Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Loving ... Hotel Neon's self-titled debut



I am rather taken with the self-titled debut from Hotel Neon ... the latest side-project from brothers Andrew and Michael Tasselmyer of The Sound of Rescue.

I think hanging out with Shannon Penner (Orbit Over Luna) and Michel de Jong (Arafúra) whilst working on Penner’s latest release has really influenced them to create this utterly delightful series of ambient soundscapes.

Not that they weren't capable of creating things of beauty ... their work as The Sound of Rescue is something very special indeed ... but this feels like a departure ... like a new approach and one I welcome with both hands. For what they have created on the seven tracks that comprise their first outing as Hotel Neon is something beautiful indeed.

Their approach to these ambient soundscapes is to bring melody to the fore from the very start ... their pieces place a real & tangible focus on melody. This isn't simply dark or noisy but sweeping and pastoral too ... swap the instruments they used for orchestral strings & you’d have a neo-classical masterpiece on your hands & in your ears.

Not that Hotel Neon *needs* strings ... it doesn't. It is perfectly formed as it is ... especially with the repetitive percussive motifs that provide a sense of depth. Take the opening track, for example ... “A Lament” has a truly melancholic air about it ... it has a haunting melody that is underpinned by a repetitive rhythm that is reminiscent of footsteps. It is utterly beguiling.

At times I think of Boards of Canada when I listen to Hotel Neon ... a striped back BOC without their polyrhythms and trademark wonkiness ... a BOC with an emphasis on the organic. There is an organic feel to the tracks presented on this release ... like sounds that remind me of flowing water and a ticking clock on “Dust and Drag” ... that I take great pleasure in.

And that is, I guess, the summation of this release - it is a pleasure to listen to ... a relaxing, soothing, swirling, moving pleasure that rewards the listener after repeated listens.

The Tasselmyer’s have created something beautiful indeed and I am grateful for the opportunity they have given me to speak about their music. What they have created with a 2-track USB recording device, assorted cheap guitars and effects processors, and a personal computer … is simply remarkable. If ambient soundscapes are your thing then you will not be disappointed with this release.

In addition, I am fascinated and inspired by their approach to releasing this album ... by selling it on audio tape ... as well as a download. I would love to hear how this recording evolves through time and through wear. It makes me long for the days of my Walkman and a bag full of mixtapes. I wish them well with this part of their venture.

All in, I was deeply impressed by this release and know it will stay on my iPhone in the weeks and months to come. The Tasselmyers are a talented team and I look forward to more from them either in their The Sound of Rescue guise or in this their latest incarnation - Hotel Neon. You can't hide talent, afterall.

I have embedded the album below ... please take time to listen and, if you can, support truly talented independent music.

Tx

Hotel Neon - released today as a download or a cassette tape crafted with human loving care: hand-numbered, hand-labeled, with hand-written thank you note and included digital download.


Loving... the artwork from "Transit"



I wrote yesterday of my love of "Transit" by Orbit Over Luna ... and made a point of highlighting Penner's artwork. Well Shannon kindly sent me through his artwork for me to display here ... for which I am grateful.

I hope you enjoy these images as much as I do.

Tx



















Monday, July 29, 2013

Loving ... "Transit" by Orbit Over Luna



When Shannon Penner aka Orbit Over Luna releases new music I take note. His music has a quality to it that I find both entertaining and inspiring ... he is a constant in my musical life and I have become very fond of his compositions. His music gets featured on here not because he’s asked me to ... but because I want to. Everyone should have some Orbit Over Luna on their MP3 player of choice ... in my humble opinion.

Recently Penner released his first full album entitled "Transit". It's seven tracks clock in around the 50 minute mark ... and what 50 minutes these are ... filled to the brim with his particular brand of ambient-infused, guitar-orientated post-rock.

"Transit" features guitar-led drones and sustained notes ... with melodies played using reverb ... to create utterly delightful ambient soundscapes ... the kind that draw you in and encompass you with their warmth and splendour.

"Transit" is a truly consistent body-of-work ... one that Penner should be very proud of ... and one that really does utilise the production talents of Andrew Tasselmyer from The Sound of Rescue and recently Hotel Neon ... and the mastering talents of Michel de Jong from Arafúra Audio.

I feel I have only scratched the surface with this release. It requires multiple listens to extract all the nuances and subtleties that have been lovingly poured into it.

In particular, I love the closing track - "in the decay of shadows" - with Penner’s use of piano to provide an additional layer of sound.

I also loved the individual artwork for each track ... a wee added extra that separates Penner from his peers. His artwork, whilst abstract, does form a coherent identity for his body of work. I like that a lot.

"Transit" is a welcome addition to Orbit Over Luna's body of work and an album I will cherish for a long time to come.

Kudos to Shannon Penner for this expression of beauty.

Tx


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Spirit of Studio Ghibli on Film4



From the 1st of August until the 9th, Film4 are having a wee mini-season of Studio Ghibli films ... in celebration of the upcoming release of "From Up On Poppy Hill".

Highlights include "My Neighbour Totoro" (Saturday, 3rd at 11am) and "Kiki's Delivery Service" (Friday, 9th at 11am).

I'm going to be off work that week ... the Sky+ will be in use!

Tx

http://www.film4.com/whats-on/the-spirit-of-studio-ghibli-summer-2013


The Creators Project with The Postal Service



I love The Postal Service and found this mini-documentary fascinating ... well worth a watch.

Tx

Friday, July 26, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Laurence Made Me Cry ... coming to Glasgow on 27th September 2013



My pal Jo Whitby aka Laurence Made Me Cry is playing in Glasgow on the 27th September ... not sure if I can make it but I will do my best to be there. Her music is fab & highly recommended.

More details on Facebook >>> https://www.facebook.com/events/488886087861519/494035954013199/

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Three albums from Oxide Tones that have my attention ...

I recently received three albums to review for This Is Not A Scene from the German Post-Rock label Oxide Tones. All three have really captured my interest & I'll be submitting my reviews promptly.

However, in the meantime, I wanted to highlight them on here.



First up we have "Adeline" by The Sun Aesthetic. A bright, breezy & delightfully upbeat number that brightens my day whenever I put it on. It is, simply put, a ray of sunshine.



Review on This Is Not A Scene ...
“Adeline” by The Sun Aesthetic is one of my tunes for this summer and one I am grateful to have been given to consider. It is a bright, breezy & delightfully upbeat number that brightens my day whenever I put it on. Oxide Tones are on a roll with this EP & kudos to them!
http://www.thisisnotascene.com/2013/the-sun-aesthetic-adeline/

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Then we have "Planet Shhh!" by Human Pyramids ... omgoodness ... this album is pure unadulterated fun ... a laugh-out-loud celebration of humanity ... one that has me smiling like a loon when it is on.



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Lastly, we have "Kombinat" by Sey Hollo ... a darker, more powerful metal-inspired slice of instrumental / post rock music that gets my blood pumping & my head nodding.



All three albums have my attention ... and kudos to Oxide Tones for that.

I’ll refresh this page with links to my reviews as/when they are published over on This Is Not A Scene.

Tx

http://store.oxide-tones.com/

Sunday, July 21, 2013

15 Years of Gonz and Adidas



I saw this last night on Thrasher's website ... and wanted to share it. Mark "Gonz" Gonzales is one of *the* most interesting characters in skateboarding ... and this video celebrates his 15 year relationship with Adidas.

Enjoy.

Tx

http://www.thrashermagazine.com/articles/trash/15-years-gonz-adidas-video/

Saturday, July 20, 2013

End Of The Road Festival



I were to go to one festival this year ... I think it would have to be End Of The Road.

With a schedule that includes Sigur Ros, Belle & Sebastian AND David Bryne & St Vincent ... my goodness, who couldn't love a line-up like that?!?! I see Jens Lenkman, Efterklang and Daughter on there too.

Maybe one day.

Tx

http://www.endoftheroadfestival.com/


Kiltr.com's Street Feastival



After experiencing some very good examples of street food while in London recently ... I got very excited when I saw this flyer for the Kiltr Street Feastival today.

I'm hoping to attend tomorrow.

Tx

http://www.kiltr.com/streetfeastival

Bing Satellites Mostly Ambient Radio Show




I wrote yesterday of my love of the Lower Light Mixes podcast and thought I'd make mention of another podcast that I've only just gotten into but one that I'm really digging - Bing Satellites Mostly Ambient Radio Show.

Unfortunately I don't get the opportunity to hear it live on a Wednesday evening from 8 - 10pm UK time over on radio.electro-music.com ... but I do try to grab the podcast on or after the following Friday when it is released.

Now those of you that are familiar with the ambient electronic netlabel scene will recognised the name Bing Satellites ... He is a very prolific producer who has a considerable body of work out in the ether ... including some collaborations with Cousin Silas on my wee netlabel, weareallghosts.

He is so prolific I'm not sure how he manages to do a weekly show but I am glad he does. Glad for two reasons:
1) he plays my kind of music ... and opens my ears to new music in my fave genre, and ...
2) he supports small ambient labels like weareallghosts
His most recent show has tracks from emptywhale & Cousin Silas along with an excerpt from a piece Scott Lawlor did for Phil & Thomas' Complex Silence series.

I am grateful to Bing for this support ... so, in return, I want to point you to his show. Please check it out & support the folks who support truly independent music.

Note: you'll need to download it direct from bingsatellites.com/radio as its not up on iTunes.

- Tx

Friday, July 19, 2013

Low Light Mixes



I don't get as much time as I'd like to devote to my circumambient podcast. It is a project I thoroughly love and hope to find / make the time to record more often.

One music podcast that continually inspires me to get back to circumambient is the Low Light Mixes. A regular mix of music that focuses on vibrant genres such as Ambient, Electronic and 'Sunday Morning Jazz'.

The chap behind it must have some record collection ... he pulls some really obscure tracks out ... making his show a place for me to find ’new’ music ... via his themed mixes.

I say ’new’ because it is ’new to me’ ... the focus with these mixes tends to be established artists like Brian Eno. In fact, he recently did a mix of cover versions of Eno's songs and soundscapes which is utterly fascinating.

I would heartily recommend this podcast - go here for more info.

- Tx

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Loving ... The Bellroy Travel Wallet



In my ongoing obsession with carrying a notebook around with me I noted this wallet from Bellroy ... a wallet designed to hold a passport plus cards and cash.

The Travel Wallet really jumped out at me as being a credible way of always having a notebook with you ... when partnered with Muji's passport notebooks. It even comes with a wee pen ... which is super-useful.

The Bellroy Travel Wallet really caught my eye. Maybe, just maybe, I'll get one at Christmas.

Tx





Loving ... "Solar Winds" by Chronotope Project



I've featured music from Chronotope Project before and wanted to talk about one of his other albums - "Solar Winds" - an album I've become very fond of.

"Solar Winds" is my kind of ambient electronic music ... filled with light, feeling, warmth, movement & melody.

Each track works collectively as part of the album as well as singularly on their own ... which is something I appreciate because I can dive in and out or listen to the full piece, if desired.

What I particularly enjoy about the music presented on this album is the timeless quality of the expression ... something I've found, of late, digging into the ECM Records back catalogue. It's as if the music transcends time and trend to be something uniquely of its own making. I love that. This doesn't feel like a 2012 release ... the timelessness of the music puts it outwith normal classification.

The music is effortlessly played ... with an exemplary degree of prowess and talent.

The album opens with the title track - "Solar Winds" - a 9 minute atmospheric slice of ambience that subtly shifts from floaty-synths to a more cinematic trance-inspired percussive ending. It is a beautiful journey ... one I do not tire of taking.

The next track - "Raga on the Earth" - is the kind of effortless elegance that simply stuns me ... an Eastern-inspired melody played in a manner that reminds me of obscure Jazz musicians on ECM. A thoroughly relaxed and relaxing piece of music ... a 9 minute slice of heaven.

"Sirens" - the third track - is a wonderfully vibrant electronic expression ... blissfully bleepy and hypnotic ... a 7 minute lullaby for a post-modern age and an utter delight.

The penultimate track - "Redshift" - is the longest track on the album. It weighs in at just over 15 minutes and is a masterpiece of atmospheric ambient electronica. Floaty synth soundscapes ... complemented with the restrained, careful use of percussion ... provide the listener with the perfect soundtrack for dreaming on lazy days.

The closing track - "Clear Bell Ringing in Empty Sky" - is a further example of the talent of Chronotype Project. Atmospheric with field recordings of frogs at night and wind chimes ... it is the melody that seals this track as a real beauty. A languid, unhurried melody ... one that haunts the listener whilst simultaneously engaging ... it is something beautiful indeed and a fine ending to a very fine album.

I would highly recommend this release. It is very dear to me.

Have a listen below to hear why ...

- Tx

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

“Ever After” by The Glass Hour



I was recently contacted by Tracey DeMarco, the vocalist and harpist from The Glass Hour, to see if I would consider reviewing their album “Ever After”. When she described the music she makes with Brian Bradbury (guitars, percussion, bass & keys) I was intrigued - I love the harp and think it is an under-utilised instrument ... either that or I don't have enough music with harps.

My initial reaction to “Ever After” was one of unfamiliarity ... not just because I didn't recognise the music but I didn't understand the manner in which the music was presented. I had a similar reaction when I first heard Dead Can Dance ... it's about their approach to music being different from that which surrounds us. And while this takes a small degree of acclimatisation, it does become The Glass Hour’s strength.

I don't tend to read the material that comes with a release ... I like to approach the music as naively as possible. If I had read up on The Glass Hour I would have noted them described as ...

“blending elements of traditional and experimental harp atmospheres with electric progressive rock undertones, orchestral imaginings, acoustic and electric guitar, and haunting yet soulful vocals.”

This pretty much sums up The Glass Hour. Theirs is an otherworldly sound, a sound that transcends current trends and delivers something unique. There is a definite progressive bent to their sound ... seasoned by more traditional, folky flavours ... that means they wouldn't be out of place on the same bill as Blackmore’s Night or even the seminal folky progressives Iona. Whilst they may use differing patterns, they still cut from the same cloth.

Not all of their sound is to my taste ... some of the synths used do seem dated to my ears ... and the percussion can, at times, sound too produced and insufficiently organic to keep in line with the other more traditional elements ... but these personal dislikes are more than compensated for by the delightfully liberal use of the harp to carry the melody as well as keep time. It truly is a fascinating instrument and “Ever After” is a prime example of fine playing with tracks like “We Shall Breathe” demonstrating someone with skill as well as an elegance of expression.

DeMarco’s singing is also a pleasure to listen to. She has a folky voice ... a voice filled with passion and feeling. She entrances the listener ... captivates them with her skill ... singing in a more traditional way ... a way that is delightfully ethereal ... like, I imagine, a Siren of myth would sing

And it is when she sings that The Glass Hour are at their strongest ... “What Birds Believe”, for example, doesn't sit well with me because the emphasis has moved from her voice to a combination of synths and harp which, unfortunately, makes it sound like the theme to a late 90s computer game. This may be to some folks taste but it isn't to mine.

However, there is more than enough on “Ever After” to keep my engaged and interested. The opener - “A Faery’s Song” - is a tremendous opener that did make me think of Dead Can Dance. It has an Eastern element to it that, when combined with the vocals and the harp, make for a heady mix.

I also enjoyed the all-out progressive rock of the third track - “Lament”. The guitars stand out as being off-kilter from the remainder of the album ... but in a good way. I would love to hear more tracks that follow this style.

All in ... “Ever After” is a pleasure to listen to. It is something different and would be something different to most folks ... even for the most dedicated progressive folk rock fan ... that is unless they have a lot of harp music in their collection. It is in their other-worldly nature that their greatest strength lies ... and they successfully exploit it on this record.

I look forward to hearing more from DeMarco and Bradbury.

- Tx

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Our week in London

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I'm conscious that I never followed up my initial post on our time in London. The intention was to blog the experience on a daily basis but due to dodgy wi-fi and a need to take a break I never got further than the first day.

You can read about day one >> here

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Day two was an easier affair since we had worked out our commute into the centre of London. As it was Sunday, we decided to go to Brick Lane and wander around what we thought was one market. What we discovered was at least three truly awesome markets ... with some seriously good product on offer ... not your usual tack but handcrafted, artisanal product ... that inspired as well as excited. For example, I picked up a Penroll for my main Moleskine notebook. It's like a pencilcase on my book and it works a treat ... so much so, I regret not getting more.

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My daughters were in their element ... picking up dresses from one of the markets and tops from another. On one stall, Dayna found a necklace with the Lego Boba Fett as the pendant ... her delight at this find was audible.

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We looked in a number of the higher-end vintage stores that were located on Brick Lane and popped into the utterly delightful coffeehouse Kahalia (above) for a quick beverage before heading back down the lane, passing by the bagel shops, to grab food from the stalls in the Up Market.

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We ate Teriyaki Chicken and Kung Po Chicken on the street ... which was a real tasty pleasure ... before heading back up the lane to visit my Harrods - Rough Trade East - where I snagged the new releases from Sigur Ros and Boards of Canada.

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Visiting Brick Lane was a treat ... one that was enhanced by all the street art on display. I snapped away like a pap ... and loved every minute.

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We headed back to rest and see to Pippin. Afterwards, we heading into Westminster and walked along the South Bank ... stopping at Gabriel’s Warf for a cuppa. The South Bank was beautifully adorned with artwork and was a real pleasure to spend time on ... watching people and the skateboarders. It really is a special place in London.

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Our third day (Monday) we had more of a ’normal’ shopping day ... visiting Oxford Street’s delights in the form of Muji, Uniqlo (where I snagged a couple of sweet Star Wars-themed tees), Urban Outfitters and the like. We grabbed lunch in Nando’s before heading to the flagship Forbidden Planet store for goodies including my first pack of Fluxx cards.

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From there we jumped in the Underground and headed to Harrods. Miriam wanted to see the puppies and the rest of us wanted to see how the other half lived. I'll be honest ... Brick Lane impressed me more.

In the evening we chilled and watched “Mama Mia” ... I'd forgotten how good a film it is ... it's like a Western Bollywood film without the potbellied baddie with the ’tasche.

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Tuesday was taken up with visits to both the Science Museum and the Natural History Museums. Both were visual stunning and very inspiring ... keeping all four of us engaged for hours.

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After visiting these museums ... we headed to Green Park to see Buckingham Palace and the surrounding parks. We had a lovely walk all around before heading back to the hotel.

After a wee siesta, we headed out to the local cinema in Wandsworth to see “Despicable Me 2”. We all loved it and laughed heartily to the dialogue ... “Bottom!!!”

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Day five - Wednesday - was all about Harry Potter. Olly had booked tickets for the Harry Potter Experience and we were all rather excited at the thought of seeing the actual sets used. We were NOT disappointed and ended up spending five hours there ... including time for food and a mug of butterbeer.

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What really got me about the Experience is how the emphasis is not placed solely on the actors but firmly on everyone else ... direction, production and design - props, set, costume, wigs, and even graphic design - we're all given airtime.

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We were all in our element. I think Dayna took as many photos as I did. I managed nearly 300 on my iPhone ... partly due to leaving the battery of my Nikon dSLR in the hotel and partly because I loved the handiness of being able to share via Instagram and Vine.

The Harry Potter Experience is something else altogether and was a real highlight of the trip. Thank you Olly for making it happen!

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After a day away ... we couldn't resist a wee trip into the South Bank. We grabbed noodles in Wagamama there and then strolled. Truly lovely.

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Thursday involved more shopping with a visit to Camden Town. The markets there are fab but not really in the same league as Brick Lane. It was pleasant enough but not as exciting as we had envisaged ... a thought compounded after grabbing fish and chips in what we thought was a ’local’ restaurant only to get ripped off - £11 each for fish and chips - you’re havin’ a laff, mate!

We headed back into the City and went exploring. Unfortunately Leicester Square isn't as exciting as its made out to be ... and Covent Garden is a bit overpriced (except for Fopp) ... so we turned around and headed back to Oxford Street.

While there, We found the Salvation Army at Regent Hall and went in for a cuppa ... we paid less than £7 for drinks and pastries for the four of us ... which resulted in a “how much?” exclamation from me. London is many things but it isn't cheap and this non-expensive break was very welcomed indeed.

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I headed back to Waterloo with the family before meeting up with Will Taylor for a blether and a coffee. He’s a great guy who has a heart for his community. We talked about the charity he’s set up with his wife, amongst other things ... over a burrito at Wahaca ... and a coffee at “look mum, no hands” - both on the South Bank. We walked and talked from the London Eye to the Tate Modern and back again ... a conversation I thoroughly enjoyed.

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Day seven aka Friday was a lower key day ... one that involved a visit to the Salvation Army’s shop in the Elephant and Castle ... as well as a further donder along Oxford Street and a return visit to the Nando’s there.

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Afterwards, I was fortunate to meet Tim Luke Jones for a quick coffee ... which was a blast. I love how social media breaks the ice and you can spend time in a “stranger’s” company and talk to them as if you've known them for ages. We talked for about 30 minutes before I needed to get back to my family and he needed to go to work as a copper.

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After shopping we headed to St James' Park for a walk and a rest. What a beautiful park that is!

The reason the day was low-key was because the evening wasn't!!! We had tickets for Wicked.

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I'm not one for musical theatre ... or I should say I wasn't one for musical theatre ... because I am now! Wicked was wonderful. A truly brilliant story that was expertly communicated through the acting, singing, production and design. I was blown away by how good it was ... and intend to catch the show when it comes to Glasgow next year.

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We left Battersea early on the Saturday morning ... making good time back to Motherwell thanks to clear streets in and around London (the M25 was a breeze), the toll road at Birmingham, and a fair wind on our backs. We would have been home sooner than our 1430hrs if it weren't for a collective need for Egg McMuffins.

All in ... we had a great break. We saw some amazing sites ... picked some nice bits and pieces ... ate well and had a really good time. Pippin was a darling and the hotel staff in Battersea were really cool.

It was so good ... I'd do it again next year! Thank you Olly for making it so very special indeed.

The rest of my photos are available here >> http://www.flickr.com/photos/headphonaught/sets/72157634549437203/

Tx

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