iamamiwhoami have just released a trailer for kin on their To Whom It May Concern page. 20120611 is the clear message, therefore I believe we can trust Jonna & co. will release the album on time. For now, it’s a black box for us, but the day is coming.
Emotiveness in music is a nice thing but without concept, philosophy and underlying imagination seems empty and untrue to the idea of art as an expression of one’s emotions. Olan Mill, duo consisting of Alex Smalley and Svitlana Samoylenko, have a perfect vision of how to deal with emotions, the ways to evolve them in the most suitable way and, above all, what those sentiments stand for. On their debut album ‘Pine’ duo worked with space as a dimensional object to be filled with the sound of echoing strings and piano. Instead of trying for a bigger sound or greater space, the pair’s second full-length ‘Paths’ (Facture) is rather focused on the images and tones linked to journey as a concept of exploring the world around. Where ‘Pine’ was a blank, abstract surface, or an empty dome, ‘Paths’ is an imaginable world that surrounds us. It might be bit idealized and bit personalized, but still thinkable and graspable.
From the sonic perspective, ‘Paths’ demonstrates a beauty of simplicity. The sound is open, vastly spreading across the entire world and waiting for an embrace. It’s so simple: murmurs of piano with highly-set melodies as if touching the skies with your own hand in ‘Springs’ or its contrasting counterparts ‘Bleu Polar' and ‘Rube’ which turns the idea upside down and focuses all its attention down to earth. The micro-life in meadows, brooks and woods is captured in the most calming and universal way as if Olan Mill were displaying the entire life in a single picture. Once it’s a clear, azure sky, then emerald life-full ground.
From the sun through mist Paths leads its way to darkness in ‘On Waiting.’ Dark vibrations with lush and unsettling drones set the tone for Angelo Badalamenti-like synths to fully contain the glory of a night walk through the seemingly sleeping nature. Olan Mill suggest that not everything sleeps and few dangers are still awake, waiting for their prey. Overall, it’s simple touch of low echoes of organ (possibly) against few dissonances in the violins’ melody coming over again.
In one moment the recipe of lushness and repetitiveness is too predictable. It’s the case of ‘Knew Bold’ which is too reminiscent of the opening on ‘Paths’ and imitate the conciseness present on ‘Pine.’ With an austere melody and general atmosphere of mist and fog ‘Knew Bold’ doesn’t add any new dimension to the journey took on ‘Paths’ and serves as a two minutes long bridge between the darkness and an anticipated sunset. First the setting sun is suggested in ‘Rube’ and fully evolved in the most abstract and most shiny ‘On Leaving’ overflowing with brightness and clarity. As a whole ‘Paths’ is a simple journey and articulated via words maybe too banal but the richness of the sound and believable atmospheres demonstrate the mastery of Smalley and Samoylenko in inducing images of a more charming and idealized world.
Even though the name ‘Poems From a Rooftop’ is inspired by politics – fear of direct protest against the authorities in Iran which led the revolutionaries to their own rooftop to raise – the music evolving this concept is much more abstract and calm that a listener would expect after reading such introduction. The saxophone and clarinet of Roger Döring and Oliver Doerell’s piano and guitar calm, mystify, purr but certainly don’t protest. In contrast to their older work (such as Vertigo released six years ago) Dictaphone invited a violinist Alexander Stolze, whose gentle pizzicato and smooth touches of the bow to the string enrich the rather grayish combination of warm acoustics with electronic manipulations. Jazz-soaked compositions flow in their own tempo which invokes a mysterious calm masterfully evolved by this trio.
Probably the most impressive piece of these nine poems is the introductory ‘The Conversation.’ Few seemingly incoherent tones of saxophone open the album, but the fine strumming of Doerell’s guitar is the key there to fully introduce Poems in a shady way which stimulates imagination and suggests various emotions. It’s that moment of stopping doing all around and entirely focusing on the single sound of a simple, but sophisticated melody. The structure is tightly constructed and still, Dictaphone made it pretty open to any evolution with subconscious (and compositionally mature) intention to vary and improvise on it later. Subtle percussion, ephemeral fragments of violin-led melody and saxophone’s accompaniment to the front-lighted guitar make this piece the warmest and in the same time the least approachable out of the entire ‘Poems From a Rooftop.’ Then a nice contrast to their abstract, hazy sound is the extremely material and unique packaging from the creative studio Sonic Pieces. Palpable, physical and misty in the same moment.
The answer to any second-album jitters seemed so easy for Sleigh Bells: stick to their modus operandi and add some new flavour without alienating those who love them. […] Listening to Reign Of Terror it’s hard to determine what exactly went wrong in the process. A few listens in and everything seems to be in its rightful place: Krauss’s sweet vocals still connect with the abrasive, unpolished basslines and crazily hard drums
More noise and harder guitars are fine for a bit of mindless fun, but Sleigh Bells have already demonstrated talent for more.
Read the entire review over at Wears The Trousers.
This blog has been a fan of iamamiwhoami for a very long time for their dedication to provocative imaginary, creation of new, undiscovered associations and, above all, quality original electro-pop. The decision to release a video for every song of their upcoming debut album Kin has been a brave gesture towards full audio-visual experience. Has anything similar happened in the last few years in pop music? Even if it did, iamamiwhoami are pioneers in how they connect their music to visual stories and brand new world of their own. Still, music is a story too and this Swedish project just highlights this element of art.
However, watching their new single ‘In due order' suggests an exhaustion of ideas and fumbling for mystery. But it seems to be bit unnecessary to put hidden meanings into every piece and self-satisfactory to indicate some kind of enigma in every second of the story. This inclination towards symbols causes the banality with which 'In due order' evolves into – let's be honest – nothing particular. The broken mourning of 'Sever’, exciting adventure of ‘Drops’, calm interlude in ‘Good Worker' resulted in dark-party of 'Play' where our protagonist got back into the forest to become an uncontrolled siren trying to throw away her fears and pains of past with dancing.
Her sobering of this illusions was hinted to be evolved in ‘In due order’ which is, in an opposite way, another hallucination taking place in the sterile white room. Sonically, it’s simple, almost banal tribute to the same theme as Clump introduced while too much reminding of Ladytron and Deep Cuts-era The Knife. What’s the direction of the getting rid of “blending into convention’s way?” Do iamamiwhoami aim for some absolution or, at least, a climax which they amazingly stimulated in film-like ‘y’? And what about the philosophy behind Kin-era? Will there be anything greater than just sterile, inhuman, utilitarian icy white? I hope iamamiwhoami will get there and lead us along with them.
UPDATE: The creator of a blog called ApocalypseWolf reacted to this short feature on iamamiwhoami’s new single with this post. I admit that ‘In due order’ is a part of a longer story which has been evolved for admirably long time. Nevertheless, a decision to film a video for every single asks for a discussion and a desire to question every element of the jigsaw. I will certainly wait for how the story ends, but, on the other side, question and scrutinize iamamiwhoami’s exciting journey.
Sometimes I wonder whether electronics are some kind of an escape for classically trained musicians. If they try to express bit different ideas with a language very different from their usual, good ol’ piano or violin put too many constrains and traditional thinking in harmonies, progresses and melodic lines. Synthesizers, vocoders, processors and all the appliances that give an option to manipulate, modify and mutate come handy in such situation when an instrument is too bounding and too anticipated – especially when something extra-ordinary wants ti go out of soul.
Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm, label mates from German-based label Erased Tapes did something similar to the musings above. They met first in Berlin, later in Reykjavík to jam, to play, to experiment. What they finally evolved is an art of surprise and unexpected nature; Arnalds & Frahm picked analogue synthesizers with few quintessential synth effects and processed them through filters with some manipulations known only to them and a bunch of professionals.
Electronics are usually associated with cold, inhuman emotions, but the result of this collaborative effort is a completely opposite feeling: Stare (out on April 21st, Erased Tapes) is a soothing and highly touching piece of work. The sub-basses are warm, click-clack melodies are purely playful and all of this is poured in a slowly moving, whitely gleaming sonic liquid. It’s hard to say if the beeps in a1 should evoke glockenspiel or the tremours in a2 resemble a low-tuned xylophone; all of this is a nocturnal, yet lightly beaming mass of peacefully flowing hush.
If you thought that Pine, debut album by Olan Mill, was lush and utterly emotive and couldn’t be more romantic, their forthcoming sophomore full-length Paths (Fac-ture) proves you wrong. Here Alex Smalley and Svitlana Samoylenko work with vast fields of sonic sweetness; but it’s not that overly sugary, saccharine simplicity of new age, but rather a sincere expression of pleasurable delight.
Bleu Polar is the opening track of this half an hour long experience. It seems to be a drama at first given the progress of chords but soon comes into oddly charming melancholy. As if an organ couldn’t reach the striking straight-forwardness of strings which fulfill this composition with their delicate, yet very patient micro-world. As Smalley and Samoylenko evolve Bleu Polar towards its end, this micro-cosmos starts to negate the physical laws and unfolds into macro-space, gaining a spectacular wideness with a honeyed bliss. What once sounded as a organ-based melodrama becomes a cello-led beauty. Paths is going to be a honourable follower of Pine. Be sure to check another track, not shorter than eight-minutes sonic trip, Amber Balanced, too.
It’s been more than two years, but we know still nothing of iamamiwhoami and, above all, what to expect of them. Unlike their latest singles (if six months ago can be marked as latest) sever is not a power-disco; it’s rather the opposite. Emotive ballad with a poppy catchiness and anthemic depth. As always, inspirational video comes along in deluxe package of staggering music and puzzling visuals. Enjoy.
New video by iamamiwhoami, called kin 20120611. New single, Sever comes on February 15th. New dawn comes, my dears.
Detroit techno is an evergreen genre; maybe it’s not the most popular subculture within electronic underground, but shows impressively stable following and steady delivery of not-much-different music. Lack of evolution, or better, constancy of its sound and aesthetic is one its appeals which help it to stay within its rigidly austere and aggressively beat-driven environment without extinction or getting into mainstream.
And yet, after all these (quite unjust) preconceptions about impossibility of diversity and constancy, the new mix by 19.4184.108.40.206.5.18 feels fresh, new and inspiring (stream above via Official.fm). It heavily reminds me of Redshape, another mystic persona, or late stuff by Carl Craig. 19.4220.127.116.11.5.18, project of an unknown individual or a group (who knows?), first amazed techno fans by his murky mix for Resident Advisor and follows his path of dark mystery with an hour-long pastiche for a Dutch label Field Records. It starts from smokey underground and rises into brutal iciness of bare beats followed by more percussion-oriented and rhythm-variable passages. If anyone falls asleep in the beginning of the third quarter, this shapeshifer moves into even more minimalist areas with focus on drum patterns and tiny fragments of melody. It’s pretty characteristic to a project like 19.418.104.22.168.5.18 to end his mix with mood of a folklore sacrifice to gods, since his perception of techno seems pretty ritualistic, reaching the areas of slower-beats-focused Raime and Shackleton. Hold your breathe and prepare for an hour-long techno blackout.Tweet
Michał Jacaszek, Polish composer and musician first crossed his paths with my music library with his third full-length Treny released on Norwegian label Miasmah. That dark affair, half-classical, half-dark ambient amazed me with its indefiniteness and unapproachability. As with every Miasmah signee, Jacaszek explored his own vision of artistic darkness: bit nostalgic, partly foggy and slightly brutal.
In comparison to Treny, his latest album Glimmer released in the end of 2011 begins somehow lighter, almost shinier. Yes, there’s the droning bass in ‘Goldengrove' which creates the shadows embracing the music all around, but the main theme of a charmingly singing harpsichord accompanied by playful banjo and fragile glockenspiel. The high-pitched sound of harpsichord – sharp in its sound and majestic in delivery – as if suggested that the glimmering nature of this album dwells in a veneer-like shallowness. Luckily, the following ‘Dare-Gale’ (streamed above; check out its video too) wins over such presumptions. Jacaszek is patient in uncovering its many layers and evolving its beauty towards a magnificence. First, there’s a humble, subdued combination of basic harmonies which are present for the entire six minutes.
‘Dare-Gale’ cracks, breaks down and rises up again reminding of never-dying Phoenix who will burn and than revive even stronger and more beautiful. Jacaszek demonstrates here his talent for building up a tension and releasing it in an ecstatic, noisy climax. However, it’s not just a demonstration of know-how, but also and foremost an emotional peak with heart bumping and mind blowing.
After its first and probably the most glorious highlight, Jacaszek focuses more on structure and instrumental diversity. Whether it’s a deployment of bassoon and clarinet in moody ‘Pod-Swiatlo’ which sounds like a walk across a mysterious woods just a second before a twilight or it’s a scary omen of a over-processed hellish noise in ‘Evening Strains To Be Time’s Vast’ having a dialogue with folklore-tinged clarinet, Jacaszek goes further, but remains true to the concept of Glimmer. Melancholy of baroque inspired ‘As Each Tucked String Tells’ and definitiveness of closing ‘Windhover’ than not only confirm his love for classical music and his processing into a complex of moods, impressions and, of course, glimmers.
Those two faces of Glimmer – serene impressions of classical instruments having a party in a droning limbo – are its most fascinating asset. Jacaszek composed nine versions of such event and every one of them is different, yet very similar. The selection of a harpsichord is even more striking and moves the overall atmosphere into more gothic, but somehow luminous areas as if visiting an old palace with all its ghosts and shadows waiting to be released. And trust me, you’ll love them.
After a bit disappointing song Yellow Halo comes something sounder and more exciting from Goldfrapp, British duo who started their career more than a decade ago. Melancholy Sky, as the name suggests and artwork hints, is a song of blue, ethereal atmosphere. Here Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory make the path of their career a full circle. Chamber, noir nature of their Felt Mountain is tangibly present in the strings’ section and the saxophone mini-solo in the bridge. The catchy poppiness of Black Cherry and Supernature is hidden in its straight-forward verse-chorus-bridge-structure. The most obvious and probably the most essential is the meandering melody which flows from a calm beginning above the world and beyond the sky. Yet, the warmth and somewhat pastoral harmony owes much to their fourth album, spring-tinged Seventh Tree.
And still, the bottom line lays in Alison’s half-broken, half-reconciled words: “Melancholy sky, You made me blue, Still hanging on, There’s nothing I can do, Not this time.” This absolution has always been part of Goldfrapp's world and Melancholy Sky is its high peak. Feeling the triumphalism in the closing arrangements and Alison's words, it seems that a certain phase of this project gets towards its end. After hearing Melancholy Sky, it’s pretty obvious, that new highs are ahead – whatever genre will they choose next.
Ólafur Arnalds has already became a synonym for lush, melancholy minimalist approach towards modern classical composition during those four years he’s been around. Don’t expect any Arvo Pärt's experimentalism, Gyorgy Ligeti's magnificence or Daníel Bjarnason's maximalist view of a classical music. Arnalds mediates the world of “simple" acoustic music played on classical instruments but composed for broad audience spanning from indie-rockers to techno-lovers. Backing himself with useful electronics and appealing drums just evolves his philosophy of interconnecting these two worlds through sincere simplicity.
His soundtrack to independent film of debuting Sam Levinson, Another Happy Day, first screened at Sundance Film Festival, is another piece to Arnalds’ neo-classical jigsaw. Emotive strings, blue piano, melodramatic mini-climaxes are woven into every minute of this chamber drama. Almost precisely one year after Arnalds put the central motive of Lynn’s Theme online comes another piece. Poland is even more austere, almost shallow. As if that short piano theme you hear in the beginning was looped for entire three minutes and half. But in the entirety of Another Happy Day soundtrack (released on Erased Tapes on February 27th) Poland fulfills the role of “silence before a storm.” It’s silent, but uneasy; it’s almost void, but much more is still to come – and it’s worth to wait for it. Poland, alone, would be quite a grey experience of abstract sadness, but in the context of the album, Arnalds puts a sense into it.