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Posts Tagged ‘Félicia Atkinson

Step Right Up: La Nuit

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Interview with Félicia Atkinson & Peter Broderick (La Nuit).

“The words appeared to me like this, I don’t know, I like to improvise lyrics, it’s like day dreaming, you dig in your own soul and see what you can fish there.”

Félicia Atkinson

Words: Mark Carry, Photographs: Félicia Atkinson 

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The music of Félicia Atkinson and Peter Broderick both surfaced to my attention around the same space in time, during 2008. John Xela’s Type imprint served the most trusted sources for independent music discoveries and two composers from the label’s roster particularly forged an indelible imprint, namely Peter Broderick and Sylvain Chauveau. ‘Float’s utterly captivating neo-classical-based compositions served a gateway into Broderick’s soaring songbook – that soon would follow with the gifted Portland musician’s ‘Home’ and ‘4-Track Songs’ full-lengths – and across the years, any project conceived by Broderick (or shares his involvement in any way) has become a trusted musical companion; one which only heightens with the passing of time.

Similarly, the works of French composer Sylvain Chauveau casts a magical spell upon the listener. The sublime cinematic works of ‘Nuage’ (a glorious collection of film soundtrack work) and ‘The Black Book of Capitalism’ (a remastered reissue of Chauveau’s incredible debut) were huge musical discoveries and it was through Chauveau’s work that French artist Félicia Atkinson’s unique voice would come into full-focus. ‘Roman Anglais’ was a collaborative album crafted by Atkinson and Chauveau in which Atkinson’s mesmerising spoken word passages melded effortlessly with Chauveau’s beautiful instrumental backdrop. A track like ‘Aberdeen’ I found myself happily immersed in for hours on end. Forward to 2015 and the collaborative project of Peter Broderick and Félicia Atkinson, appropriately titled La Nuit feels a lovely parallel to those special works unleashed in 2008.

Desert Television’s divine sound world of drone-infused ambient soundscapes, dub echoes, mesmeric spoken word passages, and compelling instrumentation (rhodes, violin, voice, found sounds, percussion) unfolds a beguiling atmosphere and ethereal dimension from the opening ambient pulses of ‘Feu Pale’ to the gorgeous string arrangements of epic closing track, ‘The Sun Is Folded in Eight’. ‘Feu Pale’s drifting tones of rhodes, guitar, harmonies and soft percussion meld wonderfully with the captivating spoken word passages of Atkinson evoking a seascape of forgotten dreams.

The utterly transcendent ‘Road Snakes’ contains a Lynchian utopia (‘Lost Highway’ comes to mind) and sense of euphoria and nostalgia. Certain words and phrases uttered by Atkinson are embellished within the neon-lit musical backdrop of synths and luminescent beats. Atkinson asks “What’s the weather today?/What’s the time?/Where are we going?” on a later verse that feels like a stream of consciousness, somewhere between Kerouac’s beat poetry and Kafka’s visionary novels. This tour-de-force feels as if Serge Gainsbourg is transplanted onto a sprawling canvas of contemporary electronic sounds (a la Nils Frahm, Greg Gives Peter Space and Rival Consoles). A timeless feel permeates every inch of ‘Road Snake’s towering road-trip, comprising “one road and many cars”.

The celestial harmonies and blissful ambient pulses of ‘Blind Sights Of The Diamond’ conjures up the timeless sound of Efterklang circa ‘Parades’. Psychedelic flourishes ascend into the forefront of the mix as the song’s elements become more pronounced as the sonic creation lengthens and expands. The album’s penultimate track, ‘The Blue Path’ sees Broderick’s backdrop of strings coalesce with Atkinson’s spoken word (taken from her book of poetry ‘The Twenties Are Gone’). ‘The Sun Is Folded In Eight’ is ‘Desert Television’s epic (over thirteen minutes in duration) drone-infused psych folk lament of stunning beauty and eerie, searching moods. La Nuit represents a deeply meaningful and utterly enthralling musical voyage from two unique and formidable artists.

 

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‘Desert Television’ (edition of 300 on red vinyl) is now on Beacon Sound.

http://www.wearebeaconsound.com/shop/la-nuit-desert-television-lp
http://www.peterbroderick.net/
http://feliciaatkinson.tumblr.com/

 

Interview with Félicia Atkinson & Peter Broderick (La Nuit).

 

Congratulations on the stunning collaborative project, La Nuit and the enthralling sonic voyage of ‘Desert Television’. Firstly before discussing the record, please recount for me your memories of first crossing paths with one another and indeed first discovering each other’s marvellous artistic works?

Félicia Atkinson: I discovered Peter’s music through is record ‘Home’ that was released on the label Type at that time, and remember that I found it really inspiring and moving.
Then I guess we met in Montreuil at Instant Chavires: he was playing there, touring with Nils Frahm and I was playing with a band I was involved in at the time (2008? 2009?) called Louisville. Then we became penpals and friends.

Peter Broderick: I first learned about Félicia through her collaborative album with Sylvain Chauveau in 2008 or so. I was already a big fan of Sylvain’s work, and on this album he made the music and Félicia spoke over the top. I fell in love with the album and not too long after that Félicia began to release a steady stream of solo material, which I followed very closely. We met in 2009 when we played a concert together in Paris. She was performing with a band she played in at the time called Louisville (I recently learned this was the only show that band ever played!), and I have vivid memories of her sitting on the floor of the stage with pages of writing scattered around her, speaking into the microphone while a band of guys played music around her. I loved it. Félicia was very warm and open towards me from the moment we met, and this only enhanced my love for her work.

Please take me back to the recording sessions at The Sparkle for the La Nuit project? What sort of routine or work practices did the pair of you utilize during this period of time? I love the fact that some of the lyrics come from Felicia’s book of poetry, ‘Twenties Are Gone’ so in this regard, there is this gorgeous spark of spontaneity radiating from the beguiling soundscapes and musical backdrop.

FA: Well, this record was I must say completely improvised from the beginning until the end, which is often the way I am used to work. Improvising is my thing! I just finished touring in Canada with Sun Araw and me and my boyfriend (Bartolomé, whith whom I run Shelter Press) decided to relax for a couple of weeks in Portland, Oregon. We had a wonderful time with Peter and Andy in Portland and other friends (Andy who runs Beacon Sound) and Peter invited us to visit him at Woods, near Pacific City in the Oregon Coast.

The place is great, has a wonderful energy. One day Peter asked me if we could record something and we recorded the DESERT TELEVISION in a day! I guess I was filled with the energy of the tour in Canada, the music I heard, the people I’ve met, the roads, the landscapes I’ve seen from the Lake Louise along the Oregon Coast, and the studio session was the just the best way to share all this energy.

Twenties are Gone’ is a book I wrote when Bartolomé and I were doing an artist residency in Finland, in the middle of the woods in 2012. During that time a lot of memories from Oregon appeared melt with Finnish forest and lands. So somehow it made sense to bring back the reading of the book to Oregon!

PB: We only spent one day in the studio together, and it was quite possibly the most fun and freedom I’ve ever felt in the studio. We didn’t ever really pause to think about what to do next . . . We just kept playing and creating sounds in a very intuitive way. Actually, only the short piece “The Blue Path” uses text from Twenties Are Gone . . . All the other songs are just Félicia freestyling into the microphone, completely unedited, and always in just one take.

The cinematic opener ‘Feu Pale’ serves the fitting introductory hymn to ‘Desert Television’s sprawling canvas and striking narrative. An ethereal dimension is effortlessly tapped into here and the drifting tones of rhodes, guitar and harmonies meld wonderfully with the captivating spoken word passages. Please talk me through this particular song and your memories of the song blossoming into glittering life? It feels this served the gateway into the rest of the record.

FA: Well, I love the Rhodes keyboard, it always have been one of my favourite instrument. I used it already for another record I recorded in one day, O-RE-GON (Home Normal) in Portland in 2010 at Type Foundry’s studio after actually Peter’s advice. So when I saw Peter has a Rhodes in his lovely studio, The Sparkle, I knew right away I wanted to improvise with it. Also, the place felt magical at first sight. I wanted to play music there with Peter!

The words appeared to me like this, I don’t know, I like to improvise lyrics, it’s like day dreaming, you dig in your own soul and see what you can fish there. I pictured the desert (for example a trip in Joshua Tree I did the winter before) and the mental landscape helped me to build my parts.
Peter understood right away the spirit of the song so we build the song like we were painting a kind of desert wall painting or something.

PB: This was the first song we recorded. The song has a fade-in, and that’s because Félicia was already playing when I hit record. I’m not even sure she was aware that I started recording. So the first track on the album literally begins at the first moment I pressed record when we were in the studio. Félicia was playing the fender rhodes, and I was running it through a tape delay, effecting the sound as she played, and also singing along and playing percussion from the other side of the room. You can hear me singing quietly in the background and playing percussion, and this was just me playing along far away from the microphone.

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The monumental tour-de-force of ‘Road Snakes’ contains this Lynchian utopia and sense of euphoria and nostalgia. I just love how certain words and phrases are embellished within the neon-lit musical backdrop and take on a life of their own. (For example, “Where do we go?”) A road trip. A travelogue. Did the music come after the spoken word passages or was it created at the same moment in time?

FA: I think Peter did the keyboard while I was doing the voice and then we added layers of instruments. We wanted to something a bit dubby, and the image of the car race in the Sahara appeared to me. I just finished that recent book also, ‘The Flame Throwers’ by Rachel Kushner about a young artist who is also a biker in the 60-70’s in Italy and the USA and I thought about her while improvising the words, as well as the film ‘Two Lane Black Top’ (1971) by Monte Hellman.

For the voice I thought also about Serge Gainsbourg, and his way of pronouncing the “T“ in ‘Melody Nelson’ for example. That was what I had in mind at this time. It just popped up like this while I was improvising. I love the keyboard dryness Peter uses for this song, it gives an 80’s feeling that is very special I think.

PB: For this song (and for most of them actually), we created the music first and then added Félicia’s voice at the very end. And once again, Félicia just freestyled the vocals in one take. Upon listening back later, it really sounds to me like she’s kind of rapping! I love it so much. And as she was recording the vocals, I was effecting them live through tape delays. In this way, there was very little sitting around and waiting from either of us. If one person was recording an instrument, the other was always free to play along or add effects. Also, I’d like to add that the synthesizer stab sound in “Road Snakes” comes from a little toy casio keyboard! I love how huge and almost aggressive it sounds for being a toy.

The eclectic sound and dynamic range contained on ‘Desert Television’ is another aspect particularly significant to La Nuit’s compelling journey. I think this echoes in each of your own solo (and collaborative) work over the years so this really comes as no surprise. After the recording was complete, I wonder was there a challenge to retain (or embellish) these special moments that were captured during the recording sessions? I would love to know the processes utilized during the production and mixing stages?

FA: Well, we didn’t changed that much. Peter did the mixing and the mastering and I feel like the record sounds incredible. Peter added also those beautiful strings for ‘The Blue Path’. The post production didn’t radically change the record, we wanted to keep it fresh. It was more like making some parts a bit more glossy, or dense, or eerie or with more perspective in it.

PB: For the most part, the core of all the songs was completed in that one day. I did add some other instrumentation and mixing effects after Félicia left, but I was only embellishing what was already there, rather than trying to add new elements. I used a lot of tape delays in a ‘dub’ style, adding echoes and tape saturation to the recordings.

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The epic closer ‘The Sun Is Folded in Eight’ unfolds a cosmic and magical odyssey that feels like a gradual sunrise or sunset across the desert floor’s vast plains. Was this melody written from a different space in time or was it formed from a spontaneous reaction to Felicia’s words? I just love this symbiosis that exists between words and music, the poetic prose and accompanying canvas of colour and textures. It must have felt very special to witness this chemistry become translated into the music?

FA: Again, it was completely improvised. Peter was playing the guitar and I just said the words that came to my mind. I was thinking of Areski’s voice in the early Brigitte Fontaine and Areski’s records, Peter’s voice reminded me a bit of this.

PB: My nylon string guitar and vocal were the first seed of this song, and after composing a small theme with Félicia sitting write there, I recorded a long stretched out take, improvising upon the small idea I had, with Félicia sitting silently just a few feet away from me. This was the last piece we recorded, and we knew we wanted to make something longer and more patient. Félicia then added her voice with a single improvised take, and after she left, I added strings and synthesizers, but only doubling melodies that were already within my guitar and vocal parts.

Lastly, please shed some light on your forthcoming plans and projects?

FA: Well, we are very happy to release DESERT TELEVISION on August 28th on Beacon Sound!

Also, I am taking part to the Copenhagen Art Festival by the end of August, showing an installation in the Overgarden Museum. I’ll be Playing in Prague at the Film Centre with wonderful films by Man Ray in October. I have a collaboration with Jefre Cantu coming up for 2016 and as well as my new solo album for the end of 2016 on Shelter Press. And of course, with Shelter Press, my music label and publishing house, we are having new exciting releases on their way for September and after!

PB: Lately I’ve been keeping most busy recorded lots of different artists at The Sparkle. There are a lot of records by other musicians which I’ve been recording lately, and I’m looking forward to share a lot more info about all of this very soon! I’ve also been organizing a choir in Portland, and I hope to make an album with them at some point.

 


 

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‘Desert Television’ (edition of 300 on red vinyl) is out now on Beacon Sound.

http://www.wearebeaconsound.com/shop/la-nuit-desert-television-lp
http://www.peterbroderick.net/
http://feliciaatkinson.tumblr.com/

 

 

Written by markcarry

August 27, 2015 at 2:41 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/

 


 

Matthew Collings (c) Zeno Watson_zenowatson(dot)com_crop

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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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

Chosen One: Félicia Atkinson

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Interview with Félicia Atkinson.

“Twin Peaks and Neil Young are, like for many people, strong influences of course. In ‘Down By The River’ there is the dead body in the river, as in ‘Twin Peaks’ with Laura’s body, so there is kind of a reverberance here, for sure. I like when stories echoes each other, fictions enlightening another fiction, song remembering another song…”

—Félicia Atkinson

Words & Illustration: Craig Carry
Painting: Félicia Atkinson, Photograph: Nicolas Poillot

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Félicia Atkinson is a French visual and sound artist currently living in the French Alps near Geneva, Swizerland. The first time I crossed paths with Félicia Atkinson was some six years ago. The setting, appropriately enough, was my local independent record store — Plugd Records — at it’s then location at Number 3 Washington Street, Cork City, Ireland. The intimate confines of this particular “sacred church” (as Frank Black has described the independent recordstore in the past) would on this fateful day emit the delicate, pure and formidable sounds of ‘Romain Anglais’, the 40-minute 4-track-length collaboration between the French artists Félicia Atkinson and Sylvain Chauveau, released in 2008 by UK-based independent label O’Rosa Records.

The heavenly sounds of both Atkinson and Chauveau would ripple gracefully around the store while filling the hearts of the music-dwellers looking for some temporary respite from the cold outside. The music found on ‘Roman Anglais’ (‘Aberdeen’, ‘How The Light’, ‘Dans La Lumière’ and ‘Roman Anglais’) would illicit a whole spectrum of textures, shapes, colours and images. Like an image on a ground glass coming into sharp focus or a blossoming sensitized photo paper emerging from developing solution in a darkroom, some kind of magical epiphany seemed to be happening. Sacred. Mysterious. Individual. Solitary. Magical. This is what “independent music” must really mean.

Opening track ‘Aberdeen’ begins with Chauveau’s unmistakable electric guitar strums which provides for the perfect opening to the collection (it’s the same particular echo and reverb that would augment pieces like ‘Fly Like A Horse’ from Chauveau’s later ‘Nuage’ LP). A subtle, hazy atmosphere sets the backdrop for the introduction of Félicia Atkinson’s spoken-word piece as she begins her magical journey; listing various cities and states from the US (Chicago, Louisville, Portland, Philadelphia, Providence, Illinois) then to the UK (Aberdeen, London, Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, Bath, Glasgow). The effect is startlingly meditative as we are transported to some parallel universe where the laws of space and time cease to exist. Then, while approaching the two-and-a-half minute mark, we hear the unmistakable lyric of Neil Young’s ‘Down By the River’ as Atkinson’s voice — accentuated by the magic that only the French accent can conjure — softly speaks: “Down by the river / I shot down my baby”. The soul-stirring and wholly-startling effect this has upon the listener is only augmented even further when Atkinson begins to repeat the words “twin peaks” (especially as the sibilance causes a delicate hiss with the microphone). The piece ends with Atkinson repeating Young’s famous couplet — this time in a mere whisper — while Chauveau’s artistry continues to ebb and flow in its midst.

‘How The Light’ opens with a more clearly defined, carefully-picked electric guitar passage while Atkinson’s voice can be heard singing: “how I enjoy the light”, this time with the extra addition of strings, adding further textures to proceedings. ‘Dans La Lumière’ begins with some field recordings (the distorted, mechanical beeps as found in a hospital emergency room) while a more abstract, minimalist musical backdrop is supplied by Chauveau on this occasion. What’s most impressive is we completely lose track of time in the process as the song gradually comes to a hushed close at just under the ten-minute mark. The quiet gem (and title-track) ‘Romain Anglais’ closes proceedings, the effect of Atkinson alternating between French and English on this occasion is a sensual delight.

The content of the spoken-word pieces are beautifully poetic (while remaining mystery-laden throughout) as Atkinson remarks: “The leaves are moving in silence / They are moving in silence / And she doesn’t watch alone / Because she can’t see / She’s out of the colours / And lack of shapes left her alone / Left her alone”. Pauses between spoken parts, the alteration of French and English, and repetition of words (particularly when colours are spoken) have an oddly moving and powerful effect on the listener while Atkinson proceeds to paint her spoken-word vignettes before our ears. The apparent serendipitous and improvisational manner of the lyrics call to mind Peter Broderick’s singing part to Ukrainian pianist Lubomyr Melnyk’s ‘Pockets Of Light’, from last year’s ‘Corolloraries’ LP, or the fluid, personal poetry of Frank O’Hara. The album closes like darkness enveloping a city, spreading it’s thinly-veiled cloak unevenly across it’s sleepy inhabitants.

It seems perfect now (looking back) that this record would have been made by these two particular souls. For the pair of Félicia Atkinson (both a renowned visual and sound artist) and Sylvain Chauveau would in time form the basis for some of the most prized records in my own collection. My own little corner of the world would begin to be filled with such albums as Chauveau’s ‘Nuage’ (comprising music for Sébastien Betbeder’s films ‘Nuage’ and ‘Les Mains d’Andrea’), ‘S.’ and ‘The Black Book of Capitalism’ (Chauveau’s debut album from 2000), together with records under the faithful guise of both Félicia Atkinson as well as Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier, Atkinson’s alter-ego and other musical outlet.

It’s simply spellbinding to look at the forever-expanding discography of Félicia Atkinson. While we can become accustomed to collecting new material from a particular artist every two years or so (through the constant unrealistic cycle imposed on musical artists of: writing, recording, releasing, touring, promoting), with Atkinson, the process seems to simply consist solely of making. To date, Atkinson has made dozens of records (under both her own name and Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier), contributed numerous collaborative and commissioned works, and, all the while, pursued her own successful and individual path as a visual artist and publisher. Atkinson graduated with honors from Les Beaux Arts de Paris, and has since exhibited her paintings and installations across both Europe and the US, at the likes of: Artist Comes First Festival 2013 in Toulouse, MUCA ROMA in Mexico and CEACC, Strasbourg. She has also received both the Langui Prize For Painting and Young Belgium Art Prize in 2013.

Atkinson also runs Shelter Press, an independent publishing company (co-run with partner Bartolomé Sanson) which has, since 2011, been publishing a whole universe of enriching and beautifully-assembled artist books (as well as various records, writings and zines) for a whole myriad of artists (from various backgrounds, disciplines and geographical locations).

Last year, Atkinson released the divine double-album ‘Visions / Voices’ on Umor Rex Records, providing the perfect chance to capture the majestic talents of Atkinson in full, beautiful flight.

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‘Visions/Voices’ is available now on Umor Rex Records.

http://www.umor-rex.org

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‘Roman Anglais’ is available now on O’Rosa Records.

http://www.orosarecords.com

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‘Those Vermillion Sands’ by Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier is available now on NNA Tapes.

http://nnatapes.com

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‘Venice is Falling’, Félicia Atkinson, Painting (Size: 47.2 x 31.5″)

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Interview with Félicia Atkinson.

My first introduction to your incredible music was in 2008 with the E.P you recorded with Sylvain Chauveau ‘Roman Anglais’. It’s a match made in heaven as it brings two very distinctive and extremely talented artists together. I would love to start by asking you how this E.P. came about and what was the background to the recording and writing process for record?

FA: Aha!…I don’t really remember, even if I love the record, it was such a long time ago and another time of my life! I released more than 20 albums since, under my name and Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier.

‘Roman Anglais’ was recorded in Montreal in a friend’s apartment, Patrick Lacharite, and in another friend’s apartment in Paris, Olivier Cavaillé. Then, the label, O’Rosa, didn’t wanted to mix it or master it, so we were a bit disappointed about that part and also the design was not very well done I think. I still love the record though, but I wish it was released on label that cared much more about the production and the artists themselves. If we have to release it again one day I would prefer that it was mixed and mastered for an LP, and with a proper design.

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Staying on ‘Roman Anglais’, the first track ‘Aberdeen’ is one of the most incredible pieces of music I’ve ever heard: it’s so magical and one of those songs that completely stuns the listener every time they listen to it. I’m particularly fascinated by the lyrics (where you list various cities) and the decision to include Neil Young’s couplet from ‘Down By The River’ which creates such an incredible mood and atmosphere recalling David Lynch (and the ‘Twin Peaks’ mention — possibly not intentional — highlights this further even). I would love if you could talk about the construction of ‘Aberdeen’.

FA: Well, thank you! As I said, I love the record, but I see it more as a collaborative work than one of my own, since ‘Roman Anglais’ is actually the only record I’m not playing any music on, just using the voice. I wrote the lyrics in a week, I think, and then I just had to add my voice on the beautiful music by Sylvain Chauveau that was happening. It was very smooth and easy. I didn’t have that much to do!

What I can say is that ‘Twin Peaks’ and Neil Young are, like for many people, strong influences of course. In ‘Down By The River’ there is the dead body in the river, as in ‘Twin Peaks’ with Laura’s body, so there is kind of a reverberance here, for sure. I like when stories echoes each other, fictions enlightening another fiction, song remembering another song…

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Like Sylvain Chauveau, you are such a consistent and prolific musician creating some of the most spellbinding music in independent music today. As you are obviously also a renowned painter and artist, how do you plan and write your music? Is it a case of spending a certain amount of time in the year to solely focus on music or is it very much a case of “making music all the time” and recording it as you go?

FA: Thank you. Yeah, I feel Sylvain is a very talented musician for sure. I feel that right now there is an amazing scene of independent music going on in Belgium, which is great. There is also Silvester Anfang, Ignatz, Urpfe Lanze, Helvette, Bear Bones Lay Low, Yannick Frank. Orphan Fairytale, Dolphins into the Future, TG, El G, Floris Vanhoof. And good labels too: Kraak but also, for example, Audio Mer or Smeraldina Rima. I am about to leave Brussels to move in the Alps, but I stayed there 5 years (I’m from Paris, France) and I can say I was pretty amazed by the number of various musicians there. Still, I feel there are not enough girls in the drone/experimental music scene…

Concerning the work, I never plan so much, but I need to organize a bit myself for sure, otherwise it would be a mess! I also co-run, with my partner, Bartolomé Sanson, a music label and independent publishing house called Shelter Press since 2011 (we are publishing this month our 29th release!) and I teach art in the Annecy school of the Arts in the French Alps. But, to be honest, I am very lazy person, I love sleeping, cooking, drinking coffee, daydream while listening to records. Those moments are actually crucial because they feed my inspiration.

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Turning now to your current double LP, the gorgeous ‘Visions / Voices’ released by Umor Rex Records. I would love to gain an insight into the conception and realization of this record?

FA: Well, it’s a collection of songs I previously released on very limited editions (from amazing DIY labels such as, for example, Kaugummi, Unread Records, Fluid Audio, Cooper Cult, etc.) during 3 years.

I had the chance to be asked by Daniel Castejon to gather them on his label, Umor Rex, and make a double LP, which was very thrilling and I am so happy with the result! Very proud actually! It’s a combination of kind of abstract music pieces and songs. I made it, it was mastered by the great James Plotkin, and then Daniel invited me to make a music show and an exhibition in Mexico D.F. last June, it was wonderful. I love Mexico!

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The pieces and arrangements are so beautiful, at times very abstract, but always so real and engaging. It’s obvious you wish to create much feeling and a rich experience for the listener in your records. How do you choose which instruments to best compliment the sound recordings you make?

FA: Instrument is very important, for sure. They are the base of the work, either it is guitar, harp or keyboards, the way you have to touch it (engaging or not, harmonies or not) is very crucial.
Most of my work is completely improvised, I record what I am improvising, even the voice is always improvised. Then I rework the tracks a bit, adding layers of electronics, for example, but always in this linear, time-based way.

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There is such a range of options at your disposal that creates such a dynamic range of limitless textures: I imagine the process to complete a musical piece must be deeply personal and very challenging?

FA: Yes, for sure.

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Nicolas_Poillot01

Photograph © Nicolas Poillot (b. 1978), one of the many artists featured in publications by Shelter Press.

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You live between Paris — where you were born — and Brussels. It must be a wonderful way of keeping in touch with so much music and art that is going on. What are your favorite aspects about these cities? Where are your favorite places to visit in Paris or Brussels?

FA: My parents and best friends are in Paris, so I come there often since it’s so close to Brussels. But I don’t play there that much. The Parisian music scene doesn’t know me at all. Such are the art galleries, they don’t really care about me for now. They are very suspicious of artists who are also involved in the DIY scene, they find it weird. Especially if you are also a woman! Too many weird components, aha! So, I go to Paris; eat good chinese food, sit in parks, go to museums and hang out with people, but not really to work actually! 🙂

Brussels is the city that kind of accepted my art and music, giving the opportunity to show it and express it. Also, the rents are cheaper so it was easier to have a decent apartment and an art studio. This also where I created Shelter Press with Bartolomé. Brussels is a work city for me. But I also made new friends there, and found a tiny community of people interested in books, records…

But now we will move to the Alps. I will keep my art studio in Brussels, that is very affordable and that I like, for a while, and come back from time to time for preparing shows there.

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Being such a diverse artist (with work encompassing sound art, music, paintings, installations etc.) it must be so challenging keeping store of ideas for future projects. Would you keep a sketchbook to keep stock of ideas that you find interesting? What would your work practice entail, would your paintings begin as sketches/drawings?

FA: I love sketchbooks. I used to use them more. Now that I work mostly in situ, let’s say the sketchbook is inherent to the art or music piece. It’s like a gigantic sketchbook, all the time.

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I would love to know the painters and movements in art history that inspired you to paint and make art? And, indeed, which contemporary painters you admire the most?

FA: Well, I am influenced by many things: African and Native Australian art, for example, and their way to make art as a magical art, but also some folk artists and also avant garde movements such as the Arte Povera, Fluxus, The Black Mountain College, the minimalists, abstract expressionists also.

I love artists who did art as an act, and not only as illusionists, the builders of new reality rather than just an another image, who doesn’t separate life from art. I love how John Cage saw sound everywhere, and art connected to life and has a kind of ethic.

More recently, I love the works of Thea Djordjadze or Ulla Van Brandeburg, or the installations and films by Pierre Huygue, for example. His last piece at the Documenta 13 in Kassel in September 2012 was really moving, I feel. It was a garden made of ruins with two errant dogs and a statue covered by a beehive. You were entering a state of mind transformed into a garden.

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What music have you been listening to lately? Who would your most beloved musicians/albums be?

FA: I love the Vestals album on Rootstrata that came up a year ago, and also the new Date Palms on Mexican Summer and the latest Lee Noble on Bathetic. But also Mohammad, Oren Ambarchi, Cleared, Simon Scott and also a lot of actual US west coast music: Ilya Ahmed, Yellow Swans, Grouper, Julia Holter, Comon Eider King Eider, Barn Owl, Ensemble Ecomonique.

I listened also to a lot of Mississippi Records compilations on tapes and their African Music Box, that is wonderful. And a lot of oldies such as Neil Young and Crazy Horse albums, Gordon Lightfoot, Townes Van Zandt, Bridget St John…I am also very into the records we released with Shelter Press for sure!

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What has been the biggest sources of inspiration for you as an artist: books, authors, directors, films etc.?

FA: Well, it’s more questions through books, records, paintings rather than a medium in particular. It can be a novel by Joan Didion or Don Dellillo as much as an essay by Jacques Ranciere, a movie with the young Sissy Spacek such as ‘Badlands’ or ‘3 Women’, early Godard movies, a painting by Joan Mitchell or Peter Doig, an interview of Mike Kelley, a comic book by Daniel Clowes, a song by Fleetwood Mac…it’s very vast!

I am also inspired by landscapes, walks, cities. I love walking and taking trains, being in motion.

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You co-run (alongside Bartolomé Sanson) the independent publishing company Shelter Press. Like publishers such as Steidl, Mack or Nazraeli Press, the art direction and aesthetics of all your books are so beautiful and unique. It is so obvious the publishing of books is such a labour of love and a passion for you. I’d love if you could share your account of the history and background to Shelter Press?

FA: Well, thanks a lot. Shelter Press is a nonprofit, independent publishing house and label we created with Bartolomé Sanson in 2011. He was running — for more than 5 years — Kaugummi books, an amazing DIY zine publishing house and he wanted to think of an evolution of it. The name Shelter Press is inspired by Shelter Publications, an actual DIY publishing house that was created in the 70’s by an visionary architect still alive and skateboarding called Lloyd Kahn who published back then two very important books: ‘The Dome Book’ and ‘Shelter’. Those 2 books were DIY guides on how to create your own shelter. It’s a metaphor of how we see the publishing act: creating a shelter, in motion, nomad, for uncommon projects. Bartolomé does all the graphic design of the books and records.

I used to work in an art bookstore for 2 years and we had the occasion there to observe many books, see how they live as objects of meaning and objects of esthetic, take the time to learn from them, it was very instructive I think. Each book or record finances the other one, it’s a slow process, we try to control every step of the making. The next books we’re going to publish is by the great French photographer Estelle Hannania, it’s going to be called “Glacial Jubile”. We are very proud of this book! I hope people will like it. She photographs pagan rites in Eastern Europe, she has a very accurate and sharp eye. I think it’s going to be a very beautiful book.

Concerning the music label, we do vinyls and tapes, and our schedule is already booked until the end of 2014! The latest record we put out is from Terence Hannum, a musician and visual artist living in Baltimore, playing also in the band Locrian. Then we’re going to release a cassette by High Wolf and an LP by Evan Caminitti from Barn Owl, and also one by the French musician Chicaloyoh. Autumn will be exciting I think!

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It’s incredible that, with the advent of digital technologies and the internet, the demand and passion for tactile and physical books — especially true for the photobook (limited editions, special editions and so on) — that are beautifully produced remains as high as ever. How would you feel about digital technologies and it’s impact on publishing?

FA: I think both are very important. I am totally OK if people download free music, films, etc. Free education is necessary!

And blogs on the internet help a lot to sell records and books, so it is one helping the other, each time. The trick is to be realistic and publish runs of books or records that are in good enough number to be found in good places, but also conscious of not wasting any copies, and keep them kind of rare and accurate. And make them as beautiful as they can be!

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For all information on the latest music and art projects by Félicia Atkinson, please visit:

http://feliciaatkinson.be
http://feliciaatkinson.bandcamp.com

http://jesuislepetitchevalier.bandcamp.com

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For all information and latest publications by Shelter Press, please visit:

http://www.shelter-press.com

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Written by admin

February 3, 2014 at 9:49 am