Posts Tagged ‘James McVinnie’
We are thrilled to premiere the new remix album ‘Cycles_1’ – a collection of remixes of London-based organist and composer James Mc Vinnie’s ‘Cycles’ opus – which comes out this Friday, 24th March 2017 via the prestigious Icelandic label Bedroom Community.
‘Cycles_1’ features Remixes by Sam Slater, Matt Huxley, Scanner, Talos, Paul Evans, Liam Byrne and Alex Groves. Taken from James McVinnie’s debut Bedroom Community album, ‘Cycles’ (music composed by Nico Muhly).
This is the fifth release on Bedroom Community’s HVALREKI digital series.
‘Cycles_1’ is available this Friday 24th March 2017 as part of Bedroom Community’s HVALREKI digital series. ‘Cycles_1’ can be purchased HERE.
“I wanted to take one of the shortest and most frenetic pieces on the album and flip it on it’s head, turning it into this extremely slow and very spacious piece. There are just a few tiny fragments that repeat and layer and gradually build up into this big wall of noise. It kinda feels like the original got stretched beyond recognition and all these other sounds came into view.”
“The track itself is this beautiful, stirring set of motifs that speak to each other but never really touch. In a way I saw the remix as the aftermath of that conversation… Something ponderous and tactile.”
“I was looking towards expanding upon the original piece, whilst retaining its elegance and grandeur. It explores a form of cinematic expression with pulsing light and dark, with a series of repetitive motifs that gradually develop into a percussive workout that continues to envelop a skeletal adaptation of the original Prelude throughout. Most of the string and keyboard parts I added were played live with no computer trickery to improve the timing. It closes in a very intimate way with additional vocal and guitar parts. I always enjoy the flow and tension of performing live to tape.”
“My idea was to use as little as possible. I broke a plate in the kitchen, sampled it and mangled a single loop of Nadia’s breath, violin and a single organ chord from Jamie. Everything else is just processing and kick drums, all placed inside some kind of ceramic texture world. It’s meant to sound like rocks underwater, or cracking knuckles or something.”
“I have had a longstanding love for liturgical music and the interaction between sound and architecture. With this remix I wanted to explore the space between notes and to build a sonic temple to religious ecstasy.”
“This remix was mostly made back in 2013, as a way to pass the time on the plane back from having visited Nico in New York. I wanted it to be a pure collage, so there are no extra bits added in, with everything coming from the original track. I think this was the first of all these remixes to be made, so I’m very happy to see it released.”
‘Cycles_1’ is available this Friday 24th March 2017 as part of Bedroom Community’s HVALREKI digital series. ‘Cycles_1’ can be purchased HERE.
In celebration of the prestigious Icelandic label Bedroom Community’s tenth anniversary year, we are delighted to present the second in a series of features where the artists share their musical influences, memories and most cherished recordings. Following on from label co-founder Valgeir Sigurðsson, it’s New York’s renowned violist and composer, Nadia Sirota.
Words: Nadia Sirota
Bedroom Community is an Icelandic record label/collective formed in 2006 by Valgeir Sigurðsson, with Nico Muhly and Ben Frost, later adding Sam Amidon, Daníel Bjarnason, Puzzle Muteson, Paul Corley, Nadia Sirota and James McVinnie to the intimate roster. 2015 saw two new additions to the family being: Emily Hall & Jodie Landau and wild Up.
Like-minded, yet diverse individuals from different corners of the globe all creatively orbit around an inconspicuous building and its inhabitants on the outskirts of Reykjavík Iceland – Greenhouse Studios – where the music is mostly created.
In celebration of the influential record label’s 10th Anniversary in 2016, members of the collective come together in a series of live performances known as the Whale Watching Tour. The inspirational tour is an unusual and ambitious premise. The artists, who are friends and colleagues, present what is more like a musical conversation with aspects of a show-and-tell than a formal concert.
Nadia Sirota, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Nico Muhly, Sam Amidon, Daníel Bjarnason & Jodie Landau are going for several dates on both side of the Atlantic to keep going this Whale Watching Tour 2016, celebrating the tenth anniversary of Bedroom Community. They will also deliver during Iceland Airwaves a very special performance together with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra in Harpa, Reykjavik.
The first piece of classical music you fell in love with?
When I was very little I was OBSESSED with the Overture from Bernstein’s Candide. Obsessed.
A recording whose arrangements floored you?
David Bowie ‘Blackstar’ sounds so bonkers-good.
A masterful composition which made a huge impact on you?
Olivier Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time
An unforgettable live performance you have been part of?
My very first BedCom performance at Airwaves, of KIT, in 2006. It was also the first time I’d played a long-ass viola piece for a bunch of drunk and sweaty festival-goers and and I became addicted to it.
A defining record that led you onto your own musical path?
Kim Kashkashian’s Brahms Viola Sonatas
Nadia will perform along with Nico Muhly on the album launch concert on September 27th, and during Bedroom Community’s Whale Watching Tour.
WHALE WATCHING TOUR
27.09.2016 New-York, Subculture**
01.10.16 Krakow, Sacrum Profanum **
03.10.16 Copenhagen, Bremen Teater *
04.10.16 Leipzig, UT Connewitz*
05.10.16 Amsterdam, Paradiso*
06.10.16 Bristol, Colston Hall*
07.10.16 London, Barbican **
03.11.16 Reykjavík, Iceland Airwaves **
Nico Muhly & Nadia Sirota**
Over the past decade, Sirota has been involved with unique interpretations of new scores and for commissioning and premiering works by some of the most talented composers. The New York Times has heralded Sirota as “a bold new-wave music interpreter and the violist of choice among downtown ensembles these days.” Sirota has been an integral part to luminaries of both the modern-classical scene (Stars Of The Lid, Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson) and indie giants such as Arcade Fire, The National and Grizzly Bear, to name but a few. Similar to her close friend and colleague, Nico Muhly, Sirota graduated from the Juilliard School where she created the Juilliard Plays Juilliard programme for student composers and performers. Furthermore, Sirota is also a founding member of ACME (the American Contemporary Music Ensemble).
‘Keep In Touch’ is the new album from Nico Muhly & Nadia Sirota and features The Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Alarm Will Sound. ‘Keep In Touch’, especially in its original version, was premised on the fear of never quite managing to make that connection. Its two soloists—violist Nadia Sirota and vocalist Anohni, of Antony and the Johnsons—were recorded separately, so that Anohni was virtually present, her part constructed from pass after pass of vocal improvisations, while Nadia’s was added later, all in one long, live take.
Every dimension of the piece accentuates what Muhly calls the “in-betweenness” of these two strange voices: Antony’s singing and the equally sweet falsetto of the viola. The solo part, with its bow-scrapes and awkward passagework, affectionately emphasises the instrument’s flaws, its unevenness’s of tone, and its idiosyncratic character as the neglected middle child of the fiddle family. (Even the percussion on the electronic track is constructed from the little noises a violist usually makes only by accident.) And Antony’s voice, so stately on his own records, is here reduced to abrupt, extemporaneous gestures” mirroring, not alleviating, the viola’s isolation.
– Program Notes, Daniel Johnson (2007)
‘Keep In Touch’ is released via Bedroom Community on 30th September.
Interview with Oliver Coates.
“I still think of myself of an interpreter, always channelling something from outside of me.”
Words: Mark Carry
My first introduction to Oliver Coates’s music came in the form of a rather splendid mixtape compiled by British composer and organist James Mc Vinnie. The appropriately titled mix, ‘Music for Travel’ consisted of Coates’s utterly beguiling cello-based composition ‘The Room is the Resonator’ as the fitting opening track. A gorgeous ebb and flow of mournful cello strings coalesces effortlessly with gentle ambient pulses and field recordings, evoking the sound world of Brooklyn-based cellist Julia Kent and Canadian violinist Sarah Neufeld. A returning motif of fragile cello pizzicato forms the pulsing heart of this incredible composition that not only signifies music for travel but music for motion of the beating heart and stirring soul.
The London-based cellist, composer and producer has released records on PRAH Recordings – an offshoot of the legendary Moshi Moshi label – and SLIP and in addition, his collaborative work with the London Contemporary Orchestra, Jonny Greenwood (‘The Master’ score) and Mica Levi (score for ‘Under The Skin’). The gifted composer’s first full-length ‘Towards the blessed islands’ was Prah’s first release and earlier this month saw the eagerly-awaited new solo full-length, ‘Upstepping’. A scintillating record of disparate influences where vital sounds of electronic and techno collide with neo-classical elements, which somehow feels closely adjacent to the works of Aphex Twin, Four Tet and Boards of Canada as it does to the modern-classical realm of today.
Coates has described ‘Upstepping’ as “pumped-up body music”. The record’s meticulously crafted and sumptuously layered tracks forms a lovely parallel with Four Tet’s ‘There Is Love In You’ LP, the early Warp output and Canadian artists of Dan Snaith’s Caribou and Owen Pallett’s otherworldly odysseys. The album opener ‘Innocent Love’ feels a lost companion piece to Kieran Hebden’s ‘There Is Love In You’ opus with a hypnotic female vocal line delicately placed in the forefront of the mix alongside a deep bass groove and utterly transcendent cello sections. ‘Innocent Love’ epitomises the inventive spirit and deeply engaging voyage that ‘Upstepping’ takes you on, transitioning between many musical forms in the process.
A myriad of warm textures and flourishes are masterfully embedded in the following cut of ‘Timelapse’, which maps the cherished memories of childhood as the radiant warmth of nostalgia permeates each and every aching pore of this joyously uplifting electronica exploration. ‘Bambi 2046’ contains looped samples and meditative strings that evokes the neo-classical splendour of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s ‘IBM 1401, A User’s Manual’ culminating in a glorious crescendo of distorted strings. Deeper house grooves are employed in ‘Perfect Love’ with scintillating techno beats reminiscent of master producers DJ Koze, Mathew Herbert et al. The masterful transition to the brooding cinematic soundscapes of ‘Memorial to Hitchens’ reflects the soaring emotional depth and rich intensity of ‘Upstepping’. The gradual strings and enveloping emotion of ‘Memorial to Hitchens’ shares the immaculate beauty of A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s modern-classical masterworks.
‘Upstepping’ is out now on PRAH Recordings.
Interview with Oliver Coates.
Congratulations on the truly stunning new record, ‘Upstepping’. One of the great hallmarks of this new full-length is the marvellous marriage of the dance sphere and modern-classical realm; a voyage brimming with ideas, sonic nuances, textures and intricate detail. Please take me back to the recording sessions of ‘Upstepping’ and the main objectives and desires you wished for this solo effort? I wonder were any challenges posed during the making of these compositions?
Oliver Coates: It was an out-of-my-head combination of recording sessions, writing sessions and mixing sessions mixed up into one type of behaviour. There was a laptop, mic and cello, sometimes working all night sometimes grabbing 5 minutes to write a new pattern. There was never a plan – only a desire to make the music come to life. I had more, ambient, noise and dance tracks and then Stephen from PRAH helped me pick for this. Lawrence’s artwork completed it. Desiring the track to exist, for it to be satisfying, a kind of internal ecology with the materials, I don’t think about where it’s going to go or who it’s for. Except maybe for my wife and Stephen. The most intense periods alone, making and listening, were in Hong Kong late 2014, Egypt – a couple of days in 2015, and Waterloo summer 2015. I listened to a whole USB stick of Egyptian pop in the desert in a taxi one day and I learnt a lot from that.
Two sister tracks that feel the vital pulse to ‘Upstepping’ are the sublime techno-infused explorations of ‘Innocent Love’ and ‘Perfect Love’. If there ever was an opener to a record it would be ‘Innocent Love; conjuring up the sound of Four Tet at his finest. Can you talk me through the various layers of these particular tracks, Oliver? In terms of the cello instrumentation, how much of these tracks contain cello and what ways do you treat and process the cello sound? A beautifully euphoric sound radiates throughout and reflects the dynamic and shape-shifting sound of ‘Upstepping’.
OC: Four Tet’s arrangement and editing of sampled sound has an intuitive sense and flow which impacts the way I play the instrument. The practice of taking old sounds, chopping them up, and reconfiguring them digitally until it sounds natural and spontaneous has had an impact on my bowing technique on the old wooden analogue instrument. Maybe this is ironic but to me it feels obvious – the manner in which you approach any instrument which makes its acoustic sound, body language, repetition, improvisation, reduction, ornamentation (or special effect), continues to evolve even if you don’t update the technology – I play on a normal old cello with four steel strings. The microscopic and infinite ways you can vary the attack; you can repeat as if you yourself have been sampled – these electronic processes from the last 40 years affect my work – they set the bar higher. Right now I think a lot about arpeggiators as used by Boards of Canada and also Shackleton’s percussion patterns.
I’m not really sure how I made Innocent Love. I remember walking around Hong Kong Island through the night listening to different mixes.
‘Timelapse’ transitions effortlessly between warm, inventive electronica and luminous ambient flourishes. It feels there are several distinct sections contained within this one piece. For example, I love the middle section’s rhythmic groove and the final – what feels to be – soothing synth passages. In terms of constructing ‘Timelapse’, does a gradual process lie at the heart of layering/fusing the many elements together?
OC: The structure for that track revealed itself quite quickly. Staying in one hotel for a couple of nights when we found the home we had just completed on – our first flat – had been completely flooded out. There’s a repeating sample of a child talking that got in there. Instantly that takes me back to early ’90s Aphex and how to straddle that feeling of innocent bright melody and something a bit sinister creeping along.
Upon many revisits of ‘Upstepping’, the spirit of Arthur Russell most certainly feels present, floating through the ether. Again, it’s the many transitioning styles, contrasts, and moods that morph together throughout the record. Can you discuss for me your approach to the cello instrument and the different techniques or processes you have developed when it comes to performing on this instrument?
OC: The cello is often recorded then transposed to another pitch digitally. There are a lot of notes in this record tuned away from the 12 semitones, microtonally shunted around. It keeps the harmonies alive, pitches have more magnetism or so the intervals between them, being reconfigured from the 12 notes of the piano. Cello unadorned plus beats direct and simple hasn’t yet gelled for me. I don’t know if it will. I add a tonne of processing until it feels right. But the best technique of all is the oldest – slowing down or speeding up recordings. Jonny Greenwood does that too when he records strings. Listen to The Master- things are not quite what they seem. For me it sounds good to record a long pure tone like a harmonic then pull it down to the bass register. You bring these spectral colours down too, into the mid-range. You’re more aware of a spectrum soaked in adjacent tones.
The aesthetic and feel to the new record is another important aspect to the sense of journey the music takes you on. For instance, the placing of the more neo-classical-based pieces, ‘Memorial to Hitchens’ and ‘The Irish Book Of Death & Flying Ships’ (and also, the fragile closing lament of ‘Rise and Fall’ embody the emotive and deeply affecting nature of the music. Can you shed some light on the narrative to these particular pieces? The spoken word segments on the latter works so beautifully, evoking the works of Gavin Bryars and Steve Reich along the way.
OC: If there’s a narrative then it’s personal – a lot has changed recently. I still think of myself of an interpreter, always channelling something from outside of me. And not knowing what kind of musician I am. That way I’m going to keep listening and not just churning music out – listening to nature most of all, but also the rhythms of other people as they go about their lives. The poet Alice Oswald speaks well about this. So much is indirect – I made Rise & Fall in a cupboard in 20 minutes while I was waiting for some dancers to warm up. My brother-in-law heard it playing out of my laptop speakers a few months later and took interest in it so I asked if we could add it on the end of the record.
Please discuss your love for dance music and the more techno-infused sound worlds you obviously have such a strong affinity for? Who would have been the most ground-breaking producers and dance records for you when it came to forming the direction of ‘Upstepping’?
OC: I never consciously formed a direction but I’ve always loved fast dance music. I used to have Moving Shadow & Metalheadz compilations on cassette but I think the Come to Daddy EP was a big moment for my head. I was mostly playing Shostakovich cello music at the time so it was weird to try to make sense of the two. Burial, we had some at our wedding, Enya too.
The album’s penultimate track ‘Stash’ for me is the record’s defining moment. The otherworldly dimension and sense of movement captured is revelatory. I wonder would it be a case of finding one or two motifs – whether it’s a cello-based melodic pattern or some interesting sample – where you then piece these elements together and in turn, embed these into a rhythmic structure? It feels there must be some difficulty in piecing together these various sections whilst retaining the liquid state of the music?
OC: Everything was arranged sound by sound on a timeline. This was the last track I made. The most live cello playing is in the sliding sounds near the beginning, between snatches of conversation and found sound. Then the big melody in the middle bit is a cello harmonic played through an arpeggiator in different patterns. I now have a new version for live performance of this track with new live harmonised cello layers and dubby delays – it’s starting to sound more tropical, maybe this is my seapunk record. I have some great new pressure-sensitive devices which are helping me perform these sounds live.
I must ask you about your collaborative work, if you don’t mind Oliver. I’m a huge fan of your collaborative work with Jonny Greenwood and Mica Levi. These scores represent some of the most deeply affecting, adventurous, compelling and timeless soundtracks of recent times. Can you recount your memories of working with Mica and Jonny on some of these scores, for which you must have some particularly strong memories for (‘Under The Skin’, ‘The Master’ to name two)?
OC: It’s mostly nonverbal. There’s a curious magic to it – a kind of quick-read knowingness and a sort of quiet understanding. Pieces of paper with different musical cues. Sometimes these feel finished and polished on the page or sometimes they are a starting point. A studio with lots of mics and some great freelance players getting together. You figure out as quick as you can what to do, where you can help most in each track. A good thing about both Mica and Jonny is they don’t talk much, they listen hard and they trust. They let go and want to do what you can with the notation (obey it precisely with lots of dynamics I find is the best) until it starts to fit with the mood of the scene. With the Under the Skin I enjoyed going in and multi-tracking Mica’s viola playing with my harmonics. Jonny and Mica both play viola very well (amongst many other instruments). Funny that.
‘Upstepping’ is out now on PRAH Recordings.
James McVinnie is a highly prolific organist and keyboardist who released ‘Cycles’ – an album comprising organ pieces written by his Bedroom Community labelmate Nico Muhly – and also features Nadia Sirota, Chris Thompson and Simon Wall. McVinnie’s musical career to date has been a fascinating one; he was Assistant Organist of Westminster Abbey between 2008 and 2011 and he previously held Organ Scholarships at St Albans Cathedral, and at Clare College, Cambridge. McVinnie has also collaborated with many contemporary musicians – including Valgeir Sigurðsson, Bryce Dessner, Sufjan Stevens, Sam Amidon, Ben Frost, Oneohtrix Point Never and Beth Orton – demonstrating his immense musicianship and impressive versatility as a composer. ‘Cycles’ is available now on prestigious Icelandic independent label Bedroom Community.
Fractured Air 40: Music for Travel (A Mixtape by James McVinnie)
To listen on Mixcloud:
01. Oliver Coates ‘The Room is the Resonator’ [PRAH]
02. Sarah Neufeld ‘Dirt’ [Constellation]
03. Keith Jarrett ‘Spheres (1st Movement)’ [ECM]
04. Peter Phillips & The Tallis Scholars ‘Stabat mater’ (John Browne: Music from the Eton Choirbook) [Gimmel]
05. J.S. Bach ‘Vergnügte Ruh, Beliebte Seelenlust’ (Bernarda Fink, Petra Mullejan & Freiburger Barockorchester) [Harmonia Mundi]
06. Steve Reich ‘The Desert Music: V. Fast’ (Alarm Will Sound, Alan Pierson & Ossia) [Nonesuch]
07. Philip Glass ‘Trial 2 / Prison Ensemble’ [Nonesuch]
08. Pat Metheny ‘Last Train Home’ [Geffen]
09. Jónsi ‘Hengilás’ [Parlophone, XL]
10. John Tavener ‘Eternity’s Sunrise’ [Harmonia Mundi]
11. Clare Wilkinson and Fretwork ‘Michael Nyman: If’ [Bandcamp]
Compiled by James McVinnie. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or their respective record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.
‘Cycles’ is available now on Bedroom Community.
A Safe Harbour [A Fractured Air Mix]
To listen on Mixcloud:
01. Amiina (ft. Lee Hazlewood) ‘Hilli (At the Top of the World)’ [Everrecords]
02. Sam Amidon ‘Saro’ [Bedroom Community]
03. Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh ‘big mammoth’ [Diatribe]
04. The Gloaming ‘Samradh Samradh’ [Real World]
05. Kate Ellis ‘Aisling Gheal’ (Trad. Irish. A Setting by D. Dennehy) [Diatribe]
06. Seán Mac Erlaine ‘Turaghlan’ [Ergodos]
07. This Is How We Fly ‘March For A Dark Day’ [Playing With Music]
08. Valgeir Sigurðsson ‘Big Reveal’ [Bedroom Community]
09. Julianna Barwick ‘Prizewinning’ [Asthmatic Kitty]
10. Mina Tindle ‘Plein nord’ [Believe Recordings]
11. Nadia Sirota ‘From The Invisible To The Visible’ [Bedroom Community]
12. My Brightest Diamond ‘This Is My Hand’ [Blue Sword (ASCAP)]
13. James McVinnie ‘Hudson Preludes: Follow Up’ [Bedroom Community]
14. So Percussion ‘Music for Wood and Strings: Section 3’ [Brassland]
15. This Is The Kit ‘Bashed Out’ [Brassland]
16. Amiina ‘Leather And Lace’ [Sound Of A Handshake]
Sounds From A Safe Harbour is a festival of music, art & conversation, curated by The National’s Bryce Dessner, taking place on 17—20 September 2015 across various venues in Cork, Ireland. Tickets are on sale now.