Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What I listened to most in February 2012

As before... this only takes into account what I listened to on my iPhones or iPods and doesn't take into account the music played on CD. It does, however, give a nice wee snapshot of what I've been really digging into over the last 29 days.

BTW... the number of Vangelis scrobbles relates to the bootleg of the Blade Runner OST that I found... it has all the tracks in chronological order plus some unreleased incidentals. Well worth tracking down if you like the OST.


"Years" from Bartholomaus Traubeck

YEARS from Bartholomäus Traubeck on Vimeo.

I thought this was fascinating... imagine if we could actually listen to trees... enjoy.


Thanks to @leonrosado for the heads-up.

Loving the video for Frank Fuller's "Song for W.S."

The video for "Song for W.S." was directed by Guillaume Monette and is a visual treat with some really beautiful images on offer to the viewer.

The song is taken from Fuller's new album "The Great Morning Disaster"... which I was very fortunate to get a copy of recently. I'll post some thoughts at some point in the near future but I can honestly say it is a slice of truly delightful indie pop.

Have a wee listen to it below...


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

March 2012's Calendar / Wallpaper

March 2012's Calendar :: 1280x800

Someone once told me that there is always a blue sky... even when its cloudy... there is still a blue sky above those clouds.

With this in mind, March's calendar / wallpaper features a building I pass by every working day... a building on Argyle Street that says Glasgow to me. I've shot it plenty of times... but wanted to share it... and celebrate the blue of that blue sky. This hasn't been footered with too much in Lightroom... just tidied up, to be honest.

Usual flavours are included below. Enjoy and thanks for everyones willingness to have my photography on their devices... it is appreciated by me.


iPhone with calendar + iPhone without calendar
980x800 for Andrew Berry's HTC Desire HD

Loving... the music and the accompanying book for "Allegories" by The Dwindlers

I recently posted a review of the upcoming album "Allegories" by The Dwindlers over on Alternative Matter...

"...the music Dauer presents on this release is simply first class. Bassy jazz soundscapes make up the first three tracks before the listener is given a more ambient instrumental expression to ponder. The last three tracks are more of the upright bass-orientated jazz with a really delicious undercurrent of the ambient sounds… the kind of sounds I hold Dauer in such high regard for. 
I think it is this combination of jazzy vibes and ambient sounds that really help this album come alive for me. The soundscapes presented are vibrant and filled with life… this life comes from the music but it also comes from the imagination expressed in the form of words from “Michelle Seaman”. 
Her spoken word works here because of her eloquent and articulate expression… and the manner in which she presents these words.../"
I was very taken with it... and I would recommend you read the review then head over to Heart and Soul and order a copy.

What I never got to mention in the review is how beautiful the book is that accompanies the music. I have posted the cover above... which features a lovely photo from Benjamin Dauer... and wanted to highlight the artwork that is contained below:

The book features the words from Michelle Seaman's glorious poetry and delightful illustrations of human bones. They are simple but effective... really using the white space of the pages with great effect.

I have to commend Leonardo Rosado for this release... he has masterminded the creation of what is simply an awesome artefact that complements a similarly awesome album. We need more content like this... with the quality ramped up to eleven!

When you see work like this it is very easy to support independent music. This is the way forward. Well done to all involved!


PS: I am hoping to have Dauer and Seaman on the blog soon... answering my wee blog interview. Stay tuned.

My thoughts on "May Maybe April" by Clutter vs April Maybe May

Shaun Blezard, the man behind Clutter, is an old friend of mine in the netlabel scene... his label "earth monkey productions", now tragically on hiatus, was the catalyst that got me into ambient music and introduced me to Cousin Silas and a number of other great musicians. He works between the fields of electroacoustic improvisation, ambient electronics and music concrete, adding touches of anything from dub, jazz and post rock to his eclectic mix of influences.

I was, as you can imagine, really excited when he asked me to voice my thoughts on his latest EP "May Maybe April"... a collaborative effort with April Maybe May - Rosie Hillman and Matt Kassell are the songwriters, musicians, voices and producers of April Maybe May, the 'quietest band in the world'.

The EP contains four wonderfully dense and multi-layered tracks which are recompositions of the track "Sugar & Mess" by April Maybe May:

The first three tracks - "one more dress", "dreams of a kiss curl" and "my unspoken vows" - each have a rhythmic, almost hypnotic feel to them... the sounds whirl and dance repeatedly in the ears like sonic Dervishes... round and round in such an infectious manner that it's hard not to be sucked in. This is, in part, due to jazzy bass backbone and the looping samples that build the rhythm.

Additional layers of sound include the seductive song of a siren... her vocals almost tangible... nearly in reach.

The fourth track - "choices run away" - is ironically, considering its title, more restrained... it has the most delightful drifting ambience about it. The languid feel adds an almost dream-like quality to the track... which is a fitting end to this lovely EP.

I would heartily recommend this EP to anyone who appreciates ambient soundscapes. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Take the time to find out by having a wee listen below.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Seven questions... with Shona Maguire aka Plum

Plum is the codename of fellow Scot... Shona Maguire... who is an awesome independent musician and producer whose music is particularly special. We've been friends of twitter for a good wee while and got talking last week about Gotye of all people. It was at this point that I realised I didn't know enough about her music... so I dug in.

I featured the video for the first song from her upcoming album and had a good listen to her 2009 album - "Different Skin" - which was released on the brilliant independent label Benbecula Records (its fantastic and on the "must buy" list (I listened to it on Spotify)).

Shona was fantastic... agreeing immediately to participate in my wee blog interview... and sending me her new album to review. Whilst I haven't had a chance to listen to The Seed yet... I thought it apt to sharing her interview.




1) Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Shona Maguire, a songwriter and producer and I make music under the name Plum. I also like to hula hoop.

2) What are you working on at the moment?
Every spare second is taken up planning the release of my new album The Seed. There are some lovely things planned to go with it. I managed to get seed paper printed with my logo, and they’ll be sent out with the first 500 CDs. They can be planted and will grow into wild flowers.

3) Who inspires you?

- Name an artist who has inspired you.
Fever Ray

- Name place that has inspired you.
I wrote the album in a cottage in the Scottish Borders, near Ancrum on Chesters Estate. That place inspired me

- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.
The film inception

4) What drives you to do what you do?
Passion…pain…emotions…understanding certain things.

5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?
Honesty, detail, depth, thoughtfulness, hope

6) What role does community play in what you do?
A huge role! The album was funded by fans – using Sponsume. They pledged to pay for different packages (which I’m busy packaging up right now) including a mixture of CDs, t-shirts, music boxes, tickets to the launch party, lyrics written on stones, instruments, etc. And because we reached the total, they will get their packages soon. It was great to be able to have the support of fans before the album was even complete. I am involved in a great wee community garden in Gorebridge too.

7) What is next for what you do?
Hopefully people will share the music with eachother. At the moment, we’ve just finished the music video for The Seed. That’s out as a single on 29th Feb, so hopefully it will get some radio play. After that, hoping to make another music video. I’d love to find a way of being able to spend more of my time being creative.


Thank you Shona! I am really looking forward to listening to The Seed.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Loving this... "Lego Millennium Falcon Stop Motion Assembly 3d" by Francisco Prieto

Lego Millennium Falcon Stop Motion Assembly 3d from Francisco Prieto on Vimeo.

I mean what isn't there to love about this video... it's Lego... it's the Millenium Falcon... and it's brilliantly shot. All in... fab! Well done Francisco!

With thanks to @myopicaardvark for the heads-up.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Loving this video... "The Seed" by Plum :: video by Greg Hoyna / Pencil Rebel

Plum - The Seed (Official Music Video) from Greg Hoyna / Pencil Rebel on Vimeo.

My twitter friend, and fellow Scot, Shona Maguire aka @Plumtunes has a new album coming out in April entitled "The Seed". She released the official video for the title track and I wanted to share it... because its just so good. Her music is wonderfully catchy and the video by Greg Hoyna aka Pencil Rebel just fits the song perfectly.

I hope to feature her on here at some point in the near future... until then enjoy the song.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

My review of Bob Ohrum's "All around me" is up on Alternative Matter

My review of Bob Ohrum's "All around me" was published today on Alternative Matter... here's a snippet:
I don’t want to criticise this release on the awesome Relaxed Machinery label… and am reminded of Ego’s monologue at the end of “Ratatouille”…

“…in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”

Its just that it could have been so much more… Ohrum’s guitar playing is exquisite… and both his drones and his field recordings are lovely… but the noise was a distraction for me and could have acted as a barrier to entry. I am glad I gave it a thorough listen because I caught glimpses of real genius that I would have missed if I had otherwise been easily dismissive.

Now... please do not think for one minute that I was claiming this album to be junk... I wasn't and it's not. There are tracks on there that are not to my taste... but through perseverance I glimpsed the genius contained within the release. Please read the review on Alternative Matter to get the gist of what I am saying.

I don't want to be negative... there is far too much negativity in this world and I, for one, do not want to contribute to it... but sometimes things just don't work for you and you have to approach them in a balanced manner. I give everything a chance and never close my mind before I have experienced it. I hope that makes sense?

Anton Ego's monologue at the end of Ratatouille is an inspiration to me and I repost it here for you and me:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read.

But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new.

The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core.

In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau's famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau's, who is, in this critic's opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau's soon, hungry for more.
I see my role to discover and defend the new.


My thoughts on "lost links" by Max Corbacho

Sensual and seductive. Two words that do not spring immediately to mind when seeking to describe an ambient release but ones that make sense... at least to me... when used to describe “lost links” by Max Corbacho from the Relaxed Machinery label.

Before I explain... please indulge me in a wee story: I have a deep love for Vangelis’ soundtrack to “Blade Runner”. I have a number of copies of it and only recently found a bootleg that presents the existing music plus unreleased incidental music in chronological sequence. I can’t express how much I love this album. Part of my love for it comes from the fact it is indelibly linked to the early days of my relationship to my wife, Olly. We’ve been together for 20 years and married for 15... and in the formative years of our relationship the “Blade Runner” soundtrack was a regular feature on the hi-fi when we were together. It is therefore blessed with some wonderful memories and spiritual connections.

So when I refer to “lost links” as being sensual and seductive it is because it has something of the quality of Vangelis’ soundtrack to it. When I listened to it for the first time I made this association and haven’t yet broken it... and doubt I ever will or even need to.

This is not to say Corbacho’s album doesn’t stand on its own... of course it does. It is a truly splendid slice of richly seductive and appealing ambient somascape... in fact, if I was to describe it as ’just beautiful’ I feel I would be doing it and Corbacho a disservice. It is exquisite. I truly love it and could easily consider it a successor for the “Blade Runner” soundtrack in terms of that seductive, ’go to’ quality when I need something warm and sensual to curl up to.

The album features seven tracks that varying in length from nearly 6 minutes to a delightfully longform 16 minutes.

Each track features the most languid and sublimely downbeat somascapes. Corbacho’s use of synths is my kind of wonderful... there is almost an organic, earthy feel to his playing as if this is actually what “space” or “place” sounds like. His mimicking of the unforced rhythms of nature is inspired... and gives this release it's soul... it's feeling.

This is one album that I would struggle to pick out any particular track for specific mention... each track coexists together on this album... sequenced in a such a manner that it draws me in and just feels right.

I guess this is crux of my thoughts on this release... I feel it. It is truly a masterpiece of sensual music-making. It is also exemplary of the power and magic of ambient music... the way it lightens my mood and enhances all that is around me without being overly precious about my complete concentration.

This is head music, yes... it provides space to think and to observe... but it is more... it is body music... it is something that can only be felt within... and whilst this is hard to explain and to extrapolate further, it is how it is for me.

I would recommend you take the time to immerse yourself in this release... soak in it and soak it in. Only then will you really get what I mean... “lost links” by Max Corbacho needs to be felt and experienced as much as it needs to be heard.

In fact, if I may be so bold, I would go so far as to say it needs to be shared with that special someone... this is an album that those extra-special connections can be made with... it has the potential to be ’that’ go-to album.

The irony is... according to Corbacho:

"All these pieces were created to appear on previously published albums. For various reasons, they were not included, and remained in my archives. I usually do not delete any of my pieces; I know that, at some point, simply because of the passing of time, they acquire a special character, and their time to be revealed appears."
I'm so glad he compiled them into this one album. Recommended.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My thoughts on The Fierce and The Dead's On VHS EP

I am a big fan of both Matt Stevens and the band he plays guitar with... The Fierce and The Dead... and, as you can imagine, I jumped at the chance to get a preview of "On VHS" TFATD's latest EP. This release doesn't disappoint nor does it suffer from any sophomore album-type jitters... this is a prime example of instrumental rock music at its finest... taut, muscular and powerful.

It certainly packs a punch but it also displays a delightful predisposition towards melody, imaginative expression and intricate detail... which, for me, helps TFATD stand out. The influences of post-hardcore and progressive rock are evident... but there is something new in the mix too. They haven't just rehashed the past but sought to move forward... both in terms of their personal musical direction and on a broader macro level.

The addition of second guitarist Steve Cleaton was an inspired move... further enhancing the riffage and the melodies allowing the EP to be both heavier and more tuneful. It has also freed Stevens up to be less dependent of loops and empowered him to reach out... and reach out he does with some tremendous skill presented to the listener.

That said, its not all about the guitars... the ongoing partnership of Kev Feazey and Stuart Marshall on bass and drums has benefitted from the elapsed time together... they sound tighter... with Feazey's bass, in particular, getting some sublime front-and-centre focus throughout the EP.

The opening track - "666...6" - is a wonderfully upbeat and remarkably jaunty number featuring a sweet bass solo and the interplay of guitars before some seriously chunky melodies take to the fore. The variety of sounds and real focus on melody make this track a great opener.

The next track - "Hawaii" - features an interesting amalgam of chunky Dr Know-esque riffage with sweet surfy style guitar runs. It's a heady combination... one that works really, really well.

The third and penultimate track - "On VHS" - features the two guitarists playing off each other... with the effective mid-tempo backing of Feazey & Marshall... to create the most delightful King Crimson-esque wall-of-sound.

The last track - "Part 3" - is longer than the other three by about three minutes. This additional space provides room for the track to infuse... to grow stronger and more flavourful as the time passes. It is truly a belter of a track... with a taut bass opening, some sweet slide guitars and a beautiful melody that makes way for a heavier expression.

All in... "On VHS" is fantastic. It exemplifies instrumental rock music at its very best. Bold, powerful and imaginative. My only criticism is its too short... there isn't enough to satiate my hunger. I has left me looking forward for more. My hope for 2012 is to catch them live.


Have a wee listen to the title track "On VHS" below... and get your pre-order in for the CD which contains two extra remixes.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

My thoughts on Earlyguard's "Continuo I-IV"

Epic. It's a small word that describes big things... and it is a word that is apt to describe Earlyguard's latest release “Continuo I-IV”. Consisting of four longform ambient pieces with a total duration of three hours and eight minutes... this is truly an epic release.

It presents a move towards Earlyguard’s more minimal, textured ambience and features a truly hypnotic ebb and flow. These somascapes may not have the narrative elements that characterise some of the sound-pictures he released last year... but they make up for this with their sheer epic scale and fully immersive quality.

This release isn't for the faint-hearted or the easily bored... the tracks presented are the true antithesis of a three minute pop song. These tracks need to be savoured... experienced... they take time and effort. If you want a shower then this isn’t for you... this is the audio equivalent of a long and luxurious soak in an old enamel roll-top bath... one that immerses you up to the chin.

I love ambient drones... especially longform pieces and Earlyguard is one of my most favourite artists in this arena. There is a humility that underpins his work which matches the stripped back nature of his compositions... there is nothing shouty or ’in yer face’ about him or his work... which is something I dearly value. His drones create wonderful spaces to just be... to think and to breathe... providing moments out of the maddening crowd, so to speak, and into a uniquely personal space where all the imposing distractions of life have been paused.

Maybe I read too much into these soundscapes... these sound-escapes... but that's what Earlyguard’s music gives me and why I am grateful for, not only his talent, but also his willingness to share this talent with others.

Continuo I-IV is a gift... an epic and deeply immersive gift... and one I am grateful to receive and consume.


Continuo I-IV is available now on Bandcamp for free. I have embedded the player below and would heartily recommend you having a listen:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Loving... the video for "Aurora" by Good Weather for an Airstrike

Such a beautiful track... enhanced by some delightful visuals. Enjoy.


Scanned :: some stamps with interesting designs... part 3

In this post I have brought together some fab animal stamps from the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (aka North Korea).



"Everest" released on Invisible Agent

Drew Miller aka The Northern Hemisphere has joined forces with one of my fave netlabels - Invisible Agent - to release/rerelease his album "Everest".

I featured this album back in November 2010 where I said it...

...has a majesty of sound and imagination evocative of the highest mountain in the world. The soundscapes created by another of my twitter friends are wondrous indeed... they engage me, as the listener. There is a sense of intentionality that comes through the music... more ambient than post-rock... no theme is over-used nor is there overt noise for the sake of a climatic ending. This is different... splendid ambient subtleties with, at times, the spatter of percussion. Recommended.
I would still recommend it. For me it has aged well. This version includes a bonus track entitled "Dal Niente" which is a delightful addition to the album.

I have embedded a wee player below to let you have a wee listen.


Books with great covers... part 3 :: More Alexander McCall Smith

In this post I feature more covers from Alexander McCall Smith's "No 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series... which, I hope you'll agree, feature some great designs by the illustrator Hannah Firmin.


Thursday, February 09, 2012

My thoughts on “Euterpe” by Austere

"Maybe it’s the time of year… the cold and damp… the lack of sun… the desire to hibernate, preferably in front of an open fire with a good book… that has made these releases all the more appealing. Or maybe it’s just because they are so strong and Koch-Northrup’s quality control is particularly well attuned. I think it’s both… with the case in point being “Euterpe” by Austere."

Read the rest of my review on Alternative Matter

My thoughts on "the stars and afterward" by Philip Wilkerson

I have been a fan of Philip Wilkerson's music for a wee while now. I think he is a talented individual with whom I share a passion for electronic soundscapes. I considered "ten to eleven" to be one of my top ten favourite albums of 2011 and jumped at the chance to listen to and promote his latest release... "the stars and afterward".

I am delighted to say the album sounds awesome... there is a vibrancy about the music that is simply delightful.

Wilkerson's music varies from more upbeat Vangelisian melodies to more subdued ambient soundscapes. I love this variety and it is in full effect on this recording.

The opening track - "Monoceros" - is a ray of sunshine... wonderfully upbeat with some retro Vangelisian synths used to carry a rather chirpy melody.

From this opening we move to a more subdued but wonderfully deep track entitled "among the nebulae" which has a tremendous fluidity about it... the rhythms used bring a real sense of movement... one that is inherently catchy.

The third track - "Radiance" - is a remastered longform slice of the most delightful ambience. It is an immersive somascape that just fills me with joy. It is truly radiant. A vision of light and inspiration that certainly doesn't feel like 21 minutes in duration.

"Endlessly spiralling" - the fourth of the seven tracks - is sequenced just right... it follows perfectly on from "Radiance" and continues the theme of light... in the most uplifting of ways. It is gorgeous, plain and simple. Warm, immersive and inviting.

Coming in fifth on the tracklisting is "seven degrees north of Castor" which brings the listener back to the kind of vibrant, multi-layered rhythms and catchy melody that is presented in of the first track. It is a delight to listen to... both as part of the whole that is the album... and on its own.

The penultimate track - "among the Nebulae (ambient mix)" - brings us back to the second track and carries on the themes initially presented there... but without the rhythms... to create an engaging and immersive drone-led somascape. There is a "blade runner" feel to this track... a delicious hint of late-night melancholy that reminds me of Vangelis' seminal soundtrack.

The last track is also the title track for this release - "the stars and afterward" - and for it Wilkerson has gone for his trademark warmth and inclusive ambience. He really does create the best somascapes and this is a prime example of them. A true delight and a fitting end to the album.

I would heartily recommend this album and am grateful to Wilkerson for sending me a copy to review. If you like ambient and/or electronic music then this release would make an excellent addition to your collection. Have a wee listen below to hear what I mean.


Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Scanned :: some stamps with interesting designs... part 2

Scanned :: some stamps with interesting designs... part 1

I know this will take me to a whole 'nother level of nerdery but I've kind of fallen in love with stamps. Not just any stamps... but stamps with interesting designs.

I was inspired by this article on Brainpickings (which is a blog that MUST be in your RSS) and spoke to my pal @myopicaardvark about it. Turns out his wife collected stamps a while back... had stopped... and wanted to share her collection with me.

I've had a good look through it... separated the wheat from the chaff, so to speak... and have picked out some really lovely ones. These stamps tend to originate from the 50s onwards predominately from what was the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and the Far East.

My intention is to scan them... share them with you... and then put them in a Moleskine or similar notebook.

I must state I am not collecting stamps... or, should I say, I'm not collecting any old stamp... I am just looking to collect, share and celebrate some stamps with interesting, delightful and lovely designs.




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