FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Posts Tagged ‘Birds Of Passage

Mixtape: Fractured Air – March 2018 Mix

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This April marks the beloved U.S. band Mercury Rev’s 20th Anniversary tour of their classic “Deserter’s Songs” album (including an extensive Irish tour, UK and Belgium shows). We had the honour to recently interview Mercury Rev frontman Jonathan Donahue (soon-to-be-published) and an excerpt of this interview is featured in this month’s mix.

Our March mix contains two exclusive tracks from the compelling German independent label Denovali Records.

New Zealand’s Alicia Merz (under her Birds Of Passage moniker) unveils her fourth full-length “The Death of Our Invention” with a beguiling collection of dark pop song cycles embedded deep within a lattice of mimimal ambient soundscapes (released on 6th April 2018). The prestigious Rotterdam-based electronic producer Nadia Struiwigh has carved out a shape shifting ambient techno voyage with her Denovali debut full-length “WHRRu” (Where are you) which will be released on 27th April 2018.

Also featured on our latest mix is new music from the peerless Belgian re-issue label Stroom; Jonny Greenwood’s “You Were Never Really Here” score; Grouper’s Liz Harris; A Winged Victory For The Sullen and Paul de Jong (The Books).

 

Fractured Air – March 2018 Mix

01. Birds Of Passage“Wake to the Dream” (Denovali)
02. A.A.L.“This Old House Is All I Have” (Other People)
03. Sudan Archives“Come Meh Way” (Stones Throw)
04. Dabrye“Culture Shuffle” (feat. Kadence Intricate Dialect & Silas Green) (Ghostly)
05. Tomaga“Greetings From The Bitter End” (Kaya Kaya)
06. Aphex Twin“We Are the Music Makers” (Warp)
07. Nils Frahm“All Melody” (Erased Tapes)
08. Nadia Struiwigh“WHRRu” (Denovali)
09. Pablo’s Eye“Double Language” (Stroom)
10. Dorothy Ashby“Soul Vibrations” (Soul Jazz)
11. Maximum Joy“Silent Street/Silent Dub” (Y)
12. Ben Morris“Gissningsleken” (Original Mix) (Music For Dreams)
13. Sonoko“Danse Avec La Tristesse” (Stroom)
14. B. Fleischmann “Here Comes the a Train” (Morr Music)
15. The Fall“Lost In Music” (Cherry Red)
16. Shinichi Atobe“Regret” (excerpt) (DDS)
17. DJ Koze (feat. Róisín Murphy)“Illumination” (Pampa)
18. U.S. Girls“Rosebud” (4AD)
19. Balmorhea“Sky Could Undress” (Western Vinyl)
20. Normil Hawaiians“Yellow Rain” (Upset The Rhythm)
21. The Gentleman Losers“Wintergreen” (Grainy)
22. Beautify Junkyards“Ghost Dance” (Ghost Box)
23. Paul de Jong“It’s Only About Sex” (Temporary Residence)
24. Hatis Noit“Illogical Lullaby” (excerpt) (Erased Tapes)
25. Valiska“Forever” (Trouble In Utopia)
26. Grouper“Parking Lot” (Kranky)
27. A Winged Victory For The Sullen“Long May It Sustain” (Erased Tapes)
28. Jonny Greenwood – “Tree Synthesisers” (“You Were Never Really Here” OST) (Invada)
29. Jonathan Donahue – [interview excerpt] (Fractured Air)
30. Mercury Rev“Holes” (V2)

Albums & Reissues Of The Year: 2014

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The following is a selection of the albums and re-issues that had the greatest impact on us for a wide range of different reasons. As difficult as it proved to settle on a final (and very concise) selection, we both turned to these special albums most often throughout the year. 2014 has been a year which has produced so many absolutely wonderful and truly special albums, here’s our personal selection of some of these (with a selection of ten albums and five re-issues).

Words: Mark & Craig Carry, All artwork: Craig Carry

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Albums of the year:

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Grouper ‘Ruins’ (Kranky)

‘Ruins’ was made while U.S. musician and artist Liz Harris was on an artist residency (set up by Galeria Zé dos Bois) during 2011 in Portugal’s Aljezur region. The location would provide a striking influence to Harris’s subsequent recordings (recorded in typically minimal fashion: a portable 4-track, Sony stereo mic and an upright piano) while the sense of both departure and a new-found freedom flow throughout ‘Ruins’ and its majestic and dreamlike eight tracks. During her Aljezur residency, Harris would embark on daily hikes to the nearest beach where she would encounter the ruins of several old estates and a small village. As Harris has said: “The album is a document. A nod to that daily walk. Failed structures. Living in the remains of love. I left the songs the way they came (microwave beep from when power went out after a storm); I hope that the album bears some resemblance to the place that I was in.”

‘Ruins’ is a stunning achievement which proves all the more astonishing considering the already extensive (and consistently breathtaking) recorded output of Grouper since the mid 00’s. ‘Clearing’ is arguably Harris’s most singularly beautiful song conceived to date. As Harris sings: “What has been done / Can never be undone” over a gorgeously delicate piano line we embark on yet another wholly unique and deeply personal odyssey under the stewardship of Harris’s very heart. Like a silent witness we hold our breath as we remain under Harris’s spell throughout (from the timeless ballad ‘Holding’ to the closing epic drone-heavy tour-de-force ‘Made of Air’). ‘Ruins’ is a quietly breathtaking force of nature: an album made as much by Harris’s own hands as by the moonlight’s illumination in the night sky or the evening sun’s last rays of faded half-light.

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‘Ruins’ is available now on Kranky.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Grouper/
http://www.kranky.net/

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Caribou ‘Our Love’ (City Slang/Merge)

One of my most memorable moments of this past year was undoubtedly witnessing Caribou’s storming live set at 2014’s Body & Soul festival. A euphoric feeling ascended into the summer evening skyline as each transcendent beat and luminous pop-laden hook flooded our senses. The majority of 2010’s glorious LP ‘Swim’ was revisited, from the tropicalia-infused ‘Odessa’ to the hypnotic ‘Sun’ and all points in between. Dan Snaith & co’s set further confirmed the legendary status of Caribou; whose innovative and utterly compelling sonic creations (where elements of krautrock, dance, jazz, soul, hip-hop, and electronic soundscapes form one irresistible, mind-blowing sound spectrum) have long served a trusted companion for the independent music collector.

This year marked the highly anticipated fifth Caribou studio album, ‘Our Love’, which, in many ways, nestles beautifully between its predecessor ‘Swim’ and Snaith’s more techno-oriented project of Daphni. Lead single ‘Can’t Do Without You’ is an instant classic with a seamless array of melodic patterns and soulful vocals that evokes the soul-stirring songbook of Al Green as much as it spans the history of the dance floor. Several of the songs were co-written by gifted Canadian composer/violinist Owen Pallett (whose own solo record ‘In Conflict’ has been one of the most original, daring and innovative records of 2014) and Pallett’s distinctive violin-led melodies coalesce effortlessly with Snaith’s visionary dance structures.

Numerous remixes have since seen the light of day (where new perspectives and insights are drawn and re-configured) with the latest example being Carl Craig’s techno mix of ‘Your Love Will Set You Free’. Much in the same way as ‘Swim’, I know (and firmly believe) ‘Our Love’ will remain as vital and significant for many more years and decades to come.

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‘Our Love’ is available now on City Slang (EU) and Merge (USA).

http://www.caribou.fm

http://cityslang.com
http://www.mergerecords.com

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Sharon Van Etten ‘Are We There’ (Jagjaguwar)

When Jersey-native and New York-based songwriter Sharon Van Etten first announced the arrival of ‘Are We There’, Van Etten’s fourth full-length and follow-up to her 2011 seminal work ‘Tramp’, she had these words to share: “I really hope that when someone puts my record on that they hear me.” Of course, Van Etten’s wishes have clearly been fulfilled. If there’s one thing we can firmly establish by now it is this: Van Etten makes music from the real world; a world of real events and real people with real feelings. Subsequently, steeped in a sometimes harsh reality, Van Etten’s songs are imbued with fears, struggles and (often) much pain. Much like Chan Marshall’s pre ‘The Greatest’ recorded output, Van Etten bravely examines her own life’s immediate surroundings and relationships to share her most innermost confessions and feelings for us all to bear witness. Through Van Etten’s songs we too can find our own deepest feelings long hidden in the shadows of some forgotten, distant dream.

‘Are We There’ is Van Etten’s first self-produced album (The National’s Aaron Dessner produced its predecessor ‘Tramp’) and features a host of wonderful musicians, including: Torres’s Mackenzie Scott on vocals (who toured extensively supporting Van Etten); Heather Woods-Broderick (on strings and vocals); Mary Lattimore (harp) as well as Van Etten’s trusted and formidable rhythm section (Zeke Hutchins on drums and David Hartley on bass). The use of vocal harmonies (Van Etten, Scott and Woods-Broderick) is a pure joy to witness. The resultant musical arrangements are stunningly cohesive and yet genuinely innovative, providing for many moments of challenging and divine musicianship — at times wonderfully dense and strikingly tactile (‘Our Love’ or ‘Every Time The Sun Coms Up’) — other times remain starkly sparse (‘I Know’) but, importantly, such intricacies of musicianship and arrangements only ever serve the song.

“Everybody needs to feel” sings Van Etten on ‘Your Love Is Killing Me’. It’s a sentiment that best serves the phenomenal and beloved artist that is Sharon Van Etten and ‘Are We There’. It’s another step to becoming your own true self. It’s a destination no one is ever likely to realistically reach but striving for it is proving to be Van Etten (and her sacred songbook)’s true towering achievement.

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‘Are We There’ is available now on Jagjaguwar.

http://www.sharonvanetten.com/
http://www.jagjaguwar.com/

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Clark ‘Clark’ (Warp)

‘I Dream Of Wires’ is a documentary based on the phenomenal resurgence of the modular synthesizer; exploring the passions and dreams of people who have dedicated part of their lives to this electronic music machine. The splendid documentary — released earlier this year — features interviews with Ghostly’s Solvent (who co-wrote the film in addition to composing the film score), Carl Craig, Jeremy Greenspan (Junior Boys) and Warp’s Clark. Reflecting on this particular film now, I feel it is precisely this exploration of passions and dreams that filters into the dazzling music of  UK’s Chris Clark. The unique blend of utterly transcendent electronic creations is forever steeped in a rare beauty, filled with endless moments of divine transcendence.

This year marked the eagerly awaited release of new self-titled full-length (and seventh for Warp), following up 2012’s magical ‘Iradelphic’. The gifted producer’s meticulous touch can be felt throughout, from the cold-cut classic ‘Unfurla’ to the blissful synth-laden ‘The Grit In The Pearl’. Dance music for the here-and-now that breathes life and meaning into music’s endless possibilities.

As Clark has said: “Music is like sculpture. It’s like trying to capture a moment of ultimate momentum, and distill it forever”.

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‘Clark’ is available now on Warp.

http://throttleclark.com/
http://warp.net/

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Hauschka ‘Abandoned City’ (City Slang/Temporary Residence Ltd)

Witnessing Hauschka’s Volker Bertelmann — whether in live setting during his renowned concert performances or in recorded contexts — a certain sense of magic fills the air. Sylvain Chomet’s 2010 animated marvel ‘The Illusionist’ comes to mind, as we are left in wonderment to observe the artist’s vast collection of skills and unlimited wells of talent. Known worldwide as one of the most recognizable 21st Century proponents of what is known as Prepared Piano, Bertelmann has amassed a considerable body of work over the last decade, ceaselessly weaving his own singular path — and on his own terms — to wondrous effect (much like fellow modern composers and restless souls Nils Frahm and Max Richter or such Twentieth Century masters as Eric Satie, John Cage and Steve Reich). Importantly, the album itself draws from research Bertelmann made (after the discovery of a series of photographic prints depicting the subject of abandoned cities) on the number of actual vacated cities in existence (each track title references a particular city). As Bertelmann has said: “I was interested in finding a metaphor for the inner tension I feel when I’m composing music, a state of mind where I’m lonely and happy at the same time.”

‘Abandoned City’ proves a certain milestone in Hauschka’s recorded output to date. An intriguing sense of both adventure and discovery seeps through every pore of the album’s ten compositions. Like all of Hauschka’s art, nothing is as it first seems. As we delve further into this abandoned city Hauschka has built for us we begin to lose all sense of what we initially thought was important in the process. We lose all traces of ourselves for that beautiful instant we are under Bertelmann’s sacred spell and that is what Hauschka’s divine art forever manages to do.

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‘Abandoned City’ is available now on City Slang (EU) and Temporary Residence Ltd (USA).

http://hauschka-net.de/

http://cityslang.com/
http://temporaryresidence.com/

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Steve Gunn ‘Way Out Weather’ (Paradise Of Bachelors)

The flawless North Carolina-based independent label Paradise of Bachelors has yet again been responsible for a string of modern-day Americana masterpieces, not least the latest tour-de-force from the ever-prolific, Brooklyn-based guitar prodigy and songsmith, Steve Gunn. This year’s ‘Way Out Weather’ feels like a natural culmination where every aspect of Gunn’s deeply-affecting songs — poignant story-telling quality, immaculate instrumentation and intricate musical arrangements — is heightened as the towering eight creations hits you profoundly and stirs your soul. 2013’s ‘Time Off’ was the starting point of Gunn’s song-writing path, having collaborated closely with Kurt Vile, Michael Chapman, Mike Cooper, The Black Twig Pickers and a host of others in recent times.

A timeless feel permeates every corner of the record. The recording sessions took place at Black Dirt Studio in Westtown, New York, featuring a formidable cast of musicians (and Gunn’s long-term collaborators) further adding to the widescreen, cinematic sound to ‘Way Out Weather’s sprawling sonic canvas. Longtime musical brothers and kindred spirits Jason Meagher (bass, drones, engineering), Justin Tripp (bass, guitar, keys, production), and John Truscinski (drums), in addition to newcomers Nathan Bowles (drums, banjo, keys: Black Twig Pickers, Pelt); James Elkington (guitar, lap steel, dobro: Freakwater, Jeff Tweedy); Mary Lattimore (harp, keys: Thurston Moore, Kurt Vile); and Jimy SeiTang (synths, electronics: Stygian Stride, Rhyton.)

On the utterly transcendent album closer, ‘Tommy’s Congo’, shades of Sonny Sharrock beautifully surfaces beneath the artefacts of time. The deep groove and rhythm interwoven with this vivid catharsis is nothing short of staggering. The cosmic spirit captured on the closing cut — and each of these sublime recordings — permanently occupies a state of transcendence. As each song-cycle unfolds, the shimmering worlds of Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue or the Stones’ ‘Exile On Main St.’ fades into focus. ‘Way Out Weather’ is dotted with captivating moments from the ways of a true master.

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‘Way Out Weather’ is available now on Paradise Of Bachelors.

http://steve-gunn.com/
http://paradiseofbachelors.com/

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Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Dan Trueman ‘Laghdú’ (Irishmusic.net)

2014 has been a remarkable year for Ireland-based composer Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh. Firstly, January saw the release of contemporary quintet The Gloaming’s stunning self-titled debut album via Real World Records. Subsequent concerts would be performed across the globe (including Sydney’s Opera House) to mass celebration and widespread critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. As well as touring with his other band, the Irish/Swedish quartet This Is How We Fly, across both Ireland and Europe, Ó Raghallaigh also performed a series of truly special solo concerts (entitled “In My Mind”, a solo fiddle and film show) across the length of Ireland for the month of October. Despite the hectic touring schedules, Ó Raghallaigh also released two stunning works: the solo album ‘Music For An Elliptical Orbit’ (via Dublin-based label Diatribe Records) and the mesmerizing ‘Laghdú’, a collaboration with U.S. fiddle player Dan Trueman.

‘Laghdú’ (an Irish word which translates as: a lessening, a decrease, a reduction) is a hugely significant work for many reasons. Most notably, it was Trueman who first introduced Ó Raghallaigh to his beloved ten-string hardanger d’amore fiddle (custom-made in Norway by Salve Håkedal) during September 2000. It is the simple dialogue and deep connection which exists between the pair (both performing identical instruments and identical baroque bows) which is a pure joy to savor. Two traditional pieces are performed by the pair (‘The Jack of Diamonds Three’ and ‘Fead an Iolair’) while the remainder of ‘Laghdú’ comprises original compositions written and arranged by Trueman and Ó Raghallaigh. The dynamic range is nothing short of staggering — from the near-silent to the nigh-on orchestral, at times exploding joyously from their hybrid 10-string fiddles, at times barely there — holding time still in the process. The resultant eleven heavenly tracks occupy both the realms populated by the most ancient forms of traditional music as well as those thrillingly in-between spaces carved out and inhabited in modern neoclassical composition of the most utterly enchanting and truly sacred kind.

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‘Laghdú’ is available now via Irishmusic.net HERE.

http://www.caoimhinoraghallaigh.com/
http://www.manyarrowsmusic.com/
http://irishmusic.net/

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Christina Vantzou ‘N°2’ (Kranky)

‘N°2’ is the second solo album by the Brussels-based artist and Kansas-born composer Christina Vantzou and, like its predecessor, ‘N°1’, was issued by the formidable Chicago-based independent label Kranky. Written over a period of four years, ‘N°2’ finds Vantzou reunited with Minna Choi — of the San Francisco-based Magik*Magik Orchestra — and regular contributor Adam Wiltzie (A Winged Victory For The Sullen, Stars Of The Lid) who Vantzou effectively began her musical career with when the duo made music as The Dead Texan (Vantzou was keyboardist as well as film-maker, illustrator and animator). A wide sonic palette is used throughout, from the gentle ripple-flow of piano notes on the album’s penultimate track, ‘Vostok’ and prominence of harp on the achingly beautiful ‘VHS’ to the rapturous crescendo of strings of ‘Going Backwards To Recover What Was Left Behind’ where an emotion-filled sadness engulfs every pore. Elsewhere, slowly shifting layers of brass and woodwind drifts majestically in ‘Brain Fog’ before brooding strings come to the fore, resulting in a cathartic release of energy. Layers of angelic voices appear and disappear throughout, forming not only a monumental symphonic movement but also an other-worldly choral work.

Indeed, the most appropriate analogy to imagine while attempting to surmise the sheer magic of ‘N°2’ is the act of making those frame-by-frame animations Vantzou has so patiently and laboriously created in the past: while they are meticulously worked on, over such a long and painfully slow process, the results yielded are both stunningly imperfect and remarkably pure. It’s a characteristic which runs through all of Vantzou’s breathtaking art (from her drawings and sleeve artwork to her dreamlike slow motion film works) which truly heightens all that surrounds you.

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‘N°2’ is available now on Kranky.

http://www.christinavantzou.com/
http://www.kranky.net/

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Birds Of Passage ‘This Kindly Slumber’ (Denovali)

New Zealand-based composer Alicia Merz has been quietly amassing a soul-stirring collection of albums under her Birds Of Passage moniker over the past five years or so. ‘This Kindly Slumber’ — released by German independent label Denovali Records — is Merz’s third solo full-length album and features Merz’s spellbinding lyricism (at times recalling Mark Linkous or Daniel Johnston in their open honesty and raw emotion). Like Grouper’s Liz Harris, Birds Of Passage’s power emanates from minimal musical arrangements (vocal takes are often first takes) where a sense of both purity and intimacy is conjured by Merz throughout, providing for an unforgettable listening experience. As we delve into the innermost caverns of ‘This Kindly Slumber’s mysterious and complex maze of real and imagined landscapes; the sensation one feels is akin to the finest of Murakami’s fictional prose or the most ancient of children’s nursery rhymes and folklore tales. Interestingly, Merz holds a deep fascination with nursery rhymes since a very young age and ‘Ladybird, Ladybird’ is combined with ‘And All Of Your Dreams’ to powerful effect. Elsewhere, the deeply personal ‘Yesterday’s Stains’ contains an openness and honesty rare in music.

‘This Kindly Slumber’ is a life-affirming journey which finds Merz navigating the darkest of nights while facing her gravest of fears. On the other side of this kindly slumber we realize that even the darkest of shadows lie closest to light: through the sacred and secret songs of Birds Of Passage we learn that in every moment of hopelessness exists hope. For that, we can be eternally grateful.

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‘This Kindly Slumber’ is available now on Denovali.

http://birdsofpassagemusic.com/
http://www.denovali.com/

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Marissa Nadler ‘July’ (Bella Union/Sacred Bones)

‘July’ (which documents Nadler’s life events from one July to the next) is the ever-prolific U.S. songwriter’s latest opus of longing and hope. The album can be read and interpreted autobiographically but, crucially, like all of Nadler’s songbook, songs are masterfully left open to the listener’s interpretation. Interestingly, Randall Dunn (Earth, Sunn O))), is at the helm of production duties on ‘July’; providing a first-time collaboration for the pair. Accompanying Nadler is Eyvind Kang (strings), Steve Moore (synths) and Phil Wandscher (Jesse Sykes, Whiskeytown) on lead guitar. However, as is always the case with such a truly unique songwriter, it is Nadler’s breathtaking voice and impeccable lyricism which quietly dominate proceedings. Like such kindred spirits as Missourri songwriter Angel Olsen or British folk legends Vashti Bunyan and Bridget St. John, Nadler’s music captivates the mind (and heart) of each and every listener fortunate enough to cross paths with her. From album opener ‘Drive’ to the forlorn closing piano ballad ‘Nothing In my Heart’, immediacy and directness prevails throughout ‘July’. Transcendental moments abound, from the poetic lyricism to ‘We Are Coming Back’ (“Still I live many miles away / So I can miss you a little everyday”) to the brooding tour-de-force ‘Dead City Emily’ which combines both gut-wrenching honesty (“I was coming apart those days”) and heart-stopping beauty as, ultimately, the prevailing sense of hope outlasts all struggle and inner-conflict (“Oh I saw the light today / Opened up the door”).

As the lyrics of ‘Drive’ return to my mind: “Still remember all the words to every song you ever heard”; I feel those very words reflect the empowering feeling in which the cherished songbook of Marissa Nadler ceaselessly awakens (and continues to re-awaken) in me.

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‘July’ is available now on Bella Union (EU) and Sacred Bones (USA).

http://www.marissanadler.com/

http://bellaunion.com/
http://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/

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Reissues of the year:

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The Moles ‘Flashbacks And Dream Sequences: The Story Of The Moles’ (Fire)

Looking back on 2014, the first sounds which come to my mind is Australian band The Moles and the magical first-time discovery of their music in the form of their first retrospective ‘Flashbacks And Dream Sequences: The Story Of The Moles’, released via Fire Records. The double-album is packed to the brim with impeccably constructed pop songs, heart-breaking love songs and just about every shade and nuance in between (spanning punk, shoe gaze and indie rock). ‘Flashbacks and Dream Sequences: The Story of The Moles’ contains the band’s two studio albums; debut full-length ‘Untune The Sky’ (originally released in 1991) and follow-up ‘Instinct’ (the latter was heralded by The Sea And Cake’s Archer Prewitt as being “as close to perfection as any Beatles or Beach Boys record and it stands on its own as a classic in my book”) and a whole plethora of b-sides and rarities, culled from various EP’s and singles. Led by Richard Davies (who later would join Eric Mathews and form Cardinal), The Moles were formed in Sydney in the late 80’s and unleashed a resolutely unique songbook which would prove hugely influential on a whole host of diverse bands (The Flaming Lips, The Sea And Cake). The original band line-up consisted of Glenn Fredericks, Richard Davies, Warren Armstrong and Carl Zadra, friends from law school who were fans of Flying Nun, The Fall and The Go Betweens, drawing their name from a reference to ‘Wind In The Willows’ and spy novels (John Le Carré and Graham Greene).

What’s most apparent on this defining release is that the truly unique vision (in both Davies’s songwriting and The Moles’ music) deserves to be known — and embraced — the world over. “It’s always an adventure. There’s an element of a well that never runs dry,” Richard Davies told us earlier in the year, on discussing The Moles. It’s a sentiment which could not be more true for The Moles and their utterly visionary and absolutely essential music.

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‘Flashbacks And Dream Sequences: The Story Of The Moles’ is available now on Fire Records.

[Richard Davies Facebook Page]
http://www.firerecords.com/

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Lewis ‘L’Amour’ (Light In The Attic)

When Light In The Attic Records reissued the much-fabled, timeless cult-classic ‘L’Amour’ by Lewis (originally released in 1983 on the unknown label R.A.W.) not much was known about the whereabouts of its esteemed author, not least the actual identity of “Lewis”, for that matter. The sense of mystery only deepened when consulting the album’s liner notes: Was Lewis still alive? What has he been doing in the intervening years? What other musical treasures are lying around only awaiting to be discovered written by this elusive figure? Crucially, without even beginning to dig any further into biographical detail (or absence thereof), it’s clear that, on listening to ‘L’Amour’, Lewis created nothing short of a bona-fide masterpiece. Heartbreak is immediately evident from Lewis’s lonesome, brooding, ghostly baritone from album opener ‘Things Just Happen That Way’ (“I took her hand / She took my heart”) while a sparse set-up of whispered voice together with only piano, synthesizer (or an occasional plucked guitar) remains throughout — recalling Waits or Springsteen at their most hushed and introspective best — creating a defining album of heartbreak — and love — in the process.

And what about the biographical gaps? Indeed Lewis was, as it turned out, a pseudonym. Lewis’s true identity has proved to be that of Randall Wulff (as confirmed by famed L.A. photographer Ed Colver, who had shot the über-cool cover-shoot for L’Amour’s album sleeve). However, for the purposes of the Light In The Attic liner notes, the mystery remained unsolved (after a long two-and-a-half year search). That is, until August 2014, when the real-life Randall Wulff was found (read Light In The Attic’s amazing article HERE) — alive and well and still quietly making his own masterful music — in what must have been the year’s most enchanting and heart-warming of stories.

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L’Amour’ is available now on Light In The Attic.

http://lightintheattic.net/artists/691-lewis
http://lightintheattic.net/

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One Of You ‘One Of You’ (Little Axe)

One of the most stunning re-issues of recent times came this year via the Portland, Oregon-based label Little Axe Records (a label founded when Mississippi Records split into two labels in 2011), with it’s issuing of a self-titled LP by One Of You. The author’s name and identity remains anonymous but we do know this startling collection was made by a Czech immigrant to Canada who set up her own Scarab label in the early ‘80’s, releasing music under the pseudonyms One of You and The Triffids. Having fled her homeland in the late sixties to emigrate to Canada for hopes of a better future and life there, One Of You’s music would be imbued with a prevailing sense of loss, regret and much hardships. The music itself, written in both Czech and English, and arranged in typically minimal fashion (synthesizer, guitar, organ) touches upon outsider folk, folk-psych, Eastern European folk and minimalist music traditions. One Of You’s deeply affecting, timeless music yields moments of powerful intensity while a whole spectrum of emotions, images and textures are unleashed beautifully upon the listener all at once.

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‘One Of You’ is available now on Little Axe.

http://littleaxerecords.bandcamp.com/album/one-of-you-s-t
http://www.littleaxerecords.com/

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K. Leimer ‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983)’ (RVNG Intl)

RVNG Intl. is a Brooklyn-based music institution that operates on few but heavily fortified principles, dealing with forward-reaching artists that ceaselessly push the sonic envelope. From visionary luminaries such as Julia Holter, Holly Herndon, Blondes, Maxmillion Dunbar et al, RVNG Intl. has consistently delivered some of the most adventurous, enthralling and breathtaking records this past decade. One of the label’s cornerstones has become the awe-inspiring archival series which has featured (and celebrated) musical pioneers Craig Leon, Ariel Kalma and K. Leimer. The third installment of the archival series — released earlier this year — was Seattle-based sound sculptor, K. Leimer and a vast treasure of ambient voyages entitled ‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983)’. I simply cannot think of a more special musical document to have graced my life this past year than Kerry Leimer’s resolutely unique and deeply human canon of pioneering ambient music.

A glimpse into Leimer’s creative process is touched upon on the compilation’s liner notes: “The loop provided an instant structure – a sort of fatalism – the participation of the tape machine in shaping and extending the music was a key to setting self-deterministic systems in motion and held clear relationship to my interests in fine art.”

‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983)’ offers the perfect entry point (across an exhaustive double-album and thirty spellbinding tracks) into the beautifully enthralling and ever-revolving world inhabited by the special soul of Mr. Kerry Leimer.

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‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983)’  is available now on RVNG Intl.

http://www.palaceoflights.com/
http://igetrvng.com/

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Fikret Kızılok ‘Anadolu’yum’ (Pharaway Sounds)

Although technically issued at the tail end of 2013, legendary Turkish folk singer Fikret Kızılok (1947-2001)’s exquisite collection of singles from 1971-75 (compiled into a 14-track set entitled ‘Anadolu’yum’ and issued by Pharaway Sounds, a subsidiary label of Light In The Attic Records) proved — like the many equally formidable Pharaway Sounds releases — a true haven for music lovers. Merging genres and fuzing styles almost at will (as evidenced by the immense musical arrangements drawing from such diverse sources as Western influences, India and his own native Turkey), Kızılok’s diverse appetite and deep appreciation for music shines through in every one of this magical compilation’s fourteen tracks. From the heavenly and beautifully forlorn Anatolian folk masterpiece ‘Anadolu’yum (1972&1975)’ to the irresistible sitar-aided ‘Gün Ola Devran Döne’ (1971), Kızılok’s musical path would be dictated by numerous external obstacles of the day (namely, the political unrest of his native Turkey throughout the 1970’s) while a pressure to conform to audience’s expectations (Kızılok was a pop phenomenon in Turkey, regularly charting instant hits) proved immense in the intervening years, while he would become most often associated with his best known love ballads from his considerable 1970’s output.

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‘Anadolu’yum’  is available now on Pharaway Sounds.

http://lightintheattic.net/

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All designs and artwork by Craig Carry: http://craigcarry.net

With very special thanks to all the wonderful musicians and labels for the true gift of their music. And a special thank you to all our readers for reading during the year.

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Web: http://fracturedair.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FracturedAir
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Fractured_Air
Mixcloud: http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/

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Mixtape: I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) [A Fractured Air Mix]

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I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/i-had-too-much-to-dream-last-night-a-fractured-air-mix/

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Tracklisting:

01. Tape – ‘Dust and Light’ (Häpna)
02. Peter Broderick – ‘Walking/Thinking’ (Type)
03. The Notwist – ‘Lineri’ (City Slang)
04. Barker & Baumecker – ‘Spur (Clark Remix)’ (Warp)
05. patten – ‘Here Always’ (Warp)
06. Bibio – ‘Dye the Water Green’ (Warp)
07. The Gentleman Losers – ‘Mansion on the Dunes’ (Büro)
08. Vincent Gallo – ‘I Wrote This Song For The Girl Paris Hilton’ (Warp)
09. Julia Holter – ‘Try To Make Yourself a Work of Art’ (Leaving Records / Domino)
10. Hydras Dream – ‘Grandma’s Appearance’ (Denovali)
11. Illum Sphere – ‘Liquesce’ (Ninjatune)
12. The Space Lady – ‘I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)’ (Nightschool)
13. The Blue Rondos – ‘Little Baby’ (Pye)
14. Cate Le Bon feat. Perfume Genius – ‘I Think I Knew’ (Turnstile / Wichita)
15. Angelo Badalamenti – ‘Twin Peaks Theme (Instrumental)’ (Warner Bros.)
16. Lucrecia Dalt – ‘Batholith’ (Human Ear Music)
17. Jonny Greenwood – ‘Open Spaces: Suite from “There Will Be Blood” Performed by the Copenhagen Phil, conducted by Andre de Ridder (Deutsche Grammophon)
18. Birds of Passage – ‘Lonesome Tame’ (Denovali)
19. Christina Vantzou – ‘Sister’ (Kranky)

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The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or their respective record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

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Fractured Air. The universe is making music all the time.

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air

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Chosen One: Birds Of Passage

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Interview with Alicia Merz, Birds Of Passage.

“Hmm, let’s see … You send the music deep enough into your heart so that it makes your body undergo a kind of a physical shift, and simultaneously the listener’s body also undergoes the same kind of physical shift. It’s giving birth to that kind of shared state.”

(taken from Haruki Murakami’s ‘After Dark’)

Words & Illustration: Craig Carry

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Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s dreamlike novel ‘After Dark’ tells the story of various characters whose lives intertwine on one night (between the hours of 11:56 P.M. and 6:52 A.M. to be precise). The central character to the plot is young student Mari Asai, who, in the opening scene (at a nondescript late-night Denny’s), has a chance meeting with Takahashi — an old school acquaintance of Mari’s older sister Eri — who is a passionate trombone player playing in a local jazz band. Takahashi later confides in Mari his frank admission that he is not talented enough for a career in music so he has regretfully decided to study to become a lawyer instead. It is the particular description that Takahashi uses to describe his feelings about what music can potentially do — for both musician and audience — which struck me most while reading Murakami’s nocturnal masterclass.

Both musicians and music audiences can of course appreciate these words. Music can indeed communicate powerfully and resonate indelibly with the lives of others. Forming a shared connection while providing a special bond or connection with a listener is a powerful, precious thing. What’s perhaps most special (and rare) of all is when music can genuinely move somebody. Time and again, this is the effect that the music of Birds Of Passage has for me. Birds Of Passage is the pseudonym for the New Zealand-based composer Alicia Merz, who — since her debut ‘Without The World’ in early 2011 — has been quietly making her own unique blend of wholly engaging and deeply moving music. There is a deep sense of intimacy shared between listener and composer as Merz “truly whispers” to each and every person who is fortunate enough to cross paths with her. Alicia Merz makes music like her life depends on it. In fact, I would imagine music is not simply an extension of her, it simply is her. Over the course of three LP’s (‘Without The World’, ‘Dear and Unfamiliar’ and ‘Winter Lady’) and several EP’s and collaborations, Birds Of Passage has been creating quietly breathtaking worlds for the listener to navigate and experience. In turn, while exploring the dense maze-like patterns of her music we identify our own deepest hopes, fears and dreams — and learn something about ourselves — in the process.

Like a force of nature, ‘Ashes To Ashes’ begins with a brooding, drone and ambient-swept passage, reverberating magnificently in all directions. The highly textured and mightily condensed sequence is perfectly offset by Alicia Merz’s soft whispered vocals. “Will you find me here?” asks Merz in a heavenly vocal — delivered in a similarly magical effect to the vocals of Liz Harris or Julianna Barwick — casting a spell on the listener immediately. Before we know it we are already deep inside the innermost caverns of ‘This Kindly Slumber’s mysterious and complex maze of real and imagined landscapes. Like Guilermo Del Toro’s ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ we have — like the film’s central character, Ofelia, on her journey through the trials of an old labyrinth garden — set afoot on a magical, danger-filled world steeped in both fantasy and reality. “Will you save me here?” calls the angelic voice across the hazy, minimalist backdrop.

“Moonlight come and find me / Hidden behind my closed eyes” sings Merz on ‘Belle de Jour’, where a beautiful (near-childlike) keyboard rhythm opens proceedings, as we dig deeper into slumber, uncovering innermost feelings and deeply personal secrets along our way. Later, a wonderfully pitched guitar line weaves its way through the arrangement (recalling ‘Lampyre Bonne Chère’, Alicia Merz’s majestic collaboration with fellow-label-mates Dale Cooper Quartet) adding a sense of foreboding to the innocent quality possessed by the keyboard and vocal arrangements. “I dreamt I stole your kisses / I stole them while you slumbered” sings Merz on the song’s verse. One of the album’s most precious moments arrives later as Merz sings: “This mask I wear is wounded like the soldier underneath / This heart I hide is delicate and worn”. Interestingly, the lyrics draw a line back to Birds Of Passage’s previous album, ‘Winter Lady’, and ‘Highwaymen in Midnight Masks’, in particular, where a similar aching sense of vulnerability is shared. Unsurprisingly, the night and darkness provides recurring imagery throughout ‘This Kindly Slumber’, as we surrender to the moon and stars above, helpless to the fate they hold in store for us. “My light is almost gone” concludes ‘Belle de Jour’, while any faded embers of light are by now well and truly extinguished.

My current personal favorite is the glorious ‘And All Of Your Dreams’, a dynamic and rhythmic delight. On first listen I was immediately drawn back to witnessing Colleen’s Cécile Schott performing ‘Once Upon a Time There Was a Pretty Fly (Lullaby)’ live in concert (a song she performed on numerous occasions last year). The song — taken from the score to the 1955 Charles Laughton film noir classic ‘The Night Of The Hunter’ — features the following lyrics: “Once upon a time / There was a pretty fly / He had a pretty wife / This pretty fly / But one day / She flew away / Flew away”, creating a beguiling spell upon the audience in the process. A similar timelessness is forever distilled in Jack Clayton’s 1961 gothic horror ‘The Innocents’, where the song ‘O Willow Waly’ (written specifically for the film and wondrously sung by Isla Cameron) serves a critical point to the plot’s arc and to the film’s eventual outcome. During the second verse of ‘And All Of Your Dreams’, Merz chooses to add an excerpt from the fairytale ‘Ladybird, Ladybird’ (sometimes referred to as ‘Ladybug Ladybug’), the english version of the tale dates back to the Eighteenth Century. The song’s chorus begins with the nursery rhyme extract: “Ladybird, ladybird / Fly away home / Your house is on fire / Your children are gone”, proceeded by Merz’s heartfelt lyric: “And all of your dreams, they came true / And all of your dreams / Died with you”, similarly embodying (in an instant) the sense of both hope and fear, light and dark; the contrast which forms the blood-flow throughout ‘This Kindly Slumber’.

The magical ‘Stranger’ stands at the centre of ‘This Kindly Slumber’s seven tracks, the guitar-picked and high-pitched vocal carves out a ray of light on proceedings as Merz’s delicate whisper is now more dominant in the mix, it is as if the album’s central character is now beginning to find her voice (and place) in the world of these dark plains. A sense of comfort and semblance of solace is sought — if not yet attained — as Merz sings “Bestowed your kindness on me” across the thinly veiled sonic layers of voice and guitar in the background as they ebb and flow at their own accord, recalling the ambient flourishes of such labels as Touch or Kranky (or composers such as Kyle Bobby Dunn or Loscil) in the process. There’s something deeply touching about the moment when Merz sings the solitary word “stranger”, it’s like the extent and scale of the darkness is only now being fully realized.

‘Take My Breath’ features a soothing, guitar-picked accompaniment where the repeated harp-like pattern and background harmony-like voices shroud Merz’s vocals in heightened mystery, blurring the lines of reality in the process. ‘Take My Breath’ is repeated like a mantra at the song’s close,  merging in a dreamlike fashion with the harmonic ambience in it’s midst. Like all Birds Of Passage’s material to date, the sequencing of any recorded material is painstakingly done like some time-honored craft. ‘Yesterday’s Stains’ begins with the forceful press of piano keys, before the album’s most intimate and vulnerable song begins to take shape. “Suicide child / With life in her veins / Blood for tomorrow / In yesterday’s stains” sings Merz in near-hypnotized fashion recalling the timeless, fear-filled and deeply moving songs of Mark Linkous’s Sparklehorse.

Album closer ‘Lonesome Tame’ opens with the combination of both ambient and field-recording textures, building in momentum while Merz asks: “Will they welcome you?”. It’s the kind of piece that could be augmented by a 12-piece orchestra or choral symphony, but, in doing so, would only lessen the impact made by the impeccable talents of the lone figure of Alicia Merz. The moment Merz sings “Will they welcome you? / mmm mmm mmm” — offset by a series of solitary piano notes in the background — serves to capture the heartbreaking quality of Daniel Johnston’s songbook while conveying the magical otherworldly quality found in music by Belgium’s Christina Vantzou or Iceland’s Jóhann Jóhannsson.

The album culminates in an extended passage of reverie and slumber as Merz’s deeply personal nocturnal voyage comes to a close. It’s a life-affirming journey which finds Merz navigating the darkest of nights while facing her gravest of fears. On the other side of this kindly slumber we realize that even the darkest of shadows lie closest to light: through the sacred and secret songs of Birds Of Passage we learn that in every moment of hopelessness exists hope. For that, we can be eternally grateful.

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‘This Kindly Slumber’ is available now on Denovali Records.

https://www.facebook.com/birdsofpassagemusic
http://denovali.com

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Interview with Alicia Merz, Birds Of Passage.

I love how the title ‘This Kindly Slumber’ works so beautifully for the album as a whole. There’s such real emotion and feeling within the album itself and yet these powerful and moving moments almost reveal themselves gradually over time to the listener. I suppose this is partly to do with the ambient and dreamlike textures that create such a heightened atmosphere in your songs. The listening experience is a deeply intimate and genuinely moving one. What does the title of the album mean for you, Alicia?

AM: That is something that I actually would rather not convey. Although there is a reason and meaning in my mind for the title, I really want to leave it up to the listeners to interpret it for themselves, how they want or need to. I would much rather that. 🙂

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How did the process for the making of ‘This Kindly Slumber’ differ from ‘Winter Lady’?

AM: I guess the main way it differed was in that I wrote and recorded the songs very spread out, in between a lot of things happening in my personal life. So I think everything was quite disjointed in that way. Not extremely so, just more so than with ‘Winter Lady’. I still always work on a song until it’s finished, and all it needs, in my mind at least, is little fixes which I can go back to later.

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I love the more abstract and ambient/drone textures which your songs gravitate towards at times during ‘This Kindly Slumber’ (‘Ashes to Ashes’ and ‘Lonesome Tame’, for example). They set that dreamlike and intimate tone for the album as a whole so wonderfully and recall people like Julianna Barwick’s recent ‘Nepenthe’ or Grouper’s material. In terms of building these songs, how was this process for the album itself? Would they have all been demoed in a similar way or did the process vary for different songs?

AM: If I’m answering your question correctly, I think all of my songs are what they are, first off. I don’t like to re-do things because I really think that the first takes are the most pure and hold the most feeling. I have actually sometimes tried to re-sing a vocal or something, for the release, and always gone back to the original, because it always held something that the “re-sings” didn’t have. ‘Ashes to Ashes’ was impromptu.

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I was really struck by the special connection that exists between the nursery rhyme ‘Ladybird, Ladybird’ — which is combined with ‘And All Of Your Dreams’ so powerfully — it adds a beautifully timeless and innocent quality to the song. When did you discover this nursery rhyme?

AM: When I was a child. That rhyme was running through my head for some time, and they just amalgamated themselves into my own lyrics. They worked perfectly with the subject of the song.

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Are there other nursery rhymes or children stories that impacted you growing up as a child?

AM: Actually, I just remembered that when I was about 10 I became crazily fascinated with the origins of nursery rhymes and their actual meanings, and I went to the library to get books out on it, and being from this tiny town, they only had 1 little child’s version of their history, but I managed to get hold of some better ones, and yes, I was really interested in that they had hidden meanings and a history attached to them, so I learned a lot about them then. They are really fascinating.

Stories and poems etc. that come to mind are ‘The Selfish Giant’, actually all of Oscar Wilde’s short stories, and ‘Le Petit Prince’, ‘The Lady of Shalott’ and ‘The Highwayman’.

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One of the most special moments on the album for me is the lyric: “this mask I wear is wounded like the soldier underneath”. The song is like a close relation to ‘Highwaymen in Midnight Masks’ from your last album ‘Winter Lady’, and is equally just as enriching and powerful for the listener. At what stage of the album was this song written?

AM: You’re very connected. 🙂 This song was actually the first song written, it was written a long time ago, not long after ‘Highwaymen’…I think I wrote it a couple of weeks after I got back from the tour through Europe.

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The use of your vocals are so striking across all seven pieces on ‘This Kindly Slumber’ — from the very softly spoken and hushed parts or near spoken-word parts (the verse for ‘Belle de Jour’, for example) to the use of double-tracking on ‘Yesterday’s Stains’ or the stunning rise in your vocals on ‘Stranger’ — your voice creates such a range of tones which elicit so many moods and emotions across the album. Recording your vocal takes must prove challenging at the recording stage of the album?

AM: Well, you may notice some stumbles in my vocals…which, as I mentioned before, I keep because they are the honest emotion, and I don’t want to take that away. Mostly my vocals are the first takes. Thank you so much for your compliments. 🙂

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With repeat listens, ‘This Kindly Slumber’ builds almost a labyrinth or maze whereby the listener navigates their own way out, there’s a darkness present – together with much vulnerability – but there’s ultimately light and hope present too. It’s very rare to experience such a personal journey on an album (for both listener and composer) which has the effect of creating such a moving experience.
I suppose ‘Yesterday’s Stains’ would be a darker part to the album, there’s such an openness and honesty here which is in itself so inspiring on so many different levels. I imagine it must be very difficult writing a piece such as ‘Yesterday’s Stains’?

AM: I think maybe writing a very personal song is the easy part, because it’s something that needs to be done. It’s there, and it needs to come out or something. It’s making it public that might be the difficult part, but that is softened by the hope that it will bring some people who will relate to it in some way, it may bring them some sort of kindred feeling, and some sort of hope.

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I love the cover artwork for ‘This Kindly Slumber’. Again, it reflects and embodies the album, it’s many moods and textures so wonderfully. Could you tell me how the sleeve came to fruition, Alicia?

AM: I had another idea for the cover and Bruno my brother, is an amazing artist, and he is so kind that he draws for me pretty much whatever I ask him. Well, this time, my idea didn’t quite work out, because there were too many bits in it and various other things. So he listened to the album, and he came up with the idea of the cover and explained it to me, and I thought it sounded absolutely perfect. So he went ahead with what he saw in his head, and I’m so happy it happened that way, because he totally got it right on. He created the perfect cover for ‘This Kindly Slumber’.

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What music and reading material did you surround yourself with on the making of ‘This Kindly Slumber’?

AM: If I am in a writing period, I really try to stay away from everything because I need to be in my own space. If I put something on, it’s usually unimposing things like Gregorian chants.

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Since the last time we spoke you also added vocals to The Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones song ‘Lampyre Bonne Chère’ (taken from their current Denovali LP ‘Quatorze Pièces de Menace’). It’s such a magnificent song and your vocals and Dale Cooper Quartet’s distinctive sound (electric guitars, percussion and strings) is a match made in heaven. What was this collaboration and the process like?

AM: Thank you so much. I loved singing on that song.

They sent me the song, asking if I’d like to sing on it, and I was blown away by its beauty when I heard it. I was really excited to be able to do something with it. So I came up with a melody and lyrics, and recorded it.

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For your recent mixtape you so kindly compiled for us, you chose two tracks by Molly Drake. Her music — as well as Nick Drake’s of course — is clearly very special for you. How would you describe the impact their music has had on you as a songwriter?

AM: I’d say Nick Drake has been very influential for me, in that he brings me to a place where I want to write. In a particularly hard time of my life, when I was younger, Nick Drake’s music was a huge part of my life and I kind of got through my sadness sharing it with the music. So now when I listen to it, it brings back all of those strong feelings and emotions, I suppose.

I just love the fact that Molly existed unknown for so long, and kept writing and recording her beautiful, sweet and sad songs with those insightful lyrics, without any sort of recognition. Obviously something she needed to do, it was her expression, no matter what anyone else thought, and I think that’s so beautiful. It’s also interesting to see a glimmer of how she must have influenced Nick Drake in his own songs.

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What plans do you have in store for 2014, Alicia?

AM: I’m hoping to tour Europe. but it depends on finances…so I don’t know if it will happen yet. And I actually haven’t planned much more, except a few collaborations. 🙂

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‘This Kindly Slumber’ is available now on Denovali Records.

https://www.facebook.com/birdsofpassagemusic
http://denovali.com

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Written by admin

January 27, 2014 at 9:56 am

Ten Mile Stereo

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Birds Of Passage ‘This Kindly Slumber’ (Denovali)
Released on January 24th 2014 by the wonderful Berlin-based label Denovali Records, ‘This Kindly Slumber’ is the much-anticipated return of New Zealand-based artist Alicia Merz. Her latest Birds Of Passage album, ‘This Kindly Slumber’ — and follow-up to the sublime ‘Winter Lady’ — is a deeply engaging and truly moving affair. The album’s seven songs reveal a haunting darkness and stark honesty throughout, perpetuated by moments of light, hope, intimacy and revelation. The album showcases Merz’s impressive songwriting talents (‘Stranger’), a heightened atmosphere in drone and ambient textures (‘Ashes To Ashes’) and masterful songs combining innocence and vulnerability with darkness and fear to spellbinding effect (‘And All Of Your Dreams’). ‘This Kindly Slumber’ confirms Merz as one of the most special souls making music today.
‘This Kindly Slumber’ is available on 24 January on Denovali Records.

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Marissa Nadler ‘July’ (Sacred Bones/Bella Union)
Boston-based musician Marissa Nadler has been consistently (and quietly) making some of the most intricately written and movingly delivered songs over the last decade or so. ‘July’ further confirms Nadler as a wholly unique and visionary songwriter, where songs such as ‘Dead City Emily’ and ‘Nothing In My Heart’ recalling the gothic noir tales of Gillian Welch or the timelessness of Leonard Cohen or Van Zandt’s respective songbooks. Poetic, starkly beautiful, and always straight from the heart. ‘July’ will be released on Sacred Bones on 4 February (US) and Bella Union on 10 February (EU).

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The Gloaming ‘The Gloaming’ (Real World Records)
This January marks the long-awaited arrival of much-heralded The Gloaming’s glorious self-titled debut album by Real World Records. The Gloaming are a five-piece of supreme talent, comprising some of the finest musicians Ireland has to offer: Iarla Ó Lionaird, Thomas Bartlett, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill. West Meath in early 2011 provided the setting and time for the collective’s first meeting together. The following, as described by The Gloaming’s website, perfectly surmises the band’s unique, utterly contemporary sound: “The Gloaming carves new paths connecting the rich Irish folk tradition and the New York contemporary music scene. From haunting sean-nós songs to rousing instrumental medleys, they make music that is both ancient and utterly new.”
‘The Gloaming’ is available now on Real World Records.

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Tara Jane O’Neil ‘Where Shine New Lights’ (Kranky)
Musician and visual artist Tara Jane O’Neil provides Chicago-based independent label Kranky with their first offering of 2014. O’Neil has a richly diverse musical background to date, ranging from collaborative works (including Mount Eerie and Papa M), commissioned pieces, improvisations and founding numerous bands, including Rodan. O’Neil is also an internationally recognized visual artist who has had four monographs published on her work to date. ‘Where Shine New Lights’ features a gloriously mystery-laden, atmospheric set of songs (typified by the stunning closer ‘New Lights For A Sky’) recalling the likes of Félicia Atkinson and Grouper’s Liz Harris.
‘Where Shine New Lights’ will be released on 27 January by Kranky.

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Hydras Dream ‘The Little Match Girl’ (Denovali)
Hydras Dream is the new collaborative project of the Swedish musicians Anna Von Hausswolff and Matti Bye. Hydras Dream’s debut ‘The Little Match Girl’ will be released in March 2014 by Berlin-based Denovali Records (Greg Haines, Birds Of Passage, Dale Cooper Quartet).
Anna Von Hausswolff was responsible for one of the singularly breathtaking albums of 2013, with her solo album ‘Ceremony’, showcasing Von Hausswolff’s immaculate talents as a lyricist and composer. ‘The Little Match Girl’ is set to be one of the year’s most precious albums.

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Damien Jurado ‘Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son’ (Secretly Canadian)
Damien Jurado’s ‘Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son’, available now on Secretly Canadian, confirms Jurado as one of the finest songsmiths of today. ‘Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son’ reunites Jurado with friend and producer Richard Swift after previously working together on Jurado’s last full length, ‘Maraqopa’ in 2012.

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Juan Wauters ‘N.A.P. – North American Poetry’ (Captured Tracks)
‘N.A.P. – North American Poetry’ is one of the finest debut records for quite some time, heralding this unique and hugely impressive talent of Alberto Wauters (born in Uruguay, now based in Queens, New York). Wauters’ own back-story is told perfectly here:
“In 2000, Alberto Wauters left Uruguay to live in a basement in Queens. Two years later he called his son, Juan, to join him. Juan Wauters crossed the threshold into manhood when he arrived in New York. Working at a factory, the father and son pooled their money to bring their family to the borough of opportunity. With no friends to speak of, Juan turned to music to take control of the loneliness of his isolation. Juan was inspired by his new neighborhood of Jackson Heights and delighted to find that his library card gave him access to an abundance of new music.”
‘N.A.P. – North American Poetry’ is out 4 February 2014 on Captured Tracks.

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The War On Drugs ‘Lost In The Dream’ (Secretly Canadian)
‘Lost In The Dream’ is the third studio album (and follow-up to the wonderful ‘Slave Ambient’ LP) by Philadelphia’s finest The War On Drugs. Including the album’s lead single ‘Red Eyes’, ‘Lost In The Dream’ is an album showcasing Adam Granduciel’s songwriting prowess while revealing a darker and more vulnerable underbelly than previous material. The beautiful ‘Suffering’ and ‘Eyes To The Wind’ reveal a more intimate and ‘Americana’-leaning sound recalling such bands as Whiskeytown, Richmond Fontaine or The Replacements. “I can see the darkness coming my way” sings Granduciel on ‘Red Eyes’, while the album’s ten immaculate tracks see Granduciel navigate his way out of the darkness, producing a modern-day ‘Born To Run’ in the process.
‘Lost In The Dream’ is out on 18 March 2014 on Secretly Canadian.

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The Notwist ‘Close To The Glass’ (City Slang/Sub Pop)
‘Close To The Glass’ is German indie giants The Notwist first studio album since 2008’s ‘The Devil, You + Me’. Since then the band have scored a soundtrack for ‘Storm’ (2009) and have been running their own label, the wonderful Alien Transistor. Best known for their classic 2002 album ‘Neon Golden’ — which fused the indie-rock and lyricism of brothers Acher with the electronic wizardry of Console’s Martin Gretschmann to stunning effect — it’s follow-up ‘The Devil, You + Me’ showcased a more leaner and accessible sound. ‘Kong’ is the first taste of The Notwist’s long overdue eighth album. This February City Slang will issue ‘Close To The Glass’ in Europe (their label since ‘Neon Golden’) while Sub Pop will release to American audiences on 25 February 2014.

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Lambchop ‘Nixon’ (Reissue) (Merge)
To celebrate the label’s 25th anniversary, Merge will be reissuing classic albums from their back catalog each month throughout 2014. First up will be the reissue of Nashville’s beloved Lambchop’s classic fifth studio album ‘Nixon’, first released in 2000. The album was a significant breakthrough for the band, both commercially and critically acclaimed across both sides of the Atlantic, marking the band’s reluctant rise to the overground. The album sees a shift in the Lambchop sound as Wagner and co. sought to fuse country, soul, gospel and funk into their own unmistakable sound to wondrous effect. Featuring such gems as ‘You Masculine You’, ‘Up With People’ and ‘The Book I Haven’t Read’. The reissue also features a bonus disc, ‘White Sessions 1998: How I Met Cat Power’, a remastered live solo session featuring five songs Kurt Wagner recorded in 1998 (both Wagner and Cat Power were doing back-to-back promo sessions that day).
The reissue of Lambchop’s classic 2000 album ‘Nixon’ is released on 28 January by Merge Records.

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Step Right Up: Dale Cooper Quartet

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Interview with Dale Cooper Quartet.

“I think — as every creation — your life, place you live, travel, meetings have an evident influence. Maybe it is the windy weather mixed with our landscapes we’re in that got an influence on it. But then, it is more a confluent meeting of three persons.”

—Christophe Mevel, Dale Cooper Quartet

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

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Named after a central character in David Lynch’s cult-classic ‘Twin Peaks’ TV series, Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones create a similarly beguiling atmosphere through their unique blend of dark drone, 50s jazz, soundtrack music and ambient flourishes (at times augmented by heavenly string arrangements). The latest album is the cult-French collective’s follow-up to the acclaimed 2011 album ‘Metamanoir’ (the second release for the German experimental label Denovali). The latest venture, entitled ‘Quatorze Pièces de Menace’, released last September on the ever-formidable Denovali label, was inspired by the live experience of the band and their everlasting love for the local landscapes. The eleven brooding and hypnotic sonic creations captured on ‘Quatorze Pièces de Menace’ reveals an intensity of emotion that uncovers new meaning upon further encounters.

A wonderful cast of musicians guest on ‘Quatorze Pièces de Menace’ that adds new dimensions to the ethereal soundscapes. New Zealand artist (and Denovali label-mate) Alicia Merz (whose Birds Of Passage moniker is responsible for creating utterly captivating worlds of song), adds vocals to the spellbinding album closer ‘Lampyre Bonne Chère’. One of the album’s defining moments is beautifully arrived upon as Merz, close to a whisper, sings “hold my hand again” amidst swirling strings, mournful piano and reverb-drenched guitar tones. The fragile words forms a new horizon of hope and solace, as a tragically beautiful ballad brings Dale Cooper Quartet’s enriching journey to a stunning close.

Elsewhere, guest vocalists include the gifted talents of Zalie Bellacicco (who appeared on the debut ‘Parole de Navarre’), Irish-born Ronan MacErlaine and Gaelle Kerrien (Yann Tiersen). The deep tones of MacErlaine’s voice on ‘Céladon Bafre’ is a joy to behold, as the songbook of Scott Walker comes into full focus. MacErlaine sings “Winter face” continuously over a gentle ripple of minor piano chords on the final verse that brings to mind Frank Sinatra’s ‘Sings For Only The Lonely’. A sense of melancholia permeates the atmosphere, as the piano chords drift by: “The clear hat is gone”. The introspective mood (dominating much of Side B) serves the perfect counterpoint to the opening flurry of experimental noise unleashed by ‘L’escolier Serpent Eolipile’. It is the dynamic range (and indeed, eclectic range of styles) that is most striking about Dale Cooper Quartet’s newest venture.

The dreamy tones of reverb-filled electric guitar serves the opening notes to ‘Ignescence Black-bass Recule’, before a hypnotic drumbeat leads you on a voyage into the heart of darkness. The menacing world of David Lynch is never far away. Later, a seductive double-bass groove creates the rhythmic pulse of the slow-burning, chaos-filled transmission. Moments later, audio recordings of Italian spoken word arrives that heightens the sense of impending doom. The inevitability of disaster, it seems, is a stone’s throw away. The epic album opener ‘Brosme en Dos-vert’ contains looped spoken word fragments, eerie strings and striking ambient pulses beneath a hiss and crackle of vinyl. The middle section evolves into drone of choral bliss as drums and percussion and noise conjures up the sound of The Haxan Cloak. A resolution is found, as the closing section of calming trumpet sounds (think ECM’s back-catalogue) ascends into the air. A vintage sound is masterfully formed.

The eerie piano notes and mesmerising strings of ‘Calbombe camoufle Fretin’ is effortlessly blended with the addition of female vocals. An organic, cohesive whole is this created that is steeped in a strange beauty. The lyric of “Slow is the maker” sung by MacErlaine on the brooding lament ‘Nourrain Quinquet’ resonates powerfully. Undoubtedly, ‘Quatorze Pièces De Menace’s suspense and beauty creates a deeply fascinating experience. From the wintry windswept shores of Brittany, France, Dale Cooper Quartet have created a tragically beautiful opus for each and every one of us to truly savor.

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‘Quatorze Pièces de Menace’ is available now on Denovali Records.

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Interview with Dale Cooper Quartet.

[The Dale Cooper Quartet are: Christophe Mevel, Gael Loison, Yannick Martin]

Congratulations on the stunning new record, ‘Quatorze Pièces De Menace’. The enthralling soundscapes explore a seamless array of genres – jazz, experimental noise, ambient, modern-classical – that captures a mood and atmosphere so vivid, and beguilingly beautiful. Please discuss for me your aims from the outset in recording the follow-up to 2011’s ‘Metamanoir’?

Christophe: Hello, thanks a lot Mark for the kind words. Well, I guess there were no aims but each of us had many ideas to follow. The record is a result as a collective act at a d-day. That’s maybe why we can hear some jazz, improvised, electronic, ambient, written music and many genres that we’re in actually. Metamanoir was very orchestrated and sophisticated sounds, we wanted something more rough in the musical approach maybe closer to the live acts…with the accidents, the length & general mood. We didn’t have any concept before starting the recordings.

Yannick: Thanks, Mark. Except from the first album which had a general aim (to make improvised music inspired by Twin Peaks soundtrack), we just record different parts at several moments (mostly night sessions) and mix the whole stuff. The tone and colour of the last album then appeared during the mixing session and we tried to get back to the simplicity of Parole de Navarre but also have more songs-like tracks.

Gael: We spent a lot of time recording to real instruments and voices to breathe life into sampling materials, making a huge catalog of sounds to choose from when we assemble tracks and songs.

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What I also love about the record are the guest vocalists that appear on ‘Quatorze Pièces De Menace’. The voices add new dimensions and textures to the deeply captivating sonic canvas of the album. Can you please recount for me your memories of first coming across these amazing talents – Alicia Merz, Zalie Ballacicco, Ronan Mac Erlaine and Gaelle Kerrien – and the resulting collaboration that ensued?

Christophe: Oh, each vocalist here have a different story. Concerning Alicia, it’s just a stunning discovery we did because she produces albums on the same stunning label (Denovali). And, she asked us to do a remix of one of her song (with Brother & Sister Moon project) two years ago. It was the first time for us, and a supa’ great surprise we heard her vocals on our universe while working on. We thought it could be a lovely guest on some songs. Particularly these ones. She’s got an incredible voice and way of recording, very rough.
Zalie, was the first vocalist we worked with, now ten years ago; she’s a friend and can work on all the textures she wants, technically a killer! She works regularly with Gael as well on vocals improvised experiences with electronic. Hope it will see the day one day.
Ronan is an Irish-born friend, non-singer until Gael discovered his voice that we really love. 😉 It sounds good with our universe. Gaelle is a very old friend, cos’ we used to start the music together in the early 90’s. Since these days, we’ve always had different projects and bands. For Dale Cooper it was the perfect universe to work together. So, this is it. And there’s always secret singers that we can hear as well. 😉

Yannick: Yes, the vocals are really inspiring to us. We use them as instruments, especially with the girls’ voices. Ronan has a dark tone that fits perfectly with our moody atmosphere too. The other day, we summed up people we would like to hear on our future releases. We’ll probably find other great vocalists as we are quite happy with the 60’s classic songs tracks on the last album. Maybe we would release 4-songs EP on 7″ vinyl record that has to be played on jukebox only. With the scratchy sound included.

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Album closer ‘Lampyre Bonne Chère’ is such a divine sonic creation. The instrumentation of strings, percussion, guitars swirl majestically beneath Alicia Merz’s achingly beautiful vocals. I would love to gain an insight into the construction (or de-construction) of this particular song and the arrangement of ‘Lampyre Bonne Chère’. It’s a fitting close to such a triumphant album.

Christophe: Yes, in this case it’s more a deconstruction. As a final track, we like the idea of a pop song (as on Metamanoir), this one with a classic three basic chords. Then, from this state, we try to make it sound in our universe, we try many possibilities and from all of these we keep the basics, with many silences. We had another a different guide vocal on this one that we did before sending the track to Alicia that she decided to sing it differently and it is just so great, fitting perfectly with these silences. She sent us the track when we were closing the mix of the album. It should have figured on the next album then but it was the track we needed!

Gael: Yes, it is like a final song in a motion picture soundtrack, and we had to mix it in one night.

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My current favourite is the brooding opus ‘Nourrain Quinquet’. The lyric “slow is the maker” resonates powerfully. The song feels it belongs somewhere between the worlds of Scott Walker and GodSpeed You Black Emperor. The saxophone releases a cathartic energy throughout. I would love to learn about the range of instrumentation utilized on the record and indeed, the recording process involved?

Yannick: We sent the mixed track to Ronan who wrote the lyrics. He recorded on his own in Paris and the result was brilliant. I guess the saxophone was the latest part recorded. Krystian flow is now a trademark to our sound and in a couple of takes, the track was completed.

Gael: Philippe’s trumpet plays a big role here too, the song has so many layers, keeping the night feel out of sampled vinyls and real instruments, bass was the last recorded instrument and gives the final structure of the song. We use some vintage microphones and mixers for the way they sound.

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Can you discuss for me the influence your native Brittany, France has had on your music, and how the local landscapes filter into your unique blend of sound?

Christophe: I think — as every creation — your life, place you live, travel, meetings have an evident influence. Maybe it is the windy weather mixed with our landscapes we’re in that got an influence on it. I think you know that in Ireland! But then, it is more a confluent meeting of three persons. Any of us could separately have this sound, ideas and songs.

Yannick: Don’t know if we live in Istanbul the music would be different. I guess Brittany is in us and in our music. But I do think that night and its mysteries run into our sound. And if it is breezy and rainy, maybe it drives our songs to that special atmosphere.

Gael: Rain, seashore, coffee: ideal mood!

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Can you reminisce and talk about watching ‘Twin Peaks’ for the first time. What were your immediate impressions? Do you have favourite episodes? For me, I still remember the profound effect (and shock/suspense!) of seeing Laura Palmer’s father transform into evil; in the living room while a vinyl is being played. I couldn’t think clearly for days afterwards.

Christophe: when I was 18 or something, Saturday night watching. I have an exciting souvenir from this series and period, it was so uncommon at this time, for me, and it stayed the same, I haven’t watched it since this time. So it’s quite a troubled vision, that’s how I want it to stay.

Yannick: Watching ‘Twin Peaks’ means such great memories to me: it was broadcasted on La Cinq (Channel 5), a new channel as there was only 4 TV channels in the 80s. It was really different from the other TV programs. It has nothing to deal with a detective soap with one case/one guilty man. All was mixed up, there were no real head character, no good/evil, just a bunch of weird people. I loved and still love Audrey Horn as she is beautiful, childish, somehow stupid but she seems to be the master of many scenes.

Gael: Yeah, I’ve seen the series back in the 90’s, loved the mood.

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Lastly, I read somewhere that Angelo Badalamenti described his own music as “tragically beautiful”. I think the same description can be used for the incredible works of yours. Are there certain records out there that has served major sources of inspiration for you?

Christophe: Personally, ‘Laughing Stock’ & ‘Spirit Of Eden’ Talk Talk records were a real shock, and stays after all these years. I can still listen to it after a thousand times, every listen is different, it is a majestic and powerful record that got a big influence. It is the reference point for me with the jazz and improvised music I’m working in. And then there could be other hundreds of records, films, people that got an influence…but taking time is the best influence. 😉

Yannick : I listen to a wide range of music. But I guess the records I listened to when we started the Quartet are still somewhere there: Bark Psychosis, Labradford and Flying Saucer Attack.

Gael: I always loved the way Brian Eno talks about music, especially ambient music.

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‘Quatorze Pièces de Menace’ is available now on Denovali Records.

https://www.facebook.com/dalecooperquartet
http://denovali.com

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Fractured Air 07: It’s Too Late Now (A Mixtape by Birds Of Passage)

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To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/fractured-air-07-its-too-late-now-a-mixtape-by-birds-of-passage/

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“So I wrote these songs from my heart, touching also on important and terrible sadnesses that are all too common in our world. And there is a little of my fantasies in the album too.” (―Alicia Merz, describing “Winter Lady”)

Birds Of Passage is the alias for New Zealand-based artist Alicia Merz. Each and every one of Birds Of Passage’s heavenly sonic creations possesses this otherworldly dimension that takes you on a captivating journey of the heart. To date Birds Of Passage has released the following albums: “Without The World”, “Dear And Unfamiliar” (with Leonardo Rosado) and last year’s “Winter Lady”.

Denovali’s first release in 2014 will be the new long-awaited third full length album of Birds Of Passage. The album is entitled “This Kindly Slumber” and will be released in the second week of January 2014. The first two tracks will be unveiled by Denovali during December.

Tracklisting

01. Edward Elgar – Enigma – Variations on an original theme Op. 36 – Andante
02. Molly Drake – I Remember
03. Victoria – O Magnum Mysterium
04. Lamp of the Universe – Samsara Born
05. Gorecki – Three Pieces in Old Style – Movement One
06. Loreena McKennitt (words by Shakespeare) – Cymbeline
07. Traditional – Still, Still, Still
08. Molly Drake – Do you Ever Remember?

Fractured Air 07. The universe is making music all the time.

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To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/fractured-air-07-its-too-late-now-a-mixtape-by-birds-of-passage/

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For our interview with Alicia Merz, please see HERE.

http://birdsofpassagemusic.com
http://www.denovali.com

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Written by admin

December 3, 2013 at 2:51 pm