Thursday, April 17, 2014

Two powerful ambient releases for Good Friday

Recorded one year ago (but released in July) ... "Good Friday (waag_rel026)" by Stephen Briggs features 160 minutes of deep, dark improvised ambient music ... in keeping with the mood of that dark day.

As I said in the release notes...
To say this is an expression of Briggs' faith would not be entirely accurate … this is an expression of more than his faith … it is an expression of his humanity and his experience … and I am grateful for this whole-of-self expression. It inspires me.
"Good Friday (waag_rel026)" by Stephen Briggs is available for 'pay what you want' over at my netlabels' bandcamp page ... take a listen below:


Released yesterday, "Without Sin (waag_rel047)" by Matthew VandenBrook is a sub-60 minute longform ambient piece that works for Good Friday. While it wasn't necessarily intended for Good Friday I have received remarkable inspiration from this piece as I have walked my own, personal Lenten journey.

As I say in my notes...
It is a dark, brooding piece of longform ambient music that threatens to break out into glorious celebration at any moment. It has a sense of anticipation that I find infectious ... it draws you in as a listener and carries you along with the thought: 'what comes next?' ... there is a percussive sound, for example, that could be soldiers marching ... there are voices that appear as if they are on the wind ... there is a tolling bell near the end ... it is a fascinating journey.
"Without Sin (waag_rel047)" by Matthew VandenBrook is also available for 'pay what you want' over at my netlabels' bandcamp page ... take a listen below:


Loving ... The Vinyl Factory's YouTube channel

I really like the videos The Vinyl Factory produce and thought I'd share a few of my faves ...

First off ... The Vinyl Factory talk to four of the Secret 7" designers who have created sleeves for this Saturday's Record Store Day 2014 edition.

We then have this video about record hunting in Hawaii ... it is a journey into Hawaiian music culture and utterly fascinating.

This look inside the Numero Group is fascinating too ...

... as is this look inside Jack White's Third Man Records.

I suggest you bookmark this link - - and get digging.


Seven Questions with ... Fletcher McDermott aka Twincities

I recently got an out-of-the-blue email from Fletcher McDermott aka Twincities. He shared with me his new album - “variations for the celesta” - and spoke about his journey from FutureRecordings (post) to Eilean Records.

According to McDermott, the album is a concept piece of sorts ... all the tracks being based around recordings of an old celesta he personally made. Somewhere around 80% of the audio on “variations for the celesta” is originally from the celesta although it would be hard to tell that after his delightful electronic manipulation.

When I got this email I did 3 things ...

1) Look up 'celesta' in wikipedia: A celesta is a struck idiophone operated by a keyboard - it looks similar to an upright piano (four- or five-octave), or a large wooden music box (three-octave) ...
2) Ask for a download having being totally intrigued by the possibilities of McDermott's album ... and
3) Ask if McDermott would agree to completing my wee blog interview: I want to know more about the person who can make an instrument from which to make such utterly beautiful music as the music on  “variations for the celesta” ...

Fletcher McDermott agreed to points 2 and 3 (don't tell him about #1) ... and this is what he had to say with regards to #3:


1) Who are you and what do you do?
my name is fletcher mcdermott. i’m 24 and from long island, new york. i make music which generally ends up with an ambient/electroacoustic sound, but i have no rules about that in my writing. i’m more about my process than needing the final product to sound like a particular genre.

2) What are you working on at the moment?
i’m already deep into the follow up to “variations for the celesta”! i had a small handful of pieces i was working on while writing variations that couldn’t end up on there because they had nothing to do with a celesta. i also had a few ideas that had been started as compilation pieces but ended up feeling as though they weren’t right for that type of release (songs for compilations are tricky, sometimes things that work beautifully in the middle of a full length would end up leaving a horrible representation of your sound on a comp).

sometime in march while variations was being mastered i was looking through files and realized i had 10 or so songs that were all nearing completion and had some similar vibes going on. i guess more directly i’ve been working on getting these songs from various places to come together and have an “album sound”. i’m big on albums sounding like cohesive pieces, not just a collection of works. once these are sounding how i want them i’m going to get to work on some string arrangements and then they’re slated to be released sometime later this year!

3) Who inspires you? 
- Name an artist who has inspired you.
- Name place that has inspired you.
- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.

inspiration is a tricky thing. i’ve always loved this style of music but i think it was hearing Max Richter’s “infra” for the first time that made me really want to sit down and make it. even though his work doesn’t sound much like mine at all in the end, something about the blending or noisy electronic/staticy elements with lush acoustic sounds just felt like something i wanted to do.

i want to say my studio constantly inspires me. i’m a bit of a gear nerd so something about being surrounded by beautiful equipment on all sides just opens something up. i didn’t have a “proper” studio to work in up until a year or so ago so that change has been huge in effecting the way in which i write. previously everything was so scattered i’d have to unpack/setup whatever piece of equipment i wanted to use individually and record it sitting on my bed, then pack it away again and work on it via headphones. now a have a decent sized, dedicated room with recording gear, amps, synths, buckets of pedals and my piano all setup and ready to go for me. i never would have finished this album without that environment to work it.

4) What drives you to do what you do? 
creativity? desire? i don’t really know what to call it but not playing music just doesn’t feel right. there hasn’t been a time in my life that i wasn’t making music in some way in the last 10 years so i’m not really sure what life without it would even feel like anymore! i’m sure i wouldn’t like it though.

5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?
it’s hard to ask non lyrical music to impart any “values” onto people for me i guess? if it is going to leave you with something i hope it’s positive. if not, then i’m more than happy to just be the soundtrack to a small chunk of someones day, whether it consciously is there with you or just floating in the background.

6) What role does community play in what you do?
up until very recently i wouldn’t have know how to answer this, but in the last little bit of time i’ve found a large network of like minded, supportive artists who i’m glad to be connected to. i’m hoping to expand those bonds more over the next year or so as i go full on into releasing solo material again and hopefully figure out/start playing live again. it’s amazing how much the words of someone whose music you love can mean mean when they tell you they love what you’re doing. i’ve had that experience several times in the last few months with both mathias (Monolyth & Cobalt) who runs the label variations is released on (eilean rec) reaching out to me to be his first release and a handful of artists whose work i’ve been following closely for years who happened to listen to my album and contact me. it’s been pretty surreal.

7) What is next for what you do?
if things keep working out, hopefully more albums, more writing, more music. i really like churning out a constant stream of stuff so i hope i don’t have to slow down anytime soon.

i’d like to start playing live again soon. i haven’t done a solo performance in years and i’m not quite sure how i’d perform my new material really. i don’t want to hide behind a laptop screen so i’ll have to work out some interesting ways to play things without bringing a whole studio setup out with me.

i have a few possible collaborations in talks right now that i’m hoping can begin producing material by the summertime.

i’m hoping to get into some soundtrack type work sometime soon. i’m on the lookout for projects. i feel that type of work is something my style of writing is particularly suited for so hopefully i’ll get to fully try my hand at it in the near future!

other than that i’m always looking for what the world throws at me. the terrain of music is pretty constantly changing so who knows what new stuff might be happening in the next few years!


“variations for the celesta” has already sucked me in ... and I will bring some thoughts on the album in due course.

What I will say, for now, is the music is utterly beautiful and I am in awe of someone like McDermott who can do what he does. Music needs talent like his and kudos to Eliean for picking up and supporting this release.

Have a listen below and do what you can to support independent music.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Loving ... The Secret of the Sea by Bruno Bavota

"The Secret of the Sea" is a truly exceptional album from Italian pianist Bruno Bavota. It is a captivating experience, one that takes the listener to a place of sheer, unadulterated beauty.

His piano playing on this album is truly first class - technically brilliant but with a tone & approach that focuses of melody & feeling rather than solely virtuoso expression.

This level of expressed feeling was something I had come to expect from Bavota after being beguiled by "La casa sulla Luna" last year. There is more, however, within "The Secret of the Sea" ... take the opening track as an example: "Me and you" features an electric guitar / piano duet that is so utterly glorious that I asked to use in on my recent podcast - circumambient_011. It has a post-rock vibe to it that just blows me away. It opens "The Secret of the Sea" so well with the drifting ambient guitar & piano-driven melody.

The third track - "the man who chased the Sea" - features an acoustic guitar / piano duet that is similarly lovely. It has an euphoric feel to it ... it builds in intensity and feeling through its 4m27s duration ... with the introduction of subtle percussion adding to the overall effect. A sun-riser of a track, if ever I've heard one.

"The Secret of the Sea" is a treasure trove of an album, filled with real gems like the ones mentioned above & others like "Constellations" with its subtle guitar & upbeat piano-led melody ... or the exquisite grace of "If only my heart were wide like the Sea" with some seriously gorgeous acoustic guitar playing intertwined with Bavota's signature piano.

Tracks like "Les nuits blanches" & "Plasson" where it is just Bavota's piano are also utterly precious. He has true skill & these tracks demonstrate this without him shouting from the rooftops with twiddly runs or more notes than necessary. His singleminded focus on melody is exemplary & these tracks prove this point extremely well.

The stand-out track, for me, is  "the boy & the whale" with the field recording of the ocean as backdrop to a truly elegant melody played on the piano. It is simply gorgeous & mesmerising all at once.

The music contained with "The Secret of the Sea" is up there with some of the best neo-classical expression I have ever heard. It is utterly captivating & a delight to consume.

My thanks go to Bruno Bavota for recording something this good & letting me in on it before it was release. "The Secret of the Sea" will be high on my "best of 2014" without any doubt?.

Put it this way: "The Secret of the Sea" deserves to be huge! It should be used as incidental music on the BBC. I want to see an Osprey catch fish in slow motion and in HD with a song like "the man who chased the Sea" as it's backing.

If you enjoy piano-led melodies and neo-classical soundscapes then you will love "The Secret of the Sea". I do.

- Tx

"The Secret of the Sea" is released on Monday, 21st April on Pyschonavigation.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Epic Rap Battle: Nerd vs Geek + Good Mythical Morning

My eldest daughter turned me onto this video from the chaps behind 'Good Mythical Morning' ... Rhett & Link. I proudly connected with the Geek ... and really, really liked some of the ideas presented.

Now ... if you are not familiar with 'Good Mythical Morning' then can I please recommend you watch this video. It had me hooked on their brand of crazy.

Recommended viewing. Thanks for the heads-up Dayna!


Soaked in Bleach

20 years after Cobain's apparent suicide "Soaked in Bleach" looks really interesting.

Check it out.


(Thanks to Roy for the link)

40 Days of Enough ... Day 33 - "Holst's The Planets" by Concertgebouworkest, Amsterdam & Neville Marriner

Olly bought me this LP in late November, 2013. She picked it up in East Kilbride for 50p, knowing it was one of my fave Classical pieces.

Holst's "The Planets" is an exceptional piece of atmospheric music ... it moves from the raucous and moving ... to the gentle and pastoral.

It is possibly the best 50p my Olly has spent on me and I cherish it.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

40 Days of Enough ... Day 32 - "Abort" by Tribe

I have "Abort" by Tribe on LP, CD AND cassette ... oh and I have it on MP3 too. It is a fascinating album from 1991 that both Olly and I really enjoy.

I picked the LP up for £3 from the Oxfam in Royal Exchange Square in Glasgow late last year when I started collecting records again. I couldn't quite believe my luck when I spotted it.

As for whether vinyl is best ... I guess that's down to personal choice ... but it works for me.


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

40 Days of Enough ... Day 31 - "Songs in the Key of Life" by Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder is my Elvis. He is a creative genius who never stops giving through his music. I am particularly taken with the five LPs he recorded in the early to mid 70s.

"Songs in the Key of Life" is simply breathtaking ... it is future soul that must have sounded other-worldly when it was released because, quite simply, it sounds other-worldly today.

I think it is the only album I have that has been preserved into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress ... they called it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

I picked up the LP and accompanying EP on vinyl at a record fair in Glasgow for £7. I then was given a copy by my colleague and friend Carol. I gave this copy away to a fellow vinyl-loving colleague.

It doesn't get much better than this ... and while I intend on getting the other four LPs from Wonder's truly great period ... this will remain my favourite.


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

40 Days of Enough ... Day 30 - "Abbey Road" by The Beatles

I love The Beatles.

It's as simple as that. I love them. I discovered them later in life ... sometime after 2000 when I picked up their "1" CD in a charityshop in Gourock (near the awesome Flava coffeeshop).

Late last year I got given some records by my dear friend and colleague Carol. She had cleared her loft and wanted me to have her hubby's record collection. I was instantly drawn to The Beatles LPs ... of which Abbey Road was my fave (it was a toss-up with the White Album).

I love this record ... it puts a smile on my face each and every time I play it. It is utter genius.

I also love this record because it came from Carol. She's an awesome lass and I have many fond memories of working with her. I was grateful that she thought of me rather than putting the LPs on eBay or something.



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