Canadian gothic synth-pop trio Austra are naturally most recognizable through the distinct and vigorous vocals of Katie Stelmanis who also takes care of songwriting. Subsequently this makes her seem a leader of the group and somehow hides the prominence of two of her similarly talented band-mates: bassist Dorian Wolf and drummer and programmer Maya Postepski.
Maya’s one-woman project Princess Century (strange name, isn’t it?) focuses on her primary instrument: drums and electronic arrangements. Crummy Bones, one of her early demos, demonstrates Maya’s passion for stark rhythms and bursting beats which reach the strict sound of a machine gun. Bits of late 70s krautrock are traceable in the monotone raw bass line, inspirations by early industrial which drew from krautrock are hidden somewhere deep too. The cold washes of old-school synthesizers and analogue organs move the song towards its climax and despite their cool nature make Crummy Bones somehow more human and tangible. If this is just a demo, I’m really curious what will come after more focused work. Postepski’s feel for sharp rhythm and brisk melody is more than promising. (Download the song viaWears The Trousers' SoundCloudprofile.)
What happens when two genial minds pair and create something together? In pop music it could end as a collision of two strong egos, but in the case of Hildur Guðnadóttir and Hauschka the worst scenario might have been just a lack of chemistry. Mastering the violoncello and composing solely for the single string instrument from Hildur’s perspective is much different from preparing the piano and working on a scale from symphonic orchestra to house music inspired by classical one. However, what connects these two musicians was much more intense than the difference between them. Playfulness and desire to explore undiscovered possibilities (or seldom heard) is a common characteristic of both artists as well as their experience in collaborating and working simultaneously on solo and group objects.
#294 is the first fragment of their improvisational concert in London last year. Its distinctly non-linear structure allows both artists to endeavour, entertain and play with their part with no collision or disharmony coming. Even though the composition is played with no score #294 consists of persistent waves of thrill and release; as if their minds were telepathically coordinated. Of course, their common language is music with the words exchanged for tones. Hauschka’s use of piano as a percussion instrument is charming, but the moment when he starts play it in a traditional way is the real beginning of #294 which was being built from cello vibrato with rushes of his prepared miracle for more than two minutes. What firstly sounds as a variation on a particular motive is soon thrown away with a stream-of-consciousness-like drive and vigour. #294 is just the first composition from the upcoming album Pan Tone (released on September 23rd) which contains the recording of the entire concert. Once again, another brilliant contribution to Sonic Pieces' extraordinary collection.
After an upbeat pastiche of imaginative dance music and warm ambient captured on outstanding album There Is Love In You, Kieran Hebden, better known as Four Tet, is set to release a 59th contribution to Fabriclive series. Four Tet’s compilation of 27 tracks contains mixes and songs from his collaborator Burial, Ricardo Villalobos or Floating Points, but more importantly, he comes with three yet unreleased tracks.
One of those unheard-before is above-streamed track Locked, eight-minutes long meditation that closes the entire Fabriclive mix. Typically for Hebden, it features a massive but translucent beat and touching groove that are later accompanied by a synthesized melody of guitar and few idyllic flutes. Locked features one of Four Tet’s sweetest melodies that evolves, morphs, quiets and grows again during its approximately six minutes. Still, below the lovable melody Four Tet works with percussion and bass in a playful and lively way to reach a living, organic song created by machines. Symbiosis of these two antagonistic elements is more than amazing in Four Tet's hands.
Ben Chatwin who performs as Talvihorros is a man of conceptual projects with a deep affection for guitar and pedals. First, he caught wider attention with his second full-length Music In Four Movements which was basically four variations on droning guitar existing somewhere between ecstasy and agony. Epic evolution of a simple motive was then captured on following EP called Guitar Improvisation II; true to its name it consisted of a single improvisation with unexpected turns and uneasy nature. Epicness and even greater emphasis on a concept remain the main characteristics of Talvihorros' upcoming album, Descent Into Delta (out on Hibernate on August 26th) which deals with changes in waves frequency between a state of mind in gamma waves, when the mind is awake and delta, when humans sleep.
Gamma/Beta, the first “single” from Descent into Delta, nicely illustrates these changes and alterations. Typically for Chatwin, this song consists of several acts which are interconnected by a morphing, unstable guitar drone under the uncountable echoed layers of guitar and bass. In contrast to Tim Hecker and pleiad of his ambient drone-addicted contemporaries, the darkness of Gamma/Beta is warm and charming. It’s probably caused by the natural sound of guitar strings which always find their way through the droning mass. Even when Chatwin counts on the heavy bass and the inner tense inside, the composition doesn’t cross the border from melancholy to depression and persists in the area of pleasant mourn. It’ll be more than interesting to hear it placed into greater context of Descent Into Delta. For now, my mind is fully thrilled even though it should be in Gamma/Beta state.
It’s impossible to say what’s more important or essential about iamamiwhoami's artistic appearance. Is it the music? Jonna Lee, Claes Björklund and their crew (whose members have stayed in hiding for more than a year and half) are musicians whose previous career was always about composing and singing or producing, respectively. Or are the bottom line of iamamiwhoami their videos? Those imaginative, film-like, sometimes shocking, another times soothing footage of a mandragora, man in white briefs, animals and nature as the missing component of our post-industrial lives? Or is it the special way of a communication? Talking to their fans just through months of silence, then a release of a new single with accompanying video, some cryptic message left on an unsearchable site and then silence again?
For the main aim and sense of this blog music is the underlying key to the greater understanding of iamamiwhoami’s presence. Not only does their sporadic way of releasing new songs with no studio album in coming break the rules of contemporary pop music, but it also maps their artistic evolution – something that belongs to the most obvious subjects of their persona. Evolution of ideas and musical emotions in contrast (and concert) to the evolution of a human. Of course, all of their motives are in highly symbolic way narrated through supernatural characters living on the border between fairytale, horror and a cold reality.
The same works for their music: synth-pop with so many ingredients that it’s not electro-pop anymore. Clump, their new single illustrates this eclecticism and evolution nicely. Here, iamamiwhoami go back to the more vigorous sound of their earlier singles O and T, but replace their straightforward catchiness with urge and dominance over the listener. Unlike most of their singles which are built of slowly-evolving introduction - often just instrumental - and opening passages (think of O, Y, ; John), Clump begins immediately. “I never dreamed I’d need someone like you" in the first line is a traditional usage of contrasts in their lyrics which foremost deal with then and now. But while the earlier songs were heavily saturated with a fear and doubts about love and life of a musician, Clump is more self-confident and resolute. She’s not uncertain about herself anymore what is aptly documented in another passage: “You never had a true friend like I.” Of course, that you are we, her listeners.
On the other side, the dissonance of heavy synthesizers and reverberated vocals somehow destruct this light approach and move the song into darker spheres – both in sonic and lyrical way. Clump is mostly about Lee as a musician and her fans as a group of her lovers. Because it’s not so easy and simple to produce quality, non-mainstream music frequently while freeing yourself from self-awareness of pop’s immediacy. Pop artists are in hard role of balancing symbolism with simplicity, but preserving catchiness effortlessness of melody and structure. This aspect also explains iamamiwhoami’s left-field nature and impossibility to reach bigger audience – they are too “complex” for mass. These themes of re-inventing yourself and dealing with the difficulties of creativity are intrinsic elements of the lyrics; in Clump it’s the very last verse: “Cannot wait until I see your smiling faces / And our love will be misunderstood.”
Choosing clump as the name seems more than fitting as the word means not only “a small, compact group of people" – people to whom their music may concern, but also "a small group of trees or plans growing closely together" – one of iamamiwhoami’s most frequent metaphor for fans. The ambiguity of Lee’s words is appealing too. Count the ways one could understand these words: "Cannot wait until I get my hands on you / we can do the things we said we would.” I believe that Clump is a prelude to the upcoming concert in Goteborg. Still, the raw energy and dissonant subduing of iamamiwhoami is more than delicious with Clump being one of their most impenetrable singles.
Although Nils Frahm has released just one full-length album, a collaboration with cellist Anne Müller and two EPs, he belongs to the most respected artists on the contemporary classical scene. I believe it’s his classical education and training in piano playing since his childhood what differs his composition and way of musical communication from his mostly self-taught contemporaries. Firstly, it was Nahum Brodski – a student of the last scholar of Tchaikovsky, who taught him techniques and the “right” perception of the music. Later came Peter Broderick who became some kind of mentor and director during improvising recording sessions in Grunewald Church which resulted in Frahm’s defining debut, The Bells, one of musicAddicted’s favourite 2009 albums (article in Slovak language).
However, it doesn’t matter how many geniuses moved around him, it was (and had to be) Nils Frahm, who found his own voice; not only in the selected techniques, but also way of composing, arranging and finally, breathing in his unique signature. Luckily, he was more than successful in this task and his blueprint is an obviously personal, intimate relationship with piano and romanticist and emotional feel of his compositions which are advanced in the complexity of sound and technique. While most of his contemporaries bet on sentimentality and lush simplicity, Frahm goes beyond this – his work is dramatic and intricate.
Yet, his second full-length FELT (out on October 10th) finds him moving in new direction – towards minimalism and intentional calm. Unter is placed in the middle of FELT hints the future sound: delicate, inward sound where the rushes of piano’s hammers is one of the strangely warm stirs accompanying Frahm’s playing. The playing itself is surprisingly simple and straightforward with a clear line of melody and its short and simple variance. In spite or maybe because of the melodic ease Unter sounds overly warm and welcoming – it’s a composition for a sincere enjoyment. It seems that FELT will be another jewel toErased Tapes' admirable cont.–classical collection.
Loneliness and austerity seem to be the driving forces behind Noveller, the one-woman project of Brooklyn’s Sarah Lipstate. Everything about her musical persona is connected with solitude: shows performed alone with only her instruments; the imagery found in the names of her releases – desert fires, red rainbows, and now a glacial glow – which evoke only thoughts of absence and abandonment; and, most importantly, the structure and consistency of her music, which is shaped around the sound of a single guitar. Granted, that sound is echoed, destructed, fragmented and evolved from simple melody into a tame beast of droning lullabies, but its solitariness is inherent and of an intentional and soothing kind; even though Lipstate’s compositions may sound blue or even dark, their loneliness is wanted, welcome, and used to instill a deep focus on the humble guitar and its many possibilities.
Compared with Lipstate’s earlier works, this second full-length is more diverse and melodic. Where she used to experiment more openly with intensity, texture and form, Glacial Glow finds her focusing more on the smaller details and on creating a sense of natural flow within and outside of each composition. This ability to see the bigger picture and the interconnection between its fragments makes the album compelling, and somehow easier to digest and understand without ever being straightforward or simple; Lipstate plays with nicely contrasting elements right from the beginning. The album deals with icy coldness, but the sound of the guitar layered into a short and pastoral melody in the introductory Entering (the actual song which is streamed above) is warm and inviting, as if Lipstate were welcoming us into the hot heart of an Icelandic glaciovolcano. Combined with the yearning sound of an amplified, e-bow picked guitar, the ever-rising melody evokes a graceful simplicity.
Imagine Sunn O))) meeting A Place To Bury Strangers in hell and deciding to make a industrial techno record. The result would be no more unsettling and brutal than Life (… It Eats You Up) (out on Editions Mego), new album by Mika Vainio. Surprisingly, he has abandoned his simple-named moniker Ø and releases this fresh smack-in-your-face under his own name. The main difference between his older material and Life is Vainio’s re-invented passion for grinding and reverberated guitar which is the core element of almost hour of new music.
Mining is the most up-beat song on the entire album, reminding Vainio’s techno-oriented Ø and earlier work of Pansonic, his much-acclaimed project with Ilpo Väisänen. Going further with resemblances, the combination of mechanic, inhuman beats with electrified cutting sound of guitar brings to mind Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails. The industrial wail of guitar which wails like a grinding of a metal combined with a sound of chains beating into each other. What is more striking is the cold exactness and persistence of the basic beat which doesn’t change for the entire Mining. Frequencies change, the intensity of grinding and sawing modifies, but the underlining beat stays forever in its eternally chilly form. This is a heavy stuff Mika Vainio feeds us with, but the odd pain and uneasiness of listening to it repeatedly morphs into a weird pleasure. Delving deeper into Life (…It Eats You Up) rewards the listener’s patience with unimaginable sounds’ installations and combinations of industrial noise with brutal smartness. This album is Mika Vainio's another win.
Gwerkova label their music as a basement hardware but what you finally hear is a mixture of number of genres that share a dreamy nature and solid electronic core. Call them dream pop, but you won’t hear much pop in it; mark it as ambient with vocals, but their echoed guitars and glitch electronics will wake up you from the comforts of easy sleep; label them as minimalist electronica and the layered textures will prove you bit wrong. Luckily, this trio from Slovakia was smart enough to cook a musical meal hard to pigeonhole, but even easy to like.
After the last year’s initial EP 6EARS, where the band firstly explored how to cross genre boundaries, Gwerkova come with a debut album NADA which consists of six new songs along with a remix of the longest song, D-Day. What impressed me more is the raw energy of NADA’s central piece called Rats In Our Temple. It starts quietly from a simple guitar riff sounding somewhere between The XX's guitar austerity and Tamaryn's gothic-romantic glum. Disonancy and destruction come early to enhance the unhappy picture pained by Gaspi's doleful vocals which move towards everything but apocalypse of “rats biting our brains.” Guitar graudally multiplies its echoes into shoegazing agony which is even strengthened by fervent electronics which resemble Lamb's Trans Fatty Acid from ’90s. Rats In Our Temple is an unhappy, but fulfilling image of an arcane world where “filth flows from the clouds.” NADA is a land of hallucinations worth your deeper exploration.
UPDATE on July 27th: The original stream of entire song Rats In Our Temple was changed to the NADA LP Preview which contains one minute snippets of all songs from the album; Rats In Our Temple can be found after third minute of the stream.
There’s surely no time in the year when Nico Muhly doesn’t work on some peculiar project. Julliard-graduated composer has worked on soundtracks, arrangements and productions for other artists; old, sacred music; electronic experiments done with Bedroom Community's peers and mildly shocking opera Two Boys. Luckily for us, classical music - from Gregorian chorals to minimalism of 20th century - has stayed his most important area of interest.
Seeing Is Believing, Muhly’s first release this year, has two dominant compositions of his own placed in the beginning and the end of the album along with another two shorter pieces from his pen. In Muhly’s own wordsMotion is inspired by Orlando Gibbons, English Renaissance composer, whose composition This is the Record of John is also present on Seeing Is Believing in Muhly’s arrangements. Motion is a truly distinctive piece thanks mainly to the vigorous dialogue between Thomas Gould's expressive electric violin and Oliver Coates' mourning violoncello. They cry, they shriek, they unstoppably progress towards greater cacophony and complexity.
Motion is true its name: the composition is in perpetual move. However, its numerous pauses, whether they last half a second or few, are the greatest catalysts of vigour and force. The sharp and sudden introduction into the motive reminds me of Daníel Bjarnason's last year's astonishing Processions, musicAddicted's second favourite album. Most prominently, this vitality is evolved by pretty detailed strings which are best suited for bearing the emotional dynamism. Still, they are not alone: entire Aurora Orchestra plays a great support to their half-egoistic, fully satisfying solo. Also, John Reid's passionate, sharp and flexible piano deserves greater attention that is probably receives thanks to its later burial under layers of strings and winds. Nico Muhly smartly saves many tricks and surprises for a few later passages of Motion with amazing and fulfilling climax. I won’t go into detail for the listener will find his favourite passages and uncovering the point would lessen the genius of Motion, one of the most complex and remarkable compositions this year.
Having Dustin O’Halloran collaborating with Adam Wiltzie from Stars Of The Lid is like being served with a square of the orchestrated ambient. Pairing O’Halloran’s ear for simplicity and emotionality with Wiltzie’s mastery in shadowy atmospheres results in a strangely named project A Winged Victory For The Sullen. Although their name itself looks bit cliché with its references to wings and victory as bearers of some unexpected triumph for the skeptical and glum, the first song from their forthcoming self-titled debut somehow proves their lucky hand in choosing appropriate name for their project.
As expected, Steep Hills Of Vicodin Tears is a moody and dreamy piece on the border between lush ambient and bare contemporary classical music. What differentiates A Winged Victory For The Sullen from their contemporaries is the right balance between sentimentality and warm melancholy and a magic equilibrium of minimalism, which is not too simple, but still not complicated or ornate. In their first “single" Steep Hills Of Vicodin Tears O’Halloran and Wiltzie work with gradual building of the upcoming and slowly evolving grandeur. I believe it’s the patience which ensures that the moment of delightful beatitude expressed by blissful strings comes in the right moment – the texture below is massive, the layers of horns and piano in absolute harmony and the listener in the highest peak of his anticipation.
The climax of Steep Hills Of Vicodin Tears reminds me a bit of Ólafur Arnalds' composition Þau hafa sloppið undan þunga myrkursins, which closes his second album. Along with vigorous strings and piano Arnalds uses heavy percussion and drums that even strengthen the immediacy and resilience of the most important culmination on his record. Yet, A Winged Victory For The Sullen decided for something different: it’s a tiny dose of holding and retaining the composition from peaking what results in even a greater crescendo. Therefore, Steep Hills Of Vicodin Tears is not just a flow of splendour, but also an exhibition of O’Halloran and Wiltzie’s arranger talent. Their self-titled debut is soon out on Erased Tapes, home to Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm among others.
Yes, Anthony Gonzales is finally back with the sixth album of his currently one-man band M83. And it seems that ’80s kitsch of his ground-breaking Saturdays=Youth stayed in him more intensely than one would guess. Although Gonzales declared that his then unnamed new album would be very, very epic and very orchestrated, the first teaser from promisingly titled Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is more fun than the promised epic-nature.
Prepare yourself for hands-in-the-air chorus, verse-chorus-bridge structure and a big dose of analogue synthesizers. That’s what Midnight City sounds like: huge shout-along refrain which can be simply described as joyous. Obviously, this song is unashamed and honest expression of inner happiness and joy. These shiny feelings are even strengthened by the saxophone stormy improvisation in its last minute. Synthy, shoegaze, moonshine pop is M83's specialty – I believe the entire two-discs Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is going to be similarly anthemic. After all, there’s still something in this world to be thrilled about. By the way, Midnight City is offered for free download on M83’s official page.
Marsen Jules, artistic pseudonym for German-based Martin Juhls, is undeniably good at picking appropriate word describing his music. He debuted with Herbstlaub, German word for autumn leaves, which fittingly expressed its melancholic character, easily connected with fall from the visual point of view. What is moodier and bluer than falling leaves, chilly winds and early dusk? Here, he was one of first ambient artists combining mellow orchestration with hush electronics and while many compare Herbstlaub to the early work Deaf Center or Rafael Anton Irisarri, Jules was attempting for globally lighter and easier (but not simpler) music in the vein that was better evolved in the later years by Julien Neto or last year’s exceptional Olan Mill.
Les Fleurs, Golden and Lazy Sunday Funerals, the last one prequel to his career, evolved his ideas of dreamy, not too dark, but still quite impenetrable ideal of ambient music. True to their name, these albums were mainly focused on the overall feeling, intentionally forgetting about the music itself and thus shifting listener’s attention inward.
Jules’ new album Nostalgia is once again a fittingly named work full of strangely unapproachable beauty. In contrast to his latest pieces, Nostalgia plays more as a concept album rather than a collection of moody images. His fifth album sets its shadowy mood right from the beginning. A Moment Of Grace starts with a warm, dedicated half-drone, half-caress of dark, ever-repeating harmony played in the lower spectrum of cello, possibly bass. Soon it’s accompanied by a washed, embracing sound of touching strings which follow the basic structure of mounting the accord in its highest strength and then letting it pale and hush. Their repetition and omnipresent constancy makes the moment in its name an eternity – never-ending moment of tender touch, which is not too concrete, but not really invented.
The album is really strong in the consistency: what is laid in the first composition is further evolved during the following forty minutes. In few moments the overall emotion becomes richer and more intense, as the string evolution in its title song Nostalgia (described in my earlier feature, here). In other instants Jules falls deeper into dark abstraction of repetitive pulsing as performed in the third Through Blood And Fire which is a collection of half-shimmering, half-shivering drones complemented by strings synthesized into crystalline slides.
Luckily, Jules goes even deeper in the subsequent composition, aptly named Endless Whisper Of The Old Brigade. There he leaves his slow motionless and calmness for challenging droning darkness which swallows the listener with its thick mass. Listening to Endless… feels like swimming on the bottom of the sea without any light and drowning even deeper without any oxygen with a dark, cryptic passion to explore something hidden and unseen. Even stronger and more mature impression is given in Kunderas Dream, the longest composition on Nostalgia. The limpid sound of strings in their highest register is combined with exotic percussion combined with strums on echoed guitar. The chaos of these words is in a strong opposition to the ordered and clear sound of Kunderas Dream, impressive take on dreams, almost hallucinations.
The consistency and compactness of Nostalgia is on the other side bit too restrictive and preserves Jules from discovering new sounds. To retain its lush blue nature, Jules operates with the same sounds and structures which are too similar to each other. That leaves the second half of the album less inventive and exciting in comparison the first few compositions; obviously, almost all the weapons of nostalgic melancholia were used. This is mostly the case of closing Sleep My Brother, Sleep, which is simply one cute motive repeated for five minutes.
Fortunately for the listener, such moments are rare and Nostalgia sounds globally rewarding and enjoyable. Smartly balancing between dark ambient and gorgeous electronic minimalism, Marsen Jules has prepared a distinct kind of blue, charming and delicious melancholy – the emotion which is best evolved on Nostalgia in Jules’ entire career.
It seems that the acoustic guitar is gaining momentum for the second time in its contemporary history. Interpretations of old guitar music - from transcripts for renaissance lute to late romanticism in Latin music - tend to be explained as a return to its roots. The argument goes that today’s pop music is too far from the relatively arty and natural music of 30’s to 50’s and it’s almost impossible to invent something new and original these days – even with the seemingly unlimited possibilities of sophisticated software. Certainly, even contemporary pop makes use of the guitar, but too often in its raw form of electric guitar or electric bass, which are nearly every pop artist’s unnecessary tool. Going back to basics and reinventing the sincere and absolutely natural sound of the Spanish guitar seems to be a logical step in the never-ending circle of trends which come and go.
Ryan Teague’s decision to record an album played solely and entirely on acoustic guitar does not follow any of these logics. First of all, Teague doesn’t re-interpret or cover other artists; all of his compositions are his own creations. More importantly, Teague has already proved his status as an avant-garde composer par excellence. His Six Preludes EP and full-length debut Coins & Crosses, both released on Type, exhibited his ability to merge electronic manipulations with stupendous arrangements for chamber orchestra resulting in breathe-taking grandiosity merging old elegance with newish experimentation. These works were undeniably demanding on the listener’s knowledge and attention; they served as an exhibition not only of Teague’s talent and hard work, but also of his self-evident ambition for high art – something uncommon in today’s overly minimalist contemporary classical scene.
In contemporary art, the city serves as a coulisse for a portrait of a cold, anonymous, almost inhuman place, full of hopeless human entities that just pretend their life while living in machine-like cycles of work and insomnia. Whether in grim, industrial, information-age chaos or futuristic, supernatural order, the city acts as synonym for oppression of the masses and ceaseless pandemonium. Music captures the severity of cities in a handful of stark genres, predominantly with a dark, electric atmosphere existing in a volatile equilibrium of collapsing maelstrom versus strict order. Elizabeth Walling’s debut album as Gazelle Twin definitely possesses these glum vibrations, but the overall feeling derived from the first few listens is a slight hesitance as to whether the concept of her city, which lies in an unspecified time, is a fully dystopian portrait or one of a utopia on its way into apocalypse. Perhaps this was her very intention – to retain the uncertainty and vagueness right to the final impression. Inspired by surrealist painter Max Ernst, The Entire City is a surrealist mirage of dark and idyllic, soothing and oppressive.
When describing Walling’s artistic sensibility, it’s impossible not to mention Karin Dreijer Andersson (The Knife, Fever Ray) and Janine Rostron (Planningtorock), with whom she shares many aesthetic features. Like both these artists, masks and costumes are an integral part of Walling’s performance, with two advantages: not only can she keep characteristics not fitting with the concept out of sight, but her ingenious outfits allow Walling to assume different roles and shift the attention from her true self to the music itself. Vocal manipulation is another crucial piece of the Gazelle Twin puzzle, and again like Andersson and Rostron, the prevalent electronic processing does not prevent the album from dealing in an expansive range of emotions. And when Walling turns off her numerous machines and leaves her voice bare, as documented in ‘Changelings’, the effect is one of surprising beauty. ‘Organic’ and ‘natural’ are not the most appropriate adjectives for Walling’s art, but these naked tracks sound more human and straightforward.
Craig Taborn is a frequent collaborator to contemporary jazz elite but Avenging Angel is just his solo debut to prestigious ECM Records. Having contributed his top-notch improvisations to saxophonists James Carter, David Binney or bassist Michael Formanek, Taborn made his name with his enviable technique, ear for rhythm and a careful work with motives. After an unnoticed jewel of Light Made Lighter, his first solo record, Taborn freed himself from collaboration duties and recorded new album on his own after ten years.
Resulting seventy-two minutes of Avenging Angel consist of twelve impressively diverse compositions that range from short, playful experiments, fully improvised minimalist patchworks of themes and poly-rhythms and, finally, epic meditations. Forgetful, its penultimate track, definitely belongs to the third category.
From the compositional point of view, Forgetful stands on the attractive edge between contemporary classical music, minimalism in the vein of John Cage and classic jazz of Keith Jarrett. Unlike to most pieces on the album, Forgetful starts from a mellow silence and builds its motives patiently and fluidly. Here, Taborn counts on the very melody - fragile and smooth - which serves as the bridge between the moody hush of the first and third part, and the fragmental experimentation in the middle. As the melody fully blooms, it’s a signal for Taborn to start defragmenting and varying its sub-motives, what results in a strange, half-ecstatic, half-tragic climax. Luckily, Taborn is not satisfied with a half-baked result and goes on his trip in exploration all the rhythmic and melodic possibilities of piano. On Avenging Angel you’ll find more virtuosic and more brave pieces, but Forgetful is the most satisfying through the triumphant combination of all Taborn’s qualities. Avenging Angel is an extra-ordinary examination of piano’s possibilities.
Ryan Teague is an exceptional artist – any concept he comes with results in a striking perfection. After the orchestra-thru-electronics majesty of Coins & Crosses, Teague fully focused on an acoustic guitar and composed nine folklore-inspired songs solely for this intimate-sounding instrument. (Hear its opening song Causeway here, buy the entire album in Sonic Pieces shop.)
White Nights, the longest track on Causeway is another proof of Teague’s genial mind. It starts with guitar echoes manipulated into backwards effect. Then comes the main part, comprised of few key motives of which no single melody is the most dominating in the first part. The moment of their crystallization comes when Teague’s plucking fingers let one after one have its own solo. This is a nice exhibition of contrapunctus technique which secures the complexity and variance, but on the other side, lets Ryan retain the clarity and serenity of the song. In the background, the bass motive morphs into a droning monotony, which subconsciously increases the tense. Simultaneously, the main part becomes more denser, resulting in an expected collapse into simplicity and definition. Single melody is then replayed again & again and falls into a stirring oblivion.
White Nights is a striking example of how contemporary classical music can escape the stereotypes of minimalism while preserving the ease and straightforwardness. Ryan Teague is an extraordinarily gifted composer and artist who is fully devoted to his art and White Nights amazingly demonstrates both his effort for complexity and work of experienced arranger. Still, it’s the emotions of thrill and excitement which make this composition so arresting. Magnificent.
The greatest asset of music comprised of field recordings is its direct imaginative nature and straightforward effect. Whatever you hear, its origin is surely and obviously organic and natural, with the intrinsic function to wake up the subconscious emotions and associate them with particular images. Field recordings-based-music is clearly about images and impressions stimulated by simple perceptions which can be experienced just through active exploration of space and time around. Finally, although field music sounds very passive and static, its heart is opposite: active, dynamic, almost scientific from the compositional point of view.
Leonardo Rosado's full-length Opaque Glitter is an ambient album based on field recordings which are the core of Rosado’s work (the album is available onBandcamp). Luckily enough, they are just the basis for something fuller and bigger. Winds, rustlings, knocks and undefinable rushes complement the structure, but aren’t the lone component – rather, they are enhancements to the mood and refinements to the images.
It Ends Here is probably the richest and most intense composition on Opaque Glitter. Synthesizers evoking sound of organ (or processed organ instead?) are the bottom line of this track’s success: they are mournful, but not crying; blue, but not weepy; dark, but not mystic. Their repetitive motive, which serves as a backbone to It Ends Here, is underlined by aquatic, flowing drone, that guarantees the natural pulsation of the composition. Various unexpected sounds appear here and there and make this Rosado's impression an ever-living entity, which constantly refines itself to the dramatic and terminal peak in the final half-minute. It Ends Here is a stimulating and evolving capture of a single instant: first isolated, then complemented, finally terminated.
Paavoharju firstly impressed us with their impeccable debut Yhä hämärää - mixture of acoustic, experimental folk packed in lo-fi esthetics, sung and performed entirely in Finnish. Dully, almost vulgarly labeled as freak folk, this musical collective from north-east of Finland expressed their emotions in playful stream-of-consciousness, rich on diversity and imagination. Teaming again with Fonal, home for Finland’s most original artists, such as Islaja, Eleanoora Rosenholm or Sami Sänpäkkilä (Fonal’s founder), Paavoharju came back with Laulu laakson kukista, one of 2008’s most surprising and complex albums. Playing with 90’s euro-pop, French chanson, Finnish folk, cinematic, instrumental music and bits of toytronica, Laulu laakson kukista presented Paavoharju as a bunch of brave experimentalists. More importantly, their music is not just about playing and tempting: it’s a stream of emotions - raw, intense and crying - that need to be heard. Heard aloud to overwhelm.
In just few days, Paavoharju are releasing Ikkunat näkevät EP, a collection of rare and unreleased tracks with a first appetizer - its title track. Ikkunat näkevät belongs to their slower, more dreamy tracks, but still, more accessible in the way Laulu was. It features grieving, lamenting vocal with roots in Finland’s rural folklore. Its clear structure and slow build are nicely interconnected with Paavoharju’s usage of classical instruments - piano and violin - which make this more a classical folk ballad than band’s typical electro-acoustic experiment. Ikkunat näkevät is a nice introduction to Paavoharju's calmer and more romantic soul.
Zola Jesus is back earlier than anyone would have guessed after last year’s release of her amazing Stridulum saga. First, she put a count-down on her website, then the announcement of new album was made. Conatus (lat.) is used in philosophy and metaphysics to refer to things, mind, thoughts that incline to go on living, even thrive. Nika Roza Danilova is well-known for her philosophical tendencies; mostly in the direction to existentialism and late romanticism. Therefore, Conatus (released on September 26th) may be not only deepening of her ideas, but also some kind of lighter and more optimistic view of life: growing and flourishing.
However, Vessel, first single out of Conatus sound everything, but not lighter or more positive. Depeche Mode-like marching rhythm and lite-industrial percussion open the song with Danilova’s multi-layered humming. When reviewing her older song Poor Animal, I wrote, that Danilova is gradually moving closer to the alt-pop scene. Vessel finds her radicalizing the sound once again, but softening the structure and thus making an intricate and attractive hybrid. Her stark vocal are even stronger and the build-up to the cathartic end is both surprising and eagerly expected. Vessel shows Zola Jesus at one of her darker moments: sparser in her expression and heavier in the sound. Vessel is an absolute win. (Download for free via SoundCloud.)
Marcus Fjellström, Swedish composer and multimedia artist, can’t hide his inclination to cinema and theater in his imaginative music. After last year’s landmark Schattenspieler, an extraordinary release on Norwegian label Miasmah, he put together a pastiche of eighteen fragments under the concept called Library Music. Noir, dramatic and brisk emotions are inseparable part of his compositional language that wallows passionately in orchestral motives inspired by ’50s psychological thrillers and horrors. Rather than B-movies, these themes are more a pieces influenced by musique concrète, expressionism and avant-garde of the first half of 20th century. Sacred mixed with highly lusty, dramatic mashed with grotesque.
Fjellström's mixtape In Between, compiled for Fluid Radio, journalistic home for ambient, drone and neo-classical music, confirms these theories once again. No surprise, that he included Kreng's astonishing Wrak, one of this year’s most breath-taking avant-garde composition and Erik K Skodvin's Neither Dust, with its acoustic approach to darkness. Aphex Twin's apocalyptic Icct Hedral appears twice on In Between: once it’s the original, synthetic version out of …I Care Because You Do with the emphasis on rapidness and hugeness. Icct Hedral comes back again in its rebuild by Philip Glass, where the Glass-ian minimalist, repetitive arrangements for strings complement the eerie sound of electronics on its way to hell. Among other highlights is Night Life In Twin Peaks by Angelo Badalamenti – composer you would surely expect on Fjellström’s mixtape, and Philippe Petit's haunting Night Elves Jukebox.
Certainly, this mix speaks volumes on Marcus Fjellström cinematic and theatrical inspirations. Yet, it comes even stronger and massive when actually listening to it. Delve deep into your seat and enjoy this 1.5 hour of pure darkness.
Hiding one’s identity has at least two positive and rather intriguing effects. Not only does it disguise particular characteristics that don’t fit the concept, but also raises curiosity. Although this approach to the hiding of identity isn’t scattered in today’s independent pop-art, costumed and often-grotesque figure still stands out. Additionally, masks direct the attention to the music itself; no longer is the musician’s face important - on the contrary, the art and its delivery is the bottom line of the artist’s existence.
Gazelle Twin uses these mimicry to turn her shy persona into a dark electronic dominatrix, who conjures and subdues. Elizabeth Walling, the creative mastermind of this one-woman project, adores the art of Fever Ray and surrealist painter Max Ernst. These two muses are apparent in the successful joining the idiosyncratic darkness of her sound with welcome accessibility. Certainly, Walling doesn’t create art for its own sake: the gloomy paranoia serves the higher concept as well as the particular emotions Walling evolves. Her masks are just the tools, not the short-sighted attempt to strike.
After Changelings and I Am Shell, I Am Bone, Walling comes with the third single out of her upcoming debut album The Entire City. Men Like Gods is a synthetic wail for absolution with hopelessness rooted deep inside. Walling’s vocals are vocoder-manipulated; therefore she sounds less human, but more like a choir of evil ghosts. Men Like Gods is not just a pain of a soul captured in limbo; Walling raises her voice to highs with amazing effect to express the human play on gods. As if her haunting vocals weren’t enough, tribal drums, dubby basses and industrial synthesizers underline the eeriness of Men Like Gods. Despite the awesome darkness of Walling’s music, her musical future is surely bright. Amazing.
It’s impossible not to come with any particular emotion when hearing anything new about Björk, pioneer of experimental electronic pop. Crystalline, first single from her forthcoming full-length Biophilia evokes adjectives like pure, playful, adventurous, ecstatic. Firstly, this Icelandic conceptual artist starts with beautifully naive glockenspiel which accompanies her stream-of-consciousness and stream-of-melody words “Under our feet, crystals grow like plants”. Then the stream itself swallows you and spits you out after five minutes of theatrically intense electronics, climbing up to the highs of chorus and euphoria of drum and bass. Impressive start!
PS: Without Björk we would’t know that words like octagon, polygon and internal nebula are pretty rhythmic, as if born for a music. Nice. (Don’t overlook disco naïveté's premiere of Crystalline.)
Fans of Lou Rhodes and Andy Barlow’s electronic duo would argue that, in the mid- to late-’90s, Lamb were to drum and bass what Portishead were to a peculiarly English branch of hip hop. Their signature sound twinned Barlow’s chilly beats and wild percussion with Rhodes’s reflective lyrics and idiosyncratic singing, a strange symbiosis achieved only through a continuous process of quarrelling. As wearying as their in-fighting undoubtedly was, retrospective thinking points to that friction as the most probably source of the visionary fervour that fired Lamb classics like ‘Cotton Wool’ and ‘Górecki’, two perfect examples of their precious-yet-unstable equilibrium.
Over time, the icy precision of the duo’s arrangements thawed as Rhodes’s songwriting seemed to gain more focus. Their fourth album, 2004′s Between Darkness & Wonder, brought things to their logical conclusion with the implication that Lamb had become the schizophrenic output of two people headed on divergent musical paths. As is well documented, Rhodes embarked on a solo career of earthy, acoustic folk recordings (scoring a Mercury Prize nomination for 2006′s Beloved One), while Barlow started a few of his own projects along with producing for other artists.
Fans of Dakota Suite are used to expect sadness and slow blue atmosphere with every new release. Slowcore or Sadcore - these are just the approximate names of the genre Dakota Suite work within. Dream pop, shoegaze and ambient are another fragments of their blue, grievous face. After a collaborative album with Emanuele Errante, trip through contemporary classical music to droning, electronic ambient, Dakota Suite explores new territories. The Hearts Of Empty is their (quite subconscious) response to doom jazz - sub-genre mastered by excellent Bohren & Der Club Of Gore.
Fortunately enough, Dakota Suite neither imitate, nor adapt to overall sound of dark jazz. The Hears Of Empty, despite its hopeless name, is a serene, almost light release. Playful percussion, repetitive, but clear lines of piano and dreamy vapour over it are pleasingly positive and open to listener, almost wanting to embrace them. Described by Chris Hooson, their main creative force, as a “late night smokey jazz,” The Hearts Of Empty is contently fluid and imaginative release. Yet, its best piece is saved for its near end. The Black Pyramid is opened by a loose, relaxed piano melody, which is repeated few times with refreshingly cute variations. The looseness and freedom of the piano makes it tasty and easy to remember, while the humming, groovy bass increases the catchiness. The Black Pyramid is a slow, sophisticated composition, both moody and strangely cheerful. I hope Dakota Suite will come back to dark jazz very soon.
Nils Økland has firstly caught the attention with folklore-inspired album Monogram, his debut on prestigious ECM label. Solely based on his chattering, flexible violin and fiddle, Monogram presented a monolithic and detailed insight into the folklore material of olde times in Norway. However, these weren’t verbatim interpretations of local songs - Økland brought improvisations and his own point of view on those works. Monogram is beautiful for its freedom and free space created by Økland’s deep academic and also practical knowledge in many kinds of Norwegian folk music. Therefore, he’s able to present his own understanding of the music with ease and fresh wit.
His new piece of work for ECM is more focused and specific: interpreting the rich work of Norwegian romanticist composer Ole Bull in collaboration with organist and theorist Sigbjørn Apeland; all happening on Bull’s own island Lysøen, situated near Bergen. Following Økland’s passion for improvisation and own re-interpretation, Lysøen is once again freer piece with lots of influences and, of course, intense outlook on Bull’s own work.
La Mélancolie is present twice on the album - it’s second version is more appealing and captivating. Whereas the first take is a psalm-like cry for violin and piano, both playing more like two solo instruments, this second version is richer and more seductive. Instead of slow building the atmosphere, both Økland and Apeland fall into deep melodrama with fascinating harmony and inner cooperation between both instruments’ free movements. La Mélancolie is an emotional experience of a grief and tense in folklore music. Lysøen - Hommage à Ole Bull is another must-hear document on old Norwegian folk. (Be sure not to overlook this insightful classical review.)
Violoncello posses an absolutely addictive sound. Try to hear any kind of a melody played by various instruments and cello ends up as the most appropriate tool for retelling it. The reason is that cello, among all the other classical instruments, is the closest to the human voice. And it’s not only the range which makes cello so suitable for singing any type of melody. Colour and the technique of pulling the stroke resemble the unique shades of voice and the physical need for breathing. It’s not surprising then, that every-time cello appears, its sound softens the music and makes it somehow warmer and more familiar.
Exactly these characteristics are used to the highest effect by Peter Gregson, a young cellist and composer from the UK. After an intriguing debut EP Terminal, he’s back with two new compositions intended for ‘Short Circuit’ Festival. Despite the shortness of his career, Gregson has already collaborated with Steve Reich, Scott Walker or musicAddicted’s favourite composer Daníel Bjarnason. More impressively, Max Richter and Jóhann Jóhannsson join this first-rate list with two new compositions that appear on aptly named release Richter/Jóhannsson.
Without knowing which submission is whose, Vocal bears a typical Richter’s signature. Resembling Glass’s early works, Vocal builds around a simple melody that comes back again and again. It seems that the motive— bit nervous in its urge and pace, but flowing and calming from the harmony perspective — will never get exhausted of its repetition. This is the typical minimalism with traces of serialism. Gregson is wise and experienced enough to make every round of the motive’s arrival different from the previous one and evolve something unique in every part of the theme. As written above and expressed through its name, Gregson’s violoncello sings, cries, gradates the tense and sings again. Whether Vocal is a lament or a simple ballad, it’s an impressive piece of art. I’m pretty looking forward for anything new coming from Gregson. Thumbs up. (Thanks for tip to Gacougnol.)
Sasu Ripatti has an admirably wide portfolio of sounds, moods and genres he works with. Even more impressive is the fact, that every of his numerous projects presents the best you can hear within the area he operates in. Vladislav Delay rules the waters of avant-garde ambient techno, Uusitalo presents his more upbeat version of minimal techno mixed with IDM, Sistol is even more experimental glitch and finally, Luomo shows Ripatti in his most approachable way. Still, it’s pretty adventurous and experimental kind of micro-house with dark beats, deep basses and complex melodies. However, it’s probably what Sasu Ripatti understands as electronic kind of pop.
Plus, his new full-length is going to be Luomo's six album and is set to be released on September 19th. Out of the first three available songs from Plus, Happy Strong sounds the darkest and deepest. Although the basic loop and basses remain the same for its entire eight minuts, Ripatti is good at evolving the flow which diversifies the song and preserves it from falling into boring repetitiveness. Occasional pieces of vocals and quite epic melody are the biggest benefits for the song, but it’s the massive beats and robust basses that make Happy Strong so effective. This Luomo’s new album will be one of 2011’s most important dance albums, for sure.
Marissa Nadler has usually portrayed stories of other women - forlorn, unloved, sometimes already dead - and presented a fragment of their miserable destinies. Of course, every song contained a bit of ambiguity: if Marissa is really singing a fantasied story or the plot is more real than expected. Although characters are not forgotten on Marissa Nadler, her new eponymous album, Marissa herself is more apparent and palpable. The resultant feeling is more authentic and stronger melancholy.
Alabaster Queen is the best example of Marissa’s increased presence thanks to her first-person singing. Along with cute metaphors such as “[you came] to a house with twisted branches, under candle dream, I’ll be your alabaster queen,” Marissa’s dealing with more than an emotion of pureness and romance. Submissive love and total devotion to the loved one are amazingly captured by her sole guitar melody with echoed vocals and sweet, minimalist glockenspiel. Still, it’s the spare lyrics that make the song impressive. Although the arrangements remind of early Nadler, Alabaster Queen is more mature and braver in the directness of the message.
Bohren & Der Club Of Gore take their well-deserved time to create the follow-up to 2008’s astonishing masterpiece Dolores. Certainly, this German quartet is not over-doomed as they prepared 35 minutes of deathly fresh new music. Narcotic rhodes, wasted basses and dying drums are back again to revive the typical eerie darkness. Decade after adopting saxophone to their haunting music, Beileid presents surprising element to the Lynch-esque paranoia: voice.
Beileid's center-piece, Catch My Heart, features vocals from Mike Patton. His inclinations to free-jazz and dark music have always been apparent, so his collaboration on Warlock’s re-working with Bohren-boys is natural progression for him. Less for Bohren & Der Club Of Gore who used vacuum and inner tense to cause tight, but subconscious mini-drama. In contrast, Patton’s soulful moan is explicitly dramatic. The tragic essence of his phrasing and expression nicely complements Bohren’s subtle, comatose jazz. Mild crescendos are multiplied by Patton’s lament with subsequently higher effect. Catch My Heart is a surprising and subduing deadly affair.
Donato Wharton’s new piece of music can be best described with words like subtle, spare, tacit. This Cardiff-born artist is artistically more focused on production for theatre and sound designing and therefore he comes just rarely with his own solo material. If you expect theatric grotesque or cinematic landscape, A White Rainbow Spanning The Dark will surprise you. Warton’s new EP doesn’t reflect his day job and presents the artist in more experimental position. The main assets he plays with and tests is long silence versus short noise, melody against atonality, vast space in contrast with narrowness.
Although these contrasts seem like grand themes, he approaches these subconscious theses of A White Rainbow Spanning The Dark in a minimalist manner. These experiments take just twenty minutes and are performed on acoustic guitar backed by field recording while Wharton plays with frequencies, sound amplitudes and echoes reached by classical analogue way of reverberation.
Minimalism and spareness provide A White Rainbow with strangely intimate feeling. Mostly the guitar parts are soothingly warm and so close to the microphone that the listener feels as if he was standing inside of Warton’s guitar. Also, the layers of background noises, guitar plucks and unexpected rushes of high frequencies generate additional mass of resonance that sounds as a solid, indivisible substance.
Still, the most effective songs are those with the greater dose of Wharton’s tender guitar. Ink Mountains is possibly the most complex composition using guitar not just for playing the basic harmonies and creating fluid melody; here Wharton experiments with the string itself, all the colours and shades it posses. Although it isn’t an exploration of guitar’s possibilities, Ink Mountain provides interesting difference to the ambient nature of this EP’s rest.
A White Rainbow Spanning The Dark is often more abstract than the above-mentioned experiment with layers of unidentifiable sound creating pulsating and calming ambiance. A Thousand Miles Of Grass uses few tones of guitar for reaching such omnipresent tranquility, while closing Mind Like a Snow Cloud is even absent of it and features just this undefinable mass of subtle tones and uneasily vast space of nothingness.
All in all, A White Rainbow Spanning The Dark is an interesting experiment, but too often too flat with no evolution. Ideas appear and vanish unexpectedly without reaching some kind of importance or higher sense. Three minutes are not enough for the evolving of Wharton’s ideas as so this EP sounds too tame, almost plain. On the other side, the warm and calm nature of this album, along with Wharton’s know-how in using the right amount of layers create a decent contribution to Serein’s special vinyls collection. Donato Wharton's EP follows Colorlist's one with Nest and Hauschka contributing to Seasons 2011's project in the coming months.
The Caretaker can’t do no wrong, or so it seems. Initially inspired by haunting and legendary scene of a massacre in empty ballroom from Kubrick classic horror The Shining, The Caretaker catalyzed terror through ostensible calm. But haunted ballrooms are history, a bit. James Kirby analyses music as a set of memories, fragmented, incomplete, shaded, obscure somewhere on the bottom of one’s mind. Amnesiacs, Alzheimer’s patients, people with disorders affecting their memories - those are Kirby’s objects of research. In comparison to neuro-scientists or psychologists, Kirby’s results aren’t sets of tables, graphs and theories that wait for validation. Rather, it’s a collection of several excellent releases that are both eerie and splendid, disturbing and soothing.
An Empty Bliss Beyond This World, his new full-length sounds more delightedly and complacent. Particular psychical illnesses don’t cause any aches to body and mind and so is his new album stripped out of pain, troubles and difficulties. Just old-fashioned idyll of 20’s and 30’s easy-listening music. Camaraderie At Arms Length is the longest track here and evolves above mentioned motives to the strongest effect. This piece for solo saxophone is bizarrely glorious, almost happy about its loose melody and peculiar strings and winds in the background. James Kirby breathed fellowship and friendship into this song and these are charming ideas. Although the satisfying mood could be explained with various positive names, camaraderie is fitting.
The cut at the end of it even increases the effect. The secret is to play all these songs on repeat and the end connects fluidly to its beginning. Lovely metaphor to the loop that suffering minds live in. An Empty Bliss Beyond This World, one of 2011’s best records, can be purchased on Kirby’s official page.
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.