Saturday, March 21, 2015
I haven't posted about a Record Bag for a while. I'm really taken with the Eastpak bag I found. However, this bag, a weekender from BLK PINE WORKSHOP and GHOSTLY INTERNATIONAL really caught my attention.
Billed as the ideal bag for DJs and weekend travellers alike ... Ghostly x Blk Pine Workshop's aptly named "Weekender" offers the perfect amount of room to carry a few changes of clothing along with 20 vinyl records.
It comes in at 16" wide x 14" tall x 5" deep and features 1 large exterior pocket, 2 small exterior pockets, 1 interior laptop sleeve, 2 small interior pockets, interior d-ring to clip key ring, removable cotton webbing cross body strap. Oh and it is made in the US of A.
All yours for $185 + shipping.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
"Inside Life" by Bruno Sanfilippo is abstract neo-classicism at it's very best: adventurous and inspiring, courageous and ’out there’ ... yet wonderfully introspective and bare, minimal and refined; I found it a joy to consume.
There is much to be said for this kind of abstract expression: the piano, strings and percussive found-sounds all playing their part to set "Inside Life" afloat and, in doing so, creating an abstract dreamlike state that I found mesmerising.
It is a remarkable album that could easily be the soundtrack to a slightly off-kilter character-driven movie with all it's intricacies and repeated themes. In places I was reminded me of Mica Levi's seminal soundtrack for "Under The Skin" and that is no bad thing.
Julián Kancepolski's expressive cello, under Sanfilippo's direction, both complements and juxtaposes the piano and electronics presented. Sanfilippo paints with sound and utilises all the elements at his disposal to create.
And create he has, moulding wonderfully expressive soundscapes such as "Camille", a tribute to Camille Saint-Saëns that features the voice of Mariel Aguilar, whose voice provides a haunting nature and makes the track an utter delight ... the sparse opener "Sudden Quietness", a track that really sets the tone for the whole album with it's periods of silence that complement the melancholic strings ... or "A Door Opens Forever", a track the piano masters of yesteryear would have been proud of. Sanfilippo is a talented individual, he even lends his voice to the final (and title) track, the eerie "Inside Life".
I would highly recommend "Inside Life" to anyone with a passing fancy for abstract neo-classical expressionism. Bruno Sanfilippo has done himself proud.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
I have grown to really cherish the music that Hibernate puts out. Hibernate is a micro-label from Halifax in Northern England that specialises in releasing the most heartbreakingly beautiful ambient music. Run by Jonathan, they focus on more electroacoustic, glitchy sound-sculptures and feature such ambient heavyweights as Will Bolton, The Inventors of Aircraft, and Danny Clay (who featured in a wee interview last year ) on their roster.
Hibernate have three current releases that are worthy of your attention:
First off is "Ganymede" by Danny Clay. Clay is a musician whose previous output has struck a chord with me. He takes a very relaxed yet deliberate approach to his craft, creating soundscapes with depth and imagination. According to the release notes, "Ganymede" was created entirely from the opening bars of a Schubert art song, "Ganymed" based on a text by Goethe. In the poem, the speaker becomes profoundly allured by the beauty of God as manifested in the emergence of spring.
The notes go to to describe what Schubert's Ganymed means to Clay: it sits at a strange intersection between innocence and loss, childhood and maturity, the beautiful and the sinister.
I can't think of a better description for this release: one that sits in the intersection of innocence and loss, childhood and maturity, the beautiful and the sinister. It is in this juxtaposition, this uncertainty, that the music comes to life. Glitchy pops and foundsounds interact with divine melody to form something entrancing. I found "Ganymede" to be wondrously hypnotic: music to escape to, a destination for the times I needed to feel both what has been and what can be.
Danny Clay has done it again, he has created something of worth & I commend you to check it out.
Federico Durrand is a new name to me. His album - "Música para Manuel" - is a series of five tracks that vary in length from over 13 minutes to under 3, five magical expressions that captivate and entrance the listener with their sounds and their silence. Durrand has managed to capture the essence of Brian Eno's early ambient work by focussing as much of the gaps in the sound as much as the sounds themselves. I, for one, am mesmerised by his ability to do this. Drones and motifs derived from found-sounds and glichy pops are present but they presented in the most delicate and gentle manner. In fact it is the unweathered, unhurried elegance of the music that captivates me the most. This is music for a summer's day, where warmth and beauty surround and inspire.
I was certainly inspired by "Música para Manuel" and commend Federico Durrand to you.
The last release I wish to consider is something completely different from the first two but yet somehow in keeping: "Through the Winter Woods" by Tegh & Kamyar Tavakoli. It features three drone-based tracks that make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. The opening track - “hollow” - is an exhilarating journey with a decidely euphoric climax, it is a track I thoroughly enjoyed and one that will find it's way onto a circumambient mix in due course (with Jonathan’s permission, of course). The remainder of the EP - “Fractal” and “Disappeared Stratum” - is similarly euphoric. Big, open soundscapes are presented with walls of sound that simply enthralled me.
I'm not one for noise but in the context of this EP, in the manner it is presented, it just works - Tegh & Kamyar Tavakoli use noise almost as another instrument, instead of having frantic, shoegazy guitars... they use noise and use it very well. "Through the Winter Woods" is an excellent EP that left me wanting more from the partnership.
Hibernate are one of the most exciting micro-labels around and sit strongly in comparison with their peers: labels likes of Twice Removed, SOFT and Elian Rec. I look forward to hearing more from them and hopefully getting to know Jonathan that bit better.
Saturday, March 07, 2015
I'm coming late to the Retropromenade party but so glad I’ve arrived. For those of you who don't know about Retropromenade, they are a label that specialises in synthesiser remakes, reworkings and revisionings of familiar music along with original music that draws on the rich, wide, expressive synth tradition.
It was through their recent work based on Twin Peaks entitled “The Next Peak” that I got to know about all they had to offer. I’m a bit of Twin Peaks fan and volume 1, their tribute of Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtrack, really caught my attention, both as a faithful cover and as an innovative expression in its own right. It is a masterful compilation where each track brings something unique to the table and yet there is a distinct consistency apparent.
Volume 2 is more of a reimagining from the source material and is just as strong, albeit more imaginative than faithful; with the third and final volume in the series a compilation of original music inspired by the show and it’s seminal soundtrack. If you love the show and love synths then you will be like me, in aural heaven.
They have other music on offer from their Bandcamp page, pieces like a tribute to Batman which is very good and extremely vivid, albeit with a slight video game soundtrack feel. Retropromenade’s offering has a very 80’s aesthetic, both musically and visually; it is something I find refreshing but may not be for everyone.
If you are like me and on a bit of a sythn tip at the moment then I would heartily recommend you check out Retropromenade’s bandcamp site, their Next Peaks content is worth the visit alone.
Monday, March 02, 2015
“Different Streams” by EUS, Postdrome, and Saåad is a very interesting proposition: three unique talents in collaboration, developing and then presenting something rather wonderful for wider consumption.
To my absolute delight I can confirm that the creative synergy displayed on this SOFT Recordings release is one so tight, so together that it is impossible to know where one artist starts and the other stops. There are no seams on show, no means of differentiating between the artists, just exquisite experimental soundscapes.
What is presented on this album is an utter delight to me - music of such depth and emotion that it was hard not to be moved when immersed within the tracks. This is music of cinematic proportions: the rasping synths that give a vastness of scale to the track “wait”, for example ... or multiple layers of sound on “the only path” ... could easily provide backing to a cult celluloid masterpiece. I found myself delightfully lost in the various soundscapes on more than one occasion.
There is a real risk with this kind of ambient expression that ideas can be overplayed to the point of monotony. Repetition is a useful technique but it can be overused but by adding additional layers of sound, the artist can keep the overall sound fresh and ensure the continued attention of the listener. “Different Streams” is set apart because, quite simply - EUS, Postdrome & Saåad know this, they get it and they do it ... they keep their music alive and fresh using elements like birdsong and other found-sounds, or percussive elements such as the skittering sound in “Snowfall”. These additions keep the wolves of monotony from their door and, as such, I consider “Different Streams” to be an exemplary album, a 52 minute masterclass in ambient sound-sculpture, one that I would highly recommend.
As for the highlights, other than those mentioned above, “Deaf Implodes” is haunting in a John Carpenter kind of way, disconcerting yet highly addictive ... and the penultimate track “Fractus” is an utterly compelling soundscape with rain pattering down, waves of sound crashing and an unshakable feeling of Blade Runner. In fact, Roy Batty’s monologue at the end of the film would not be out of place layered into this track.
From beginning to end, “Different Streams” by EUS, Postdrome, and Saåad is a belter of a release. It is next level innovative and a real joy to consume. If you like atmospheric sound-sculptures, this is a “must have” release.
Sunday, March 01, 2015
I heard some great sounds last month. My review of “Different Streams” by EUS, Postdrome, and Saåad will drop tomorrow ... needless to say, it's a cracker!
Other music of note that I haven't covered includes Danny Clay's latest release for the awesome Hibernate Records ... I'm currently formulating some thoughts on it ... and K. Novotny's latest.
Lastly, David Lawrie's debut album is amazing ... I supported his bid to get his album self-released on vinyl and can't wait to get the LP. It sounds great on mp3, so I can't wait to hear in on vinyl.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
I’ll openly admit to being a fan of Zenjungle’s music: I love the way he creates beautiful ambient soundscapes and then layers his trademark saxophone into the mix to create something truly next-level. His music gets me each and every time ... specifically his saxophone. No other instrument can convey such such emotion and express such feeling, except perhaps for the electric guitar, as the saxophone. It does, however, get dismissed too easily as the instrument of “love” when it can be used for so much more. Zenjungle understands this and uses his chosen instrument in wholly new ways, creating ambience and furthering his ambient expression.
For “A Changing Light”, Zenjungle has collaborated with Valiska to create some truly extraordinary soundscapes and chosen to explore the more experiment side of his expression. Yes, the saxophone is present but it is more understated, not really arriving properly until the third track - “Nightwinds”. However, when it does arrive it is more than welcome.
Prior to “Nightwinds” we have two gloriously layered ambient tracks - “Derive” and “Seawards” - that are filled with heartfelt expression. These tracks, filled with their sweeping sonics and glitchy sounds, are delightfully engaging: they are tracks in which I found it easy to get lost in.
These tracks build nicely towards the third track - ”Nightwinds” - which is the highlight for me, mainly because of Zenjungle’s saxophone and the accompanying piano. I cannot adequately express my delight when I heard this piece: it is sheer unadulterated bliss! It is more “neo-classical” than the sounds that prepare the way for it and this makes it all the more delicious. It seems both slightly incongruous and perfectly “right” within the sequencing of the EP: as the track progresses it becomes more in keeping with the earlier tracks before passing the baton to the final track, a delightful ambient excursion that completes the EP.
“Passage” is the longest track on the EP and is a slow burning affair that really does provide closure and resolution with some exemplary ambient guitar taking prominence. The way it builds is an utter delight, giving way to an almost shoegazy sonic environment where waves of sound overwhelm the listener.
And then, 26 minutes after pressing play, the listener is left with a deafening silence and the only real choice available to them: to press play and listen again.
I really enjoyed “A Changing Light” by Valiska and Zenjungle, and look forward to more from them both, collectively and individually, in the future.
Have a listen below and if you like what you hear, please do what you can to support these talented musicians.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
I don’t normally write about "major" releases anymore, I figure they get enough coverage in the bigger outlets. However, when it comes to John Carpenter's new album "Lost Themes", I am prepared to bend this rule.
I was given "Lost Themes" as a gift from Wolfgang Merx, a synthesiser obsessive and a talented artist on my wee netlabel’s roster. I was grateful but unsure as to what to expect. I love Carpenter’s soundtracks: I am a big fan of the music of both "the Fog" and "Assault on Precinct 13". I love them as films too but their music is extra special to me because they were an early introduction to non-guitar orientated music and sit in my mind alongside Kraftwerk, Vangelis and Tangerine Dream as truly influential.
That said, I’m not sure his earlier themes have aged particularly well. There is a sparseness to the soundscapes that betrays, in my opinion, the time they were created.
That said, this is a minor criticism that is outweighed by the sheer familiarity & recognisable iconic nature of Carpenter’s music. It was, however, an underlying worry that I had when coming to "Lost Themes".
I cannot express how wrong I was! "Lost Themes" is utterly brilliant. Take Carpenter’s iconic expression, add depth and multiple layers of sound, and a predominately uptempo beat ... and you have possibly one of the best albums on 2015. This is Ghostly International-level awesome, in my humble opinion. I could have been easily persuaded that Tycho had had a hand in the development.
The 9 tracks presented are wonderfully varied with real depth, vibrance & feeling in each one. I felt a tangible level of excitement when listening for the first time: I wondered what would come next, what sounds would be used, where would the track go? Carpenter never let me down. Not once.
Yes, some of the synth sounds used sound a bit "dated" but that’s part of the overall charm. This isn’t an album from the awesome RETRO PROMENADE that pays homage to a time gone by ... no way! Carpenter has taken his familiar sounds and updated them for a 2015 audience: this is the retro-futurism of now & my goodness it works for me. Carpenter has over-delivered on my expectations. So much so, I will be grabbing this album on vinyl at the first available opportunity.
If you like synth music or indeed varied, vibrant sounds then please check out "Lost Themes" by the master John Carpenter. You won’t be disappointed. Have a wee listen to the the tracks below to see what I mean.
Friday, February 06, 2015
"Your empire, in decline" by Hessien is the first release on Gavin Catling’s imprint - the long story recording company - and it is a belter. So good, in fact, that I called it in my Top 50-ish albums of 2014 ... even though it was released on the 1st January, 2015;
"Your empire, in decline" is wonderfully immersive, not in a haunting or overly eery manner, but in a layered wall-of-sound kind of way. It envelopes you in multiple layers of sound, sounds that create a warm, wide foundation for the sparse melodies that are expertly built on and in this foundation.
Hessien aka the duo of Tim Martin (Maps and Diagrams, Black Elk, Atlantis) and Charles Sage (y0t0, The Rothko Chapel) have created ideal headphone music that blocks out the world around the listener and replaces it with soundscapes that are delightfully engaging, imaginative & expressive. I often speak of music to get lost in, this is one such album.
What sets this album apart is their exemplary use of melodic repetition to juxtapose the wide, sprawling layers of ambient sound. These sparse melodies, played on guitar, give the listener something to hold on to, something to focus on, something they’ll remember and even whistle later in the day. These melodies provide depth in contrast to the wide openness of the backing sounds ... kind of like when a guitar riff overcomes the wall of noise in a shoegaze track to stand out ... and through this use of contrast, this depth, Hessien escape the confines of their drones to create something more, something rather special indeed.
I thoroughly enjoyed this album and look forward to more from both Hessien and the Long Story Recording Company.
On Wednesday evening I posted some thought's on Nguyễn Hồng Nhung / Sound Awakener's new album - "September Traveler" ... it's an album that intrigued me. As is my want, I asked if she would complete my wee blog interview. I'm delighted to say she did ... here's what she had to say:
1) Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Nguyễn Hồng Nhung (Vietnamese name order, to avoid confusion, let’s call me as Nhung Nguyen and it’s a female name). I was born and now living in Hanoi, Vietnam. I play with sounds and listen to them most of the time.
2) What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working with a lot of ideas at the moment and everything is getting really, really exciting. I am also preparing for my upcoming release, titled September Traveler. The album is a collection of my early works in 2011 and 2012 (except "The call is fading"). It is also the soundtrack for Irene Cruz’s exhibition What dreams are made of, which will take place in Berlin from 6th to 18th February, 2015 (https://soundawakener.bandcamp.com/album/september-traveler).
3) Who inspires you?
- Name an artist who has inspired you.
I’d go with a Vietnamese composer this time – Mr. Ngọc Đại
In case you don’t know him, here is a trailer of a documentary about his former project:
I know Mr. Đại personally and he understands my music with great depth. He encourages me, a lot.
- Name place that has inspired you.
It is obviously Hanoi, where I’m living. One more I’d like to add is Hội An ancient town – I composed a lot of music there during my holiday in 2012 and 2014.
- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.
Piano, books and handmade things.
4) What drives you to do what you do?
It is my need to express that drives me to compose, record and mix my own tracks. It is also the extremely strong connection between me and nature, me and freedom that keeps the music flow.
5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?
I wish to express my awareness and freedom in the music. That’s all.
6) What role does community play in what you do?
The community, especially the music community here has helped me adapt and exchange my ideas with others. Collaboration is always a great chance to learn and I’m happy to be surrounded by like – minded people.
7) What is next for what you do?
More recording, more mixing, more collaboration and maybe live performances.
Thanks Nhung for your time and for your music. "September Traveler" is release today - 6th February, 2015.