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Albums of the year: 2018

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Some Rap Songs’ is out now on Columbia.

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

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

for my crimes correct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Tirzah – “Devotion” (Domino)

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

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

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

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

Devotion’ heralds a significant new voice in contemporary music.

‘Devotion’ is out now on Domino Recordings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘LAGEOS’ is out now on Ninja Tune.

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

5. Low – “Double Negative” (Sub Pop)

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

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

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

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

‘Double Negative’ is out now on Sub Pop.

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

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

djrum portrait

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Penelope Two’ is out now on Houndstooth.

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

2. Julia Holter – “Aviary” (Domino)

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

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

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

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

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

‘Aviary’ is out now on Domino Recordings.

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

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

nilsfrahm-allmelody

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘All Melody’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

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

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E1| January mix

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We’re delighted to present the first in a new series of monthly mixes made for Paris-based music website La Blogothèque. Over the last six years, La Blogothèque has been a source of much inspiration, not least in how they showcase (and share) their true passion for music. While each mix will be published on La Blogothèque’s website, we will also post the mixes on our own Mixcloud Page. While we had made the decision to stop Fractured Air last November, the opportunity that presented itself with contributing for La Blogothèque gave us reason to resume – in the capacity of contributing mixes – for the coming months. We hope you enjoy them.

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Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E1| January mix

To Read/listen on La Blogothèque:

 

Tracklisting:

01. fLako ‘The Opening / Purple Trees’ [Five Easy Pieces]
02. Ennio Morricone ‘La Musica Prima del Massacro’ [The Hateful Eight OST, Decca/Third Man]
03. Mogwai ‘Hungry Face’ [Les Revenants OST, Rock Action]
04. David Bowie ‘Warszawa’ [RCA Victor]
05. Eduard Artemiev ‘Listen to Bach (The Earth)’ [Solaris OST, Superior Viaduct]
06. Brian Eno ‘Some of Them Are Old’ [Island]
07. Lucrecia Dalt ‘FLOTO’ [Care Of Editions]
08. WRY MYRRH ‘TWO’ [Soundcloud]
09. Nicolas Jaar ‘Fight’ [R&S]
10. Mick Jenkins ‘Alchemy’ [Cinematic Music Group]
11. Four Tet ‘Evening Side’ (excerpt) [Text]
12. Rocketnumbernine ‘Two Ways’ [Border Community]
13. Animal Collective ‘FloriDada’ [Domino]
14. Tortoise ‘Gesceap’ [Thrill Jockey]
15. The Space Lady ‘Major Tom’ [NightSchool]
16. Molly Nilsson ‘Tomorrow’ [Dark Skies Association, NightSchool]
17. Charlie Cocksedge ‘Corrour’ (excerpt) [Soundcloud]
18. Linda Scott ‘I’ve Told Every Little Star’ [Mulholland Drive OST, Milan]
19. Jonny Greenwood ‘The Golden Fang’ [Inherent Vice OST, Nonesuch]
20. Scott Walker ‘Duchess’ [Philips]
21. Tindersticks ‘Hey Lucinda’ [City Slang, Lucky Dog Recordings]

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

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

 

Mixtape: So Etched In Memory

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soetchedinmemory_sleeve

So Etched In Memory [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

https://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/so-etched-in-memory-a-fractured-air-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. Adrian Crowley ‘The Wild Boar’ (excerpt) [Chemikal Underground]
02. Benoît Pioulard ‘So Etched In Memory’ [Kranky]
03. Sam Prekop ‘Invisible’ [Thrill Jockey]
04. The Declining Winter ‘The Declining Winter and the Narrow World’ [Monopsone]
05. Katie Kim ‘Wicked Game’ [Bandcamp]
06. Low ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’ [Chairkickers’ Music, Rough Trade]
07. Julianna Barwick ‘The Harbinger’ [Dead Oceans]
08. Bing & Ruth ‘TWTGA’ [RVNG Intl]
09. The White Stripes ‘This Protector’ [Sympathy For The Record Industry]
10. Unknown Mortal Orchestra ‘Multi-Love’ [Jagjaguwar]
11. Jib Kidder ‘World of Machines’ [Domino]
12. Panda Bear ‘Boys Latin’ [Domino]
13. Little Sister ‘Somebody’s Watching You’ [Light In The Attic]
14. The Band ‘Up On Cripple Creek’ [Capitol]
15. Bixy Guidry & Percy Babineaux ‘The Waltz Of The Long Wood’ [Tompkins Square]
16. Kenny Knight ‘All My Memories’ [Paradise Of Bachelors]

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

To follow Fractured Air you can do so on Facebook HERE, or Twitter HERE.
http://fracturedair.com

 

Fractured Air 33: Saccade (A Mixtape by Loscil)

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Loscil’s Scott Morgan has been responsible for some of the most captivating and stunningly beautiful ambient creations over the past fifteen years. Across a compelling body of work (beginning with the 2001 classic ‘Triple Point’) – the majority of which has been released on the immense Chicago-based imprint Kranky – Vancouver-based Morgan has developed his own unique style of textural rhythms that ceaselessly blur the lines of ambient, techno, drone and modern-classical. The recently released ‘Sea Island’ marks the latest chapter in Loscil’s explorations through sound that lies at the intersect between nature and humanity.

loscil_saccade_fa33

Fractured Air 33: Saccade (A Mixtape by Loscil)

To listen on Mixcloud:

https://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/fractured-air-33-saccade-a-mixtape-by-loscil/

 

Tracklisting:

01. Mica Levi ‘Love’ [‘Under the Skin’ OST/Milan]
02. Rafael Anton Irisarri ‘Will Her Heart Burn Anymore_00’ [Room40]
03. Simon Scott ‘Spring Stars’ [Miasmah]
04. Lawrence English ‘Hapless Gatherer’ [Room40]
05. Hildur Guðnadóttir ‘Strokur’ [Touch]
06. Jon Hopkins ‘Breathe This Air (Asleep version)’ [Domino]
07. A Winged Victory for the Sullen ‘ATOMOS VI’ [Erased Tapes, Kranky]
08. Kyle Bobby Dunn ‘Spem in Alium and Her Unable’ [Students Of Decay]

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

 


 

krank191

‘Sea Island’ is available now on Kranky.

http://www.loscil.ca/
http://www.kranky.net/

 

Mixtape: I Used To Dream [A Fractured Air Mix]

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iusedtodream_front

I Used To Dream [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/i-used-to-dream-a-fractured-air-mix/

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Tracklisting:

01. Nicolas Jaar ‘Être’ [Circus Company]
02. Kiasmos ‘Looped’ [Erased Tapes]
03. Jon Hopkins ‘Abandon Window’ (Moderat Remix) [Domino]
04. Rival Consoles ‘Recovery’ [Erased Tapes]
05. Clark ‘There’s A Distance In You’ [Warp]
06. Junior Boys ‘You’ll Improve Me’ (Caribou Remix) [Domino]
07. Caribou ‘Mars’ [City Slang / Merge]
08. Sun Ra ‘Angels And Demons At Play’ [Strut]
09. Alfonso Lovo ‘Sinfonia Del Espacio De Do Menor’ [Numero Group]
10. Les Sins ‘Why’ (feat. Nate Salman) [Company]
11. Andy Stott ‘Faith In Strangers’ [Modern Love]
12. Glissandro 70 ‘Portugal Rua Rua’ [Constellation]
13. Ariel Pink ‘Dayzed Inn Daydreams’ [4AD]

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

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

Mixcloud / Facebook / Twitter

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Chosen One: Julia Holter

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Interview with Julia Holter by Cillian Murphy.

“Leave well alone. Don’t meddle any more. Can’t you see she is far beyond us?”
She pointed to Gigi, who was resting a trusting head and the rich abundance of her hair on Lachaille’s shoulder. The happy man turned to Madame Alvarez.
“Mamita,” he said, “will you do me the honour, the favour, give me the infinite joy of bestowing on me the hand…”

(—Excerpt from Colette’s 1944 novella ‘Gigi’)

Interview: Cillian Murphy
Illustration: Craig Carry, Introduction: Mark Carry

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An incomprehensible beauty forever lies at the heart of the work of L.A. based artist, Julia Holter. The latest masterpiece ‘Loud City Song’ is the gifted songwriter’s third in as many years, and is the highly anticipated follow-up to last year’s sublime ‘Ekstasis’ album. Having first heard ‘In The Same Room’ many moons ago – a single taken from ‘Ekstasis’ – the vital significance and preciousness of Holter’s art became immediately apparent to me. The swirling notes of harpsichord and keys drift slowly amidst Holter’s captivating voice, evoking a daydream sequence washed in a lifetime of distant memories: “I can’t remember your face / but I hope the ship will carry us there.” Fleeting moments of life’s unfolding mysteries are embedded in all three records – from 2011’s debut ‘Tragedy to the latest ‘Loud City Song’ – that endlessly reveal new meaning and hidden depths of truth.

‘Loud City Song’ showcases Holter’s rare gift for the creation of highly innovative and utterly breathtaking contemporary pop music. A sense of mystery and intrigue is interwoven between the tapestry of beguiling sounds and vivid colours conjured up by Holter and her ensemble of peerless musicians. At the heart of ‘Loud City Song’ is a story, inspired by the musical ‘Gigi’, whose central character – the innocent teenage girl, Gigi – someone Holter closely identified with, having watched it many times growing up. ‘Loud City Song’ has been described by Holter as a search for love and truth in a superficial society. Set in turn-of-the-century Paris, Colette’s timeless novella (first published in 1944) offers a user’s manual on how to live fearlessly and joyfully. Similarly, the sonic creations of ‘Loud City Song’ documents the hopes, dreams and fantasies of Gigi – the album’s loosely-based narrative – that creates an entirely unique world for the listener to become part of. Themes such as pressures from society, individualism, loneliness and celebrity culture are etched across the resolutely unique canvas of ‘Loud City Song’. ‘Gigi’ is merely a starting point, as the plethora of characters and multitude of emotion cast, results in a deeply enriching experience of the human condition. ‘Loud City Song’ is indeed “like an audio cinematic experience.” From the album opener ‘World’, which serves ‘Loud City Song”s enthralling prologue, to the heart wrenching ballad of Barbara Lewis’ ‘Hello Stranger’, a world of love, fantasy, “winter words” and “falling leaves” beautifully encapsulate the world of ‘Loud City Song’.

Heaven,
all the heavens of the world.
Are you looking for anything?
Heaven with eyes bright green
Everyday my eyes are older,
I grow a bit closer to you.

(‘World’)

Similar to ‘Goddess Eyes’ on previous album ‘Ekstasis’, the tour de force ‘Maxim’s’ is present on ‘Loud City Song’ as two separate versions; ‘Maxim’s I’ and ‘Maxim’s II’, providing the focal point to the album’s narrative. The song is named after the storied Maxim’s restaurant in Paris that is prominently featured in the musical, ‘Gigi’. A key scene which resonated for Holter was the scene in which Gigi enters the bustling Maxim’s only to be greeted with complete silence as the restaurant’s patrons gaze at her judgmentally. Holter sings on the chorus, “Into Maxim’s we will see them walk / Will they eat a piece of cheese or will they talk?” as the orchestra of brass and string sections create a frenzy of commotion, depicting the loudness of the superficial society that surrounds her. A parallel can be made between Colette’s early twentieth century Paris and that of Holter’s native L.A. In many ways; both societies share common celebrity culture, where the setting of ‘Loud City Song’ could easily be that of modern-day Los Angeles as much as Colette’s depiction of turn-of-the-century Paris. The frantic tempo of ‘Horns Surrounding Me’ evokes the sound of paparazzi chasing after an identified celebrity, where the sound of a marching band storms to the foreground of the mix. At the core, a feeling of pain and isolation radiates from the ‘cold night’ as Holter sings “Moon, they forget how soft heart is, unfolding over time.”

Unlike the previous two records, ‘Loud City Song’ is the first album Holter recorded outside of her bedroom. The songs were written and composed by Holter – some as far back as 2011, at the time of debut album ‘Tragedy’ – later to be worked on (mixed and co-produced) by Ariel Pink collaborator Cole Marsden Greif-Neill (who also mixed ‘Ekstasis’). Holter would join an ensemble of musicians in a professional studio in L.A. for six days to record the layers of tracks. Joining Holter (keyboards, vocals) were the brass section of Chris Speed (saxophone), Brian Allen (trombone) and Matt Barbier (trombone), violinist Andrew Tholl, cellist Christopher Votek, Ramona Gonzalez (Nite Jewel) on backing vocals, Corey Fogel on percussion, and Devin Hoff on bass. The time-staking process of mixing Holter’s vocals came later. The result is a performative record where undoubtedly the acoustic instrument of Holter’s voice provides the aesthetic that graces the divine beauty of the album’s timeless soundscapes. Other sources of inspiration came from Joni Mitchell and poet Frank O’Hara. The spirit of Mitchell is particularly evident on album closer ‘City Appearing’, a whirlwind jazz odyssey that lies somewhere between ‘Blue’ and ‘Hejira’. Holter asks on the opening lines of the second verse: “Is it the hand of love so rough / what we’re feeling for the first time?” Much like O’Hara’s poetry, which were based on his observations of New York life, many of the characters and songwriting stemmed from ‘Loud City Song’ can be seen as Holter’s observations of L.A. life, where I feel poems such as ‘1951’ and ‘A City Winter’ could find a deserved place in Holter’s audio poem-come-song cycle.

The sequencing of ‘Loud City Song’ is immaculate as one feels a sense of movement and character progression from beginning to end. Furthermore, the depths of loneliness and despair are overcome as the journey unfolds, culminating in a wave of joy as celebration prevails, as “all the birds of the world make their way over with new softer songs to sing” on album closer ‘City Appearing’. The album’s centerpiece, for me, is the cover version of Barbara Lewis’ ‘Hello Stranger’ which is engulfed in a beguiling and cinematic atmosphere of loss and longing, yet an infinite light of hope shines forth amidst the chorus of singing birds in the background. A consoling ebb and flow of strings accompanies the achingly beautiful vocals of Holter as she sings “I’m so happy that you’re here again” on the song’s close. ‘He’s Running Through My Eyes’ is one of the most beautiful songs to have graced this earth. The delicacy and fragile beauty of this piano-led ballad transcends space and time. The lyric “But when summer’s over, will he remember winter words?” resonates powerfully. The soulful pop opus of ‘This Is A True Heart’ is reminiscent of Arthur Russell, Laurie Anderson and indeed the feel of Colette and Gigi’s elegant Parisienne streets and boulevards. The rise on ‘In The Green Wild’ serves as one of the euphoric moments of ‘Loud City Song’. The peerless musicianship of Holter’s ensemble and daringly beautiful arrangements is on full display.

In the green wild I am gone
my hands, toes, shoulders gone
but the shoes my feet have worn still remain
and they walk toward the sea
there’s a flavor to the sound of walking
no one ever never noticed before.

(‘In The Green Wild’)

Similar to ‘Loud City Song’, Holter’s debut ‘Tragedy’ drew from literature already made, namely, Euripides’ ‘Hippolytus’. One of the songs, ‘Celebration’, centers on Hippolytus worshipping Artemis and purity. A lyric contained in this song, for me, epitomises the truly transcendent nature of Julia Holter’s sacred songbook, that serves the perfect embodiment of Holter’s utterly captivating work: “We are moved by your radiance.” This truly unique voice in today’s music world has created yet another true work of art, in the form of ‘Loud City Song’. A question is posed by the young Gigi in Colette’s novella: “What is an artistic jewel?” For someone asking the same question today, one needs to look no further than Holter’s remarkable ‘Loud City Song’.

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‘Loud City Song’ is out now on Domino.

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Interview with Julia Holter by Cillian Murphy.

CILLIAN MURPHY: First of all, I discovered your music through ‘Ekstasis’; a record I really, really loved and played it all the time. And then this record, I was really looking forward to it. It has completely bewitched me, I have to say, and I have listened to it a lot. You are in L.A. right? I read that L.A. is a part of the inspiration for the record or features in some of the themes of the record. Is that right?

JULIA HOLTER: Yes, sort of. Well, what it was is I basically grew up in L.A., so for me it’s one of those things where basically I was making a story, and the story was kind of inspired by ‘Gigi’ which is the music from this musical. So, I was trying to build a setting for this story, and the setting was a city – and it could be any city – and for me it’s L.A. because I know L.A. But I’m not enforcing it as L.A. It’s not called L.A. I always think you have to do what you know; you have to write about what you know, to some extent. But, obviously, I don’t know Gigi. I’m not Gigi. But it’s like, you know, you combine what you know with other things.
L.A. is what I know, so it’s the scene. Then there is also a bigger song, ‘Horns Surround Me’ where it’s specifically paparazzi chasing actors. Yeah, that’s what it is sort of in my mind, but it doesn’t have to be though for most people. But in [my] mind what it was, ‘Horns Surrounding Me’ is like a marching band chasing after me, symbolizing paparazzi or something. But that’s stuff that doesn’t happen just in L.A., but it’s definitely a big L.A. phenomenon.

CM: Well yeah, that’s for sure.

JH: And I’m sure you know way more about this than I do.

CM: Well, thankfully I’ve avoided that aspect of what I do. For the most part, I’m incredibly boring and they tend to leave me alone. I know the city just as a visitor, you know, and I always found something about the city that it’s like a public and a private L.A., and it’s a really easy city to hide in, or escape into.

JH: Yeah, exactly.

CM: And a lot of stuff goes on behind closed doors. That resonated with me when I listened to the record. I love that song ‘World’ as well. It’s such a big title for a song but I love how you reduce it down to such small mundane things. And I love that thing about always wearing a hat, and the city can’t see my eyes and stuff. I think that’s a kind of L.A. thing. It really resonated with me and I guess you can apply it to other cities but there is something about L.A. that is unique.

JH: I see what you’re saying, it’s like I think that a lot of times when I’m talking to people in interviews and they haven’t been here at all, and I’m sure you’ve been here a lot. Yeah, I think you’re right. I think it’s something I’m not even conscious of, because I always say, no it’s not just about L.A. but maybe it is specifically this private and public, like you say. I do think though that it’s easy to hide here. There is not as much hype about things like there is in New York or London. More people come out to my shows in London or New York than in L.A. People are more oblivious and everything is more mysterious, and I actually like that.

CM: Yeah, I like that too. And in terms of – you just touched on it there – the music scene in Los Angeles, I would imagine it’s a great place you know, there’s a great music scene and a lot of collaboration between musicians. Would I be right in saying that?

JH: Yeah, I think so. I mean there’s a lot of space in L.A. One thing, I think it’s sort of collaborative I guess – like I’ve done a little bit of collaborating – people can hide away and do their thing and work on it really intensely here. It feels that people can be very introspective and deep into their creative ball and feel comfortable doing that.

CM: Is that what you did, I mean the first two albums were recorded at home, in your bedroom. That’s what I read, is that right?

JH: Yeah, I was really isolated.

CM: Did you find that a good thing? Because I mean the albums are amazing. Did you find that a useful thing in terms of making the records?

JH: Yeah, I think it was good for me to have that experience. It was really hard because mixing your own music can be really hard and especially when there are so many layers – layers of sounds and atmosphere – and every second I wanted to adjust the atmosphere a little bit, so I’m really particular about the atmosphere at every given point. So, I think it was really hard to mix and frustrating but it was good to go and learn how to do it myself.

CM: And this record was different in that it was recorded more conventionally, in the studio with musicians. Is that right?

JH: Yeah, it’s kind of complicated because I actually do a lot of stuff at home as well. I wrote and recorded the demos for the record, maybe a year and a half before the record was recorded. They have a lot of it already planned out and then we called Greif-Neill who produced the record with me.

CM: From Ariel Pink, right?

JH: Yeah, he produced Ariel’s last record I think, and also with Nite Jewel and some friends of mine. It was really nice to work with him because he has worked with Ariel and Nite Jewel, and both of them have started as solo people and then moved on to working in the environment of a studio. Like, they started just working in their rooms, you know. So he really knows that transition. So, he heard the demos and he was really into it and he made this plan. And his plan always puts in mind that I’m always used to working in my own space and time on my own. And so he made it. So, what we did was that I arranged all the parts for the musicians first and we recorded them for six days in a professional studio with an engineer and everything and friends helping out with the engineering. The whole rest of the album was months and months of recording my vocals, which we did at Cole [Greif-Neill]’s house at home. And then he has this little studio and then recording key parts in my house, like, just myself in my house, recording it. And then mixing it. So it was really the longest part; the post-recording. Recording the instruments was the easiest part. And then it was all about creating the atmosphere and stuff.

CM: Oh wow, so all in all then, from when you wrote the demos to when you finally mixed the record to when you put it out, how long did that take?

JH: I think like writing the demos was two years ago, at least. I mean it’s complicated. While I was writing ‘Ekstasis’, there was a song that was going to be on it and it’s what’s now called ‘Maxim’s II’, and that song ‘Maxim’s’ was going to be on this record. I was like this is so weird because this doesn’t really fit on the rest of ‘Ekstasis’ and that’s how I came up with the idea of ‘Loud City Song’.

CM: I see. And that title by the way, can you elaborate on that at all?

JH: There is this loudness of society, [this] is what I was attracting. And the story of Gigi and the story that I’m bringing out – sort of the individual that is being bombarded by society in some ways, feeling the weight of society, like they’re trying to work against society in some way. And society is very loud in that way.
That’s what I was getting at. Again, the loudness of society and whether that’s pressuring people into doing something, like in ‘Gigi’ or whatever or society itself is overwhelming to the individual. I was thinking for me that how today it’s really true – not just the noise of society but the noise of the media – and when, for example, you turn on your TV and the advertisements are really loud. Sound engineers have talked about how now the commercial pop hit is way louder than it used to be, like all distorted compared to commercial pop hits of twenty years ago. So, it’s kind of like an overall general idea of loudness of society.

CM: Yeah, I mean I can’t get over the way in America, they pipe music in shopping malls but even outdoors from shopping centers. I find that extraordinary. An extraordinary assault, even when you’re outside, you know.

JH: It’s really horrible. When I was shopping the other day, and it was like, I need to leave right now, it was just so horrible how loud it is. Is this Abercrombie and Snitch or something? [laughs]

CM: I get distressed and I do not want to shop. It doesn’t put me in the mood for shopping [laughs].

JH: I know.

CM: I’m just not a good shopper, maybe. I haven’t read ‘Gigi’, but I have read some of the other of Colette’s books. Would you consider it then, you know, give it the whole “conceptual album” tag, or is that something you’re happy to embrace, or is it more something you are just inspired by, and took some ideas from?

JH: I don’t know. I’m open to either perspective because, for me, it’s really like my record ‘Tragedy’ and unlike ‘Ekastsis’. It is a unified story in a way, not necessarily that it follows a straight narrative, because it doesn’t really. But it’s a story, just like ‘Tragedy’ was a story, and both ‘Tragedy’ and ‘Loud City Song’ are inspired by stories that previously exist. So if people call it a concept album that’s fine. I know it’s kind of like a cheesy genre, people think that it’s kind of gimmicky. I guess I just think about it, like, for me, a record is, you make a record, like a book or anything, like a collection of poems, and there’s something that unites them in some way usually. Like with ‘Ekstasis’ it was all like individual songs, they weren’t united like one story. But they were all planned to be on one record and curated for that purpose, because they were meant to be together on an album but they don’t fit into one story. There is some differentiation you have to make, I guess, with a record like ‘Ekstasis’ and a record like ‘Loud City Song’. And whatever you want to call it, you know, I don’t really mind either way. I have trouble figuring out what it’s called myself. It’s a concept album, that’s fine, you know. I think of it as a story because I don’t want people to think that I have a sort of a message.

CM: Well, for me, the more you listen to it, the more it reveals itself. And now, to me, that’s the sign of a great album. I’m going to quote you something – and I hate when people quote me back on interviews because I never remember saying it – but “I’m basically into creating movies that are albums as opposed to albums that are like sound from movies”. Do you remember that?

JH: Oh right, because basically when people ask if it’s like a soundtrack or something.

CM: I thought that was a brilliant quote.

JH: Oh yeah, thanks. That’s something I’m really into the idea of making an audio poem or something, like an audio cinematic experience.

CM: Well, that’s what you get from it, and I think you have achieved it wonderfully. And from start to finish, your mood changes, like in a film, it elicits different emotional responses.
I went to see Björk a couple of nights ago and she was doing her ‘Biophilia’ show. I just saw the boldness in her compositions and she’s not afraid of concept either in terms of the music she makes. Particularly on ‘Maxim’s II’, it reminded me of Björk a lot, and I was just wondering what you think of her and have you been asked about that comparison before?

JH: Actually, I haven’t been asked about Björk that much. I think there’s something about my style, but I think I know what you mean. First of all, I think that she is amazing and I think she is an amazing writer and interesting, and I admire her a lot. But I’ve never seen her live show, but I’d love to. I’ve heard they’re really incredible. Like she is a totally visionary. But the thing I’ve listened to the most of hers is that soundtrack she did with a Japanese show in it. It’s like a soundtrack she made but it’s amazing. But I love her songs and I think I need to listen to more of her. I still haven’t dug in completely.

CM: I think it’s more in terms of the fearlessness she has and I think that you seem to have it in the music. What I love about your music is that it’s music you listen to, it’s not necessarily music you put on while you’re washing the dishes. I love that and I think that that’s important nowadays.

JH: That’s really cool, yeah.

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(Illustration based on the Rufus Norris film “Broken”, starring Cillian Murphy, Tim Roth, and Lily James.)

CM: I just wanted to talk about two more songs on the album. ‘Hello Stranger’, I mean it’s kind of heart-stopping. I just wondered why you decided to use that tune? I don’t know if you’ll agree but it’s a unique interpretation but it’s also, I think weirdly faithful to it as well, if that isn’t a contradiction.

JH: So, I grew up listening to Barbara Lewis’ song ‘Hello Stranger’ that she wrote. And I listened to her version. I actually don’t know any other version, I only know hers. I grew up listening, it was on a compilation my mom had growing up. First of all, I covered it four years ago, like a cover in my room, playing it out loud, live. I recorded it live, like a room recording of me singing and playing on keyboard, pretty similar to the vibe on the final version. So, in ‘Gigi’, the musical, there is a scene, and a song actually called ‘I Remember It Well’ where Lachaille and Gigi’s great-aunt are meeting again, after [having] had an affair like years and years ago in their youth, and they’re having lunch together and reminiscing about it. But they can’t remember it really well. Or, at least that he keeps on messing up, “we had dinner at nine” and she is like , “we had breakfast.” She keeps correcting them. It’s kind of hokey but it’s kind of sweet, like this song.

So, it was sort of, for me, this song ‘Hello Stranger’ is sort of similar in that it’s an exploration of two people, of memory, a version of memory and the faults of memory, and how you recall things from the past but they’re either too vague or they’re inaccurate. So, with ‘Hello Stranger’, the Barbara Lewis song that she wrote, it’s very vague, there’s very little explanation of anything but you have a sense that he hurt her and she’s in love with him still and she doesn’t want to get hurt again, or whatever. So, kind of like that Janet Jackson song ‘Again’, I think, which I also love.

But in Barbara Lewis’ song, it’s like: “Please don’t hurt me”, but that’s all, there is no real detail. So, you have a real hazy sense of what happened. I think it’s the same for that moment in ‘Gigi’. A lot of the songs were inspired by taking off points from that musical, that’s what happened, and I was like, this song would be perfect for this record, even though no one will make that connection unless I tell them about that scene. It’s kind of convoluted but to me I just knew; I trusted that it would work somehow, put that song in there subliminally without people knowing why it was there.

CM: And where it sits on the record too. I don’t know, it’s so warm and it’s just so beautiful. It really is. I love it.

JH: Great.

CM: Playing this record live then and touring it, it’s got such an amazing response from everybody; everybody loves it. I just wanted to know how when you record a record and then you have to go and play those songs live. Does that change the songs and how does it feel for you playing those songs in a live setting?

JH: Yeah, live, they start a different life. One of the things I realized early on is that you can’t re-create the record live because you’re in a totally different situation, you got an audience in front of you. Even if you play back the track and sing over it, you’re not re-creating, or even if you press play – you don’t sing and you play the whole track in the room while the audience is there – there is a performance and a visual aspect, that you’re there, you’re performing for people, it’s like a totally different thing. And so I was taking this approach – performance is very different from recording though – like two separate things. So, when I perform them, I arranged the songs particularly for the live set. With this record it’s been so much easier.

Last year, what we did with ‘Ekstasis’, which I recorded all myself except for mixing, and arranged for drum and cello and me, so basically it was me re-arranging the entire record for a new ensemble. Whereas on this record, this time I’m working with the same musicians pretty much, I just have my arrangements from the recording session, notated and a lot of stuff was improvised by them on the spot or we came up with slightly different ideas, because obviously you don’t have as many layers as you do in the recording session. You have to, like, cut down and come up with ways of how to fill it in. For the most part it was a lot easier than last year. It’s been really fun and also because I have a lot more people, and I have saxophone, violin, cello, drums, and me.

CM: And do you play the album from start to finish or do you mix it up with earlier albums, or how do you go about it?

JH: I haven’t done the album from start to finish but that would be interesting. I think one day we will do it for fun.

CM: Yeah, I’d like to be there for that. Because you trained classically and you compose your stuff, and you say, you composed the parts for the other players on the record, does that mean the players themselves have to be able to read music and be reasonably classically trained or how does that work?

JH: I mean I would definitely be into working with people who didn’t and I have. But a lot of times I do like to have people who have, we can have sessions about it and it’s easy to communicate because we all have some background in theory and stuff. But definitely I don’t think it’s a requirement. Because I need people to read the arrangements and stuff for the recording, it was important.

CM: Training as a piano player, is that something you wanted to do? Were you always singing when you were playing the piano, and when did the two sort of come together?

JH: First of all, I played classical piano when I was about eight and I don’t play anymore because of college and then I stopped classical. I was never very great. I really loved it but in classical music there is so many amazing pianists and I was not one of those. I was good because I loved practicing, and I always did [practice] and I loved playing but I wasn’t really great or anything. So I quit the classical piano. In high-school, I started getting interested in the possibility of playing the songs I like and listen to. I started playing Joni Mitchell and started singing along, and I hated my voice. But I loved singing anyway.

When I was younger, even like, Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, The Beatles, Radiohead, the bands and stuff that I liked, and Billie Holliday…so, I was trying out a lot of different voices for fun. I never wrote music until I was, like, sixteen or seventeen, and that wasn’t for singing. Actually, [they were] some of the worst songs but they were from classical piano and not me. It was in classical music and I was writing in composition, and I went into composition in college at grad school, and that was my degree. It was like, I wasn’t seeing myself at all as a performer. I was like a composer who would write music for other people to perform. And I never sang much except I did start choir – because it was mandatory in college – for the first time. But then I got out of that because I didn’t like it. Then, what happened is that I discovered recording. The minute I discovered recording I felt free to try stuff with my voice and I was, like, maybe my voice isn’t that bad, it’s okay. You can mess with your voice and try different things and be poetic, and it was really fun for me, and to discover myself as a singer and a performer was a shocker, for sure. I mean, I didn’t see myself in that way at all. I never get nervous about performing unless there is a reason for me to be nervous, but I actually quite take to it and I like it.

CM: That’s very, very interesting. I identify with that because, well, I played music a bit before I became an actor – to a very low-level – but when I started acting onstage in theatre, I never got nervous. It was weird. I get nervous on film because it’s there forever, it’s indelible, whereas in theatre you can have a better show the next day. The sense of having some sort of control. And when did you reconcile yourself to your voice then because I know that John Lennon, all his life, hated it, he was always double-tracking his voice and putting it through some effect.

JH: I know. I love that effect he uses. It’s that thing, it’s really interesting. I think it’s like a really short delay effect. I think that’s a really interesting topic because I always still have trouble with my voice, listening to it pure, unless it’s really done right. And one of the things I think is that when – you’ll understand this as an actor – when you’re performing you aren’t yourself. In music as well, when I’m performing I’m neither myself – because I wouldn’t be interested in me as a subject – but I’m also not one particular persona, you know how some artists or musicians have a certain persona they always have. So, for me, I take on a different character for every song. Like, even within a record, every song has to have a different character, and for that reason I find it difficult to hear my voice clearly, as if it’s me speaking. And I think there is something that musicians really hate, certain musicians who really care about the colour and the character of every song who are like, really great songwriters, and John Lennon is one of them. They really can’t stand it if it sounds just like them because they’re trying to create something else, they’re trying to make something more otherworldly, and a new character. And that’s maybe the impulse. It’s not just like, oh I hate how my voice sounds, it’s something else, like this is still me and this has to be transcending me, and it can’t be just me, it has to be this different person, you know what I mean?

CM: I do and it’s like using it as an instrument that’s not you, and it seems to me that it does sound different on each track, and even on the three records, you know. But I mean I love that, it’s a brilliant thing and you wouldn’t be able to identify with that immediately necessarily. It’s still amazing on each track. Speaking of that, in terms of the three albums, do you see that as a kind of series in any way? You were saying ‘Ekstasis’ is separate in terms of it’s not thematically like the others. But do you see them as separate or connected?

JH: I see them as pretty separate. I think they could be united by an era in my life or something, at this point my musical life has been short so it’s hard to know. But now, I would see them as being very separate. I think ‘Tragedy’ and ‘Loud City Song’ have similar goals in terms of a similar approach, let me put it that way, in that they’re inspired by a story. But I’m not necessarily going to stop doing that. Sometimes I like doing that, sometimes not, sometimes I like to assemble a collection of songs like ‘Ekstasis’. I think that I’m always going to be doing different things and that every project I take very seriously as a project in itself. But it’s definitely something that some people will see them united in some way that I can’t see because my perspective is pretty flawed of what I do. It’s always hard to judge what you’re doing to a certain extent, and you, kind of, just have to go for it. With this record, ‘Loud City Song’, I was conscious of what I was doing at the beginning, like, I was going to make a bunch of songs that are inspired by moments of this musical basically.

In the interim I kept watching that musical – I don’t generally watch that much musicals ever – but because it was engrained in me from a very young age, like I knew it so well and I could relate to the characters so easily, I just had to do it. And I went into it really blindly, like I wasn’t ever thinking twice about any one song, and I wrote it pretty quickly in a way, without any real trouble. Then I came up with things and went with my instincts and that’s kind of my approach and I’m probably never going to strategize one approach across multiple records. I’m going to just let myself go with each project, generally with a set of limits from the start, and see where it takes me.

CM: Yeah, I think that’s got to be the best. I mean it’s the impulse to do it. If the impulse is there, you just have to follow it I think, and try not to question it too much. I liked what you said as well about the stuff that people read into in records and songs with people, it’s extraordinary and I love that.
Are you touring loads now? Are you in the middle of a tour?

JH: I have a one and a half weeks break, or two weeks break and then we’re going on a shortish U.S tour and then we’re back in L.A. again, and then we go back to Europe.

CM: Are you doing festivals or is that gone now?

JH: We’re doing some festivals but it’s mostly shows this time, which will be really nice because I like shows.

CM: I would imagine your music demands attention, like I said. I’d imagine certain venues are better than others.

JH: Yeah, like some festivals are awesome, like there’s this great one in Poland called the Off Festival. Sometimes the people are most exciting [part] to a festival because there are so many of them and I love when there is a lot of people in the audience. It’s nice fun and [there’s] the energy of people. Like, we opened for Sigur Rós and that was the most exciting thing for me because there was so many people, even if they weren’t all listening, it’s okay. I know there is a lot of them and I don’t judge them for that [laughs]. But I think, in general, it’s nice to have a show where people are focused and listening and generally they are the non-festival ones.

CM: Are you constantly writing? Do you practice the piano? Are you constantly thinking about the next project even while you’re touring this record or how does that work?

JH: Yes, I think about it. I have trouble writing on tour. I have to have, like, a calm atmosphere but I can get ideas and concepts and stuff while we’re in a van for hours, and I can think of something. It’s been a bit tricky right now. I am writing this piece for the L.A. Philharmonic – due in like a month – and I’m going on tour in a week and it’s like really rough because I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it. It turns out that it takes a long time to do promotion for your record. It takes a lot of work. I’ve basically curated my record in all ways, from the artwork to the ways it’s being promoted and everything. I’m basically micro-managing everything, which is cool that Domino are letting me do that and that’s why I love that label, but it’s also a lot of work. It’s funny how much doing interviews and doing all this promotion actually takes time. It’s really scary, so we’ll see. I’m writing right now in my off-time from tour and I hope it’s going to be okay because I grew up thinking the L.A. Philharmonic is like a dream. We’ll see how it turns out.

CM: When is that going to be premiered?

JH: That’s on December 3rd I think.

CM: Well, good luck with that.

JH: Thanks.

CM: I’m sure it will be incredible. Thank you so much for taking the time, I love chatting with musicians, it’s so fascinating. I appreciate it a lot.

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Cillian Murphy stars in ‘Peaky Blinders’, the new gangster drama (see preview clips here and hereset in 1920’s Birmingham, the six-part series debuts this Thursday 12th September on BBC Two. 

‘Loud City Song’ is out now on Domino. Julia Holter will tour the US this September and Europe this October and November. For full dates click here

http://juliashammasholter.com
http://www.dominorecordco.com

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To follow Fractured Air, you can do so on Facebook here, and on Twitter here.

Special thanks to Julia, Cillian, Robin and Colleen. 

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Written by admin

September 10, 2013 at 10:57 am

Ten Mile Stereo

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Laura Veirs “Warp and Weft” (Bella Union)
Laura Veirs has firmly established herself as one of the finest songwriters making music today. Even despite her unwavering consistency, it is nonetheless a remarkable achievement to consider this is Veirs’ ninth studio album. “Warp and Weft” (a weaving term), can be seen to sum up her music perfectly as her output has been beautifully nuanced and lovingly crafted since her self-titled debut back in 1999. Renowned producer (and husband to Veirs) Tucker Martine is on board once again. The album is a darker and denser set of songs and is another stunning achievement from Veirs that draws much inspiration from the landscape, motherhood, love and violence (the latter in the form of suicide, war and gun crime). Featuring a host of contributors including Jim James, kd lang, Neko Case and members of The Decemberists, the album sees Veirs at her beautiful, brilliant best. According to Neko Case herself, “It’s masterful; as a listener, it makes me feel loved. As a musician it makes me feel challenged and engaged.” “Warp and Weft” will be released 19th August 2013 on Bella Union.

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Various Artists “Rare Cajun Recordings” (Tompkins Square)
Some of the finest compilations this year has come courtesy of the incredible San Francisco-based Tompkins Square label and their ongoing Long Gone Sound series (whose goal is “to create a catalyst for musical and cultural transformation.”) My personal highlight has been “Let Me Play This For You”, a collection of rare Cajun recordings made between 1929-1930. The tracks are by Babineaux & Guidry, Angelas LeJeune and Blind Uncle Gaspard. As the sleevenotes state: “Most of the performances on this collection have not been heard since they were original recorded on 78 rpm disc and yet they serve as a discrete Rosetta Stone for the traditional Cajun and Creole repertoire that exists today.” Also essential is “Turn Me Loose : Outsiders oF ‘Old-time’ Music”, a collection of 78 rpm records curated by Frank Fairfield, also available now on Tompkins Square.

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RocketNumberNine “MeYouWeYou” (Smalltown Supersound)
London-based RocketNumberNine comprise the brothers Tom and Ben Page who have toured extensively with a hugely impressive number of acts, including Radiohead, Four Tet, Caribou, Nathan Fake and James Holden. In fact it was Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden who released RocketNumberNine’s first material, courtesy of the 12″ “Matthew & Toby” (released on Hebden’s own Text imprint) which closes “MeYouWeYou”, their debut album, available now on the wonderful Oslo-based independent label Smalltown Supersound (the incredible sleeve is courtesy of the impeccable talents of multi-disciplinary artist Kim Hiorthøy).

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Laurie Anderson “Homeland” (Nonesuch)
Have been revisiting Anderson’s songbook since Colleen’s Influences mix for Second Language to coincide with Colleen’s new album “The Weighing Of The Heart” which includes Laurie Anderson’s “Big Science” (from 1982’s “Big Science” LP, Anderson’s first part in her extensive portrait of the United States). Also essential in Anderson’s considerable output is “Homeland”, released in 2010 on Nonesuch, her first album in a decade. Features the haunting sounds of Anderson’s singular violin playing, as Anderson says in the sleevenotes: “Homeland” is built on groove electronics and new string sounds for the violin. I spend a lot of time inventing new ways for the violin to sound. The string filters created melodies that turned into songs.”

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Marsen Jules Trio “Presence Acousmatique” (Oktaf)
Marsen Jules has long been responsible for some of the most quietly breathtaking and tenderly beautiful music released over the last decade or so. Albums such as “Herbstlaub”, “Les Fleurs” and “Golden” have established Dortmund-based Jules as one of the finest composers making music today. As the Marsen Jules Trio, Jules is joined by twin brothers Anwar Alam and Jan-Philipp Alam on violin and piano. Across the six pieces on “Presence Acousmatique” Jules and brothers Alam create heavenly music featuring abstract ambient spaces and textured passages of impeccable musicianship.

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Waxahatchee “Cerulean Salt” (Don Giovanni)
Katie Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee project began with 2012’s debut LP “American Weekend”. This year saw the release of follow-up “Cerulean Salt” (also on New Jersey independent label Don Giovanni Records). The former P.S. Eliot singer Katie Crutchfield establishes herself as one of the most promising American songwriters where her introspective, personal songs are set to wonderfully crafted guitar-based songs. For the set of songs on “Cerulean Salt” much inspiration is drawn from her family and Alabama upbringing.

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fieldhead “a correction” (Gizeh Records)
fieldhead is the moniker for Leeds-born ambient/electronic composer Paul Elam who will be joining Kranky’s Loscil in Spring of next year for his European tour. As well as making his own compelling and hugely immersive ambient material, Elam is also the full-time member of Hood side project The Declining Winter and a part-time member of Glissando’s Fleeting Glimpse Ensemble. Elam’s fieldhead soundscapes are beautifully augmented by the wonderful talents of violinists Elaine Reynolds (The Boats, The Declining Winter) and Sarah Kemp (Lanterns on the Lake, The Declining Winter). Since 2010 Elam relocated to Vancouver, Canada, and has two full length studio albums to date, a host of EP’s, as well as an impressive number of remix work.

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White Denim “Corsicana Lemonade” (Downtown Records/MapleMusic Recordings)
“It has taken five records to make one that sounds the way we do on stage” is how White Denim’s James Petralli describes the band’s forthcoming album “Corsicana Lemonade”. The Austin outfit will be touring with Tame Impala in October, while “Corsicana Lemonade” has been produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy (whose production duties has included recent albums by both Low and Mavis Staples). LP due 28 October 2013.

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Suuns “Images Du Futur” (Secretly Canadian)
Currently, Montreal’s Suuns are performing live across Europe in support of their current LP “Images Du Futur”, released earlier in the year by Secretly Canadian. Lately, the band’s profile increased with the inclusion of the track “2020” for the UK trailer to Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives” where Ryan Gosling reunites with Refn for the first time since 2011’s “Drive”. “Images Du Futur” features a tight, visceral set of songs where the influences of Wire, Clinic and Radiohead can be heard.

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Julia Holter “Loud City Song” (Domino)
One of the most anticipated albums of the year comes from Los Angeles-based artist Julia Holter whose previous two albums – debut “Tragedy” and follow-up “Ekstasis” – elevated Holter’s status to being hailed as one of music’s modern greats. “Loud City Song” is Holter’s first album for the Domino label (who she signed to after previous “Ekstasis” album was released on RVNG INTL) and again displays Holter’s truly individual and captivating artistry where divine musical arrangements are combined with enriching and emotionally charged songs. In fact, the origins of this set of songs predates Holter’s 2011 debut “Tragedy”, and were worked on in late 2012. Holter has expressed inspiration from Collette’s 1944 novella Gigi, the music of Joni Mitchell and the poetry of Frank O’ Hara. “Loud City Song” is released by Domino on August 19th, 2013.

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