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Step Right Up: Ah! Kosmos

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Interview with Ah! Kosmos.

“I work on a song like a meditation, I’m trying to get to a state where my mind stops talking so that I can reflect transparently what’s going on inside.”

—Başak Günak

Words: Craig & Mark Carry

Ah! Kosmos_Credit_Yusaku_Aoki-m

Ah! Kosmos is the music alias for the Istanbul-born artist Başak Günak. Thus far, Günak has released the EP-length ‘Flesh’ (released via Istanbul-based independent Müzik Hayvanı in 2013) and this year’s debut full-length ‘Bastards’ (released via German independent Denovali). Currently, Ah! Kosmos is embarking on a European tour in support of her debut LP ‘Bastards’, support from these show come from French composer and Denovali labelmate The Eye of Time (Normandy-based artist Marc Euvrie) which includes shows in Italy, Germany, Czech Republic, Netherlands, France and Turkey. Interestingly, extensive studies into sound (Günak has pursued an MA in both Sound Design & Engineering and Cultural Studies, the latter also with a keen focus on sound) is also evidently pushing Günak to push the sonic envelope while constantly challenging her own sound and music. Much like such contemporary musicians as California-based Holly Herndon (RVNG Intl, 4AD) or Stockholm-based Klara Lewis (Editions Mego), a constant soul-deep desire to push the sonic boundaries while defying any expectations in the process is a cause for much acclaim and celebration.

Listening to ‘Bastards’ proves an intriguing listening experience while it’s also increasingly evident how live performance continues to evolve Ah! Kosmos’ own distinctive sound palette and Günak’s individuality as an artist. One can continually marvel at Günak’s innate ability to conjure such hugely immersive, highly imaginative and utterly compelling soundscapes as they seem to ebb and flow in their own independent timeline in complex, ever-changing and evolving patterns over the course of the album’s sprawling canvas. Crucially, such densely arranged compositions never strive to inhibit the listening experience: the challenge for Ah! Kosmos lies evidently in the pursuit of capturing – and holding – onto emotion above all else. A wide array of emotions are always brimming at the surface as if quietly awaiting a listener’s response to begin a chain of reaction – to somehow “contain” such emotion, to stem the blood flow of Ah! Kosmos’ ever-beating heart.

‘Bastards’ is available now on Denovali.

http://ahkosmos.com/
http://www.denovali.com/

Interview with Başak Günak.

Congratulations on the sublime debut full-length, ‘Bastards’. It is a remarkable album whose  intricate layers and masterful use (and cross-over) of organic and electronic worlds of sound reveals new significance upon each revisit. Please discuss the musical canvas utilized on ‘Bastards’? In terms of the layers of sound, would the live instrumentation such as voice, guitar comes first (and in turn, form the song) or do the electronic elements form the initial spark?

Başak Günak: Thank you so much. For me the musical canvas is changing in each song. Initial layers of them keeps its mystery for me.  Each time I try to approach with another perspective to not build-up a solid tendency. When you get out of your comfort zone, you experience an open space where you can experience a new landscape. I believe this is what keeps the excitement for me. To talk specifically about some songs, for instances in “Always in Parenthesis” the initial layer is my voice sounding like a synth. I recorded myself and modify it until I feel it is transparent. I like improvising with the relation between organic and electronic sounds.

In terms of the studio set-up, how much did the recording of ‘Bastards’ differ from your debut ‘Flesh’ EP? I can imagine the subsequent live performances and shows since 2013 has affected the tone and shape of the debut record?

BG: Exactly, live performances played really important role in transformation of my sound. They open up an inspiring space for the production. I love to perform as much as I can. I don’t think I can release a song before performing it live.

In terms of studio set-up and time, I focus on ‘Bastards’ a lot. In that time period, I experienced a difference between making  a LP and an EP. I think really carefully for ‘Bastards’ as a whole. I would like it to have a flow and landscape. Finally I’m happy that I break the connection between the songs and me and release them to make new bonds, new connections.

Please talk me through the spoken word elements embedded in many of these songs, from the outro to ‘Always In Parentheses’ to the album opener, ‘Out/Ro/In/Growth’? These segments further heightens the cinematic feel to the record and pulsing human connection.

BG: These spoken words are read by Selen Ansen which are fragments from Deleuze & Guattari.

The reason for these spoken words is coming from the title of this album “Bastards”. Selen Ansen is an art philosopher and I was attending to her lectures. In one of them she spoke about pharesia and she said how glorious is to embrace being a Bastard. After that lecture, I though a lot about it. Bastards means for me a ground for challenging the sovereign in the every realm of life. I like the idea of embracing the negative attributions to “Bastards” in my heart and in my art. Because with this embracement you are taking the power of the sovereign for the categorization homogenization towards Bastardy; “not having power to patronize”. Then I asked Selen to read some fragments for me. I’m really glad that we collaborated.

‘Trace of Waterfalls’ is such a tour-de-force and represents the album’s towering centerpiece. The ambient pulses and the beautiful fusion of the voice, guitar, and electronic wizardry evokes a timeless and searching sound and emotion. Can you trace back to your memories of writing this particular song and indeed, the construction of ‘Trace of Waterfalls’? The song-title is also incredibly powerful.

BG: Thank you so much for those beautiful words. I focus a lot my time on making music. I work a lot on songs, however when there is something special that touches me, I seize it. So the same thing happened with ‘Trace of Waterfalls’, I had a very inspiring conversation with a person, more about life and connections. And in the minute I left alone, I concentrated deep down on sound to release this waterfall feeling that is flowing in me. And at one point I felt that I was finally able to express the feelings as lucid as possible.

In terms of the production – ‘Bastards’ is self-produced – what process lies at the heart of this stage of the music-making process?

BG: I’m doing music every day like keeping a diary. I’m trying to transform and release how encounters and events affect me.  And to do this, I play and record some instruments, start improvising or just try to manipulate a sample. I work on a song like a meditation, I’m trying to get to a state where my mind stops talking so that I can reflect transparently what’s going on inside.

Please take me back to your musical upbringing? At which point did you begin your fascination with sound and indeed began your musical experiments?

BG: Since many years, I have already been engaged in music. I was performing in bands as bass player, I performed with many people from different musical background. After I finished my BA, I started doing MA degree on Sound Design & Engineering. During these years I have had a chance to deal with electronic possibilities for sound. I also had experience with the analog ones as well. In these years, I started to focus more on improvisation and composition. After I started to make music on computer alone, it turn into another experience which is  more powerful and introverted. Then, my ongoing researches on sound and composition encouraged me to decide to compose and perform solo under name “Ah! Kosmos”. And now I’m doing another MA in Cultural Studies with the focus on sound.

You have also composed and created sound design for contemporary dance and plays, short films and installations. How do these varied mediums affect the resultant sound you create/compose?

BG: It is enriching to work with artists from other disciplines. I find it really exciting to approach ideas with different perspectives. Especially working with choreography inspires me a lot.

 

 


 

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‘Bastards’ is available now on Denovali.

http://ahkosmos.com/
http://www.denovali.com/

 

 

Written by admin

November 25, 2015 at 11:18 am

Step Right Up: Poppy Ackroyd

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Interview with Poppy Ackroyd.

“The main crossover was thinking and listening to the sound I made on each instrument. Learning to take an interest in the composer and of course the music itself, thinking about the story and why the music was written, and then considering how best to express and perform it.”

—Poppy Ackroyd

Words: Mark Carry

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Poppy Ackroyd is a composer from London, currently based in Brighton. Classically trained on violin and piano, she makes music by manipulating and multi-tracking sounds from just these two instruments. Her debut ‘Escapement’ was released in December 2012 by Denovali Records and a DVD – ‘Escapement Visualised’ – featuring bespoke visuals by Lumen for each track on the album, was released in September 2014.

Feathers’, her second album, was released in November 2014, and builds on the concept behind her debut, with most of the sounds again coming from the violin and the piano, however this time the tracks also feature other keyboard and string instruments. On the sublime sophomore full-length, a larger sonic palette is utilized by the gifted composer; including an array of acoustic keyboard instruments such as harmonium, clavichord, harpsichord and spinet. Furthermore, the immaculately crafted string section is augmented by guest cellist Su-a-Lee.

Similar to the enchanting debut record ‘Escapement’, Poppy’s trusted Blüthner grand piano forms the backbone of the album. A myriad of field recordings (traffic noise on ‘Roads’ and chiming clock walls on ‘Timeless’) are dotted across the album’s sprawling sonic canvas that further heightens the magical sense of discovery rippling through the majestic waves of piano and violin melodies cast by Ackroyd. The infinite beauty distilled in ‘Feathers becomes a wonderful symbol of new beginnings as one catches a glimpse of a bird in full flight; majestically owning the vast blue skies ahead.

‘Feathers’ is out now on Denovali Records.

http://poppyackroyd.com/
http://denovali.com/

Interview with Poppy Ackroyd.

Congratulations on the stunningly beautiful and mesmerizing new record, ʻFeathersʼ; you must feel deeply proud of this divine work of art.  Firstly, can you please discuss the sonic palette at your disposal this time around? On ʻFeathersʼ, the sonic terrain is expanded to include various other acoustic keyboard instruments and guest-cellist Su-A-Lee. I would love to gain an insight into these new branches to your distinctive piano/violin-based compositions?

Poppy Ackroyd: Thank you! On ‘Feathers’ I decided to expand on the sound world of my debut album ‘Escapement’, and bring some other keyboard and string instruments into the mix. On the new album you can hear clavichord, harpsichord, spinet and harmonium, as well as old pianos – my favourite being a Broadwood piano with a wooden frame, from the late 18th century. These other instruments are all more delicate and intimate than the modern grand. They were designed for smaller spaces, and were instruments that people would have in their homes, they were not designed to project, so are all very quiet and this gives them a more intimate feel. I like that they all have different mechanisms for producing sound, so there are a variety of timbres – for example, the clavichord uses a tangent to hit the string, the harpsichord has feather quills (or other materials such as soft leathers) that pluck the string, and the piano uses felt hammers to strike the strings. In a similar way to how I treated both the violin and piano on ‘Escapement’, I also played with these other instruments, using their frames, pedals, sound boards, strings, tuning pins and mechanisms. Because of the low volumes they produce when played, I had to record very closely and this created a more intimate world – you can hear more of the imperfections…the creaks, clicks and there are also very slight irregularities in tuning. Su-a Lee performed cello on almost all of the tracks on the album, except ‘Taskin’ – which is all keyboard instruments and almost exclusively just made from recordings of the Taskin harpsichord in the museum. She makes such a gorgeous sound on the cello, it really transformed all the string sections on the album to have that extra depth from the bass notes.

Similar to the debut ʻEscapementʼ, your beloved Blüthner grand piano serves the vital pulse to the recordʼs sprawling canvas of sound. Similar to pianists such as Nils Frahm, Hauschka et al, I am always amazed by the new sounds and endless possibilities you generate from the instrument. Can you please describe this particular instrument and indeed the approaches and processes you have utilized on ʻFeathersʼ?

PA: It is a Blüthner boudoir grand, and it is my favourite possession. The day I decided to buy a grand piano it was put online for sale, and it was exactly what I was looking for. It was in a terrible state when I bought it though – most of the keys were stuck together, as the lead weights in them had expanded from being kept near a fire, and so it was kind of unplayable, apart from about two octaves near the top of the keyboard. I immediately fixed the problems with the action and keys, and since then have gradually been doing it up. It has Aliquot stringing which means that the upper register has sympathetic strings that resonate with the main strings when they are played, so the melodies really sing. It is beautiful… I use every part of the instrument when I am writing – the wooden frame, the cast iron frame, the strings, the pedals – and play with my hands, plectrums, ebows and various percussive beaters and instruments. I record and then edit, chop and piece the sounds together, to create different beats and textures. Often I use various effects to alter and manipulate the sounds. After starting with a melody or chord sequence, a lot of the composition is done after recording. I record, and then start to sculpt something. Once there is a loose structure, the melodies and harmonies start to change, and I then record again. The end result is often very different from where I started.

The use of field recordings adds a further dimension to the deeply personal and affecting musical compositions. I am curious whether some of these field recordings provided the starting point to compose a piece of music, Poppy? For example, ʻTimelessʼ begins with chiming wall clocks. In a way, these field recordings – the percussive effect of chiming clocks; traffic noise from a vibrant city on ʻRoadsʼ – become central characters to the albumʼs gripping narrative. Please discuss some of these field recordings and the sources of these found sounds, so to speak?

PA: I use field recordings when I feel they can add to the story of the track. The traffic on ‘Roads’ is recorded in the centre of Brighton, I like the way the sounds of the passing cars create a feeling of movement and journey. The sounds of the waves and the sea on ‘Birdwoman’ is also recorded in Brighton, walking along the beach and then right down to the shore. For ‘Timeless’, I was playing with the idea of time – the track is in 120bpm, the main beats falling 60 in a minute, therefore every second like a clock. The field recordings came later. I came across an old clock in my cousin’s shop – she sells vintage furniture and other things. The chimes and mechanism start quite freely but from quite early on each sound is positioned and chopped, gradually becoming a beat, that continues for the rest of the track.

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One of my current favourites is the gorgeous ʻTimelessʼ and the utterly captivating dialogue between violin and piano inherent in the piece. Can you talk me through the layering of this particular composition?

PA: This track started out as a solo violin piece and I wrote the initial ideas using just a violin and loop pedal. The pizzicato came first and then the main ‘Tick tock’ sound which is actually fingers on muted violin strings. Gradually the bowed strings come in and the track builds. The meandering piano line came later, in order to contrast with the rigidity of the violin pizzicato, and the beat. The reverse notes, (these are reversed plucked inside piano strings) are also there to pull the track away from its strict time keeping. When everything falls away in the middle, the slightly freer quality of the plucked inside piano notes, and the lyrical piano melody intend to create a feeling of space and free time. I think this is my favourite part of the album. The beats are made mostly of violin sounds and there are quite a few layers, and these are also combined with the beats made from the mechanism of the clock.

I was very interested to read how the album-title was inspired by the line “Hope is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson. For me, itʼs a wonderful symbol of new beginnings as one catches a glimpse of a bird in full-flight; majestically owning the vast blue skies ahead. Please discuss the albumʼs narrative for me, Poppy and what central themes you feel connect these eight sublime sonic creations?

PA: The line of the poem is actually only partly responsible for the album title. This quote was lying around in my flat when I was starting to write and it really resonated with me, and the title track ‘Feathers’ definitely owes its name to this line. Over the months I was writing, other factors started to come into play. A feeling of lightness and delicacy was present in all the tracks, my moving house and general travelling lifestyle created a theme of flight and migration. The fact that some of the instruments in the museum used quills from crow feathers in their mechanisms (like those pictured on the album cover) to pluck the string, made it seem like ‘Feathers’ was the obvious title.

Can you reminisce for me your earliest musical memories? You are classically trained on the violin and piano from a very young age; I would love to know what common ground you must have discovered as you developed on both instruments? It must be quite liberating to have this dichotomy of worlds, so to speak where both these worlds flow nicely into one another.

PA: I have so many early musical memories, it has always been a big part of my life. I think I owe a lot of my interest in music to my father, however it was my mother who pushed me to practice and made me work at it when I was little. My father is an artist and always listens to music while he works, I grew up with Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Chopin, Mozart and Schubert amongst others. By studying both these instruments from a young age, obviously one informed the other, but my experience due to my various teachers and the different environments in which I studied each one was quite different. The main crossover was thinking and listening to the sound I made on each instrument. Learning to take an interest in the composer and of course the music itself, thinking about the story and why the music was written, and then considering how best to express and perform it.

As ever, you are involved in various other projects, most notably the wonderful Hidden Orchestra, in addition to composing scores for dance, film, theatre and radio. I would love to gain an insight into the collaborative aspect of these ventures, particularly your involvement with Hidden Orchestra which has been (and continues to be) an awe-inspiring musical collective?

PA: My role in Hidden Orchestra is as a session musician. It is actually just Joe Acheson who composes all of the music, it is really his solo project. We record for him during the writing process, then after the album is finished we come together to tour the tracks live. There are four of us who have been there since the beginning, and often now we feature guests on trumpet, clarinet, cello, harp, visuals etc.

What records have you been listening to the most lately? I wonder do you have plans and works in the pipeline? 

PA: When I am writing I can get really involved in what I am doing and after 12 hours of making music I just want silence, or I listen to the radio or a podcast. However, in the morning I usually listen to something new while I wake up, and I try to listen to something different most days. I am currently working on some new material and also a few collaborations, including music for a short animation.

 


 

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‘Feathers’ is out now on Denovali Records.

http://poppyackroyd.com/
http://denovali.com/

 

Written by markcarry

June 16, 2015 at 11:33 am

Chosen One: Carlos Cipa

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Interview with Carlos Cipa.

“The examination of musical form, harmony or mostly rhythm is an ongoing stimulation for my thinking about writing music and expressing yourself through music.”

—Carlos Cipa

Words: Mark Carry

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Last November marked the highly anticipated sophomore full-length release from the gifted Munich-based composer and multi-instrumentalist, Carlos Cipa. ‘All Your Life You Walk’ is a collection of stunningly beautiful piano-based compositions; representing an artist at the height of his powers. The latest offering – and follow-up to Cipa’s mesmerising debut ‘The Monarch and the Viceroy’ (both albums released on the prestigious German-based Denovali imprint) – features an array of rare instruments, found sounds, atmospheric touches and gentle beats that evokes an utterly timeless and deeply affecting experience.

Over the last two years, the German composer amassed a treasure of musical instruments that were no longer in use: a very rare instrument built by Hohner in the 1960’s, primarily played by musicians like Warren Ellis, Leo Abraham and Mum; an old radio receiver that belonged to Cipa’s grandparents (serving the magical opening tones of ‘All Your Life You Walk’); an old Framus bass guitar from the 60’s among several others. Above all, the Cipa’s deft touch of hand and resolutely unique sounds generated from the piano instrument becomes the vital pulse to the record’s rich sonic tapestry. A series of fragments are wonderfully embedded in the album’s striking narrative that further adds to the ethereal dimension the music effortlessly taps into. The album was self-recorded, performed and produced by the German composer in his very own “Beatschappen Studio.”

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‘All Your Life You Walk’ is available now on Denovali.

http://www.carloscipa.com/
http://denovali.com/

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Interview with Carlos Cipa.

Congratulations Carlos on the incredible new album, ‘All Your Life You Walk’. It’s a real pleasure to talk to you again and discuss this very special record. Firstly, I love how the musical compositions are deeply embedded in this entirely other space and dimension. For example, the inclusion of several fragment pieces – dotted throughout the record – adds to this sense of journey and how ‘All Your Life You Walk’ is a captivating and cohesive whole. Please discuss the making of this new record, Carlos and please shed some light on the album-title and the ideas you wanted to explore on ‘All Your Life You Walk’?

Carlos Cipa: Thanks a lot for all your interest in my work and these kind words, it’s a pleasure to speak with you again and talk about my new album with you. I’ve been working on the compositions, musical ideas and the whole concept of “All Your Life You Walk” over the last two years but the main part of the work has been done in the summer from June to September (2014). First, I finished composing all the piano parts and piano solo songs and then recorded everything on piano only. After that I continued working on writing and recording the fragments and the different colours I wanted to add to the certain songs. Every sound and instrument is carefully chosen. It’s just the exact amount of instrumental facets I wanted to add to the songs.

The title is a reference to a favourite poem of mine by Kurt Tucholsky called “Augen in der Großstadt” (engl. “Eyes in the Big City”). One of the lines has been translated in English; also all the song titles are references to different things that inspire me, films, song lyrics, poems, etc.

My current favourite is the sublime ‘Hang On To Your Lights’, I particularly love the rhythmic and percussive elements to your piano playing. Are there certain techniques or processes you have expanded on this record? In terms of writing, I wonder is a piece like ‘Hang On To Your Lights’ quite a gradual unfolding before the music is given its wings, and in full-bloom, so to speak?

CC: That’s great, it might also be my favourite. For this piece I really took long time to develop the composition. I worked strictly with scores for the piano part, so everything was written down before recording. The pattern in the right hand is developing throughout the whole piece, but the bar is always changing so you never get a feeling of rest (the piece has nearly 80 bar changes and several different tempi). The rhythmic elements are sounds from the inside of the piano; I created the beat with felt beaters on the cast iron frame and then processed it a bit with the computer. The drone/ambient sounds are piano strings plucked, bowed, picked recorded and cut, processed and layered in the computer. For a piece of that length, that’s based on a little loop pattern, I believe it’s really important to be absolutely precise with every bar in the piece and to create a million little details so it never gets boring and you’re always able to explore something new in every second of the piece.

You collected a wide array of fabulous instruments that have found their way on ‘All Your Life You Walk’, further heightening the deeply personal sound of the creations. I would love for you to discuss these instruments and the beautiful stories that are behind each and every one of these special instruments. For example, are the first notes heard on the album the sound of the radio receiver belonging to your grandparents? Also, the very rare instrument built by Hohner in the 60’s must have been a miracle of a discovery for you?

CC: I’d love to talk you through them. Let’s start with the “Hohner Guitaret”; it’s been built in the 60’s only for a very short period of time. It was meant for use in a Jazz combo but never really found its place there. It’s a “kalimba-phone” instrument but with electroacoustic pick-ups, so it can be used similar to a guitar, but has a totally different, very unique sound. You can hear it on tracks 3, 4, 9 and 11. I processed it with a variety of effects.

Then there’s the “Marimba” (heard on songs 3, 4, 5, 9, 11), it belonged to a childhood friend, and he stopped playing at a certain age and the instrument was getting all dusty in their attic until I asked him if can use it for recording and now it has it’s own space in my studio. The same goes for the “Hackbrett” (heard at the beginning and throughout song 11) but this was actually the instrument of his brother, another childhood friend of mine.

The radio receiver is as you say the beginning and ending of the album. I’ve the great luck to live and work in the house my grandparents built by them in the 50s after the war and I wanted to make a connection to them and to the space. This radio receiver was in their possession for a very long time and even if it doesn’t sound “perfect”, I am very happy that it has found its way on the record. The E-bass (also on tracks 3,4,9 and 11) is a very rare jazz bass built by Framus in the 60s, I discovered in a vintage music store here in Munich. I just love the wooden sound and how it melts with the piano and all the other instruments.

Then there are a variety of percussion instruments I collected over the years, a glockenspiel, a sansula, an ocean harp and some African instruments. I also added a second piano sound to my music; it’s coming from an upright piano, played with the felt pedal. I bought this beautiful instrument from an old lady who stopped playing and I really love how the mellow sound melts with my grand piano. All other sounds are piano inside sounds, plucked strings, bowed strings, e-bowed strings, muted notes, harmonics, layered and processed in the computer.

I would love to gain an insight please onto the space of your very own “Beatschuppen Studio”? What is the set-up in the studio itself, Carlos?

CC: As said before, I am living and working in the house of my grandparents, it’s an old house from the 50s and I built my little studio in the basement over the last few years. I work in two rooms and my grand piano is upstairs in the living room, so most of the time recording means running up and down stairs… it keeps you fit, though. At the moment I am working with RME interfaces and pre-amps and mostly Neumann microphones, I prefer to keep it simple and this setup is working out just fine for the moment.

I can also shed some light on the name of the studio; one of the basement rooms was the child room of my mother when she was growing up in this house and she used to be a big fan of the Beatles (like me) and so she used to call her room like that (in English kind of like “beat music shed”). I thought it’s a funny name for a studio.

I love the cinematic feel that permeates the cathartic ‘Step Out From Time’. Can you talk me through this piece of music please?

CC: I think you get this feeling because this piece might be the one that has the least solo-piano feel to it. This might originate mostly in the instrumentation/production. I divided left and right hand into two different instruments (the right hand plays the melody on the clear and brilliant grand piano, the left hand plays accompanying figures on the mellow and soft felt muted upright). All the other sounds (bowed Hackbrett, Guitaret, bass guitar, marimba) are interwoven with both these piano elements to create a levitating atmosphere around it. The whole piece is based on the little fifth-based melody that spins around throughout the whole piece, until the piece finds rest in those choral-like upright chords in the end. In November, I rearranged the piece for a dance performance for a little ensemble, piano, flute, violin and cello and it worked out really great. I hope I can upload a proper recording in the near future.

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You are currently studying contemporary classical composition. I would love to know more about this area of study and indeed what contemporary classical compositions have served (and continue to serve) the biggest influence on you? You are involved in every aspect of the music-making process, from recording to producing; I wonder do you see these various stages as same thing?

CC: Even though I am studying classical composition at the moment, I think my work for the records is something totally different. To include the aspect of recording and producing (which means I indeed totally equate these two things with the process of composing, which opens yourself doors that otherwise would be shut), the aspect of sound in the compositions (and also even the aspect of writing music for an audience), means distancing yourself from existing methods in the contemporary classical scene. Also, of course, my musical language draws equally from popular music and classical music, which also separates me from that particular scene.

But despite that, I learned so much from contemporary music, not only from the usual suspects (like Reich or the minimalists) but also from a lot of other totally different composers. The examination of musical form, harmony or mostly rhythm is an ongoing stimulation for my thinking about writing music and expressing yourself through music. I included most of these recent influences in the mixtape I compiled for your site a while ago. Of course all those wonderful composers wrote a hell lot more amazing pieces that are equally worth checking out. Contemporary classical music is a very difficult field of music to get into, especially in Germany, but once you start discovering some of the rare diamonds, you are able to comb through the jungle of terrible stuff that seems to be everywhere you look.

You must be very excited to play shows across Europe this December. Forgive the generalization (in advance) but discuss the magical moments and emotions that you, as a composer must experience when performing these piano compositions live to an audience?

CC: The tour has been amazing. It’s always great to be on the road with my fellow label friend Poppy Ackroyd, but this tour was even more fun then before. I am very happy with my live set at the moment, playing the new pieces is really special and I got great responses from all the audiences about the concerts and the new album. I am also doing a little more improvisation than before, which makes it also more interesting and joy for me to play, because you never know what will happen and you get a chance to explore the different pianos and the different responses from audiences every night in a better way than if you’re just performing the songs. That’s something I really love about touring.

What records have you been enjoying the most these past few months, Carlos?

CC: The new Björk album. I can’t wait for the vinyl. This album is just so beautiful and amazing, I can’t stop listening and loving it. From the wonderful production to the amazing string arrangements, of course her always fascinating voice and the incredible beautiful and challenging songs/compositions. It’s just perfect.

Brian Reitzell’s score for TV series “Hannibal”, very recently released on vinyl. I adored the score in the series, but this collection for the records is even more rewarding!!

Alfred Schnittke – Concerto grosso No. I, a wonderful piece by one of the best composers of the 20th century. Even if it is a famous piece, it’s still totally underrated in contemporary classical music.

 


 

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‘All Your Life You Walk’ is available now on Denovali.

http://www.carloscipa.com/
http://denovali.com/

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Written by markcarry

March 3, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Don’t Look Back: 2014 (Part 2)

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Final part of our “Don’t Look Back” series; which is our look back on the year from the perspective of both musicians as well as various members of the arts community at large, who — despite varying geographical locations and backgrounds — all share the following in common: a deep passion and love for music. We’re both honored and delighted to be able to share the words of these special people through their personal accounts of the year that was: 2014. 

Part 2 of a 2-part series.

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William Tyler (Nashville, USA)

William Tyler is a Nashville guitarist and composer who has played an integral part in world-renowned U.S. bands such as Lambchop, Silver Jews and Hiss Golden Messenger. In recent years, Tyler has carved out a deeply enriching solo path, beginning with 2010’s universally-acclaimed ‘Behold The Spirit’ (Tompkins Square) and its exquisite follow-up, ‘Impossible Truth’ (Merge Records), released in 2013. Last April marked the release of ‘Lost Colony’ – a limited-edition 12-inch – featuring the new song ‘Whole New Dude’, a full-band re-working of ‘We Can’t Go Home Again’ (from ‘Impossible Truth’) and ‘Karussell’; a cover of a Michael Rother (Neu!) song.

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My year in review:

Hanging with my buddy Michael Slaboch talking records and life in early January. Michael came down to Nashville from Chicago and got stuck in a rare snow storm the precluded his return to the Windy City, which I believe was suffering from some of the coldest temperatures on record. We ate bbq and watched Auburn lose to Florida State in the national championship game while Nashville buckled from the cold outside.

Touring with Califone in the dead of an intense midwestern winter.  We did “Big Ten” country: Minneapolis, Madison, Columbus, Omaha, Detroit, Chicago. I should have brought a snowplow instead of a Volvo station wagon. Beautiful people and music. Frigid temperatures. Haunting drives through cracked Michigan highways covered with snow. Listening to Bruce Hornsby in a Tim Horton’s outside of Benton Harbor.

Taking a series of trains across central and southern Europe on tour in February. Played a rock club that doubled as an indoor shooting range in Belgrade. Played a theater in Zagreb. Played a wine bar in Switzerland. Played a cinema in Lausanne, another cinema in Dresden. Watched “Dallas Buyer’s Club” with German subtitles. Read “Blues People” by Amiri Baraka and “Where the Heart Beats”, an incredible book about John Cage and Zen Buddhism. Train hopped across Italy. Wrote fragments of songs in hotel rooms like you are supposed to. Ate everything that was offered to me. Bought Fernet at an Italian gas station.

I drove across America with my buddy Garland two days after returning from Europe. One day we drove from Nashville to Omaha, the next day across South Dakota to Wyoming. Next day all the way to Coeur D’Alene Idaho. The fourth day we made it to Seattle. I did a three-week tour opening for Daniel Rossen. My other best bud Brad Cook accompanied me for most of the trip. Stoned day off driving through the redwoods for a weird evening of awesome beer and sketchy Mexican food in Eureka, California. Playing a winery in Napa valley. Playing the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. Driving across the west by myself in a rental car. San Diego to Phoenix, Phoenix to Santa Fe, Santa Fe to Roswell, Roswell to Marfa, Marfa to Austin, Austin to Jackson, Mississippi. Putting about 8000 miles on that poor rental car. Up and down the east coast. Driving back through the North Carolina mountains to home finally and the ‘welcome to Tennessee’ signs greeting me.

I moved temporarily to Oxford, Mississippi for a month. Spent a lot of time writing and reflecting, walking every afternoon down to the town square and sharing a few drinks with new friends. This was the place my parents went to college and I settled into the lazy, deliberate pace of the environs. I feel like as I grow older, the pull further South is stronger. It felt like home.

Green Man festival in Wales. Epic hang with my man David Morris. Playing to a field of friendly folks as the sun set. Being cold in the middle of August and drinking lots of cider.

Some things I enjoyed:

Steve Gunn – Way Out Weather
“Citizen Four”
Harold Grosskopf – Ocean Heart
Swans – To Be Kind
Bob Dylan – Basement Tapes reissue
Bitchin Bajas
Tashi Dorji
Blake Mills
“The Soul of Designer Records” – Big Legal Mess box set
“Jodorowsky’s Dune”

My favorite modern country singles of 2014:

Blake Shelton – Neon Light
Keith Urban – Somewhere in My Car
Dierks Bentley – Drunk on a Plane
Anything by Taylor Swift

 

—William Tyler

 

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‘Lost Colony’ E.P. is available now on Merge Records.

http://www.williamtyler.net/
http://www.mergerecords.com/

 


 

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Félicia Atkinson (The French Alps, France)

Félicia Atkinson is a French visual and sound artist based between the French Alps. She also co-curates Shelter Press, an independent music label and contemporary art publishing house. Félicia Atkinson also releases music via her Je suis le petit chevalier guise and exhibits regularly across both Europe and the US. Atkinson lives presently in the French Alps and has released over 20 records and tapes with labels such as Shelter Press, NNA, Umor Rex, Aguirre, Spekk, La station Radar, Home Normal. Atkinson has performed extensively all over Europe/USA-CANADA with such artists as: Sun Araw, Grouper, Gabriel Saloman, Theo Angel and Hamish Gilmour, Mind Over Mirrors, Lee Noble. She is also involved in the duo Naked Island on the L.A based label Peak Oil (alongside Ensemble Economique’s Brian Pyle). Her new album, ‘A Readymade Ceremony’, will be out on Shelter Press during 2015. 

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2014: A YEAR OF RENDEZ-VOUS

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Caption: Félicia Atkinson painting yogo balls during the preparation of her latest art show at Saprophyt, Vienna, last November.

 

January:

New Year’s Eve, dancing with candles and flutes outside in the snowy mountains with my friends, the musicians and artists Mc Cloud Zicmuse, Anne Brugni, High Wolf, Marsh Cavern, Chicaloyoh and Bartolomé, my partner in life and in Shelter Press.
Anne Brugnu makes incredible colorful ceramics and drawings. She just published a children books with Mc Cloud called “bonjour”, published by L’artichaud, here is an image of it:

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It’s a very sensitive book about natural phenomena and the marvels of earth. And here is an example of her vivid collages:

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You can also hear Mc Cloud Zicmuse’ poetic words and music HERE.

February:

Driving from California to New Mexico with Bartolomé. We also met a series of unforgettable artists. In Joshua Tree we walked among the prickly pears with Alexander Stewart and Lilli Carre. They are from Chicago and make very interesting minimalist animated films. Lilli is also an illustrator and ceramic artist. She exhibited recently at the MCA of Chicago. Here are two images of her sculptures:

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Alexander made collaborative films with musicians from Chicago, such as Jeremy Lemos, who plays now in Acteurs and also with Disappears, two Chicago bands that I strongly recommend. I particularly like the specially designed EP Disappears published with the Belgian Sleeperhold publications with a silkscreen on the B-side by this young and talented Belgian photographer, Stine Stampers. You can see the design here:

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Here are video stills of Alexander’s films ‘Peacock’ and ‘Power’:

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March:

In March Bartolomé and I did an exhibition, ‘The Last Frontier’, at this artist-run space in Basel called OSLO 10. They are also a music venue and there was a wonderful list of music shows during the exhibition, some with shelter press artists and some with people, even if we don’t publish them, we feel related to. One of them played at Oslo 10 in March 2014, it’s the French-Japanese musician Tomoko Sauvage who plays with water and bowls: a mesmerizing and meditative music.

April:

April was a beautiful month in the Alps, with butterflies and flowers everywhere. On the 1st of April I invited Jennifer Tee, an artist from the Netherlands, to make a lecture at the art university I am teaching in: Annecy, L’ESAAA. I am a huge fan of her works that include: performance, sculpture and installation. Some examples of her works here, including her latest exhibition at Signal in Malmo:

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May:

In May I played a music show for Videoex Festival in Zürich with the experimental film-maker from San Francisco, Paul Clipson. I don’t know if you are familiar with his works, but he showed his films with a lot of interesting musicians from the Bay Area such as Grouper, Jefre Cantu and Barn Owl, who are all musicians that inspire me everyday. Here are some images of Paul’s films:

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June:

June was a month spent listening to Suzanne Ciani’s amazing re-issues by Finders Keepers.

July:

In July I toured in Canada with the amazing Sun Araw and D/P/I. I feel like I learned a lot while seeing them playing and each of their shows was a source of joy. I recommend you to see them live and to listen to their latest album. I also played in Seattle with RM Francis that month, which was the occasion to discover his beautiful and smart music.

August:

August was a month spent in Oregon. I always love Portland. It was great to hang out there with my friends and see very good shows and have such great vegetarian food. Then we spent some time camping at CAPE LOOK OUT before I recorded with my friend Peter Broderick. Stay tuned… the project will be called La Nuit and will be out next summer on Beacon Sound.
In Portland I bought a lot of records at Little Axe Records, Mississippi Records and Beacon Sound Records. One of my favorites is ‘Put No Blame On The Master’, a record of Jamaican gospel, published by Mississippi.

September:

In September 2014 I did a mini tour in Switzerland with the amazing Gabriel Saloman, with whom we just published a record on Shelter Press. I recommend also his records on Miasmah and Infinite Greyscale. When he played in Geneva​, it was so powerful that the sound engineer actually cried. We are all blown away. I also listened very much to the re-issues of K. Leimer on RVNG.

October:

In October I saw Lieven Moana / Dolphins into the future and Spencer Clark / monopoly childstars playing also in Geneva, with wonderful visuals. It was like being in another time. Lieven is a kind of Caspar David Friedrich of modern times.

November:

In November I played at Soy Festival where I had a chance to see playing some people I admire: Lee Noble, Noveller, Steve Hauschildt and Robedoor.
Do you know Lee Noble’s cassette labels NO KINGS? They do amazing artworked tapes that you should take an ear/eye at!

December:

My highlight of December was feeding and meeting the neighbor’s little cat that love to visit us and watching VANISHING POINT by Richard Sarafian and CARRIE by De Palma. I also listened a lot to Valerio Tricoli album on PAN, Miseri Lares. And Bartolomé bought me this wonderful book by and about Robert Ashley, ‘YES, BUT IS IT EDIBLE’ published by New Documents.

THE END/THANK YOU!

 

—Félicia Atkinson

 

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Naked Island’s self-titled debut, the collaboration between Ensemble Economique’s Brian Pyle and Félicia Atkinson, is available now on Peak Oil. ‘A Readymade Ceremony’ is a forthcoming release on Shelter Press.

http://feliciaatkinson.be/
http://shelter-press.com/

 


 

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Cian Ó Cíobháin, An Taobh Tuathail (Galway, Ireland)

Cian Ó Cíobháin is the presenter of An Taobh Tuathail, a music show dedicated to promoting the very best in independent music. Cian’s show is broadcasted on RTÉ Raidió Na Gaeltachta on weeknights from 22.00 to midnight, Monday to Friday. Cian also compiles a series of compilations which are made available for free download. Presently, the An Taobh Tuathail compilation series is at volume 6 (they have this year been uploaded to Ó Cíobháin’s Mixcloud page HERE). Additionally, Cian DJ’s at 110th Street, Galway, with Cyril Briscoe. As of this year Cian Ó Cíobháin has also carved a name for himself as a specialist wedding DJ.

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In January and February, I dipped my toes into English language broadcasting for the first time in eons, with a six-part series on Pulse about my ‘An Taobh Tuathail’ compilations. My thick-tongued mumbling were well received, in some instances it was the first time listeners were able to follow what I was saying on the radio. ATT was shortlisted for two awards this year. In April I visited the picturesque St. Ives in Cornwall for the Celtic Media Awards, then had a night to remember in Kilkenny in October at the PPI Radio Awards. The Lyric FM contingent were seated at our table and helped us to party with panache. The winners of both categories were utterly deserving. JJ O’Shea’s superlative ‘The Global Village’ took the gong in St. Ives and Ray Wingnut’s excellent documentary on the Community Skratch games topped the PPI list.

Two of the best DJ sets I heard this year happened at Ireland’s best off-the-radar summer festival (so secret that I’m afraid to even refer to it by name). A fine summer’s evening somewhere in deepest Longford, the intimate & enthusiastic gathering in convivial spirits, were treated to the DJ début of Roscommon-native Peter Casey who simply blew the roof off the place with a perfect festival set: a combination of bangers, anthems and sing-a-longs. Later on, underground Liverpool legend John Heckle showed what an outstanding DJ he is, reading the crowd perfectly, working some amazing disco basslines into his high-octane techno set…. Speaking of Scousers, following Liverpool last season was a riot. Sure they fell short, sure they may never win the Premiership, but what a gallant effort it was, playing some of the most scintillating football in Europe, which even Pep Guardiola tipped his hat to. Of course, we’re back to a level we’re sadly more accustomed to now, in the wake of Luis Suaréz migrating to warmer climes. In a peculiar way, like when the winter evenings begin to draw in, there’s almost something strangely comforting about being simply mediocre again. Almost.

In other sports, my native Kerry thrilled in their two game battle against Mayo in August before grinding out an unexpected All-Ireland victory in September (unexpected to everyone bar the team and management), ending a five-year Celtic Cross-less drought in the Kingdom. All this without The Gooch. Great to see Star poach an opportunist’s goal in the final. I was DJing in West Kerry a few years ago and he was right up the front urging the crowd to sing along to the words of Warren G’s ‘Regulate’.

Jonathan Glazer’s ‘Under The Skin’ was a haunting cinematic experience, made all the more powerful by Mica Levi’s superlative soundtrack. One of her featured compositions ‘Love’ is my tune of the year: somehow evoking ‘Loveless’-era MBV, Badalamenti and Bernard Herrmann. I only recently realised that the movie is based on a book by Michel Faber. I picked up his latest novel ‘The Book Of Strange New Things’, as endorsed by the wonderful West Cork-based author David Mitchell and have been in a trance reading it the past few days… Other movies I enjoyed this year were ‘12 Years A Slave’, ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ and I finally watched ‘The Good, The Bad & The Ugly’. How had I ignored it up to now? Simply one of the finest movies I’ve ever laid eyes on. If only I could roll a cigar around in my mouth like Clint Eastwood. The original ‘Blondie.’

Summer 2014 was one of the most consistently summer-like summers in recollection, the rain seemed to bypass our island. How good was the vibe at ‘Body & Soul’ during the shortest nights of the year? It was my first time in attendance and I was bowled over by the genuinely magical, fairy-tale atmosphere. Galway legend Mike Smalle played a beautiful set under the trees, that weaved everything from Max Romeo to Nolan Porter to Hot Natured into its fabric. Mike was busy recording again this year, his first work since B-Movie Lightning, under the Augustus & John moniker collaborating with Matteo Grassi. Check out their excellent ‘Crosslines’ EP.

In late August, with the help of Galway’s Electric venue, 110th Street hosted a boat party on the river Corrib, where Cyril Briscoe & I were joined by Jon Averill and Sol O’ Carroll. Between the genial atmosphere on the boat, where everyone was best friends by the end of the voyage, followed by a hothouse atmosphere in the club, created by a combination of our guest DJs being on top form and the visiting influx of revellers, it was a day and night that will live long in my memory.

I read shed-loads of books this year but the two that stood out were ‘The Casual Vacancy’ by JK Rowling, a brilliant take on that peculiar and specific genre of ‘English village’ literature and ‘I Am Pilgrim’ by Terry Hayes, one of the most breathtaking thrillers I’ve ever read. Re-reading Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Portrait Of Dorian Gray’ was a great pleasure. Two evocations of hedonistic life in our capital city in different eras also provided food for thought. Anthony Cronin’s ‘Dead As Doornails’ recounts the lives of Patrick Kavanagh, Brendan Behan & Myles na gCopaleen in the pubs of post-war Dublin. The drinking and the poverty they endured to keep on drinking is utterly startling. Rob Doyle’s ‘Here Are The Young Men’ recounts a different Dublin, that of the early to mid-‘noughties’. If the pre-mentioned literary giants had access to the drugs that the characters in Doyle’s début novel binge on, well … the mind boggles at the consequences. Both books shine a torch into our nation’s gluttonous, booze-centric culture and reveal long, dark shadows extending well into the background.

The best TV show I saw this year was ‘Fargo’ but I was also impressed by ‘Boardwalk Empire’ (seasons 3 & 4), ‘Ray Donovan’, ‘Vikings’ (second season), ‘Love/Hate’ (which found its groove again – though I’d love to sort out their often incongruous soundtrack choices for them) and ‘The Fall’. Caught the first season of ‘Sherlock’ too, the opening episode was particularly good. I waded my way through most of the first season of ‘Game Of Thrones’ but was left cold by its clunky pace and prolixity.

My best nights DJing all happened at weddings. I was lucky to be invited by some remarkable people to play at their nuptials, more often than not in memorable, bucolic settings to intimate gatherings of sound heads. The atmosphere at these evenings were off-the-hook and has encouraged me to launch myself in the specialist DJ wedding market in the year ahead. So (here comes a plug) if you’re getting married and want to avoid the usually stodge, I’m available through cianociobhain.com or the One Fab Day site.

And what about the night the Sleaford Mods came to Galway? Like Gang Of Four, The Fall, Jello Biafra, Henry Rollins & Bez rolled into one Tour(ettic)-de-force. Middle-aged rock stars showing everybody else how it’s done. Proper.

Oh! One of my music moments of the year was when my truelove bowled me over by playing the soundtrack to ‘Tales Of The Unexpected’ out of the blue at a party last summer. I hadn’t heard it in decades and it completely transported me another place. Somewhere special, beyond mere nostalgia.

 

—Cian Ó Cíobháin

 

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There will be two An Taobh Tuathail Christmas specials on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, 22.00 – 00.00. Cian Ó Cíobháin is also now taking bookings as a specialist wedding DJ at cianociobhain.com

Web: http://www.rte.ie/rnag/an-taobh-tuathail

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnTaobhTuathail
DJ bookings: http://cianociobhain.com/

 


 

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Seán Mac Erlaine (Dublin, Ireland)

The Dublin-based woodwind composer (saxophonist and clarinetist) and music producer Seán Mac Erlaine is one of Ireland’s best-loved musicians and composers. Mac Erlaine is also a member of the Irish/Swedish four-piece This Is How We Fly and has collaborated with numerous musicians in the past in both live and studio settings (The Gloaming, Bill Frisell, Lisa Hannigan, The Smith Quartet, Iarla O’Lionaird). This Is How We Fly had an extensive European and Irish tour this year promoting their remarkable debut self-titeld album (having been released at the end of 2013 via Playing With Music) while Mac Erlaine also released his latest solo album ‘A slender song’ via Dublin-based label Ergodos. Earlier in the year, Mac Erlaine contributed to the Ergodos-released ‘Songs’ album which featured numerous re-interpretations of songs by members of the Ergodos roster of musicians. In September, Mac Erlaine performed at Dublin’s annual Bottlenote Festival (which Mac Erlaine co-runs) for a site-specific “The Walls Have Ears” series of live improvisations. 

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Two thousand and fourteen began in an urban idyll: Prenzlauer Berg. Waiting on fingers to defrost to record a range of songs from John Dowland to Richard Thompson. That record, released a few months later, turned out to be a beautiful thing – listen to Michelle O’Rourke sing! Germany has a lot of saxophone players and a lot of dead saxophone players – I bought a sleeping beauty from a dusty shop – a Martin alto saxophone from 1968.

Nobody saw it coming but in February I made my dancing debut in Willfredd Theatre’s CARE, this was a great eye-opening process working with super people looking into the work of hospice workers.

I was very lucky to find myself lost in Pauline Oliveros’ near infinite reverb chambers in the company of fine musicians broadcasting live to the nation on my favourite medium, radio. More radio followed later in the year working with director Dylan Tighe on a new sound piece celebrating one of our favourite poets, the late Michael Hartnett. We poured many hours into this work and in every moment (almost) there was a richness that can only come when your two singers are the incomparable Nell Ní Chróinín and Iarla O’Lionaird.

Spending time with the three other members of This is How we Fly has been such a rewarding and important aspect over the last few years. In 2014 we got to play in France, Sweden and all over Ireland (Baltimore Fiddle Fair does seem in fact to be the best festival here!).

Other high points included: sharing the stage and shaking the soft, soft hand of maestro Bill Frisell… The honour of playing solo to many rooms of silent listeners over the year… Playing Bowie’s back catalogue in NCH with such a killer band… Walking around Cork City in the very early morning… Walking around the Lower East Side in the almost late night… Swimming through a lake in Northern Sweden at midnight watching the paling sky… Cycling thousands of kilometers through the mountains of Wicklow, the flatlands of Kildare and the streets of Dublin… Cycling a 180km round-trip to play a gig in a sauna…

I loved seeing Ger Wolfe sing in Dublin – gotta be one of the most honest songwriters out there these days. Steve McQueen’s ‘12 Years A Slave’ didn’t hit me quite in the same way his first two features did but this was a fine piece of work. Irish film-maker Pat Collins produced another beautiful work with ‘Living in a Coded Land’ and Lenny Abrahamson’s ‘Frank’ was superb. Contemporary fiction isn’t a strong point for me but I was astounded by the beauty of Tarjei Vesaas’ ‘The Ice Palace’, a Norwegian novel from 1963. Gabriel Rosenstock’s monumental collected poems ‘The Flea Market in Valparaíso’ seems to have slipped under the radar but that can happen easily. Richard Mosse’s work ‘The Enclave’ got a lot of lookers, it blew many of us away. Israeli choreographer Danielle Agami had me up out of my seat whooping after her dance piece as did Irish actor Shane O’Reilly’s piece ‘Follow’ in The Abbey Theatre. A great time for Irish music: The Gloaming album made many revolutions on my CD player (I hope they press it on vinyl!), seems to have classic album written all over it. Deaf Joe’s ‘From The Heights Of A Dream’ is refreshingly really going for something and presented so beautifully – strongly recommended. Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Dan Trueman’s fiddle duo record ‘Laghdú’ (also presented as a highly covetable good) is a tender thing of beauty.

 

Seán Mac Erlaine

 

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‘A Slender Song’ is available now on Ergodos.

http://www.seanmacerlaine.com/
https://ergodos.ie/

 


 

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Kat Epple, Emerald Web (Los Angeles, USA)

Kat Epple has released 30 music albums internationally, composes music for film scores and television soundtracks, and performs live original music featuring synthesizers and flutes with her various ensembles, including the legendary “Space Music” band Emerald Web (comprising Epple and her late husband Bob Stohl), whose hugely influential music continues to impact music audiences worldwide through many recent re-issues. ‘The Stargate Tapes’ album was re-issued in November 2013 via Finders Keepers, and consists of music originally recorded from 1978-1989; earlier this year, Emerald Web’s ‘Whispered Visions’ has also been re-issued by Finders Keepers, while ‘Catspaw’, Emerald Web’s seminal recording (first issued by Larry Fast’s Audion label) will be re-issued by Anodize in January 2015.

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Highlights of my year 2014 include: a concert for dolphins, ancient dead Indians, growling dinosaurs, and ‘Whispered Visions’. These events transpired as I concert toured, recorded new albums, did session work, archived old reel-to-reel masters, and enjoyed some amazing adventures!

“Legends of the Giant Dinosaurs” is a film for which I composed music, sound effects and Foley, for The Hong Kong Science Museum. The high-tech digital animation was projected onto a sixty-foot-wide HD screen with my music and sound effects in surround sound. I enjoyed creating the music, but especially making the sounds of the dinosaurs as they tromp, fight, and perish as a meteor strikes the earth. CRUNCH…….GROWL……..RUMBLE…….SCREAM………EPIC CRASH!

Playing native flute at sunset, on the top of a burial mound built by the extinct Calusa Indian tribe, may have been one of my concert highlights of the year. I felt as though their spirits were surrounding me, and softly singing. Now THAT is surround sound!

My favorite jam session happened one night as I was playing flute for a star-gazer cruise on a beautiful ship on the Gulf of Mexico. A pod of dolphins arrived, then surrounded the ship as they lifted their ears above the waterline, apparently to listen. They all joined in as they clicked, splashed, and squeaked along with the sound of my flute.

There has been a resurgence of interest in the music of my vintage synthesizer and woodwind band, Emerald Web. In fact, this year, our second album, “Whispered Visions” was released on vinyl LP, thirty-four years after its original issue. The master tapes had to be baked and archived after sitting on the shelf for decades. It was very moving to hear the music again after all those years, as it transported me back to the moment it was created so long ago. Music has the power to do that, especially when it is your own music!

I recorded acoustic tracks for a new album with World Percussionist, Nathan Dyke. I played World Flutes in the session, and am now in the process of overdubbing synthesizer tracks to the album. Yep……Thirty four years later, I am still pissing off the purists who don’t like it when I mix ancient primitive instruments and technology. Yay!

My session work on flute, EWI, and synthesizers for albums by a variety of musicians include: New Age pioneer Steven Halpern, enchanting folk musician Mariee Sioux, electronic guitarist Barry Cleveland, and legendary heavy metal guitarist Devin Townsend.

I did manage to get out of the studio once in a while to go camping, running on the beach, and to attend concerts, including King Crimson, the “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass” festival in San Francisco, and a variety of amazing house concerts.

I am grateful for the wonderful experiences that 2014 brought, and look forward to 2015 being even better!

 

—Kat Epple

 

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‘The Stargate Tapes’ and ‘Whispered Visions’ by Emerald Web are available now via Finders Keepers Records. ‘Catspaw’ by Emerald Web is to be re-issued on 20 January 2015 via Anodize (pre-order HERE).

http://www.katepple.com
https://www.facebook.com/KatEppleMusic

 


 

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Roll The Dice (Stockholm, Sweden)

Roll The Dice comprise the Stockholm duo of Malcolm Pardon and Peder Mannerfelt, who released their hugely anticipated third LP this year, ‘Until Silence’, via the renowned UK-based independent The Leaf Label. ‘Until Silence’ sees a brave and intriguing shift in the duo’s sound (most noticeably with the addition of a 26-piece string section ensemble during the recording sessions with an even greater focus this time around on an intensity of emotion across an ever-expanding sound palette) while the conceptual framework of the album draws inspiration from World War One (the album’s title is inspired by a book on the period). To date, Roll The Dice have released a trilogy of monumental albums, beginning with their self-titled debut LP (Digitalis, 2010);‘In Dust’ (Leaf, 2011); ‘Until Silence’ (Leaf, 2014), confirming the Swedish electronic group as one of independent music’s most intriguing and compelling contemporary artists.

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Tracks of 2014 by Roll The Dice:

Malcolm:
Future – ‘Look Ahead’
The groove and the sample and the 123 /15 hi hat pattern. Lovely.

Aphex Twin – ‘Produk 29’
Surprisingly likable. As I haven’t been a big fan in the past, I had no “issues” with him putting out a new album whatsoever.

Vessel – ‘Red Sex’
Simple and to the point monotony as it should be.

Nils Frahm – ‘Says’
A bit cheesy in the best possible way. Reminds me about us…

Katy Perry – ‘Roar’
I have been force-fed this track every morning all spring by my 10 year-old daughter. A bit like a musical stockholm syndrome…I have fallen in love with my tormentor.

Peder:
Gazelle Twin – ‘Anti Body’
Just found out about this record, totally feeling the attitude and impact of it. Really got a sound of it’s own which is pretty rare these days.

Klara Lewis – ‘Msuic II’
Klara is probably the artist that has had the biggest impact on me this year. It’s a real privilege to be able to work with such a unique and gifted talent.

DB 1 – ‘Nautil 1/3 B1’
The whole Nautil series on Hidden Hawaii is so amazing but if I have to pick a favorite from the 3 records this has to be it. Perfectly balanced and executed.

Surgeon – ‘Fixed Action Pattern’
The best techno 12″ this year from the best label, Token.

QT – ‘Hey Qt’
The PC music camp is the most punk of 2014. The fact that both my girlfriend and my 3 year-old daughter told me that it was the worst thing they ever heard me play at home makes me like it even more.

2014 Highlights Roll The Dice:

Putting out ‘Until Silence’ of course but also the fact that it turned out exactly the way we wanted.

Semibreve festival in Braga, Portugal: it was a delight to get to play in this beautiful old theatre where they have hosted the festival off the beaten track for several years. The organisers and everything surrounding this small and heartfelt festival was a delight.

 

Highs 2014: 

Malcolm:
My 10 week old Staffordshire puppy, Billie.

Peder:
Being able to do what I do for another year, to be able to make music and do whatever I want is something I am truly grateful for.

Lows 2014:

Malcolm:
The Swedish parliamentary situation which is going from bad to worse rapidly.
We all hope that the re-election in march will clear things up a bit, but as is now its just a farce, with very sinister undertones.

Peder:
See Mal’s answer. One love, fuck fascism.

 

—Roll The Dice

 

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‘Until Silence’ is available now on The Leaf Label. 

https://www.facebook.com/rollthedicesthlm
http://www.theleaflabel.com/

 


 

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Klara Lewis (Stockholm, Sweden)

Earlier this year marked the eagerly awaited debut full-length release from Swedish electronic artist, Klara Lewis, on the prestigious Editions Mego label. ‘Ett’ was recorded, sampled, edited, manipulated, mixed, produced and arranged by Lewis. A collection of four new works — contained on the sublime ‘Msuic’ EP — would later see the light of day on the Swedish imprint, Peder Mannerfelt Produktion (released on 12″ vinyl last November). ‘Msuic’ sees Lewis further expand the sonic envelope with her signature explorations of field recordings, electronics, rhythm, sound and atmosphere; confirming the Swedish artist as one of electronic music (and independent music at large)’s most exciting new talents.

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My top albums:

1. ‘Under The Skin’ OST, Mica Levi
2. ‘Because I’m Worth It’, Copeland
3. ‘All Over + All Under’, Edvard Graham Lewis
4. ‘The Epic Of Everest’, Simon Fisher Turner
5. ‘The Aquaplano Sessions’ (re-release), Donato Dozzy & Nuel

 

—Klara Lewis

 

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‘Ett’ is available now on Editions Mego. ‘Msuic’ (12″ & Digital) is available now on Peder Mannerfelt produktion. 

http://klaralewis.bandcamp.com
http://editionsmego.com

 


 

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Seti The First (Dublin, Ireland)

Seti The First is the Ireland-based cello-led group comprising the songwriting duo of Kevin Murphy (cello) and Thomas Haugh (drums, marxophone, percussion). ‘Melting Cavalry’ was the band’s debut album, released in 2012 to widespread critical acclaim. The band’s distinctive sound draws inspiration from a wide number of diverse sources (Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt, John Tavener, Henryk Gorecki, The Haxan Cloak). 2015 will see the highly anticipated follow-up to their mesmerizing debut, ‘Melting Cavalry’, entitled ‘The Wolves of Summerland’.

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Kevin: It’s probably a question of tunnel vision but for me 2014 was all about finishing our second album which is called ‘The Wolves of Summerland’. We toiled relentlessly and finally put it to bed in December. It marks a bit of a departure from our first album ‘Melting Cavalry’ and therefore was a bit of a nerve-wracking adventure, however, we’re thrilled with the results. Cellos still provide the bedrock but there is much more frantic Marxophone and Zither leading the way; overall there is a more aggressive intend this time out. We had strong themes of unrest and revolution in mind––the dynamics of denial & delusion and the blindness to rising tides of societal upheaval among those in power; and of course, the recurrence of these things time and time again. So we focused on some extraordinary historical events, the rise and demise of entire empires and the regimes that followed, huge moments of passion, bloodshed, tragedy and melancholia. This became the canvas unto which we offered our wandering brush. In November we collaborated with visual artist Brian Kelly at the Cork Film Festival which took these ideas into the live arena, something we’ll hopefully further explore going forward.

Other than that, highlights of the year include playing on Adrian Crowley’s brilliant album ‘Some Blue Morning’. Myself and Seti’s live cellist Mary Barnecutt also played at Adrian’s launch in The Workman’s Club in Dublin which was a special night.

Thomas: Working on the second Seti album likewise dominated my year, rhythm made an unexpected return to my musical outpouring. As we got into the spirit of the music–with all of these big themes and ideas, it just became necessary to have that kind of foundation. It’s been a long time since I got behind the drums to really drive the bus, I just let it happen and it more or less flowed. Some new discoveries for me here too–the Persian Daf (drum), an incredibly versatile instrument. It’s a powerful and sacred centre piece in lots of Sufi music of which I’m very fond. Some Hurdy Gurdy made it on there too and I’ve loved that instrument since my teenage years when I first heard a Nigel Eaton album.

As for the music of others in 2014, Perfume Genius and Wildbirds & Peacedrums come to mind, both of which also took rhythm to new levels on their latest releases. Mica Levi’s incredible soundtrack for ‘Under The Skin’ thrilled me, also Grouper’s ‘Ruins’ and Arca’s ‘Xen’. Hildur Gudnadóttir’s ‘Saman’ took some time to settle with me but it was worth the effort. I also took some time to listen to the works of Ligeti–the music of whom most of us are probably familiar with through it’s prolific usage in films, music that is both terrifying and thrilling in equal measure. Not a bad aul year.

 

—Seti The First

 

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‘Melting Cavalry’ is available now; its much-anticipated follow-up, ‘The Wolves of Summerland’, is due for release in 2015.

http://setithefirst.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/SetiTheFirst

 


 

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Adrian Crowley (Dublin, Ireland)

2014 marked the special return of Irish songwriter Adrian Crowley with his hugely anticipated (and career-high) seventh studio album, ‘Some Blue Morning’, via Glasgow-based independent label Chemikal Underground. ‘Some Blue Morning’ is the follow-up to Crowley’s masterful 2012 Choice Music Prize nominated ‘I See Three Birds Flying’, and features contributions from Seti The First’s Kevin Murphy on cello; Dublin-based songwriter Katie Kim on vocals and members of London string ensemble Geese, amongst many more.

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When I cast my mind back to the beginning of 2014 I am brought back to the familiar recording den with my old friend Stephen. I remember a few crisp mornings where the sun was shining in its wintry way. I’d walk from the north of the city all the way to the south reaches, along the grand canal, the path on the bank with the weeping willows near Portobello and on and on towards Dolphin’s Barn… thinking all the while about the day’s recording that lay before me and wondering how it would all sound by the evening when I’d walk back along the same way along the canal banks to Portobello…and turning then towards Kelly’s corner, up Camden Street and onto Wexford Street, South Great George’s Street… continuing through the city and finally on to the home stretch of North Strand. Those walks were times I would relish every day with a spring in my step for the record that was beginning to take shape. That daily ten-mile leg-stretch became a part of the process of making the record. Yes, I’m pretty sure there is no joy quite like the joy of recording new songs and building an album from the those first glimmers of ideas. And then I finished the record that, later in the year, I would call ‘Some Blue Morning’. 
I suppose much of early 2014 was taken up with making ‘Some Blue Morning’. It is all-consuming and, really, I found little time for anything else. I remember thinking that until I had something complete I would hide myself away. Even after the recording there was that matter of coming up with suitable artwork for the album. Which brings me to Steve Gullick.
2014 was the year I first met the fine gent that is Steve. We had ‘spoken’ over the years and talked about maybe making some pictures and indeed had planned to meet once or twice, usually when I was in London for a gig. But things happened and we never seemed to manage to get to the same spot at the same time. Not until Easter, ‘14, that is.I remember waiting in a café down the street from Highbury and Islington tube station across from Union Chapel. I sat in the window seat with a huge coffee staring out at the brick portico of the chapel. Then the door of the café swung open and Steve was greeting me in person for the first time. He was carrying three cameras. We sat there chatting for some time. About the world, about making records, about people, about life and mutual friends. About Jason Molina who had tragically passed away the year before. Something that has deeply effected me and so many others. Then Steve said, “okay, let’s get started” and we left the café and walked across the busy street and approached the heavy locked doors of Union Chapel. A quick phone call to Les who was working in the chapel that day (installing a new lighting rig) and we were inside wandering about corridors and back stairwells. Steve must have taken more than 800 photos and by the end of the afternoon we were sure that he had captured something that would be the cover art for ‘Some Blue Morning’.
Oh, 2014 was the year I discovered I could play clarinet. There is a charity shop near where I live. One day I ducked in for a quick look round. And there at the back of the shop in a glass cabinet was an opened black box with a dissembled clarinet inside. I knew it had to be mine and a few minutes later I was at home checking on YouTube how to put a clarinet together. A few minutes after that I was getting some sounds. I suppose all those years of playing saxophone in my bedroom had some bearing. I told Thomas and Kevin of Seti The First about this “haunted clarinet” I had found. Thomas called me a few weeks later and asked me to have a go at recording some parts for the new Seti record.
So the next thing you know I’m on a 123 bus to Thomas’ house with the charity store black box under my arm. I’ve been listening to the finished record and I have to say that I am proud to have played a small part in it. I’m so happy that my clarinet notes didn’t end up on the cutting room floor.
I’m trying to remember what films I went to see in the cinema. I spent a week in London by myself in the summer in a little house in Golders Green by Hampstead Heath. A friend of mine kindly let me stay there and I thought it would be a nice way to work on some writing. I did get some writing done but I also did a lot of walking around. One day I went down to Soho and headed for the Curzon Cinema. That’s where I saw ‘Boyhood’ by Richard Linklater. What an incredible film. I didn’t feel the three hours pass. I loved ‘The Double’ by Richard Ayoade which I saw at the IFI in Dublin, the Nick Cave documentary ‘20,000 Days on Earth’ at The Lighthouse Cinema in Dublin. ‘Under The Skin’ was creepy and great.

Oh, and speaking of London, I’m brought back to a late night taxi ride with my sister. It was late September. We had hopped in a cab in Hammersmith and didn’t speak once all the way to Woolwich Arsenal where our younger sister lives. Why didn’t we speak? Well, we both suffer from car sickness and we had just been on a pilgrimage, you see, and were still trying to process the three hours or so that had just passed. I’m talking about Kate Bush. Kate Bush at Eventim Apollo. The opening bars of ‘Running Up That Hill’. Now there was a moment.

But that was the night there was a power outage on stage before the show was due to start. We, the audience, sat waiting for around 50 minutes. At one point when the house lights went up, we all thought the show had been cancelled but a few minutes later Kate is onstage telling us matter-of-factly and down-to-earthedly that “it had been sorted”.

I managed to see a lot of great concerts. Bill Callahan at the Olympia, Dublin in February. Cat Power in July, also at the Olympia. Eels at Muziekgebouw, Eindhoven for Naked Song festival. I was playing at the festival and I managed to duck in behind the sound desk an watched the whole concert (at the end of the concert Mark jumped off the stage and went around the entire auditorium giving hugs to everyone in his path before ending up back on the stage to play an encore).

My Brightest Diamond at The Workmans Club. Shara Worden’s voice is incredible and it was so great to finally see her live. Violinist Cora Venus Lunny played an astonishing improvised set at her album launch in The Grand Social in Dublin. The National at The Iveagh Gardens in Dublin. Speaking of the Iveagh Gardens, I got to see some great comedy there… namely Eddie Pepitone.

Albums released in 2014… I really loved ‘Brothers and Sisters of The Eternal Sun’ by Damien Jurado and wonderful albums by Cora Venus Lunny, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Kate Ellis, Tindersticks, Einsturzende Neubaten, Marissa Nadler… I’m sure I’m missing others and I’ll probably kick myself later.

Well, my own album came out towards the end of the year…early November. I had a kind of belated album launch at The Workmans Club on December 12th. I am pretty confident that was the favourite gig of mine in 2014. I had been rehearsing with the twin cellos of Kevin Murphy and Mary Barnecutt, and also with Katie Kim who sang on more than half of ‘Some Blue Morning’. It felt so good having Katie, Mary and Kevin on stage with me not to mention my good friend Matthew Nolan who plays guitar on ‘The Wild Boar’ when we perform it live (just saying “plays guitar” feels like a gross understatement, though, considering the vast soundscapes he conjures).

Other favorite live moments from the point of view of the stage were the Daylight Music event at Union Chapel with Katie Kim (it just so happens it fell on the Summer solstice. I remember waking up that morning at 4am to the near deafening sound of birdsong from Hampstead Heath. It was quite something). Explore The North Festival in Leeuwarden, Netherlands was special too. That was in a church also, a Lutheran church with a lot of history. Oh, singing some David Bowie songs in The National Concert Hall in July was much fun.

And there was a special show that I was invited to be a part of during the East Cork Early Music festival. Justin Grounds and Ilsa de Ziah who play baroque violin and baroque cello respectively rearranged an hour-long set of my songs which we performed together at L’Atitude for a late night show. It was the first time I sang my songs on stage without playing an instrument. It felt like a new discovery. What incredible musicians. Also sharing the stage with David Thomas Broughton, Roddy Doyle, Mark Andrew Hamilton of Woodpigeon at the Golden Factories event for Young Hearts Run Free at St. Michians Church was quite special.

In theatre… I saw the final show of a seven-day run of ‘A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing’ performed by Aoife Duffin. She was incredible. It was intense and staggeringly impressive. I wondered how long it must have taken her to unwind after giving so much.

This Is The Kit played in the engineering library of The National concert Hall as a part of the Brassland weekend there in December. Well, that was a beautiful show but equally sweet was having them sing happy birthday to my five-year old daughter in the hallway of my house at 7:30am before they rushed out the door to catch the ferry to Holyhead. I hope they didn’t miss it.

 

—Adrian Crowley

 

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‘Some Blue Morning’ is available now on Chemikal Underground.

https://www.facebook.com/adrian.crowley
http://www.chemikal.co.uk/

 


 

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David Westlake (London, UK)

The Servants formed in 1985 in Hayes, Middlesex, England, by singer and songwriter David Westlake (Luke Haines would later join The Servants in ‘87). Their unique blend of poignant lyrics, intricate arrangements, and utterly compelling indie-pop sounds was a world away from the mundane and noisy lo-fi scene heralded by the NME’s C-86 compilation the band would later appear on. ‘Small Time’/‘Hey Hey We’re The Manqués’ re-issued double album is available now on 2CD via Cherry Red and on double LP via Captured Tracks. David Westlake’s ‘Play Dusty With Me’ will be re-issued next year by U.S. independent label Captured Tracks.

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2014? Deficit, devolution, free movement, Remembrance, Crimea, Ebola, ISIS, One Direction, Rolf Harris. But you know all this already. My 2014 – I got married, I played the NME C86 show, and first time since 1991 I played music with Luke Haines.

I am 49, so the best 2014 music release is unsurprisingly a reissue. It’s the Kevin Ayers Original Album Series five-disc set. The award for best latter-day recording (that I’ve heard) goes to Morrissey, from whom the very existence of new work is always an event. Cherry Red Records reissued C86 in 2014. I am on the compilation, but I always hated that song. Captured Tracks Records will issue my album ‘Play Dusty For Me’ in April 2015. Highly recommended.

Best book of 2014 has to be ‘Coming Up Trumps’ by Jean Trumpington. Multitudes of dull and deluded people trot out self-satisfied memoirs nowadays. Many can claim worth only as purgative toilet-seat reads. ‘Coming Up Trumps’ earns its right to exist – a remarkable life winningly told. Aurum’s paperback selection of John Betjeman newspaper pieces, ‘Lovely Bits of Old England’, is a treat.

Best film – ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’. Impeccable in every respect. Ralph Fiennes delivers a tour-de-force performance. Tenacious and good as Leslie Howard’s Scarlet Pimpernel. Or Anthony Valentine as Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman. There’s one for the teenagers. Someone would have to have a pretentious heart of stone not to love ‘Paddington’, too.

Memorably best new TV – Andrew Graham-Dixon’s BBC documentaries on Paul Nash and William Sickert, with the centennial focus on World War One. Most momentous TV – a repeat in March 2014 of a 1979 episode of ‘Top of the Pops’. Momentous because my wife was on-screen in the audience, then aged 14. Who could have known that thirty-five years later we would be thanking our lucky stars that the presenter she found herself standing next to that week was blameless Mike Read?

 

—David Westlake

 

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‘Play Dusty For Me’ by David Westlake will be re-issued by Captured Tracks (LP & CD) on 18 April 2015. ‘Small Time’/‘Hey Hey We’re The Manqués’ by The Servants is available now on Cherry Red Records (2CD) and on Captured Tracks (2LP).

http://www.lostsheep.com/davidwestlake
http://www.cherryred.co.uk/
http://www.capturedtracks.com/

 


 

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K. Leimer (Seattle, USA)

For the third installment in Brooklyn-based RVNG Intl.’s archival series, the tape is wound back to 1970s Seattle, home place of ambient music pioneer K. Leimer. ‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975 – 1983)’ unearths unreleased portions of Leimer’s vast archives and highlights the work of a self-taught visionary whose use of generative compositions ferried his music to infinite resonance. Kerry Leimer was born in Winnipeg, Canada. He was raised in Chicago before his family permanently settled in Seattle in 1967. This year’s ‘A Period of Review’ heralded one of 2014’s most prized re-issues. K. Leimer’s forthcoming full-length player, ‘The Grey Catalog’ will be released on Palace Of Lights in January 2015. 

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It’s odd that highly obscure music, written and recorded more than 34 years ago, would matter in any way at all today. So despite performing again and completing and releasing a few albums on our little label, much of the past year was spent talking and writing about the germinal work that was assembled as ‘A Period of Review’. Which made 2014 seem more like 1979 to me. But between bouts of studio time and grappling with miles of tape there was some remarkable listening: Gudnadóttir’s ‘Saman’; the Jakob Ullmann ‘Fremde Zeit’ / ‘Addendum’ box; Taylor Deupree’s ‘Faint’; David Sylvian’s ‘There’s a light that enters…’; Nils Frahm’s ‘Screws’; and A Wing Victory for the Sullen’s ‘Atomos’. impossibly rich diversity and innovation. And now wrapping up the year with ‘Different Every Time’, a book that’s unevenly written but compelling all the same. And the recording — especially important to me because it includes Wyatt performing one of the ‘Experiences’ by John Cage from a record, also thirty+ years old, originally issued on the Obscure label. Now if i could just find the piano pieces from that same document! The free hours that remained were given over to compiling another reissue, based on ‘The Neo-Realist’ (at Risk). A compilation for my fake rock band Savant which will be released in the first half of 2015. Titled ‘Artificial Dance’, it seems set to guarantee that my experience of 2015 will seem more like 1982. But beyond the solace and joy of such sustained musical innovation and accomplishment, the overriding experience of 2014 remains the naked violence and injustice that my country visits upon so many people. Our own citizens routinely and unjustifiably killed by police; The published and redacted details of the Bush administration’s torture program; pornographic levels of wealth set beside unprecedented income inequality; blanket denials of our shared environmental crisis. Just who is meant to be left solvent and able to purchase the refrigerator magnets and iCrap that drives most of the culture?

 

—K. 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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Matthew Collings (Edinburgh, UK)

Matthew Collings is a Scotland-based composer. In addition to his solo recording and live output, he collaborates regularly with artists from disparate backgrounds, including musicians Dag Rosenqvist from Jasper TX and Denovali label-mate Talvihorros, dancers and filmmakers. 2014 marked the release of Collings’ new sophomore full-length, ‘Silence Is A Rhythm Too’ on the prestigious German-based independent label, Denovali Records.

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So, 2014.

Has been another year of slow growth. I spent much of the year wrestling with the idea of Edward Snowden. Realising that my work is much better off with other people, and made with other people…and so am I.

It saw various births and deaths of beautiful people who I will miss and look forward to getting to know. I wonder what role I will play in people’s lives.

This year saw a furry of releases – a beautiful vinyl/photobook with Elin Svennberg, the dark yet uplifting pop of Graveyard Tapes, and a new record in ‘Silence is a Rhythm Too’ and a re-release of ‘Splintered Instruments’ on Denovali. 2015 will expect the Snowden monster to rear it’s head, as well as a record with Dag Rosenqvist which I’m finishing right now.

I’ve been incredibly lucky this year to meet so many amazing, inspiring people. The thought of them keeps me positive when I start to complain about my place and position in the world, which I really have no ground to do.

I’m a very very lucky person.

Some music to listen to this year: These New Puritans, Ben Frost, Talvihorros, Numbers are Futile.

Here’s to 2015 ; chasing sound, not chasing my tail.

 

—Matthew Collings

 

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‘Silence Is A Rhythm Too’ is available now on Denovali.

http://mcollingsmusic.com/
http://www.denovali.com/

 


 

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Sophie Hutchings (Sydney, Australia)

‘White Light’ is the latest collection of mesmerising piano music from Sydney-based composer and pianist Sophie Hutchings. Beginning with 2010’s debut ‘Becalmed’, the gifted composer has crafted her unique blend of neo-classical, piano-based compositions, which would later be followed-up with the spellbinding ‘Night Sky’ LP in 2012. Both records are available now on the Australian independent label, Preservation. Hutchings is currently working on her third studio album – and follow-up to ‘Night Sky’ – which will be released in 2015.

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Does anyone get nostalgic as midnight creeps towards the closing of a year, the beginning of another…… Reminiscent. Looking back over years, contemplating life…….

As a child I often created a sacred moment as the year wound down. Preparing for the approaching strike of midnight, setting up the record player with one of mum or dad’s records. I took life very seriously! Always allowing a moment over midnight to ponder over life… And so we should…… Casting our minds back and then casting it ahead in view of a new beginning.

I often start the year with the goal of uncomplicating my life. Uncluttering my brain… Simplfying and yet as weeks and months go by, slowly or quickly enough, the complicated starts to work its way back in. Whether it be the things in your life or the things you fill your mind with…

There was a lot of creative purging this year associated with writing the new album.. The highs and lows that come with that and life in general. So as I venture down the beautiful south coast of Australia this week, and make my way through the diverse landscapes of Myanmar in January, I want to remind myself of a basic fact. The simple things in life can offer so much contentment…

A boundless vast ocean, lying under a star lit sky, or gazing into an open fire……..Things like these..
I’m going to press the reset button and see how it goes for me this year ….

 

Inspiring Highlights of 2014:

Reads and Watch:
First read of 2014 – Donna Tarts ‘The Goldfinch’ one of the best contemporary authors to date. Her compelling narratives lead to not being able to put the book down!..

‘Tracks – The documented Solo Journey of Robyn Davidson’ (also known as ‘The Camel Lady’) through the Australian West Desert. The cinematography and soundtrack by Garth Stevenson created for the actual film was also a highlight.

Reading Solzhenitsyn’s contemplative and symbolic story ‘The First Circle’ depicting the lives of a secret research development made up of Gulag inmates set in Moscow. His sayings and philosophy on life pack some punch… Indeed an author to respect.

I watch so many movies so this is a hard one, but first one that comes to mind is Lao film ‘The Rocket’. It wasn’t released this year but was a standout for me. After living in Laos for sometime, Kim Mordaunt (director) was inspired to write the film whilst working on the documentary ‘Bomb Harvest’, and discovering Laos was the most bombed country on the planet, per capita. Two young children play the main characters in the movie, both whom had never actually acted before. It was a really inspiring film and gives insight to a country that has suffered at the hands of war.

I wanted to watch Béla Tarr’s 8 hour epic film ‘Satantango’ this year and it’s on my film hit list for 2015! There’s some beautiful shots HERE from it set to one of my all favourite composers Arvo Pärt.

Music:
I’ve been embracing a few new musical eras and genres. 60’s Vietnamese rock, Gamelan and also Turkish singer songwriter Fikret Kızılok!…
Also, ‘Open’ by The Necks was on high rotation.
Cleaning the house to this year’s Liars release ‘Mess’.
Touring with Ólafur Arnalds…
Creatively purging and mapping out the journey for the new album which will continue into the new year…….

All the best to everyone’s start to 2015.

 

—Sophie Hutchings

 

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‘White Light’ is available now as a free download via Bandcamp HERE. ‘Becalmed’ and ‘Night Sky’ are out now on the Preservation label.

http://www.sophiehutchings.com/
http://www.preservation.com.au/

 


 

To read Part 1 of Don’t Look Back, click HERE.

To read our Albums & Re-issues of 2014, click HERE.

With very special thanks to all the wonderful contributors for their contributions.
Wishing all our readers a very happy new year and best wishes for 2015.

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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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Albums & Reissues Of The Year: 2014

with 14 comments

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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Step Right Up: Ensemble Economique

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Interview with Brian Pyle.

“Like anyone, you discover you have a knack for something, be it combining colours/images as a visual artist or words as a writer and for me sounds. Seemingly a musician is what I was meant to be, it just comes naturally.”

—Brian Pyle

Words: Mark Carry

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Earlier this year marked the release of Ensemble Economique’s latest sonic voyage, ‘Melt Into Nothing’ on the prestigious Berlin-based Denovali imprint. The prolific Humboldt County musician (Ensemble Economique is the solo project of Brian Pyle, formerly of Starving Weirdos) has quickly amassed a colossal body of work that encompasses a seamless array of scintillating sounds and styles, from drone, ambient to shoegaze and electronic music. After releasing the shape-shifting ‘At The Foot Of Nameless Roads’ in 2008 (released on Digitalis Recordings), a string of self-released CD-R’s and tour CDs followed. Last year, several Ensemble Economique records were seen the light of day; the Denovali-released ethereal gems of ‘Light That Comes, Light That Goes’ and ‘Interval Signals’, and ‘The Fever Logic’ LP (released on Not Not Fun). The works of Pyle continues to evolve and explore new terrain where the gifted multi-instrumentalist refines his craft on each of his utterly transcendent works.

Melt Into Nothing’ reveals a more stripped-back sonic palette which features contributions from Toronto artist DenMother and Parisian artist Sophia Hamadi, also of dark-wave Opale. Album opener ‘Your Lips Against Mine’ is a shimmering odyssey into beautiful new horizons, recalling the timeless sound of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine. Gentle wave of celestial harmonies and lazer-guided guitar melodies ebb and flow, shifting in and out of focus, creating a truly captivating sound in the process. Organ and synths are the added instrumentation on the sublime instrumental cut, ‘Make-Out In The GDR’ that contains a seductive groove and layers of fuzz-drenched guitars and warm percussion. Field recordings and tape manipulation (unidentifiable voices flicker into the mix at various intervals) are masterfully inter-woven in the anthemic wall of sound.

The tempo is slowed on the delicately beautiful ‘Hey Baby’, a gorgeous ballad that blooms into vivid colours and textures with each and every fragile guitar note and luminous beat. The epic ‘Fade For Miles’ is the longest cut on ‘Melt Into Nothing’ (close to ten minutes in duration) that forms the record’s centrepiece. Pyle’s beguiling vocals melts effortlessly into the mix of drums, guitars and synths that forms a haven of shimmering soundscapes. As ever, the masterful song-craft of Ensemble Economique’s Brian Pyle pushes the sonic envelope as he expands new horizons in sound.

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‘Melt Into Nothing’ is out now on Denovali.

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

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Interview with Brian Pyle.

There are some wonderful guest contributions on ‘Melt Into Nothing’, most notably on the stunning album opener, ‘Your Lips Against Mine’ which features the talents of Toronto artist DenMother and Parisian artist Sophia Hamadi. I would love to gain an insight into this particular collaboration please? The beautiful ethereal vocals melt into the mix of gorgeous guitar tones that creates in turn, something very special (MBV, Slowdive et al).

Brian Pyle: Thank you! This collaboration happened rather seamlessly. I had been working on music with Sophia for a couple of years, notably with the pre-Opale project, Playground. Our sensibilities are very close, we both very much love this emotive/romantic dynamic, it was truly a pleasure to collaborate with her on this track. And once the music was finished, I sent it to Denmother with just this intuitive feeling that her vocals would be perfect.  We had been in contact and wanted to do something together and ‘Your Lips Against Mine’ just seemed like the perfect track to try something out. Couldn’t be happier with the results, the chemistry.

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It never ceases to amaze me just how prolific you are and I wonder how you manage it? For example, with Ensemble Economique, there have been a plethora of exceptional releases in a relatively short space of time, not excluding your other off-shoot projects. Do these varied projects all feed into the one slipstream, as it were?

BP:  Yeah, I think so. If you were to take a release like ‘Interval Signals’ and match it with the current ‘Melt Into Nothing’ work I think a listener divorced from the knowledge of who was creating these works may not hear the connection. But it is indeed there, just channelled in a slightly different way. As with all working artists I’m in the studio quite a bit, working on various ideas, a bit here, a bit there. So I’ve amassed a fair amount of material. I don’t really set out to “work, work, work”, its measured. And perhaps the way releases come out, it can give the impression that I’m just producing a new record every 4 months or so. But for sure, after many years, I do have a solid methodology and the confidence in my work to produce at a pretty decent rate.

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Can you discuss the instrumentation and recording equipment utilized on ‘Melt Into Nothing’ please? One of my personal favourites is the neon lit instrumental cut of ‘Make-Out In The GDR’ that combines organ, synths, percussion and tape manipulations to magnificent effect. 

BP: Ah, one of my favorites as well, thank you. With that particular track it was built up from the beat, with each element added accordingly, very minimal at first and then carefully built up to deliver the exact emotion I was trying to express. So once the spine of this track was composed it all fell into place rather quickly. The pieces of the puzzle coming together. The actual recording was quite simple. Everything through analogue preamps into a digital interface and then run through more analogue modelled software. As someone who cut his teeth on a million hours of tape recording, this sort of warmth is paramount to the EE sound. But all quite simple, no sequencers, just classic intuitive overdubs and very concise editing.

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A song that feels the centrepiece to the new record (and also the longest cut on the album) is the hypnotic ‘Fade For Miles’. I love the abstract electronic manipulations present here. Is the process of looping various elements live in the studio borne from this particular track?

BP: Yes, you’re right. I never get tired of listening to this track and I’m not one to revisit work once it’s finished so much. I truly had a magical moment with the last 3rd of this song. I did something very radical, reversing the entire dynamic and cross-fading it in. I had the thought to try this and I remember distinctly after trying this experiment, leaning back in my chair, listening, bobbing my head and just thinking, “oh man, I love this”. Magical moment, the power of “out” experimentation. And when you really try something “left-field” in the “pop” context and it works I think the results can be quite striking.

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I would love to gain an insight into the beginnings of your fascination with sound? What triggered this interest and obsession? Were there certain records that proved defining for you, Brian?

BP: Yeah, for sure. ‘The White Album’ comes to mind, especially the distorted guitar solo in ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun’. That was really my first time having this feeling the a sound, its delivery could produce this intense “feeling”. It was so cool, I really couldn’t believe my ears. And then of course as I got older just realizing how much music can affect you emotionally and being aware that I was quite sensitive to this. The power of sound. Like anyone, you discover you have a knack for something, be it combining colours/images as a visual artist or words as a writer and for me sounds. Seemingly a musician is what I was meant to be, it just comes naturally.

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Lastly, I must ask you about the wonderful collaborative work between you and Félicia Atkinson, under the moniker of Naked Island. I feel the combination of Félicia’s cinematic voice and the sublime techno beats works so beautifully. Again, across the two tracks the music evolves gradually and ‘Deep, Transcendent Waves of Golden Light’ is a fitting title. Please discuss the collaborative process between you and Félicia and indeed how these tracks were formed? 

BP: It’s an interesting collaboration. We each did the music independently for each side, myself for ‘Deep, Transcendent Waves of Golden Light’ and Félicia with ‘Play it As It Lays’. Félicia sent me a vocal track and I processed it and layered it in as I saw fit and I sent her a vocal track and she did the same, presto! A bit unorthodox I think but it really worked. I think for our next record we’ll collaborate a bit more on the musical side of things. Very excited about Naked Island and I love working with Félicia, she’s amazing.

 


 

EnsembleEconomique_MeltIntoNothing

‘Melt Into Nothing’ is out now on Denovali.

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

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Written by markcarry

September 2, 2014 at 11:07 am

Fractured Air 20: Contemporary Classical Composers (A Mixtape by Carlos Cipa)

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The Munich, Germany-based pianist and composer Carlos Cipa has released two records to date: the stunning debut solo full-length LP ‘The Monarch And The Viceroy’ (2012, Denovali Records) and ‘Relive’ (2014, Denovali Records), an EP recorded in collaboration with partner Sophia Jani. ‘Relive’ contain the side-length tracks ‘Anouk’s Dream’ and ‘Whatever A Sun Will Always Sing’; both written specially for the pair’s performance at the Denovali Swingfest 2013 in Essen. The resultant compositions were played exactly as in the live situation with no electronic manipulation. Both classical and modern artists provide inspiration for Cipa’s work as a composer: Cipa has cited the great composers such as Mozart, Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky; while the works of modern bands such as The National, Mogwai, Sigur Rós and Nick Cave have also influenced Cipa’s outlook as an artist.

mix_sleeve_carloscipa

“Contemporary Classical Composers”

To listen on Mixcloud:
http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/fractured-air-20-contemporary-classical-composers-a-mixtape-by-carlos-cipa/

“This is a compilation of some of my favourite pieces of 20th century classical composers. It’s always hard to fit classical music into a mixtape, especially to separate pieces/movements out of their context. I tried my best, but most of the pieces are part of a greater work, so I encourage you to listen to the complete opus and enjoy it as a whole.”

—Carlos Cipa

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Tracklisting:

01. Igor Stravinsky – Symphony in 3 Movements, I. Allegro (9:41)
02. Steve Reich – Double Sextet, III. Fast (6:43)
03. Maurice Ravel – String Quartet in F Major, I. Moderato, très doux (7:38)
04. Charles Ives – The Unanswered Question (4:35)
05. Erkki-Sven Tüür – Insula Deserta (9:10)
06. Nico Muhly – Revd Mustard his Installation Prelude (3:35)
07. David Lang – The Little Match Girl Passion, I. Come, Daughter (3:41)
08. Olivier Messiaen – Oraison (7:45)
09. György Ligeti – Nonsense Madrigals, III. The Alphabet (3:33)
10. Krzysztof Penderecki – Chaconne (6:47)
11. Dmitri Shostakovich – String Quartet No. 8, II. Allegro Molto (2:38)
12. George Crumb – Black Angels, I. Departure (5:37)
13. Hans Otte – Das Buch der Klänge, Part X (5:57)
14. Thomas Adès – Arcadiana, op. 12, VI. O Albion (3:07)
15. John Adams – Hallelujah Junction, Part I (7:14)
16. Claude Vivier – Zipangu (14:06)
17. György Kurtag – Stele, op. 33, III. Molto sostenuto (05:55)

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Notes on selection by Carlos Cipa:

01. Igor Stravinsky – Symphony in 3 Movements, I. Allegro (9:41)
He is the master. The sense for rhythm and pulse is just incredible. He was one of the most innovative voices of all time. You can learn so much from Stravinsky, regardless what music you create.

02. Steve Reich – Double Sextet, III. Fast (6:43)
You don’t need to say something about Steve Reich. Definitely one of the most influential composers of the second part of the 20th century. This piece is a rather new one, that won him the Pulitzer prize. The whole piece is amazing!

03. Maurice Ravel – String Quartet in F Major, I. Moderato, très doux (7:38)
One of the most beautiful pieces ever written. I deeply love string quartet as instrumentation, it will never sound antique, always timeless. And Ravel’s String Quartet is one of the best.

04. Charles Ives – The Unanswered Question (4:35)
A classic piece. But still, Ives is an underrated composer; what he thought of and did in his music was always much more experimental and much more modern than a lot of his contemporaries. This piece is from 1908!!! True beauty and innovation.

05. Erkki-Sven Tüür – Insula Deserta (9:10)
Written in 1989, this is one of the most interesting pieces of the last twenty-odd years. Tüür has an incredible unique voice, that always touches me deeply.

06. Nico Muhly – Revd Mustard his Installation Prelude (3:35)
Fantastically played on the album ‘Cycles’ by James McVinnie, this is an amazingly beautiful piece. And the sound and the colour of this instrument is incredible.

07. David Lang – The Little Match Girl Passion, I. Come, Daughter (3:41)
David Lang is a master in terms of voices and singing. It’s very encouraging to write for voice, when you listen to his beautiful music.

08. Olivier Messiaen – Oraison (7:45)
The beautiful sound of this instrument (Ondes Martenot), such a beautiful piece of music.

09. György Ligeti – Nonsense Madrigals, III. The Alphabet (3:33)
His output is so versatile, so colourful, and regardless what he touches, he creates something unique, something new, but always in the most musical sense. That’s a very rare gift in contemporary classical music.

10. Krzysztof Penderecki – Chaconne (6:47)
Last year he was in Munich for a concert with our chamber orchestra and they played this and a lot of other beautiful pieces he wrote in the last 15 years. Before the concert he was being interviewed by the conductor and just told funny stories about his work. Very inspiring and friendly person.

11. Dmitri Shostakovich – String Quartet No. 8, II. Allegro Molto (2:38)
Probably, his most famous piece, but the energy in this music is unmatched. This is only four instruments, but you feel a group of a hundred running over you. Very hard to get this movement out of it’s context, all the movements are fantastic.

12. George Crumb – Black Angels, I. Departure (5:37)
You have to look at his scores. Everything is written by hand, he was a master of calligraphy and to see the relation between notation and how it sounds is just amazing.

13. Hans Otte – Das Buch der Klänge, Part X (5:57)
Rather unknown German composer, one of the few who were inspired by american minimal composers and made a beautiful piano cycle called “Das Buch der Klänge”.

14. Thomas Adès – Arcadiana, op. 12, VI. O Albion (3:07)
And again a String Quartet, this is very unusual for Adès, but I believe it’s the most beautiful 3 minutes he ever wrote.

15. John Adams – Hallelujah Junction, Part I (7:14)
A minimal classic. I recently saw this piece performed live, and it was really an amazing experience.

16. Claude Vivier – Zipangu (14:06)
I had to include this piece, despite its length, it’s just too beautiful. String Orchestra is another beautiful instrumentation, and Vivier is an underrated master when it comes to it.

17. György Kurtag – Stele, op. 33, III. Molto sostenuto (05:55)
This might be the piece that impressed me the most lately. The use of the orchestra is incredible, (it has 12 double basses!!). Kurtag is a master in saying so much in such a short time. Impressive. It’s hard to separate the movements, go check out the whole piece, it’s incredible!

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‘The Monarch And The Viceroy’ LP and ‘Relive’ EP are available now on Denovali.

http://www.carloscipa.com/
http://denovali.com/

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Interview with Carlos Cipa HERE.
To follow Fractured Air you can do so on Facebook HERE, & Twitter HERE.

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Written by admin

July 14, 2014 at 2:34 pm