Thursday, October 30, 2014

Journey by thatgamecompany

I recently purchased a PS3 for the family. My intention is to get the family gaming in the livingroom again, especially Olly who used to be an avid gamer.

I obtained a list of games from my friend SDA at work, games that met rather specific criteria: family friendly (i.e. no excessive violence), 2D for Olly, reasonably easy & intuitive gameplay, and an awesome soundtrack.

Top of his list came Portal 2, which i have yet to explore. Next on his list came "Journey".

I picked up Journey while at my local Public Library and began playing it last Thursday. I was, quite simply, overcome at how awesome the game was .. I was stunned!

Journey looks fantastic, as you can see by the stills included in this post ... thatgamecompany went all out to make an expressive work of art. The developers sought to evoke in the player a sense of smallness and wonder, and i think they achieved their goal. All i could think about was the Cyclopean architecture of HPLovecraft’s "at the mountains of madness" ... the space is both big and otherworldly, and is both unsettling & deeply engaging too.

Journey sounds fantastic too, as you can hear from the embedded player at the bottom of this post ... the soundtrack was composed by Austin Wintory and features Amy Tatum (flute/bass flute), Charissa Barger (harp), Rodney Wirtz (viola), Noah Gladstone (serpent), Sara Andon (flute), Lisbeth Scott (vocals), Oleg Kontradenko and the Macedonia Radio Symphonic Orchestra, and at the heart of it all, cellist Tina Guo.

As Wintory notes on the soundtrack's bandcamp page:

"I often say that my music isn’t music until a musician has gotten their hands on it but never was that more true than with this score."

Such truth in these words. Their work is first class, pure & simple. It makes the game all the more magical & engaging whilst working well on its own. It is on a par with the soundtrack to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" with Guo playing the part of Yo Yo Ma. If you have a fondness for the cello or music with a particular mystical Eastern ambience then this is once album you need to own.

The game itself is rather straightforward to play. It doesn’t contain any violence or spoken dialogue. There is mild threat in places but that’s is easily overcome by staying out of the way of the big beasties.

You can play with another player too but not in the conventional manner that we’ve become accustomed to: in Journey, a character appears & journeys with you. You can’t interact with them & only find out who they are when the end credits role. This interaction is included to teach collaboration & working together, and is a really nice touch.

I really enjoyed playing the game & whilst i completed it in a couple of hours, it is worth the investment in both time & money.

Someone referred to it as a pilgrimage & i cannot think of a better phrase to use. Journey is a beautiful, wonderful experience; one i would highly recommend.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Loving ... "Odes" by Vangelis and Irene Papas

I'm not sure why this works for me ... but it does!

I think it's the otherworldliness of the album - Vangelis' superb electronics and Papas' vocals make it an extraordinary experience ... something from somewhere else ... it is not something I would normally here in Motherwell and that makes it very special indeed.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

circumambient 025 (guest mix by MAKE YOUR OWN TASTE) is now live

The latest episode of my podcast, circumambient, is now up on Mixcloud.

circumambient ... is an exploration into all-encompassing and immersive music ... and in this instalment we turn the controls over to Allister Thompson from Make Your Own Taste, a blog that covers an astonishingly wide variety of music;

His curated mix alternates between ambient instrumentals and songs, as he explains below:

“When I was younger I used to make mixed CDs like this, in which I interspersed beautiful songs with ambient pieces to create a nice experience for myself; this mix operates on the same principle. When a song has a truly beautiful, moving melody or lyric, the ruminative experience it creates is exactly the same as that provided by a piece of tranquil ambient music. Hopefully this mix provides you with a couple of hours of peace.”

Dive deep!



Please Note: This is a Mixcloud-only mix.


Tracklisting can be found on the Mixcloud page or over on

Friday, October 17, 2014

asip is on a journey through ambient music

"I’ve seen a few articles over the past few years detailing the best ambient albums, the state of ambient or the return of ambient, and whilst they’re often very positive for the genre, the artists and every other person involved in making this type of music, I can’t help but feel a bit empty after reading them. 
These articles rarely scrape the surface of a genre that has never gone away, and will probably never “make a comeback” but instead, the genre continues to evolve. Ambient music will always remain a sub-culture of many popular music styles out there, or more to the point of this article, be the hidden undercurrent that’s helped inspire many other styles of music.../"

Neither scene nor heard: a journey through ambient music

Ryan over on astrangelyisolatedplace has written a marvellous essay on ambient music that is well worth reading, bookmarking then reading again.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

An introduction to Polyphonic Overtone singing by Anna-Maria Hefele

I can't stress how utterly fascinating I find Anna-Maria Hefele's Overtone singing ... watch this video and be amazed.

Thanks to Wolfgang for the heads-up.


Thursday, October 09, 2014

God Only Knows ... from BBC Music

I'm a big fan of BBC's Musical output and am rather taken with this version of the Beach Boys classic "God only knows" featuring, amongst others, the master himself - Brian Wilson (pictured).

What I really appreciate is the short 'making of' that the BBC have put out with this video ... it adds a wee bit more to the video by allowing us a small insight into their production.




Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Loving ... "I did that tomorrow" by Tess Said So

Cinematic is becoming one of those words that is overplayed. Like psychedelic, it has a tendency to be overused in the furious machinations of wannabe music writers. I am very guilty of this.

However, when it comes to "I did that tomorrow" by the creative partnership of Australian musicians Rasa Daukus and Will Larsen aka TESS SAID SO, it is an apt and fitting title.

Their debut album, on the wonderful Preserved Sound label, is a cinematic treat: warm, engaging & wildly expressive - "I did that tomorrow" should be the beloved soundtrack to a highly regarded cult film . Indeed it has a timelessness that points to and belongs with a cult film, the kind of film that acts as a Shibboleth in certain circles.

"I did that tomorrow" is piano-based neo-classic expressionism at it’s best. The haunting, evocative, and, at times, energetic piano makes for a very pleasant listening experience.

However, when it is partnered with some truly exceptional percussion, the album comes alive. Together TESS SAID SO create something very special idea.

The second track - "sometimes never" - is a prime example of how exceptional the percussion is and how  ’alive’ this recording is. It is a prime example of how very tight TESS SAID SO are as a unit.

The jazz influence is very apparent with flavours of avant-garde & the expressive soundtrack-jazz of Morricone obvious to the listener. The use of a glockenspiel on "Trace" in conjunction with other percussion really sets this notion of & develops the cinematic feel of the recording. This feeling carries through with "planted this to imagine" albeit with the introduction of electronically manipulated field recordings providing a delicious layer of ambience.

The experimentation with an ambient undercurrent continues with the haunting "Seven Suns", where the piano comes to the fore & is underpinned with the most energetic percussion. I'd love to see this track performed live, it must be a real treat!

Other highlights include the lilting, late-night vibe of "Directly Not Now", a piece that retains a real sparkle thanks to the percussion presented ... and the upbeat "the Snap Beans aren't Salty" with its unstoppable drive and wall-of-sound.

All in, I really enjoyed "I did that tomorrow" by TESS SAID SO and would highly recommend it to anyone with a fondness for the piano or vibrant, percussive, jazz-inspired music.

Have a wee listen below and, if you, can ... please do your bit to spread the word.

Friday, October 03, 2014

What I listened to in September, 2014 ...

Three things jump out at me as I look at this list:

1) The "House of Cards - Season 1" soundtrack by Jeff Beal is a brilliant soundtrack ...
2) Now that I have "The Sound of Silas (waag_CDr001)" on physical CD, I've listened to more Cousin Silas but less digitally ... and
3) The new Aphex Twin album "Syro" is a cracker!

What are you listening to?

Loving ... "Chronos" by Andrea Carri

To say I am enamoured with the music of Andrea Carri would be an understatement ... I am utterly besotted with his particular blend of melodic solo piano & neoclassical expression.

I've had his new albums "Chronos" - for a wee while now & am captivated by the ease in which Carri presents a melody. From the opening track - "Time" - to the final bars of the closing track - "Dopo un tax colt one viene un altro" - I found "Chronos" to be a delight: an easily accessible, melodic delight to be precise. The tracks presented - 11 in total - are modern day lullabies for the iPhone set.

Carri's piano-playing is effortless and it is in this effortlessness that he excels. Tracks like "la vie delle sette torri" are where he makes it all seem so easy and that, for me, is the sign of a truly talented artist. "Chronos" is an unhurried, uncomplicated expression that points to a place where time tends to slow and graceful, and elegant playing is highly valued.

What's more, when Carri broadens his sound, such as on "Present", you get even more beauty ... this time with layers of ambient guitar & bubbling synths. Whilst this is the sign of a talented musician, it is also evidence of someone who is intent on bringing beauty into this world and Heaven knows we need all the beauty we can get!

Carri does get more 'experimental' near the end of the album, with tracks like - "Music is Eternity" - featuring heavily the violin and cello from Carla Chiussi & Emanuele Milani respectively ... and "Future" with Jarre-esque soundscapes to complement the piano. These experiments are the gravy on the pie ... and something I would readily welcome more of.

Other guests that are involved on this recording include Roberto Porpora on electric guitar and sound effects, Francesco Mantovani on synth and pad, and Perry Frank on lap steel, soundscapes and visions ... together with Carla Chiussi Emanuele Milani ... and Carri himself they make "Chronos" something very beautiful indeed!

I am besotted with "Chronos" & would highly recommend it. Have a wee listen below:

Thursday, October 02, 2014

circumambient 024 ... now available on Mixcloud, iTunes or direct download

circumambient 024 is now up and features music from five artists that have really spoken to me recently with their vibrant, engaging soundscapes - Row Boat, Stray Theories, Cousin Silas, Canopy & Panoptique Electrical.

For more >

October 2014's Wallpaper

This photo was taken under a bridge over the Clyde on the Broomielaw in Glasgow. It was taken with a 50mm prime lens on my Canon 70d whilst on a photosafari with photog chums from my work.

Usual flavours are available below.



iPhone with Calendar + iPhone without Calendar



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