FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Mixtape: Fractured Air – January 2019

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Our January mix features a host of sumptuous sonic gems that surfaced – for the most part – throughout last year. Vital reissues from Amercian dream pop artist Happy Rhodes (Numero Group); Robert Rental’s sublime post-punk explorations culled from 1980 demo tapes (Optimo Music) and Dublin artist Stano’s seminal 1983 solo debut released on Dublin’s Allchival re-issue imprint.

More sensational African funk emanates from the formidable Berlin Habibi Funk imprint (the label’s latest two releases are featured). With thanks to the XLR8R top tracks of 2018 piece, we’ve been introduced to the remarkable ambient opus ‘Nothing To Loose’ by DJ Healer, released last year to widespread acclaim. Peter Broderick (with a little help from his friends) has released his eagerly awaited “Sings Arthur Russell” album. His gorgeous rendition of “The Ballad Of The Lights” closes out our January mixtape.

Thanks as always for listening.


Fractured Air – January 2019

01. Christina Vantzou“Glissando for Bodies and Machines in Space” (Kranky)
02. DJ Healer“Great Escape” (All Possible Worlds)
03. Cucina Povera“Demetra” (Night School)
04. Eno Moebius Roedelius“Old Land” (Skyclad)
05. Beverly Glenn-Copeland“Color Of Anyhow” (Super-Sonic Jazz Records)
06. Sarah Davachi“Gloaming” (Ba Da Bing!)
07. Thom Yorke“Open Again” (XL Recordings)
08. James Heather“Ruqia” (Echo Collective Rework) (Ahead Of Our Time)
09. Djrum“Sparrows” (R&S Records)
10. GOSSIWOR“Fields of Helyon” (5 Gate Temple)
11. Severed Heads“Gashing the Old Mae West” (excerpt) (Ink, Virgin)
12. Lucrecia Dalt“Tar” (Jan Jelinek Remix) (RVNG Intl)
13. Happy Rhodes “When The Rain Came Down” (Numero Group)
14. Jinjé“Solace” (Kicks & Drums Records)
15. Robert Rental“Moving My Blue” (Optimo Music)
16. Kamal Keila“Al Ashafir” (Habibi Funk)
17. The Scorpions & Saif Abu Bakr“Shaikan Music” (Habibi Funk)
18. Noname“Blaxploitation” (Self-released)
19. El Perro del Mar“Walk On By” (Saint Etienne Remix) (Self-released)
20. Leon Vynehall“Envelopes (Chapter VI)” (Ninja Tune)
21. Yves Tumor“Licking An Orchid” (Warp)
22. Stano“Out of the Dark, Into the Dawn” (Scoff / Allchival)
23. Stuart A. Staples“Step into the Grey” (City Slang/Lucky Dog)
24. David Shire“Theme From The Conversation” (The Conversation OST) (Intrada)
25. Barnes & Trost“Holidays in the Old City” (LM Dupli-cation)
26. The Beach Boys“All I Wanna Do” (Reprise)
27. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith“Tides III” (Bandcamp)
28. DJ Healer“End of the World” (All Possible Worlds)
29. Peter Broderick & Friends“Ballad Of The Lights” (Pretty Purgatory)

Chosen One: Peter Broderick

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“When covering someone else’s work, one can’t help but wonder sometimes, what would the artist think about these new renditions?”

—Peter Broderick

 Words: Mark Carry

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Released initially on Christmas day, “Peter Broderick & Friends Play Arthur Russell” is a loving tribute to the 20th century musical visionary.

Many parallels exist between these two cross-generational composers, for Russell and Broderick’s genre-defying and deeply moving musical works are boundless (in terms of crossing a myriad of styles and many times within the same record) and limitless (in terms of the sublime beauty that soars from each artist’s wholly unique song-craft). The full spectrum of Arthur Russell’s compelling songbook is celebrated – and re-interpreted – across the album’s ten pristine recordings, from post-disco (‘That’s Us/Wild Combination’); sparse folk (‘Words of Love’) to soul-stirring minimal wave of ‘Losing My Taste For The Nightlife’ and folk country gems (‘You Are My Love’).

This deeply heartfelt record reflects just how these American composers are in fact, kindred spirits and this precise timeless spirit emanates from the album’s captivating narrative (of which spans many of Russell’s divine records). On ‘Ballad Of The Lights’, a young boy’s voice (replacing Allen Ginsberg’s original spoken word) talks about life and mortality and hopes and fears: “He wonders about life and he wonders if he will ever get old”. It is one of the most beautiful and deeply moving recordings to grace your ears, to hear a boy (full of innocence, sincerity and hope) that “mystifies his younger years” and hits you profoundly.

This album invites a cast of family and friends to offer new insights into Russell’s music. ‘Come To Life’ sees the gorgeous harmonies of Brigid Mae Power’s blend effortlessly with Broderick’s, creating a divine avant pop folk odyssey. The two previously unreleased Arthur Russell recordings are also captured to tape here, further revealing (yet again) the endless mystery and innovative nature of Russell’s tower of songs.

‘Peter Broderick & Friends Play Arthur Russell’ is available now via Pretty Purgatory:

https://prettypurgatory.bandcamp.com/album/peter-broderick-friends-play-arthur-russell

http://www.peterbroderick.net/
https://arthurrussell.bandcamp.com/

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Interview with Peter Broderick.

 

Congratulations Peter on the truly spellbinding Arthur Russell covers record, it’s such a loving dedication to a special voice in music. One of the lovely aspects of this collection is how you interpret Arthur’s songs, and in many ways make them your own (or at the very least, put your own unique fingerprint to these songs). Please take me back to the recording sessions and this beautiful ensemble you had by your side? Having played several live shows in the recent past with this concept, I wonder did you have quite a clear picture in how this album would become?

Peter Broderick: Thank you Mark. As you say, I had already done a number of Arthur Russell tribute shows, so it felt like a natural next step to record some of those songs. And after getting the chance to meet Arthur’s niece and nephew in Maine, as well as making some other friends in Maine whom I wanted to collaborate with in some way, I got the idea to record the songs there, in Portland, Maine, and to invite Rachel and Beau to contribute to these new versions of their uncle’s songs. After recording the basic tracks there, I put the finishing touches on the recordings at home in Ireland, inviting some more friends and family to contribute.

Can you recount your memories of first discovering Arthur’s music? Which record or musical period did you first fall in love with his unique sound? I must say there is a lovely correlation between you and your musical hero, in particular how you both really have created a plethora of wide-ranging musical journeys (in terms of the boundless nature of your music)…in the process of delving into this album, were there new insights and learnings you feel you uncovered about Arthur Russell’s songbook and musical genius?

PB: The first record that caught my ear was Another Thought, which I heard at a friend’s house in 2008 or 2009. I had already heard of Arthur Russell quite a bit before then, and even had quite a few people tell me I reminded them of Arthur Russell . . . but for whatever reason that was the first time the music really caught my attention. But once my attention was caught, I quickly went down into the rabbit hole. I just love everything he did, and how much musical exploration there is in his catalogue. I tracked down everything of his I could get my hands on. The most expensive record I ever bought is an original pressing of ‘Tower Of Meaning’ . . . I’m not gonna tell you how much I payed for that!

Two songs are previously unreleased, never to have been released by Arthur Russell. I was very interested to hear that you were given full access to his vast treasure chest of unreleased recordings. Can you perhaps discuss the reasons why you picked these two particular songs, Peter? I’d love for you to describe this experience and indeed how you crossed paths – and collaborated closely – with many of Arthur’s family, not least his partner Tom Lee?

PB: I wouldn’t say I was given full access to the archives. But Steve Knutson, who manages the Arthur Russell Estate, handed over to me several hours of unreleased material, which I then combed through to retrieve anything listenable . . . some of which needed considerable finessing to get into a decent sonic state. But the whole process was deeply fascinating to me, and along the way I discovered some absolute gems of songs, including those two on the record, which Steven and Tom Lee so graciously allowed me to release. And it’s been wonderful getting to know Tom. He has such a pure love for Arthur’s work, and he creates such beautiful works of art himself. I’m really honoured to have his painting on the cover of my little record of covers.

Portland Maine is the place of birth for both you and Arthur Russell. What was Maine like as a place to grow up in? The coast must be something that served a big inspiration for you, throughout your life?

PB: I was born near a small town called Searsmont, a couple hours away from Portland, Maine. And Arthur was actually born in Iowa. But much of Arthur’s surviving family is based in Maine nowadays. My family relocated to Oregon when I was just 3 or 4 years old, so it’s only in the last few years that I’ve been reconnecting with my birth place a bit. I’ve come to realize that I really love Maine.

Your beloved step son – and a big hero of mine! – Seán Power is prominently featured on the gorgeous and deeply moving cover of ‘Ballad Of The Lights’. I just love how Seán’s spoken word segments are beautifully interwoven with your heavenly harmonies. Please take me back to the recording (and even your initial ‘sketches’ so to speak) of this incredible song (and new recording)? Needless to say, it must have been a fun session to participate in…

PB: I’m not sure when exactly I got the idea in my head to ask Seán to recite those lines, which are spoken by Allen Ginsberg on the original recording . . . but once I got the idea, I couldn’t shake it. I asked Seán if I could hire him for the job, and I believe we settled on €30 plus a trip to the toy store immediately after the recording session. I am absolutely delighted with the result, and I think he was pretty happy with his new toys. It seems like people are enjoying that part of the record, which I’m really glad to hear. Seán is an awesome dude and I’m so grateful he’s on there.

One of my all-time favourite Arthur Russell songs is ‘Losing My Taste For The Nightlife’ and your version here is so fitting and blissfully beautiful. Again, the immaculate instrumentation and your vocal delivery (a constant across all these songs) breathes new life into Arthur’s sacred songbook. Did you have any concerns or doubts about (not only) playing Arthur’s songs (in terms of the live shows) but recording a whole batch of songs and releasing them?

PB: When covering someone else’s work, one can’t help but wonder sometimes, what would the artist think about these new renditions? I was definitely a little self-conscious about turning ‘A Little Lost’ into a reggae song . . . but I just LOVE playing it like that, and it’s one of my favorite ones to listen to from the record. There are some songs, like ‘Eli’ for instance, which I tried to learn pretty much note for note . . . but then there are others which I felt compelled to make a bit more my own. I suppose like anything, some people will like it and some people won’t. I’m happy with all these versions though.

Were there any happy accidents – I’m sure there were, as often in your recordings some spontaneous wonder occurs – that took place during the making of this record? I also love how you cover a lot of the composer’s various releases and in turn, this record really does convey just how inspirational and genre-defying his music truly is….

PB: Well I was really surprised by some of the contributions from friends on this record. The pedal steel parts from Hamilton Belk really blew my mind and just added so much to the songs. David Allred’s horn arrangement on ‘A Little Lost’ was a lovely surprise, and I love the bass part that Daniel O’Sullivan came up with on ‘Come To Life’. All of Beau Lisy’s percussion additions are really special to me. He likes to play this thing he calls a ‘Shitar’, which is basically a guitar with a bunch of shit glued onto it (get it? shit-ar?) . . . there are some really groovy rhythms on ‘That’s Us/Wild Combination’ which were played on that thing.

What’s next for you, Peter?

PB: Just a couple hours ago I finished mixing a live recording which, if all goes according to plan, will become my first live album, to be released later in 2019. More details to come on that one. I’m gearing up now to do some shows with my friend David Allred, working on some music for a film . . . it seems like 2019 will be another busy year with lots of music. And hopefully some time to do some of my favorite outdoor activities like foraging for wild food. I also hope to continue learning and sharing Arthur’s songs.

‘Peter Broderick & Friends Play Arthur Russell’ is available now via Pretty Purgatory:

https://prettypurgatory.bandcamp.com/album/peter-broderick-friends-play-arthur-russell

http://www.peterbroderick.net/
https://arthurrussell.bandcamp.com/

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January 14, 2019 at 3:02 pm

Chosen One: Mary Lattimore

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I think making music is just my way of capturing moments that otherwise might be fleeting. They’re little time capsules, the songs and the records.”

—Mary Lattimore

 Words: Mark Carry

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Having first discovered Los Angeles-based harpist and composer Mary Lattimore’s 2013 debut ‘The Withdrawing Room’ (released on Desire Path Recordings), each new release has been a hugely exciting discovery. On this year’s ‘Hundreds Of Days’ – and third release for the prestigious Ghostly label – Lattimore’s ethereal, dream-wave bliss of her harp-based compositions casts a spacious, luminescent and captivating sound world of unknown dimensions.

The gorgeous album opener ‘It Feels Like Floating’ feels just like that: the sacred harp tapestries drift in the ether of faded dreams amidst swathes of celestial harmonies. Utterly timeless. Jonsi’s Healing Fields remix is a fascinating re-interpretation that conveys the inspirational quality of Lattimore’s hugely unique and shape shifting compositions.

Guitar, keyboard and percussion is added on the poignant folk gem ‘Never Saw Him Again’: forging a dreamy pop opus from a past we have not yet quite arrived upon. The soundscapes and intricate layers continually build, as if reawakening some once-vivid memories of a loved one. The sparse ‘Hello From the Edge of the Earth’ maps the human heart and Lattimore’s love of the natural world. The lyrical quality of this piece is quite something to behold.

Baltic Birch’ blossomed from the composer’s recent trip to Latvia where she was struck by the abandoned resort towns along the Baltic Sea.  A desolate landscape is etched across the ambient soundscapes with the electric guitar haze recalling Lattimore’s collaborations with Jeff Ziegler.

The LA-based harpist – in much the same way as fellow contemporaries Julianna Barwick, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and so on – possesses the ability to transport you to an entirely new realm wherein the music becomes beautifully buried in the pools of one’s mind. ‘Hundreds Of Days’ is yet another gleaming treasure in the composer’s storied career.

‘Hundreds Of Days’ is out now on Ghostly International.

https://marylattimoreharpist.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/harpistmarylattimore/

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Interview with Mary Lattimore.

 

Congratulations Mary on the stunningly beautiful latest solo full length ‘Hundreds Of Days’. Firstly, please take me back to the record’s inception and particularly this redwood barn overlooking San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. This must have been such an inspiring setting in which the compositions of ‘Hundreds Of Days’ emanated from? Please recount your memories of these colourful, creative days?

Mary Lattimore: I was awarded this artist’s residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts in a national park outside of San Francisco. I stayed there for almost two months, absorbing the rugged, romantic landscape and meeting other artists who were painters, poets, activists, dancers from all over the world. We shared dinner together and lived in these Victorian military houses surrounded by eucalyptus trees. During the day, we were each alone in our own zones, writing or hiking, with barely any cell phone service or internet. My studio was this large barn where I’d set out all of my instruments, some I didn’t know how to play. Walking back to my house late at night was very star-lit and felt a little dangerous, in a safe way. Mountain lions had been spotted there.The ocean was grey-blue and the beach was rocky. We were surrounded by redwood trees, lots of fog, coastal sage and tsunami warning signs. We each had total freedom and met up at the end of the day to eat delicious food cooked by a gourmet chef. It was a very blissful couple of months of total creative freedom, where no one could hear me experimenting with things I didn’t know how to use or trying out vocals, embarrassingly. That kind of space and freedom within a time constraint of a two month, once-in-a-lifetime residency is very intense and very special. I’m really grateful for it.

As a listener I’m always struck by how expansive your harp-based creations truly are, and how the rich tapestries of sumptuous sounds drift in the ether of unknown dimensions. Looking back over these six pieces, I wonder were some of these borne from the act of improvisation? Also, I’d love to gain an insight into your mindset when you perform your trusted harp instrument? It feels as if there is some liminal state forever orbited when your music ascends into the atmosphere.

ML: Wow, that’s a beautiful way to put it. In general, all of the pieces are borne from improvisation, where I’ll press record and start to make something, then if I like where it goes, I’ll add the extra layers and morph where those layers go by adding layers on top of that. So it’s just kind of stacks of improvised tracks. Part of that method might be because I don’t really know how to edit, technology-wise, so I just add until it sounds cool and sounds the way I want it to. I guess it’s the same way when I play live. There are always happy accidents and loops that I have to figure my way out of, so it remains thrilling because there’s so much improvisation woven in there around the themes.

One of the new directions here is the added instrumentation of keyboards, guitar and grand piano, intricately woven with the harp tapestries. Truly, these new layers further heightens the otherworldly and timeless quality of your musical works. I’d love for you to talk me through the gorgeous album opener ‘It Feels Like Floating’ (a title which perfectly encapsulates the entire record)? Did the various layering provide any challenges? How long was this particular melody simmering in the pools of your mind, Mary? It feels such an effortless process, it’s almost as if a piece of music just comes to you, like a raindrop falling from the sky….

ML: I mean, I have to say, it’s not effortless, but it did just come to me, where I was just messing around, came up with that little figure that starts the song, and then I hit record and that’s what came out. It’s not effortless but I’m basically just playing with a kernel of an idea and then just seeing where it goes if I add other things. As I’m bad at editing, I scrap the whole take if I don’t like it and then just make something else. But usually, I can get myself out of trouble if I just add more things or take away big chunks rather than going in there and dissecting the tiny bits. It Feels Like Floating came from a place in which I had a little heartbreak and was trying to digest that. The title is a quote from the conversation I had with the dude, and I thought it was a pretty thing to say. Making up songs is how I navigate myself out of those things, in a way, too, I guess. But I also love to swim and that feeling of floating is one of the best feelings in the world.

The artist residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts must have served a significant source of inspiration for you, and particularly spending time with an entire community of creative souls. It reminds me of the Loft in New York or the Big Pink house in Woodstock from different moments in time. I would love to read a diary entry (if you will) from this time you spent along the Northern Pacific Coast and the characters that filled these days? 

ML: I should’ve kept a diary! Instead, I wrote lots of letters to other people. I was really psyched to get so much mail and to generate so much mail while I was there. I read 14 books in 2 months, which is a lot for me. A lot of my favorite days were those spent not talking with anyone, just making a little breakfast, drinking coffee, walking to the studio, playing some, then taking a hike down to the beach or up to one of the abandoned military structures high on a hill, then coming back down for dinner, then walking up to the studio, playing a little more, drinking a little wine, walking back home under the stars, reading and going to bed. I think the simplicity, the simple options of what to do during the day, the lack of mental chatter/worry and general stability where you didn’t have to fret about driving anywhere or the news or anything outside of the little bubble was super unique and luxurious. I’ll remember it forever.

Can you discuss your set-up for the recording of ‘Hundreds Of Days’? I wonder did you try out and experiment with new processes and techniques on this latest record? 

ML: I want to keep moving forward and trying out new things. I had this beautiful Moog Mother 32 and the Theremini and some pedals and some cheap thrift store keyboards, electric guitar, there was a grand piano in the main building, I just wanted to make the palette as full of colors as I could, so that was the main difference in this record, expanded palette. I didn’t really try out new techniques but I also think that the hourglass of two months being turned over, the limited time, inspired me to get lots of work done.

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‘Hello From the Edge of the Earth’ is such an achingly beautiful lament with the graceful harp notes unfolding a quiet magic instantaneously. As the title suggests, this piece of music is an ode to mother nature. I’d love for you to discuss the narrative of this particular piece and your memories of writing ‘Hello From the Edge of the Earth’? Were you steeped in nature from your upbringing back home in Philadelphia?

ML: I’m actually from North Carolina, so I did grow up amidst a lot of nature, in the mountains in the western part of the state. I figured out pretty early on that I love cities, the culture and the anonymity and the possibilities that come with living in a big city. I moved to Rochester, NY when I was 17, which is a larger city than the town where I grew up. My life in Philly didn’t have that much nature except for a park overlooking the river at the end of my block. I think being at the Headlands was the closest to immersion in nature that I’d felt for a while and it really lined up with my need to make something that encompassed heartache and a general sadness about leaving Philadelphia, where I’d lived for thirteen years. The record and this song are both a love letter to the wildness and jewel box beauty of the California coast and a postcard back to Philadelphia from my new location. I see this song as a postcard. It’s a little musical transmission from my new planet.

The act of travelling and road-trips across America has provided you with many stories, I’m sure which get captured beautifully into your deeply affecting music. As a musician and artist, I’d love to gain an insight into the ways by which your creative mind becomes unlocked (and the flood gates open, so to speak) when you’re in motion and witnessing different places along a continent spanning trip? For example, the seeds were for sewn for the predecessor ‘At The Dam’ LP from a U.S. road trip?

ML: Yeah, it’s true. I think making music is just my way of capturing moments that otherwise might be fleeting. They’re little time capsules, the songs and the records. My memory is pretty shot and it’s my way of recording the places and the feelings and it’s my way of communicating with other people, albeit wordlessly. Being on the road or being in a strange new place really flips a switch on in your brain, where you’re more aware and alert and awake, more present in your own body. I watch a lot of tv and I drink a lot of cocktails and mess around on my phone a lot and just hang out kind of duuuuhhhhhh, so being in motion really makes me right again, where I have to revive things that have fallen asleep, if that makes sense. So residencies and road trips feel important to the music because that’s when my ears and hands and brain and way of looking at the world and assessing situations are most alert. I want to go to Copenhagen in the summer to make a new record and to get to know that place, so that’s the next escape route.

Please describe for me your trusted 47-string Lyon and Healy harp. When did you first play this instrument and in what way do you feel you have developed this special relationship with the harp instrument? After first discovering your music in the form of ‘The Withdrawing Room’, it feels as if you are continually evolving with each new release. The possibilities are endless, perhaps the essence of your harp-based creations.

ML: Thanks so much! Yes, I want to keep evolving and seeing what the instrument has to offer, sound and personality-wise. I started playing the harp when I was 11 but didn’t really have such a personal relationship with it until I went to college (music conservatory) and had to spend solitary hours and hours in a practice room focusing on one piece at a time. I got close to my harp in a love/hate kind of way that felt like an important war we went through together. Now, it’s only love, though, because I have to protect it so much, taking it with me places. It’s like a sister to me.

Lastly, can you shed some light on your compositional approach when it comes to your harp playing, Mary? For instance, the myriad of sublime moments dotted across pieces such as ‘Never Saw Him Again’ and ‘Baltic Birch’ could never have been as a result of solely improvising? I love how transporting these pieces are, and these masterfully sculpted sonic creations feel like a sprawling abstract canvas of deep, resonating meaning.

ML: Baltic Birch was one where I had the main melody line in my mind beforehand in a singular melodic voice, so I thought of how I could build it. I thought I couldn’t loop that melody line because it was too long, so I looped the accompaniment, but then I realized that the melody actually could also be looped if it became kind of a round. Never Saw Him Again was definitely all improvisation and experimenting and I definitely thought it sounded kinda cheesy when I first made it. I also don’t really like my voice, so I put it through some Garage Band filter reverb stuff and had Jeff, who mixed it, kinda tweak the pitchiness of it when he was mixing just to make it not horrendous. I definitely just use vocals as texture and don’t claim to be a singer at all. Haha. I was just going with it. Everything comes with just messing around. I’ve never made a (solo) song in a real studio, only on my own with flexibility and an empty room and Garage Band on a laptop, so maybe it’s time to see what would happen if there was a little more pressure, with somebody a little more experienced controlling the actual recording and actual songs that are thought about more in advance. Who knows. Gotta keep trying things out! Thanks so much for the thoughtful questions! I always love to read your take on things!

‘Hundreds Of Days’ is out now on Ghostly International.

https://marylattimoreharpist.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/harpistmarylattimore/

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January 9, 2019 at 2:55 pm

Mixtape: Fractured Air – December 2018

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fracturedair_dec18

As the dusk light begins to fade on the year, we have a chance to both reflect on these past twelve months and look forward to what awaits us in 2019…Needless to say, music shapes pretty much everything that has taken place – and what moments are about to occur – from memorable, transcendent live shows (Low, Julia Holter and Nils Frahm’s shows will forever stay with me); making new musical discoveries (for instance, first hearing the illuminating voice of Penelope Trappes’ latest record or the myriad of timbres and textures contained on the Actress & LCO collaborative release ‘LAGEOS’); revisiting bands from previous decades (This Mortal Coil’s discography immediately comes to mind) or just simply having a cherished record (or playlist) as the soundtrack to your day (as you walk around in the pools of your mind or take in a nice scenic road-trip).

The importance of music never fades and isn’t that the most amazing thing? There is a science behind it: the reaction as your ears first hears a note and how you feel as a result. And whatever year we find ourselves in (2019, 2020 or beyond), new discoveries will always await us. As a listener, there is some comfort in this simple fact…
Lots of our favourite albums from 2018 are dotted across this December mixtape (and so many left out, as always is the way). The fresh and dynamic ambient sounds of Kranky debut signees (Less Bells and Saloli); Mary Jane Leach’s incredible flute compositions; two tracks from Julia Holter’s epic masterwork ‘Aviary’ and a recent discovery of the incredible Carola Baer (a retrospective compilation is lovingly compiled by Concentric Circles).

Also present is one of the late great composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s last recorded works: the deeply moving and transporting ‘Mandy’ score, such transformative guitar-based compositions. This year we lost a true voice in today’s music world. I can only imagine the unbearable loss it has been for all those close to this remarkable human being. I remember shaking Jóhann’s hand after a concert of his and just saying how amazing his music is. He smiled graciously and replied softly, “thank you”. Well, thank you Jóhann for the eternal gift your stunningly beautiful music forever brings.

 

Fractured Air – December 2018

01. Tom Waits“Alice” (Epitaph)
02. Actress & LCO“Voodoo Posse, Chronic Illusion” (Ninja Tune)
03. Phase II“Words From” (Definitive Jux)
04. Squarepusher“Lambic Poetry 5” (Warp)
05. Low“Fly” (Sub Pop)
06. Penelope Trappes“Connector” (Houndstooth)
07. Jóhann Jóhannsson“Mandy Love Theme” (Mandy OST, Lakeshore/Invada)
08. Tomita“Dawn Chorus” (RCA)
09. Julia Holter“Voce Simul” (Domino)
10. Alice Coltrane“Keshawa Murahara” (Luaka Bop)
11. Saloli“Anthem” (Kranky)
12. Carola Baer“Maker of Me” (Concentric Circles)
13. Mark Renner“It Might Have Been” (RVNG Intl)
14. Die Haut“Der Karbische Western” (Strut)
15. Paul de Jong“Johnny No Cash” (Temporary Residence)
16. Michele Mercure“A Little Piece” (Freedom To Spend)
17. Carla dal Forno“Blue Morning” (self-released)
18. Less Bells“Valentine” (Kranky)
19. Jessica Moss“Fractals (Truth 3)” (Constellation)
20. Villagers“A Trick of the Light” (Bibio Remix) (Domino)
21. Nils Frahm“A Place” (Erased Tapes)
22. The Gentleman Losers“Fish Roam in Winter Water” (Sound In Silence)
23. Mary Jane Leach“Downland’s Tears” (Modern Love)
24. Julia Holter“I Would Rather See” (Domino)
25. Mary Lattimore“Hello From the Edge of the Earth” (Ghostly)

Wishing our readers a very happy Christmas and best wishes for the new year.

 

 

Albums of the year: 2018

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Presented here is a list of our favourite (ten) albums from 2018. As difficult a task as this proved, we decided ultimately to choose the albums that we found ourselves turning back to time and again over the last twelve months. 

 

10. Earl Sweatshirt – “Some Rap Songs” (Columbia Records)

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Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, otherwise known as Earl Sweatshirt is a rapper, producer and DJ whose third studio album ‘Some Rap Songs’ was released last month to universal acclaim. The sublime hip hop voyage deals – in part – with the loss of his father, poet laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile.

“Me and my dad had a relationship that’s not uncommon for people to have with their fathers, which is a non-perfect one,” Earl wrote. “Talking to him is symbolic and non-symbolic, but it’s literally closure for my childhood. Not getting to have that moment left me to figure out a lot with my damn self.”

On the opening verse of the seductive dub groove ‘Shattered Dreams’, Sweatshirt asks “Why ain’t nobody tell  me I was bleedin’?” Masterful production and sun-blissed harmonies serve the rich ebb and flow of the cut’s gradual flow. The rapper pleads “Please, nobody pinch me out this dream” beneath the dreamy, hypnotic beats on the following line.

Memories of his father permeates throughout the lucid ‘Red Water’: “Papa called me chief/Gotta keep it brief” beneath stunning soulful  pop hooks. On the R&B inflected rhymes of ‘Nowhere2go’, the Los Angeles rapper explains the need to “redefine himself” and ultimately ‘Some Rap Songs’ finds Kgositile do exactly that.

The poignant ‘December 24’ is a menacing, slow brooding gem that places Earl’s poetic prose beneath cinematic piano tapestries. ‘On The Way!’ contains a sumptuous soul/funk groove. The tempo is slowed on the transcendent single ‘The Mint’ (featuring Navy Blue), another slice of pristine hip hop that serves a parallel alongside the likes of Madvillain and J Dilla such is its divine spell.

This compelling fifteen-track album reflects a hip hop artist that has further evolved and continually develops his unique and immense talents.

‘Some Rap Songs’ is out now on Columbia.

http://earlsweatshirt.com/
https://www.facebook.com/EarlSweatshirtMusic/

9. Marissa Nadler – “For My Crimes” (Bella Union/Sacred Bones)

for my crimes correct

Marissa Nadler, one of the most cherished songwriters of our time, returned with her captivating eighth studio album ‘For My Crimes’ last Autumn. The Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter has carved out eleven deeply affecting and soul-stirring sparse laments whose immediacy and emotional depth resonates powerfully throughout.

It feels as if the essence of the song is captured magnificently to tape wherein each beautiful folk noir exploration navigates the depth of the human heart with naturalness and ease. In contrast to the more polished and layered records that came previously (the magnificent ‘Strangers’ and ‘July’ LPs), Nadler’s intimate song cycles contain quite minimal instrumentation that crafts a hypnotic spell and striking intimacy (intersecting the sound worlds of Townes Van Zandt and Stina Nordenstam).

Nadler co-produced For My Crimes with Lawrence Rothman and Justin Raisen at Rothman’s Laurel Canyon studio, House of Lux. A stellar cast of incredible female musicians joined the recording sessions,  including vocals from Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten and Kristin Kontrol, Patty Schemel (Hole, Juliette and the Licks) on drums, Mary Lattimore on harp, and the great experimental multi-instrumentalist Janel Leppin on strings.

Some of the finest, most empowering songs of Nadler’s career is dotted across ‘For My Crime’s intense narrative. Emotive strings and meditative acoustic guitar drift beneath Nadler’s majestic vocal delivery on the windswept beauty of the album’s glorious title-track (and fitting opener). Nadler asks “Please don’t remember me/For my crimes” on the deeply moving, dusk-lit chorus.

The swell of electric guitar and drums create a post-rock grandeur on the sublime ‘Blue Vapour’: a raw energy is unleashed with each and every pulse. The hard-hitting impact of Nadler’s supreme songwriting gifts is distilled on the heartfelt lament ‘Dream Dream Big In The Sky’ which feels as if the words and music are somehow encapsulated in the faded dreams of the clouds above.

‘For My Crimes’ is out now on Bella Union/Sacred Bones.

https://www.marissanadler.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MarissaNadlerMusic/

8. Tirzah – “Devotion” (Domino)

tirzah-devotion.jpg

The year’s finest debut album undeniably comes from London-based songstress and producer Tirzah. The immense talents of this young artist can be felt throughout the album’s utterly contemporary and unique eleven songs. Steeped in R&B, soul and pop spheres, Tirzah’s fresh and alluring compositions very much belong to the here and now whose beguiling song structures forever push the sonic envelope. ‘Devotion’ is written and produced with composer and childhood friend Micachu with gorgeous pop sensibility and minimal production at the heart of the album’s gripping heart and soul.

The striking immediacy – and directness – of these songs makes a profound impact. The deeply affecting downbeat-soul of ‘Gladly’ is a delightful, heart-warming love song with hypnotic vocals and gradual beat. “All I want is you/I love you/Gladly, gladly, gladly” sings Tirzah on the breathtaking chorus. There is simplicity in the song (so it seems) but a complexity in the emotional connection. A gospel, R&B lament. ‘Holding On’ contains a quiet confidence and strength as the 80’s synth pop feel radiates throughout. Again, the minimal nature of these songs forges such deep emotions and colour.

The album’s towering title-track features guest vocalist Coby Sey with his soulful falsetto serving the perfect counterpoint to Tirzah’s understated voice and pristine beats. “So listen to me” is repeated like a mantra; reminiscent of James Blake’s downtempo creations. Tirzah sings “I want your arms” on a later verse, sung with such emotion and sincerity. This duet forms the vital heart of the album’s second half.

The guitar funk groove of the following cut ‘Go Now’ packs significant weight: “Don’t raise your voice to me” is sung in a delicate, near-hushed falsetto on the opening verse. Vulnerability is inherent in this breath-taking soulful lament. Acoustic piano patterns serve the sonic backdrop to the sparse ‘Say When’, brimming with melancholic shades of loss, “I felt you gone and now I am lost”.

Devotion’ heralds a significant new voice in contemporary music.

‘Devotion’ is out now on Domino Recordings.

https://tirzah.net/
https://www.facebook.com/TirzahMusic

7. Mary Lattimore – “Hundreds Of Days” (Ghostly)

Mary-Lattimore-Hundreds-of-Days

Having first discovered Los Angeles-based harpist and composer Mary Lattimore’s 2013 debut ‘The Withdrawing Room’ (released on Desire Path Recordings), each new release has been a hugely exciting discovery. On this year’s ‘Hundreds Of Days’ – and third release for the prestigious Ghostly label – Lattimore’s ethereal, dream-wave bliss of her harp-based compositions casts a spacious, luminescent and captivating sound world of unknown dimensions.

The gorgeous album opener ‘It Feels Like Floating’ feels just like that: the sacred harp tapestries drift in the ether of faded dreams amidst swathes of celestial harmonies. Utterly timeless. Jonsi’s Healing Fields remix is a fascinating re-interpretation that conveys the inspirational quality of Lattimore’s hugely unique and shape shifting compositions.

Guitar, keyboard and percussion is added on the poignant folk gem ‘Never Saw Him Again’: forging a dreamy pop opus from a past we have not yet quite arrived upon. The soundscapes and intricate layers continually build, as if reawakening some once-vivid memories of a loved one. The sparse ‘Hello From the Edge of the Earth’ maps the human heart and Lattimore’s love of the natural world. The lyrical quality of this piece is quite something to behold.

Baltic Birch’ blossomed from Lattimore’s trip to Latvia where she was struck by the abandoned resort towns along the Baltic Sea.  A desolate landscape is etched across the ambient soundscapes with the electric guitar haze recalling Lattimore’s collaborations with Jeff Ziegler.

The LA-based harpist – in much the same way as fellow contemporaries Julianna Barwick, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and so on – possesses the ability to transport you to an entirely new realm wherein the music becomes beautifully buried in the pools of one’s mind. ‘Hundreds Of Days’ is yet another gleaming treasure in the composer’s storied career.

‘Hundreds Of Days’ is out now on Ghostly International.

https://marylattimoreharpist.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/harpistmarylattimore/

6. Actress & London Contemporary OrchestraLAGEOS” (Ninja Tune)

lageos-main

‘LAGEOS’ is the utterly compelling, shape shifting debut full length release from renowned electronic producer Darren Cunningham (aka Actress) and the London Contemporary Orchestra. At the heart of this captivating record is both artists’ ceaseless fascination with sound wherein new pathways of discovery are forever attained.

The first traces – committed to tape at least – was last year’s beguiling ‘Audio Track 5’ EP. The divine title-track (which is also found halfway through the record’s second half) comprises of beautifully drifting strings that float amidst crunching percussive rhythms and piano patterns. The splicing of the various components creates a shimmering odyssey of rapturous, luminous soundscapes, where the abstract techno sphere is masterfully blended with modern classical elements. Importantly, lines become blurred throughout ‘LAGEOS’, one cannot pinpoint to any one musical landscape, for it is a far-reaching kaleidoscope of timbres, textures and tones.

LCO’s Hugh Brunt has described the collaboration as being “about exploring an ambiguity of sound that sits between electronic and acoustic spaces.”

It is a joy to discover new contexts and insights into the cherished Actress discography as classics such as ‘Hubble’, ‘N.E.W’ and ‘Voodoo PosseChronic Illusion’ become a deep stream of consciousness and energy flow. The meditative bliss of ‘N.E.W’ with an endless array of enchanting instrumentation, supplied by the LCO, flows deep into your veins. The irresistible cosmic groove of ‘Voodoo Posse’ serves the record’s fitting penultimate track before the joyously empowering ‘Hubble’s techno fueled odyssey maps one’s innermost fears and dreams.

‘LAGEOS’ is out now on Ninja Tune.

https://www.ninjatune.net/artist/actress
https://www.lcorchestra.co.uk/

5. Low – “Double Negative” (Sub Pop)

low_doublenegative

The much beloved Minnesota trio sculpted one of their finest, most empowering works to date with ‘Double Negative’, released earlier this year on the Seattle label Sub Pop. In similar fashion to 2015’s ‘Ones and Sixes’, the band enlisted B.J. Burton (James Blake, The Tallest Man on Earth) for production duties but here, the dazzling experiments are developed much further, forging deeply moving collages of cinematic, charged rock odysseys that seep into one’s very own consciousness. Abrasive beats and dazzling electronic components melt alongside Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk’s heavenly – soul searching – harmonies and Neil Young-esque guitar echo and reverb.

A dark undercurrent permeates throughout the record, reflecting these dark, uncertain times we find ourselves in. The brooding and hypnotic ‘Trying To Work It Out’ is classic Low with the slowcore bliss of Sparhawk’s highly emotive vocal delivery: “I saw you at the grocery store/I know I should have walked over and say hello/It seemed like you were in a hurry/I didn’t want to slow you down/So I figured out I should let you go.” Dissonance abounds. In many ways, the record serves a parallel with Nick Cave’s latest ‘Skeleton Tree’ – both records are borne out of a sea of darkness and despair but both records ultimately possess an incalculable empowering capability.

The delicate beauty of the meditative ‘Always Up’ is a precious ballad that depicts the frustration dispelled by the world today. The chorus refrain of Mimi Parker’s angelic vocal delivery “I believe I believe I believe I believe/Can’t you see Can’t you see Can’t you see?” emits a cathartic energy flow that is steeped in an unfathomable beauty. Rawest of emotions flood out of these recordings, feeling both vital and colossal in equal measure.

How the songs fade into one another is another marvel of ‘Double Negative’: the multi-layered textures and static that envelopes the space; creating something considerably larger than the sum of its parts. ‘Fly’ is one of the album’s most stunning moments with its Mimi Parker-led soulful dimension “Leave my weary bones and fly” is the deeply affecting chorus that reduces you to tears upon each visit. How the infectious bass groove melds with Parker’s falsetto leaves you dumbfounded such is its unwavering beauty. Uncertainty breathes heavily throughout. But there is hope buried deep in its gorgeous soulful strut.

‘Double Negative’ is out now on Sub Pop.

https://www.chairkickers.com/
https://www.facebook.com/lowmusic/

4. Djrum – “Portrait with Firewood” (R&S Records)

djrum portrait

UK producer Felix Manuel (AKA Djrum) is responsible for one of the most poignant, soul-stirring electronic records of the year with his R&S debut full-length ‘Portrait with Firewood’. The wide range of sounds – everything from modern classical and ambient soundscapes to gripping techno and dubstep flourishes – is one of the hallmarks of this remarkable tour-de-force. The emotional depth of Manuel’s electronic works is perhaps the most alluring trademark of Djrum’s scintillating sonic voyage. For example, the intoxicating electronic-infused classical opus ‘Blue Violet’ (one of the most mind-bending tracks of 2018) unleashes a timelessness that is all too rare in today’s dance music. Analog synths and strings are masterfully woven together amidst beautifully cinematic spoken word segments. “Do you remember how you told me about lightning striking? All of those things you told me to wait for?” is softly uttered by a female voice, beneath meditative piano notes. ‘Blue Violet’ details love, passion, obsession and all points of the human condition – the spirit of Nils Frahm and Jon Hopkins radiates throughout this towering composition.

Waters Rising’ sees Manuel collaborate with vocalist Lola Empire, crafting a beguiling soulful R&B techno gem. Several of Djrum’s piano improvisations serve the initial sketches of these compelling explorations. Techno bliss is etched across the album’s central tracks ‘Creature Pt 2’ and ‘Sex’; the latter fusing introspective piano and violin motifs and intoxicating techno/jungle beats (further highlighting the boundless nature of Djrum’s enveloping sound).

Describe by Djrum as a “confessional record”; the melancholic shades come to the fore on the record’s final third. The highly immersive ‘Sparrow’ is one of the record’s defining moments wherein a spoken word segment floats majestically beneath intricate layers of jazz inflections: “I’ll show you my scars/You show me the stars”. A rich poignancy is inherent in each of ‘Portrait with Firewood’s luminous musical works.

‘Portrait with Firewood’ is out now on R&S Records.

https://djrum.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DjrumMusic/

3. Penelope Trappes – “Penelope Two” (Houndstooth)

penelopetwo

London-based artist Penelope Trappes’ sophomore full-length ‘Penelope Two’ – and follow-up to her essential debut ‘Penelope One’ for Optimo Music – casts a hypnotic, luminous spell through its stunningly beautiful song cycles: drenched in reverb that somehow drift into the ether of our innermost fears. The stark intimacy of the Australian-born composer’s compositions is what strikes you immediately; evoking the timeless spirit of early 4AD artists (This Mortal Coil, Cocteau Twins) and kindred spirits of Grouper’s Liz Harris and Tropic Of Cancer.

On the album’s gripping centrepiece ‘Maeve’, the chorus refrain of “let go” is repeated beneath delicate piano chords and lucid guitar haze. I feel ‘Penelope Two’ becomes a process of letting go: to allow the waves of anguish and pain wash over you and, in  turn, to wrap your troubles up in dreams. The raw emotion distilled in Trappes’ soaring vocals casts infinite rays of solace and hope as light flickers from within the depths of darkness.

The way in which the drone infused ambient instrumentals (‘Silence’; ‘Kismet’; ‘Exodus’) are masterfully interwoven with the vocal-based song structures (‘Connector’; ‘Burn On’; ‘Maeve’) creates one cohesive whole of staggering beauty and emotional depth. The ethereal dream pop gem of ‘Connector’ possesses endurance to overcome the darkness. The immaculate production and divine soundscapes immerses the listener inside a wholly other realm. The chorus refrain “I am the connector” epitomizes the magical, far-reaching qualities of Trappes’ immense songwriting prowess.

‘Penelope Two’ is out now on Houndstooth.

https://penelopetrappes.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/penelopetrappes/

2. Julia Holter – “Aviary” (Domino)

aviary

The peerless Los Angeles songwriter and composer Julia Holter has long been carving out the most ground breaking and breath-taking avant pop masterworks and this year’s ‘Aviary’ reveals an artist at the peak of her powers. The album’s enthralling fifteen compositions explore further into bewitching experimental terrain as an abstract canvas of vivid textures, colour and timbres ascend into the forefront of one’s heart and mind.

The immaculate instrumentation and mesmerizing arrangements – a constant throughout Holter’s cherished songbook – lies at the heart of these stunning song cycles. The epic ‘Chaitius’ opens with gorgeous orchestration of strings, brass and choral lines that conveys the kaleidoscopic vision of the American composer’s newest musical venture. These sprawling, vast pieces feel as if the soundscapes could glide forever into infinity (and beyond). Holter sings “Open my wings with joy” on the opening verse; conveying the artist’s search for love and solace “amidst all the internal and external babble we experience daily”. The way the composition evolves and develops is akin to a process of self-discovery or acceptance. The vocoder/spoken word segments emits such rich imagery that reflects “the melting world” of today’s chaotic world we find ourselves in. Euphoria and an awakening sensation abounds on the glorious crescendo of Holter’s trusted ensemble (double bass as ever adding seductive rhythmic pulses to the sacred sound worlds effortlessly created). The continual striving for direction never feels far away: “Who will tell me what to do? Don’t say to feel so alove.”

It is clear with ‘Aviary’ that Holter effortlessly delves deeper into experimentation with sound; perhaps the first cue for the song’s inception was a sonic idea during the music-making process. The hypnotic, meditative lament ‘Voce Simul’ begins with a cosmic jazz bassline groove beneath Holter’s hushed vocal delivery and ethereal trumpet lines. The spoken word passages are masterfully blended with this cinematic backdrop: “I was just about to go outside” utters Holter on a later verse – inviting the listener on a wholly unique journey. As ever, the past and future become masterfully placed together – at once akin to “a distant mirror” of “a hundred minds” as Holter asks “How did I forget I’m part of the dust?”

The lead single ‘I Shall Love 2’ combined with its sister song – and symphonic rejoice – ‘I Shall Love 1’ form integral components of each half of ‘Aviary’s striking narrative. The former is yet another pristine pop oeuvre with gorgeous melodic flourishes and an awakening of the senses. The song’s deeply empowering rise “That is all that is all/There is nothing else” is a joy to savour; I visualize the moving scenes of the guiding angels in Wim Wender’s ‘Wings of Desire’ who listen to the thoughts of its human inhabitants. In a similar fashion, ‘I Shall Love’ (both movements) offers comfort and warmth.

The soaring beauty of ‘Words I Heard’ is steeped in 60s pop grandeur and Laurel Canyon pop perfection. How Holter’s achingly beautiful voice blends with the strings evokes a dream within a dream; a labyrinth of ancient and modern times – transposed to one sprawling, poignant canvas. The creative process is beautifully articulated on the fitting album closer ‘Why Sad Song’: “Oh ideas, Idea – oh why the words are made of?” But it is the dazzling, contemporary pop tour-de-force ‘Les Jeux To You’ that illustrates just how far ‘Aviary’s journey takes you on. The playful use – and richness – of words combined with the futuristic pop backdrop carves out something wholly unique and otherworldly. The deeply moving quality of Holter’s sacred artistic works is forever etched in the song’s gripping foundations: “I can hope for it today/I wonder though, if my heart tells me everything I need.”

‘Aviary’ is out now on Domino Recordings.

https://juliaholter.com/
https://www.facebook.com/juliashammasholter/

1. Nils Frahm – “All Melody” (Erased Tapes)

nilsfrahm-allmelody

Our most cherished record of the year undoubtedly comes from world-renowned, Berlin-based composer Nils Frahm’s latest masterpiece ‘All Melody’.

The immense beauty – and immensity – of the far-reaching soundscapes dotted across “All Melody’s musical landscape is a joy to savour. A myriad of sacred tones are effortlessly spliced together like that of the double helix pattern of each DNA molecule found inside our cells. It is as if a towering composition like “Sunson” unfolds, mutates, and transforms before your very eyes: the soaring juno synthesizer is melded gorgeously with the otherworldly sounds of the handmade pipe organ. The seamless array of colours and textures creates an empowering ripple flow of emotions. Choral odysseys dissolve into this vast sea of forgotten dreams. As the piece continually builds, the interlinked rhythms are forever over-lapping; magical moments within moments are captured at each and every pulse.

Modern-classical, dub and avant pop spheres are masterfully blended together on ‘A Place’. The inner dialogue between the components (choir, strings, percussion, synthesizer, and rhodes) creates a deeply bewitching symphony of celestial sounds. How the female voice is mixed with the luminescent juno synthesizer provides a significant milestone in “All Melody’s mind-bending oeuvre. Gripping dub beats awash with soul-stirring strings. The sonic terrain has expanded, almost exponentially. It feels as if a deep symbiosis exists between all of its vital elements; each one inter-dependent of one another, reacting, breathing and growing as the loop drifts forever into the ether of unknown dimensions.

The possibilities are endless. “#2” fades in – almost subliminally – as the embers of “All Melody” gradually dissolve. Techno bliss is masterfully etched across the sprawling canvas of synthesizer arrangements, creating, in turn, psychedelic dreams orbiting the furthest reaches of one’s inner consciousness.

The album’s penultimate track “Kaleidoscope” conveys the visionary nature of Frahm’s music: the pattern of the interwoven elements (choir, organ and synthesizer) is constantly changing; forever in motion and altering in sequence (in turn, generating endless possibilities). The immaculate exploration feels at once ancient and utterly contemporary; a joyously uplifting creation with its dazzling ebb and flow akin to a river finding its sea.

All Melody” is a defining record for the ages. This is a journey into sound.

‘All Melody’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://www.nilsfrahm.com/
https://www.facebook.com/nilsfrahm

Guest Mixtape: Two Medicine (Bella Union)

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To celebrate the release of Midlake bassist Paul Alexander’s debut solo album (under his Two Medicine pseudonym), the U.S. songwriter and musician compiles a stunning hour-long mix merging pop, tropicalia, folk, krautrock, and psychedelic spheres of enchanting sounds. Having played a key creative role in the recording of John’s Grant’s new album, Love Is Magic, Alexander will be joining his labelmate on his European tour this Autumn. Two Medicine’s debut record ‘Astropsychosis’ is out now on Bella Union.

twomedicine_mixtape

Last month saw the eagerly awaited debut solo album from Midlake bassist Paul Alexander. Under his Two Medicine moniker, Alexander crafts immaculate psych pop odysseys that navigate the hidden depths of the human heart. In a similar fashion to his Denton prog folk outfit of Midlake, Two Medicine’s songbook is at once wholly familiar and mysteriously unknown: sparse folk songs drift across the ether of Laurel Canyon and divine pop spheres dissolve across vast skies of Beach Boys grandeur. Like any remarkable record, the sounds captured on tape somehow permeates deep and far: forever delivering new meaning and rare significance.

As Paul explains, one key to its secrets lies in the project name’s nod to a national park in Montana:

“Two Medicine is a majestic place, without spoil. The land was ceded to the nation by the Blackfeet tribe. They were likely coerced into the deal, like most of the tribes who gave away their land. It is wild, humbling and probably collateral for the nation’s debt, where an inevitable capitulation looms. Beyond its geographical location, to me, the name Two Medicine represents a summation of this irony, whether created or inherited by the people of the United States.”

The stunningly beautiful lament ‘tmrw’ traces the lineage of those early 70’s folk masterworks of Vashti Bunyan or Bert Jansch. On the opening verse, Alexander sings “I got a call today/It’s curtains for the sparrow” beneath a soft strum of acoustic guitar. Quiet solace surrounds the melancholic shades of the fading dusk light.

The album’s title-track conveys the luminous space and artistic brilliance of Two Medicine’s debut full-length with reverb-laden piano notes and dazzling rhythmic pulses (akin to the era of The Band’s timeless ‘Music From The Big Pink’ LP). Alexander’s solo journey has only just begun.

 

Two Medicine – Fractured Air Mix – December 2018

01. Isao Tomita“Passepied – Suite Bergamasque, No.4” [RCA]
02. David Shire“Orange Light” [La-La Land Records]
03. The Magnetic Fields“Epitaph for My Heart” [Domino / Merge]
04. George Jones“The Race is On” [United Artists]
05. The Flying Burrito Brothers“Sin City” [A&M]
06. The Byrds“You Ain’t Going Nowhere” [Columbia / CBS]
07. Caribou“Melody Day” [City Slang / Merge]
08. Amon Düül II“Cerberus” [Liberty]
09. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard “Melting” [Heavenly Recordings]
10. The Valerie Project“Grandmother” [Drag City / Twisted Nerve]
11. The Incredible String Band“The Water Song” [Elektra]
12. Os Mutantes “A Minha Menina” [Polydor]
13. Novos Baianos“Brasil Pandeiro” [Som Livre, Mr Bongo]
14. Tinariwen“Mano Dayak” [Independiente]
15. Department Of Eagles“Phantom Other” [4AD]
16. The Cure“Plainsong” [Fiction]

‘Astropsychosis’ is out now on Bella Union.

http://twomedicineband.com/
http://bellaunion.com/

Written by admin

December 17, 2018 at 12:27 pm

Step Right Up: Two Medicine

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One constant throughout the process was an expectation that the sound and feeling be something I desired to listen to repeatedly.”

—Paul Alexander

 Words: Mark Carry

two medicine pic

Last month saw the eagerly awaited debut solo album from Midlake bassist Paul Alexander. Under his Two Medicine moniker, Alexander crafts immaculate psych pop odysseys that navigate the hidden depths of the human heart. In a similar fashion to his Denton prog folk outfit of Midlake; Two Medicine’s songbook is at once wholly familiar and mysteriously unknown: sparse folk songs drift across the ether of Laurel Canyon and divine pop spheres dissolve across vast skies of Beach Boys grandeur. Like any remarkable record, the sounds captured on tape somehow permeates deep and far: forever delivering new meaning and rare significance.

If ever a lyric epitomized the spirit of a record it’s the gorgeous chorus refrain of lead single ‘Gold’. Alexander sings “If you dig this gold/It’s all you wanted and more” beneath crystalline synthesizer motifs and a seductive bass groove. ‘Astropsychosis’ becomes a journey of self-exploration, infiltrating the forests of one’s mind, desires and dreams. A sacred dimension is effortlessly – almost innately – tapped into here; as the songs inhabit the forest space (in which Two Medicine’s title blossomed from).

The glorious opener ‘SF’ contains rich psychedelic textures and sumptuous guitar tones that meld beautifully with Alexander’s heartfelt vocal delivery. Layers of shimmering vocals and electronics form a dense haze, evoking the spirit of Scandinavian groups – and kindred spirits – Efterklang and Dungen.

The stunningly beautiful lament ‘tmrw’ traces the lineage of those early 70’s folk masterworks of Vashti Bunyan or Bert Jansch. On the opening verse, Alexander sings “I got a call today/It’s curtains for the sparrow” beneath a soft strum of acoustic guitar. Quiet solace surrounds the melancholic shades of the fading dusk light.

The album’s title-track conveys the luminous space and artistic brilliance of Two Medicine’s debut full-length with reverb-laden piano notes and dazzling rhythmic pulses (akin to the era of The Band’s timeless ‘Music From The Big Pink’ LP). Alexander’s solo journey has only just begun.

‘Astropsychosis’ is out now on Bella Union.

http://twomedicineband.com/
http://bellaunion.com/

two medicine 2

Interview with Paul Alexander (Two Medcine/Midlake).

 

Congratulations Paul on your stunningly beautiful Two Medicine debut solo record, it’s a real pleasure to ask you some questions. Firstly, please describe this public park in Montana – in which your project name I believe was taken from – and the source of inspiration nature and this particular place’s history seeped into the songs make up?

Paul Alexander: Thank you for the kind words. Two Medicine is an area with immense, mountainous valleys and glacier fed lakes in the southeastern corner of Glacier National Park. I’m sure I’m no different from most folks who visit, the place makes an impression. There is something daunting and a bit foreboding about it, as if the mountains know your thoughts. I think similar feelings found their way into the songs for sure, directly and in metaphor.

The majestic harmonies, immaculate production and pristine instrumentation are just some of the hallmarks of this formidable record. I get the impression the making of ‘Astropsychosis’ was an incredibly liberating experience? I would love to gain an insight into the record’s inception and over what time period have these songs been blooming into life?

PA: Thank you. The record was written and recorded over a 15 month period, beginning in early 2016 and ending the spring of 2017. I had a few ideas when I started, but the majority of the material was written and arranged in the studio. At the time, I had sung a good amount of backing vocals, but had never been the main vocal, so it was definitely a stroll into the unknown! I half expected the project to be abandoned, not knowing if my writing would be strong enough to warrant the energy required to finish. In hindsight, it has been quite liberating, but the process itself was often overwhelming.

A truly timeless pop sphere permeates the headspace throughout the record’s nine tracks, echoing shades of Midlake but also beautifully navigating new sonic terrain. Did you have specific reference points (be it studio albums or feelings or colour) in terms how you envisioned this record (from the outset)? What were the most challenging aspects to the creation of ‘Astropsychosis’? 

PA: Initially, I was imagining a blend of Pet Sounds with late 80’s/early 90’s shoe-gaze/dream-pop. I’m not so sure that’s really what has emerged, but it’s the world I was looking towards at the time. Most of the songs started on acoustic guitar and I tend to stack vocal harmonies, so I suppose a kind of dream folk was always hanging around, for better or worse. The project was largely a solitary endeavor, so the hardest part was to not get swallowed up in a world of minutia.

Life’s fleeting moments feel distilled on the album’s captivating title-track. ‘Gold’ is a timeless pop gem, a song I feel I have known all my life. The seductive groove to ‘SF’ is divine. But I love how the darker lyrical content is effortlessly placed beneath these pop motifs and intricate arrangements. Can you shed some light on your song-writing process and indeed if some of these songs proved much easier/quicker to write than others?

PA: Thank you. Honestly, I don’t have much of a defined process, especially since these are some of the first songs I’ve written. I tried a few approaches, yet there wasn’t much rhyme or reason to why one thing would work or another wouldn’t. One constant throughout the process was an expectation that the sound and feeling be something I desired to listen to repeatedly. Sometimes, I just didn’t think an idea was very good after I took a step back. At that point it didn’t matter how hard I had worked on it, I didn’t hesitate to find the delete button.

I suppose that most songwriters and composers can write quickly, but getting something I was willing to show others proved to be difficult. ‘Oblivion’ was probably the easiest from a composition standpoint, I had the core ideas in a few days and the arrangement came quickly compared to other songs. The synthesis aspect also developed quickly on that one, which was great. Every song developed in it’s own way, but that is mostly down to working solo, as I can only record one part at a time.

Please describe your studio set-up, a space you must be well acquainted with from Midlake recordings? 

PA: Eric Nichelson from Midlake acquired the bulk of the old recording equipment and the studio where we recorded AntiphonCourage of Others & John Grant’s, Queen of Denmark were also recorded on the same gear, but in a different studio. He was very kind to give me access throughout the entirety of the process, all I had to do was work off hours. It was a luxury for sure, as it was the only system I really knew at the time. The system is Radar, which is a bit different from the DAWs people usually use. You have to have a console and outboard, as it kind of works like a tape machine but records to a drive. It was one of the best opportunities of my life, to sit down with equipment I knew well and focus on being creative on my own ideas.

Please take me back to some of your most cherished memories with Midlake and making music together within this special group of musicians? 

PA: I really enjoyed our first Glastonbury, on the Park stage in 2010. It was a pretty great moment for us to be back on tour after the challenge of making Courage. The Glastonbury crowd was very gracious and made us feel like we belonged up there. Roundhouse in London the same year with John Grant and Jason Lytle was also really special. Speaking of John, making Queen of Denmark was a total blast. He wasn’t as well-known as he is today, but we all were really excited about his music and were super stoked to be a part of it. The Trials of Van Occupanther was a great record to be a part of, though very challenging to make. We often struggled in the studio, with lots of labor in delivery room. There were some nice times with Tim, the moments when I knew he loved what he was hearing. I think making the title track was one of those. The song was blowing us all away, then McKenzie and I started up the tape machine and got the bass and drums in a take, we knew it instantly.

A deeply spiritual and cosmic realm is wonderfully inhabited in this solo work of yours. Can you recount your memories of the recording process – and musical guests that guested on these sessions? Did you have this batch of songs fully formed in your mind prior to these sessions? 

PA: Making this record was arduous and cathartic, and I started it with so much doubt. The first 3 months were slow, I was getting a lot of sketches down but nothing had truly materialized into something I was confident in. One week, ‘Oblivion’ and ‘Kuopio’ both took really big steps almost simultaneously. I was really excited and sent them to Simon. He wrote back, was very encouraging and basically said, ‘I’m digging it!’ That had to be the biggest ‘wind in the sails’ moment. Eric Nichelson played some really nice guitar for me on a couple of tunes and my buddy Evan Jacobs played keys on another. Another big hat’s off to the great Matt Pence, who played all the drums and was basically my therapist during mixing.

‘Astropsychosis’ is out now on Bella Union.

http://twomedicineband.com/
http://bellaunion.com/

Written by admin

December 13, 2018 at 3:38 pm