Theatricality and satire are inherent characteristics of Planningtorock’s artistic persona. Caricature, exaggeration and great hyperbole to today’s pop-art are even stronger and more palpable on her sophomore full-length called W (watch the video for its leading single, The Breaks and listen to entire W on DFA Records SoundCloud). Her vocoder-filtered vocals sound all but not human or natural, lyrics range from melodrama of breaking to ironic impersonation into a woman-man while on the top of it Janine Rostron plays all the instruments herself: from synthesizers to saxophone. Still, the most contrasting song is left for the end of W.
#9 is ironic, almost dull, but in the same time dark and deeper than just the veneer of self-aware humour. Rostron isn’t just parodying schmalzy love-songs when singing “you’re my number 9” (where I feel a hint of unconscious reference to Goldfrapp’s upbeat ballad Number 1), but she’s also dealing with more serious, maybe acute emotions. Staccato synths resembling electrified strings along with tribal drums emphasize the dramatic momentum that W reaches in #9. And Rostron’s words “you’re like a light, I’m gonna keep you on, never turn you down” followed by self-reflexion and inner insight confirm that despite all the vocoders and role-playing, Planningtorock is still a project of a living, feeling human with strong, beautiful emotions. For W, #9 is the most effective closer with Rostron being deep inside of her own world where the listener is more than welcome.
Miasmah proves to be the greatest home for the darkest, but still pure art once again. Oppressive, gloomy and mysterious music always finds its way to this Norwegian imprint lead by Erik K Skodvin. The latest contribution to its fascinating collection is the second release of Kreng, Belgian master of creative oddity. Grimoire contains varying bricolage of moods and motives, but the strongest and most resonant experience comes in its centerpiece, Wrak (Wreck).
Pepijn Caudron initializes the airless atmosphere with a claustrophobic harmony played by crying violin as if played from old vinyl. Its dramatic melody is accompanied by wonderfully simple, but similarly miserable piano. This depressive, but calm idyll can’t stay for long: sounds of processed woodwinds come to disrupt melancholy and break it into pieces of epileptic hysteria. Dissonant harmonies of noise together with ringing percussion catalyze something between painful schizophrenia and stunning agony. It’s the noise that purifies and it’s the ever-present loop of violin that preserves Wrak to collapse into unnecessary chaos. And certainly, it’s Caudron’s talent for balance - not to be too grotesque - retain the drama on its elegant level. Wrak is a work about and within tragedy: appealing and inspiring. Clearly, Grimoire is one of the strongest artistic adventures this year. (You can pre-order Grimoire in Sonic Pieces e-shop.)
There is something untypically delicate about Lost In Waves Of Light, Antonymes's new composition. Ian M. Hazeldine, creative mind hidden behind this contrasting pseudonym, has just released his most audacious and creative piece on The Licence To Interpret Dreams but what is even more striking is this particular composition which connects various elements from above mentioned album. In comparison to his recent mildly dreamy, more ambient piano-oriented work, Lost In Waves Of Light sounds bit bolder and more resolute. That’s mostly caused by Antonymes’s beautiful arrangements for violin played by Christoph Berg, better known as Field Rotation. Actually, what makes them so pleasing and captivating is the concreteness and motional decisiveness that are both on higher levels than in Antonymes's more ambient works. On the top of it, putting four different fragments guarantees slight changes in moods and evolution of altered motives. Therefore, the feeling of epic and some surreal kind of story are preserved. Close your eyes and get lost in waves of diminishing lights.
Marcus Fjellström is one of musicAddicted's favourite composers. Above all probably for his ability to be deep inside his works to polish every single detail but in the same time look from a high perspective to reach the right detachment. After last year's outstanding Schattenspieler, 2010’s 3rd best album according to the taste of this blog, he decided to release his set of mini-compositions on his own, rather than via Miasmah. After several listens to it, the highest peak on Library Music 1 is the 16th piece named simply LM-116. Highly processed strokes of emotive cello are put over an increasingly growing mass of dark harmonies, most notably created by repetitive piano. After few melodic cycles, it’s clear that this drama has no happy-end and with the thought on it, Marcus’s cello is even more insistent, multiplying the overall tense. As Library Music 1 works in synergy with some unknown (and unknowable) 50s psychological thriller, the denouement counts on the listener’s imagination. So come and encrypt the mystery inside.
(The review of Library Music 1 comes very soon. Also, I’m very happy that Marcus is my 200th post on this blog.)
Marissa Nadler publishes second track from her fifth eponymous album. The Sun Always Reminds Me Of You is a moody ballad with bits of country, almost folksy elements. Gliding tremolo guitar beautifully underlines Marissa’s velvet vocals and gets a surprising, but more than welcome solo in the final minute. Big band behind Marissa is still something extra-ordinary, but for such Leonard Cohen-like ballad full instrumental body comes appropriate. Overall, the song feels as if you were sitting in a dusty pub, drinking your pint and some cute lady was singing her song about thousands of her lovers once again. Yes, The Sun Always Reminds Me Of You is a love song, but as it’s Marissa’s one, it plays fluidly, naturally and sounds uniquely. And despite the blueness hidden in lyrics, it shows Marissa in her light and pleasurable pose. Lastly, the song is offered for a free download from Marissa’s SoundCloud.
Dustin O’Halloran is an American composer of piano music balancing somewhere between contemporary classic and chamber pop. He compares his works to colours and defines the emotions evaporating from his songs as a collage of blue, violet with white spaces and small black elements poured by rusty brown. Besides these calming colours there are many meditative pictures and dreams present. Interpretation of his tranquil compositions depends on the listener— his wordless songs can catalyze grief and melancholy, but also calm happiness and hope. Explore the palette of colours and feelings while listening to Vorleben, recorded in front of live (but silent) audience in otherworldly Grunewald church for Sonic Pieces label - now re-released by Fat-Catrecords.
Young generation of artists who create contemporary classic was recently labeled as “Arvo Pärt’s Children” by German magazine Jazzthetik. While listening to indie classical Ólafur Arnalds, pianist Nils Frahm or more experimental Peter Broderick, this comparison works just for Pärt’s early neo-classist compositions. None of these three evolves minimalism in the same manner as Pärt or still popular Erik Satie; their minimalism is rather the basis for straightforward melancholy or a reflection of shorter experiences in composing. More accurate influences are romantic esthetics of Frederyk Chopin or neo-classism of Sergei Prokofiev. However, the bottom line is not putting these young composers into particular genres or naming all their muses; just trying to define the ubiquitous feeling caused by their music.
Like his contemporaries, emotions over technics are favoured by American composer Dustin O’Halloran, currently living in Berlin. The first reason is his lack of classical training. After six years of piano lessons during the childhood he came back to “serious” music as an adult. While living in Italy he formed duo Dévics with Sara Lov. They laid their chamber pop on emotive piano arrangements that beautifully accompanied Sara’s dreamy singing. Thanks to this melancholic indie pop music (signed to prestige Bella Union) Dustin returned to classical music. He gained more popularity after compiling soundtrack to Sofia Coppola’s movie Marie Antoinette which came after the release of first collection of solo songs for piano (Piano Solos, Vol.1). Another important movie in his portfolio was An American Affair. Limitations caused by the movie plot resulted in more repetitive and less original album than his previous works.
Second reason of simplicity and minimalism is Dustin’s way of composing. It seems that during the process of recording he’s intensively occupied with improving the sound instead of shifting his compositions into more complex or sophisticated techniques. It’d be too simple to understand his music just in the context of the light-dark or summer-winter contrasts. As calmness and romantics are present in any season or weather, his compositions gain a new dimension of small elements of life spread across the keyboard. Once it’s a memory of childhood, another time a sadness caused by love forever gone. Also, O’Halloran’s songs successfully catalyze dreaminess, what is, after all, his aim: to compose relatively straightforward music which brings a wide emotional palette connecting composer’s inner-world to listener’s feelings.
An impressive insight into his classical works is provided on Vorleben which was recorded in Grunewald church during the release night of Nils Frahm’s debut The Bells (read my Slovak written review). O’Halloran starts his performance on Vorleben with a new piece, Opus 54. Its peaceful mood seems simply appropriate for the beginning of such occasion. Dustin’s fingers moving across strictly reserved space of three octaves cause a bit oppressive sound; not depressing, but sorrowful and uneasy. For those who are afraid that Vorleben is a weepy depression, no reason for that. Following Opus 7 is emotional and brave composition where Dustin lets sparks of happiness penetrate through dark harmonies and in the same time he explores new harmonious connections resulting in new layer to Opus 7’s enchanting melody.
Vorleben is also a demonstration of O’Halloran’s various muses. Playfulness of Opus 21 evolves into witty melody but at the same time it performs seriousness in the Chopin’s vein. Opus 28 resembles Philip Glass thanks to the flowing sound of piano; moreover, Dustin evolves this song in the same direction Glass would do. He comes with simply catchy harmonies which give an impression of something fragile and precious, but also independent and vivacious. Greater thematic step from 20th century back is documented in Opus 17 which is lead by Baroque contrapunctus rules. Still, the most effective experience is saved for the end. The longest Opust 38 is the most dynamic and thrilling piece where Dustin presents frequent shifts in mood to stimulate the imagination and eagerness to reach the richest climax of Vorleben. The final Opus 37 creates its own space and time to fully explain its main motive; the agony comes slowly but precisely and orderly. The meditativeness becomes increasingly balladic and after finding the highest peak, the mood’s sinking, falling silent and prepares for a long sleep. After the last tone ends, listener can hear weirdly calm applause reflecting echoes of dreams and melancholy and this silent clasp is the only evidence of Vorleben being a live performance.
Quite frequent moving around the world and Dustin’s versatility in changing music genres are not apparent on Vorleben. On the contrary, it’s well-formed, calm and still, leaving the time for evolving all nuances, with preservation of spontaneity and liveliness. Visions stimulated by his harmonies; colours and their dark tones are the best definitions of Dustin’s music. Deep, minimalist and imaginative, somewhere between sensible listening and slow falling asleep into calm dreams.
Hearing the new The Gathering single feels quite strange as they fell into oblivion after the release of their ninth studio album, The West Pole, which didn’t meet much attention and acclaim too. Their iconic Anneke van Giersbergen (these days recording under her own name or as Agua de Annique) was replaced by less distinctive Silje Wergeland while Rutten brothers, the main creative forces in The Gathering, softened band’s uniquely dark experimental style into bleaker rock sound. Warped electronics and guitar solos defined especially for The Gathering as “trip rock” were gone, but still, the Dutch quintet retained their progressive starkness and Silje brought similarly imaginative, mature lyrics what resulted in relatively satisfied fans, but gaining no new ones.
Heroes For Ghosts follows their latest path into less progressive, more meditative territories, copying the musical way of their alt-rock fellows from Anathema. Clocking 11 minutes, this band from the Netherlands brings epic trip through slow, subtle balladry, huge crescendo into rock heights, moments of dark euphoria and return back into calm questioning loneliness and loss. Heroes For Ghosts sounds like the track you hear in the end of no-happy-end drama accompanying those sad, fragmental final scenes blending into black screen. Who knows, what can we expect from these Dutch rockers in next few months. And yes, Heroes For Ghosts is for free download on their Bandcamp.
Marsen Jules is master of lush, washed textures that sound simple and straightforward, but at the same time suspiciously complex and perfect. Martin Juhls, who performs under this latin inspired pseudonym, has caught a lot of deserved attention with his debut album, Herbstlaub, six years ago. With the echoed strings, mild electronics, touch of amnesic naiveté, Jules was one of the first young artists who reinvented Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie’s ambient aesthetics based on misty beauty and vaporous, dreamy arrangements. Although Jules released a handful EPs, his sophomore album comes next month via his Oktaf Label. Nostalgia (musicAddicted’s review comes very soon) is most fittingly characterized and defined by its title track. Basic harmony is set by reverberated strings that get more dense with their every appearance. Jules doesn’t count on just density, he really delves into strange kind of safe darkness which is fully evolved by repetitive motive played by foggy-sounding acoustic guitar. Even though the title track of Nostalgia resembles Deaf Center or Rafael Anton Irisarri, Marsen Jules is less oppressive than Miasmah landmarks. True to its name, Nostalgia captures a memory of something splendid but darkened and blurred by layers of time. Hear the entire album and buy your copy on Oktaf’s Bandcamp.
Today Young Turks, indie music label, announced that debut album by SBTRKT is set to be released on June 27th. Dubstep/bass DJ impressed firstly by the lack of information surrounding his persona and tribal mask which covers his face not only on press photos but also on live performances. Whereas his initial tracks documented his artistic path from the beginning and searching for his own sound, he says for Fact Magazine, that tracks on his first full-length “were completed with the aim to be coherent together.” Based on its first single, Wildfire, SBTRKT goes more pop, fun and catchy. In comparison his older and darker songs, such as Hide Or Seek or Look At Stars, this appetizer is more synthetic and bit (positively) primitive - aimed at the very beat and basic motive. Vocals are sung by Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano, who went from nu-jazz to R&B balladry to electronic weirdness; right now she sounds as the right electronic diva who is fully in control of her audience. So the resultative song, Wildfire is pretty subduing and dance-able affair with high potential to hit summer floors and make all dancers sweat under Nagano/SBTRKT’s conducting. (Download for free via Stereogum.)
Abstract, non-linear and atonal music are in their cryptic, demanding nature probably easiest to understand through visualization. Tones and harmonies evoke numerous images - often very vague and incoherent - that work together with just a great amount of fantasy and deep love for loose-textured music. Obviously, tones that are floating in musical vacuum for several minutes and harmonies that change just sporadically can’t bring nothing concrete or palpable to mind. Moreover, the projections and explanations of abstract music are inextricably connected to the listener and thus purely subjective. Drones can be perceived as dark and monotonous to one but ecstatic and colourful to somebody else. Points of view are uncountable and the story behind fully depends on the individuality.
Kyle Bobby Dunn’s music belong to the most imaginative and stimulating among his contemporaries. Stating Arvo Pärt, Erik Satie or Maurice Ravel as his greatest inspirations, his own work is situated between experimenting with drones and dark arrangements that are in an interesting contrast with delicate tones of piano and fine chords of strings. It may sound as cliché, but many of Dunn’s compositions sound as if you were possible to catch imaginary, quiet tones of old, sepia-coloured photo.
Although connecting music to particular season or weather is not only kitschy, but also simplifies and underrates the complexity of art, Kyle’s new album, Ways Of Meaning (released via Desire Path Recordings) feels appropriate for its early summer release. Firstly, the warmth and serenity of organ, the main instrument in here, makes the sound smooth and inherently harmonious. Secondly, Kyle’s composing language becomes somehow more concise and economical. Whereas his earlier works (mainly from his break-through A Young Person’s Guide to Kyle Bobby Dunn) took tens of minutes, forty minutes are just enough for six songs/compositions on Ways Of Meaning. Fortunately, it doesn’t mean that the listener is dealing with fewer ideas; Kyle has rather made an unconscious decision to compress motives into more straightforward form.
The overall atmosphere on Ways Of Meaning is pastoral and celebratory; of course, this is a very introvert and secret joy that is reflected through an ubiquitous touch of harmony. The level of pleasure differs across the album: in the beginning, Kyle deals with just a silhouettes and memories appearing and vanishing in the mist of dreaming mind. Dropping Sandwiches in Chester Lake is but the introduction to the set of day-dreams and visions that become more palpable and concrete in following Statuit. Here, the mournful organ demonstrates its wide range: from caressing deepness to silently exhilarating highs. Peak of the glory and imagination comes in Canyon Meadows, which I earlier described as if the organ had the same pleasure of singing as humans do. Greater subtlety is evolved during the second half of Ways Of Meaning. In Movement For The Completely Fucked, Kyle reaches beautiful mournfulness which is delicately directed inwards rather than to burst and cry. However, satisfaction wins the battle over blueness and suffering; how can one be sad when he listens to such touching and sincere music?
In Touhy’s Theme Kyle thoughtfully takes all the motivic strings and calms the passion inside of them - whether ecstatic or lamenting - down. Despite the emotional sinusoid evolved during the album, the resultative feeling is calm contentment. And even though is Kyle’s latest album named Ways Of Meaning, the meaning is once again hidden in the long, glorious harmonies and waits for the listener to be found. After all, isn’t this the essential reason why we love exploring works of art?
Ryan Teague’s star shone at first after the release of his amazing first full-length Coins & Crosses for experimental imprint Type. Impossible to mark with a single genre mark, he put together a mass of impressive sound hard to digest at once. Heavy dose of mysterious electronics, strings arrangements, dark cinematic atmosphere, all mixed with his nuanced selection of unexpected harmonic changes. Yes, he’s one of those highly talented artists creating demanding music that is almost too perfect for this world.
After five years he’s back with another concept for his forthcoming album Causeway, out via wonderful label Sonic Pieces (musicAddicted’s review comes very soon). On Causeway, Ryan Teague is accompanied with just an acoustic guitar and on the surface its almost forty minutes, he explores the possibilities of layering various guitar motives against rich harmonies and makes an outstanding performance of his guitar playing technique. The first song, named Causeway too, doesn’t save the listener with preludes or introductions - Teague starts with the main motive which balances between baroque polyphony and olde English tunes. This way he switches between the story-telling the main melody and cutely composed harmony progressions. If these words sound too calculated and cold, Teague’s performance is much more passionate, natural and convincing. It’s obvious that on Causeway, he sings, dreams and lives through his guitar.