Tuesday, April 30, 2013

May 2013's Calendar / Wallpaper

Inspired by the Charity Concert on Saturday night ... I thought I would bring some brass to your desktop / iPhone / iPad.

Usual flavours are below.


iPhone with Calendar + iPhone without Calendar

Monday, April 29, 2013

Loving the deep, dark, and deliciously dystopian of "Travels" by Crows Labyrinth

Deep, dark, and deliciously dystopian ... "Travels" by Crows Labyrinth is my kind of dark ambient. Decidedly post-apocalyptic in presentation, these soundscapes are powerfully evocative and sow the seeds of imagination that the creative listener feeds on.

Think of an imaginary soundtrack to H.P.Lovecraft’s "at the mountains of madness" and you'll get the gist of what I mean. A brooding malcontent pervades this album ... giving the listener a heightened sense of unease, especially upon their first listen. It is this unnerving sense of the unknown that really highlights how excellently crafted this album is by Crows Labyrinth.

Weird oscillations and intermittent twangs underpinned by deeply immersive drones really make for an interesting listening experience ... reminiscent of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop and their soundtrack to my childhood.

What makes this album all the more remarkable is that it is all played on the bass guitar. Now some tracks are more noticeably bass guitar than others ... tracks like "Reverie" and "Below", for example ... but this adds to the listener’s delight, in my opinion.

The standout tracks for me are "Frontier" (the opening track) and "Heliograph" (the closing track) ... through them Crows Labyrinth demonstrates his ability. "Frontier" is a deliciously dark drone that engages and immerses the listener ... whereas "Heliograph" is a lighter, more technically bass guitar-orientated piece that skitters and moves about in the listener’s consciousness like a sunlit forest brimming with life.

I would heartily recommend this release and am grateful to Crows Labyrinth for sending me on their CD. Please check out "Travels" and do what you can to support independent music in all it's wonderful manifestations.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Photos from last night's Charity Concert in Airdrie

Last night I had the privilege of taking photos at a charity concert in aid of St Andrew's Hospice in Lanarkshire. The concert involved both the Airdrie and Bellshill Salvation Army Bands ... and featured a solo vocal performance from Fraser Thomson.

It was a fab night ... both bands sounded amazing and Fraser Thomson's voice blew me away.

I was also delighted with the moments I captured ... and include my faves on here.

270413_ Joint Concert no31

270413_ Joint Concert no29

270413_ Joint Concert no25

270413_ Joint Concert no2

270413_ Joint Concert no75

270413_ Joint Concert no85

The full set can be seen here on Flickr


Saturday, April 27, 2013

iPhone5 TV ad - 'photos every day'

I saw this video the other day over on thefoxisblack and instantly connected with it. I haven't been taking as many photos as I used to ... but my iPhone5 still remains the camera I *always* have with me. I'm glad Apple are promoting the iPhone5 as such.


A charity concert in aid of St Andrew's Hospice

I'll be in attendance at this charity concert tonight. Delighted to be involved through the design of the poster. I'll be taking some photos too ... which is always fun.


Two comps of note: “Miscellaneous (from 2011 to 2012)” by Sima Kim and “Hammered” by FELiXDROiD

Two compilations of past work have captured my attention recently ... the first is “Miscellaneous (from 2011 to 2012)” by Sima Kim and the other is “Hammered” by FELiXDROiD.

Both are wonderfully engaging in their own way and both create the most wondrous of atmospheres when they are played.

Now ... I’ll be open and say I am big fan of Sima Kim’s ... his contributions to my netlabel’s end-of-year compilation were spot on ... and this collection of music from 2011 and 2012 really highlights a talented artist.

His release “Songs” from Twice Removed (where I first got to know him) is well represented with the track “I” ... however he has been very prolific and, in the period of 2 years, has amassed sufficient material to produce a “greatest hits” of a sort.

I love how he can and does make the most delightful soundscapes ... using instrumentation such as the piano, synths, and field recordings ... bring them together and manipulating them as necessary to create his wonderfully dreamy otherworldly lullabies.

Take “Someday somewhere” for example. This is a heartbreakingly beautiful piece ... a melody is repeated with instrumentation such as a the piano and the glockenspiel used to build up sound presented. It is a lilting, gentle melody that could easily rock you off to sleep if it weren’t so densely packed with awesomeness.

Another example of this is “Tribute to no one” which is brilliantly progressive ... a post-rock builder of a track that simply grows and evolves in front of your eyes. When Sima Kim uses percussion and drums ... he uses them well. I could have been persuaded that this track was by The Echelon Effect if it weren’t for the fact it is on this compilation. I can't think of a higher comment.

I would heartily recommend this compilation as an introduction to the work of Sima Kim ... as well as a delight listen in its own regard. It is expertly sequenced, for a compilation, and is well worth being on anyone's mp3 player of choice.

As is “Hammered” by FELiXDROiD ... a collection of his piano pieces from 2006 - 2012.

As with Sima Kim, this is a tremendous collection of “greatest hits” sequenced in such a manner to make sense as a whole as well as a selection of tracks.

The music FELiXDROiD presents is all piano-orientated ... mostly piano-based ... in a more ambient manner than say the work of Blackclassical ... albeit their are moments of solo piano reminiscent of Satie.  The thing is ... there is no right and wrong here ... both are truly powerful examples of what can be achieved with a piano ... and FELiXDROiD expertly demonstrates this.

Take the opening track - “all or nothing at all”. What a wonderful track it is ... a haunting synth underpins a rather abstract piano melody ... it feels ’late night’ and deliciously so for I have found joy in listening to this album later in the evenings.

The next track - “The Longinging - part 9” - is a exploration of neo-classical sounds with a cello playing off against a piano. The interaction between the two is exemplary ... and an utterly delightful listening experience.

The music presented on “Hammered” does demonstrate both the breadth of talent FELiXDROiD has as well as how versatile the piano really is. From the ambience of “Room 3 of...” to the solo piano of “Le Jardin est Vert” with its deliberately dodgy chord near the end ... “Hammered” is a real showcase from FELiXDROiD.

The stand out track for me is “before the storm came” with its utterly engaging piano melody and beguiling percussive elements. It's like the theme tune to a film or play I have yet to see ... and I guess that is the crux of Felixdroid’s work ... it has a cinematic quality that I, for one, greatly appreciate.

I heartily recommend this compilation as an effective entry point to FELiXDROiD's music. "Hammered" isexpertly sequenced and is similarly worth being on anyone's mp3 player of choice.

Have a listen & do what you can to support excellent independent music.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Seven Questions with ... Blackclassical

I needed to know more about Blackclassical and his inspiration for the excellent "Musique du Meuble".  I asked him to answer my wee blog interview ... and this is what Greg responded with:


1) Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Greg. I was born in Manchester in 1970 and to be honest I'm no one really… I'm not very good at talking about myself as I'm sure the words below will play testament to…

2) What are you working on at the moment?
Some embryonic things not much atm the moment as I've just released two EP's one: Musique du Meuble on Pathmusick (http://pathmusick.hermetech.net/2013/path_v_15.html) and the other a self released thing "and Putting Shiny Tony Lamas on Layaway Again..." on Bandcamp.

I bought some watercolours the other day so maybe I'll pop out an paint some landscapes this weekend in the Hills. It actually looks like this bleak winter is finally fading and It's been sunny here for the past three days in a row… hahaha :)

3) Who inspires you? 
Sheez this is a tough question and by that really tough as i generally find inspiration in lots of different places. Inspiration is one of those things — it's all around you providing you are receptive to it. I learned this a long time ago at Art College. A really wise (well I thought so) lecturer told the class "Never wear a Watch". The problem with wearing a watch is that you get used to the connivence of it and it becomes a habit and you become lazy because of habits. He said there are many different places that you can find the time if you need to know, clocks are all around you and if you are forced to look for a clock, you may never know what you might see or hear, something you will no doubt have missed… or words to that effect. He was right because you do see/hear stuff and this is a form of inspiration if that makes sense? There are not a lot of things that I remember but that really resonated with me, hopefully it will to others too.

- Name an artist who has inspired you.
Not so much an artist as thats quite difficult to answer there are literally too many to name. I would answer this with a person, my Auntie she got me into music as she was a big music nut. She used to take me shopping on a saturday trawling record shops and markets etc. She used to buy me one a week i was about 6 maybe 7 years old then. It basically stuck with me the stuff she used to buy was very eclectic, punk, soul, rock, disco, electronic stuff etc. She educated me a lot.

- Name place that has inspired you.
Again, a lot of places spring to mind but i guess i would have to really answer this with my home town Manchester. I believe that I'm truly blessed coming from a place with a very diverse cultural heritage. There has always been a good musical scene here. Every genre could be heard around every corner: Soul, jazz, funk, punk, electronic, Dub, house, hip hop, Reggae — the scene in the north west of England and the radio stations played good music in this vein because when most of the stations were independent, they understood their audiences money came from advertising and the music was a paramount thing to the station to secure the audience to be exposed to the ads. The typical djs we had on the radio were the likes of Mike Shaft, Greg Wilson, Colin Curtis, Richard Searling, Chad Jackson, Hewan Clark ... the list was endless. Most people used to tape the top 40 on a sunday I used to tape those guys mixing electro, disco, funk, soul and jazz, was amazing to listen to — a great education I learned a lot about music from those guys.

- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.
Man your questions are hard to narrow down to just one thing... Every "thing" inspires me :)

4) What drives you to do what you do? 
A lot of relentless nagging in my head… I just do stuff whatever it maybe cause thats what my brain / heart tells me to do at any particular moment in time. I'm not sure of what i will do tomorrow as things change constantly, i do consider myself to be more creative than analytical and as such creativity can be both a gift and a curse — I can understand why creative people go mad often sometimes. I wish that i could switch it off but you can't.

5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?
None really. I'm of the opinion that you either like it or not, and I'm not really fussed either way. Music, Art: Painting, Drawing, Photography etc are all methods/channels of letting my creativity out as I said in the question above as a person I need to let stuff out otherwise i think i would be living in an Asylum or possibly dead.

6) What role does community play in what you do?
Community is very important as I get lots of good feedback with the people i know and by good i mean really honest which is rare. Most people will take the easy option of telling you everything is good despite probably feeling the opposite. I consider myself very lucky as it helps me progress both further and faster.

7) What is next for what you do?
'The Fading Grandeur of Abandoned' is something I'm working on at the moment. Its very early at the moment but looks like it might be promising. If things go to plan then I'll probably do this as some sort of physical release, format(s) yet to be determined…


Thanks Greg!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Love this 'Lie Witness News'

Thanks to JD Blundell for sharing this video. Believe it or not every band mentioned my this blog are real. All bar one of the bands mentioned in the video are NOT real.


Loving... “Musique du Meuble” by Blackclassic

I am on a bit of a piano bender at the moment. The music I have to consider this week all place a considerable degree of emphasis on the piano ... and I love it.

Blackclassical’s album “Musique du Meuble” is billed as a tribute to the life and work of Eric Satie ... and I have found it a wonderfully engaging and intense auditory experience. Now, to be fair, I am not overly familiar with Satie’s work. I say, to my shame, that I only really know 1 or 2 of his “Gymnopédies” and “Gnossiennes” As such, I am not in a position to comment on Blackclassical’s renditions other than to say he has most certainly piqued my interest for the originals ... and his version of Gnossienne #1 (Lent) is very good.

What Blackclassical has created here is a wonderfully engaging soundtrack of piano-orientated pieces that are eloquently sequenced in such a manner to make an utterly delightful ’whole’. Whilst I am unsure whether or not this is a “greatest hits” compilation ... I am convinced by Blackclassical’s exemplary piano technique.

I am especially infatuated with Blackclassical’s use of dynamics. The rise and fall ... the soft and the hard ... quiet and loud ... all masterfully executed. My assumption is that this is an expert reading of Satie’s originals but alas I am unable to confirm this from my personal experience. His ability to capture the boombastic nature of some of these songs without a huge orchestra backing him is testimony to his talent. I am particularly fond of the more boombastic moments ... they have the most delightful power to them ... real movement and influence.

Rather than say any more … I'll let Blackclassic explain
"This release is an exploration of the works of Erik Satie. I have always been humbled by the genius in his work. This collection of work is a personal journey through different moods and emotions that I have felt over the year and through listening to Satie’s music over the years. As such, I have tried to convey this the best that I can using not just piano for which these pieces were intended but using full orchestration too. Heresy probably. Whatever — I think Satie would approve. There will be a Volume II later this year. Thanks for listening."
I would encourage you to download this album *for free* from Pathmusick ... a rather delightful netlabel based in England that is not afraid to release music, like this, on the bleeding edge.




Saturday, April 20, 2013

Wow ... 'The Lonely Night' by Moby featuring Mark Lanegan ... with cinematography by Colin Rich

Moby & Mark Lanegan 'The Lonely Night' from Moby on Vimeo.

Wow. This is one beautiful video for one beautiful song ... 'The Lonely Night' by Moby features the gorgeous vocals of Mark Lanegan ... and the equally gorgeous cinematography of Colin Rich ... released in celebration of 2013's Record Store Day on 20th April

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Loving ... the 1p Album Club

Rather than talk about music today I'd rather talk about a rather fab blog with a rather fab idea for getting people to talk about music ... the 1p Album Club.

As the name suggests this is a club that is formed around the premise of highlighting criminally undervalued albums that languish for sale on Amazon for 1p. The idea behind it is that you partner up with someone and buy an album for them ... you say why you bought it and your partner talks about what they have received from you.

It is a fab idea that I am delighted to be part of. I anxiously await my first CD from my twitter friendly Richie.

I am excited for a couple of reasons:

1) I hope I don't have it already, and
2) I hope I like what I hear (i.e. no modern hip-hop or black metal etc)

We’ll see what happens. Once I receive my first album, I can start looking for one for Richie. It is a great way to build up a friendship and to document the process as we do.

I would highly recommend the 1p Album Club blog ... it makes for a good read ... I tend to reminisce about albums featured that I have or had. In an age where music is easily accessed either through legal or illegal means, it's nice to get back to the physicality of a CD, thoughtful consideration and the greater appreciation of yesteryear. The anticipation alone is worth it ... I love the idea that I don't know what Richie wants me to hear but I will find out soon enough.

I also love the idea that anyone can join the club. All you need is a partner to buy CDs for ... the willingness to be open to new music ... and a love of writing. See the blog for more.

Will keep you posted.



Seven Questions with ... Leonardo Suárez aka Lozk

When I am asked to listen to an album ... more often than not I will say 'yeah' ... but with one condition: I want to know more about the artist or band I am listening to ... so I send them over my wee blog interview.

I really, really enjoyed Lozk's album "Irrational" ... and wanted to know a wee bit more about him and what makes him tick. This is what he had to say:


1) Who are you and what do you do?
I am Leonardo Suárez aka Lozk. I'm a Colombian musician and artist who likes to experiment in different art fields such as photography, painting, videos, and of course, music, which is my main passion.

2) What are you working on at the moment?
Along with 'Warpsichord' (another visual artist I work with) we're working on our audiovisual live performance to promote my forthcoming electronica album 'Irrational' out May 1st on Zube Records. The performance has a very simple concept: let the music to create its own images. To do this, we've been using cymatics techniques; cymatics are the study of visible sound and vibration, it can be described as making sound visible. Basically, we put different objects which are moved by the sound waves produced through a speaker. We capture these images an then we enhance them on a laptop and project them on a screen. All these images are made in real time, therefore, every performance is very different from the other. The final result of all this process is an original and interesting aesthetic that matches perfectly with the music.

3) Who inspires you?
- Name an artist who has inspired you.
Many artists have influenced me, musically and visually; but my strongest influence comes from Nine Inch Nails and Amon Tobin, musically speaking. Visually, all that psychedelic aesthetic from the 60's by artists such as Oskar Fischinger or the Whitney brothers. Also multimedia artists like Ryoji Ikeda and Alva Noto have influenced my aesthetic, even Wassily Kandinsky has been an influence. So all these different aesthetics and people have helped to develop my own artistic vision.

- Name place that has inspired you.
My room, I’ve done all Lozk’s music there. It’s equipped with lights and atmospheres to let inspiration embrace me.

- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.
My first acoustic guitar, I have it since I’m 10 years old. It was the “thing” that started my musical path.

4) What drives you to do what you do?
Love for music. I just love music and arts, and I try to combine all of them into my aesthetic to create an original project. I just can't see myself doing something else; without doing music I'd probably be insane. It’s the way to let all my feelings flow in harmony.

5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?
Maybe it's not really a value, I just want people to enjoy the experience my art can bring to them in anyway.

6) What role does community play in what you do?
I do this project to express my creativity and feel good with myself, however, I think most artists, including me, want to show their art to as many people as possible. So community has major role in what I do, it's very gratifying to know your art is reaching people all around the world, and it's more satisfying when the art produces positive feelings to the community, and people like it. So it's an extra motivation whenever I compose music and do art.

7) What is next for what you do?
I'm finishing my audiovisual live show so I can perform it in different places. During May and June I'll be performing in the UK. Then I'll do some shows in Colombia and Latin America. After that, is not clear what I'm going to do, I guess do some new music and eventually release another album.


Thank you. I would love to see your show live ... please come to Glasgow!

To get a flavour for Lozk's music ... check out this video for "Twilight Run":

Please visit www.lozk.net and soundcloud.com/lozk-official ... and support truly great talent.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Loving ... "Irrational" by Lozk

I love hearing new music. Maybe I'm wired that way, I don't know, but it's something I love.

I also love receiving music completely out of the blue ... from the leftfield, so to speak. This is how I came to hear Lozk. I was sent a track via Twitter to listen to. I was impressed and said so to my friend who had sent the track. It wasn't my usual cup-of-tea but then again it's good to venture out of the ol’ comfort zone now and again and try a different blend.

This Twitter conversation led to an email from the label's PR ... a lovely lass who happens to be my friend’s girlfriend (he's a lucky lad, that one) ... which contained a copy of the album ... an album I am very impressed with.

"Irrational" by Leonardo Suárez Jiménez aka Lozk makes for compelling listening. It is mostly instrumental in nature with a densely atmospheric and rather apocalyptic post-industrial vibe to it. I say post-industrial because there is so much more going on in the soundscapes presented ... haunting vocals, dense layers of synths, detailed percussion and heavy beats, sequencers, vocal samples, acoustic guitars, chunky electric guitars, loops, glitches ... than simply industrial. Lozk brings all these sounds together and makes something very special indeed.

There is a cinematic feel to this release ... as if it is the soundtrack to a film I haven't seen or a game I haven't played. In fact, it is the soundtrack to a game - "splinter cell: chaos theory" by Amon Tobin - that this album reminds me most of. It shares a dark atmosphere ... an omnipresent ominous feel that is wonderfully compelling ... especially when the backbeat is an energetic and driving one. It also shares a similar energy albeit Lozk is less glitchy and looped than Tobin's exemplary soundtrack ... and, dare I say, more structured and melodic.

Tracks like the opener - "Twilight Run" - create a vibrant atmosphere ... a dense and truly immersive experience ... one I found engaging and rather exciting, if I am honest.

We then have tracks such as "Aquarium" and "Time Hoist" that take this atmosphere and add some serious BPM ... they bringing out the more industrial leanings of Lozk ... and in doing so, create an almost frenetic vibe that is simply delicious.

Other tracks are more downtempo - "Echolalia" - for example. What this lacks in BPM, it makes up for in density and structure. The same goes for “Subterranea” and the closing track “DesPas Sur La Neige” ... they provide a respite from the movement of the other tracks on the release ... and demonstrate the breadth of Lozk’s musical ability.

What I really love is that Lozk records his own samples from objects he finds … sounds from the street, animals, and musical instruments. What really gets me is that songs like "Twilight Run""Aquarium", and "Requiem Machina" were made exclusively with only one instrument each (a vertical piano, a Spanish classical guitar, and the human voice respectively). That fascinates me … especially when I consider the standout track for me is the hauntingly beautiful "Requiem Machina".

"Requiem Machina" features some seriously eerie female vocals and a driving backbeat. It is track sums up the whole album for me. In addition to the effort put into it … the way the lyrics for the vocals was inspired too. Apparently, according to Lozk, the lyrics in "Requiem Machina" were inspired by Dadaist poets, who created their poems by cutting different words from a magazine or a newspaper … they would put them in a bag, select random words from the bag, and create their poems. The lyrics in this track were shaped using this same technique, albeit with single syllables, rather than words. For someone who loves Karl Jenkin's Adiemus … this is something I appreciate.

I cannot fault this release and am delighted to have been given the opportunity to listen to it. As I said above, it is not my usual cup-of-tea but I am delighted to Lozk’s particular blend to my collection ... I am proud say I now have a wider selection of tea to choose from.

“Irrational” by Lozk is released on Zube Records on 1st May, 2013.

I would highly recommend it ... especially if you like your music deeply atmospheric and driving.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Seven questions with... Northcape

Following on from my review of Northcape's upcoming album "Exploration and Ascent" ... I thought I'd get to know him a wee bit better through my wee blog interview. Here's what he had to say:


1)      Who are you and what do you do?
Since this interview is about music rather than anything else, I am someone who basically makes electronic music whenever he has time. It’s become a fundamental part of my life over a long period. I have a day job, like many people, but often it doesn’t seem as important! I am introspective, and I compartmentalize my life… I find music gives a balance I might not otherwise have. I describe the type of music I make as ‘melodic electronica’ – basically its electronic music with ambient and IDM influences, although I don’t think genre is all that significant.

2) What are you working on at the moment?
Quite a few things. If you don’t mind the blatant promotion, I’m obviously trying to get the word out about the new album (‘Exploration and Ascent’, out May 14th on Sun Sea Sky Productions (and already out for pre-order!), I’m also pulling a remix EP together from the same album, which will also be released on the Sun Sea Sky label about a month later. One side of me is still amazed when artists who I am actively a fan of agree to contribute to a remix, and I’m very happy with the results. I’m also already working on the next release; I have an ambition for it to be limited-edition vinyl, but obviously don’t know yet exactly how that will pan out. I’m still waiting for the first reactions to the latest release!

3) Who inspires you?
- Name an artist who has inspired you.
Easy question – Boards of Canada, who remain an obsession. I don’t try to copy their sound (a pointless exercise), but they broke a lot of ground and I never get tired of their music.

- Name a place that has inspired you.
There are lots of these – quite frequently I find an image of a particular place (that I may, or may not have visited) running through my head as I’m working on a track. But I’ll have to say Nanda Devi in the Himalaya – although I’ve never been there, the idea as much as the reality of it has been a major inspiration behind the new album. It’s the idea of a sanctuary that is very hard to find but somehow untouched by the rest of the world.

- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.
My Yamaha QS300 – my first proper and only hardware synthesizer – a brilliantly inspirational instrument for me. Although it’s now, sadly, broken, the Northcape ‘sound’ evolved out of my experiments on this and I later tried to replicate those sounds in software.

4) What drives you to do what you do?
Self expression primarily, although I’d be lying if I said having an audience (however small) who enjoys what I do isn’t important, it isn’t the primary reason, the music came first. When I first put stuff up on the internet I was amazed to find out that anyone actually thought it was any good. Music allows me to give a form to something that otherwise would only exist as a vague feeling in my head.

5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?
Honesty – I like to feel that my music is honest rather than pretentious, it expresses something personal to me and it’s not trying to be something that it’s not in order to gain an audience. Respect for nature and the environment definitely is an important aspect of my music as well, it is something that I feel underlies (albeit in a subtle way) a lot of what I do. Finally, probably the ability to keep an open mind.

6) What role does community play in what you do?
Like many (most?) independent artists, the virtual online community is incredibly important for my music. Without the internet, although I would still have made music, it would exist in a very different form and I might not still have been making it today. Obviously the internet gives me an audience, but I find the different people I communicate with online very inspiring as well, I have ‘met’ (in a virtual sense) some awesome people and it’s also great to be able to find collaborators and remixers in this way. Community in a physical, local sense is not very important for my music, most people who know me are either unaware that I even make music, or don’t like it all that much. I think the audience for my type of electronica is global, but relatively thinly spread! I would like my music to operate more on a local level as well, but realistically, the only way for that to occur would be for me to play live and I’m not sure if that will happen.

7) What is next for what you do?
I never really know what is next in the long term, but in the shorter term I am well on the way with the next release, which continues in a melodic electronica (beat-propelled) direction, I’m trying hard to get as analogue sounds as possible using software. I tend to release music quite slowly, partly as it can be a struggle to find enough time, but I’m sure this is a common problem. In the longer term I may explore some more ambient music again (as I did on a previous EP) but I’m not really sure at this stage. As long as I keep trying to experiment, the music tends to evolve at its own pace.


Thank you! If you haven't had a chance to listen to Northcape's new album ... please check it out below:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Loving ... “Exploration and Ascent” by Northcape

When I write reviews of music, I try not to compare the artist in question with another, potentially more establish, artist. It's something I don't really appreciate in the writing of others. I think musicians should always seek to be themselves and, as such, reviewers should view them as such.

I am, however, going to break this rule when I try to put my thoughts together on Northcape’s “Exploration and Ascent” ... I have to otherwise it would stand like an elephant in the room.

This album made me think of the mighty Boards Of Canada and their seminal classic “Music Has The Right To Children” ... the warmth of the synths ... the skittering beats ... it was almost an instant connection and, if I am truly honest, I cannot think of a greater compliment.

I'm not saying Northcape has ripped off BOC ... far from it ... but I can see their touch on his music ... and it is most welcome. He has taken most of what is great about BOC (the warm synths and skittering beats) and left all that annoyed me about them (their penchant for wonkiness) ... added his soulful touch ... and created something uniquely new.

Northcape’s form of beat-driven electronic soundscapes are exceptionally good. The synths he uses are warm, compelling and instantly gratifying. I knew he was on to a winner within the first minute of the first track.

Northcape’s emphasis on melody is also compelling. These tracks engage the listener and reward their attentiveness. They immerse the listener in a warm embrace ... the kind that may be familiar but is still a sensual delight ... one that is cherished and desired.

Take “The First Crossing Of The Watershed” as an example ... the melody expressed on various synths in combination with the exemplary downtempo percussion is first class and truly gorgeous.

Variety is expressed on this album through the expert choice of the synths used for both the backing and the melody ... as well as the visionary use of percussion and tempo. The addition of field recordings on “High Mountain Record” and “Carbon” is a further delight.

I could wax lyrical about each track but on this occasion I won't. I'd much rather you experience this release for yourself and grow to love it as much as I do.

Yes, I do love this album and look forward to long, lazy Sunday afternoons ... out in my back garden or in a park ... with this album providing the soundtrack to the moment. It has that kind of vibe about it ... the deservedly relaxed feel you get when you kick back after a hard day’s work.

I cannot fault this release and whilst it does sound familiar, it is a wonderful familiar ... like being at home, meeting an old friend or wearing that extra special tee-shirt.

If you have a thing for warm synths and imaginative percussion then please do yourself a favour an check this album out. I have embedded a player below to let you hear it. If it is your thing and I hope it is then please support truly independent talent like Northcape.


I spelt Ascent wrong. I made an ass of myself by replacing the "C" with a second "S". Ooops.

Friday, April 12, 2013

John Bonham's drumming on "Fool in the Rain" examined

I'll admit to being a big Led Zeppelin fan ... I have been since the late 80's. There was and still is something very special about their music ... it is timeless ... especially John Bonham's drumming. Some people don't rate him but I do ... and the above video vindicates this belief, in my opinion.

According to OpenCulture ...
Bonham’s later playing is on display in this isolated drum track (above) from Fool in the Rain, a single from the 1979 album In Through the Out Door, the last album released by Zeppelin before Bonham’s death in 1980. The recording above includes about one-third of the entire drum track, ending just before the samba-style breakdown in the middle. Bonham is playing a variant of the half-time Purdie Shuffle, a pattern developed by the legendary session drummer Bernard Purdie, who began playing it when he was a youngster trying to imitate the dynamics of a train. 
Have a listen and decide for yourself ... then head over to OpenCulture and read their full article.


Seven Questions with ... Brad Deschamps from North Atlantic Drift

I always love to follow a review with a wee interview with the folks I've reviewed ... I love to know more about them ... get a sense of what makes them tick. Today its the turn of Brad Deschamps ... one half of North Atlantic Drift ... to tell us a wee bit about himself. Enjoy.


1) Who are you and what do you do?
Brad Deschamps, and I am one half of North Atlantic Drift, the other half being Mike Abercrombie.  We’ve been making music together since 2011 and we spend a lot of time in our studio recording weird noises.

2) What are you working on at the moment?
We just released "Monuments" on Sound in Silence Records which we are very excited about!  He’s done some great releases by Good Weather For An Airstrike, Silencio, etc.  We are working on a few things at the moment, namely our next record, titled "Resolven", which we are hoping to release sometime in the summer.  We actually finished recording it last year and it sounds like a natural progression from "Canvas" and "Monuments".  We’ve also started working on an album that is a little more electronic and synth driven than anything else we’ve done so far.

3) Who inspires you?
- Name an artist who has inspired you.
I’m really inspired by Low.  They are one of my absolute favourite bands, their albums Trust, Things We Lost in the Fire and The Great Destroyer in particular are stunning. Composers like Max Richter and Arvo Part are huge influences as well. I’ve also found a lot of inspiration in seeing bands live. I’ve seen Efterklang play several times in Toronto and it’s always really inspiring. Watching them it’s obvious how much they genuinely love creating and performing music, and how appreciative they are that people are listening.

- Name a place that has inspired you.
We both draw inspiration from Toronto, since we both live in the city and experience how overwhelming spending all of your time in a large city can be.  I love the city though, it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else.  We have access to a lot of live music, whether it be local bands or touring artists, which is pretty great - not everyone has that luxury.  I also went to Iceland last year which was incredible and very inspiring.  I’d love to go back and spend even more time there, the landscape is absolutely amazing, plus so many great artists are based there – Johann Johannsson, Sigur Ros, etc!  My friend Ryan Walker visited Iceland last year as well and made a beautiful video featuring one of our songs from an EP we did last year - http://vimeo.com/54471930

- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.
I think we’d both agree that we’ve been pretty inspired by the Strymon Timeline.  It’s been used on a lot of the material we’ve recorded so far.  Strymon are making some unbelievable effects pedals.

4) What drives you to do what you do?
We’re driven by a desire to create music that we really enjoy.  We both spend a lot of time listening to music and talking about music, and want to create something interesting, something that we’re excited about other people hearing!  At the end of the day we both love music and have been composing in various bands for a number of years and I think we are both really excited about the music we’re writing in this project.

5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?
I think the great thing about ambient and experimental music is that it’s fairly open to interpretation.  I do hope people can connect with what we’re doing, whether through the imagery the music evokes or the moods it creates…

6) What role does community play in what you do?
There’s definitely a sense of community among artists making this kind of music, I mean it’s really nice, and really flattering to have a label like Sound in Silence reach out to us and release a record with us when they have put out such great albums!  It’s nice to be involved with other people making and supporting such interesting music. We released our first record on our own label Polar Seas Recordings, we are hoping to expand the label this year and work on releases by other artists that we admire, and reach out to other artists in the ambient and experimental music community.

7) What is next for what you do?
We’ve been discussing the possibility of putting together a live show since thus far this has only been a studio project.  Aside from that, we will be getting "Resolven" mastered and getting that ready for a summer release.  We’re also working on a split album with our friends in Northumbria which should be out sometime in 2013, as well as a film score for my wife (Shaleen Sangha)’s short film "Nayan and the Evil Eye", which we are really looking forward to!


Thank you Brad!  I can't wait to hear "Resolven" ... oh and I second your comment about Low ... they are one great band.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

A couple of things I've designed recently

I'm not a designer by trade ... but I do enjoy dabbling and I thought I'd share a couple of things I've designed recently.

First up is the artwork for a physical CD my wife along with my brother and sister-in-law have recorded (under the name "Livetotell"). I took the photos used through out and brought the whole thing together.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and am grateful to Olly for it.

I also created this poster for an upcoming charity concert in Airdrie ... I do love Gil Sans! I am grateful to Bobby for the opportunity ... and really glad he likes his posters abstract / minimal ... because I lack the skills to do anything else.


Loving ... "Monuments" by North Atlantic Drift

I've been very fortunate of late. Between the music I have purchased and the music I've been sent to check out, there has only been one album that I haven't connected with. North Atlantic Drift aka Brad Deschamps and Mike Abercrombie can relax because it certainly is not their current release “Monuments”.

I've spoke before of the wondrous no-mans-land where the ambient, post-rock, electronic and neo-classical genres meet ... and this is one such release. The tracks on “Monuments” are flavoured with post-rock guitars and electronics in such a manner as to create a deliciously substantial yet distinctly atmospheric soundtrack.

It is in the exemplary use of instrumentation to create such masterful soundscapes and the variety of these tracks that makes this release stand out for me.

The time and effort expended to create these tracks is definitely apparent. They have such depth and have a truly immersive quality about them ... something I can only theorise comes from an almost obsessive attention to detail ... an obsession I believe that has been rewarded. The use of guitars, percussion, synths, electronics, found-sounds, and piano to create these soundscapes points to artists with a real belief in their craft.

What’s more, the variety of the tracks contained within this release is remarkable too. Yes they keep broadly to the no-mans-land I mentioned above but they do vary sufficiently that the passing of one track unto another is acknowledged.

The opening track - “Passing Time” - begins with some percussive found-sounds and gentle chords before developing into the most beautiful of creations ... layers of synths and a fuzzy bass presenting such an idyllic soundscape.

From this place of peace, the album moves to the title track - “Monuments” - a track that builds in that most delightful post-rock kind of way ... layer upon layer of sound bringing the track to the listener’s attention. Around the 2 minute mark the layers dissipate and an electric guitar is left ... bare and naked ... before harmonics and synths come to the fore to accentuate the sheer poetry of the melody being played. Time stops for me in this moment ... only starting again around the 4 minute mark when a stomping rhythm is heard. This marching percussion nicely juxtaposes with the guitar and synths to really make the track ... and what a track it makes ... breathtakingly beautiful.

We then are presented with the third track - “Concrete Oceans” - which begins in a more ambient drone manner before the melody played on an organ comes to the fore. Later on, the organ is complemented with the piano which brings a haunting feel to the track.

Track four - “Sandlab” - plants itself firmly in the listener’s ear with some delightful albeit freaky drones and electronics. These sounds intrigue and captivate as an ominous sense of dread is shaped through the build-up and ultimately the presentation of the track.

Track five - “I have never seen the light” - has a more upbeat feel ... kicking off with gentle, warm synths and a field recording of waves crashing against the shore. This introduction has you yearning of the beach. The track then explodes around the 1:25min mark with piano, percussion and bass ... a deliberate, rhythmic backing introduces then underpins a beautifully upbeat piano-led melody. This track is possibly my favourite. It is so vibrant and alive. It inspires and encourages in the most delightful of ways.

The penultimate track - “Scholars of Time Travel (part II)” -is the longest track on the release ... weighing in at 2 seconds short of 9 minutes. It is a masterpiece of post-rock ambience. It slowly and gently builds in stature ... chords and glitches guiding the listener forward ... immersing them before the keys come in around the 2:45min mark ... followed by beats and synths around the 3:15min mark. The track explodes with colour and vitality like a flower in bloom at this point. It is a marvel to witness. This track is truly cinematic in nature ... it would be perfect as the soundtrack to an High Definition David Attenborough wildlife programme. Truly wonderful and a real highlight.

The closing track - “Sun Dial” - has such a warmth to it ... gentle chords open the track and set the scene ... a scene of hope and anticipation. These chords are slowly supplemented with droning guitar and keys ... a field recording audible in the background. It makes for a fitting end to an amazing release.

Kudos to Brad Deschamps and Mike Abercrombie for composing music of such depth and variety ... you can almost hear the love and obsession that has, I can only presume, been poured into the release’s creation.

I highly recommend this release and would ask you to check it out via the embedded player below. If you are able to, please support independent music by buying the release via Bandcamp.

I look forward to hearing more from North Atlantic Drift in the future.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Seven questions with... Alex Steward aka Umber

I love finding out more about the artists whose music tickles my ears and keeps me sane whilst out and about. After oohing and ahhing about how good "Sunshine Young" by Umber is ... I thought it apt to get to know him a wee bit better. When I asked him my wee blog interview ... this is what he had to say:


1) Who are you and what do you do?
Hello, i'm Alex Steward. Son, brother, musician & green tea enthusiast. I write music under the name of 'umber'.

2) What are you working on at the moment?
A split release with my good friend Liam Hennessy who goes by the name of Drops. It'll hopefully be out later in the year. Other than that i'm always writing music and compiling enough tracks to put out for a release.

3) Who inspires you?
- Name an artist who has inspired you.
I'll always say that Penguin Cafe Orchestra have been a great inspiration. But who influenced me to write how I write nowadays have been bands like Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Rós and Godspeed You! Black Emperor - the almighty three.

- Name a place that has inspired you.
Most recently it has got to be my visit to Sweden last year. I spent a few days in Gothenburg and the place is just great. I instantly fell in love with everything about it - the views, people, food and especially the northern islands. A couple of the field recordings you can hear on my latest album 'Sunshine Young' are from Sweden.

- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.
Hmm. I've said this before but living out in the heart of the English countryside has been quite inspirational. It's very peaceful and tranquil here.

4) What drives you to do what you do?
I just enjoy writing music. When I come home from a tiring day there's nothing better than playing guitar and listening to the same drone for 2 hours straight. There's also a great feeling of accomplishment once you have created a piece of music and you can just sit there and think 'oh, did I do that?'.

5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?
I write music that's true to me so I guess i'm trying to express honesty. If i'm not happy with a little bit in a song then i'll just scrap it and start over.

6) What role does community play in what you do?
A major role! The world wide web has helped so much. I did a collaboration to the track 'Sunshine Youth' with my friend Tom Honey of Good Weather for an Airstrike where I sent him a guitar track over the internet and just basically told him to do whatever with it. I was more than happy with the results when I heard it. I also asked Sophie Green of Her Name Is Calla to perform violins on the tracks 'The Warm Calm' and 'Gött Mos' using the internet again. Praise the internet!!

7) What is next for what you do?
As I said before, a split with Drops and just writing more music for future releases. But first, a green tea!


Thanks Alex. Please check out "Sunshine Young" by Umber and, if you can, please support independent music. Take a listen below.


Loving ... “Sunshine Young” by Umber

I spoke yesterday of how Emmalee^Crane’s music had no equal and whilst I stick by this assertion, I do believe I have found an EP that comes close to her musical perfection.

“Sunshine Young” by Umber (released on Oxide Tones) really does compare favourably to the musical expression of Crane ... but to compare both albums too closely would be folly as whilst there are similarities, they are both uniquely their own expression.

“Sunshine Young” is an utterly beautiful expression of neo-classical and post-rock inspired ambient music. The soundscapes presented are so wonderfully joyful that I cannot help but play this release on repeat ... they really do please the soul.

The opening track - “Sunshine Young” - sets the scene for the whole release: in it a gently paced drone unhurriedly ebbs and flows along with some subtle background noise whilst a sweet guitar-orientated melody plays in the foreground ... it does make for something very special indeed.

And this specialness continues with the second track - “All The Ships” - where Birdsong complements some delightful chords and the scratchiness of an old record … it has an unhurried sense of self that I find both remarkable and unsurprising.

The third track - "Through Rocks and Fog" - features a continual drone that flickers and dances like a candle. This drone is underpinned by some interesting clicks and whirring … which add to the track's atmosphere and enhance the foundational drone.

"The Warm Calm" is the title of the fourth track. This track features the delight droning ebb and flow that has become part of Umber's signature. It also features some fantastically manipulated guitar and violin from Sophie Green that really adds further layers to the ebbing of this musical tide.

Track five - "Gött Mos" - a track that features a field recording of what sounds like children in a school playground and a guitar-orientated drone. The drone plays for most of the track before evaporating after 3 minutes or so … replaced by layers of gentle guitar playing the melody and waves of sound from Sophie Green's violin to complement the simple repetitive refrain. It is a treat to listen to.

The penultimate track is a real pleasure. This version of "Sunshine Young" features one of my favourite artists of now - Tom Honey aka Good Weather For An Airstrike - and is very much in keeping with his brand of ebb and flow ambient. The drone presented, along with the sampled dialogue, make this a stand-out track in an already exemplary presentation. When the melody kicks in around the 2 minute mark it is heartbreakingly poignant and beautiful.

We then come to the final track - "Öpik-Oort" - a shorter, more dissonant track that finishes the release nicely … rounding it off, so to speak, with some strange yet comforting sounds.

This is a fab release from Umber. He has lived up to the potential he alluded to in his previous releases - "Morning's Pass" and "Earth Feet, Lifted" … and delivered something of real value.

I have embedded a player below … have a listen and, if you can, please support independent music by buying Umber's album.


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Loving... the archive of artwork that adorns Thomas Park's various album releases

I was delighted to see my cover for "Ghosts That Dance (waag_rel018)" appear in this collection of album art for Thomas Park's various musical releases.

I found this archive to be fascinating and would recommend anyone with a passing interest in cover art to have a wee look through it. Some brilliant artwork included in there (mine excluded of course).


Loving... "Crowd of Reeds" by Emmalee^Crane

I love it when music gets linked to a memory. I really enjoy the feeling when listening to the music you get the flashback of the associated memory. People, places, spaces all come to mind.

For me, the music of Emmalee^Crane is forever associated with the dark, weird fiction of H.P.Lovecraft ... especially his classic tale: “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”.

I would read Lovecraft on my regular commute. I need to play music while on the train between Motherwell and Glasgow to drown out the ’noise’ of my fellow commuters ... especially the numpties who play their crap music on cheap headphones. Emmalee^Crane’s 2010 release “Formantine” really worked both as a means to drown out my co-travellers and amplify the atmosphere of Lovecraft’s penned environments. And boy did it work ... it worked so well that the two are now forever connected. I cannot hear Crane’s signature sound without thinking of Lovecraft’s imaginary world ... and whilst I can listen to other ambient music while in the Lovecraft ’zone’, if it's not Crane, it's not quite right. Crazy that, huh?

After an absence of over a year, Emmalee^Crane is back with another album entitled "Crowd of Reeds" and it is utterly delightful … filled to the brim with my kind of musical expression.

I find it hard to put into words her sound. To say it is experimental would be off-putting and to call it ambient would be pigeonhole her unnecessarily and miss some of the more nuanced elements contained within her presentation. Modern classical is too clunky and neo-classical too closely associated with stringy soundtrack-esque music. For me ... Crane has a sound that is uniquely hers and this is her greatest treasure.

Don't get me wrong … she creates wondrous ambient soundscapes with a fair measure of experimentation using more traditionally 'classical' instrumentation like the piano and oboe … but is her output that defies classification … it is uniquely hers.

And it is truly something worth treasuring.

Take, for example, the opening track “Crowd of Reeds” ... it is a languid, meandering track ... one that ebbs and flows beautifully. The instrumentation used is hard to pinpoint but that makes it all the more delightful.

It is then followed by “The Seventeenth Wheel” which is a delightful drone-based piece that is built on various rattles and found-sounds. A sparse piano-led melody interjects with various other manipulated sounds before a guitar comes to the fore.

It is Crane’s use of these instruments and her manipulation of them that makes this release so special. It has an unknown, other-worldly nature ... a special presence, so to speak ... that makes for compelling listening. The third track - “Fraction Amber” - is a prime example of this other-worldliness ... an engaging, almost Nautical-themed, drone-based piece that quietly drifts into the conscious of the listener then remains there ... gently infusing.

The fifth track - “Manitoba” - really uses piano, oboe and strings in a more straight-up, accessible manner. She does, however, subvert this sound with glitches, clicks and machinery whirls ... taking the straight-up into delightfully new territory.

I could wax lyrical about Crane’s all day. I won't, however, because I believe her music is something to be discovered and experienced.

I love this work by Emmalee^Crane and would highly recommend it ... especially to people who love atmosphere and new expressions of sound. I’ve embedded the player below ... take a listen and, if you like it and you can, please support independent music of this calibre.


Monday, April 08, 2013

Three recent releases on weareallghosts

Cousin Silas' 4th longform 'dronescape'. Truly beautiful.


Some truly beautiful ambient soundscapes from Kevin Lyons.


Our 28th release in just over 13 months and the first album from Drew Miller's ambient side project "Brother Saturn".


Please do what you can to support independent music.


Sunday, April 07, 2013

Loving the work of Cameron Steward aka Two Ducks Disco

I downloaded the latest EP from Umber today - "Sunshine Young" - and was rather taken with the cover. Being a bit of a dabbling design nerd I was struck by its elegance. I noted the name of designer - Cameron Steward aka Two Ducks Disco - and did some digging.

His Big Cartel site is all kinds of awesome ...

I was particularly taken with his "Bring Me Sunshine" tee ...

and his gig poster for the band "Daughter" ...

For me this is the kind of design that should be celebrated. Please support him if you can ... and definitely download Umber's new EP ... it's fab.


Loving the photography of Joel Robinson

"May you have love, kindness, and compassion for all living things"
"May you have love, kindness, and compassion for all living things"

My daughter Dayna turned me onto the photography of Joel Robinson. His self-portraits are simply phenomenal.


Lessons In Balance
"Lessons In Balance"

Empty Yourself and Let The Universe Fill You
"Empty Yourself and Let The Universe Fill You"

Please take the time to immerse yourself in his Flickr collection: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joel_r ... and his ETSY shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/boywonder

Thanks Dayna ... keep the tips coming, honey. All photos by Joel Robinson.


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