. It is an optimistic turn, telling piano notes placed barely within view from one another, among hectares of strings, cymbal, and near-hidden processing. This is a fitting last chapter, perhaps a vow for a change of direction going forward. So here is the question: is it all too much? *SKURA represents 20 discs, over 90 tracks, no fewer than 20 songs exceeding
10 minutes in length, including one that exceeds 35 minutes. The reprises, the alternate versions, the pseudonyms, the sequels, the moors, the poetry, the beyond-tempo pacing, the timeless hum, the anguished violin and brittle guitar: is it overwhelming? It is a fair question, asking whether *SKURA becomes excessive. The best wine comes in a five-ounce pour, not a gallon jug. Any steak worth eating, a sixounce, maybe eight-ounce cut. Is 12 hours of any one artist simply too much? No. Quite the contrary, especially for the newcomers. Comparing *SKURA to food or drink, for example, poses a false dichotomy where small amounts signal refinement, and where larger quantities verge into excess. Think of it instead as a place, a great forest, maybe, meant for stealing away, getting lost, reflecting, and being found again. The larger the place, the better the chances for becoming mislaid. The more exhilarating the return, or the state of being returned, or not. - Fred Nolan
Many are perhaps familiar with the concept of dark restaurants. The concept is simple: you walk in utter darkness, wait a bit, eat whatever is served on the plates and leave. Those who have tried it firsthand would tell you of how diﬀerent the whole thing is; how a simple meal is changed from ordering something one’s already tried and tested over and over again to an event that has its own sense of mystery, how the taste buds become more perceptive, the sense of smell heightened and in the end, apart from a few misplaced forks and knives every now and then, an amazing experience all in all. But what does that have to do with anything? Oddly enough, my experience with this album doesn’t stray too far from that concept. It is very rare these days that a reviewer receives an album without a press release that was probably written by the artist/band’s second cousin, glorifying every single note on the album, making the act of skipping it seem like the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone and giving the listener all sorts of expectations heading into hearing said piece of art. What’s even rarer though, is to get an album without even track titles. Here is where it gets interesting. Listening to an album you know nothing about, by an artist you’ve never heard, no prejudice, subjectivity thrown against the wall. The restaurant thing makes sense now, right? The album’s start leads the listener on, not giving away much at any point in time, revealing its elements and teasing the listeners’ ears one step at a time. It lures the listener in; the vagueness in what would lie ahead is exhilarating. Then
almost half way through the second track we start getting an idea of what to expect. Improvised jazzy beats come and go, heavy string chords add tension and leave it to dissipate, then out of nowhere the song coalesces and approaches something not too distant from The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble’s more minimalistic tracks on From the Stairwell only to disappear into the next track. Field recordings, a spine tingling female yelp, more scattered drums, everything meshes together and more importantly flows into each other with such grace that it becomes almost impossible for the listener to remove the headphones for a second and miss any of what’s going on. With every passing track, Pepijn Caudron (Kreng) sheds a new layer of skin to reveal even more of his talent. The fih track takes us to through the most nerve wrecking journey of them all. The violin samples, which would have been perfect on Miasmah label mate Marcus Fjellström’s Schattenspieler, the background sounds are high pitched, metallic, rough edged and create a wretched path for these violins to walk through. The song goes back and forth until an explosion of industrial percussion destroys everything, an explosion of sound and emotion that would leave even the most cold hearted person standing in silence trying to fathom where this came from, how unprepared he was for this, and it’s breathtaking. There is music here for the classically inclined, for those who like their jazz slow and doom like, the drone fans, film noir buﬀs and yet it all sounds so coherent, so
natural, with the dimension of time contracting and expanding to fit the moods of the songs. There are always moments of light to break the darkness, always a beat aer a long percussion barren section. The guy’s work in theater has definitely done him good, and we are all the luckier for it. In his description of Marcus Fjellström’s “Schattenspieler”, fellow The Silent Ballet reviewer Richard Allen mentioned a “Miasmah sound”, a certain blend of modern classical sounds and thick drones and soundscapes that have come to set the label apart from others and give fans of that sound a consistent flow of records for them to cherish. Kreng adds a new element to the label’s almost flawless roster, the more theatrical, the jazzier, sexier sound. It is bleak but with swagger, it’s the friction between the elements that give us a look into the magnificent. Each track holds a new surprise, it’s an album you can put on forever and never mind pressing that repeat button once it’s done, no singles or standouts and skip button shall never be touched. I walked into this album knowing nothing, and came out with might as well be my most played album in the past month or so and definitely the one that had the most significant eﬀect. - Review by Mohammed
The Long White Cloud Pt.I Alicia Merz / Birds Of Passage
“From their distant flight Through realms of light It falls into our world of night, With the murmuring sound of rhyme.” New Zealand is a country that punches above its weight in every area it represents itself in – sport, food, film, wine and the arts. Birds of Passage, the experimental music project of poet and songwriter Alicia Merz, is yet another example of the talent that the country produces with startling regularity. Merz resides on the North Island in Hamilton, a town known for its museums, café culture and ethnic diversity. Alicia is involved in a number of projects; Birds Of Passage – whom she recently toured as throughout Europe, flying the flag for Denovali Records who released her debut album, Without The World. Dear And Unfamiliar – an upcoming release with Leonardo Rosado/ Subterminal, best known as FeedbackLoop label curator. The snippets available on Soundcloud indicate an intelligent and sparse outing, reverb drenched melodies hung around sparse cinematic vocals. Track “We’ll Always Have Paris” is stunning in its simplicity, a haunting masterwork. The Boy and the Brook – collaboration with Leeds-based brother Bruno Merz, which has seen light on the Tomorrow’s Conversations release from earlier this year, discussed in some detail below. Alicia recently took some time to discuss these projects with Fluid, and to shed some light on her (seemingly) perpetually full dance card… .............................
really bad experiences when I was in my late teens and early 20s, which is when I started writing and recording, which subconsciously helped me cope with situations and deal with stuﬀ. Aer a few years, I put some of the songs up online, and when futurerecordings approached me, I put the songs I’d already recorded towards the album and recorded a few more songs specifically to make up the rest of it. - So that would mean you recorded the album by yourself? Yes, all by myself (except for “Fantastic Frown” which my brother recorded, but I still wrote it all). - The music is described as “private” in the press release – was it a personal album, hard to make? Yes indeed, very private and very personal, but it wasn’t hard to make. I guess that’s because I was making it for myself…songs I was writing with no plan to. I just wrote them, and then recorded them. The hardest part was hiring the equipment to record with in those early days, hehe. In the little town I live it was unbelievably hard to find a mic to hire, and adding to that problem was of course I had no money to spare, so it was all my money going on hiring the mic for literally 3 days at a time, once a month, or less. Later, when I got a Mac, it was much easier for me. - How much other equipment did you have to do the recording? Did you need to gather a lot? I just used the basics. Over time I’ve collected quite a lot.
- How long did ‘Without The World’ take to record?
- Did you collect most of your equipment at home in New Zealand, or when you lived in Australia?
It was recorded over a long period of time because I was just making music for myself; I had no intention of putting it anywhere for people to hear. I had some
In Australia I recorded my first songs with my brother (Toby’s) equipment. They were really basic songs but I got a little idea of
how to use whatever program it was he had. But all the equipment I’ve bought has been in NZ. My other brother Bruno very kindly sent me some equipment from Europe. - Has there been any reaction or feedback from the release that surprised you? All of it. I was really, really happy to find people really liked it and appreciated it. But if I’d known it was going to be reviewed I probably would never have released it. It didn’t enter my head it would ever be reviewed or analyzed. I just imagined a few people would listen to it and liked imagining them listening on rainy days and nights in bed. I really did not record it to be critiqued! But it’s flattering to know it’s listened to enough that people have done so. - Were there any records that were a direct or indirect influence? Were you listening to anything during the process that you felt had a bearing on it? In the past the music I listened to a lot was Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen and Nina Simone, Bjork, Stina Nordenstam, Lambchop, Loreena McKennitt and others. But when I was writing the music, and even now, I really hardly listened to anything. Everything felt like it got in the way somehow. It was the same if I watched a movie or tv. I never watched any movies or tv while I was writing that first album, and very, very rarely would listen to music. - You mention keeping your radar clear of artistic influences when you’re writing music; do you do the same for your poetry? I always work best when I’m clear of artistic influences. I write much more poetry then too. So, yes, I try to keep it clear, but I do so far less these days than I was able to in the past.
- How did you find your time touring Europe? Is the reaction to your music diﬀerent there to home? I loved Europe. I loved singing and playing for the people there, but I am not a born performer at all so it was pretty hard for me. I was really nervous. The reaction is the most diﬀerent it could possibly be. I wouldn’t dare to perform live here. Most people here are pretty conservative and even my friends here never mention my music, and I can sense they don’t like it. People here seem to need to feel safe in the mainstream’s choice of media. - Do you have further tours planned? What have you lined up for this year? Hopefully I’ll tour next year, maybe around October so I can play the Denovali Swingfest. This year I have three releases scheduled: the first is a collaborative concept album with Leonardo Rosado. Leonardo produced all of the music and I wrote the lyrics and sung the songs, so it’s a departure from ‘Without The World’ territory. Leonardo’s music is very diﬀerent to mine; he uses field recordings and drones, as I do, but his are much more textured than mine, yet still minimalist. He also plays instruments and uses equipment I’ve never even heard of. He’s amazing – a very talented poet, photographer, musician and producer and its been a great pleasure to work with him. I’m really excited about all of the releases, and very thankful to Denovali for supporting me. - Denovali Records seems to have a fairly diverse roster. How did you two meet? Yeah, I have some amazing stable mates. I released ‘Without The World’ on another label, and Denovali heard it through them and approached me about re-releasing it on vinyl. Of course, I was flattered. - The Denovali Swingfest is in Germany, right? Does that mean you’ll be able to do some other shows around it? Yes, it’ll be another tour around Europe, but this time I’d love to go further in to Eastern Europe and Italy, Spain and Portugal as well… and of course there is Scandinavia. ...................... An aside? As most readers would no doubt be aware, Christchurch, the biggest city on the South
Island in New Zealand, has been repeatedly struck by earthquakes both this year and last. The first in September damaged the city severely, yet took no life. The aershocks in February this year, however, caused catastrophic damage throughout the city and took the best part of two hundred lives. In the last week, whilst Alicia and myself were discussing her music, Christchurch suﬀered further aershocks that have again damaged the already unfortunate city. Merz has been involved in a compilation similar to the recent Fluid/Hibernate ‘Kanshin’ compilation for Japan, ‘Tomorrow’s Conversations’, with proceeds going to support ongoing relief work in Christchurch. The release features a host of talented musicians including Nils Frahm & Anne Müller, Rafael Anton Irisarri, Les Fragments de la Nuit, Dear and Unfamiliar, Move, Nemean Lion, I’ve Lost, Her Name is Calla, sink \ sink, worriedaboutsatan, and not least Alicia’s projects Boy and the Brook and Birds Of Passage. As was the case with Japan, the attention of the world quickly dried from Christchurch in the weeks following the quake, and the work to rebuild the city and her inhabitant’s lives is ongoing. I would strongly encourage anyone with a civic conscience to visit the project’s Bandcamp site before returning to this article to finish reading it. New Zealand is a magnificent country; proud, resourceful and warm hearted. They don’t deserve the injustice being visited on them at present, and supporting this project gives valuable assistance. We won’t be going anywhere. We can wait for you until you get back. You’re back? Thank you. I’ll add that this aside is mine alone, not Alicia’s. We will now return you to your scheduled viewing. And thanks again. ...................... - How has Tomorrow’s Conversations progressed? Can you give people an idea of the aims of the project, and how it came about? I wanted to do something to help Christchurch when it was hit by the earthquake. Bruno and I had already recorded ‘Tomorrow’s Conversations’ and it seemed a perfect title for the album. Its aim is to
raise money for Christchurch and in return people get good music. Another thing about it, the photo on the cover is of my Oma in Indonesia in about 1930. She moved from Holland to NZ in 1951 and her time here was diﬃcult. She lived here until she died last year at 100 years old. My son was born on her 98th birthday. I was really close to her and she and the photo hold great significance for me and I was really so happy to use it for Tomorrow’s Conversations. You know, people so easily forget about things aer a time, no matter how much impact they may have had. - Unfortunately totally true. There’s certainly a lot of compassion fatigue around the disasters we’ve all seen recently; Christchurch has really been seriously impacted by these events, hasn’t it? Yes, Christchurch is really going through a hard time. Aer the earthquake in February, they’ve been having so many aershocks, and more earthquakes. Yesterday they had another quite big one. And all while they’re trying to rebuild their lives. So many people lost their homes, so many people have le there, so many are still trying to live there; as with any disaster, it must be really, really hard and very depressing. I think another terrible thing about it is that it was so sudden; they didn’t know they were on a faultline, had never had earthquakes there before, so it was a huge shock when it started happening and they really weren’t prepared for anything like it. - Are the proceeds from Tomorrow’s Conversations going to a particular charity? Are people able to donate more through Bandcamp than the specified price? All the proceeds are going to Red Cross’ New Zealand Earthquake Appeal. The donations start at $6.00 and people can donate any amount higher than that. - How did the artists on the record come to be involved? I proposed the idea to some artists I like and very kindly they accepted. - What are the other two releases of the three you mentioned? Are you able to discuss them? The other 2 are my own… I’d rather keep it a surprise, but look out for them because they’ll be really nice. - Alex Gibson
Bon Iver S/T
The first thing that stands out about Bon Iver’s self titled new album is the lushness of the production…. It’s remarkably warm and inviting. But boy is it busy. I’m not saying that the kitchen sink is in the mix somewhere (though subsequent listens may prove this true), but there’s a hell of a lot going on in there. Just a cursory listen brings up saxes, trumpets, military drums, padded drums, tiny bells, bicycle bells, wind chimes, hand claps, pedal steel, banjo, as well as all the usual suspects – there’s even what sounds to me like a squeaky toy at the end of the opening track Perth. I was listening to this on headphones the other day as I wandered the back streets of Peckham, when halfway through Holocene a car alarm started wailing and I just assumed that it was on the track and that I was supposed to be hearing it. How Justin Vernon manages to have all this stuﬀ on there and not make it sound cluttered and claustrophobic is an achievement in itself. But I can’t help wondering whether it’s all really necessary. Just because you have a saxophone lying around the studio, does it mean you have to use it? I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with it, I’m just not sure if it serves any real purpose. But then I didn’t sell over a quarter of a million copies of my last album in the United States alone, did I? Perhaps it’s got something to do with this success and Vernon’s subsequent position of the past couple of years, you know, as the indie darling with the Midas touch, hanging with Kanye West, phone calls from Neil Young… I might be doing him a great disservice, but all I’m saying is it sometimes feels as if he thought, “Well, the E Street Band had a horn section, why don’t we give it a go?” Of course, he doesn’t use it in the same bombastic manner; Bon Iver, Bon Iver, is far too sedate for that, and I don’t mean that to sound bad, it’s just this album never really takes oﬀ. It doesn’t exactly rock. Not like the Boss, at least. No, this is a much gentler aﬀair. A bright, shining gem constructed of myriad highly polished layers of sound and multi-tracked vocals; there’s plenty of “oohs” and “ahs” and Beach Boys-like harmonies here, but there’s also a lot of late 70s/80s so-rock MOR action going on too – yes that’s right, like Chicago, or… Band of Horses. It’s got
to be said there are times, such as on Minnesota, WI, when it all sounds more Baker Street than E-Street. What this obsession with that period’s sound is all about, I don’t know. But it’s clear that that rich, sumptuous production is all the rage at the moment (check out Gayngs, Destroyer et al). Again that’s not necessarily a criticism; the sound here is so refined, it’s almost exquisite in parts. Much of the drive-time flavour of Bon Iver, Bon Iver, however, stems from the dated keyboard sound; at times it’s like you’re listening to The Cars or something like that. You know that Live Aid tune about the starving children. Weirdly, the very 00s auto-tuned vocals that crop up here and there add to this nostalgia trip; the midnight sax merely the cherry on top. Listen to Beth/Rest and realise this: Ferris Bueller would have loved this new Bon Iver album. As would Patrick Bateman. It’s very accomplished is all I’m saying. Smooth Don’t get me wrong, those who liked For Emma, Forever Ago, will not be hugely disappointed. But I’m afraid I can’t see this being lauded with such lavish praise. I realise how easy, and how predictable, it is to trash talk the follow-up record to any critically exalted album, and I really don’t want to do this. And the truth is this is not a bad album. Far from it – it’s charming and slick, in places it’s as seductive as the sun seeping through the branches. It’s just… I don’t know. Then again, I couldn’t quite understand why For Emma, Forever Ago met such universal acclaim. I’m not sure Vernon understands either, and I imagine that the past few years have been a bit of a headfuck. I mean, seriously. A girl broke his heart, he moved to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, grew a beard and wrote a bunch of songs about said breaking of his heart and the girl who wielded the hammer. (Alright, I know he denies that this is what happened, but do you really believe that?) The next thing he knows, these quiet, intimate songs are being listened to by millions of people all around the world. Think about it. Millions of strangers take your heartache and make it their own, turn your misery into adulation. And before you know it you’re sharing a stage with Kanye West. No wonder he’s got a horn section on his new record! It’s perhaps more surprising that
Kanye West isn’t playing a flute solo here. Come on, Kanye! Where are you? If you look at it in these terms, what was Vernon supposed to do? He can’t produce For Emma, Forever Ago part two. Presumably for one, because he’s spent the past three years yo-yoing around the globe singing his songs of sorrow to adoring strangers and therefore hasn’t had the chance to get his heart all broken again, or if he has, he’s certainly not had the time to stick the thousand tiny beating pieces under the microscope to examine in quite the same way that he did when he locked himself in that cabin all those years ago. But also, if he churns out another version of For Emma… then it means he hasn’t moved on or progressed as an artist. It’s that age-old dilemma that musicians face. They spend their whole life writing their first album, putting their everything into making it, but then are expected to do it again. Only diﬀerent. And somehow better. Because they’ve now got a million strangers hanging on their every move. No pressure there then. In this context, Bon Iver, Bon Iver is almost perfect. For it takes what was there before and expands it. If we stick with the theme that runs through this album (many of the tracks are named aer places), and think of For Emma… as Texas, then Bon Iver, Bon Iver, don’t mess with it. Yet crucially it also doesn’t ignore it. It remains true to its spirit; it simply embellishes it. I’m not saying that Justin Vernon has stuck a few shiny stones and coloured beads on to the state of Texas, well, not exactly, but… The beauty is still there in the music, it’s just dressed in more expensive clothes this time. More importantly though – and I think this has much to do with the previous album’s appeal – Vernon’s honey-sweet falsetto is still there. It doesn’t even seem to matter what he’s singing (“armour let it through, borne the arboretic truth you kept posing,” anyone?) just that he sings. There’s so much warmth and intimacy in Vernon’s voice that meaning is almost rendered superfluous. Fact is: the boy’s got soul. My only concern is that he might just have soul the same way that Chris Martin’s got soul. Ouch! There, I’ve said it. It’s a bit like Coldplay. It’ll probably sell millions. - Graham Seon
Bitchin Bajas Water Wrackets
“As Greenaway pans across a river and its surrounding foliage, a narrator recounts mythical times of conquering armies and their relations to the stream, telling the history of civilisations and the history of the river’s surrounding forest. It is a rare film in which Greenaway evokes the mystical.” – Los Angeles Village View
to deliver six aquatic anthropological anthems of sublime ‘krautrock’ revisionism. Aer he watched just 30 seconds of a remake of ‘Water Wrackets’, by Benjamin Funke and Gabrielle Gopinath, Crain (sic) conceived what would eventually become the score to this original reinterpretation.
The reviewer refers to “Water Wrackets,” a 1975 Peter Greenaway film, which is an anthropological prank and an acute instance of the suspension of disbelief. A long forgotten, or yet-to-be-discovered, civilisation is completely materialised by a soundtrack and a convincing commentary suborning sorrowful images of streams, ponds, and lakes in a section of Wiltshire’s picturesque topography.
Gentle organ intensities almost seem to entice naiads to surf across the water’s surface as synth waves create meditative marine melodies. Rippling bass brooks, infinitesimal chord cascades, percussive pools and acoustic currents ebb and flow into a system of tonal tributaries and rhythm rivulets that converge to a form a delta of retrospective delight.
Cooper Crane (Cave) takes to the controls of his solo project Bitchin Bajas once again
Theoretically out tuned organs, synthesisers, electric pianos and
percussion aspects, plus a deluge of delay are intuitively intermixed to form rewarding and satisfying minimal works of improvisational intonation. Despite the complexity and sophistication of Water Wrackets, it is very easy to listen to and enjoy these polyphonic and timbral integrations. A sublimely styled and contemplative album of aqueous analogue harmonies and cyclical arpeggiations that is beautifully constructed by an artist who clearly comprehends the importance of understanding the debt that all modern ambient artists owe to the pioneers of Deutsche Elektronische Musik. Sehr gut! - Dean Rocker
Donato Wharton A White Rainbow Spanning The Dark
A limber tone begins an incredible work by Donato Wharton, flittering and flaying in an obsequious manner, fading out slowly with a gentle throb, before a more powerful tone takes over. The invasive overlap charges up the, otherwise, ominous beginning, and precedes a work that slowly seeps into your consciousness. Reading ‘A Book of Memories’ by Peter Nadas, I came across this quote that perfectly encapsulates my experience with this album: “What is beauty if not the involuntary giving away of what is hidden even from ourselves?” There seems to be a hidden world pervading Wharton’s work, and only aer spending a couple weeks with it was I able to escape my selfimposed seclusion with the record and try to put words to the eﬀect it had on me. Presenting a work that evokes the sense of being in transit, Wharton begins in stasis, examining “A Vast White Solitude” in the midst of a hurried world. I imagine the busyness and noise constantly revolving around us, people hurrying from one place to another, so that life becomes a series a destinations that we are always speeding to get to. The act of slowing down and projecting our solitude onto the world around us, inviting others to share in the
space, allows for an examination or focus on the hidden, the unlikely, the in-between. In eﬀect, I find solitude as a respite to the noise and clatter of the world around me, and to imagine this solitude helps to alleviate being a participant in our sped-up world. Whether or not these are Wharton’s sentiments, I don’t know, but I find solitude to be an enlightening prospect, especially in the face of a claustrophobic world. When the pinprick notes emerge in “Ink Mountains”, I felt assured of the wonder I was experiencing, and the notes reaﬃrmed my understanding of what was happening, on the images I was seeing, and the “hidden” that was beginning to reveal itself. The shadow that danced its slow, meaningful dance on “A Vast White Solitude”, peaking ‘round a corner, submerged in grey, glistened in the gentle rays of sunlight where beauty is sure to be found. While this notion becomes much more apparent on “Ink Mountains”, being caught unawares of hidden beauty happens on every track. The whirling tones unfurling on “A Thousand Miles of Grass” speak volumes, and it is at this finer moments where I am ready to give myself over entirely. Listening at home, away from distraction, I happened to at one point drop what I was doing and sit transfixed at
how small a moment I was experiencing. As if the sounds would only pick themselves out of the mass for a millisecond and I was noticing one significant moment in such a short span of time. I felt lucky. I imagine for every album and for every sliver of sound, time moves and we dri along with it, swaying along a parallel plane. But, once in a while, a listener is treated to this complete slow down, of not charging to the destination, or where the sound goes, but where it exists at one point and never again. This splendid release is available on limited 10” vinyl and digital download through the wonderful Serein label and is part of the ‘Seasons’ project: A series of four 10″ vinyl records to be released over the course of the year, limited to 500 for the world, pressed on heavyweight vinyl and housed in hand-numbered outer sleeves. The project also features Colorlist, Nest and Hauschka. - Michael Vitrano
Natural Snow Buildings Chants Of Niflheim
One of the nine domiciles of Norse mythology, Niflheim is an underworld, a world of darkness, a place for those who have died because of illness or old age. Niflheim sits at the third root of Yggdrasil, the vast tree of ash that supports all of the universe, “the mighty tree moist with white dews.” Waiting in a pit of serpents near this third root is the “wyrm,” the dragon Nidhogg, which feeds on the the dead at the cauldron Hvergelmir, the source of all rivers of the world. Nidhogg sends the squirrel Ratatosk up the root of Yggdrasil to deliver messages of slanderous gossip to a huge unnamed eagle, perched atop the great ash. The eagle returns the squirrel to the wyrm, with his own taunts. Whence the duality of existence, the equilibrium of tension, which the world powers can only hope to counterfeit. The latest installment by French experimental folk duo Natural Snow Buildings seeks to map this unintuitive and breathtaking place. Mehdi Ameziane and Solange Gularte — who record individually as Twinsistermoon and Isengrind — have largely worked in obscurity: seldom performing live, rarely submitting to interviews, dialing in only by way of extremely limited self-releases. Those of us who have bemoaned some recent editions of 200 ought to try on The Winter Ray for size, limited, as it was, to “less than 15 copies.” The sound is whimsical, ever-changing, and therefore a bit diﬃcult to define: think drone, only a high-concept, low-key, oen noisy, and eastern-inspired drone. There are no synthesizers here, and few eﬀects, and not for the sake of aesthetic haughtiness, either. The duo claims
instead that trappings such as these don’t fit within the budget. Instead, their arsenal boasts drum circle, tampura, guitar, and theremin. Track names like “The Accidental Remote Viewer,” “Cockmotherfighting” and “With A Stolen Red Lipstick Bible On Her Side” speak to their prankster humor and sometimes slapdash themes (by this measure, Chants of Niflheim is something of a departure). Not shoegaze. Sandalgaze. With a glimmer in the eye, one that just might be a reflection of Supernova 1604. Chants of Niflheim opens with Part I of the title cut: an eight-minute exploration into space-temptress vocals and open-flame string drone (to clarify the former point: that spectral falsetto belongs to Ameziane, the male half of this co-ed pairing). The cosmic background radiation diﬀuses just aer the track’s midpoint, and a rush of cymbals predicts a gypsy march, 80 BPM of slow percussion and peaceable assembly. To be sure, this is an album of tangents, which become the ends in themselves, not just the means. (“Exotic ethnodrones,” indeed.) Part II of “Chants” is something of a departure from the opening half (the exaggerated 17-minute intermission “Templars Ritual” could distract anyone from nearly anything, but more on that point in a moment). As always, the terrain is burning string drone, with space-beacon overgrowth. But here, blinking guitar notes replace the siren call, and a faraway device hum stands in for the more standard percussion. Yet this is perhaps the most conventional of the four tracks presented here: a warm, driing, pulsing, out-of-time
piece, and highly visual, too. Just close your eyes and watch. “Templars Ritual” is a low-volume kitchen sink clamor, hypnotic, set to waves. “Templars” is a well-laid bridge between the two halves of “Chants of Niflheim,” boasting the slightly dissonant quirkiness of the former and the enveloping heat of the latter. But the real treat here is the closing track, which not only concludes the work, but summarizes it. Opening with zoom-lens acoustic guitar and Ameziane’s nostalgic, slightly creepy vocals, “H. Scudder” — which, it seems likely, is named aer this H. Scudder — soon abandons the pretense of verse-bridgeverse, re-introducing the drone and assorted wanderings for one last 11minute submersion. Gularte and Ameziane consult the star charts as always, but allow the instruments plenty of breathing room here, namely a serene and altogetherrecognizable guitar, and the curried haze of tanpura. So, does the new album succeed in conjuring images of the steed of Odin, the hammer of Thor, and The Dripping Hall? That much is up to you. But earlier we described the world of Niflheim as an “unintuitive and breathtaking place,” and Chants of Niflheim plays as exactly that. - Fred Nolan
Daniel W J Mackenzie Teeth Sleep Under Winking Black Eyelid
Daniel W J Mackenzie eschews the filmic freedom and concentrated consistency that is usually associated with the output of his alter ego, Ekca Liena, in order to create an extraordinary proposal that is titled Teeth Sleep Under Winking Black Eyelid… This recording intends to challenge the listener with its use of contrived footage from two pianos that are abstractly arranged, performed and engineered to create intriguing instances of instrumentational incomprehension. Recognisable resonances are juxtaposed with primed piano proclamations and other mutated musical methodologies. This enigmatic investigation reveals an avant-garde gamut of prevailing acoustic possibilities that are produced when pianos are physically manipulated with tangible entities, hardware eﬀects and post-production processing. Undercro Prelude is a superficial piano motif that acts as the ‘control’ element in these perplexing piano experiments. Recorded at his home and at Brighton’s Under The Bridge Studios, Mackenzie creates genius loci; an auditory architectural anchor for the listener, this ‘safe’ point of reference may be required for reassurance later on as this eccentric excursion into hammered string strangeness progresses. Disorientation Suite has a five second intro of ‘motorik’ fuzz that precedes a minimal and determined piano refrain that scale surfs to create aural anxiety. A swollen forewarning proliferates before we are exposed to antecedent elements of the rhythmic regressions, chaotic clamour and theoretical timbres that are ultimately
discharged by the nucleus of this unorthodox opus.
sense of tranquillity that is associated with traditional Eastern beliefs.
Our Sentiments Alignment is circles of reflective piano, nostalgic note echoes, sheets of shiable sustain and hauntingly stressed silences. Heavily distorted string manipulations and frictional processing techniques guide this taut emotive exercise. Miniature For Said Sentiments is a 30 second piano outro that complements its predecessor.
A piano free Vamp while not necessarily beautiful has a certain allure with its arousing pulsed heartbeat that blatantly sets out to appeal like a heartless, maneating seductress.
Hrisen has a transfigured riﬀ of diﬀused snare brush percussion at its heart. Mutated wind and percussion illustrations, chronometric piano clang and, bass bursts mix and match, as poignant piano droplets blow by only to instantly distort and decay as an expressive ether condenses. A d d e n d u m fl a t t e r s H r i s e n w i t h a fragmentary self-recollection warp that palpably persists. Teeth Sleep I, Teeth Sleep ii, and Teeth Sleep iii combine to form a connected triptych. An irregular eﬀects ensemble is coupled with piano chord cycles, illusionary string exploitations and misleading malfunctions to create a semiotic vision of fanged somnolance. Pulsed alienating ambiance, pervasive percussion, low frequency fluctuations and agonised strings ultimately give way to an obtuse yet convalescent composure with a dronish undertow. In Chinese mythology the crane is a bird of immortality and is strongly identified with the attributes of long life, happiness and a smoothness of flight. Crane Temple certainly has an oriental sound and that
Confound indicates the beginning of the piano’s reappearance. It sounds mysterious and puzzling, as though there has been a mix up or confusion between the forces of good and bad, perhaps a defeat or even damnation is suggested. Bathysphere Interlude is a brief deep-sea observation where the piano loses a battle with an all engulfing tidal wave of bass. Into is a cover of ‘Into The Wind’, a song by Mackenzie’s other persona Ekca Liena. It’s a song of contemplation that employs melancholic piano to mimic the fragility of human existence. Take Any Form But Don’t Leave Me is a literary reference from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, and like the book the song speaks of betrayal, hate, death and love. It’s the final song and it alludes to the nature of a paroxysmal attack, a short psychotic episode that oen precedes a descent into the abyss. Teeth Sleep Under Winking Black Eyelid is an original exploratory piano philosophy of intense intimacy and lugubrious humility. - Dean Rocker
The Truth Hurts Ian Hawgood & Brock Van Wey
It’s not a surprise that any collaboration between these two would be one of the musical highlights of the year; in fact, given the pedigree involved, it would almost be expected. What the real surprise is, however, is the deeply moving nature of it. “The Truth Hurts” has woven into itself that rarest of elements – a genuine emotional core; a fiercely beating heart amongst its magnificent sound design and abundant musical ideas. The distant guitars, swooping keys and pulsing vocal loops of opener ‘Nothing You Want Will Ever Come True’ are hard to describe – like a radio dial stuck halfway between stations, with a constantly wavering focus between drone and evocative vocals, and occasional pulses of shuddering bottom end. The swing between these two points is the artistic tension behind the record, presumably, and it is underpinned by what appears to be genuine friendship between two likeminded old souls. That the project emerged during a period of upheaval for both participants seems to give it the singular quality of a lost document; a tangible embodiment of post disaster upheaval – material worked on for years, then filtered out through two sets of hands – each molding it with their own unique perspective on catharsis. Fluid was lucky enough to be able to catch up with both Brock and Ian for a rare chat about a project between 12 years and 3 months in the making, spanning continents and lives. ............. - The proceeds from the record are going to worthy causes – what can you tell us about Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support (JEARS), and Direct Help for Victims and Animals Rejected from Shelters? Ian: My wife is currently working with both the Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support organisation (JEARS) in Sendai
and surrounding areas, as well as the Direct Help for Victims and Animals Rejected from Shelters in Japan group. JEARS was formed by three animal charities in Japan and is working incredibly hard to save and care for animals in the aﬀected areas. They have a ‘no kill’ policy, which might seem pretty obvious to many outside Japan, but sadly the government, in its infinite wisdom, is collecting animals that are stray in the areas, and within a very short space of time they are basically killed. Its an enormous issue as many who were evacuated were not allowed to bring pets to centres for example, so they are going home to try to rebuild to be told their animal has been put down. When the area needs strong emotional support, this is just awful obviously and psychologically very damaging if you want to look at the human angle alone. JEARS are running around finding strays and keeping them in animal care homes, as well as foster homes (including my own house which has become a mini-farm!) and trying to find their owners. They are even quickly going to centres with a kill policy to pick up the animals so they are safe. Our newbie Susie would be dead if it wasn’t for the JEARS team saving her for example. My wife lived just outside Sendai for two years so felt compelled to go and help up there. She has since organised a house she manages for JEARS, which directs volunteers to areas, houses pets before they are fostered and works as a base for the area. Direct Help for Victims and Animals Rejected from Shelters in Japan is a very small Japanese group who are going up to areas not receiving government support for food, water, basic supplies, as well as rebuilding and cleaning up. My wife actually went up with them to work for JEARS, but ended up working with them to see what they do. The work is direct and truly amazing as they quite literally supply food and goods, as well as helping to tidy up, restock and provide any needed assistance. By this means they are able to transport food, clothing and aid directly almost every other weekend and during
holidays to areas which are not getting enough or any support. The truth is these are 100% direct and managed properly on a small-scale so they are able to have a very visible impact unlike larger charities where the money is focused on government or council aﬃliated programs, and not used immediately or to particularly good eﬀect. You really have no idea what or where the money is going to, if at all and its rather embarrassing that people haven’t really done enough research into such things before donating huge sums of money, which could be used much more eﬃciently. Brock and I both agreed that this was the best way to help and donate, and rather than make a fuss over it, support quietly in the true Japanese spirit. - JEARS and DHVARS are the same charities being supported by the new KANSHIN compilation, is that right? I think you’re right in saying that most people wouldn’t have any tangible idea of how their donation were used with larger charities; given that you are actually on the ground there and are able to say directly, can you give people an specific idea of how these charities operate? What are the ongoing costs, how many animals are involved, how many people work for the organisations, etc? Ian: Yes that is correct. Basically Jonathan and Dan knew we had been personally hit of course and wanted to help out. The future of the labels was a bit precarious for a couple of days until I got my head around everything and the guys wanted to support. Its pretty amazing that so many artists were willing to support so readily really and very heart-warming. I then spoke to Jonathan a little bit and he basically told me that he trusted me to use any donations as I saw fit. Jonathan actually gave us 100% of Hibernate sales for the month, which we then used to buy a lot of baby stuﬀ such as nappies, food etc and took them up to evacuation centres.
I think given that there are a lot of Japanese labels, artists and stores donating, the ‘tangible’ is pretty obvious if they just tried to commit in a real way. However, yes, I suppose people outside the situation may not fully comprehend where the money is going, or not going, as the case seems to be. I can give a personal response for this quite simply though. Every other weekend or so, my wife drives up from our home (a couple of hours north of Tokyo) to Sendai where she manages a house used for volunteers. Of course, volunteers need cars, drivers, and sometimes-Japanese speakers on a basic level. People have been coming in from the States as well as from diﬀerent parts of Japan. I am not sure how many are on the ground right now as its constantly changing given holidays etc, but I know that there are usually about 20 as a minimum in Japan plus people working in the States too. Its micro-managed so they cover a lot more ground than a larger charity would by comparison. Due to the diﬃculty of accommodation and all sorts of red tape, they will have to drive for hours a day to diﬀerent centres to check on people who are looking for pets, search for animals (there are a lot roaming the streets in Fukushima in particular) and check on those people who have pets but cannot get enough food for them. My wife is on the phone all the time as well just trying to sort out where the animals can be sheltered. Some of the pictures I have seen and stories I have heard are truly disturbing and so much more could be done. As for DHVARS, its literally a husband and wife team with some volunteers my wife knows, who are driving up with supplies and spending any free time they have helping people out, cleaning, buying food or bringing it in. The truth is that the larger charities will eventually support the worst hit areas, as will the government. These are places where the destruction is total and the clear up is immense. However, thousands of people are being ignored and le to fend for themselves in areas that were not wiped out. Of course the shocking scenes mean that places that deserve the most attention get it, but being at the expensive of other areas is
ridiculous. There is a lack of food and supplies and as just small towns with not as much damage but not running water etc, they are in serious need. Their resolve is amazing and the ‘stiﬀ-upper lip’ makes me proud to live in this country. - On a personal level, did you suﬀer damage at your property/studio? Ian: Well, yeah. We were actually sorting out our visas at immigration at the time and had le our dog and hamster at home. When we eventually made it home (we rushed but ended up on a bit of a long taxi journey given that everything came to a standstill), I had to go into the house first as we were seriously worried about our pets, especially as our drive had cracked open a bit by the time we got there. Our neighbours were outside checking if we were ok and quite amazingly, our dog was ok, albeit shaken up and surrounded by broken glass, kitchenware and large shelving. Our hamster’s cage had been a bit crushed under one of my large CD racks landing on her, but she was ok albeit stayed in her little house and refused to come out for days! We’d only just moved so we had shelves everywhere and my studio was in a bit of a mess anyway as I hadn’t had time to sort it out. I’d also ordered in a lot of gear for mastering from home as I was moving from studio work to working at home in Japan and had been saving up for that for the best part of three years. Most of it had arrived that week actually and me being I, I had taken it all out of the boxes and just stuck them loosely on my workspaces, so I lost speakers and poorly placed outboard gear so I only have myself to blame. I also lost about 5 hard drives, some of which weren’t backed-up (yeah, I know) and included projects I had been working on for days, months and years. Its just weird as some people near us lost just a few glasses, others had houses very badly damaged depending on the exact position of their house and possessions. But honestly, we were so lucky compared to others and once we realised what was happening inregards to the tsunami, it put everything into perspective really. The most important thing is that we were all safe and all
together, and able to try to find out how are friends further north were doing. - How did the project come about? Ian: I think I approached Brock about the idea of it during one of our many emails back and forth a little bit aer the release of Tribes at the Temple of Silence. I set out the year aer completing Snow Roads to be a year of collaboration, which ended up being over 2 years and continuous in most cases as its something that has been very diﬀerent and more enjoyable than working on my own. Most of the other projects are with old friends, people I have known and worked with for a while or people who have approached me whom I respect and get on well with. To be totally honest, I only loosely approached Brock aer getting to really know him as I knew that something together would be pretty emotionally charged. I think its fair to say our approach to music is pretty diﬀerent, but perhaps the music is focused on similar emotions in some ways, and very openly as well. Over time I just got to realize that Brock and I were very similar in our innocence towards music, and the purity that should be within the voice used. I don’t ask anyone unless I massively respect them on a professional and personal level, and I am a nightmare to work with usually. I get a bit caught up with things and obsessive about the stupidest details, so whilst I know I can put certain people through that, I didn’t want to put Brock through that, if he even wanted to work together. But then we got to a level personally where it was very much a case of ‘let’s see how it pans out’. I knew with Brock it would be all or nothing, so to get to that point I really had to trust him and he me. It started with an open honest assessment of who I was, we were, and the emotions therein, and Brock just responded to those emotions and nurtured them with enormous care and love, as abstract as that sounds. So, the project came about aer speaking to each other a lot over a couple of years, and really, just becoming very close friends.
Brock: It came about at the kind oﬀer of Ian, who brought up the idea. I’m generally quite opposed to the idea of collaborations and so rarely agree to them, for one because to me music is a very individual experience, and also because quite frankly I rarely see how anything about anyone else’s vision could intertwine with my own, but when Ian contacted me, I was on board immediately. As trite as it likely sounds, I’m a massive long-time fan of his music, but much more importantly, in the time I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know him in recent years, I’ve had the honor of being able to call him a real friend. He is quite simply one of the only true and honest people le in this music... so full of real and true love for what it stands for and always has, and someone who actually speaks with their music... who actually has something to say, and isn’t afraid to say it... to let the world judge the depths of his heart. So when he contacted me and asked if I would want to do a collaboration, I didn’t even have to think about it. Even though I’m a stubborn prick who really wouldn’t even want to work with myself if given the weird science fiction chance, I knew that together we could make something special – something that would be a truly meaningful melding of both of our hearts and minds, not just some hapless attempt to smash two people’s music together. I know that though our styles are extremely unique from each other and we take a very diﬀerent approach to expressing ourselves, the place our music comes from, and what we are trying to convey, is oen very much the same, so I knew that together we could create something that alone neither one of us would arrive at – which I guess is the whole point of a collaboration. The personal connection between us and our friendship played a massive role not only in the decision to do it, but in the music itself as well. For me I would never do such a thing with someone I didn’t have the ultimate respect for, or someone I considered a personal friend, as music is far too intimate and important to be played with. It’s not a game. So in working on the album, my contribution consists of both narratives on the themes at hand that comprise the majority of both of our work – loneliness, isolation, regret, sadness, but also hope, beauty and strength – but is also a kind of imaginary dialogue with Ian himself (though one-sided, so I guess that’s not a dialogue), and a way to pay tribute to what he’s done, and what he stands for. The result was, and I’m risking
sounding trite again, something that was worlds beyond what either of us expected, I think, and I can only hope people love it as much as we do. - Was there a discussion beforehand of the element of sound you were aiming for, or did it develop over the course of the project? Brock: There was zero discussion, which is what I love about it. Personally I have never sat down to make any piece of music and had even a semblance of what I want it to sound like. I only have an emotion or experience I need to get out, and the track builds itself around that, basically on autopilot. I honestly don’t know how Ian works on his own, but the great thing is, he never brought up any pre-conceived notions of what he wanted anything to sound like. Instead, he presented me with his own emotional sketches and travelogues, and knew that I would understand what I needed to understand, and do what I needed to do. At hopefully my last risk of sounding trite, there was an incredible unspoken bond between us for the whole project from start to finish; there was really never any need to speak. We let our music do the speaking. The sound developed totally on its own, until it was done, and we could sit back and listen, both realizing that in the end, it couldn’t possibly have been said better. It also so happened that on my end, my music for the collaboration came from probably the worst depression I’ve dealt with in recent memory. This was far beyond the kind that sparks creativity – this was the kind that makes you stop caring whether you live or die. I could find meaning in nothing. Not even music. For me, it definitely seemed the end wasn’t far oﬀ. Then I got this email from Ian, and I know it sounds super lame, but it was an amazing ray of sunshine that couldn’t have come at a better time. I decided to channel the torture of the previous months in some way into the album, which was quite diﬃcult, as it was such a stark and blank void, but one that at its core had a myriad of issues that needed to be explored and addressed if my life was to continue. So I threw it all into the music, and the end results are really the most raw and intense pieces of ambient I’ve ever had anything to do with, and ones that deal with a larger number of issues at one time than anything I’ve attempted to before. The strangest thing was, when it was all said and done, Ian heard every last thing I was trying to say, and vice versa. Through his 12 years of recordings he made an
ocean away, and my obsessive outpour over several months while sitting across the East China Sea, it turned out we had been trying to say the same thing, about all the same things. For me this was the most amazing thing about the collaboration... I don’t see how the concept of working together could have been any more b e a u t i f u l l y e x e m p l i fi e d , o r m o r e worthwhile. Through our oen-tortured expressions of the loneliness of existence, we found we were far from alone... and in that found the beauty I know we both cling to, even in our darkest hours. Ian: Nope, none. Depending on the work at hand, I will either map things out for ages or will just go with whatever comes out naturally. I like both approaches really but my last proper record (‘Snow Roads’) was super mapped out, as have collaborations over the past couple of years been, so I just wanted to leave it open to anything really. Also, perhaps as more of a highly personal collaboration we both felt that the immediacy of straight up development would be more representative of what we wanted to do and who we are as friends. At the time I brought up the idea I was actually pretty burned from work and labeldom, I had been running incredibly low on energy and had taken some time oﬀ recording anything at all as things felt a little stunted. I then had this odd feeling one day that I should ask Brock if he would like to work on something musically together. It wasn’t because it seemed a natural fit or development for us, which it did of course, but I actually felt that it was something both of us needed at the time. I just had this sensation that something done together would be cathartic somehow, and I wasn’t wrong. The whole process has healed me immensely. On the day I found out certain things about our financial situation aer the quake, we were staying in a hotel and dealing with all sorts of media wildness in regards to the quake which made everyone around us go crazy, Brock sent me the final edits of the tracks. I went into the bathroom and just cried my eyes out aer hearing the first three tracks, because aer all these years of working alone, in bands or collaborations, it was as if someone had turned on the lights and illuminated who I was and who I was to them, and thus who we were. The tracks weren’t just pieces about depression and isolation, which I have always felt in a way, they were about the beauty within and the music had become so much more than the sum of its parts. It was incredibly powerful to hear this development, and from a point of ‘well let’s see what we come up with’, quite remarkable.
- Brock, I think you’re right, broadly, when you say it’s diﬃcult to find integrity in the music industry. Has this project given you a more optimistic outlook on that aspect, or do you think the trend is worsening? Brock: Like with anything really, my views on that are pretty complex, and even conflicting. This project definitely renewed a massive amount of hope and inspiration in me, not only musically, but personally, as being able to do something together with Ian really took me back to the days when music was such a pure and magical thing, and was a real reminder that at least some people still truly love music for the right reasons. And when I say ‘love,’ I mean a love you’ll actually fight for. It’s easy to say you love something, but a world apart to really lay it all on the line – emotionally, physically, monetarily, and everything inbetween. Yeah electronic music is generally a quite singular event, in that it is usually made by one person and centered around their personal feelings or viewpoint – which is why it makes it all the more beautiful when others can feel where a piece of music is coming from. But the lineage of electronic music from its foundations to its ‘progress’ over the years always depended on a community of people and the symbiotic relationship music and that community had. Now it’s so fragmented and insular and fueled by egomania, it’s gone from being a uniquely individual art form that somehow lent itself to being shared by others, to just being selfish, and full of selfish pricks. And when people are selfish, they don’t care who they hurt to get what they want. Though there are more people than ever ‘involved’ in electronic music nowadays, and so it would appear that more people than ever are laying it on the line, giving it all for love, etc, sadly the converse is true. Most are just doing it to stroke their own ego, plain and simple. And so, unfortunately, to me the trend is worsening, and I don’t think it will ever pull out of the tailspin it’s in. Wrestling with that fact has caused me to nearly leave it all behind more times than I can count, and besides the enormously kind support of so many amazing fans, the love of three people – Mike Oliver, Steve Hitchell, and in recent years Ian Hawgood, has been the only thing that’s kept me from leaping oﬀ the ledge. And so in that sense, to be able to do something with Ian of this nature was such a meaningful and unforgettable experience for me I will never be able to properly put it into words. So while yes I do believe the trend is worsening and I mostly find the modern age of electronic music sickening and abhorrent, I guess that
makes the beautiful moments all the more beautiful. The beautiful moments are still there – and I’m thankful for every one, because aer such a tumultuous and oen heartbreaking relationship with electronic music over the past 20-plus years, the fact is, though so many times I’ve tried to cast it from my life to avoid being consumed by its Sisyphean clutches, it is my life – and without it, I’d stop living. - Was “Tribes...” the point where your paths crossed, or had you known each other professionally before that? Brock: It was the point our paths oﬃcially crossed I guess, in the musical/ professional sense, but not the first time we had ever spoken. We were actually introduced to each other by a mutual friend Mike (Oliver), one of my best friends, of Smallfish fame, who contacted me and said there was this guy Ian I had to meet – a solid, straight up cat who he recommended personally. For me the latter was all I needed to know. For many years, there wasn’t a person in the music world I would say a word to without running them through Mike first. He’s the man x10, and his word is gospel as far as I’m concerned. If he says you’re solid, you’re solid. That’s it. Especially since he knows my general hatred of people, and distaste for communicating with them. So I said ok, we started talking, and I realized why Mike had praised Ian to the heavens. I could see right oﬀ the bat he was a straight up, honest dude who just loved music with no other dirty ulterior motive. Not only could I feel it from his words, but also I could hear it in his music. So we kicked oﬀ a sort of email friendship, and he kindly invited me to make an album for Home Normal. I think what sealed the deal for me on knowing he was all about the love was when I asked him if he had any specific type of music or direction he was looking for (because that always puts me oﬀ) and he said he just wanted music from the heart, that he could feel. It didn’t matter what form it took. I knew at that point that this dude was for real, and so I set about making the album, which was completely diﬀerent from anything that had been on Home Normal before, and which I frankly was concerned would be too diﬀerent. But he loved it as much as I did, and soon aer it became part of the Home Normal story – a story I’m extremely honored to be a small part of. Ian: We’d spoken quite a bit before ‘Tribes...’ I think Mike had maybe recommended my work to Brock and Brock’s to me, so I was very aware of Brock of course, and how much he meant to
Mike musically and personally. Mike and I are super close and always meet up when I go back to the UK (not so much these days sadly). And he just adores Brock on every level imaginable. If you really get to know someone like Mike, well its a privilege as its hard to know a more open and beautiful soul really, and if he says that someone is the bees knees then you take it as fact. To be honest though, I didn’t (and don’t) like reaching out to people I don’t know, and I know this is the same for Brock, so it took Mike some serious prompting for us to finally get in touch. Since we did, well its bloomed into one of those incredibly rare and close friendships in life, despite the geographical distance. I think we very quickly agreed that Brock would do a record for Home Normal and so it went from there really on a professional level. - How long did the album take to complete? Brock: My sense of space and time is mediocre to say the least, but I think a couple months. It pretty much consumed my life, and there were days I worked on it literally from when I got up to when I went to bed. In some parts it was quite challenging to work with someone else’s material for a myriad of reasons, both because it’s oen not as you would make it (obviously) or even in keys you would normally play, and most of all you always want to make sure you’re doing justice to what they’ve done, and what they’re trying to express. It can be quite complicated and in some points was much more time and eﬀort-consuming than working on a solo project, but the end result was worth every second, as far as I’m concerned. Ian: This is a tough question as it’s tricky to assess. In some ways, you could say 12 years, in others, a few months. ‘Lie In Lone’ for example, was written when I was at university, maybe a little aer I think. But I added parts over the years but never felt it was right at all until I shared it with Brock. Brock fell in love with it and I would get these wild emails at all hours telling me he was working on this and that. It was hilarious and remarkable to hear/read. I recorded some arrangements and structures right up until earlier in the year before I swung them over to Brock and I think he was working on them for a few months. Saying that, he packed the same amount of work in those years I had into those few months I swear. It was obsessive but anything less would have taken the sheer intensity away from the album. Short answer then: about 12 years maybe, with full bloom being about 3 months I would say.
- Was there any piece in particular from the record that surprised you with the way it turned out? That diverged dramatically from your initial expectation of it? Brock: Haha I guess all of them, really, as I had no idea how any of them would turn out, but I would say the most profound example would be ‘Lie in Lone.’ That one was a bit diﬀerent because we started with something that was sort of already a song, albeit a really raw sort-of rough dra of one, made by Ian like 10-plus years ago. Personally my original intention was to have the track be based more literally on the original, which it is in the beginning, but it ended up evolving into something very diﬀerent from what I originally expected – which turned out to be a good thing, in my opinion. In the end it sort of morphed into a two-part narrative on his original central theme, which came out way diﬀerent than I think either of us would have expected, but more amazing than I think either of us would have imagined. All I could do was go with my heart, and in doing so it turned into something much more dramatic and intense than I had originally expected. The best part was, when Ian heard the final result, he said it had completed the thoughts he had started all those years ago but hadn’t quite finished. For me, you can’t get anything more beautiful from a collaborative eﬀort – and quite frankly, you can’t get a much more intensely beautiful track than ‘Lie in Lone.’ Ian: ‘Lie In Lone’ was the piece that scared me the most maybe, as Brock just wanted to leave everything hanging out really, warts and all. I wrote it when I was at university I think and had added instrumental elements over the years. Something about it really stayed with me but I needed other ears to really develop it and Brock was the first to hear this. I guess I was very surprised by the fact that it crossed so many boundaries on a musical level, but at the same time the spirit was very natural and not forced. It’s weird and sounds very cheesy, but there was a lot of emotion in this piece, which Brock just understood in the fullest sense and worked with, developing it in ways I could not believe. I know that is very abstract sounding and music is music, but having that closeness to someone so far away who is just 100% attuned to the spirit and emotion of the work is so, so powerful. I think overall, the whole thing didn’t surprise me at all from a musical / technical level, but on other, deeper levels, I was blown away.
- Are there plans for future releases together? Ian: Right now I think we just need to give this record its space to breathe fully. But given the success of the record, for my part I would work with Brock again in a heartbeat. I think once you find someone who you can work with so easily and so openly, its something to hold onto. We will be working together as he has another release on Home Normal this year, and we are in regular contact of course. We both have projects we are working on now, but I am sure that we will set some time aside to work on more things when the time is right for both of us. Brock: No specific plans, but we’ve both already agreed that we’d love to do it again, and I can say from my end that we will definitely make that happen – although how I can say unilaterally that I will make a bilateral cooperation happen, I don’t know. How very American of me. - You mentioned other Home Normal releases, can you tell us anything about them, and are there any other things in the pipeline for you both? Brock: Well I can’t speak for Ian of course, but I’m very excited to have my second fulllength for Home Normal coming up later this year, titled ‘The First Day,’ a quite complex narrative that spans a ton of time and events, which I’ll spare you the details of for now as I’ve rambled a lot already so far. I’ve also got a second album coming up for Glacial Movements (a series of interpretations of Netherworld’s ‘Morketid’), a 12” collaboration with ASC on his Auxiliary imprint, and a few upcoming surprises both under bvdub and a couple other monikers, familiar and otherwise. But I know whatever I have in the pipeline pales in comparison to Ian. That guy is the dictionary definition of prolific. Ian: Brock has recently completed ‘The First Day’ which is kind of the follow-up to ‘Tribes...’ and one of the most incredible records I have ever heard to be honest. It’ll be out later in the year but we haven’t set an exact date yet. As for myself, well... things have been building up for over 2 years now since the last recordings I made (‘Snow Roads’). A lot of people think I release all the time but the truth is in over two years now I have only released a live album through Under The Spire and a reissue of Tents and Hills on Humming Conch. I haven’t actually released anything
I have recorded in the last three or so years now, which of course means this year is going to be crazy. In the next few months the first of two Kinder Scout (w/ Jason Corder and Danny Norbury) releases will be out. The first will be out on one of my favourite labels – Preco – called ‘The Writing Life’. The second was originally a collaboration between Jason and myself, but we expanded it to include Danny as well (and this form Kinder Scout as the three of us) and will be out on Home Normal towards the end of the year. Jason also has a Juxta Phona record out in a few months on NKR which I appear on. The Whaler’s Collective (w/ Gareth Davis, Felicia Atkinson, Miko and Ryonkt) will have its debut out on Home Normal later in the year. Sometime either this year or next, the Lantscap (w/ Forrest – Warren Kroll) debut will be out on Infraction. Gareth and I have also completed an album of outtakes from The Whaler’s Collective (although the pieces are very diﬀerent) called Night Shots, which will be out on 12′′ from Champion Version. Tim Diagram (Maps and Diagrams, Hessien) and I are well on our way with some pretty incredible sounding work, which will probably see the light of day this year. As well as this I am putting the final touches to the Rion album (with Ryonkt again), tying up the work I have spent the past 12 years on with Ben Jones (who runs Home Normal with me), and finally completing the Tiny Isles debut (originally a collaboration with Christopher Hipgrave which expanded to a full blown super-group including Jason Corder, Hecanjog, Konntinent and Talvihorros, plus guest vocalist Miko). There are a few more ongoing projects, which should be kept secret for now I think, but I will also release a long form live studio session album to celebrate Resting Bell’s 100th release. It’s going to be a pretty damn busy year! ............. “The Truth Hurts” is available from the Nomadic Kids Republic website now. Priced (with shipping) lower than most downloads of immeasurably lower merit, the proceeds go to the deserving causes listed above. Hard to call album of the year before even the halfway mark, but it will take an almighty oﬀering to usurp this contender. - Alex Gibson
Marihiko Hara Credo
In less than four years, Marihiko Hara has released a small but wonderful collection of works, ranging from introspective microsound and drone music (Cesura, 2007) to haunted compositions for piano and electronics (Prosa, 2010 – in collaboration with Tomas Phillips). The beautiful Nostalghia (2010), exploring memories of long gone travels, is in itself a beautiful entry point into Hara’s work – a labyrinthine and delicate journey through faded images and sepia-tinged pictures of the past. Hara’s sound world, involving intimate piano melodic lines, hissy and floating drones and textured incidentals, feels extremely tactile and intimate, and more oen than not very fragile and immensely touching. It is always interesting when an artist, whose work you appreciate and admire, escapes his/her comfort zone and embarks upon exploring new and unknown territories. It gives you new insights into a vision you thought you knew, blurring the lines between the familiar and the alien. Some artists exist within two or more creative realms, and continually alternate between diﬀerent alter egos, as a way of nurturing a larger musical ecosystem Marihiko Hara’s new album, Credo, is a step towards such explorations and for this reason at least represent a major leap into his own artistic development. The story goes that label head Ian Hawgood had been very keen on Hara’s work since the seminal Cesura, and, as he was looking to do something diﬀerent on Home Normal, Hara proposed to release a beat-led album. The result of this association is a fascinating record structured around the
discovery of the aforementioned alter-ego, which completely transcends the initial idea of using drum patterns and beat loops… Starting with mirage, Hara contemplates his past work in the form of an optical illusion, where remnants of his pianobased records appear through a diaphanous veil that recedes as glitched out bits of digital detritus propel the track. The rhythm is so broken that it feels like an in-between that never crystallises into a solid form but give a foretaste of his new endeavors. Following this liminal opener comes the first part of the credo series: i-iii is a collection of three related pieces whose ascetic patterns remind at times of Alva Noto’s album Transform. As the series progresses melodic elements come to the fore and the rhythms themselves gain more momentum until they crash into white noise. Central tracks, terra incognita and trio see Hara reflecting on his new found directions, as the mood becomes darker and self-contained. The rhythmic propulsion is still there but more subdued somehow – delicate sine waves, warm bass tones and abstract samples create a rich sonic world to dwell into – again Carsten Nicolai’s work (mainly the more recent For 2 and Aleph-1 albums) come to mind as a point of reference. The next three credos (iv-vi) are in a way more schizoid than their predecessors, displaying a fantastic array of interwoven micro-rhythms dilating and contracting at times with eﬀortless eﬃcacy, even if the 8bit treatment of some samples can be
fatiguing at times. Credo v is most likely the best of the series with its wonderful percussive elements being spat erratically onto an unforgiving bass-line. Full attention and repeated listens will reveal intricate clustered samples and crystalline microsounds that come and go – as suspended both in time and in space – to give the track a mesmerising tridimensionality. Closing number, alter ego, is a wonderful collage of micro-house, dub-techno, glitch, drone-music and post-digital electronica elements, all thrown together, thoroughly examined and finally discarded. It is as if Hara was looking through a window of possible directions, unable to decide where to go, but creating for the matter a fantastic piece of music. As the album draws to a close, one wonders if Hara has discovered his alterego or if he’s just explored a new direction to see what he could find en route. At this point there is no definitive answer but in many ways, he has more than succeeded in creating something radically diﬀerent and yet completely related to his past records. For this reason at least, Credo is a brilliant example of how an artist can go sideways and still inform his own creative process with fascinating new insights. Marihiko Hara has indeed opened a new space, and a wonderful one at that! - Pascal Savy
Puzzle Muteson En Garde
Folk music derives its origins from venerable working class traditions and its name reflects this. Notoriously diﬃcult to define, the genre’s porous borders have helped to keep it fresh and ever relevant, with such a wide range of artists as Bob Dylan, Joanna Newsom, Nick Drake and Bonnie Prince Billy all falling somewhere within Folk’s purview. This latest release, brought to us by the prestigious Bedroom Community can also be defined as folk music but, following in the tradition of the finest material in the genre, Puzzle Muteson’s latest full-length album throws a lot more into the pot too. Little seems to be known about the enigmatic artist based in the Isle of Wight, other than he is a singer-songwriter originally from London who has a penchant for melancholic guitar and a talent which is self-evident. Choosing to remain anonymous could be seen as an aﬀectation to some, but so sincere are the songs within En Garde, that the lack of information on the artist forces us to focus solely on the music, which is probably for the best, since it would be foolish indeed to
miss a moment of this carefully craed masterpiece. Puzzle Muteson’s label-mates Nico Muhly and Valgeir Sigurðsson lend their arranging and producing talents to En Garde respectively, and the album was recorded in Reykjavík’s Greenhouse Studios, which has held host to artists like Björk, Bonnie Prince Billy and CocoRosie to name but a few. So, pedigree aﬃrmed and beauty assured, what can we say about the songs contained within En Garde? Opening with I Was Once A Horse, the troubadour plays beautiful, harmonic finger picking guitar, while singing in a voice which sounds quite unlike, yet in its confident use of range is reminiscent of, Nick Drake. The voice is of a timbre which is tailor made for lamentation and one feels that the artist could probably sing songs about the sweetest of life’s joys, yet they would still sound bittersweet. Backed at times by what is probably pretty xylophone chiming and strings, the song comes to a close riding out a wave of introspection.
Puzzle Muteson continues to further solidify his sound as En Garde progresses and a few of the album’s highlights include Water Rising, Medusa and Keyhole. Each track is composed with definite purpose and an iron grip cohesion, at times bringing to mind another contemporary Folk artist; Gravenhurst and, like Nick Talbot’s solo project, the man behind Puzzle Muteson is extremely skilled in raising his acoustic-guitar based songs to another level with subtle flourishes of beats and ambience. En Garde is another essential work from the always interesting Bedroom Community and the music contained within has a commercial element which should see Puzzle Muteson gain many more fans. However this is without a hint of artistic compromise or fame-seeking. Rather, the themes of loss and hope, of despair and nostalgia, can be appreciated by anybody who has loved and has lived. - Adam Williams
Daniel Thomas Freeman The Beauty Of Doubting Yourself
Manic depression is touching my soul I know what I want but I just don’t know How to, go about gettin’ it Feeling sweet feeling, Drops from my fingers, fingers Manic depression is catchin’ my soul So sang Jimi Hendrix on “Manic Depression” – a song he wrote, recorded and first released in 1967 on the ‘Are You Experienced’ album… The relationships between depression and art are countless and diverse. Instances of poets, novelists, and musicians quickly spring to mind who have vividly portrayed depression, usually from personal experience of it. Recent research by health experts indicates that artists and musicians are the fih most likely professionals to suﬀer with depressive illness. That’s a chart that definitely isn’t ‘top of the pops’ for performers. Many people are drawn to the arts in order to fulfil a desire for acceptance and aﬀection from their audience; they need that confirmation in order to feel good about themselves. But having a love aﬀair with thousands of people you don’t know is bound to lead to discontent, despair and distress – oen as soon as you exit the stage, or go home to an empty mansion. Alcohol and narcotics have featured in the lifestyles of so many musicians for so long that sometimes it’s diﬃcult to tell if depression is the symptom or the source. The phrase ‘rock and roll lifestyle’ is an all too familiar one in the obituary column when a famous musician dies, usually in tragic circumstances too. Some artists
have a ‘swig’ or a ‘sniﬀ’ to steady their nerves before performances; others have a ‘sip’ or a ‘smoke’ to come down from the high of the performance. So does depression attract them to the arts? Or does making ‘art’ make them depressed? Does true creativity come from a place of suﬀering? Are the greatest writers, composers and artists the most tortured of souls? None of these questions are easily answered but we do know that Daniel Thomas Freeman (Rameses III) has certainly suﬀered for his art. The Beauty of Doubting Yourself, written over six long years, is Freeman’s own personal and at times painful account of depression. The album is laid down into three distinct movements: The first movement is traumatic and opens with Dark House Walk, the small London street where Freeman experienced his descent into the abyss. Here a transmuted soundtrack of Westminster Cathedral bells is mixed with percussive scrap, drone debris and stifled strings to create acoustic psychogeographical gloom. Staring into Black Water is a 25 minute spite stream that creates tidal terror by merging despondent drone, disparaged percussion, voices of reservation and keyboard desolation. A heavy sense of hopeless perception and feelings of selfhate exist in this dark and disturbing deluge. The second movement proﬀers hope and opens with The Beauty of Doubting Yourself, an instrumental imbroglio that
signals that the worst is over. But with his self-esteem shattered the artist asks himself, ‘do I deserve happiness?’ The Might of Angel’s uses a minimal core refrain of expanding vastness to assuage any internal angst. Eventually stringed coils gleam and glitter as they rise high into azure skies. The Devil Would Steal Your Joy employs irregular blemished drone monoliths and detached choral shards in what are failed attempts to overpower the dulcimer and the veritable virtue that it expounds. The vulnerability of evolution is exposed. The third and final movement extends harmony, as Elegy And Rapture (For Margaret), a lament to his deceased mother, uses much more approachable and established musical motifs. Layered violin revisions, dronish dignity and horns of hindsight fuse to form a hiatus in which the past is re-examined. Finally, Staring into the Light, an epiphanic drone echo that strongly references western metaphysical salvation, brings the album to a close. Stringed solace, electromechanical piano poignancies, and vocalised alleviations remind us that it really doesn’t matter how dark may be the night, we will find our way — if we walk toward the light. It might only be a glimmer or a so gentle glow but it will dispel the darkness on the path where we go. - Dean Rocker
Myrmyr Fire Star
Myrmyr is an Oakland, California based two piece headed by Marielle Jakobsons and Agnes Szelag, who met while studying music in college. Following their highly praised debut The Amber Sea, released on Digitalis in 2009, the pair have built a strong following with their own perspective on engaging ambient/experimental music… Fire Star was recorded at Shasta Mountain in the Spring of last year and the album’s six tracks contain elements which hint at Jakobsons’ and Szelag’s shared Baltic ancestry, while still retaining a firmly West Coast flavour. The album articulates many moods, oen within one particular piece and the exploration found in opening three tracks Hot Snow 1, 2 and 3 continues throughout the latter half of Fire Star, mixing ambience, subtle synths and
acoustic instruments. At turns melancholic, playful, complex and for some brief moments even almost childishly simple, Jakobsons and Szelag’s songwriting strengths seem to bounce oﬀ each other, driving the album onward as each artist provides a counterpoint to the other, giving the necessary spark to inspire music of a rare calibre. Granted, eclectic may be a word overused to cliche, but it does indeed define Myrmyr better than any other. The fine musicianship of Jakobsons and Szelag is apparent throughout Fire Star, both in what they play and what they do not; At no point does the album lose cohesion, nor does it repeat itself and the pair show a keen talent for arrangement, such as on Fire Serpent’s Tail – the piece beginning with plaintive strings, slow and
deliberate, with an accompanying silence. Rather than fill in this silence however, Myrmyr turn the void into an instrument of its own and as the track builds to a moving climax, its inherent frailty is that much more pronounced. Surely tipped to widespread recognition in the coming months, Myrmyr have improved from their already excellent debut to produce a stirring work of frailty and beauty in Fire Star and one would be well advised to procure a copy before word gets out just how good this album is. Fire Star is released by Under The Spire in limited CD and 12” vinyl + included CD editions. - Adam Williams
Field Rotation And Tomorrow I Will Sleep
In recent years, ambient and drone music pieces exploring the idea of sleep have come to the fore and brought fascinating new insights in the form of poetic and abstract evocations. The excellent Slaapwel label, specialising in music to fall asleep to, has become a cornerstone of the genre and deserves to be thoroughly explored to appreciate how this very theme can generate so many beautiful and varied interpretations. Another noteworthy example being Halfslaap, a wonderful EP by Machinefabriek, built from a simple lullaby-like melody, and examining the liminality of the act of falling asleep, with its idiosyncratic distortion of time and consciousness. Christoph Berg aka Field Rotation is not new to the genre and started his nocturnal explorations last year with Why Things Are Diﬀerent, a dense and floating collection of drones conjuring both the sublime and menacing side of the theme. Released on the impeccable Hibernate label, his new album, And tomorrow I will
sleep, continues in this direction but sees Berg digging further and deeper into the very fabric of sleep. Whereas sustained tones and heavy textures, prominent in the aforementioned EP, created a somehow self-contained and confined atmosphere, Berg’s vision has now evolved towards a space more open, allowing hazy i n s t r u m e n t a t i o n t o e b b a n d fl o w majestically, as demonstrated throughout the title track. Dreams are not explicitly narrated but more alluded as if reduced to their shadow. A shadow warm and enveloping in Slumber or sometimes displaying a more sombre side, as in A dimly haze (Asleep pt 2). Droning synths are still present but hidden in the background, supporting diﬀused strings that conjure themes ranging from inner peace in And tomorrow I will sleep, to mild distress in Shoreline (Adri, Dreaming). In a sense, Berg’s work is not a thorough study on dreams and their interpretations – nor should it be – but a more poetic evocation of the act of dreaming.
The sleeper him/herself is metaphorically suggested by a peaceful aura, akin to the slowed-down breathing characteristic of sleepingness, and embodied by each of the six pieces presented. Throughout the album, sleeper turns into dreamer and vice-versa, a movement thoroughly explored in closing number Swayed by the wind (Awakening). In this splendid EPlength track, something profoundly human is oneirically revealed, confronting the sleeper/listener with their own inescapable fragility, and suggesting an awakening both literal and metaphorical – a superb ending to a labyrinthine journey into otherworldliness. Christoph Berg adds an essential piece to the sleep-exploring music genre. And tomorrow I will sleep is a work of remarkable beauty and profoundness – highly recommended. - Pascal Savy
Dakota Suite The Hearts Of Empty
Over the course of their musical career, Dakota Suite, have developed a reputation as being a group with a penchant for sadness. Whether they choose to produce lyrical songs filled with melancholic verses or, as they have done recently, veer into the realms of extraordinarily emotive modern classical sounds, there can be no denying that Dakota Suite are musicians built with a somber foundation. The group also has found a large amount of their popularity stem from nations outside of their native Britain. So it was fortunate that I was able to witness them play a London show back in 2009, around the time they had just released ‘The End of Trying’ and its supporting remix album ‘The Night Just Keeps Coming In.’ Aer that show, front man Chris Hooson and I spoke briefly about the albums’ where he joked that one contributing artist had felt Dakota Suite to be too forlorn a band to continue working with! It’s appropriate therefore that we introduce this latest work by the group. In keeping with the now established theme of dejection the band’s newest release is the aptly titled ‘The Hearts of Empty.’ In spite of this, we should be quick to highlight that while the album’s name does indeed have unsettling connotations, it is a record that contains a diﬀerent set of sounds from those we have come to expect from the group. Although a 2011 release, ‘The Hearts of Empty’ was actually conceived at the same time as ‘The End of Trying’ and was originally planned to release with it. While that album was a masterful showcase of Dakota Suite’s ear for contemporary classical construction, ‘The Hearts of Empty’ is a little harder to define. With a combination of piano, double bass and brushed percussion, one could easily
lumber the album into a jazz category, however I feel that this album is somehow a hybrid of those traditional jazz sounds. It is in fact, rather like this current strong wave of electronic composers who have chosen to inject their work with traditional classical instruments, an album perhaps inspired by the historical paths of jazz music but now firmly rooted in the present. While previous Dakota Suite albums have exuded a sense of tragedy, ‘The Hearts of Empty’ feels slightly lighter in tone. Whether it is because of the calming drums which are delicately brushed through most songs that one may believe this is debatable, but they certainly provide an easier backdrop compared to the oen uncompromising waves of emotion that have flooded the groups previous work. That is not to say this album is short of feeling. There is an overriding sense of loneliness to this record that is apparent through each song. The album emanates feelings of reflection and isolation but is told through carefully constructed scores that can be enjoyed at times of comfort as well as despair. Listeners are introduced to this, lonely, smoky sound world on opening track ‘The Basin.’ Suggestive of an underground setting, the song is led by a double bass that is pulled around the swirling drums that will become a signature of this album. An eerie set of processed noise also circulates the bass, adding further dimension to the track. This style of composition is consistent on other tracks where double bass takes the lead. Songs like ‘Cataluña’ and ‘Easy Steps’ are other such examples. On songs like ‘The Black Pyramid’ we learn of another staple to the record: the melodic piano. Again, this motif is supported by a whirlpool of brushed
drums that recalls Badalementi’s use of percussion on the Twin Peaks soundtrack. Other songs that fall into this category are title track ‘The Hearts of Empty’ whose piano paints a solitary figure amongst the dizzying lights of an urban skyline as conveyed through the swirling drum taps. Similary, ‘Underpowered,’ represents perhaps the most emotive of melodies on the record, while closing song ‘Vermont Canyon’ expands on this style with the addition of synthesized strings. There is also a third style adopted by Dakota Suite on this record that is perhaps the finest example of the contemporary fusion of sounds that were referenced earlier. Songs like ‘M-Theory’ and ‘The Ladder’ oﬀer a futuristic interpretation of the album’s other two forms with electronic instruments taking centre stage. On ‘The Hearts of Empty,’ Dakota Suite have continued their tradition of producing expertly craed songs that draw inspiration from downbeat sentiments. This album does however feel like their most accessible to date. It is perhaps their foray into the jazz inspired realms that allows them to balance the unmistakably lonely undertones of their music with the calming resonance that jazz instrumentation provides. In addition, this album may go on to inspire a new wave of contemporary jazz-like sounds from artists outside of the discipline, much like what has been occurring with modern day classical music. As such, ‘The Hearts of Empty’ should be considered as an essential album, and one only hopes it will be consumed by many despite its composer’s fascination with solitude. - Josh Atkin
Carousell Black Swallow & Other Songs
Richard Skelton has released under a number of guises on his Sustain Release label; originally issued in a low run of 100 copies, “Black Swallow & Other Songs” was put out under the Carousell moniker in 2009. The record has been reissued recently in a larger run of 700 vinyl copies, and a quick Google indicates that allocations to many outlets have already been exhausted. “Black Swallow & Other Songs” opens with ‘Artery’ – church bells, rustic guitar and loping strings; very much the territory Skelton has occupied on other releases. The familiar maudlin tone is ever-present, but is counterpointed by occasional blues flourishes from a resonator-like guitar. The release that accompanies the album makes mention of its textural qualities, and that note rings true; occasional chiming percussion, flickering guitar and field hiss fade in and out through the persistent string work, and all tracks on the album have distant hidden corners to shine light into and explore over repeated visits.
‘Gathering’ makes a bed of distant bird noise, articulate guitar work nestles it down. Clean, crisp and consistent with the compositional ethos of the album, obviously well craed pieces creating moods that are hard to escape. There is a definite character to the tone, one that his no doubt many listeners will recognize. Title track ‘Black Swallow’ evokes its avian namesake – not hard to imagine a landscape of falling leaves, grey clouds, winter chill and setting sun; and also not hard to be drawn in and enveloped in what is such an obviously sure hand. The string arrangements dart and coalesce, and when they fall into place there is such a sharp emotional jab that it distracts you totally from the outside world. Track four, ‘And the Orchard’ returns to the bells, a persistent and layered piano accompaniment that leads to the second half of the one piece, ‘Which is the Blood’. Elegant strings sweep across both highpitched scrapes and the vast, booming tidal expanse. Curiously, the migration
from CD to vinyl appears to have split these two components of the same piece in half. Having only previewed it digitally, I cannot say for certain, but the track listings on the internet have the two split between sides. ‘Of Old Enchantments’ is a mood shiing clatter of percussive guitar texture, fading into familiar piano and string interplay. The closing suite begins with ‘Owl Lanterns’, easily the most outright melodic piece. Initially presenting as segue, it broadens into a centerpiece and centrally grips your attention, as do all other tracks. Playing into “The Listener’, two halves sequentially aligned this time, it introduces the only vocal on the album by Skelton collaborator Autumn Grieve. No small undertaking, “Black Swallow & Other Songs” is weighty fare, and demands as much as it returns. - Alex Gibson
Jasper TX The Black Sun Transmissions
It has been two years since we were last treated to a full-length release from Jasper TX and Sweden’s Dag Rosenqvist’s return is marked by a sound evolved and matured into something yet more complex and challenging than before… ‘The Black Sun Transmissions’ opens with Signals Through Wood & Dust and the piece features a collection of sounds which are sculpted into feedback-laden ambience. The result is menacing and imbued with a sense of foreboding, serving to set the scene before ultimately closing with morse code and radio static, conjuring images of a post-apocalyptic survivor searching for hope in a world ruined. This apocalyptic aesthetic carries on into following track Weight of Days, which sees Rosenqvist ratchet the songwriting up a notch to deliver a
stunning composed number defined by beautifully measured strings and refrains. All I Could Never Be begins slowly and Rosenqvist chooses to highlight a melancholic aspect to his art. A fascinating counterpoint to his searing noise, it shows the artists’ varied tonal palette. The album’s finest moment however comes with the closing number White Birds. Aer the powerful melancholia and despair experienced on The Black Sun Transmissions thus far, the beauty of the piece seems accentuated and the listener drinks in the plaintive frailty as a thirsty traveller falls upon an oasis, a fine ending to this accomplished work and leaving the listener wanting more. Rosenqvist has previously expressed frustration with the state of the current
music business and the length of time taken for this album to come out, but perhaps he will garner some small comfort with oﬀering a work as strong as ‘The Black Sun Transmissions’ into the world. Though in no way meant to belittle Rosenqvist’s already impressive and varied back catalogue, this release seems to suggest that the artist has grown even more accomplished and inspired as of late and, rather than finding a niche to fit into, has created his own. - Adam Williams
Taylor Deupree Journal
There are places of hidden treasure where we store things with the intention of coming back to again… The two tracks on Taylor Deupree’s new 7” release are named “Journal” and “Attic”, places we think to put things of importance, value, and oentimes, of a highly personal nature, but which remain hidden and elusive to remembrance. When I was younger, I would oen sneak up to the attic of my house. We had an attic door that dropped down from the ceiling, giving way to a rickety stairwell with a string attached to it allowing you to tug at the light switch. Going up there over the summer, I distinctly remember the oppressive heat and humidity I encountered upon getting to the final step of the staircase. What did I hope to discover in such a place? I recall there being an air of uncertainty of what awaited me. Most of the things that were up there were remnants of my parents’ past, books and trinkets that were discarded. With my imagination running rampant, I think I hoped to discover something about my parents, who they were in their past lives before they had my sister and me. I wondered whether the things that were up there were meant to be forgotten, or at some point, to be remembered. Were they meant to creep back into our consciousness and remind us of their existence? The attic could be the last stop
before we are ultimately ready to move on from a belonging, to forget it, or file away the memory. The finality of parting with something is too much. For Taylor Deupree, it seems that the items tucked away represent “missed opportunities” or memories explored but not fully realised; the charred remains of what-might-have-been sitting in a dank corner gathering dust. “Attic” emphasizes the rough outline of memory as if an old super 8 film has been glued back together, certain frames overexposed, the gelatin coating worn away, and a recurring hiss plagues the film’s sound as it’s projected. The nostalgic eﬀect is completely immersive; I found myself revisiting a tattered photograph that I used to keep in my dresser drawer but somehow found itself amongst a pile of forgotten photos in the attic. The memory lingers, but the image has strayed. The colors are all washed away in my mind and one day I’m sure I’ll steal away to the attic to find an everlasting moment, not tucked away. In a similar way, a journal holds our thoughts, dreams, and feelings in a secure place so that one day we may return to them. But do people ever really read through their journal? Or is the purpose of keeping one the actual process of writing down our thoughts and feelings? Years later, the idea of reading through an old
journal may sound appealing to get a sense of the person we once were writing about; the person we’d like to become. Would we regain that sense of wonder? Would the dramatic monologues inspire us to care deeply again about someone we lost? A first love, perhaps? I imagine a journal finds its way up to the attic at some point, waiting to be found again. On this 7”, “Journal” features a persistent coo of an organ, the sustain reaching into the soul. A faraway voice finds its way through the sounds closing in on the listener. It seems to know its destination and although the words get muﬄed along the way, the sentiment does not. Sadly, this 7” release was limited to 100 copies. Many, including myself, missed out on an artifact that will not be pushed aside and forgotten about. The pieces here resonate thoroughly to the bone and there is no way I’ll be able to file them away in the hopes that one day I’ll happen upon them again. Instead, they will be close at hand to remind me of what was lost and might never be found. - Review by Michael Vitrano
Michael Tanner & Sharon Kraus In The Rheidol Valley
The Rheidol Valley is situated near the Cambrian Mountains in northern Ceredigion, Wales. The river Rheidol rises in the headwaters of the Nant y Moch reservoir, which was created in 1964 by flooding a part of the valley of the River Rheidol and its headwaters derives its name from a stream, the Nant-y-moch, which formerly flowed into the River Rheidol at this spot. The construction of the dam and subsequent flooding of the valley south of it signalled the end for the hamlet of Nant-y-moch. The contents of the graveyard which was to be submerged were relocated to the chapel in the village of Ponterwyd. A number of cairns, prehistoric piles of stones, set on the hills and mountains to mark a spot for memorials to somebody who died there were painstakingly moved. Archaeologists estimated that some of these were over 3000 years old, which dates them as far back as the Iron Age. The album opens with a short field recording called Lambs. Here we can imagine the purple moorland grasses that grow on the deep deposits of peat. We can hear the wind as it whistles through the branches of dense and ancient oak forests, which are carpeted with rich understoreys of ferns, mosses and lichens. It is the
beginning of spring and we can hear the new born lambs that herald the approach of fine weather in Wales. Wales is a country of small farms and sheep rearing is an age old tradition. Down in the valley floor, glacial and alluvial deposits have been worked by man into a relatively low intensive agriculture. Tanner and Kraus ambled aimlessly along the length and breadth of the valley with their instruments in tow and made field recordings, songs and improvisations as they went along, rather like the wandering minstrels of yesteryear. A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories about distant places or about real or imaginary historical events, and this can’t have escaped the musician’s minds as they sought inspiration for their landscape lamentation. The rest of the albums song titles are just simple references to geographical features; valleys or waterfalls. Humble and sombre works of slow heartfelt strings, vocalised ancestral spirits, elusive percussion elementals and genuine field based recordings are coalesced to create a new acoustic topography that attempts to reinterpret this ancient terrain.
This could so easily have been a misguided attempt to create Welsh folk music by people who’ve have never even seen a dafad in a cwm before. Thankfully these musicians are artists of honesty, integrity and above all authenticity. Getting beyond their egos they have allowed the ‘sense of place’ to inhabit and roam freely through every last acre of these sentient sound mappings. These acoustic folk tales understand, respect and eulogise about the characteristics that make The Rheidol such a special or unique place. The soness and sincerity of their instruments and voices foster a sense of authentic human attachment and belonging, there is a genuine feel of why locals and visitors hold such a special meaning to the place. This is a mysterious musical phenomenon that forms a bridge between reality and the imagination and it exists independently of either of the musician’s perceptions or experiences, yet is dependent on human engagement for its existence. A charming cultural codification that seems to protect, preserve and enhance this place of beauty and value. - Dean Rocker
Arborea Red Planet
Easy musical comparisons fail. The tendency towards whisper, the mostly bare canvas, the sparse guitar, banjo. The breathy, unstained vocals. Think instead of a rare and fragile gi: a glass figurine, maybe fine jewelry…
for example that Buck and Shanti’s two children are home-schooled, even while on tour: another testament to their alt-folk method.)
Arborea is husband-and-wife team Buck and Shanti Curran, from Maine. In a recent interview Buck tells of the project beginnings in the summer of 2005, when he bought Shanti a banjo for her birthday. This brief, unadorned statement is the perfect complement to Arborea and its music: innocent, plain-talking, and vibrant. Their subsequent level of output has been brisk: three albums and two appearances on compilations, with critical acclaim from NPR, BBC, and The Wire. Not half-bad for a wistful voice, a sometimes imperceptible guitar, and a banjo. The inclinations toward one-take recordings, the focus on improvisation. There are no drums here, no 11-piece live ensemble.
The Kickstarter message tenders “Careless Love,” which is an excellent introduction to the delicateness and precision of the ten tracks that make up Red Planet. A single, dancing folk guitar line accompanies Shanti’s reflective, erotic, and near-murmured vocals: “Couldn’t keep you from my door/when I wore my apron low.” Careless love, indeed. Later in the track she notices: “Now I wear my apron high/scarce I see you passing by.” The song is brief, weighing in at under three minutes, but carries a terrific force. “Spain” begins with a mournful and chiming guitar line, and Shanti’s vocals are bolder here, perhaps a bit warmer in mix: “Catch a boat to Spain/the mountains there will call your name.” Helena Espvall (Espers) contributes an aching cello performance, introduced aer the first, slow verse. Espvall also performs on “Arms and Horses,” a frontier-tinted composition of banjo, electric guitar, and ethereal vocals: probably the strongest track on the album. Four minutes of canter break into
April 26 saw the release of their latest release, titled Red Planet; don’t mistake the title for any sort of reference to space or space rock: this is as earthy as anything you will hear in 2011. The final stages of album production were funded in part by a Kickstarter.com campaign, which is a fascinating read in its own right. (We learn
an uptempo gold rush of cascading cello, reverberant guitar, and hypnotic banjo. Arborea nod to a key influence with “Phantasmagoria in Two,” a stripped-bare refurbishing of Tim Buckley’s piercing, timeless, and psychedelic classic. What the Arborea cover gives away in momentum, in regains in texture: raw banjo harmonics, the barroom guitar wizardry. The original is scarcely recognizable here: Buck and Shanti have delivered a true remake. The title song “Red Planet” serves a brief and heated drone prologue to the nine-minute hushed epic “Wolves,” which begins as a stark hammered dulcimer and voice performance. Moments of strings and hints of vocal harmonies are scattered throughout the first six minutes, until Buck’s distorted guitar joins in for a restrained coda. If anything, Red Planet moves Arborea’s catalog more toward silence than away from it. This is an album of moods, stories, and cautions, not of hooks and volume. CD and MP3 formats are available now from Strange Attractors. LP release date is May 17. - Review by Fred Nolan
Maps And Diagrams Get Lost
In January 2010, the BBC broadcasted a fascinating documentary about Brian Eno who, amongst many other subjects, talks about what he’s looking for when making music: “I love discovering a place where, I feel, nobody’s been before. A piece of music becomes real for me when it seems to become a place, when i can sort of feel what the temperature would be, what the light that would go with it would be and what colours…” Get Lost, the new album by UK- based sound artist Tim Martin aka Maps and Diagrams certainly embodies this statement to perfection. Over the course of nearly an hour, Martin explores strange and beautiful worlds, in a vein not dissimilar to On Land by Eno himself – worlds all unique in their own way, familiar and yet profoundly alien. There is a feeling of journeying over vast seas and meditative fields, each track mapping oblique coordinates towards the discoveries of new territories. Maybe the maritime-themed field recordings used throughout the album, create this impression of sailing across imaginary oceans, like in Timelines where clanking noises inhabit an aquatic darkness, full of far-away calls from underwater creatures.
Or perhaps, it is the sense of space and vastness that Martin has carefully craed for each piece, that conjures those new places to discover: the wonderful Angle Of Acceptance feels like being surrounded by iridescent surfaces that reflect light in an ever changing way. In A Man From Atlantis, where a reverb-laden piano floats above richly textured synths, time seems to have stopped, leaving the listener in a state of weightlessness, as if he/she had been transported to a new reality, where the law of physics had suddenly changed. The album progresses by quantum leaps, exploring one place then jumping to a new one, each time related and yet completely diﬀerent. Middle and also longest track The Strait of Malacca occupies an interesting space with its shimmering piano looping asynchronously atop reverberated field recordings and synth layers. It feels quite diﬀerent in its structure from preceding numbers and seems to indicate a symbolic pause in this journey, as if the places visited where about to evolve and mutate. There is a change of scale and pace coming with following track These Blank
Pages, a subdued and miniature evocation of the world watched in slow-motion, that contracts the space around the listener to become more intimate and tactile. In Honeycomb Archipelago, the warm tones of ever enveloping synths create a sort of thick velvet blanket that conjure hazy but reassuring memories; an idea echoed by neighbouring track Circles in the Fire where sine waves come delicately piercing a beautiful droning background, alluding to more personal preoccupations and shiing the territories explored towards a journey of self-discovery. Certainly every one of the fourteen tracks in Get Lost have their own temperature, light and colours. Maps and Diagrams’ Tim Martin has created a beautiful and kaleidoscopic world to dwell into – a labyrinthic exploration that reveals its hidden beauty each time you take on the audio exploration. - Pascal Savy
The Tape Loop Series Quiet Evenings
The Preservation label presents Transcending Spheres, the debut fulllength album from Georgia’s Quiet Evenings… In a little over two years, the duo that comprise Quiet Evenings – Grant and Rachel Evans – have become two of the most prolific and active artists in the American underground. Each also has solo projects: Grant’s Nova Scotian Arms and Rachel’s Motion Sickness of Time Travel. Between those as well as Quiet Evenings, they’ve amassed well over 50 releases for various labels in various editions. They also co-run the Hooker Vision label, clocking up a similar amount of releases for other kindred spirits. With minimal instrumentation of guitars and synthesizers as well as voice, the pieces on Transcending Spheres curl out to seize a moment, then carry it forward with beauty and grace. Far from the realm of pure ambient dri, subtle forces build within their disarming restraint to give the album a vital pulse and provide a stunning balance between light and shade. Quiet Evenings inhabit a ghostly space of unique elegance, and as this highly spirited work’s title suggests, this is a duo that can carry their cra well beyond standard shapes. As part of our Tape Loop Series, we were lucky to be able to be able to discuss the release with Grant and Rachel in a little detail; their approach to recording music, their distinct lean towards analogue and their plans for the label. - What can you tell us about Hooker Vision? Grant: Hooker Vision is a vehicle for the sounds we think are interesting. Our friends’ sounds as well as our own. We focus on obsolete formats such as cassette tapes, VHS tapes, CDs, and soon, vinyl. There’s not really a “Hooker Vision sound” but we’re mostly interested in stuﬀ that’s outside the range of general public acceptance. Basically noise, whether it’s
tranquil or harsh or whatever, is what we’re into. Rachel: It’s also just a huge creative outlet for us; we need something like Hooker Vision to let out those natural instincts we both have to continue creating and disseminating the things we love, like art and music. - How did the label start? Rachel: Grant was the one who started the label. I didn’t become involved until pretty recently… about a year ago or so. Grant: It was mostly just something to write on CD-Rs that we were burning… We’ve gone through a couple of major phases. The internet has been incredibly crucial to the success of the label. Obviously there is zero market for this kind of music where we live. We’ve been really fortunate to connect with so many likeminded individuals from around the world and we owe that all to the internet. - Was there a release on the label or by the band that had a reaction that surprised you? Are there any favorites out of all the work that you’ve done? Grant: There’s been so many great releases that we’ve put out… Brian Lavelle’s ‘Two Ostensions’ tape from last year was a really important piece of music for me. It’s got such refinement. There’s definitely some other amazing standouts too. Rachel: Yeah, I’d say another outstanding release for me was the Aerlife/Thoughts on Air split. It’s simply incredible music, well-executed. - What prompted the release on Preservation? Rachel: We had been in touch with Brad Rose and Digitalis for a while. He first mentioned Preservation Records to me last summer. However I didn’t get in touch with Andrew at Preservation myself until
sometime around this past Christmas. Andrew sent me a message one day and introduced himself just saying he enjoyed our music and asking what we had planned for Quiet Evenings as far as upcoming releases. We didn’t have anything on our plate for QE, so it was perfect timing! And that’s when Andrew told us all about the Circa Series on Preservation… Grant: We basically recorded the whole thing in one weekend. One of the tracks was recorded a few days earlier than the bulk of the work. But we basically just sat down with a few ideas in mind and the songs just happened. - How did you go about arranging the cover art for the release? Grant: Mark Gowing does the cover art for all of the Preservation releases, as far as I know. I really respect his aesthetic and approach to the design aspect. His style really lends itself perfectly to the type of music that Andrew tends to spotlight. He’s made some incredibly striking covers and it’s definitely an honor to have him design ours. Rachel: Mark’s designs for the Circa Series of CDs are all realized using a specially created abstract alphabet of shapes which is determined by the artist name, title and catalogue number of each release, making each cover both fixed and random. What musical roles do you both have within the band? Grant: I play guitar and synthesizer. I also record all of the field recordings we use in our music, although there are none on the Transcending Spheres release. Rachel: I play my synthesizers and occasionally I’ll use eﬀected voice. With Quiet Evenings, I hold down the more atmospheric zones and let Grant lead with his guitar, but every so oen I’ll bring in minimal repeating melodies.
- Why the focus on old/obsolete analogue formats? Grant: I guess it’s partly due to nostalgia; they’re the formats I grew up with. But for me, things like vinyl and cassettes have such a presence that you really don’t get from a digital file. They’re physical objects that really hold up well over time and continue to resonate with music lovers even though most people think of them as obsolete. Rachel: My parents always had vinyl around when I was growing up, and cassettes even more so. You get such a warmth from those formats that doesn’t come with others. The same for VHS. For me, the VHS has more of a nostalgic quality than any other format because that’s all I watched as a child. I feel like these formats really hold a special place for everyone in our generation and generations past. - What’s it like, dealing with production houses for cassettes? Is there a lot of freighting involved? Rachel: Not really a lot of freighting. Since cassettes are so small, its usually pretty inexpensive to ship them. The production houses have some disadvantages… sometimes you run into bumps that you can’t foresee since its in their hands. But overall, I’d say the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. A little more hassle here and there, but the quality of the product is so much better that it ends up being worth it. There’s certainly a lot more design options open to us that way. Grant: We send them everything they need (audio files and art files) and they send us the tapes in a few weeks. It’s usually as simple as that. - Is it a struggle to find good production houses now? Is there still an existing commercial market for them, or is it a niche? Rachel: I wouldn’t say its a niche, but there aren’t a ton of them either. It’s thanks to Brad Rose that we’re in touch with the company we use today. Grant: We had just been buying blank tapes and dubbing them ourselves. The color options for the shells were pretty limited and we wanted to snazz things up a little with more color. We got a few hundred blank but colorful tapes and
home-dubbed all of them; while slowly getting more stuﬀ pro-dubbed. Our very last home-dub was from the last batch of tapes. Hopefully we’ll be able to cover the costs of pro-dubbing for the remainder of our time on this planet. I know my tape deck will be grateful. - How long have you been making music together? Rachel: Long before Quiet Evenings, and even before we were married, we made videos together before we made music together. It started out by me scoring one of his short films. The first time we made music together I believe was Grant adding guitar tracks to one of my earliest songs… long before I recorded as Motion Sickness of Time Travel… actually I remember it very clearly: it was at the music studio at the college later one night, I was in the mixing room and he in the sound room. It sounded so amazing. The recording was done but he was still playing, so I went in the sound room and found him lying on the floor passed out. Something I’ll never forget! We got a great recording out of it though. Grant: Yeah… Good times. We started the Quiet Evenings project in 2009. At first, it was our way of coping with loud neighbors and life outside of nature. Now we live in a fairly isolated location, beside a lake, and life is always quiet. The music is a reflection of our immediate surroundings. - Is completing a release in one weekend unusual, or do you tend to work quickly? Grant: We both tend to work rather quickly… A good bit of our releases have been recorded in just one day or so. They’re like snapshots. We really like to capture a particular moment in time. How we’re feeling that day or weekend is always evident in the sound document. Plus most of our music is improvised so that tends to be complimentary to the documentary recording approach. Rachel: Yeah, we both work really fast actually… we each seem to do things in spurts. We’ll go forever without recording anything, and then in a couple of days we’ll record a few solo albums or a QE album. It’s just the way we work I guess. Improvisation and our mood definitely play a huge part in that. - When you say there’s no market for your music where you live, where are you
based? You mention an isolated environment, how far out of town are you? Rachel: Well we live in the western part of Georgia. We’re just outside the city limits of LaGrange, GA by a few miles, but we both work and Grant goes to school in LaGrange. The actual town of LaGrange itself is very small… I guess it’s not as small as it could be, but it certainly doesn’t have anything to oﬀer socially, musically and very rarely artistically. The only big store in town is Walmart, and beside the tiny overpriced restaurants theres’s just fast-food. Even the college at the center of town is tiny compared to most… Just under 1,000 students altogether. There’s very, very little culture. We try to stay away from all of that most of the time. We used to live in the very center of town, but enjoy our new location a thousand times more. Our house is surrounded by trees outside of town just oﬀ of West Point Lake. Grant: LaGrange is about an hour south of Atlanta. But there’s just not much appreciation for weird music in the south in general. I can remember maybe two tapes that we’ve sold to fellow Georgians… - You mention the music being a documentation your surroundings – is it personal expression or does it represent a comment on modernity? Did you move to get away from it all? Grant: I’m not saying we’re like these Walden types, traipsing around in the woods or anything like that. Although that does happen on occasion. We’re just not very keen on living around other people. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, our move across town is inconsequential. LaGrange is isolated no matter if you live in town or in the woods. Rachel: We really love where we live now. It’s much more peaceful. We’ve always relied on ourselves to keep us occupied, but it really helps when you can free yourself from those unwanted distractions. When we lived in town, even when we were in the mood to record it sometimes was impossible due to the noise coming from traﬃc and neighbors, etc. Outside of town we can really focus on our cra. We’ve been much more prolific with our recordings, all projects included, since we moved outside of town. It’s all about atmosphere.
- You seem to have been pretty prolific with a number of releases on a number of labels – is this a by-product of being productive? Grant: Yeah… The way I work is in spurts. I’m very “bipolar” in that way. I generally feel a need to create something, whether it be music or art or whatever. Rachel: It’s definitely a by-product of being productive… but only by default. I think if we had more to do in real life, and more friends in real life we might be a little less productive. There’s really just nothing to do here so we have to create things. Sometimes that’s the only way to pass the time. - What releases due you have coming up for yourselves, and the label? Rachel: On the label’s upcoming batch we have a Hobo Cubes VHS. I’m really looking forward to this one as Frank has been in close contact with both Grant and I for some time now. We all share a love for visual music, so we’re really excited to be the imprint for this release. We’re also looking forward to a Pierrot Lunaire cassette tape, featuring some amazing saxophone bliss jams, as well as tapes from DJ Ecto Cooler and Indian Weapons… Grant can tell you a little more about those… Grant: DJ Ecto Cooler is the alter ego of Water Lilly Jaguar mastermind, Ian Najdzionek. In Ecto mode he creates these intensely layered sound collages out of various samples from all over the spectrum of popular music. It’s basically the mashup gone terribly wrong. And Indian Weapons (Nathan Young and Brad Rose) should be a fairly familiar name for fans of underground music. The duo has also recorded together as Ajilvsga and with Eden Rose as Godseye. Rachel: Solo-wise, Motion Sickness of Time Travel has a tape release coming up on Hobo Cult Records, a 3” mini CD-r coming from Kim Dawn Recordings, and a LP/CD from Digitalis in the near future. I’m
also currently recording music for an LP on Spectrum Spools due out early next year. Grant: I’ve got a split tape with a new Scott Johnson (Thoughts on Air) project, Permanent Bedhead, coming soon on Sacred Phrases. Rachel and I have a split LP coming out soon on the Belgian record label, Aguirre. Both of our solo projects are contributing to a four cassette box set on Cloud Valley that will also include Sundrips, Hobo Cubes, and a new Carter Mullin-related project. The debut Quiet Evenings LP, Intrepid Trips, is coming soon on Hooker Vision and a few split tapes are in the works. And finally, my project with Adam of Dry Valleys/Sacred Phrases, Peyote Crystal, has a tape coming soon on Housecra. - Does the label support itself, or is it a labour of love? Grant: It definitely started as a labour of love… We started out by burning CD-Rs and home-dubbing old recycled tapes from thri stores and stuﬀ. We played a show and managed to sell a good bit of those tapes, which helped fund the first 100 new tapes. We still home-dubbed everything up until a few months ago. Now the label is doing fairly well and we can aﬀord to have the tapes pro-dubbed, which improves the sound quality enormously, in my opinion. It certainly beats doing it all myself… Rachel: Yeah since the label’s been doing a little better recently we’ve been able to break even the last few times we’ve released a batch which is all going to bettering the product. We started out printing our covers for free at the library or at home and had to cut every single cover out ourselves. Now we’re able to get our covers printed professionally, which of course beats the quality of black & white printing and keeps me from having to cut and trim 100 or more tape covers by hand. - What is the dream with the label? Where would you like to see it go? Grant: I guess the dream would be to have the label eventually become more of a
“proper” label. I would love nothing more than to keep doing this forever and to continue to work with incredible musicians. The cassette tape underground is a very warm and nurturing community. We’ve been able to grow and develop without the regular bullshit that larger labels have to deal with. I think the momentum we’ve achieved so far will allow the label to continue to operate and continue to grow. Rachel: Yes, we definitely want to keep going with the label for as long as we can. The labels first LP release (coming really soon) is a dream come true by itself. We never imagined when the label first started up that we’d ever be able to aﬀord and sell vinyl records! We’ve already got a second LP planned for later this year. I’d love to see the label release more and more vinyl, but we’ll never stop releasing cassette tapes. - When you mention the cassette tape underground, is there an established network? How did you make your way in it? Grant: I guess there’s a loose network that makes up the underground. We’ve all kind of crossed paths in one way or another thanks to the amount of other rad labels releasing similar stuﬀ. It’s thanks to the internet that we ourselves have anything to do with any kind of established network. Rachel: Yeah, the internet definitely opened up the doors. Where we live certainly doesn’t lend itself to being able to sell music in person to anyone… online is where it’s at. “Transcending Spheres” is the fourth work in a new limited edition CD series from Preservation called Circa. Only 300 copies of each release in the series will be available and will feature a design by Mark Gowing. Each design for 2011 will be realised using a specially created abstract alphabet of shapes, determined by artist, title and catalogue number for something both fixed and random. - Alex Gibson
The Humble Bee / The, E And I The Indescribable Brightness Shone / Projected Images
The cover of the book reads “The Franciscans – Love”. Inside, yellowed pages of text: the Hornbill, the Greater Bird of Paradise, the Sea Otter, the Bobac; related drawings. The pages are cut up and inserted as fragments, some upside down or sideways on. Like Cubist collage, oil cloth and ‘Le Journal’. The Cubists perhaps wanted to insert a piece of real, ‘everyday’ life into their paintings. Yet once torn from one context and pasted into another, the fragment is distorted, shattered across a dozen diﬀerent surfaces, rendered unreadable, or at least requiring new ways of reading. Through collage, the ordinary becomes the occasion of the strange and the puzzling, of meanings lost and found. The lens casing, the glass plate, the filing cabinet. In making their mechanisms, apparatuses and processes of production visible, the short films by The Humble Bee contained on the DVD “The Indescribable Brightness Shone” present to us the real, the material. Yet it is a real at one remove, distanced from the viewer. The colour
aberrations, the brightness of refracted light, the graininess of the image all attest to the fact: ‘I was real once’. It is a lie: those colours never really happened. Or rather: they are real only as re-presentation, as recorded traces, as ghosts. The eﬀect of this real/reel is perhaps a melancholy one: in the flicker of projected brightness we mourn the plight of a memory that exists without reference to any original event, the taste of a madeleine we have never eaten. An “exquisite pleasure” nonetheless invades our senses, as it did Proust’s. And then there is the remembrance of sound. How can a sound be at the same time a memory of a sound? One would have thought it could be no more than a re-staging, a reoccurrence. The audio CD “Projected Images” by e + i (The Humble Bee and Emmanuel Witzthum) suggests otherwise. First of all, the mix is very quiet. You have to strain to hear the burbling washes and tiny, bare-whisper melodies. Psychoacoustic distance becomes a metaphor for temporal distance. Then there are the hisses, the cracks, the static.
An old dusty record creaking on a turntable. The old-fashioned strings in third track “Fogging Processes Plate”, the voices of which are heavy and worn by the weight of years and thousands of cigarettes. And finally the title of the CD, which links it with the grainy fuzz of the accompanying DVD. This is what memory sounds like. The travelling time from speaker to eardrum is infinitely multiplied, and goes on multiplying. Forgetting is the non-existence of that which happened. This screw post-bound book and enclosed DVD and audio CD from Cotton Goods represents the opposite: the existence, through remembrance, of that which never happened. The text, the image, the sound. A collage of fragments with no originary meaning, or as many as you can imagine. Their juxtapositions actualise a making of sense that is each time entirely new. - Nathan Thomas
Getting To Know Black Eagle Child
The Preservation label presents Lobelia, the debut full-length album from Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Black Eagle Child… Black Eagle Child is guise for guitarist Michael Jantz. Jantz has previously released an expansive body of work, sprawling across some of the most notable underground labels of the current day, including Stunned, Housecra and Digitialis. His solo recordings work a realm of exploratory zones for guitar that touch on the discordant, psychedelic and pastoral, while also deploying varied percussion and field recordings for texture and rhythm. That journey continues with Lobelia, though in its expansive scope it’s played for pure songcra and resonant beauty. The album bristles with an underproduced energy. Despite its comparatively humble origins on a handheld recorder, the guitars and field recording leap out of the speakers – thanks in no small part to an obvious musical talent, and also the respectful mastering of Giuseppe Ielasi. There’s a discernable emotional undercurrent - the song “I Forgot” takes the oen-used and now almost staple recorded sounds of an infant and places it in a diﬀerent and striking context; that the song has such an impact is ample demonstration of Jantz’s ability, a unique set of hands and ears wringing a response from such a simple idea. Also fascinating is the sound of the guitar, both familiar and peculiar . The restraint with his use of Ebow is refreshing – it glances across the speakers, breaking up the tracks whilst not overpowering the mood. The guitar melodies could have only ever been generated by another human if a bag of Leo Kottke, Kaki King and Danny Paul Grody vinyls had shattered aer being dropped, and a particularly demented and obsessive owner had glued the resulting
shards back together in a playable form. Able to coax multiple shimmering and chiming textures from his instrument, Jantz represents the melodic, organic and traditional side of experimental deconstructed six-string; the polar opposite end of the digital laptop manipulation of Christian Fennesz and Christopher Willits. A singular work; defining, engaging and full of character. Jantz graciously took some time to discuss the recording of Lobelia; the themes he documents, the methods he used to do so and the genesis of the project. Further planned releases will certainly be worth watching out for. - How was the album recorded? Some of the album was recorded in an apartment I lived in with my family up through Spring 2010, and some of it was recorded in the house we moved into aer vacating the apartment. In the apartment I would record wherever was convenient, since I didn't have a dedicated space for playing and recording. In the house, I have the basement, which is where I currently leave my instruments and gear set up. Almost everything on the album is loosely improvised; I've never written anything down. I would rehearse bits and pieces of a song on the guitar, and then simply sit down and record the song when I felt comfortable enough with the fundamental riﬀs, so to speak. I feel like certain parts of each song are essential, or defining, and then whatever happens aside from that was up to chance. Most of the tracks are comprised of at least two guitar tracks, and some have as many as eight. There is also a little bit of banjo, tambourine and accordion on a couple of the tracks.
Percussion for two pieces was performed and recorded by Alex Gray (Dreamcolour/ Deep Magic). The field recordings were captured mostly around the apartment we were living in, which is near the Milwaukee River. There is a great series of trails and parks along the river that begin about 2 minutes walking distance from the apartment, so I would take my daughter Mary for walks and bring along my H4 and just record the entire duration of the walk. Her voice ended up in some of the recordings too, which was totally incidental at the time, but turned out to work quite nicely, I think. Everything on the album (aside from Alex's percussion) was recorded onto a Zoom H4. I bought the device with the intention of using it only for field recordings, but I quickly realized that it's multi-tracking capabilities are excellent as well and I was able to set it up in the apartment very quickly, as opposed to a multi-tracker, separate pre-amps and external microphones. It really is as handy as they say! - Did you say EVERYTHING was recorded on an H4? Did you move the tracks to your computer to edit them, or was there a deliberate intent to leave them that way? Yes, everything was recorded on the H4. This was mainly for convenience, since it's so small and all-inclusive (mic, preamp, multi-channel capacity). I don't really have the stamina or integrity to stick to a purist approach, so that was definitely not my thought with recording everything with a portable device. I moved everything to the laptop for mixing; I did some things with level envelopes and such that I don't think I'd have been able to do on the H4. And I suppose mixing on a computer is still the fastest, cheapest, and easiest route for me.
- Was it a long process, or was it completed quickly? It was the longest I've ever worked on a single album. Andrew at Preservation first contacted me about doing the record in Summer/Fall of 2009, and I recorded my first few tracks in Winter 2009. Then over the course of the following months, up until about August 2010, I was recording. Part of this more drawn-out process is probably due to the birth of my Mary in Summer 2009; she has rearranged my priorities, moving music down a notch. But I also feel like even if I had more time, the process would or should have taken as long as it did. Or maybe if I would have completed it faster, the record would sound much diﬀerent (maybe worse?). This is certainly the most significant (and I would say defining) work I've recorded to date, and I anticipated that going into it, so I was constantly sending Andrew updates on tracks and getting feedback from him. Having his help was an enormous boon; it was his idea to bring in Alex Gray's excellent percussion on 'Crandon' and 'The Quarry Slide'. And naturally he helped with sequencing and selecting Giuseppe Ielasi's expert ears for mastering. So it was a long process, but I think it was a natural one and ultimately the album benefited from that. - How did Giuseppe Ielasi approach mastering - were there any specific approaches that you both decided on? I think the only particular thing that we had landed on with the mastering was this idea of 'warmth', something I communicated to him probably before he even heard the tracks. There was very little compression done. We wanted a natural sound, and I think the album was pretty loud prior to mastering, so I suppose it was fairly straightforward. It was pretty quickly done--Andrew and I had some input aer hearing a few of the mastered tracks, and aer that Giuseppe was able to do the whole thing in a few days and we were all pleased with how it sounded. What I like most about the mastering is its subtlety. While I'm very fond of Giuseppe's music and several other albums he's mastered, I feel like he has a very pleasant, nearly transparent presence on Lobelia, though that presence was necessary, nonetheless.
- Was there a specific point you wanted to express with keeping the recording warm and natural? Is there a theme you were trying to impart on the record as a whole? Ah yes. The descriptive imagery I use in titling the album and its songs is very personal to me and my family, mostly to do with my childhood. I feel like I owe credit to my family for having such an enormous impact on who I am now. So this idea of the family is the single over-arching theme on the album. When it comes to mastering and the overall sound of the album, I am probably more inclined toward a natural and airy sound because it feels more personal and human. Of course, I enjoy many records that come across as cold and impersonal, but for my own music and especially because it's all reflective of my family, I try to keep things warm and personal. I think the sound and feel of the album should express this warmth, and if it doesn't, maybe I've failed. I think also that the titles can convey a similar feeling. Even though they're from my own life, many can be easily recognizable as landmarks or rites of passage in the life of a child. - Is this expressed in the album artwork? Definitely. Andrew selected the photo and showed it to me very early on aer I'd expressed my ideas and intended direction for the album, and at that time he said something like (very loose paraphrasing here), "I like this one, but we'll have plenty of time to select something...we'll see what else comes up." And in the end we went with that photo. I'm not sure it's necessarily reflective of my own family, especially not on the most superficial levels. But I like it especially because it appears to be taken at a time during which family was more dependent on and reflective of each other. The image is very romantic--a sparkling family together in an equally perfect woods. It is superficial (as is the principle behind portraiture), but I like it nonetheless. - Family does seem to be a dominant theme - I understand that a member of your immediate family makes an appearance on the record, specifically on "I Forgot"? That's right. My daughter Mary, who at the time was much younger than she is right now as I write this--well, relatively speaking. I didn't really plan on using her
voice on the album, but aer I listened to the recording of her and it really touched me, I decided to try putting into one of the tracks. It sort of sits in this spot in that song where all of the guitar tracks line up perfectly (the only point in the entire 8minute track). This was incidental at first, but then I kind of thought it was interesting how it could be thought of as symbolic. Listening to her voice in conjunction with the music, which is a bit weepy by nature, sort of makes me overwhelmed with emotion. She's been such a wonderful addition to the lives of my wife Celeste and I, and I already feel deeply nostalgic for things that happened only months ago, so I think it's really important to have ways to earmark certain fond memories in our lives together. She's a natural addition to both my domestic life and my creative life. - When you say it's reflective of your family, in what way is this so? Did any events or people in particular inspire the material? Well, every track on the album is named for something in my childhood or current life. My mom administered (among dozens of other homeopathic substances) Lobelia extract to my brother and sister and I like it was aspirin to an adult. We hated it at the time, but it's the kind of thing that is not easily forgotten. As a teenager, I worked in a concessions booth at a local quarry that had been filled with water...a swimming hole. They built a slide there and I spent a lot of time there over the course of a few years. Crandon is the name of a mining town in Wisconsin. My family took many trips there and I still go periodically to fish and sort of vacation with my dad and brother, though lately the lake levels have been low and I've not had a lot of time, due to my new fatherly role. And this actually brings to fore the sort of duality of identity that I feel comes with starting one's own family. I have this previous identity that is defined by my parents and siblings, but I also have a newer identity that I've created with the help of my wife and daughter. So even though most of the imagery refers to my childhood, some of it also has to do with my more recently created identity. The album is a reflection of the reconciliation of my two selves, both of whom are 'family' men (or boys?).
- Was it, or is it, a musical family? Is that where the creative life started? I don't think I come from a musical family, or at least not in the sense that a lot of people seem to use the term. I mean, all of the kids took piano lessons--some longer than others. My dad played piano as well, though he doesn't really any more. He also played the accordion as a child, and the accordion I used on Lobelia is his. I think I've more or less inherited it, but I'm not entirely sure yet--he might want it back at some point. I took piano lessons from age six to twelve and then maybe five years of guitar lessons. Somewhere in there I also bought a drum set. For a while in my midteens I was also really into electric bass. As of right now I am the only person in my family who really plays music frequently and for an audience. - What other musical influences did you bring out of that period? It's kind of weird to think about how little I really knew about music as a kid. I listened to mostly rock and roll throughout my childhood--stuﬀ like Nirvana, Pink Floyd, and then also a lot of punk and metal stuﬀ. I didn't start listening to electronic music until I was eighteen and really didn't like classical or its derivatives until my early twenties. So I suppose that what I've brought out of my childhood and directly into Lobelia is the enjoyment that comes from playing a
few chords and kind of emotively noodling along to those simple progressions. It's a very basic exercise and I do a lot of it on the album. I guess I learned how to 'solo' from playing Pink Floyd songs and I learned how to keep a song's foundation simple by listening to a lot of punk and more basic rock bands. Things like field recordings and the heavier, more obvious repetition of riﬀs wasn't something I'd really considered doing until maybe my mid-twenties.
stuﬀ, like the recordings for "The Sounds of Science". Other than that, I'm not sure I really ever consciously determined to try mimicking another artist's style or sound. I'm certain that I'm impacted by the music I listen to daily, but I've probably just stolen other artists' ideas without even realizing it! Wish I could identify them now, so I could give them some credit.
- Are there any recent influences that impacted on the album?
I am kind of always recording. That's the beauty of 'home recording', I think. I'm working on a few odds and ends and also something a bit more 'focused' that is centered around a piece I recorded last year but have been holding on to--a longer sampled and sequenced piece that I'm now recording some corresponding pieces for. But I'm not sure what will come of any of the works in progress yet, so I can't really say anything specific about their futures.
I don't know if I can very easily identify my recent influences. The last few years have been a deep immersion into more experimental and non-traditional music for me, so I'm sure that other musicians putting stuﬀ out through similar channels to some of my own previous work have had an eﬀect on me. Consciously I can credit Jeﬀ Astin (aka Xiphiidae) with making me want to do stuﬀ like what's on "I Forgot". That track was recorded with a pretty specific goal in terms of 'sound' or mood. I don't think I achieved it by any means, but I am oen trying to 'capture' his sound when I play more nebulous pieces. It's impossible, I think. One of the tracks was cued by a Yo La Tengo song; I won't say which of mine and which of theirs. Come to think of it, Yo La Tengo has had a huge influence in my playing over the last few years. Especially their more mellowed-out and meandering
- What plans now? Are you recording again?
I certainly want to continue to extend the style of play that I used in Lobelia for some future works--shorter, more concise songs. Not sure if anything else will be out in 2011. The album is available now from Preservation, packaged in one of the label’s characteristically crisp designs and is well worthy of any attention able to be given to it. - I Alex Gibson
Austin Buckett Shuttered Shine
The sun’s creeping down these curtains, A blind shutter’s Stuttered shine. - J. Hayes Austin Buckett is probably best known to readers of Fluid for his role in experimental jazz outfit The Pollen Trio (whose release ‘230509’ was my personal most-listenedto record of last year), but a parallel career also runs other directions – he dips into experimental rock with the young quartet Kasha, and is also an accomplished composer of some note, having scored numerous pieces for solo performance, chamber groups and large ensembles aer graduating from the ANU School Of Music in 2010. Most notable of these is his recent CD ‘Stuttershine’, recorded over a number of years, released in July by HellosQuare records. The album is striking and challenging; dense and spacious. A study in contrasts with a focus on dark shades, the percussive piano work is also laced with striking and at times menacing string work from the Silo String Quartet (Aaron Barnden, Andrea Keeble, Christian Read and Caerwen Martin) and is also graced with an evocative cover by Merryn Sommerville. The nine tracks on the album were taken from a one hour composition originally recorded as a single entity, then reworked through post production into separate pieces using alternate takes and manipulation of diﬀerent layers – which sounds as though it would resemble a audio Frankenstein, but is instead an engaging and cohesive musical excursion into fringe contemporary classical. It also contains subtle electronic work; track four, “Animal” is tonally similar to what surrounds it, but breaks up the flow of the record with textural shis and
manipulations you wouldn’t expect from the outset. As a result, the project has a hypnotic eﬀect – you’re drawn into the subtlety of the environment, but at the same time kept on guard by the darker and more abrasive nature of the score. I was lucky enough to spend some time with Austin to discuss ‘Stuttershine’ a couple of months back; and I think I really only scratched the surface of the story behind it. The album was in production/ gestation for an age, and occasionally when I asked questions about details of the recording there would be a quick look out of the window and a think before a response. Buckett is considered in what he does – that much is obvious from his music, but he also gave a great deal of thought to the way he spoke about it. There have likely been several diﬀerent versions of the album, and you could see him scanning through which versions he was discussing before he settled on an answer. There is some depth in the process - both for the listener and also, I suspect, for the artist. A little more to it than just putting this thing here, and that thing there. A little more than just assembly… - How long did the record take to complete, from composition to it being pressed? AB: I can’t remember exactly, but I think the record took around 2-3 years from the original score to being pressed. There were a lot of people involved in the process, including Alistair Noble who coproduced the Silo recording session and was an amazing point of reference for when I was really getting lost in the work. - How long did it take to write the score? Was it a long process, or did it come easily?
AB: The score took around 1 year to complete. It was quite a long process, and taught me that oen even when you think you are refining something, it may not be actually happening. You get very close to a work over this time and oen a little too close. A little unsensitive I guess. That was good when I had the chance to just let it be alone for a while. - Who were the musicians involved? AB: Silo String Quartet, who are a great new music ensemble based in Melbourne. They were great to work with. - How did you come to be involved with them? AB: I approached Silo about a collaboration in late 2009. They were keen, so we took it from there. They were extremely professional and accommodating of all of my crazy ideas and changes in rehearsals. - What is the idea behind the title, and the quote on the cover? AB: The idea behind the title comes from that quote on the cover, it’s a small verse I guess that my friend wrote at the end of an email, I really loved how clear and refined it was. I also liked this image of ‘the blind shutters stuttered shine’ and it reminded me of that image you have when you’re driving past trees and the sunlight is obscured, and flashing through the trees in this staggered way. I like that idea of objects obscuring any sort of light. Not sure how it directly connects to the work but it’s a nice image for me and seemed to sit right with the album.
- How was the music on the album constructed? AB: The piece was originally written as a one hour piano quintet for Silo, though the final product of that wasn’t really sitting right with me. I ended up leaving the material to just sit on its own for a while, and when I came back I decided to take the sections that I felt had the strongest identities and approached them as separate pieces, with the occasional use of electronics, post production in terms of layering and subtracting sounds as well as the use of some additional recordings. One of the main reasons I wasn’t into the final score was that my whole notion of what I wanted out of a long form piece had changed by the time it was finished. It just sounded to me like it was several pieces stuck together in this one hour mass, but I have a diﬀerent idea for longer pieces now where one would sit on an idea and let it develop on its own accord as opposed to presenting these clearly defined new sections, blatantly developing and in many ways to me much too historically suggestive and cleche. I get very pissed oﬀ at my work in this way sometimes- if it doesn’t work out right in terms of aesthetic and the clarity of that aesthetic. So the post production I guess became the next level of the composition process, and resulted in the 9 separate tracks that are ‘Stuttershine’. So essentially it transformed from a traditionally notated piano quintet into a studio album. Most of the music that I feel influenced me at the time of making this record has is
quality of neutrality that really appeals to me. It’s as if the music is never obliged to go anywhere or build to anything (although it oen does). When I realize that this is happening, and that the piece is repeating gestures I feel my focus refining itself to momentums and the qualities of the sound (unaﬀected by context). A huge album for me in this regard was Wewrner Dafeldecker’s solo bass record ‘Long Dead Machines’. Also Morton Feldman’s late works such as ‘Neither’, ‘For Bunita Marcus’ and his second string quartet have a huge eﬀect on me, and how I think about music… I think. I’m endlessly fascinated by the work of Chris Abrahams and feel his solo work is one of the truly original things happening now, as well as the work of Peter Ablinger, in terms of post production and what I was getting into at the time. Chris Abrahams’ Room 40 albums ‘Thrown’ and his latest one, ‘Play Scar’, I think had a real impact on me. I say I think because I can never really tell with these things, but I love these albums and love the way he organizes the sounds in terms of layering in post production. It reminds me a lot of what Morton Feldman was quoted to have said - “I don’t compose, I assemble.” Or when asked about process he would say “I put this thing here, and that thing there”.
The way he has arranged sounds that obviously won’t or wouldn’t be reproduced live and definitively in his final way that conventional classical or composed music is. It’s more a personal thing and an aesthetic thing than relying on others reproduction of your music. However in saying that I am also open to this idea, and the original score would still be cool to hear played sometime. - What did you feel about the initial product didn't work, or didn't sit right? What weren't you happy with? AB: This almost always happens with my work. I read an interview just the other day with Thom Yorke where he said about Radiohead that ‘the premise is aiming and missing’. There is always going to be material to cut. The main thing for me was deciding when to stop. Along the way of this process of subtraction I oen start adding things too, so basically I am a constant contradiction in my process, and that paradox when it starts to build some momentum and friction somehow produces what I feel closest to… most of the time. ................. ‘Stuttershine’ is a challenging and rewarding piece, well deserving of the obvious care and eﬀort given to it by the composer. - Alex Gibson
And in terms of process that really is all it is… for me, anyway. Which is just a prolifically simple way of saying it though.