Tuesday, May 31, 2011
My timeline on Twitter is a continual source of inspiration... and Rothko Everywhere is a prime example of this. Not content with just making awesome ambient soundscapes... James Fahy aka ambienteer sees the work of abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko hidden in the everyday world... and brings it to life for others to share in.
I recommend you add the blog to your RSS reader... for a daily dose of visual inspiration and delight.
Before the Storm is the outcome of an experimental collaboration between Wolfgang Merx on Keyboards, Synthesizers, Harmonica, Vocals; and Artem Lauk on guitar.
It features seven "conversations" between the synths/sequencer and the guitar. I say conversations because there is an organic and improvised interaction between the two instruments... a two-ing and fro-ing... a call and response... a synchronicity... a dissonance and disparity... an interaction between the two... that creates a wonderfully vivid ambient series of soundscapes.
At times the sound can become cluttered and dissonant... but this just adds to the intrigue and elusive nature of the pieces.
At other times elements and moments within the pieces have a purity of essence... and a resounding clarity... that warms the heart and provides solace for the thoughts.
There is almost a "found sound" element to the pieces... with instrumentation mimicking the world in which we reside... "birds of passage" for example starts off with a sound that makes me think of old American train yards... before psychedelic vocals permeate the piece with a sense of the other-worldy.
What becomes apparent early on is that this album is not predictable... except in its unpredictability... but then the best pieces from the likes of Tangerine Dream or REDSHIFT are similarly obtuse and challenging when approached for the first time... but with patience and, for me, the right mood... these experimental soundscapes become wondrously rich and rewarding.
And it is their very experiential nature that is most enticing... because they stir the desire to be part of these pieces... to witness their birth as part of a performance.
It is with this desire that I leave you... I would have loved to have been party to the recording... to have sat in close proximity to Wolfgang and Artem as they conversed in sound together... sat in anticipation at the very cusp of creation itself and experienced the magic firsthand.
Whilst this desire will never come to be... I have this recording as sweet consolation.
Before the Storm :: pay what you want
Oh and I am grateful to Wolfgang for choosing one of my photos for the front cover.
I'll talk about his photos later... for now I want to focus on the music.
Moby has travelled in various musical directions over his career... creating, as he went, some true masterpieces. "Destroyed" feels like a microcosm of this journey... with a true variety of sounds & styles blending together to make an interestingly cohesive whole. In a way like an expertly crafted mixtape.
There are a few tracks that stand out: "the day", "Victoria Lucas" and "after" have grabbed my attention... so far... but the majority of the album works as a whole. I guess this is why Moby asks his listeners, in the liner notes, to listen to "destroyed" all the way through... at least once.
I have a feeling "destroyed" will be an album for this summer. Whilst it was created late at night for late at night... it feels like the kind of album that will soundtrack my summer. I think music works best when it is recontextualised to the listener and his/her environment.
My only criticism, so far, is Moby's healthy use of vocoders. I'm not a fan of them... ever since the second Air album.
That said "destroyed" is a pleasure from start to finish for me... even with these vocoders... a should be viewed/enjoyed as a whole entity rather than a pick and mix of tracks.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
June will soon be upon us... and I thought I'd bring a bit of natural colour to your desktop.
Usual flavours are included below.
Oh and I wish I could give you a Kindle version... but I still haven't worked that one out.
The Burning House is one of my favourite blogs just now. It is a celebration of the most precious artefacts an individual has... based on the following premise:
"If your house was burning, what would you take with you? It's a conflict between what's practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question."Some of the artefacts are fascinating... as well as the thought that goes into their curation. I also enjoy the photographs themselves.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
I'm a fan of Efterklang and their unique brand of imaginative and experimental rock music. Their third album Magic Chairs has an almost permanent place on my iPhone.
In August 2010, the band met up with French filmmaker Vincent Moon on an island off the Danish coast to film something very special indeed. During the 4 days they were on the island... they collaborated with more than 200 local musicians, kids and even their own parents, to create new performances and interpretations of songs from Magic Chairs.
The result is not solely a "rockumentary" nor is it just a concert film... its something more... something wonderfully abstract, delicate and beautiful.
The film has been doing the rounds after its premier in January, 2011. It has been screened in various venues... following a very innovative philosophy: Anyone could host a screening but it needed to be public, have a minimum capacity of 5 people and free entrance.
I missed this and would have loved to have hosted a screening. However, its now possible to get a copy of the film... either as a DVD or a pay-what-you-want download. Watch these trailers to get a feel for the film...
James Underwood is a friend of a friend and a welcome addition to my twitter timeline (@iskrastrings). We have conversed about our shared love of the Icelandic composer Johan Johannsson... and I was impressed that James' group had played with him recently.
I was then doubly impressed when James tweeted a link to a video for a song his group had played on...
I did some digging and found their EP on bandcamp :: Discoveries and Inventions... which I immediately downloaded and have been enjoying. The EP consists of three tracks that were composed by Johan Johannsson, Minotaur Shock and James himself.
Their sound is rich and wonderfully warm... it is engaging with a strong emphasis on tone and melody. Very much a find... and very much welcomed.
According to the group's website...
"They have toured extensively across Europe with award winning Icelandic film/classical composer Johann Johannsson. Whilst other notable performances/recordings include work for artists such as Vampire Weekend, Radiohead, Sufjan Stevens, Dustin O'Halloran, Duke Special, David's Lyre, Marcus Foster, Benjamin Francis Leftwich and My Brightest Diamond."With a sound like theirs... I can understand why. I have attached below a few tracks from their soundcloud page... including a track from their EP (Corpus Christi), a Radiohead remix and their rendition of Dvorak's The American Quartet, Lento; to let you hear the breadth of their approach and the richness of their tone.
I hope you enjoy their work as much as I do!
Oh and Iskra means 'a spark' to ignite everything... what a beautiful sentiment and a lasting tribute to the power of creativity.
Johann Johannsson - Corpus Camera by Iskra String Quartet
Radiohead - The Reckoner (Official String Quartet Remix) by Iskra String Quartet
Dvorak - 'The American' Quartet, Lento by Iskra String Quartet
Friday, May 27, 2011
I have a number of creative friends on Twitter and I like to check out their work. Gonzalo de Lara Yañez aka @GonzalodeLara from Santiago, Chile; is a fan of ambient electronica and we met through this shared love. I find his work fascinating and have included four pieces that have really caught my eye. I would really like to see his work featured on album covers... his work reminds me of Bitches Brew for some reason.
Please check his work out... and if you are a musician, please consider him for your album art... I think it would be awesome!
Thursday, May 26, 2011
sweet cherry blossomsWhen I heard Tom Frühwacht aka earlyguard had a new release imminent... I asked for a listen. I love his work and wanted to do my bit to promote his music. I was not disappointed when I was kindly given a preview copy.
faintly whispered with my love
the kiss of the wind
What he has brought together is truly splendid: one single hour-long soundscape... with vivid artwork that is enhanced with his haiku poetry.
The music is engaging. From the start, the listener is drawn in and immersed in a gloriously warm electronic drone that is light, airy and delicate... like the petals of the cherry blossom described above.
Listening to "Haiku" in some small way provides time out from the busyness and disruptive nature of modern life... it provides an escape... a moment of other-worldliness... a period of tranquility. It is an ambience that I find meditative, sacred... and profoundly beautiful.
This feeling is enhanced by the booklet that accompanies the release. It brings together Earlyguard's visually-engaging Hipstamatic imagery with his expressive haiku poetry... to make something uniquely memorable and valuable... something more than the sum of its parts.
If you like ambient electronic soundscapes then this is one release that I can and will recommend... it is a truly wonderful piece of ambience.
"Haiku" will be released for free download on bandcamp on the first of June 2011.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
One of my favourite books is "the Hobbit". I read it as a child and have never let it go. I have five physical copies: three paperback copies with various covers, one French version (bought in Paris) and one wonderfully luxurious hardback copy that is illustrated by Alan Lee (pictured)... that I picked up in a charity shop in Bellshill for £2 (original price was £25)... a digital copy on my Kindle and an audiobook version from Audible on my iPod.
All seven copies are treasured to me... but if I were to save one if my house was on fire, it would be the hardback copy (my Kindle and iPod would be in my Manhattan Portage bag along with my iPad... which would be on my back as a flee my house with my family and pets in hand).
I love the hardback copy because of the wonderful illustrations and the overall quality of the presentation... it feels lovely to hold and is a pleasure to read... it is something to savour rather than to consume... it is a truly valued artefact.
When we consider the prophets of doom and their suggestions that physical media is dead... I think that's the key... tactile tangibility... and it is the power of artefact. It is where analogue can compete with digital... and prove these prophets wrong.
In the digital world... the device is the artefact because it has the tangibility. The iPod is the "thing". The Kindle is the "thing". The content on the device is simply that... content... intangible content. It has no mass.
Whereas with analogue... the artefact is the artefact... because it has, by it's very nature, mass and tangibility. The poster is the "thing". The album is the "thing". The book is the "thing". The content is part of the overall tangibility of the artefact... joined by the thoughtfulness of the packaging design, artwork, typography etc.
To use the analogy of the songbird and her cage... with digital, the artefact (the device) is the cage and the content is the songbird's song... whereas with analogue, both the cage and the songbird combine to form the artefact - the bird can be appreciated for her song and for her graceful appearance, and the cage can be appreciated for it's own aesthetic appeal.
This is then where writers, musicians and publishers can compete with comoditisation of their output solely as content... by making wonderfully tangible artefacts that can be appreciated in and of themselves.
Whilst content on the Kindle or iPod is suitable for consumption (you cannot argue against their convenience, for example)... true analogue artefacts are made to be savoured and appreciated... to be poured over and to be passed on... like a special watch.
In fact, a watch is another example of the success of analogue in a digital world... and note, I'm not talking about hands versus LCD... I'm talking about having and wearing a watch versus reading your time off a phone or computer screen. Time may be content but it is best and most effectively presented as an tangible analogue artefact (a watch or clock).
So the next time you hear someone express displeasure at the way digital is taking over from analogue, tell them about the power of artefact and how this need for tangibility is, in fact, an opportunity for writers, musicians and publishers to differentiate and shine.
It is an opportunity to compete... but it also provides the opportunity to combine and cooperate: the vinyl record with the mp3 download... the book with the PDF version... for example.
I strongly believe there is room for both. It's not an "or" but an "and" scenario... where convenient consumption can live with selective savouring.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
I love ambient music and I think Tom Frühwacht aka Earlyguard creates some particularly lovely soundscapes. He is a prolific producer with eight releases available on bandcamp. I am fond of Selective Perception which he kindly releases for free.
In addition to creating these awesome soundscapes... he also writes Haiku and taked photos using the Hipstamatic app on his iPhone (which can be seen on his tumblr). I love his short poems and enjoy the images he creates.
I was recently given the honour to review his latest work... "Haiku"... which will be released on the 1st of June. The wee booklet that accompanies the release demonstrates his talent for Haiku and for iPhoneography... and is a very nice touch. That wee bit extra is always appreciated!
Anyway... while I was penning my thoughts on his work... I thought I'd ask him my seven questions. He responded almost immediately and these were his answers. Enjoy.
1) Who are you and what do you do?
I am Tom and produce my own ambient music.
2) What are you working on at the moment?
Today I've finished working on my next CC release "Haiku" which was inspired by the Japanese traditional poetry form...
3) Who inspires you?
My wife and my 12-year old daughter inspire and support me pretty much. I even did a collaboration with my daughter last November. The result was an EP called "Far Out" :)
- Name an artist who has inspired you.
There are so many... but the most impressed and inspired me Brian Eno indeed. His album "The Pearl" (a collaboration with Harold Budd) was my very first contact with Ambient music in the mid-80s... a challenge!
- Name place that has inspired you.
All places with a specific vibe are inspiring me. I love the most looong beach walks at the German North Sea coast - with strong and cold wind!
- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.
There are so many... for example my first Synthesizer was a Casio CZ230S in 1986 - veeery inspiring (later I noticed that it was pretty limited) - my second Synth was a Siel Kiwi Analog Synthesizer (a monster) hahaha... a few years ago I discovered the Ukulele as a fantastic musical instrument for relaxation. ;)
4) What drives you to do what you do?
Hmmm, it is a 'must do' for me. There's something in me that drives me to make music. It's about the creative process - not that much to present my tracks as a "product" - I don't listen very often to my own tracks - in fact most of them just once! ;)
5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?
My music is very abstract and often spontaneous - so it's something like a "snap shot" of a moment in my life. Nothing more.
6) What role does community play in what you do?
Community is nice. Feedback is nice. Exchanging opinions is nice.
7) What is next for what you do?
I will go on and on and on... Like I did for the last 25 years. I don't need further steps. I feel extremely comfortable with what I do... :)
Thanks Tom... my thoughts on Haiku will follow in the next day or so.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Rings of Saturn
When Mike Lemmon told me about his album The Planets... he spoke of Experience the Planets (needs flash)... the website his music is the soundtrack.
When I clicked on the link I was blown away... because of the awesome artwork on there... and because Mike's music was so appropriate for it.
The site was designed by Greg Martin... who also contributes a number of awesome pieces. It also features contributions from Joe Jesus, Ed Lopez and Gregory Siegburg. The purpose of the site is to illustrate the wonders of our solar system.
According to their "about" section...
"The cornerstone of ETP is its process, which holds each artist responsible for understanding and representing the science behind their work. Combining research with creative exploration and fact-based critique, the ETP community strives to make every piece an artist produces the best they’ve ever done."When you take the time to savour the work on offer... this ethos becomes evident. Whilst these are "fantastic" illustrations... they are steeped in a wonderful sense of realism that is just breath-taking.
Shadow of Io
I am a huge fan of conceptual sci-fi / fantasy / space / futurist art... and these pics are the kind of illustrations that I just lap up... I love them.
What's more... they are available as wallpapers (1920x1080) for free and as physical prints. I think this both extremely generous of the artists and also very astute of them... who wouldn't want one of these pictures of their wall at home or in their studio?
Take some time to savour the imagery on offer. You'll be glad you did.
Clouds of Titan
On Saturday night I was surfing the interwebs and half watching "Tomb Raider" on the telly... purely for the storyline and not Jolie's Lady Croft, of course.
I received an email from a lovely chap called Mike Lemmon who pointed me to an album he recently wrote to soundtrack the awesome "Experience the Planets" website (more on that later - needs Flash to fully appreciate). He gave me a free copy and asked me to post on it... if it caught my interest.
I jumped over to his bandcamp site and was blown away. Let's just say... Lady Croft was no longer competing for my attention.
The Planets is an ambient electronic conceptual album that seeks to provide a post-classical soundscape backing for each of the planets featured on the "Experience the Planets" website... except Pluto, which is no longer considered a planet. Which is a shame... because I remember when Pluto was a planet and not just a cartoon dog. Anyway...
"Mercury" begins with a wonderfully ominous crescendo of sound before bringing hints of sequencer and metallic drones... that project the essence of the unknown... a barren and desolate unknown.
"Venus" is next up... with a sense of royal grandeur apparent in the waves of post-classical drones... and the showers of chimes and the crashes of symbols.
"Earth" continues with the pervading sense of grandeur... with beautifully air waves of sound underpinned by the subtle strumming of an acoustic guitar. There is a real sense of light and being in this track... that is wonderfully euphoric and entrancing.
"Mars" is far more dynamic... with an urgency from the outset... with intense drones that are joined with a driving sequencer that feels tribal and war-like. Strings then joined the soundscape and build the intensity and feeling of anticipation... before dissipating into drones and a brief but haunting melody played on the piano.
"Jupiter" is a truly breath-taking track that humbly starts off with desolate drones and computer-like chirps before wondrously deep strings enter the fray... playing a deceptively languid melody that builds to a climax... before short bursts of strings are heard. All this disappears and is replaced with another brief but haunting melody... before the grandeur and regal elegance of the largest planet is revealed in all it's glory... with big, broad drones and build in intensity before previous themes return... before dissipating in waves of sound.
"Saturn" has a similar majesty about it... expressed through powerfully elegant waves of electronic sound... and a persuasive rumbling in the background.
"Uranus" starts differently... with a single note played over dramatic waves of droning sound. A harp can be heard... slowly and intentional playing a subtle melody before a glockenspiel, cello and a harpsichord join in... contributing a sense of a grand post-classical ancient-futurism to the piece.
"Neptune" comes last... with a remarkably cold sense of desolation. Chimes contribute to this soundscape... one that is brought out with expansive layers of drones... and the subtle yet menacing refrain from a piano. The drones rise and fall like waves in the sea... providing a real feeling of otherworldliness... before fading into nothingness at the end.
The Planets is my kind of awesome. 31 minutes of the most wonderfully descriptive and immersive post-classical ambience that I have heard in a long time.
If ambient soundscapes are your thing then I would recommend you add this album to your collection.
Between receiving this album on Saturday night... and writing my thoughts this afternoon... Mike has added "Pluto" as a bonus track. Yay!!!
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Friday, May 20, 2011
Thursday, May 19, 2011
I love the work of J.R.R. Tolkien... especially the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. I have been remarkably lucky in finding related gems in charityshops... such as various editions of the books, compendiums etc.
On Saturday past I picked up this fantastic map... illustrated by the very talented John Howe.
His painting of Gandalf the Grey (above)... which adorned the cover of my first hardback copy of the Lord of the Rings... is one of my favourite illustrations and is the reference point for me when I consider the wonder that is Gandalf.
Anyway... enjoy these wee snippets from the map. One day, I hope, to frame it and put it up somewhere that would do it justice... and then check out John Howe's site.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Monday past was a great day for new music. The Fierce & The Dead... Moby... Lowercase Noises... Jane's Scenic Drive... and the debut album from the Honey brothers aka damn robot!
Tom Honey is the man behind "good weather for an airstrike" and Hawkmoon Records. Whereas Rob Honey is the man behind "inachus". This is the first time they have worked together and what a pairing it is.
The opening track "a smile spreads across my face" is a glorious slice of electronica with skittering beats over a bedrock of layered atmospheric synths and a faithful baseline. This soundscape is then complemented with the sugestion of ethereal vocals and radio samples... making it very reminiscent of "boards of canada"... before the feedback comes into earshot.
We then move to "the great landfill in the sky"... a track used on the second Hawkmoon Records compilation. Slower, more melancholic bass underpins what sounds like French or Italian commentary. I would love to know more of the context of the commentary... if it was for a football game then what a game it must have been! Layers of delayed synths and keys swirl around the words making an inviting and encompassing soundscape.
"(Pass) the switch over" is the first of two really well executed dissonant "skits"... wee slices of noise and vocal samples that conjure up the pain and despair that is channel-hopping on British TV when there is nothing on.
We are then presented with, for me, the stand out track "no slack, but luckily the seats go back" which has a deliciously inviting guitar-orientated melody that reminds me of the Madchester sound of the late 80s. This is confirmed with Ian Brown-esque vocals over some seriously strong processed backbeats... bringing to mind UNKLE too.
Next up is the second "skit"... "these plugs need adapters" which is similarly inciting... feeding the conscious with wee snippets of memory and noise.
From here we move to "electric sheep? I can't tell whether or not this is a dream" with it's subtle sample of Roy Batty's monologue at the end of "bladerunner" intertwined with skittering beats and upbeat future-house synths. It is a delicious combination that reminds me why I love IDM like this. There is a vocal sample played in this track that I can't quite get... that adds to the charm and makes me come back for more.
"Antics" starts off with some crisp guitar picking before evolving into a vibrant electronic wall-of-sound with a spacey processed backbeat... and the hint of ethereal female vocals and snatches of conversation. Again, another reminder of why I love IDM so much.
Last up is "errors of the pacifist" which opens with reverb & distorted guitar before morphing into the most beautiful electric piano... which is then overwhelmed in a wondrous wall-of-sound with precociously processed beats and a stream of consciousness delivered through artificial vocal means. Vocal samples fade in and out... as the beats become more glitchy & fractured... before reducing to silence.
Haunting echoes hint at a return.
A return that comes in manner of crisp beats, processed vocals and a chirpy wee melody... before fading to the end.
I really enjoyed "hunang skrimsli" by damn robot... because it reminded me of all I love in IDM... the beats... the vocal samples... the layers of sound and melody. I was very impressed... and I hope you will be too?
Well recommended... and a free download too!
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I am a huge fan of James Fahy aka Ambienteer and his elegant and emotive form of ambient electronica. Recently he raised over £750 for the National Autism Society where he generously offered ALL his back catalogue (24 albums in total) in return for a donation. I, along with many others, took him up on his offer.
His music is expressive and layered... with a depth that delights with each and every listen. If ambient electronica is your kind of thing and you don't have Ambienteer in your collection then... well... there is something wrong, imho. Go here and rectify the situation.
Anyway... I caught up with him via email and asked him my seven questions. Enjoy.
1) Who are you and what do you do?
I'm James Fahy, 46 years old and I'm a web administrator/developer during the day and maker of ambient/electronic noises in the late/early hours. I've only been making electronic music in any meaningful way since 2009. I discovered Ableton Live in 2008 and began to realise it was a tool that could really help me to make sounds that would express my thoughts, feelings and emotions. I dabble a little with paint also, both real and virtual.
2) What are you working on at the moment?
Right now, I am trying to sustain my audio blog at ambienteer.com. I went through a manic spell of creativity throughout it's first year of existence, but this has slowed down somewhat and now, if I am lucky, I manage to post something new each week.
Recently, I have been asked to consider playing live, but I am unsure of how to approach this as I haven't archived my original files in any meaningful way. When the blog started it was just a means of expression, I had no need to think of archiving my creative process. One possible solution might be to do something semi improvised, or maybe combine my finished output with another medium of expression.
3) Who inspires you?
- Name an artist who has inspired you.
I'd have to say Brian Eno. Without a doubt. His music and other works are something that I have drawn on, not just for inspiration, but for reflection also. However, it's Talk Talk and Mark Hollis that have had most massive influence on me. Their latter works are incredibly moving. 'Laughing Stock', to me, is a masterpiece. If I could only ever listen to one album, this would be it. I try to make all my work something that stirs the emotions and touches people in some way. I want 'New Grass' to be played at my funeral, it's the most complete piece of music to me.
The work of Mark Rothko is immensely inspiring to me. His art moves me like no other artist. I cannot explain it, but his paintings seem to transport me in some way, from the real world, into a space of spiritual thinking. I met the love of my life for our first date and we sat in the Rothko Room at the Tate Modern for a few hours. This was in late 2007 and I'm convinced that this moment was a trigger for all of the output I have made since.
- Name a place that has inspired you.
I'm in love with a tiny Balearic island, Formentera. It's where I'd like to end my days. I know that, barring some divine/cosmic intervention, it's unlikely, but it's something I'm going to strive for nonetheless. I've watched the sunrise, on the cliff top at La Mola, bathing the island in it's light and warmth, whilst listening to the birds and wildlife, springing into song and activity. It never fails to move me, but it's been a while since I was there last. I must rectify this. ;)
- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.
The strength of the human spirit. Aung San Suu Kyi, is the embodiment of that to me.
4) What drives you to do what you do?
I know that it's down to my partner Nickie and my son Niall. They may not be directly involved in what I do, but they are, without doubt, the driving force behind it. My son is autistic and loves anything visual or artistic, I guess that, in my expressing myself through sound, he can copy that and express himself in his own creative ways.
5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?
There is no agenda to my work. I'm not trying to make any statement as such. I do however want my music to be a support to people. To help them relax, sleep or soothe them in times of stress or anxiety. Ultimately, I'd like to move them in a positive way. Some of my more melancholic work, in my opinion, is the most uplifting.
6) What role does community play in what you do?
I'm a little cut off from the community in truth. I'm a bit awkward socially. That said, social networking has led me to become a little more confident in talking to others, albeit virtually. In fact, I've recently had a few people approach me, citing my pieces as being suitable for various community/educational based projects. It would be wonderful to give my sounds away for use in such a way. I'm hopeful that some of these come to fruition, something I look forward to happening in the not too distant future.
7) What is next for what you do?
As Ambienteer, I guess it's to continue furnishing the blog with little snippets of whatever tumbles out in the early hours. However, I am about to embark on a (slightly delayed) new project called 'Florensky' which is going to be a move away from my current sound. I'll be including beats and will be looking to augment my work with some visual elements. I may sample from my Ambienteer work and use this as a way of moving off the Internet and onto a real stage. I will just have to see how I cope, interacting with real people, in real life! ;)
I love TED.com for presenting ideas like this one... from author Eli Pariser.
I think we should always seek to avoid filter bubbles... not just those presented to us on the web or in the media we consume... but in our real lives too... our social lives:
- If you are a person of faith... how many agnostics / atheists do you know?
- If you are straight... how many homosexuals do you know?
- If you are a man... how many women do you know?
- If you are young... how many elderly people do you know?
- If you are a Glasgow Rangers fan... how many Glasgow Celtic fans do you know?
- If you are "rich"... how many "poor" people do you know?
- If you are an omnivore... how many herbivores do you know?
- If you are a Creationist... how many Evolutionists for you know?
- If you have lived in your country all your life... how many newcomers do you know?
- If you own your own home... how many homeless people do you know?
- If you consider yourself politically "liberal"... how many consider themselves politically "conservative" do you you know?
Think about it... what we let in shapes what we are... who we let in shapes who we are!
Transfixed. Not like the rabbit staring impending doom in the face... but more being in the presence of someone or something so beautiful that you can't take your eyes of him/her/it.
I am transfixed. I can not quite explain the amazement I feel every time I hear something new from Andy Othling aka Lowercase Noises.
I recently raved on about the track he used on the "hope for Japan" compilation. This track, "migratory patterns", is on this EP and is, in fact, the song that gives the EP it's name. It is a fab taster for the other four tracks on it.
"Song for no one" is an achingly beautiful slice of sustained guitar and synth elegance. Languid. Not rushed. Graceful.
"Persistence" opens with the comforting familiarity of Andy's guitar playing... before a beat is added to the growing layers of sustained guitar. The beat breaks and grows... becoming more glitchy & less organic... it skitters across the soundscape building with intensity and significance as the track introduces the haunting elegance of the cello.
This sound was recently described as post-classic, which I believe to be apt, because music this glorious needs new words to describe it. Post-rock is no longer sufficient.
"Depths" follows in a similar vein... opening with the melancholic beauty of the cello... then subtle sounds appear... echoes of what has just been... building the wall of sound that grows in intensity with the addition of layers of sustained guitar. Heartbreakingly beautiful.
From "depths" we move to "migratory patterns" which is similarly elegant but more post-rock based... with layers of signature sustained guitar, the twinkling of keys, and the restrained jangling of the banjo. I love the banjo... but I love it like I love Louisiana Hot Sauce... not too much in one go. Andy's approach gets it just right for me - vibrant but not too much that it overpowers.
Add to this Andy's vocals... that are endearing & insistent... telling the listener to "hold on". It makes for a truly magical experience.
Lastly, we have "farewell" that has more banjo & acoustic guitar... underpinned by some subtle sustained guitar. This piece is driven by a guitar melody that is wonderfully vibrant and uplifting... that evolves into delayed and sustained ambience at the end.
And there it does in deed end... with a fond farewell and a warm embrace. Until the next time.
I love the music of Lowercase Noises and welcome every release with fevered anticipation. I have yet to be let down. There is nothing quite like Andy's work... and I would strongly recommend it.
Truly beautiful. I am transfixed.
Lowercase Noises on Bamdcamp
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone -
Sunday, May 15, 2011
I've posted more thoughts on Rob Bell's latest book, "Love Wins", over at the Something Beautiful podcast website.
Please pop over there... have a wee read and join in the conversation with a comment.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Matt Stevens is an awesome guitarist. Fact. He is also represents a new music business... one in which interaction between the artist and the fan is based on a real relationship.
With this in mind, it was a real honour for me to be given the opportunity to review the fierce and the dead's new album "if it carries on like this we're moving to Morecambe"... an album I have anticipated ever since I heard "part 1".
"Flint" starts of in a cacophony of sound then breaks into a wonderfully vibrant backbeat and some slick guitar playing... before ramping up with a deep, fuzzy bass and some layered chords. What an opener... moving and powerfully persuasive... drawing the listener into the album.
The album then moves to "Part 2" which suggests a continuation from the opus entitled "Part 1" that was released last year. Matt's signature guitar style comes out... underpinned by some seriously rock solid and dependable bass and drums... before going crazy in a moment of bombastic euphoria. The listener is then brought back to earth: the jazz is back and we are lost in the hypnotic swirls of sound that Matt is renowned for.
Next up is "the wait" which begins with a more languid style of layered guitar sound... before bring in funereal keys and a slow, melancholic clapping in the background.
"HR" is piece that drips with anticipation... the chords and percussion build towards a seemingly unknown or unseen destination... joined by the bass before powerful layers of dissonant guitars bring the piece to it's climatic conclusion for the listener.
"Hotel no6" contains some wonderfully haunting ambient drones, found sounds and sustained guitars... which work together synergistically to create an atmosphere reminiscent of an HP Lovecraft short story.
The listener is then jolted into the now with the powerfully fuzzy and frantic "landcrab" with it's intense and incessant punk rock styling. Pow!!!
After the feedback dies away... some crisp bass comes to the front... accompanied by a jazzy backbeat and some equally crisp guitars. As the layers become apparent... the listener is surprised by a wondrously bright and hopeful saxophone solo. I think "daddie's little helper" could be my favourite track as it builds in intensity to for a crescendo of sound before opening up for some more seriously soulful and freeform sax.
"Woodchip" feels different... more closely aligned to the electronic soundscapes of the ambient movement than innovative rock... with wave upon wave of drones... at under 2mins, it is but a taster... some ginger, so to speak, to cleanse the palate before the meaty sustenance of "10x10" is delivered with it's fat backbeat and chunky baseline.
Matt delivers haunting layers of guitar over which he plays his trademark swirling style before building into something stronger and more powerful... with a skittering guitar solo and the ever insistent backing that builds and grows... before dropping into a chasm of subtle piano keys and sustained guitar drones.
This however is just the calm before the storm... with the band bringing their wall of sound back to the delight of the listener.
The last track "Andy Fox" is melancholic in comparison... with sparse piano keys played to the backdrop of droning guitars. The piano is accompanied by some sensitively played bass to set the scene before the drums and guitars break in... creating another intense and cinematic soundscape... with some fabulously slow and funereal saxophone accompaniment... playing that just reeks of emotion and lost.
For me, as a listener, this is one of the best albums I have heard in 2011. The soundscapes are truly magnificent... and credit goes to the band as a whole for their efforts. Whilst this album confirms Matt's status as a truly great guitarist... it also confirms the abilities of Kev Feazey and Stuart Marshall on bass and drums respectively.
My only criticism is that the album is too short. At 38 minutes it leaves me wanting more... and I have taken to including the singles in my playlist to give me more. This is, however, a very slight criticism... because it is very easy to press play and start again on what is a very varied and pleasurable journey.
I am grateful to the band for the opportunity to review their album. I did, however, order my own copy of the, now sold out, initial release of the album... because I believe it to be that good... and because I believe the band to be worthy of my support. I ask you to do the same... with the confidence that you will not be disappointed!
I received my copy today and its going straight into rotation.
Friday, May 13, 2011
I love second-hand Levi's. Its my thing. Well... OK... its one of my things.
I really love the worn nature of denim... the feel of age... the wear of wear... I love it. I don't think you can authentically provide this "first hand"... it comes with time.
For some denim aficionados (aka nerds!) the patina of wear is as important to them as the rigidity of new is for others. I'd love to be able to afford heavy weight Japanese selfedge denim spun on ancient looms... but I can't... and, to be honest, I'm not sure I'd really like it anyway. I have a few pairs of dark new Levi's that are lovely... but I do prefer the wear of wear.
The patina is an important concept for me.
Patina (noun)...It is the pattern that comes with age and wear... and it is something I value.
1. a film or incrustation, usually green, produced by oxidation on the surface of old bronze and often esteemed as being of ornamental value.
2. a similar film or coloring appearing gradually on some other substance.
3. a surface calcification of implements, usually indicating great age.
I love to see the points of fading that come with time. I love the imperfection... I see it as the ultimate form of customisation. These jeans are uniquely mine... because I rescued them and am wearing them.
I think I'm obsessed!
That said... it got me thinking about experience. I spoke recently about experience and differentiation and the subject is still in my mind.
Our experience is like the patina of faded and worn jeans... it is something that is uniquely ours. It can't be faked... it may look like it but it won't feel like it. It is something that comes with time, effort and activity. Jeans don't fade or get worn without activity. You can wash them with stones etc but the patina most coveted can't be made... it is something that becomes... something that occurs... and it is something uniquely ours.
This is why all experience... whether good or bad... should be cherished because it contributes to our patina... it builds who we are.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
"Nobody wears a watch any more.Seth Godin :: Marketing to nobody
Nobody wears a tie either.
Nobody shops at a bookstore, at least nobody I know..."
"...and nobody does whole-of-life blogging anymore."The last bit was mine... albeit I think Seth would approve. I hope.
I've sought counsel from the wise... received comments and tweets from the insightful... and come to realise why I blog: Its not for you... albeit I love it that you read... its for me. I blog for me. The ol' nanolog is my journal. Its my place to record all the things that inspire me. It was on the 12th September, 2005; and it still is today.
That said... I am going to start posting my more in-depth theological thoughts over at the website for the something beautiful podcast. Why? because I think focussed works over there... and I'd like to work with the community that we've built up over the years. Please, if theological is your thing, pop over the the website... and join in the conversation.
Everything else... in its vivid 3D technicolour glory... will continue to be dropped here.
Thank you for sticking with me... and joining me on this journey.
Monday, May 09, 2011
First up... we have my dear friend Drew's latest album :: the future beyond our eyes :: which is an interesting slice of electronic ambience that reminds me, in part, of the driving dissonance of Bitches Brew and the drones of Music has the right to children.
Its a real grower that isn't necessarily instantly accessible. But then... it deserves a couple of repeated listens to get - the skittering beats, for example, come in and out of space and time... and the drones seem, at times, endless... but, with time and patience, these synergies become apparent and their contradictions become cherished... and the listener is rewarded with something beautiful... like the first rays of sunshine... and the sweet refrains of the dawn chorus.
Pay what you want.
In keeping with the dissonant theme is the second album from another dear friend :: 62204 by Artificial Sun Project :: which brings to mind the awesomeness that is Aphex Twin.
The beats are thick and the synths are strong on this album... which shows great progress and promise-fulfilled. What's more... the sonic soundscapes, samples and overall electronic ambience are both deafeningly dissonant and wonderfully creative... giving me a real yearning to experience this album played live.
Underneath the soundscapes... there are really strong and catchy melodies. And it is these melodies that elevate this album into the important category.
Pay what you want.
Back to more languid shores with Cast of the Moon by nemean lion (from Future Recordings). Their post-rock soundscapes make for a wonderous listening experience... with pianos and guitars providing the bedrock of their sound... and a faithful appreciation for ambient drones adding a richness to their wall-of-sound. Lovely!
Pay what you want.
Everything resembles you by the eternal twilight is simply breathtaking. It is everything I adore about post-rock... elegant drones underpinning a mournful guitar... found sounds from the natural world... melodious piano and immersive drumming... ethereal vocals and metallic guitars... wow! This is one awesome album. Well recommended.
Pay what you want,
Lastly... for now... we have the wonderfully titled monod kinetics from the equally wonderfully titled my cats a stargazer... with a collection of truly beautiful ambient soundscapes. Their sound is infused with the most exquisite drones, elegant piano refrains and gracious vocals... along with rhythmic guitars and melodious synths... which makes the experience of listening to the album a lasting moment of euphoric joy.
Pay what you want.
This morning I posted this tweet...
"Wrestling with the idea that "whole-of-life" blogging is dead & wondering whether it's time to quit. Anybody had any thoughts on subject?"...and was bowled over with the responses from some dear friends... and I am grateful for their comments.
However, I think I phrased my question incorrectly... because I've been considering quitting whole-of-life blogging... not blogging in particular.
Let me explain.
What you get on here in a very consistently inconsistent manner is me. The ups and downs... the likes and the dislikes... the joy and the pain. You get the whole of me.
You get my photography... you get my love of music... you get my life with Olly and the kids... you get my obsessive geekiness... my ideas and musings... and you get my broken, imperfect faith.
My question is... do you want it all? Do you want the whole of me?
I have noticed my page-views slipping and it got me thinking... maybe there is too much me in this blog? I look to other blogs... the ones I aspire to... and they are less personal and more focussed.
More focussed on their particular subject of choice.
I think my main themes are music... faith... and, recently, me whinging. Is this what you want? These things are seasonal... as my mate Andy put it. Maybe its time to move on?
Do you want a bit of everything... or do you want me to focus more on a particular subject?
I would be grateful if you could let me know.