FRACTURED AIR

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Chosen One: Mario Batkovic

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Interview with Mario Batkovic.

“Being an Accordionist is something very natural to me, just like my origin or my skin colour. It’s a pure coincidence.”

—Mario Batkovic.

Words: Mark Carry

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The forthcoming debut solo full-length from gifted composer and accordionist Mario Batkovic – released on Geoff Barlow’s prestigious Invada Records later this March – is already destined to be 2017’s crowning sonic treasure. The Bosnian-born and Swiss-based musician has forged an utterly captivating and resolutely unique solo album, which, in turn, ceaselessly expands the possibilities of the accordion instrument.

One of the great hallmarks of Batkovic’s solo accordion music is the sheer intensity that is not only attained but held magnificently across an ocean of shape-shifting pulsating notes, engrossing melodies and deeply affecting human emotion subsequently emitted. Previously, the Bern-based musician has described his underlying creative process as “absolute submission to the sound.” It is precisely this – an artist‘s undying devotion – that lies at the heart of these nine groundbreaking compositions.

Album opener ‘Quatere’ is built upon a mesmerizing melodic pattern, which continually builds as a pulsating energy gradually surfaces like pores of Autumnal sunlight. An awe-inspiring and beautifully uplifting sonic exploration. A gripping intensity is attained on ‘Gravis’ where the depths of darkness is navigated: the range of timbres and textures is a joy to behold from the drone-infused world of repeatedly sprawling, sustained notes. Catharsis. A fitting parallel exists between Batkovic’s singular, captivating accordion-based compositions and fellow luminary Colin Stetson (and his similarly powerful saxophone explorations). A wall of immense, stunningly beautiful and empowering sounds.

The utterly timeless ‘Restrictus’ unleashes an unwavering beauty as several movements unfold an entire spectrum of mood, colour and feeling. The epic, tour-de-force ‘Inuente’ conveys the sheer power and glory of the composer’s capabilities to expand the possibilities of his chosen accordion instrument to its very outer limits. The fragile lament ‘Somnium’ brings this exceptional record to a fitting close. The illuminating horizon is soaked in radiant light. We, the listener need only rejoice in its infinite beauty.

‘Mario Batkovic’ will be released on Invada Records in March 2017.

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

 

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Interview with Mario Batkovic.

Congratulations Mario on your utterly captivating and wholly unique debut solo album. Your solo accordion music elicits the rawest of human emotion where a striking narrative (and gripping intensity) is masterfully captured throughout this phenomenal solo record. Can you please talk me through the making of the new record and your memories of writing these compositions? It feels as if many of these accordion pieces were gradually blooming in your head for quite some time? 

Mario Batkovic: Thank you very much for your questions. They are interesting and reflect many of my own reflections. Many of your questions already express a wonderful picture. I will try to answer your questions as good as possible.

You’re right, it’s not just music that recently came into being. It existed not only in my head, but it was just not ripe for the stage. There were a lot of stumbling blocks. I couldn’t play my music but had to let her flow into my projects by the way. Unbelievable, but there was a kind of censorship. Only when all the requirements would conform, I released my music. Which demanded more of an art of Persuasion than the creating of art itself.

When it comes to recording these tracks, I can imagine were there technical difficulties when recording the solo accordion to tape? One of the great hallmarks of the album is just how intimate these recordings are – it’s as if you’re playing alone in the room with its listener – and your spellbinding performance and all the beautiful imperfections and human artefacts form the vital heart of these songs. Were there certain techniques or processes you feel you have developed that were critical processes to the recording of the album itself? 

MB: Beautiful how you put my music into words. Right, there were technical problems to handle. Since the recording of the Accordion is done in a wrong way. That’s why today we see a Musical picture of the Instrument that is only a remnant of how the Accordion really sounds. That’s why this Instrument has been pigeonholed so much it’s hard to take it out of this box. Every sound engineer keeps telling me he knows how the Accordion sounds. But that’s not true. They don’t because they are not Accordionists. My sound engineer and I collaborate in an extremely intense way. It’s a Duet. It took years until him and I realized how the Instrument works and how we can make it sound. Many people may know this but they don’t have the experience. I hope our technique is inspiring other artists and initializing my instrument to new possibilities. I was just not willing to record one single tone until we didn’t solve those technical problems.

The wide range of possibilities you generate from your chosen instrument is staggering, which is reminiscent of Colin Stetson’s saxophone and Lubomyr Melnyk’s piano music, kindred spirits in many ways. I would love for you to discuss your earliest musical memories and your first discovery of the accordion instrument. How soon would you realize just how important your chosen instrument would serve in your life, Mario?

Also, please discuss your musical path thus far – as a virtuoso accordion player – and the ways and approaches to which you have developed your unique, innovative and magnificent solo accordion music? As a debut solo LP, the music represents like a life’s work and so many of your life’s experience and musical journey is dotted all across these glorious nine compositions.

MB: Of course I was influenced by all the moving. That’s how I ended up in the situation of adapting in a new society. At the same time I had to adjust and remain true to myself. That was not always easy. But it finds its way into my music. I love all kinds of music just as I love all kinds of people, no matter which society they belong to. To exclude something would not suit my philosophy of life. Only the music created of greed doesn’t interest me. But after all that’s not true music. This opinion was sometimes hard to get along with.

Every society has its vogue, its trends. So I tried to find a merge of the sweet with the bitter. To listen between the lines and to get an own impression of things. That’s why I don’t like it too much when I’m compared to other musicians. I’m an original, just as you are an original. There’s everyone of us just once on this planet. And my music reflects me. It’s a mix of baroque, contemporary, kitsch, obscure, deep, sweet, sad. Just what life is all made of.

Being an Accordionist is something very natural to me, just like my origin or my skin colour. It’s a pure coincidence. I’m a musician in the first place, and then I am an Accordionist. There could have been a flute or a guitar. Now, for me, there was the Accordion.

‘Gravis’ is one of the album’s defining moments. The range of timbres and textures from the accordion instrument is a joy to behold. Can you talk me through the distinct movements crafted in this stunningly beautiful composition? The rise in this piece forms one of the most heavenly, enchanting sounds; an utterly timeless sound world of vast possibilities. Can you shed some light on your compositional approach, Mario and how it may vary between the various compositions? 

MB: Different from my other projects where I can listen to a composition in my head already like a radio song, the music I interpret myself is developing way different. First I have to take regard to the technical possibilities of playing the instrument, because I record it myself, not like when I compose film music and have other musicians playing the sound. The instrument can do a lot but also has its limits. First of all I have to subtract many components like playing techniques, sound techniques, bellows shake and so on, and then I can get started. Then I can start to thing freely. Then it comes to the philosophical part. Gravis is the picture of a huge ship, an animal, a being that fights for its last breath. It doesn’t give up until the very bitter ending. This fight consists of a high and a low C. That’s all. I try to breathe life into these two tones. And not more.

In terms of the arrangements, how does this particular point in the music-making process work for you? For instance, the cathartic, spellbinding ‘Restrictus’ conveys the sheer beauty of angelic tones and the intricate arrangements of the distinct sections contained within this gorgeous song cycle. What are your memories of writing ‘Restrictus’? Endless moments of sublime beauty ascends into one’s heart and mind here.

MB: Restrictus is a kind of friend to me. It’s a perfect match. I don’t think it’s very virtuosic but you need to have a sporty approach here. I feel very comfortable with this piece on stage. I’d say if I didn’t break it in the middle it was limited to a typical minimal composition. But Restrictus didn’t want this. It literally screamed: “Break me!”

Please bring me back to your formal musical education, Mario. Can you describe for me your learning whilst studying under Professor Elspeth Moser and your musical outlook and what musical voices you feel have shaped your music in the most profound way? 

MB: I have always been opposition. It was a kind of a guarantee to survive. I could and should never be like the others. Never! So my education was, like many things in my life, just a fight. At school I first had to learn the German language when we moved to Switzerland. At University in Germany then I’ve had a lack of scholastic knowledge because of the language barriers. So I had to develop a strategy. And this was to learn but don’t let yourself be bent. In Hannover I studied classical music, so I missed out the Rock ‘n’ Roll. And with my Rock Bands I missed the classical precision. With folk music I missed the seriousness. I always wanted to develop and connect everything. But that was not always easy.

An artist’s sheer devotion to one’s art and the sacrifice therein becomes the essence of your solo accordion music. What do you feel is your one musical philosophy that remains true for you? What are your hopes and ambitions for your next chapter? What are you most proud of about this triumphant debut record?

MB: I don’t feel pride but gratitude. I’m grateful for all the people who support me with all the passion, patience and a lot of work. At the same time I’m very grateful to be a musician. It is something positive, something with much love to put into the world. That’s also what I see when I look at the world today (so much horrible things), and music is the opposition!

Lastly, the epic tour-de-force ‘Inuente’ reflects the hypnotic quality of your playing. At times, the instrument undergoes various transformations, sounding like an organ  and synthesizer at various points. Can you shed some light on your mind – set when it comes to your solo live performance and indeed your mind – set for crafting such a monumental work as ‘Inuente’. I am curious whether improvisation plays a part in the writing/composing stage? I just love how the variations of a theme return throughout ‘Inuente’ and the many places that a single piece of music can take you.

MB: It flatters me that the audience does notice something this beautiful that has it’s origin in an undesirable side noise. With this composition improvisation didn’t matter too much although I have a Master of Arts in improvisation. So to say I’m a professional improvisator. But there also, the improvisation is not awarded so much but is of such an important value for us human beings. Improvisation is getting lost in all our over systemising and structuring. I’m convinced that we should listen more to our intuition and we should act more impulsively. Improvisation can only take place in the actual space and situation I’m in. Every time I play I have to get into it in a new room and a new sound. That’s what my music lives from.

Inuente is a song you can’t play everywhere in the same way, even if the compositional structure stays the same. My magical moment with Ineunte is the break. A precious thing nowadays. There are some long breaks but they are fully packed. Break doesn’t mean relaxation but highest tension! I need to build up for 10 minutes to reach a total break of 5 seconds. I love this magical moment with Ineunte when people can hear themselves or the ventilation or the birds or any other small noises. Ineunte takes them there. It’s a transporter to themselves.

‘Mario Batkovic’ will be released on Invada Records in March 2017.

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

 

Written by admin

January 19, 2017 at 7:12 pm

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E4 | April mix

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We’re delighted to present an exclusive unreleased track by U.S. composer and songwriter Peter Broderick (Bella Union, Erased Tapes) in April’s mixtape. For well over a decade now, the world-renowned Portland Oregon-born artist has been to the forefront of the thriving independent music scene, amassing a considerable body of work across a multitude of labels and platforms in the process. While originally a member of both Efterklang and Horse Feathers, Broderick’s reputation as a gifted solo composer would be heralded by the release of both folk-based “Home” (Bella Union) and the piano-based “Float” (Type) in 2008. Since then, Broderick has released a plethora of records for labels such as Erased Tapes and Bella Union, highlights including: 2009’s “Music For Falling From Trees”, 2011’s “Music For Confluence”, 2012’s “These Walls Of Mine” and 2015’s “Colours Of The Night” albums. Collaboration has also been of vital importance to Broderick’s artistic output to date. Duos have been formed with U.K.’S Greg Haines (Greg Gives Peter Space) and France’s Félicia Atkinson (La Nuit) while other collaborations have featured: Nils Frahm, Machinefabriek, Gabriel Solomon, Heather Woods Broderick and The Beacon Sound Choir. In recent years, Broderick has produced, recorded, and guested on many musicians’ works from his home-based studio, “The Sparkle” (Corrina Repp, Brumes, David Allred).
Here is how Peter describes his track, “Boom”:

“It’s a thing I call Boom, and it’s basically just some effected casio loops with live drums over the top… I’ve enjoyed listening to it several times and don’t really have any plans to do anything with it.”

Also appearing on April’s mixtape is Irish composer and pianist Conor Walsh. Born in County Mayo, Conor Walsh released his debut E.P. (“The Front”, via Ensemble Music) last year to widespread critical acclaim. Despite it being Walsh’s debut recorded release, Walsh was a firmly established artist who had toured regularly across Ireland and additionally composed for both film and television to date. It was with such great sadness to learn of Conor’s sudden and untimely death in March. We’d both like to take this opportunity to dedicate this month’s mixtape to the memory of Conor Walsh, such an inspiring and beautiful composer and person who has touched many people’s lives with his music.

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E4 | April mix

To Read/listen on La Blogothèque:

http://en.blogotheque.net/2016/04/26/fractured-air-x-blogotheque-s01e04-april-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. Days Of Heaven“You’d give him a flower…” (Paramount Pictures)
02. HKE“Awake” (Olde English Spelling Bee)
03. Nico Muhly/Sam Amidon“The Only Tune: I. the Two Sisters” (Bedroom Community)
04. Nonkeen“The Invention Mother” (R&S)
05. Peter Broderick“Boom” (Unreleased)
06. Micachu & The Shapes“Oh Baby” (Rough Trade)
07. Babyfather“God Hour” (feat. Micachu) (Hyperdub)
08. Samiyam“Animals Have Feelings” (Stones Throw)
09. Mo Kolours“A Soul’s Journey” (One-Handed Music)
10. John Forbes, Teach, Earth, Roots & Water“Awakening” (Summer)
11. Van Dyke Parks“Occapella” (Warner Bros.)
12. Tindersticks“How He Entered” (City Slang/Lucky Dog)
13. Ravel“Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte” (Decca)
14. Pantha du Prince“The Winter Hymn” (feat. Queens) (Rough Trade)
15. Solar Bears“Wild Flowers” (Sunday Best Recordings)
16. The Field“Pink Sun” (Kompakt)
17. DJ Koze“Marilyn Whirlwind” (Victoria OST, Erased Tapes)
18. Grizzly Bear“A Simple Answer” (Liars Remix) (Warp)
19. Lindstrøm“Closing Shot” (Feedelity/Smalltown Supersound)
20. Tropic of Cancer “Stop Suffering” (Blackest Ever Black)
21. Linda Buckley“Haunt” (The Wake OST, Soundcloud)
22. Bonnie “Prince” Billy“When Thy Song Flows Through Me” (Drag City/Domino)
23. Colin Stetson, Megan Stetson & The Sorrow Ensemble“Sorrow – A Reimagining of Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony: II” (extract) (52Hz)
24. Conor Walsh“K Theory” (Ensemble Music)
25. Hauschka“Stromness” (Eluvium Remix) (City Slang)
26. Peter Broderick “And Its Alright” (Nils Frahm RMX) (LateNightTales)
27. Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto“The Revenant Theme” (Alva Noto Remodel) (The Revenant OST, Milan)
28. Nils Frahm“Our Own Roof” (Victoria OST, Erased Tapes)

Compiled by Fractured Air, April 2016. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

http://www.blogotheque.net/
https://fracturedair.com/

 

Mixtape: A Call For Distance

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A Call For Distance [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

https://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/a-call-for-distance-a-fractured-air-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. Steve Reich ‘It’s Gonna Rain, Part I’ (excerpt) [Nonesuch]
02. Colin Stetson And Sarah Neufeld ‘Won’t be a thing to become’ [Constellation]
03. So Percussion ‘Music for Wood and Strings: Section 1’ [Brassland]
04. Nils Frahm ‘Wall’ [Erased Tapes]
05. Dawn of Midi ‘Nix’ [Erased Tapes]
06. Craig Leon ‘She Wears A Hemispherical Skullcap’ [RVNG Intl]
07. Holly Herndon ‘Morning Sun’ [4AD]
08. Severed Heads ‘Dead Eyes Opened’ [Dark Entries]
09. Lower Dens ‘Your Heart Still Beating’ [Ribbon Music]
10. Heather Woods Broderick ‘A Call For Distance’ [Western Vinyl]
11. Chris Isaac ‘Wicked Game’ [Reprise]
12. Julia Holter ‘My Love My Love’ [Tompkins Square]
13. John Bence ‘Disquiet, Pt. 1’ [Other People]
14. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis ‘Far from Men 2’ [Goliath Entertainment]
15. Edan ‘Beauty’ [Lewis Recordings]
16. Richard Strauss ‘Vier letzte Lieder: IV. Im Abendrot’ (excerpt) [CBS]
17. Tom Waits ‘You Can Never Hold Back Spring’ [Anti-]
18. The Beach Boys ‘Look (Stereo Mix Of Take 20)’ [Capitol]
19. The Books ‘“Ah…, I See”’ [Temporary Residence Limited]
20. Glen Campbell ‘Guess I’m Dumb’ [Ace]

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.

To follow Fractured Air you can do so on Facebook HERE, or Twitter HERE.

 

 

Mixtape: Just Like Anything

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Just Like Anything [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

https://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/just-like-anything-a-fractured-air-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. We Like We ‘I Began To Fall Apart’ [The Being Music]
02. Sufjan Stevens ‘No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross’ [Asthmatic Kitty]
03. William Ryan Fritch ‘_a renewed sense’ [Lost Tribe Sound]
04. Mute Forest ‘Volcanoes Flowing’ [Lost Tribe Sound]
05. Kenny Burrell ‘Chitlins Con Carne’ [Blue Note]
06. Bert Jansch ‘The Blacksmith’ [Charisma]
07. Ryley Walker ‘Primrose Garden’ [Dead Oceans]
08. Jackson C. Frank ‘Just Like Anything’ [Columbia/Castle Music]
09. Peter Broderick ‘Red Earth’ [Bella Union]
10. Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld ‘The sun roars into view’ [Constellation]
11. Colleen ‘Captain Of None’ [Thrill Jockey]
12. Sebastian Mullaert ‘Lat Björkarna Vissna’ [Mule Electronic]
13. Hauschka ‘Pripyat’ [City Slang/Temporary Residence]
14. Noel Ellis ‘Dance With Me’ [Summer/Light In The Attic]
15. Augustus Pablo ‘Dub Organizer’ [Kaya/Tropical]
16. Calexico ‘Cumbia De Donde’ [City Slang/Anti-]
17. Batha Gèbrè-Heywèt ‘Ewnet Yet Lagegnesh’ [Manteca]
18. Tape & Bill Wells ‘Fugue 3’ [Immune]
19. Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat ‘We’re Still Here’ [Chemikal Underground]

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.

To follow Fractured Air you can do so on Facebook HERE, or Twitter HERE.

 

Mixtape: Long After The Music Is Gone [A Fractured Air Mix]

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Long After The Music Is Gone [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/long-after-the-music-is-gone-a-fractured-air-mix/

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Tracklisting:

01. Áine O’Dwyer – ‘For The Souls Of Our Fleas’ (Fort Evil Fruit)
02. Anna Von Hausswolff – ‘Epitaph of Theodor’ (City Slang)
03. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – ‘Rains Thru The Roof At The Grande Ballroom’ (Constellation)
04. Calexico – ‘Entrenandos A Los Tigres’ (Our Soil, Our Strength)
05. Eric Dolphy – ‘Gazzelloni’ (Blue Note)
06. Colin Stetson – ‘This Bed Of Shattered Bone’ (Constellation)
07. Seán Mac Erlaine – ‘Long After The Music Is Gone’ (Ergodos)
08. Nils Frahm – ‘For’ (Erased Tapes)
09. Peter Broderick – ‘Floating/Sinking’ (Erased Tapes)
10. Amiina – ‘Kola’ (Amínamúsík ehf.)
11. Colleen – ‘Your Heart Is So Loud’ (Leaf Label)
12. Murcof – ‘Louis XIV’s Demons’ (Leaf Label)
13. Borngräber & Strüver – ‘Berlin Tribal Music’ (m=minimal)
14. Tindersticks – ‘Put Your Love In Me (Fade)’ (Lucky Dog)
15. Katie Kim – ‘Charlie’ (Flaming June)
16. Tape – ‘Byhalia’ (Häpna)
17. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – ‘Gun Thing’ (Mute)
18. Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh – ‘Braes of Balquidder’ (State Of Chassis)
19. Julia Kent – ‘Nina and Oscar’ (Leaf Label)

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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.

Mixcloud  /  Soundcloud

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Ten Mile Stereo

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Holden “The Inheritors” (Border Community)
James Holden’s incredible follow-up to his debut LP “The Idiots Are Winning” has been some seven years in the making. Heralded by both Four Tet’s Kieran Hebdon and Caribou/Daphni’s Dan Snaith of late, the album comprises a set of genre-defying tracks and is destined to remain at “classic” status for a long, long time to come.

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Jon Hopkins “Immunity” (Domino)
“Immunity” is the fourth solo album from Jon Hopkins and is destined to catapult the Eno collaborator to international recognition. The final epic title-track features King Creosote (who collaborated with Hopkins on the sublime “Diamond Mine”) and leaves the listener marvel at what Hopkins has created here.

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Lee Noble “Ruiner” (Bathetic)
My first time coming across the wonderful Bathetic label – based in Asheville, NC – was through Angel Olsen’s classic LP “Half Way Home”. Lee Noble’s “Ruiner” is another classic belonging to the label, comprising unique ambient/pop songs recalling Radiohead, Grouper’s Liz Harris and richly evocative ambient textures as found on pioneering labels such as Chicago’s Kranky label.

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Camera Obscura “Desire Lines” (4AD)
Glasgow’s beloved Camera Obscura released yet another classic indie-pop album this year – lead by the singularly beautiful voice of Tracyanne Campbell – ‘Desire Lines’ is the band’s eagerly awaited follow-up to gorgeous “My Maudlin Career” (also on 4AD). As always, Campbell’s songwriting is pitch-perfect, while the song arrangements are sumptuously layered echoing Spector’s wall of sound (pristine production by Tucker Martine). Features guests Paul Brainard (Richmond Fontaine) on pedal steel, Neko Case and Jim James on backing vocals.

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Denseland “Like Likes Like” (m=minimal)
Berlin-based electronic label m=minimal have been quietly releasing an intriguing string of albums over the past year. “Like Likes Like” by Denseland (featuring Hanno Leichtmann, Hannes Strobl and David Moss) is a strangely compelling array of darkly textured, minimal compositions featuring the singular vocals of David Moss.

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Califone “Stitches” (Dead Oceans)
Indie favourites Califone return with the hugely anticipated “Stitches” LP this Autumn on the Dead Oceans label. The title-track has so far been uploaded – a beautifully fragmented and fragile song – as always lead by Tim Rutili’s stunning voice and masterful lyrics. The album was written and recorded across Southern California, Arizona and Texas and is available on 3 September.

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Hiss Golden Messenger “Haw” (Paradise of Bachelors)
‘Haw’ is one of the year’s finest albums and another milestone release in Hiss Golden Messenger’s stellar discography to date. As always, the songwriting by M.C. Taylor (encompassing songs of both struggle and pain as well as songs of joy and hope) is to the forefront while songs effortlessly fuse traditions of folk, blues, soul and gospel. Follow-up to the equally sublime “Poor Moon”, “Haw” is HGM’s fourth album.

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Colin Stetson “New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light” (Constellation)
Part three in the “New History Warfare” series, gifted composer Colin Stetson is fast-becoming independent music’s crowning jewel. Long-known and admired for his astonishing array of collaborative work (Tom Waits, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, TV on the Radio to name only a few), Stetson’s reputation as a solo composer has quickly earned himself the reputation for one of contemporary music’s true leading artists.

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Laurie Spiegel “The Expanding Universe” (Unseen Worlds / Philo)
While we had the great honour of co-presenting Thrill Jockey’s Mountains for their concert in Cork, one of our highlights was listening to Koen Holtkamp talk so fondly about Spiegel’s seminal masterwork “The Expanding Universe”. It’s hard to imagine these recordings were made in 1980 as they sound as fresh and as innovative today. The lovingly expanded reissue from last year is a work of true beauty and confirms “The Expanding Universe” as one of the finest (and most influential) records ever made.

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Julianna Barwick “Nepenthe” (Dead Oceans)
The wait is finally nearly over for Julianna Barwick’s follow-up to her much-celebrated “The Magic Place”, released in 2011 on Asthmatic Kitty. So far, “Pacing” (released as a limited edition 7″) and “One Half” have been made available, whetting the appetite for what will surely be one of the year’s most defining albums. Whereas Barwick’s “The Magic Place” was recorded in her Brooklyn bedroom studio, “Nepenthe” was recorded in Iceland with Alex Somers (Sigur Rós, Jónsi). “One Half” is arguably Barwick’s most beautiful work yet. LP available 20 August.

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Something’s Going On: Le Guess Who?

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Come wander the canals and streets of beautiful Utrecht and be immersed in the best of independent music as the city’s prized Le Guess Who festival makes its eagerly awaited return. Utrecht, Holland provides the dream backdrop for a host of awe-inspiring music, from the legendary Australian trio Dirty Three to the songwriting queen, Sharon Van Etten. Over the course of four days, from Thursday November 29th to Sunday 2nd December, intimate performances will grace the centuries old, university town. The heart of independent music is happening right in the heart of the city for the sixth time, having started in 2007.

Words: Mark Carry, Design: Craig Carry

Last night, the opening festival performance of Colin Stetson sparked amazement and inspiration to all those fortunate to be present. Stetson’s avant jazz has been celebrated and universally acclaimed by the entire international music community. Stetson’s solo saxophone compositions are performed in single takes with no overdubs, which in this advanced age of technology, is something truly special to witness. His music defies both genre boundaries and the physical boundaries of what one person can sonically create without resorting to the aids of technology. I recently interviewed German composer Nils Frahm and while discussing his favourite music, he likened hearing Colin Stetson’s solo saxophone to discovering ‘Music For 18 Musicians’ by Steve Reich for the first time. Is there higher praise possible? Mr. Stetson kicked off Le Guess Who? last night, epitomising the sheer quality and multitude of compelling artists that this unique festival attracts.

Tomorrow night Dirty Three will transcend the centuries-old city of Utrecht, with their unrivaled intensity of emotion-filled instrumental music.  I was fortunate to recently see Dirty Three in concert last Friday night in Dublin. It was amazing to witness Ellis, Turner and White in person. Almost mythical, almost an impossibility. Their sound was just so beautiful as it poured through the space and up to the rafters. Ellis is one of those rare iconic figures. A conductor. Jim White’s drums were incredible. To hear the range of sounds and harmonies rising from his very touch of hand. Mick Turner’s guitars were awash in soul and exhaled a spectrum of emotions. Undeniably this year’s highlight of Le Guess Who? and a must-see for Thursday night’s festival. The band have released one of their finest works to date, earlier this year with ‘Toward The Low Sun’. A stunning masterpiece from a band whose recordings and live performances forever illuminate and inspire.

Friday night sees Julianna Barwick perform her unique ambient choral-pop creations. Last year, Julianna Barwick’s gorgeous album, ‘The Magic Place’ flooded the sound clouds with its healing tones and blissed out ambient soundscapes. Barwick’s looped vocal harmonies evoke a church choir with wordless harmonies, where fragments of sound combine to form the loveliest of intricate patterns. As the title suggests, Julianna Barwick’s music is indeed magic. Furthermore, the cinematic journey of Barwick’s unique sound is full of hope, joy and solace. ‘The Magic Place’ has been one of my most cherished albums from last year, together with Julia Holter’s ‘Ekstasis’ of this year, who like Barwick, conjures up an otherworldly dreamscape of wonder and beauty. The chance to witness Julianna Barwick’s live performance is one not to miss out on. This year, Barwick unleashed her wonderful collaborative project of OMBRE. OMBRE is a new musical collaboration between Julianna Barwick and Helado Negro. Their album ‘Believe You Me’ was released earlier in 2012 on the wonderful Asthmatic Kitty label. Barwick’s clean, soaring harmonies and church choir sensibilities merge effortlessly with Negro’s rustic-Latin-psyche-folk. It’s an album full of hazy sunshine pop fused with drone ambient wrapped in warmth and beauty.

A seamless array of indie music giants grace Friday’s stage. Liverpool-based indie-rock band Clinic will summon their post-punk noise revival to the masses, following their recently released, seventh studio album ‘Free Reign’. Baltimore’s Lower Dens, led by Jana Hunter, are a must-see band. Their latest album ‘Nootropics’ is a milestone of 2012 and beyond, in its interstellar sonic journey. Lush future pop (the single ‘Propogation’), hypnotic krautrock infused rhythms (‘Brains’), swirling meditative hymns (‘Lamb’) are meticulously crafted. Lyrically, the album deals with transhumanism and feelings about technology. The Baltimore collective have made an ambitious work which exceeds on every level. Cincinnati’s finest and recent City Slang signings, Why? will bring their inventive blend of hip-hop and sunshine pop harmonies to Le Guess Who? on Friday. Other acts on this good Friday are headliners Deerhoof, Mathew Dear and Fuck Buttons, who should all be pencilled in to the timetable schedule!

Saturday is all about one person, and that person’s name is Tim Hecker. The Montreal based electronic musician is at the forefront of contemporary music. His ‘Dropped Pianos’ record is one of my most cherished albums with its cinematic soundscapes and drifting piano notes. This album in addition to its companion ‘Ravedeath 1972’, showcases Hecker’s gift for minimalist composition. The live performance of Tim Hecker’s richly textured ambient music is a vital and must-see performance. The magic of this great composer cascades down on the heart of Saturday night in Utrecht. You do not want to be anywhere else.

Sunday night belongs to Brooklyn-based, American singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten. Her third studio album ‘Tramp’, released in January, stands as one of the finest records of 2012. ‘Tramp’ is one of those very special records that resonates powerfully to all those who hear it. Van Etten’s songs come from a real place, where I feel the beautiful weight of words and music flow endlessly throughout. The album was produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner and features her friends Julianna Barwick, Zach Condon (Beirut), and members of Wye Oak and The Antlers. Importantly, it is the unique voice of Sharon Van Etten that lies at the heart of her empowering music. Utterly inspirational.

Also on Sunday night is the Irish singer-songwriter Adrian Crowley. A national treasure. His latest album ‘I See Three Birds Flying’ is a true awakening of the senses. Crowley’s lyrics are sheer poetry. The string arrangements are divine. Crowley’s peerless baritone immerses you into a deeply contemplative listening experience. ‘I See Three Birds Flying’ is timeless, in the truest sense that captivates the heart. This enchanting album is Crowley’s strongest to date, and is a fitting addition to a rich body of work.

Indie kings DIIV bring their atmospheric indie-pop masterpieces to Le Guess Who? on this closing night. Their debut album ‘Oshin’ is filled with beautiful atmospheric guitar pop soundscapes. ‘How Long Have You Known?’ is one of the year’s standout songs. ‘Oshin’ is one of my most played records of 2012, and to witness Z. Cole Smith and co. live on the closing night will be very special indeed.

Le Guess Who? Festival allows you to explore the heart of independent music, right in the beating heart of Holland.

Le Guess Who? happens on Thursday Nov 29th, Friday 30th November, Saturday 1st December and Sunday 2nd December in Utrecht, Holland.
http://www.leguesswho.nl/

Written by admin

November 28, 2012 at 9:09 pm