Sunday, May 31, 2015

056/100 - "Under the Sodium Lights" by Slow Dancing Society

"Under the Sodium Lights" by Slow Dancing Society has a relaxed ambience that is utterly engaging. I find myself continually transfixed with its dreamlike expression: sounds come in and out, vocal samples appear from nowhere, distinctive motifs are played on both electric piano and guitar; it is an unadulterated pleasure to consume.

Ambient music isn't everyone's bag: at times it can be dull, repetitive and monotonous; dreary and lacking in basic musicality. This album from Slow Dancing Society proves it doesn't have to be that way. Ambient music can be vibrant, alluring, varied and alive; ripe with possibility and potential.

Why only 100 words?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

055/100 - “Moon Safari” by Air

I remember renting “Moon Safari” by Air at my local library. I was intrigued by the cover: knew there was a connection with the graphic artist Mike Mills and wanted to know more. I really didn’t expect the moog synths and vocoders; the easy listening vibe; I was instantly hooked.

I saw Air as an underground, not-mainstream band; and I loved them for it. They had a foreign mystique that intrigued me and really complemented their retro-futurist sound.

They have yet to repeat the overall excellence of “Moon Safari” but they have had moments of brilliance since then.

Why only 100 words?

Friday, May 29, 2015

054/100 - "Puesta Del Sol" by Good Weather for an Airstrike & Oathless, remixed by Inachus

Remixes are always a daunting prospect: I worry that the remix doesn't do the original justice.

Remixing the Good Weather for an Airstrike & Oathless collaboration "Sol" had the potential to go wrong. I mean, how could it be bettered? And yet Inachus has done a sterling job creating something new, fresh and vibrant; something different yet on a par.

Inachus has added percussion and emphasised existing sampled film dialogue to deliciously up the ante on these already expressive ambient tracks. They retain the feel of the original but Inachus takes the tracks in a whole new and very delightful direction.

Why only 100 words?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

053/100 - "Lanterns" by Son Lux

"Lanterns" by Son Lux is an album I keep returning to when I feel the need for a burst of creative energy. I find this album wonderfully progressive and imaginative, with percussion, electronic accompaniment, and vocals all truly engaging and very much next level;

This is future soul music for mavericks, outsiders, and those in the know; music that is cherished for the inspiration it provides as much as anything else. It is the kind of music that stands on its own, head held high, proud and confident, walking its own path within the vocal electronic genre;

Nothing comes close.

Why only 100 words?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

052/100 - "Leaving the ISS" by Cousin Silas and musicformessier

"Leaving the ISS" by Cousin Silas and musicformessier is an ambient guitar delight. It is an album that put on when I need to unwind: I find the complex layering of synths and delayed guitars wonderfully relaxing. The repeated motifs are like post-modern lullabies that help me slow down and switch off.

The combination of these collaborators - Cousin Silas and musicformessier - works really well. They are exemplary ambient guitarists with skills that are both plentiful and evident: I am not sure who is doing what, no seams or cracks are visible, all that is apparent is their beautiful music.

Why only 100 words?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

051/100 - "II" by Moderat

Moderat - the collaboration between Sascha Ring aka Apparat, and Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary from Modeselektor - make a bleeding-edge form of dance-orientated electronica that I have only recently come to acknowledge and appreciate. Whilst familiar with Apparat, Modeselektor were new to me.

I picked up Moderat's album - "II" - for £1 on Sunday and have been enjoying their big bouncy synths, deep bass, hypnotic percussion, skittering rhythms and delightful vocals ever since.

I can see where Thom Yorke got some inspiration for his solo work, this is a heady combination of style and substance that has me wanting more.

Why only 100 words?

Monday, May 25, 2015

050/100 - "Trance Soundtrack" by Rick Smith

Soundtracks that feature other people's music can be a bit hit or miss. Whilst I prefer to hear music specifically composed as backing, I do appreciate the placement of the right song to catch the mood.

"Trance", the accompaniment to Danny Boyle's film, features an exemplary combination of music specifically composed by Rick Smith from Underworld and tracks from Moby, UNKLE and M-People (yes, M-People). I really enjoy the sequencing of tracks on this release: both composed and chosen work well to build atmosphere and emotion, making the soundtrack stand well on its own as a delightful mixtape.

Why only 100 words?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

049/100 - "Woman" by Rhye

"Woman" by Rhye is an extraordinary album: sensual and extravagant, yet heartbreakingly poignant; it feels like it was born out of necessity, the yearning necessity of a lover's mind; and of urgency, the need to capture those fleeting moments, to distill them for appreciation at a later time and place;

Singer Milosh and instrumentalist Robin Hannibal released "Woman" in March 2013 and it has haunted me ever since. This is music for couples: a post-modern Sade for the fixie set. But don't let that put you off. Dive into their delicious alt-R&B sound and do so accompanied.

Why only 100 words?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

048/100 - "Regarding Henry Soundtrack" by Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer's soundtrack to "Regarding Henry" is an interesting proposition: a product of the early nineties with its fretless bass, jaunty air and jazzy vocals (from no other than Bobby McFerrin) it is a piece that manages to stand proudly on its own, a cinematic masterpiece that easily transcends the film it is intended to accompany.

This is unlike any other Zimmer soundtrack that I've heard: it lacks his trademark orchestration and instead has a distinctly easy orientation ... a laidback, romantic, soft rock kind of vibe;

I haven't heard anything quite like "Regarding Henry”, it is unique and very special.

Why only 100 words?

Friday, May 22, 2015

047/100 - "My Secret Passions - The Arias" by Michael Bolton

I have a secret passion. It involves the secret passion of one Michael Bolton. He loves his Arias and I love his love for these amazing songs.

I'm not an Opera fan and not really a big musical theatre fan, but I connect with these arias. They are snippets, the best bits of an Opera, and I'm probably guilty of some form of musical tourism: consuming the best bits that were chosen for me by a guide rather than finding them for myself. I don't care. I love the magical other-worldliness of this album, it transports me far away.

Why only 100 words?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

046/100 - "Awake" by Tycho

"Awake" by Tycho is a wonderfully upbeat release from the Ghostly International camp, one that puts me in a good mood whenever it comes on.

I love how music can enhance a mood like that and I think, in the case of Tycho, it is the attention to detail and real craft that's poured into the release: I would be very proud if "Awake" was my record and I guess that feeling transfers.

The best bit of "Awake" for me is Scott Hansen's layering of sound and, of course, his synths. Hansen makes listening to his music a true pleasure.

Why only 100 words?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

045/100 - “Mediterraneo” by Bruno Bavota

The perfect follow-on from “Illume” is the upcoming album - “Mediterraneo” - by one of my favourite modern classical composers, Bruno Bavota, who presents a delightful mix of solo piano and the more neo-classical combination of piano, strings and acoustic guitar; Bavota is an accomplished musician and his touch comes shining through in all he does on “Mediterraneo”.

There is something warm, light and relaxed about this recording that makes me very happy indeed. It exudes the spirit of vacation, of freedom and the spontaneity of rest - I cannot wait to listen to “Mediterraneo” while on the beach this summer.

Why only 100 words?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

044/100 - "Illume" by Jacob Pavek

"Illume" by Jacob Pavek is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful pieces of modern classical music that I have had the pleasure to hear this year.

Pavek is an elegant, expressive pianist who turns every note he plays to gold. "Illume" is his Faberge egg: a luxurious gift to the world, timeless and untarnished;

"Illume" is, for most part, just Pavek and his piano, and for me that would be more than enough. However, at certain intervals he adds strings to complement his effervescent piano playing. This works a treat and points to even greater things in the future.

Why only 100 words?

Monday, May 18, 2015

043/100 - "The Joshua Tree" by U2

When I consider the music that has built the foundation for what my preferences are currently, I have to acknowledge the power and timeless majesty of U2’s “The Joshua Tree”. From the anthemic “Where The Streets Have No Name”  to the simply baffling “With Or Without You”, this is one extraordinary release.

The emphasis on sound from producers Brian Eno & Daniel Lanois is simply remarkable, I believe it has contributed to my love of ambient soundscapes and guitar-orientated epics. The broad, open, cinematic quality of the sound has ensured its enduring appeal. I consider it a timeless classic.

Why only 100 words?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

042/100 - Henryk Górecki’s third symphony for solo soprano and orchestra

Henryk Górecki’s third symphony for solo soprano and orchestra - his Symphony of Sorrowful Songs - is a minimalist masterpiece that I consider one of my favourite pieces of music across all genres.

The version I have (1992 Nonesuch Records) was conducted by David Zinman and features the London Sinfonietta and Dawn Upshaw as soloist. From the waves of strings to Upshaw’s vocals something truly magical is expressed, something that touches my soul.

Through periods of great upheaval and doubt Górecki’s Third has been a loyal companion. Its languid, sorrowful tone gives me the space I need and helps me feel alive.

Why only 100 words?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

041/100 - "Battle Born" by The Killers

I never really connected with The Killers until I heard their song "Be Still" (taken from their album "Battle Born") used in a mix from the chap behind Slow Dancing Society.

The song stood out to me with its lyrical content and sorrowful tone. I did the decent thing and bought the album, paying less than the shipping for a second hand copy of it from Amazon. I have really grown fond of the electro-rock presented and Brandon Flowers' vocals are very special.

"Be Still" catches me off-guard every time I hear it. It is an exceptional song.

Why only 100 words?

Friday, May 15, 2015

040/100 - "Vessels" by Wolf & Cub

"Vessels" by Wolf & Cub is a good few years old now but it still packs a wallop when it comes on.

"Vessels" - the band’s debut album from 2006 - is, at times, an intense, driving slab of psychedelic garage rock that pummels you into submission with its chunky bass, pounding percussion, super-fuzzy guitar, and "out there" vocals. It does have more delicate moments too.

Wolf & Cub are all I want from a modern psych band: their music is both wonderfully immersive and delightfully engaging, foot-tappingly so in fact. It is just so easy to get lost in their music.

Why only 100 words?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

039/100 - "Adrift" by Ebauche

"Adrift" by Ebauche is a simple, homely pleasure. A warm, comforting delight with multiple layers of ambient texture that will satiate even the most ravenous of musical consumers.

Featuring eleven distinct tracks of varying length (from near three minutes to just over fourteen) "Adrift" is nutritious, layered to perfection, and expertly balanced; feeding the listener's soul with waves of synths, delicate melodies, foraged found-sounds, and a pinch of percussive seasoning on "Gonglaing".

This is the music I love to come home to: the perfect combination of the familiar and the new, lovingly crafted and presented without pretension or artifice.

Why only 100 words?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

038/100 - “memoirs: to dust”

Fletcher McDermott creates exceptional ambient sound-sculptures under the pseudonym of twincities. His recent release - “memoirs: to dust” - is a wonderfully textured recording that I found deeply moving.

I consider McDermott’s appreciation of sound to be remarkable. This is music to feel as much as to hear, a collection of the incidental and the accidental that he has combined with neo-classical instrumentation, drone-based ambience and a level of forward-thinking creativity to make something so utterly tactile that it leaves me speechless.

Why only 100 words?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

037/100 - "Fortunate Fall" by Audrey Assad

Within the Christian tradition, we have largely abandoned expressions of Lament and of quiet reflection, and willingly become entrapped in happy-clappy, feel-good, self-centredness, self-medicating muzak. The "me me me" of modern worship music leaves me cold. It doesn't express how I feel, certainly not in the way Audrey Assad does on "Fortunate Fall", an album of powerful spirituality.

“Fortunate Fall" is an album I have taken great comfort in lately, Assad sings for all those whose experience is less than rosy. And for that I am grateful, glad to know there are others of similar mind.

Why only 100 words?

Monday, May 11, 2015

036/100 - "LP1" by FKTwigs

"LP1" by FKTwigs is an compelling proposition: super-sexy, soulful vocals that are underpinned by inventive, bleeding-edge electronics and sparse production ... a heady, intoxicating combination of the familiar, the new and the complex.

Topically, this is the sensual soundtrack to a late night rendezvous ... musically too: "LP1" is both intricate and delicate, making it the perfect aural accompaniment for those special moments when a degree of discretion is required.

Not for everyone and not for the easily offended, "LP1" is one for adventurous souls, people unafraid to express their passion, their devotion in the company of their significant one.

Why only 100 words?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

035/100 - “Death Leaves A Bright Trail” by TIDINGS

“Death Leaves A Bright Trail” by Edinburgh-based post-metallers TIDINGS is an exceptional album that has, quite simply, renewed my faith in instrumental rock music with their firm focus on melody and an almost obsessive dedication to dynamics.

Like all good post-rock experiences, theirs is music to lose yourself within ... expressive soundscapes of such eloquence that they capture both heart and mind almost instantaneously ... and of such length that you, the listener, are afforded sufficient time and space to immerse youself completely, a baptism of sound, so to speak.

This is why I adore the genre so much.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

034/100 - “Time, Love & Tenderness” by Michael Bolton

We all have our guilty pleasures and Michael Bolton is mine. I blame my Olwyn, she introduced me to his epic power ballads and heartfelt love songs like a musical “pusher”:

“One listen won’t hurt you?!?!”

“Time, Love & Tenderness” is my favourite album of his. Ten tracks of total early nineties cheese that I always find myself singing away to when it comes on. The title track, for example, is singalongtastic and emotionally connected to so many wonderful moments in my life, all with my Olwyn.

I guess this is one pleasure I no longer feel guilty about.

Why only 100 words?

Friday, May 08, 2015

033/100 - "Prince Avalanche" score by Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo

The "Prince Avalanche" score by Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo, is a delight. It is a calming, predominantly acoustic piece of music that makes me smile whenever it comes on.

I like the fact the soundtrack sounds different from the typical Explosions in the Sky sound of atmospheric and, at times, frenetic post-rock ... and yet it effortlessly fits in their body of work.

I can’t downplay David Wingo's influence, however. Cutting his teeth as part of indie rockers Ola Podrida, Wingo has helped shape a stunning piece of music for a film I am yet to see.

Why only 100 words?

Thursday, May 07, 2015

032/100 - "Hotel : Ambient" by Moby

I have a lot of love for Moby and his ambient version of "Hotel" is a remarkable musical journey.

Not available as a specific release in the UK, I was able to get a copy of "Hotel : Ambient" thanks to Brad from Free Floating. The emotive synth-based music presented is certainly ambient in the sense of creating wonderful atmosphere but there is so much more going on than just ambient as a musical genre: there are, for example, techno elements or Moby's trademark downtempo percussion to upset any beatless purists.

Moby can’t be defined by any one genre and neither can "ambient" music. Just as he is so much more, so too is ambient.

Why only 100 words?

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

031/100 - "The King of Limbs" by Radiohead

When "The King of Limbs" was released by Radiohead in 2011 I jumped at it. I hoped it would sound like "In Rainbows" and was initially disappointed that it didn't have a more conventional sound.

However, I gave it a chance. I kept on listening and now I love it.

Why do I love it when so many folks don’t?

“TKOL” has a wonderfully amorphous sound that just doesn't sound like anything else. Imagine if the more "out there" proponents of 70s Krautrock were developing their sound now and you’ll come close.

I do love how Radiohead keep reinventing themselves.

Why only 100 words?

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

030/100 - "Tron Legacy OST" by Daft Punk

Following on from such an iconic soundtrack is hard but Daft Punk's backing for "Tron Legacy" is more than capable.

A delicious amalgamation of the electronic music Daft Punk were known for before they went "disco" and solid, sweeping, emotive orchestration; the music that backs the Tron sequel is a modern classic. It sits as well on its own as it does as an accompaniment, in fact I got to know it before I saw (and loved) the film.

It is a powerful record from start to finish with Jeff Bridges' monologue at the start the icing on the cake.

Why only 100 words?

Monday, May 04, 2015

029/100 - John Williams' score to Star Wars - A New Hope

There is something iconic about the music written to accompany Star Wars. John Williams’ score is such an integral part of the film that I cannot hear the music without picturing the various scenes that the music soundtracks.

Take “Imperial Attack” for example … the way Williams creates the atmosphere on this track is so effective, the way he expresses dynamics so profound - he turns from the loud and raucous to the pastoral almost instantaneously … it is a remarkable experience.

This makes Williams’ score more than just a great soundtrack … it is a truly classic orchestral work worthy of your attention.

Happy Star Wars Day!

Why only 100 words?

Sunday, May 03, 2015

028/100 - "Ghosts Upon The Earth" by Güngör

"Ghosts Upon The Earth" by Güngör follows in a similar vain from "Zion": it is a pleasing, joyful noise filled with themes of Christian spirituality and yet is somehow something more ... a progressive album that crosses multiple genres exceedingly well ... folk and post-rock, in particular, are deftly presented.

What makes this, Güngör's second album, so appealing are the vocal harmonies from Michael and Lisa Gungor. They complement each other and the music brilliantly, taking great sounds and making them even better.

I can't think of another album quite like it ... it has all I want from spiritually-inspired music.

Why only 100 words?

Saturday, May 02, 2015

027/100 - "Zion" by Hillsong United

I don't get on too well with music labelled "Christian". This is due to what I perceive is the lack of creative expression. There is, afterall, a narrow field for an artist to develop their unique voice within.

However, there are a few albums that do manage to stand out, at least as far as to grab my attention. "Zion" by Hillsong United is one such album - their redemption songs are underpinned by wonderfully vibrant and dynamic electronic-infused post-rock soundscapes.

Hillsong United make a pleasing, joyful noise on this album, I always feel uplifted when it comes on.

Why only 100 words?

Friday, May 01, 2015

026/100 - "Sleeping Tapes" by Jeff Bridges

Jeff Bridges is one of my favourite artists. He is an accomplished actor and photographer. He also holds a place in my heart with his album "Sleeping Tapes" where he explores spoken word infused ambient music.

Now this idea may make you convulse in horror ... Bridges even hums on one track ... but it isn't as bad as you would think. It actually makes for compelling listening.

Between Bridges’ monologues and the field recordings he intersperses his soundscapes with, I found the presentation to be compelling: I hang on Bridges' every word.

Yes ... "Sleeping Tapes" is weird but that's the point.

Why only 100 words?


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