FRACTURED AIR

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Posts Tagged ‘Mary Lattimore

Chosen One: Mary Lattimore

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I think making music is just my way of capturing moments that otherwise might be fleeting. They’re little time capsules, the songs and the records.”

—Mary Lattimore

 Words: Mark Carry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rsz_mary_lattimore-press_4-photo_credit-rachael_pony_cassells

Interview with Mary Lattimore.

 

Congratulations Mary on the stunningly beautiful latest solo full length ‘Hundreds Of Days’. Firstly, please take me back to the record’s inception and particularly this redwood barn overlooking San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. This must have been such an inspiring setting in which the compositions of ‘Hundreds Of Days’ emanated from? Please recount your memories of these colourful, creative days?

Mary Lattimore: I was awarded this artist’s residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts in a national park outside of San Francisco. I stayed there for almost two months, absorbing the rugged, romantic landscape and meeting other artists who were painters, poets, activists, dancers from all over the world. We shared dinner together and lived in these Victorian military houses surrounded by eucalyptus trees. During the day, we were each alone in our own zones, writing or hiking, with barely any cell phone service or internet. My studio was this large barn where I’d set out all of my instruments, some I didn’t know how to play. Walking back to my house late at night was very star-lit and felt a little dangerous, in a safe way. Mountain lions had been spotted there.The ocean was grey-blue and the beach was rocky. We were surrounded by redwood trees, lots of fog, coastal sage and tsunami warning signs. We each had total freedom and met up at the end of the day to eat delicious food cooked by a gourmet chef. It was a very blissful couple of months of total creative freedom, where no one could hear me experimenting with things I didn’t know how to use or trying out vocals, embarrassingly. That kind of space and freedom within a time constraint of a two month, once-in-a-lifetime residency is very intense and very special. I’m really grateful for it.

As a listener I’m always struck by how expansive your harp-based creations truly are, and how the rich tapestries of sumptuous sounds drift in the ether of unknown dimensions. Looking back over these six pieces, I wonder were some of these borne from the act of improvisation? Also, I’d love to gain an insight into your mindset when you perform your trusted harp instrument? It feels as if there is some liminal state forever orbited when your music ascends into the atmosphere.

ML: Wow, that’s a beautiful way to put it. In general, all of the pieces are borne from improvisation, where I’ll press record and start to make something, then if I like where it goes, I’ll add the extra layers and morph where those layers go by adding layers on top of that. So it’s just kind of stacks of improvised tracks. Part of that method might be because I don’t really know how to edit, technology-wise, so I just add until it sounds cool and sounds the way I want it to. I guess it’s the same way when I play live. There are always happy accidents and loops that I have to figure my way out of, so it remains thrilling because there’s so much improvisation woven in there around the themes.

One of the new directions here is the added instrumentation of keyboards, guitar and grand piano, intricately woven with the harp tapestries. Truly, these new layers further heightens the otherworldly and timeless quality of your musical works. I’d love for you to talk me through the gorgeous album opener ‘It Feels Like Floating’ (a title which perfectly encapsulates the entire record)? Did the various layering provide any challenges? How long was this particular melody simmering in the pools of your mind, Mary? It feels such an effortless process, it’s almost as if a piece of music just comes to you, like a raindrop falling from the sky….

ML: I mean, I have to say, it’s not effortless, but it did just come to me, where I was just messing around, came up with that little figure that starts the song, and then I hit record and that’s what came out. It’s not effortless but I’m basically just playing with a kernel of an idea and then just seeing where it goes if I add other things. As I’m bad at editing, I scrap the whole take if I don’t like it and then just make something else. But usually, I can get myself out of trouble if I just add more things or take away big chunks rather than going in there and dissecting the tiny bits. It Feels Like Floating came from a place in which I had a little heartbreak and was trying to digest that. The title is a quote from the conversation I had with the dude, and I thought it was a pretty thing to say. Making up songs is how I navigate myself out of those things, in a way, too, I guess. But I also love to swim and that feeling of floating is one of the best feelings in the world.

The artist residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts must have served a significant source of inspiration for you, and particularly spending time with an entire community of creative souls. It reminds me of the Loft in New York or the Big Pink house in Woodstock from different moments in time. I would love to read a diary entry (if you will) from this time you spent along the Northern Pacific Coast and the characters that filled these days? 

ML: I should’ve kept a diary! Instead, I wrote lots of letters to other people. I was really psyched to get so much mail and to generate so much mail while I was there. I read 14 books in 2 months, which is a lot for me. A lot of my favorite days were those spent not talking with anyone, just making a little breakfast, drinking coffee, walking to the studio, playing some, then taking a hike down to the beach or up to one of the abandoned military structures high on a hill, then coming back down for dinner, then walking up to the studio, playing a little more, drinking a little wine, walking back home under the stars, reading and going to bed. I think the simplicity, the simple options of what to do during the day, the lack of mental chatter/worry and general stability where you didn’t have to fret about driving anywhere or the news or anything outside of the little bubble was super unique and luxurious. I’ll remember it forever.

Can you discuss your set-up for the recording of ‘Hundreds Of Days’? I wonder did you try out and experiment with new processes and techniques on this latest record? 

ML: I want to keep moving forward and trying out new things. I had this beautiful Moog Mother 32 and the Theremini and some pedals and some cheap thrift store keyboards, electric guitar, there was a grand piano in the main building, I just wanted to make the palette as full of colors as I could, so that was the main difference in this record, expanded palette. I didn’t really try out new techniques but I also think that the hourglass of two months being turned over, the limited time, inspired me to get lots of work done.

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‘Hello From the Edge of the Earth’ is such an achingly beautiful lament with the graceful harp notes unfolding a quiet magic instantaneously. As the title suggests, this piece of music is an ode to mother nature. I’d love for you to discuss the narrative of this particular piece and your memories of writing ‘Hello From the Edge of the Earth’? Were you steeped in nature from your upbringing back home in Philadelphia?

ML: I’m actually from North Carolina, so I did grow up amidst a lot of nature, in the mountains in the western part of the state. I figured out pretty early on that I love cities, the culture and the anonymity and the possibilities that come with living in a big city. I moved to Rochester, NY when I was 17, which is a larger city than the town where I grew up. My life in Philly didn’t have that much nature except for a park overlooking the river at the end of my block. I think being at the Headlands was the closest to immersion in nature that I’d felt for a while and it really lined up with my need to make something that encompassed heartache and a general sadness about leaving Philadelphia, where I’d lived for thirteen years. The record and this song are both a love letter to the wildness and jewel box beauty of the California coast and a postcard back to Philadelphia from my new location. I see this song as a postcard. It’s a little musical transmission from my new planet.

The act of travelling and road-trips across America has provided you with many stories, I’m sure which get captured beautifully into your deeply affecting music. As a musician and artist, I’d love to gain an insight into the ways by which your creative mind becomes unlocked (and the flood gates open, so to speak) when you’re in motion and witnessing different places along a continent spanning trip? For example, the seeds were for sewn for the predecessor ‘At The Dam’ LP from a U.S. road trip?

ML: Yeah, it’s true. I think making music is just my way of capturing moments that otherwise might be fleeting. They’re little time capsules, the songs and the records. My memory is pretty shot and it’s my way of recording the places and the feelings and it’s my way of communicating with other people, albeit wordlessly. Being on the road or being in a strange new place really flips a switch on in your brain, where you’re more aware and alert and awake, more present in your own body. I watch a lot of tv and I drink a lot of cocktails and mess around on my phone a lot and just hang out kind of duuuuhhhhhh, so being in motion really makes me right again, where I have to revive things that have fallen asleep, if that makes sense. So residencies and road trips feel important to the music because that’s when my ears and hands and brain and way of looking at the world and assessing situations are most alert. I want to go to Copenhagen in the summer to make a new record and to get to know that place, so that’s the next escape route.

Please describe for me your trusted 47-string Lyon and Healy harp. When did you first play this instrument and in what way do you feel you have developed this special relationship with the harp instrument? After first discovering your music in the form of ‘The Withdrawing Room’, it feels as if you are continually evolving with each new release. The possibilities are endless, perhaps the essence of your harp-based creations.

ML: Thanks so much! Yes, I want to keep evolving and seeing what the instrument has to offer, sound and personality-wise. I started playing the harp when I was 11 but didn’t really have such a personal relationship with it until I went to college (music conservatory) and had to spend solitary hours and hours in a practice room focusing on one piece at a time. I got close to my harp in a love/hate kind of way that felt like an important war we went through together. Now, it’s only love, though, because I have to protect it so much, taking it with me places. It’s like a sister to me.

Lastly, can you shed some light on your compositional approach when it comes to your harp playing, Mary? For instance, the myriad of sublime moments dotted across pieces such as ‘Never Saw Him Again’ and ‘Baltic Birch’ could never have been as a result of solely improvising? I love how transporting these pieces are, and these masterfully sculpted sonic creations feel like a sprawling abstract canvas of deep, resonating meaning.

ML: Baltic Birch was one where I had the main melody line in my mind beforehand in a singular melodic voice, so I thought of how I could build it. I thought I couldn’t loop that melody line because it was too long, so I looped the accompaniment, but then I realized that the melody actually could also be looped if it became kind of a round. Never Saw Him Again was definitely all improvisation and experimenting and I definitely thought it sounded kinda cheesy when I first made it. I also don’t really like my voice, so I put it through some Garage Band filter reverb stuff and had Jeff, who mixed it, kinda tweak the pitchiness of it when he was mixing just to make it not horrendous. I definitely just use vocals as texture and don’t claim to be a singer at all. Haha. I was just going with it. Everything comes with just messing around. I’ve never made a (solo) song in a real studio, only on my own with flexibility and an empty room and Garage Band on a laptop, so maybe it’s time to see what would happen if there was a little more pressure, with somebody a little more experienced controlling the actual recording and actual songs that are thought about more in advance. Who knows. Gotta keep trying things out! Thanks so much for the thoughtful questions! I always love to read your take on things!

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

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

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January 9, 2019 at 2:55 pm

Mixtape: Fractured Air – December 2018

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As the dusk light begins to fade on the year, we have a chance to both reflect on these past twelve months and look forward to what awaits us in 2019…Needless to say, music shapes pretty much everything that has taken place – and what moments are about to occur – from memorable, transcendent live shows (Low, Julia Holter and Nils Frahm’s shows will forever stay with me); making new musical discoveries (for instance, first hearing the illuminating voice of Penelope Trappes’ latest record or the myriad of timbres and textures contained on the Actress & LCO collaborative release ‘LAGEOS’); revisiting bands from previous decades (This Mortal Coil’s discography immediately comes to mind) or just simply having a cherished record (or playlist) as the soundtrack to your day (as you walk around in the pools of your mind or take in a nice scenic road-trip).

The importance of music never fades and isn’t that the most amazing thing? There is a science behind it: the reaction as your ears first hears a note and how you feel as a result. And whatever year we find ourselves in (2019, 2020 or beyond), new discoveries will always await us. As a listener, there is some comfort in this simple fact…
Lots of our favourite albums from 2018 are dotted across this December mixtape (and so many left out, as always is the way). The fresh and dynamic ambient sounds of Kranky debut signees (Less Bells and Saloli); Mary Jane Leach’s incredible flute compositions; two tracks from Julia Holter’s epic masterwork ‘Aviary’ and a recent discovery of the incredible Carola Baer (a retrospective compilation is lovingly compiled by Concentric Circles).

Also present is one of the late great composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s last recorded works: the deeply moving and transporting ‘Mandy’ score, such transformative guitar-based compositions. This year we lost a true voice in today’s music world. I can only imagine the unbearable loss it has been for all those close to this remarkable human being. I remember shaking Jóhann’s hand after a concert of his and just saying how amazing his music is. He smiled graciously and replied softly, “thank you”. Well, thank you Jóhann for the eternal gift your stunningly beautiful music forever brings.

 

Fractured Air – December 2018

01. Tom Waits“Alice” (Epitaph)
02. Actress & LCO“Voodoo Posse, Chronic Illusion” (Ninja Tune)
03. Phase II“Words From” (Definitive Jux)
04. Squarepusher“Lambic Poetry 5” (Warp)
05. Low“Fly” (Sub Pop)
06. Penelope Trappes“Connector” (Houndstooth)
07. Jóhann Jóhannsson“Mandy Love Theme” (Mandy OST, Lakeshore/Invada)
08. Tomita“Dawn Chorus” (RCA)
09. Julia Holter“Voce Simul” (Domino)
10. Alice Coltrane“Keshawa Murahara” (Luaka Bop)
11. Saloli“Anthem” (Kranky)
12. Carola Baer“Maker of Me” (Concentric Circles)
13. Mark Renner“It Might Have Been” (RVNG Intl)
14. Die Haut“Der Karbische Western” (Strut)
15. Paul de Jong“Johnny No Cash” (Temporary Residence)
16. Michele Mercure“A Little Piece” (Freedom To Spend)
17. Carla dal Forno“Blue Morning” (self-released)
18. Less Bells“Valentine” (Kranky)
19. Jessica Moss“Fractals (Truth 3)” (Constellation)
20. Villagers“A Trick of the Light” (Bibio Remix) (Domino)
21. Nils Frahm“A Place” (Erased Tapes)
22. The Gentleman Losers“Fish Roam in Winter Water” (Sound In Silence)
23. Mary Jane Leach“Downland’s Tears” (Modern Love)
24. Julia Holter“I Would Rather See” (Domino)
25. Mary Lattimore“Hello From the Edge of the Earth” (Ghostly)

Wishing our readers a very happy Christmas and best wishes for the new year.

 

 

Albums of the year: 2018

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Some Rap Songs’ is out now on Columbia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Tirzah – “Devotion” (Domino)

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

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

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

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

Devotion’ heralds a significant new voice in contemporary music.

‘Devotion’ is out now on Domino Recordings.

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

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

Mary-Lattimore-Hundreds-of-Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘LAGEOS’ is out now on Ninja Tune.

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

5. Low – “Double Negative” (Sub Pop)

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

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

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

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

‘Double Negative’ is out now on Sub Pop.

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

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

djrum portrait

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Penelope Two’ is out now on Houndstooth.

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

2. Julia Holter – “Aviary” (Domino)

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

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

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

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

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

‘Aviary’ is out now on Domino Recordings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘All Melody’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

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

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S02E04 | April mix

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fracturedair_april17April’s mixtape opens with “I Can’t Find Water”, album opener for Hauschka’s latest full-length “What If”, yet another monumental and sprawling opus courtesy of the Dusseldorf-based artist Volker Bertelmann. Recorded mainly in Berlin with Francesco Donadello, “What If” gloriously mirrors Hauschka’s own transcendental live performances, where worlds of both analogue and digital (a mixture of various synthesisers, grand pianos, player pianos and percussive instruments) effortlessly interweave in scintillating long-form compositions. “What If” is the sound of a producer as much as a pianist, confirming Hauschka as one of brightest burning jewels in independent music today.

Berlin-based and Stockholm-born songwriter Molly Nilsson releases her much-anticipated new full-length “Imaginations” this May, the follow-up to 2015’s stunning “Zenith” LP. Night School Records have also been busy re-issuing Nilsson’s back catalogue in recent times, most recently with the re-issue of her breakthrough second LP “Follow The Light”.

One of the year’s most staggering releases comes (once again) courtesy of James Leyland Kirkby’s The Caretaker project. “Everywhere at the end of time” is the epic six-album odyssey (April saw the release of “stage two”) which will take three years to conclude. The series draws upon the conceptual framework of dementia, and how the disease impacts the mind and memory. In the words of Kirkby: “The second stage is the self realisation and awareness that something is wrong with a refusal to accept that. More effort is made to remember so memories can be more long form with a little more deterioration in quality. The overall personal mood is generally lower than the first stage and at a point before confusion starts setting in.”
April’s mixtape also features a selection of new releases from: Clark’s “Death Peak” (Warp); Forest Swords’ “Compassion” (Ninja Tune); Nan Kolè’s “Malumz” EP (Black Acre); Mary Lattimore’s “Collected Pieces” (Ghostly International); Homeboy Sandman’s “Veins” (Stones Throw) and Mount Eerie’s “A Crow Looked At Me” (P.W. Elverum & Sun).

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S02E04 | April mix

 

To listen on La Blogothèque:

http://www.blogotheque.net/2017/04/27/fractured-air-x-blogotheque-s02e04-april-mix/

 

01. Hauschka“I Can’t Find Water” (City Slang / Temporary Residence)
02. Forest Swords“Arms Out” (Ninja Tune)
03. John Hassell“Miracle Steps” (Optimo Music)
04. Clark“Catastrophe Anthem” (Warp)
05. The xx“A Violent Noise” (Four Tet Remix) (Young Turks)
06. Talaboman“Samsa” (R&S)
07. Nan Kolè“Bayefal” (Black Acre)
08. Vex Ruffin“Front” (Stones Throw)
09. Homeboy Sandman“Bamboo” (Stones Throw)
10. Chromatics“Circled Sun” (Italians Do It Better)
11. Bibio“Feeling” (Knx Remix) (Warp)
12. Dunkelziffer“Colours and Soul” (Emotional Rescue)
13. Lewis Furey“Lewis is Crazy” (Aquarius)
14. Scott Walker“Montague Terrace (In Blue)” (Philips)
15. Angelo Badalamenti“Love Theme” (Mulholland Drive OST, Milan)
16. Mount Eerie“Toothbrush / Trash” (P.W. Elverum & Sun)
17. Dinah Washington & Max Richter“This Bitter Earth / On the Nature of Daylight” (La French OST, Gaumont, Légende Films)
18. Vashti Bunyan“If I Were” (FatCat)
19. Mary Lattimore“We Just Found Out She Died” (Ghostly International)
20. Leandro Fresco and Rafael Anton Irisarri“Cuando El Misterio Es Demasiado Impresionante, Es Imposible Desobedecer” (A Strangely Isolated Place)
21. Orcas (with Martyn Heyne)“Into the Night” (Soundcloud)
22. Molly Nilsson“A Song They Won’t Be Playing On the Radio” (Dark Skies Association / Night School)
23. Helado Negro“Runaround” (Alternate Mix) (RVNG Intl)
24. Julia Holter“Lucette Stranded On the Island” (Live at RAK) (Domino)
25. The Caretaker“The way ahead feels lonely” (History Always Favours The Winners)

Compiled by Fractured Air, April 2017. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

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

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E3 | March mix

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fracturedairmix_march16

Welcome to part three of our monthly mix series. Presented in this month’s mix is the first in our new series of exclusive tracks which will be submitted by guest musicians each month. For March, we include “In the fields”, an exclusive unreleased track by independent music stalwart Benoît Pioulard (Seattle-based musician Thomas Meluch). Since the release of his debut opus “Précis” (via world-renowned Chicago-based Kranky in 2006), Meluch has amassed an incredible body of work, comprising both solo and collaborative recordings. Most recently, Meluch released the debut self-titled album under his Perils guise – Meluch’s collaboration with Canadian composer Kyle Bobby Dunn – as well as “Sonnet”, his most recent solo full-length and the solo E.P. “Noyaux”. Meluch has released music on some of independent music’s finest and most esteemed labels including: Kranky, Morr Music, Desire Path Recordings and Type.

Opening this month’s mix is the fascinating Walt Whitman-inspired collaborative E.P. “Leaves Of Grass” – thanks to Berlin-based Morr Music – where Iggy Pop reads excerpts taken from Whitman’s legendary poetry collection of the same name, while German musicians Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto) together with Ronald Lippok and Bernd Jestram (Tarwater) provide the intriguing musical accompaniment. Elsewhere, we have selections from: Munich-based producer Skee Mask’s “Junt” E.P.; Canadian violinist and composer Sarah Neufeld’s glorious new solo album “The Ridge”; peerless U.K. producer Chris Clark; A Pleasure’s essential debut L.P. “Minor Youth” for Other People; Kevin Morby (ex bassist to Woods)’s masterful symphonic Dead Oceans full-length “Singing Saw” and Irish/U.S. super-group The Gloaming make their triumphant return with “2” (via Real World Records). Meanwhile, even Dale Cooper, resident FBI Special Agent to Twin Peaks, makes a guest cameo somewhere before the dust settles.

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E3 | March mix

To Read/listen on La Blogothèque:

http://en.blogotheque.net/2016/03/24/fractured-air-x-blogotheque-s01e03-march-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. Iggy Pop / Tarwater / Alva Noto“As Adam Early In The Morning / I Am He That Aches With Love” (Morr Music)
02. Anna Homler & Steve Moshier“Yesh’ Te” (RVNG Intl)
03. Julien Neto“Questionable Things” (excerpt) (Type)
04. Benoît Pioulard“In The Fields” (Unreleased)
05. Perils“The Unbecoming” (Desire Path Recordings)
06. The Gentleman Losers“Silver Mountain” (Büro)
07. Vashti Bunyan“Here Before” (FatCat)
08. Max Richter“Path 5” (Clark Remix) (Deutsche Grammophon)
09. Clark“Hide on the Treads 3” (The Last Panthers OST, Warp)
10. Mikael Seifu“The Protectors” (RVNG Intl)
11. A Pleasure“Arthur Russel” (Other People)
12. Skee Mask“Junt” (Ilian Tape)
13. Prins Thomas“E” (Smalltown Supersound)
14. Odd Nosdam“Sisters” (Boards of Canada Remix) (Leaving)
15. Arthur Russell“Habit Of You” (Audika, Rough Trade)
16. Woo“A Complex Art” (Drag City)
17. Kevin Morby“I Have Been to the Mountain” (Dead Oceans)
18. Bullion“Dip Your Foot” (DEEK Recordings)
19. Rayon“Il Collo e la Collana 02” (Alien Transistor)
20. Mary Lattimore“The Quiet at Night” (Ghostly International)
21. The Gloaming“Fáinleog (Wanderer)” (Real World)
22. Sarah Neufeld“Where the Light Comes In” (Paper Bag)

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

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

 

Don’t Look Back: 2014 (Part 1)

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“Don’t Look Back” 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 1 of a 2-part series.

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Susan Schneider, The Space Lady (Colorado, USA)

There are fewer people in the universe more deserving of such a rewarding and special year than The Space Lady. And 2014 has been that (and so much more) for the much-fabled Outsider Artist Susan Schneider, who, after the NightSchool Records release of “The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits” in November 2013, suddenly found a whole new audience (and new generations) of adoring music fans. After decades of street busking across the States (San Francisco’s Castro and the Haight areas would become her adopted home) with her beloved Casiotone keyboard and iconic winged helmet (with flashing red light), 2014 would see The Space Lady embark on her first ever tour of venues, where she toured extensively across both the United States and Europe to universal critical acclaim. 

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What a cosmic whirlwind 2014 was for The Space Lady, after what I thought was her long-ago retirement. First, a tour of America’s West Coast, then off to the UK and Ireland in April – where those strange rumours about TSL having thousands of adoring fans around the world proved overwhelmingly true, and held true throughout the European tour, and then in Denver, Toronto, and finally in little, picturesque Crestone, Colorado.

From the daily struggles of playing on the streets – dealing with traffic noise, inclement weather, dying batteries, complaints to police, and indifferent, or sometimes outright rude people – to playing to enthusiastic crowds of TSL fans in artistic, counter-cultural settings with powerful sound systems, my songs – and my self-esteem – sky-rocketed!

Not only that, but with the support of my husband Eric, “The Space Manager,” I realized I could actually have a music career, doing what I really love, not just what I had to do to make money. Once again, Joseph Campbell’s advice to “follow your bliss” became a viable alternative to doing what’s expected, schlepping along uninspired on that proverbial wage-slave treadmill. All those years of hand-to-mouth struggle not only weren’t wasted – after all, I did support my family of five – but my unique sound and style had taken on a life of its own and traveled around the world, thanks to the internet and word of mouth.

Coming back home to quiet, conservative Colorado after the tours was not unpleasant….in fact, at first it was replenishing. Then a book by Elizabeth Kolbert, ‘The Sixth Extinction’, slapped me upside the head. Of course we’ve all heard about climate change to a nearly numbing extent; but the author’s dispassionate, scientific reporting on eco-collapse from around the world shocked me awake like never before. I found myself almost paralyzed emotionally with despair. What can I possibly do? Well, the next right thing for me was to get behind my keyboard and mournfully wail, which led to the creation of my new song, ‘The Next Right Thing’. I call it a love song to Mother Earth…and a call to action.

Then more recently, Eric discovered another book called ‘The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible’, by Charles Eisenstein. Upon reading that, my hope for the future of nature and humanity was rekindled. It’s all about inventing a new cultural “story,” i.e., making a very necessary shift from our old, black-and-white story of separation, frantic competition and endless expansion, to a new story that creates a world of inter-connectedness, steeped in kindness and patience. To illustrate, Eisenstein quotes an African tribal chief who was warned by activists that his world was about to be destroyed by encroaching civilization, and that it was urgent for him to fight back. The chief calmly replied, “Urgency is not something we have here.”

We can’t fix what’s wrong in the world by simply revamping those old methods that got us here. We have to change our way of being. So we really have nothing more to do than follow our hearts and practice patience. That’s what I began doing in 1980 when I joyfully started busking with an old accordion in downtown Boston, which led to the creation of The Space Lady. But after 20 years of playing on the street, I had given up. Now, thanks to my fans, promoters, agents, record producer Michael Kasparis, and most of all to Eric – my ever-supportive husband/manager – I am following my heart again. Thank you all – you’ve given me the opportunity to once again step into the role of The Space Lady – that cosmic, other-worldly messenger who comes to us on Wings of Song!

 

—Susan Schneider

 

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‘The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits’ is available now on NightSchool Records.

http://www.thespacelady.net/
http://nightschoolrecords.com/

 


 

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Iker Spozio (San Sebastián, Spain)

Italian artist Iker Spozio is an illustrator, engraver and painter whose artwork is handmade using traditional techniques (such as monotype, collage, ink and paint) and without computer. Spozio’s work has been widely reproduced and seen in the context of music: producing album sleeves for such musicians as: Colleen, Hauschka, Mark Fry, Adrian Crowley, Half Asleep and working with music labels such as FatCat, The Leaf Label, Thrill Jockey and Deutsche Grammophon. Spozio is represented internationally by various illustration agencies (including London-based Folio) while his client list also includes publishers Laurence King and Penguin Books. Extensive commission work for Laurence King for a series of Artist books entitled “This Is” will be published next year (including “This Is Magritte”, to be published in Autumn 2015).

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– Jamaican music.
Mostly old 7″s, 10″s and 12″s which haven’t been reissued yet. My favourite find of the year would be Lee Van Cliff’s ‘Wiser Than Solomon’ 10″ (HitBound, mixed by Scientist).
Also several reissues released in 2014 by Pressure Sounds, DKR and OnlyRoots.

– Tommaso Landolfi.
My all-time favourite writer. I treasure all his books (which are being repressed by Adelphi in Italy) and always will.

– Medieval art.
I’ve always been interested in it, but only in 2014 I took the time to investigate it in-depth. I saw many great examples of it during a holiday in the South-East of Italy, this year, and read several interesting books on the subject. I’ve grown a great passion for Mozarabic miniature painting in particular.

– Italy in the 70s.
I was a child then, hence I don’t remember much about it. I’m currently trying to learn as much as possible about a particularly complex period in the history of my native country.

– Birdwatching with Cécile by the river, especially to see my beloved kingfisher.

 

—Iker Spozio

 

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http://www.ikerspozio.net/
https://www.facebook.com/iker.spozio

 


 

Colleen by Iker Spozio - CE  769 CILE 4 copy_crop

Cécile Schott, Colleen (San Sebastián, Spain)

The Paris-born musician Cécile Schott has been making music as Colleen for over a decade now: beginning with a string of much-loved records for The Leaf Label (debut 2003 album ‘Everyone Alive Wants Answers’, 2005’s ‘The Golden Morning Breaks’ and 2007’s ‘Les Ondes Silencieuses’, as well as 2006’s ‘Colleen Et Les Boîtes À Musique’, an E.P. originally created for Atelier de Création Radiophonique as a commission from France Culture). After a four-year break, Colleen made her long-awaited return to music in 2013 with the release of her album ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ via London-based label Second Language, its eleven songs featuring, for the first time, Schott’s own voice as well as a new-found love for Jamaican music and rhythm. Colleen’s hugely anticipated fifth studio album ‘Captain Of None’ will be released by Chicago-based label Thrill Jockey Records in April 2015.

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2014 started promisingly with settling in my newly renovated rehearsing and recording studio: the doors and windows of this former olive and pepper brinery were literally 50 years old and full of gaps, so that a lot of noise passed through them, making recording possible only late at night. Everything was changed for state-of-the art triple glazing, and tiles were added to a part of the floor that suffered from dampness problems, and these two changes have made a world of difference and turned an OK place into a truly welcoming and adequate work environment.

This in turn led me to a major upgrade of my recording equipment. I’m quite the anti-consumerist and believe a minimal mindset can be beneficial to making music, so whenever I make a new purchase, it’s usually preceded by months of thinking and research on the product that will best fit my requirements. With this finally silent working environment, it made sense to invest in my first nearfield monitoring system (the basic mixing tool, which I did without for all my previous albums exceptLes ondes silencieuses’). My soundcard was from 2003, so that also needed a major upgrade, along with a new computer, two pairs of really good headphones (one for mixing, one for recording), and an analog delay Moogerfooger pedal which unexpectedly ended up playing a major role on my new album.

This all contributed to making the recording of my fifth album by far the most pleasant and pain-free recording I’ve ever experienced. It was actually the first time I was able to record in a near-professional environment, with the invaluable advantage of this being my own place, which means unlimited time and freedom, and no neighbours to worry about. It was also the first time I recorded during the spring, and the light coming from outside, although filtered, imparted a real sense of joy to these sessions. It was awesome to get out of the studio at 8 in the evening and still see the light outside!

I finished the album in early July and got the confirmation that American label Thrill Jockey would release it, which has been tremendously exciting, and is hopefully the start of a long and fruitful working relationship with a label that has a truly impressive and diverse roster of free-thinking artists.

I was then able to relax for real during the beautiful summer, and in September, due to having to rehearse with more bass frequencies than in the past (the 5th album contains lots of bass lines), I also bought a small PA system, which has made rehearsing for the shows a much closer experience to actually playing live, making it all the more exciting.

The walls of our home have been vibrating daily to the sounds of Jamaican music almost non-stop for more than 2 years now, vastly thanks to my partner in life and in art Iker Spozio, whose  obsession with the Jamaican stuff keeps the house filled with new vinyl. I’ve listened to Jamaican music several times in my life, including when I was very young and had no clue as to what it was, and it seems entirely logical and natural that it has finally entered my own music.

Last but not least, in a year that also contained some very sad news, some small creatures have come to play an increasingly important part in my life and help me stay sane: birds. I started to get into birdwatching last year, in great part thanks to Martin Holm who curated the Music and Migration series at Second Language, the label that released my fourth album ‘The Weighing of the Heart’. My interest progressed steadily with the acquisition of the birdwatching Bible that is the ‘Collins Bird Guide’ and a good pair of binoculars, and since then there’s been no turning back. It’s hard for me to describe in words what it is about being in nature and observing birds that feels so right to me… Apart from the sheer amazement at their beauty and at the biodiversity that was right on my doorstep without me even knowing it (I live in the Spanish Basque country which is very varied in terms of landscape), there is something incredibly liberating about an activity that has nothing to do with us humans, and indeed with me: birds don’t care about us and that’s why watching them is so great – the feeling of disconnecting from modern life and reconnecting with something wild and ancient is truly priceless. For me, birdwatching even acts as a metaphor for life and how I should try to live it: I used to think I paid attention to my surroundings, but now I know that I was half-blind, and that when you start to *really* watch, *really* listen, you discover a whole new world that was there all along – and I can’t really think of better news than that.

 

—Cécile Schott

 

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http://colleenplays.org/
https://www.facebook.com/colleenplays

 


 

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Julia Kent (New York, USA)

World-renowned Canadian cellist Julia Kent has three solo albums released to date: 2007’s ‘Delay’ (Shayo); 2011’s ‘Green And Grey’ (Important Records) and 2013’s ‘Character’ (The Leaf Label). Previously, Kent worked and collaborated extensively with numerous musicians and groups, including: Antony And The Johnsons; Rasputina and Parallel 41. This year, Kent contributed original scores for numerous film works, including award-winning short film ‘Oasis’, directed by Carmen Jimenez and Chris Boyce. As part of artist Peter Liversidge’s exhibit, “Doppelgänger” at the MAC, Belfast (which took place during October), Julia Kent made a special one-off collaboration with Kentucky-based pianist, arranger and composer Rachel Grimes. During November 2014, Kent was in Italy, performing live with Balletto Civile (a company of performers, established in 2003) for “How Long Is Now” in Genova and “In-erme” in La Spezia and Florence.

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I can’t remember at all the beginning of 2014; it’s been, for me, a rather vague year, involving a lot of traveling and a bit of consequent disorientation in terms of time and space…but I do remember vividly playing in Cork this past March with the spell-binding Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, after a stressful and dramatic journey involving the temporary loss of my cello and the enormously gracious and generous loan of another, from a sympathetic music store in Cork, Pro Musica. It was my first solo show ever in Ireland, and was a memorable and beautiful experience: Cork is a special place, and I’m so grateful to the Carry brothers for bringing me there, and also to the welcoming audience! It was also a really special experience to play with Caoimhín in Cork and Dublin and have a lovely and wide-ranging chat on the journey in between.

For me, time is really defined by the people and places I encounter, and 2014 brought some other wonderful encounters: I was thrilled to have the chance to collaborate with the extraordinary Rachel Grimes for Peter Liversidge’s metaphysical and fascinating show, “Doppelgänger, in Belfast; to create live music for the dance companies Balletto Civile in Italy and Compagnie Tensei in Paris; and to contribute music to other theatre works, dance, and film, in the U.S. and Europe. Performing at William Basinski’s festival in London was another highlight of the year: he brought together so many incredible artists to celebrate the spirit of his and James Elaine’s glorious Arcadia, a seminal arts space that contributed so much to New York and still is sorely missed. And just this past week, I was so thrilled to share the experience of seeing some images from Antony and the Johnsons’ and Charles Atlas’s “Turning” on the breathtakingly enormous screens in Times Square…it was incredible to see those heartbreakingly beautiful images in that context, and in the company of some of the iconic women who embodied them on the “Turning” tour, which was and always will remain a special and emotional experience for me.

I’m looking at my calendar to try to remember some other details of 2014…and seeing the week where I went from Athens to Joshua Tree to Torino. I continue to feel enormously fortunate to have the chance to travel and play music in such disparate, beautiful, and inspiring places, and encounter, along the way, equally beautiful and inspiring people. Right now, since I’m home for a moment, I’m working on a new record that I hope will come out next year…and I hope will distill some of the memories and essence of this one…thanks for letting me share some of them!

 

—Julia Kent

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“Happy Holidays NYC, 2014”

 

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‘Character’ is available now on The Leaf Label.

http://www.juliakent.com/
http://www.theleaflabel.com/

 


 

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Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (Dublin, Ireland)

2014 has been a remarkable year for Ireland-based composer and fiddle player Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh. Firstly, January saw the release of contemporary quintet The Gloaming’s stunning self-titled debut album via Real World Records. Subsequent concerts would be performed across the globe (including Sydney’s Opera House and triumphant homecoming shows on Irish soil including Kilkenny’s St. Canice’s Cathedral) to mass celebration and widespread critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. As well as touring with his other band, the Irish/Swedish quartet This Is How We Fly, across both Ireland and Europe, Ó Raghallaigh also performed a series of truly special solo concerts (entitled “In My Mind”, a solo fiddle and film show) across the length of Ireland for the month of October, organized by Music Network Ireland. Despite the hectic touring schedules, Ó Raghallaigh also released two stunning works: the solo album ‘Music For An Elliptical Orbit’ (via Dublin-based label Diatribe Records as part of their ‘Solo Series Phase II’ project) and the mesmerizing ‘Laghdú’, a collaboration between Ó Raghallaigh and U.S. fiddle player Dan Trueman. 

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Time marches on, there’s no stopping it: do you remember a time when the only way to pronounce 2014 was two thousand and fourteen, when even the year 2000 seemed like the far distant future?

We find ourselves here at the tail end of twenty fourteen, looking back on a euphoric whirlwind of a year. My thirty-fifth year on this bluegreen orb has been truly wonderful, in so many ways. There have been major milestones and moments of wonder and beauty. This act of looking back is welcome, too, this year in review, not something I naturally do, and it brings home just how special it has been.

Above all else, ‘Laghdú’ has given me endless pleasure this year. Musically, it’s the thing I’m most proud of I’ve ever made, and playing that music with Dan has been unfailingly rewarding and delightful. Equally wonderful was working with Rossi McAuley of Distinctive Repetition, whose design for the ‘Laghdú’ packaging continues to surprise and give immense pleasure every time I touch, see and feel it. And I love that we have an ongoing relationship with the object, as we must continually assemble the albums ourselves from the printed card, discs and rubber bands, spending time touching, feeling, learning and living with this beautiful object, deepening our relationship with it.

One day I called over to Rossi’s studio while he was working on the design, and he told me the music on the record really reminded him of Patrick Scott’s work, whose extraordinary retrospective was still occupying the Garden Galleries at IMMA. Experiencing Scott’s work for the first time at that exhibition was one of the highlights of 2014 for me, as was Maria Simmonds-Gooding’s retrospective at the RHA. Maria is a neighbour of mine down in Kerry, and her large-scale aluminium pieces have been living inside my head for a few years now, married to a line of Beckett’s: “they were things that scarcely were, on the confines of dark and silence”. But it was her plaster canvas works and the carborundum prints that got inside me at the RHA, and live there still. Like Scott, I find her work deeply satisfying and profoundly moving. Instructive, too, informing the music I wish to make, the feeling I wish to produce, and it somehow inspires a conviction in the worth of doing so.

Earlier in the year at the RHA, Richard Mosse’s “The Enclave” completely blew my mind with his infrared immersion in that jungle of sadness that comes of war. To be surrounded by that violently pink world of the Congo, to feel that sound move your innards, to see these unknown things and feel them twist your insides, it was nearly too much, and wiped the floor with your soul. Powerful beyond words.

Early in the year, too, we released The Gloaming’s debut album, and what a year for the Gloaming it has been, going to #1 in the Charts, playing the Royal Albert Hall and the like. But playing the Sydney Opera House beats all, I truly never imagined such a thing was possible. I woke that morning well before sunrise, at jetlag’s insistence, and set out across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, looking down at the Opera House and trying to process the idea that we’d play there that night. The following morning myself and Iarla took off for a long old walk before breakfast, down through the Botanic Gardens and out to Mrs Macquaries Point, the pair of us looking incredulously across Farm Cove to the scene of the crime and the Harbour Bridge beyond, hardly believing we had rocked that House the night before. You know, I still don’t quite believe it.

The Gloaming were in residence at the Kilkenny Arts Festival in August, and it offered an opportunity to showcase other of our projects. Myself and Dan premiered ‘Laghdú’ there, for instance, and the This is How we Fly gig on the Saturday night really took off. There were a series of secret pop-up gigs in fancy Gardens around the town, and the one I did with Cleek Schrey gave rise to my favourite moment of the festival, when our cheeky sunspectacled selves sidled up to Nic Gareiss, who reached into his pocket, pulled out an appropriately bright vivid yellow pair of shades and started dancing up a storm on the loose gravel path on which half the audience stood. A totally joyous moment, mischievous, irreverent, unexpected, ecstatic.

Cleek is a fellow 10-string hardanger d’amore fiddler from the States, and I spent a wonderful mid-March week with him in New York, writing music together courtesy of a residency at the Irish Arts Center. There’s such a wonderful openness to his approach, a great combination of the carefree and the curated, and he’s very much a kindred spirit of mine. I feel at every moment that anything is possible, that there’s no agenda, just this feeling of co-exploration and endless possibility. The highlight of that week was an impromptu hour-long improvisation we embarked on to ourselves out in Redhook – unplanned, unrecorded, purely in the moment, sending out sound into the vast main hall of Pioneer Works.

This hardanger d’amore fiddle is a stunning instrument, and it is a joy and a revelation to play. Equally beautiful are the bows I play with, made by Frenchman Michel Jamonneau. While touring Brittany with uilleann piper Mick O’Brien in June, I visited Michel in his workshop, and fell head over heels with a bow of his, one he had recently made. Though I already had three extraordinary bows by Michel, playing with this bow was fundamentally different. Those other bows allowed me to do anything I wanted, but this seemed to float in the air, generate ideas of its own, made new things possible, brought forth the unintended. It is effortless to play with, not only a feather-light paintbrush for sound, but a creative force in its own right. When we left Michel’s workshop, that bow left with me inside my mind, and I revisited the feeling of playing with it throughout the following weeks, until Michel brought it over to Dublin to me in early August. It is a joy and a privilege to hold.

It has been a year of non-stop, nigh-on relentless traveling. It’s easy to shrink into yourself, or into your electronics, and it’s a real challenge to stay present, motivated and curious – you need something to keep you sane on the road. Looking through the camera lens has helped more than anything else – photography has been such a rewarding addition to the touring life, engaging the mind and the body. It turns drudgery to delight in alchemy, keeps you always looking outwards, seeking to connect, keeps the spirit fresh, and offers an unlimited learning curve for the curious mind.

Curious minds were in evidence aplenty in the Redwoods of California, as was the sheer joy of making music and being alive, when I spent a week teaching outdoors amongst the trees at the Valley of the Moon fiddle camp. One of the most enjoyable moments, aside from all the music, connections and conversations, was an epic game of water polo/football/chaos in which I became so fanatical that the rough bottom of the pool rasped right through three of my bare-footed toes, and put me hobbling around for the remainder of the week on tender feet. An enchanted bubble of a week topped off by the most wonderful Alice-in-Wonderland-themed Fancy Dress Banquet, the entire host appareled in the most colourful and fanciful costumes. A week that I came away from feeling as though life would never be the same again.

All this is only the beginning. The moments go on. The wheels turn, twenty fourteen is well-nigh gone.

 

—Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh

 

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The Gloaming’s self-titled debut album is available now on Real World Records; Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh’s solo album ‘Music For An Elliptical Orbit’ is available via Diatribe Records HERE; ‘Laghdú’ by Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Dan Trueman is available from Irishmusic.net HERE.

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

 


 

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Cillian Murphy (Cork, Ireland/London, UK)

The ever-prolific Irish actor Cillian Murphy contributed stunning performances for numerous roles — spanning TV, film and theatre — during 2014. Murphy reprised his role as Thomas Shelby in the BBC2 epic British gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’ which returned to TV screens for its second season this Autumn. Murphy also continued his collaboration with award-winning playwright Enda Walsh (‘Disco Pigs’, Misterman’) for ‘Ballyturk’ (a play written and directed by Walsh starring Murphy alongside Mikel Murfi and Stephen Rea) which spellbound sell-out audiences at Galway International Arts Festival; Dublin’s Olympia Theatre; Cork’s Opera House and London’s National Theatre during 2014. Numerous film roles are set for release in 2015, including the hugely anticipated Ron Howard-directed film ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ which is due for release in March 2015. Cillian Murphy is also set to star in ‘Free Fire’, a Boston-set crime thriller from ‘Kill List’ writer-director Ben Wheatley.

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Twelve months slipped by at a pace this year. Thinking about it at first I was convinced that 2014 had been worryingly barren for me culturally, due to the restrictions of work and life and a new-found affection for sleeping. On reflection it seems I did manage to get out of the house on occasion, listen to the odd record and take in a show or two. Here’s what I liked, or what I can remember liking in no particular order….

‘Salad Days’ by Mac Demarco made a big impression on me. I am a sucker for melody in music and this kid (he is only a kid, twenty-three or something) can’t help but write songs with an instant hook. He also has a gorgeously dry sense of humour, plays a mean guitar and is Canadian. I like Canadian people. The album speaks very simply but with great fluency about love, the fear of losing that love, and what it means to be alive today. It is beautifully and simply produced and puts a smile on my face every time I listen to the album. I managed to catch Mac play in Manchester in may, a brilliantly ramshackle gig which climaxed with the whole venue on our knees singing along to ‘Unknown Legend’ and giving thanks to Neil Young.

I love the new Blake Mills album ‘Heigh Ho’. Another great guitar player, with a tone very reminiscent of George Harrison, it’s a definite grower but one worth waiting for.

The new Caribou album deserves all the plaudits its earning. Such a great record – designed to make you dance.

A Winged Victory for the Sullen very slowly prised the roof off the Barbican in October with genuinely affecting and moving music. An amazing show and an amazing group of musicians.

I also caught Damon Albarn live in Manchester at the 6music festival – thank God for BBC 6 music! I am very impressed by Damon Albarn as a man and musician. This is a highly personal record, filled to the brim with gorgeous melodies and revealing lyrics, my high point being ‘Heavy Seas Of Love’ a duet with Brian Eno.

Ok I did see a lot of gigs in Manchester, I was working there for a stretch, they are coming back to me now……. with maybe the highlight being Prince. I’ve wanted to see him play live for ever and the man did not disappoint. It was a three and a half hour gig, during which he jumped effortlessly between hits and space-funk jams with his all female backing band. It’s a nice feeling when a legend lives up to their legendary status. Finally, I managed to catch Tame Impala in L.A. Love this band, such confident musicians, they completely filled the auditorium with blissed out fuzz-drenched tunes. Their support act Delicate Steve I also highly recommend, a very unusual guitar player, his music is of the joyous instrumental kind you want to listen to walking around feeling warm inside while everybody else looks worried.

The Richard Ford trilogy of ‘The Sportswriter’, ‘Independence Day’ and ‘The Lay Of The Land’ rank high amongst my favorite all-time novels, and this year Ford re-introduced us to Frank Bascombe (protagonist of all three novels) in his latest novel ‘Let Me Be Frank With You’. Frank is now in his late sixties but as compelling a character as ever. It’s a brief book, written as a series of short stories but is as incisive and acerbic an investigation of the American dream as I have read.

‘The Dog’ by Joseph O’Neill is also a joy, a book that is as tragic as it is funny.

For some reason I recently decided to re-read some books that I had read in my teens to check if they were still the masterpieces I had first ostentatiously judged them to be. ‘The Book Of Evidence’ by John Banville certainly remains one. Such an extraordinary tour-de-force. If you haven’t read it recently please do. It will inhabit you. I also re-visited some Salinger. Those early short stories still must be unmatchable in terms of heartache and droll musings on American youth and life.

After the sad passing of Dermot Healy this year the only fitting tribute I could think of was to read ‘A Goats Song’ once more. I fell in love with it all over again, sad and mournful and touching – part of this Island’s history.

I’ll finish up now as I realise writing these things can cause quickening anxiety about leaving some wonderful book or poem or song out without a mention.

Before I go I must write briefly about some visual art I saw. Mark Garry’s show – at the Model in Sligo town, “A Winter’s Light” – was a thing of beauty, delicate and life-affirming. I recently saw Douglas Gordon’s show ‘Tears become Streams’ at the Armoury in NYC. It featured concert pianist Helene Grimaud play a series of pieces inspired by water while the extraordinarily vast space was slowly flooded by water creating a lake on which she seemed to hover and also turning the space upside down in reflection. Breathtaking.

So that is it……. I appear to have completely left out any mention of film and theatre. So be it. They will have to wait until next year.

 

—Cillian Murphy

 


 

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Dean Wareham (Los Angeles, USA)

The legendary Los Angeles-based Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500/Luna/Dean & Britta) released his sublime self-titled solo album this year via London-based label Sonic Cathedral (Europe) and his own label Double Feature (USA). Produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James at his home studio in Louisville, Kentucky, ‘Dean Wareham’ features Wareham alongside the formidable line-up of Britta Phillips on bass and Anthony LaMarca on drums.

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Favorite gigs:

Calvin Johnson at Ooga Booga in Los Angeles. Cate LeBon at Amoeba Los Angeles.

Favorite books read:

‘10:04’ by Ben Lerner
‘The Wet & the Dry: A Drinker’s Journey’ by Lawrence Osborne
‘The Book of My Lives’ by Alexsandar Hemon
‘Morvern Callar’ by Alan Warner
‘A Place of Greater Safety’ by Hillary Mantel

Records enjoyed:

Velvet Underground deluxe 3rd album with bonus live discs recorded 1969 at the Matrix
Brian Jonestown Massacre ‘Revelation’
Jack & Eliza ‘No Wonders’ EP
Ultimate Painting ‘Ultimate Painting’
Papercuts ‘Life Among the Savages’
Courtney Barnett’s ‘Double’ EP
War on Drugs ‘Lost in the Dream’

In 2014 I released my first solo album after 26 years making records. I also worked with the Andy Warhol Museum on a film/music project, selecting a group of performers (Tom Verlaine, Marty Rev, Eleanor Friedberger, Bradford Cox and myself) to perform live onstage to never-before-seen silent films by Andy Warhol. And Britta Phillips and I scored another excellent film for Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig — ‘Mistress America’ — which will likely hit theaters in 2015.

But I will remember 2014 for horrific images from the Gaza Strip, and for the terrible suffering in Libya and Iraq and Syria (courtesy of European and American politicians who “liberated” two of those countries without caring about what might come after). Many smart people have observed that 2014 in the Middle East can only be understood in the light of 1914: the Great War and its aftermath. We will remember also a coup and civil war in the Ukraine (where again the US is not blameless). Here at home 2014 will be remembered by the slogans “Hands Up Don’t Shoot!” and “I Can’t Breathe.”

 

—Dean Wareham, Los Angeles

 

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Dean Wareham’s self-titled debut solo album is available now on Sonic Cathedral (EU) and via Double Feature (USA).

http://deanwareham.com/
http://www.soniccathedral.co.uk/

 


 

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Terry Magson, Puzzle Muteson (Isle of Wight, UK)

Iceland-based label Bedroom Community’s much-prized Puzzle Muteson (aka Isle of Wight-based singer-songwriter Terry Magson) released his divine sophomore full-length release this year. Entitled ‘Theatrics’, the album was recorded between Iceland’s Greenhouse studio and Magson’s friends’ studio at the Isle of Wight and features contributions from Magson’s trusted collaborators (and label-mates) Valgeir Sigurðsson and Nico Muhly. Puzzle Muteson’s debut LP, ‘En Garde’, was released in 2011 (preceded by a 7″ of the same title which featured the B-side ‘Brittle Break’) which was also released by the prestigious Bedroom Community label (Ben Frost, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Sam Amidon).

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2014 has been a peculiar one for me. It really has gone too fast for me to comprehend. I spent far too much time in my own head, and maybe too much time in the company of cats. As far as listening to music went I slightly strayed from it.
I listened to mainly a bunch of separate songs when I did…

P.M Dawn – ‘Set Adrift On Memory Bliss’
Julia Holter – ‘Hello Stranger’
London Electricity – ‘Just One Second’ 
Chantal Acda – ‘We Must Hold On’
Drake – ‘Come Thru’ (James Blake Remix)
Jon Hopkins – ‘Breath This Air’
Ben Frost – ‘Venter’
Nightcrawlers – ‘Push The Feeling On’
Robin S – ‘Show Me Love’
Tan Dun – ‘Gone With Leaves’
Black – ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’
Doveman – ‘The Best Thing’
The Blue Nile – ‘Headlights On the Parade’
Airhead – ‘Believe’ 
Red – ‘Sorry About Your Love’ (RUCKAZOID Remix)
Akira Kosemra – ‘Light Dance’

Three live shows that I enjoyed for three different reasons would be Zebra Katz, Boys Noize and Gideon Conn.

 

—Terry Magson

 

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‘Theatrics’ is available now on Bedroom Community.

https://www.facebook.com/Puzzle.Muteson
http://www.bedroomcommunity.net/

 


 

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Erik K Skodvin (Berlin, Germany)

One of the true cornerstones of the thriving contemporary independent music scene, Erik Skodvin is both a remarkable composer (as both a solo performer and via his numerous musical projects including: Svarte Greiner, B/B/S/ and Deaf Center), visual artist, designer and label owner (Skodvin runs the ever-impressive Berlin-based Miasmah label). 2014 was a particularly busy year for Skodvin with an extensive touring schedule as well as the release of numerous records (Skodvin’s second solo album ‘Flame’; ‘Recount’, a mini-album by Deaf Center, who celebrated their 10-year anniversary during 2014). Miasmah Recordings released a number of spellbinding albums during 2014: ‘Sprang’ by Eric Thielemans; the self-titled album by Shivers and Andrea Belfi’s ‘Natura Morta’.

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2014 started for me with finalizing my soon-to-come second Erik K Skodvin album “Flame”. A mastering date was set for late January and I pretty much worked on it nonstop up until the day of mastering. Right after this, my good friend Otto A Totland’s debut album was released, something I was helping out Sonic Pieces with.

Next up, in mid February was a small northern EU tour with my trio B/B/S/ as we had a live LP recorded in 2013 that got released this time. I really like to play with Aidan and Andrea although we rarely all have time to meet up. We played a boat in Hamburg, Copenhagen jazzhouse, a studio in Gothenburg and an atelier on the Polish border, amongst others.

It’s funny to look back at a year and see how much different things were going on at the same time. Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming. We did a couple of house shows at our miasmah + sonic pieces HQ in Berlin, something that’s really fun but also quite exhausting. I’m also constantly working on artwork and communication for new upcoming miasmah releases, which I’m actually using most of my time on. Personally at this time I was also not completely well and used big parts of the year to get myself back in action.

Then something I’d been looking forward too for a long time, which was the sonic pieces Japan tour together with Otto, Rauelsson and Monique. This was maybe the highlight of the year and something I’ll for sure remember. It was also my first time visiting Asia.

No more than a couple of weeks after the Japan tour, me and Monique went to London to do merch for the two first Slowdive shows since 20 years. Being a big Slowdive fan having the opportunity to see them on such small stages was incredible. I guess this is a perk of having released some of Simon’s solo records.

Some more weeks at home before I had another small tour, this time as Svarte Greiner. Together with Alexander Rishaug we played 4 Norwegian gigs in Bergen, Fredrikstad, Trondheim and Oslo. Went quite well though I was still not completely in shape, and all the traveling was taking it’s toll. We had one amazing evening in Oslo at a small Izakaya (!) where we played on a home-made sound-system for a packed crowd.

My second Erik K Skodvin album “Flame” was then released, on my birthday actually – Well planned, Monique!  It also came out as a 2LP together with my first EKS album “Flare”, which sold out quite quickly. Also the Shivers album on Miasmah was released then, though slightly delayed from the pressing plant. Around this time I also worked on a new commissioned piece of music to my now regular collaborator, Marit Følstad, for whom I also was commissioned the Black Tie material I released last year. This was later in the year exhibited in Bergen, Norway where both me and Monique attended.

The mid-summer was quite event-free when it comes to music, though once August started to approach I was invited to play a Svarte Greiner set on the Danish island of Fanø, at the Fanø free folk festival, which turned out to be really great. Set in a local commune house on the tip of the island, with mostly bands I never heard of before. Found some great new musical tips there.

Just a week later I played another Svarte Greiner set, this time on a pretty much complete opposite setting, being Berlin electronic/techno music festival Krake. I played in between techno sets and was forced to do a massive drone-noise attack, which ended pretty great, as I immediately got another booking just minutes after I finished.

Shortly after this I played at an ambient festival in Poland on the border to Belarus. This was an outdoor stage in the middle of a big park. It was only myself and Rafael Anton Irisarri who were to play, and of course it started to rain during sound check already, fucking up some of Raf’s gear. We ended up playing together, something we havent done for 5 years. It was also good to see him again. He had quite the bad year, with him and his wife losing all their possessions during a move to the east coast.

Berlin-based electronic-gear wizard Derek Holzer had contacted me earlier with the idea of custom making me a processing box for my effect pedal rig. After a good bunch of back-and-forth talking on what to do, it turned out as a “chaotic synthesizer-ringmod-guitar-processing box” as he calls it, and is something amazing I’m still trying to figure out properly.

Rest of August was set off to work on Miasmah stuff + two B/B/S/ shows in Berlin, one where we headlined and one where we opened for Thurston Moore at Lido, which was fun, but maybe not our best show so far. We also played a B/B/S/ show at the Italian festival Flussi, in Avellino outside of Naples, where the accommodation was set in an Italian olive farm in the mountains. This was pretty amazing. On top of this, our first Deaf Center material since 4-5 years was released on a new sonic pieces series I’m doing together with Monique called “Pattern”, which is pretty much based on laser cut sleeves. “Recount” as the record was called, was 2 lost long pieces made in 2007 and 2012.

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For once I didn’t have a lot of gigs set up for the Autumn, so I spent most of it in Berlin with the occasional trips to Norway. I used my time working on graphics, arranging house shows with Monique and going on sunday trips to the country side. One other thing I did during this time was to use a whole day at the Funkhouse studio here in Berlin being directed by Nils Frahm to make sounds and music for this film he’s scoring. It will be interesting to see if some of what I contributed ended up in the film which will premiere in the new year. I did a similar thing like this for Jóhann Jóhannsson last year for the film ‘Prisoners’. Both were fun but difficult as I needed to play spontaneously to the film over and over.

On a different note I also ended up going to Unsound festival for once without playing. Not often I go to a festival just to hang out, meet people and see shows, but this was a good occasion and I saw both some great and quite bad shows. The highlight of which was a band I never heard of before, named “Cyclobe”.

Seeing this was Deaf Center’s 10 year anniversary we did quite a lot more than we usually do this year. On top of the Japan tour we played 3 more shows in Germany. Mainly being Hauschka’s “Approximation festival” in Düsseldorf, then at UT Connewitz in Leipzig with Tomaga and a fairly secret house show at our own place. All went pretty good to great I’d say. Just one week after this tour, I did a small NL/BE Svarte Greiner tour, playing Antwerp and Brüssels but also visiting Amsterdam and Mechelen. Got to hang out with the Miasmah Belgian gang, which is always a great time. It was a little stressful trip all in all, but can’t complain. Also by now I was very ready to stay at home for a while.

The last big bang of the year is something that’s yet to happen as I write this. We’re going to open for Slowdive at massive venue The Forum in London this Friday the 19th. Quite scary but also very exciting. This will be the ending of our 2014 Deaf Center anniversary and although some things are set for next year, it will probably be quieter on that front.

To sum up, looking at what I just wrote it seems like a very busy year, something it kind of was. For sure an improvement from last year, which was not so good for me, so with this I write off 2014 with a big thanks to my working and living partner, Monique Recknagel, who’s been a big part of pretty much everything on this list. Next year will for sure not be any less busy as I haven’t even mentioned all the upcoming Miasmah stuff I used A LOT of time preparing and working on during this year. It’s gonna be a very exciting year I think.

 

Erik K Skodvin 2014 TOP 12 albums:

Matt Christensen – ‘Coma Gears’ (Bathetic)
HTRK – ‘Psychic 9-5 club’ (Ghostly)
Valerio Tricoli – ‘Misery Lares’ (PAN)
Josef Van Wissem / SQÜRL – ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ OST (ATP recordings)
Mica Levi – ‘Under the Skin’ OST (Milan)
Ai Aso – ‘Lone’ (Ideologic organ)
Tomaga – ‘Future Grotesk’ (Hands in the dark)
Andy Stott – ‘Faith in Strangers’ (Modern Love)
Otto A Totland – ‘Pino’ (sonic pieces)
Black To Comm – S/T (Type)
Simon James Phillips – ‘Chair’ (room40)
Driftmachine – ‘Nocturnes’ (Umor-rex)

 

Top 5 films 2014:

‘Enemy’
‘Under the Skin’
‘Only lovers left alive’
‘Snowpiercer’
‘Gone Girl’

 

Top 5 concerts 2014:

Marsen Jules (Berghain 10 year anniversary, Berlin)
Cyclobe (unsound festival)
Nils Frahm & Stargaze performs Terry Riley in C (volksbuhne, Berlin)
Tomaga (UT Connewitz, Leipzig)
Driftmachine (miasmah+sonic pieces HQ, Berlin)

 

—Erik K Skodvin

 

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‘Flame’ by Erik K Skodvin and ‘Recount’ by Deaf Center are available now on Sonic Pieces. 

http://www.miasmah.com/eks/
http://www.sonicpieces.com/

 


 

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Mary Lattimore (Philadelphia, USA)

Mary Lattimore is a Philadelphia-based harpist whose name has become synonymous in independent music circles as both a gifted solo composer as well as a versatile and accomplished collaborator. 2014 saw the release of ‘Slant Of Light’, the gorgeous collaboration between Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler; a record featuring heavenly harp and synthesizer improvisations released by Chicago-based indie label Thrill Jockey. Mary Lattimore has also contributed her highly distinguished harp playing for numerous artists, including: Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Are We There’ and Steve Gunn’s ‘Way Out Weather’ albums. Previously, Lattimore has collaborated with New York-based songwriter Ed Askew and ex Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore. 

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Okay, here goes! Hi from a cold night in Philadelphia:

Favorite Things of 2014 List

Favorite Records, in no order:

Myriam Gendron – ‘Not So Deep As A Well’
Steve Gunn – ‘Way Out Weather’
Grouper – ‘Ruins’
Watery Love – ‘Decorative Feeding’
Amen Dunes – ‘Love’
Marissa Nadler – ‘July’
Total Control – ‘Typical System’
Weyes Blood – ‘The Innocents’
War on Drugs – ‘Lost in the Dream’
Tinariwen – ‘Emmaar’
Sharon Van Etten – ‘Are We There’
Nathan Bowles – ‘Nansemond’
Purling Hiss – ‘Weirdon’
Lewis – ‘L’Amour’ (Reissue)
David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights – ‘End Times Undone’
K. Leimer – ‘A Period of Review’ (Reissue)
Mike Cooper – ‘Trout Steel/Places I Know’
William Basinski – ‘Melancholia’ (Reissue)
Jennifer Castle – ‘Pink City’
Daniel Bachman – ‘Orange Co. Serenade’
Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band – ‘Intensity Ghost’
Brigitte Fontaine – ‘Est…Folle’ (Reissue)

Favorite Song I Just Learned Of In 2014 (thanks to Justin Tripp and Nathan Bowles):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osZsDIEI0UQ

Favorite New Place:

Marfa, TX

Favorite Shows of 2014:

Slowdive and Low, two favorites, same show (Philly)
War on Drugs secret shows (Philly)
Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, TN
Transfigurations Festival in Asheville, NC (an anniversary party for Harvest Records)
Memorial Show for Jack Rose (Glenn Jones, Daniel Bachman, Chris Forsyth, Nathan Bowles, Megajam Booze Band) (Philly)
Getting to see Steve Gunn and his incredible band every night while on tour together!!
Kensington Picnic II (Philly)

Other Favorites:

Pew Fellowship.
Sitting in with Cass McCombs and his excellent band, wow.
Getting to play harp for some elegant parties at the Philip Johnson Glass House, architectural gem in Connecticut.
Improvising with bandmate Jeff Zeigler and dancers Elle Erdman & Laura Bartczak.
Orange Polenta Cake with Honey and Rosewater Syrup, wow.
Thrill Jockey putting out the record and getting to know those guys.
Becky Suss’s paintings (beckysuss.net).
Recording session with Steve Gunn and friends at Black Dirt Studio in upstate NY.
James Turrell Skyspace in Chestnut Hill, PA.
Seeing top American actor Michael Shannon in a play.
Finally buying a rice cooker instead of burning the rice all the time!
This unreal experience of natural beauty – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCWkzQqO7Ro (you can catch me and Naomi Yang and my mom on this news show, haha).

 

—Mary Lattimore

 

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‘Slant Of Light’ by Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler is available now on Thrill Jockey Records.

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https://www.facebook.com/lattimorezeiglerduo
http://www.thrilljockey.com

 


 

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Ed Askew (New York, USA)

The New York-based painter and singer-songwriter Ed Askew was born in Stamford, Connecticut. He moved to New Haven to study painting at Yale Art School in 1963. During his mid-twenties, while working as a teacher at a private prep school in Connecticut, Ed Askew began to write songs. Significantly, he also at this time purchased his much-loved Martin Tiple (a 10 string lute-like instrument originally from Columbia). Over the preceding years and decades, Askew would continue to write songs and paint consistently. However, a lack of fortune with record labels (like many musicians of the time) led to years of uncertainty and obscurity. Debut LP ‘Ask the Unicorn’ (initially released via ESP Disk and UK’s Parlophone) would quickly disappear into folk-psych obscurity. Second LP, ‘Little Eyes’ was recorded next; however, it sat in the vaults for some 40 years until its long-overdue limited release in 2007. In the summer of 2011, Ed Askew embarked on his first US tour at the age of 71; while in 2013, Ed Askew’s masterful album ‘For The World’ was released via Tin Angel Records. 2014 found Ed Askew writing its hugely anticipated follow-up.

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My recent birthday was on Dec. 1st, and I spent a quiet day alone doing stuff at home. Later, I said to Jay (my keys player): “lets do something”. So the next Saturday we joined friends at a nice little west side restaurant to have drinks and dinner.

It’s amazing to imagine that only a year previous I was at a gallery in Paris, on Nov. 30th, and chatting with people after the show; when, at midnight, I turned around and was greeted with a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday.

The next morning we all went to a place where the band could have it’s picture taken with the Eiffel Tower. My idea. Then on to Brussels.

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The tour was for about two weeks and took us to Köln, Gent, Utrecht, Paris, Brussels, London, Copenhagen, Coventry, where we also played and stayed with John, on an old rebuilt farm. John is a friend of Richard Guy, who runs Tin Angel Records, and drove us around for the duration of the tour. We also played in Bristol and Glasgow. I remember the beautiful hills in Scotland, and won’t forget all the great people we met.

I also have to mention Jordan Hunt (a London boy) who was violinist for the band during the tour (and Tyler Evans who is a regular member of our band; plays tipple and guitar).

Well, once back in the states I resumed my normal life of occasional shows in Brooklyn, rehearsals with the band, working on new songs at home, occasional visits from friends, and painting.

A big event in my, life this year, was a fall I had in June that just about put me out of action for a few months. but not to dwell on THAT. I will put up this recent poem that relates:

Watching the Hudson River through a tangle of
Trees, broken limbs, and late Autumn leaves.
I walk..tap..tap..tap..
Like James Joyce’s blind man,
Walking across Dublin. 
Except that I am not in Dublin
And I am not blind.

This is the longest I have walked
Since I fell, in June;
Infuriating the nerves in my legs.
But looking at the gold and green,
And tangle of trees, before me,
I can almost not notice the discomfort
In my legs.
And as I walk home from breakfast
I pass a child, learning to ride a bike.
And I remember the pleasure in overcoming difficulties,
(Even ones that are NO fun)
Learning to play an instrument,
Or finishing a new painting.

11/14

At any rate, aside from doing some shows in Brooklyn; we played at a show in July with Plastic Crime Wave. P C W is Steve Krakow’s band. Steve is a Chicago-based music promoter, musician, and all around psychedelic freak.

Ed Askew Band got most of the songs recorded for a new LP for Tin Angel. Going to Philly and upstate NY to do it. And Jay and I went to Canada to play, and see friend Molly Sweeney and enjoy her set. From Canada went to Maine, where we played during the closing week of the Oak and the Ax. A great venue in the Portland area. Sad to see it go.

Otherwise I have been working on a new set of abstract paintings and new songs for another Bandcamp self release.

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And, oh, me, Jay and Tyler played a show at Issues Project Room with Josephine Foster (who will be on the new album) and Victor Herrero, back in January. The hall was packed, which is gratifying.

Some artists whose records and CDs I got during 2014 are:

Atlas Sound
Virginia Rodrigues
Baby Dee
Zachary Cale
Mark Kozelek & Jimmy Lavalle
Lambchop
Do Make Say Think
Smog
Conor Oberst
Bill Callahan
Big Blood
Baby Copperhead
Family Planing
the Milkman’s Union
James Blake
Deer Hunter

Because I live in Northern Manhattan and it takes 2 trains and some time to get to Brooklyn and, I’m just lazy, I don’t go to many shows that I’m not playing in. I did see my friend Jerry DeCicca (producer of ‘For The World’), at Union Pool recently, though. They have Sunday afternoon shows there, that are relaxed and make for a nice, low-key time.

So here I am, at my trusty MacBook and another year has come and gone.

Another birthday,

some more paintings,

another song….

 

—Ed 12/13/14

 

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edaskew_web

‘For The World’ is available now on Tin Angel Records. Ed Askew also released the double 10″ ‘Rose’ (w/ Joshua Burkett & Steve Gunn) via Okraina Records (Info/Buy HERE).

http://edaskew.bandcamp.com/
http://eaband.tumblr.com/
http://www.tinangelrecords.co.uk/

 


 

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Carl Corcoran, The Blue Of The Night (Dublin, Ireland)

Dublin-based broadcaster and radio presenter Carl Corcoran presents his radio show “The Blue Of The Night” nightly on RTE Lyric FM from 10pm to 1am. The much-loved show has become widely regarded as one of the finest resources to Irish music fans for both its vast eclecticism and its unwavering dedication to showcasing the very best musical talent from both Irish and international shores. All genres of music are catered for: from jazz to blues, classical to neoclassical and from traditional to modern composers, and all points in between. 

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I consider myself to have the greatest job in Ireland. I listen to, I play, I share music with an audience that ranges in age from young teens to octogenarians with tastes in music that run the whole gambit from 13th Century polyphony through Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods — from trad to jazz and where the two meet, right up to contemporary neo-classical, baroque pop and fusions of all sorts. The Blue of the Night defies categorisation – in fact we have become a genre of our own. My desk (and that of my co-Presenter Eamonn Lenihan) is piled high with CDs and my Inbox is jammed with emails containing Mp3s and links to Soundclouds, Bandcamps and Dropbox tracks which songwriters and composers feel is Blue of the Night material. Isn’t that cool! Isn’t that the greatest testament to the programme! What a compliment! What a thrill! So when I get around to listening to all this new music I marvel at the creativity that exists. The internet has facilitated the dissemination of new music. There is a Universe of great stuff out there – and for me it is a privilege to be able to share some (and it is only a small “some”) of this creativity. As a performing musician in another period of my life (and still am from time to time) I respect the “circular reciprocity” that emanates from a great performance. In other words performers enjoying their gig connect with their audience who in turn transmit that enjoyment back to the performer thereby completing the circle. Similarly, the same happens in my current role on Blue – I play the music, the audience responds and they in turn suggest music and artists that I am genuinely enthralled to hear and enjoy.

Music that came my way this year (and not necessarily released this year) that excited me and my listeners include Portadown musician/singer songwriter Katharine Philippa – her ‘Broken to be Re-built’ EP is great. NY’s Bryce Dessner (The National) impresses with his neo-classical creations for the Kronos Quartet; Sean MacErlaine’s latest release of solo reed (Clarinets and sax) musings along with his sonic backdrops is equally impressive; Dylan Tighe produced a personal and moving collection of songs in his “Record” Cd while the Ergodos Musicians (who in the past have paid tribute to 12C composers) on their CD ‘Songs’ captured the art of the song from writers such as alt-country singer Steve Earle, UK indie trio The xx, folk-rock hero Richard Thompson, maverick Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy, and Italian Baroque genius Antonio Vivaldi. Ailie Blunnnie is another young songwriter that caught my ear, as did Slow Skies, Seti the First, Chequerboard, Owensie and a recent find from the UK – composer, singer songwriter Sasha Siem.  There is so much good music out there – there are so many great music appreciators out there…….and we share. So much great music to be heard on the Blue of the Night. So much great music to send to Blue of the Night. I hope that circle continues – I hope I can reciprocate.

 

—Carl Corcoran

 

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Carl Corcoran presents The Blue Of The Night on Irish radio station RTE Lyric FM nightly from 10pm to 1am. Playlists and playback options are accessible online for each show.

http://www.rte.ie/lyricfm/the-blue-of-the-night-with-carl-corcoran/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BlueoftheNight
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blueofthenight

 


 

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Eithne Hand, Galway International Arts Festival (Galway, Ireland)

Eithne Hand is a Radio Producer and Writer. In 2014 she curated the ‘First Thought Talks’ Strand of the Galway International Arts Festival. She produces Gay Byrne’s weekly Jazz Programme on RTE Lyric FM and is a past winner of the Prix Italia for Work on Music with a radio documentary called Voicejazz which mixed five voices talking about jazz in a loose quintet. All she loves about radio comes from Glen Gould. She has written and directed four Radio Dramas and is working on a site specific theatre piece for 1916 based on her own family story and Caravaggio’s masterpiece ‘The Taking of Christ’.

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Musically my 2014 contained not so many ‘new’ pieces but a lot of ‘new to me’ work. Working every week with jazz from the 30’s and 40’s constantly opens my ears to some of the best playing and improvisations from a time when the form was dangerously good. Take just one example – Mugsy Spanier’s ‘Relaxin’ At The Touro’.

Lisa Hannigan, Cillian Murphy, Fractured Air and Tony Clayton Lea all took to the stage of Druid Theatre in Galway on a sunny July Sunday and provided a real highlight for the audience of muso’s and sentimentalists all there to hear an hour-long riff on the joy of the Mixtape. Cillian had the bright idea of asking all comers in advance to bring their own Mixtape/CD along so at the end we shook a box and everyone took home someone else’s offering. A true example of local ‘sharing’.

Film musical highlights were just two – I got to see ‘Good Vibrations’ – the story of Terri Hooley and the punk movement in Belfast. Great soundtrack, smart script from Glenn Patterson and a cameo appearance by Terri himself. An eerily accurate capture of a time and place.

Best book with music in it: ‘From Out Of The City’  – A John Kelly transport aptly described on the cover as “a medicated fugue”.

Ken Loach’s film, ‘Jimmy’s Hall’ was shot about 10km from where I spend a lot of time in south Sligo. The film has good and bad bits but the musical assembly of fantastic jazz foot stompers led by Tommy Higgins were a joy.

Teho Teardo’s soundtrack for ‘Ballyturk’ by Enda Walsh was the overall musical highlight. Now just out on CD and Vinyl. Stunning music.

Björk’s ‘Bibliophilia’ came along and having been at the concert in Alexander Palace which was recorded for the movie I had to go. Surreal, stunning imaginative effort to ‘show’ the music as having an organic visual life alongside the sounds.

Elvis Costello in October in Dublin was forgettable but Julie Feeney in the Spiegeltent on the Wexford Quays on Halloween night was the opposite.

Lowlight award goes to David Byrne/Fat Boy Slim collaboration ‘Here Lies Love’ – the musical based on the Imelda Marcos story at the National London. Poor taste and disappointing all round.

Year ending with Cyrille Aimee and the wonderful Aaron Diehl as well as Christian McBride and Cecile McLorin Salvant all together on the new Mack Avenue CD release for Christmas (‘It’s Christmas on Mack Avenue’).

For 2015  I am looking forward to a much rumoured chamber opera involving both Donnacha Dennehy and Enda Walsh. All details coming soon !

 

—Eithne Hand

 

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http://www.giaf.ie/

 


 

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Brigid Power-Ryce (Galway, Ireland)

Brigid Power-Ryce (born in London and now based in Galway) is one of Ireland’s most talented and unique songwriters. Having supported such world-renowned musicians as Lee Ranaldo, Peter Broderick, Alasdair Roberts and Richard Dawson in the past; Brigid Power-Ryce’s moving and powerful concert performances (involving accompaniment with accordion, guitar, ukele or simply a cappella performance) demonstrate the supreme power still inherent in the songwriting form. Brigid Power-Ryce released the stunning ‘I Told You The Truth’ album this year via Galway-based Abandon Reason Records, comprising recordings made at St. Nicholas’ Church in Galway.

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2014 was a crazy and hard year for me. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if it was any crazier than previous years, but it definitely was a year of “burning the candle at both ends”. There was a lot of change, which brought about a lot of chaos and loss, but then ultimately strength. It wasn’t a big year for me for soaking up new music or books. I go through phases where I will listen to a lot of music or read many books, but then I go into blank-brain mode and I need a lot of empty months, where I’m not usually listening to anything new, just listening to a lot of old favourites or sometimes nothing at all. Old stuff that I listened to a lot this year was Neil Young – ‘Zuma’, ‘Rust Never Sleeps’. Planxty. I listened to a lot of Prokofiev too and Satie.

My 4 year old son made us listen to and dance on repeat, the song ‘Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line’ by Waylon Jennings. Hearing him shouting and sort of side-stepping “EVERYBODY KNOWS YOU BEEN STEPPIN ON MY TOES AND I’M GEDDIN PWETTY TIRED OF IT” was special. We’ve recently moved very close to a beach and he always says, “I see Waylon Jennings sailing a boat over there Mum. There he is Mum making a sand castle!” He has a connection with Waylon Jennings. How strange.

I played a lot of memorable gigs. Around April 2014 I played a few gigs around the UK. I started off with opening up for Cian Nugent & The Cosmos in Cafe Oto, London. They were really raw and alive. Then I went to Manchester, Sheffield and Edinburgh. Playing those gigs really nourished me. The audiences were all so appreciative and connective and so were the acts I was supporting, Alasdair Roberts and Sir Richard Bishop, they were great and the latter so funny. I felt like I was floating the whole time of that tour. When I came home I came crashing down with a post-gigs anti-climax. It was hard to get back to day-to-day life and get my feet back on the ground. But I’ve learned how to handle the aftermath a bit better since Spring.

An artist I discovered in 2014 who made a big impact on me was Angel Olsen. It’s funny because when I first heard her in maybe 2012/13, I didn’t want to listen, I sort of shut it off. It almost hurt to listen, because I had been laying low for quite a while and not performing or writing or even singing so I wanted to avoid listening to something that I might have unconsciously known would remind me of who I am. But then I did let myself listen this year and her two albums ‘Half Way Home’ and ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ were pretty much on repeat for the whole summer in our house. Here’s the evidence. I love her music, her voice and her lyrics too. I went to see her in Whelans too which was great, although there were a few assholes at the gig.

I played a good few gigs in the autumn. I supported a great American band upstairs in The Workman’s in Dublin, called Spires That In The Sunset Rise. They were incredible musicians and people. Then I supported Lee Ranaldo in Dublin, an exciting gig that went really well. And then my last gig was with Peter Broderick in the Half Moon Theatre in Cork. That was a really special gig. The promoters (ahem!) were extremely kind, generous, and without a hint of ego. Which was really unique. The audience was great and Peter Broderick was also lovely and I really liked his violin playing and multi-tasking abilities. After the show, we talked a lot about ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ and ‘Seinfeld’, which brings me on to “what I watched in 2014”. A LOT of CYE. I know it wasn’t out this year or anything, but hey I’m always a few years behind on stuff. I also watched the first season of ‘Broad City’ which I really liked. I’m excited for that new season to come out in January. It’s about two young women in New York and they are pretty funny. I used to live in New York when I was 18 and I was in a similar mindset to them then, so it feels familiar.

I know this has probably been a boring read, with not much substance or music/film/book recommendations (oh I just remembered I re-read ‘Shakey’, and ‘East Of Eden’ which is very different to the film, very dark but brilliant), but it’s because I am tired. That sums up 2014, really: tiring. I think 2015 will be a lot more easier going. I think I will organize some more gigs and get over to America and maybe get a band together. I’m going to try and not waste so many hours on the internet also.
Bye!

 

—Brigid Power-Ryce

 

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‘I Told You The Truth’ is available now on Abandon Reason Records HERE.

http://brigidpowerryce.com/
https://www.facebook.com/brigidpowerrycemusic

 


 

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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Chosen One: Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler

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Interview with Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler.

“Somehow I wanted for us to make something that represented flight, maybe some kind of enlightenment, getting lighter.”

—Mary Lattimore

Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler Press Photos 2014

Earlier this autumn marked the highly-anticipated release of the special collaborative work between Philadephia-based harpist Mary Lattimore and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Zeigler on the prestigious Thrill Jockey label. The debut album, ‘Slant of Light’ is a mesmerising collection of four stunning improvisations, built on the immaculate instrumentation of synthesizer, guitar and harp that seamlessly taps into a divine state of transcendence. An other-worldly feel permeates the rich tapestry of ‘Slant of Light’s sonic canvas as a deep telepathic connection is forged between the gifted duo.

In many ways, the pair’s collaborative work began with 2013’s ‘The Withdrawing Room’ – Lattimore’s debut solo record- which Zeigler recorded and mixed, as well as adding synthesizer parts to the epic ‘You’ll Be Fiiinnne’. ‘Slant of Light’ represents the latest chapter in the pair’s musical journey that continues to explore new sonic terrain; delving wonderfully into realms of folk, ambient and drone soundscapes.

The opening ‘Welsh Corgis In The Snow’ is a slow, meditative lament that contains gorgeous harp arpeggios and gentle pulses of synths, resulting in a haven of celestial sounds. A drone infused ambient opus unfolds with each sacred note. ‘The White Balloon’ immediately transports me back to cult singer-songwriter Ed Askew’s ‘For The World’ album (a record Lattimore collaborated on) as a timeless folk gem ascends into the atmosphere. The voice of Askew feels just a heartbeat away. The synthesizer parts become more pronounced on the record’s part B, particularly on ‘Echo Sounder’. The closing ‘Tomorrow Is A Million’ explores deeper into sonic experimentation as an eerie feel exudes from the scintillating soundscapes.

Both artist’s highly collaborative pasts forms a trajectory to many of the indispensable records of the U.S independent music scene. Lattimore has recorded with Kurt Vile, Meg Baird, Steve Gunn, Ed Askew, Sharon Van Etten, to name but a few after years of touring with Thurston Moore. Zeigler has played with members of Chris Forsyth’s Solar Motel Band, The War On Drugs and A Sunny Day In Glasgow in his group Arc In Round. In addition, Zeigler is the much-sought-after recording engineer in the heart of the Philadelphia music scene, recording for artists such as Kurt Vile, The War On Drugs, Nothing and Purling Hiss.

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Interview with Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler.

Congratulations on the wonderful collaborative project. ‘Slant of Light’ is a really special record that that transports you to a magical realm of treasured sounds. On your own solo record “The Withdrawing Room”, Jeff is also present on the recording sessions so it feels very natural (and fitting) that this duo has been officially formed. Firstly, please discuss the collaborative process between you both and how you have developed such a deep understanding of each other’s music? Has the process changed in any way between ‘The Withdrawing Room’ and ‘Slant of Light’?

Mary Lattimore: Jeff recorded ‘The Withdrawing Room’ and played synth on the first piece and we’ve been playing together since then, realizing that we really like improvising together. With ‘The Withdrawing Room’, I was playing, he was in the control room playing, with the door between us closed. I asked him to add a few things, just experimenting to hear how different sounds could enhance the harp record. He played synth, but it didn’t feel like a collaboration like this one is. ‘Slant of Light’ was recorded after lots of shows and some travelling together, so it feels more conversational and informed. It’s still an experiment, but we’re more comfortable with each other and know how to react to where the melody is being taken. This time we were in the same room!

Jeff Zeigler: The first time I worked with Mary was on the day that we began recording ‘The Withdrawing Room’. The vibe was really low key and she asked me if I’d like to play on one of the pieces and I just tried to add an extra level of atmosphere and reinforce what she was already doing without stepping on it — it was a really effortless first collaboration, so I think we both felt that it made a lot of sense to continue in that fashion. The process changed really significantly after we wrote our score for ‘Le Revelateur’ — up until that point I had focusing more on texture and atmosphere than melodies, which was one angle, and definitely made everything a bit more droney and hypnotic, but when it came time to write instead of free improvise, it seemed to make far more sense to focus on creating memorable haunting melodies that glued together the harp and textural elements. So yes, the process has changed significantly on my end.

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In terms of the compositions, how much of the new music is borne from improvisation? On ‘Slant of Light’ to me, there seems to be an equal balance between experimentation and meticulous song-craft (representing the closing half and opening half, respectively!)

ML: You know, none of this one was really composed either. We just sat down, I thought of a little opening part, Jeff figured out the key, we were just going for it. The pieces are all first or second takes. They do feel a little more song-y, but it’s all just ideas that we were just feeling out in the moment, trapped in Jeff’s studio during this huge snowstorm for two days. I think the time of year really affected how the ideas were coming to us in those few days, with no light distractions of a lovely summer, just sloshing through the relentless, endless winter of 2014.

JZ: The album is essentially all improvised aside from ‘The White Balloon’. Mary or I would start playing something, the other person would join in, and then we’d jam it out for an unspecified amount of time.  Afterwards, we’d usually discuss it for a minute, maybe figure out a few different things to try or talk about the structure and then try a second take. I don’t think any of the pieces on the album, aside from ‘The White Balloon’, made it past a third take before we were satisfied with the results.

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I feel part B is more improvised-based but certainly the first two tracks seem to have been mapped out before the sessions took place. The opening ‘Welsh Corgis In The Snow’ is such a beautiful title and I love how the gentle arpeggio of harp notes blend effortlessly with the synth pulses. I would love for you to talk me through this particular harp-based composition, Mary? What are your memories of writing this piece of music? 

ML: I wish I could say that I put lots of brain-effort into the composition, but really, I think all of the songs came directly from our human hearts! Haha. I thought of the beginning part and then where it would go, with those low notes in a chorus, and then just started slowing everything down and Jeff did too. It was an intense few days – I packed a bag and spent the night in the studio where Jeff lives, as more heavy snow was expected. The next morning, we’d found out that a friend had passed away and I feel like all of the elements were there to translate some feelings, making something that marks a point in time for both of us. Jeff will be happy to hear that you like the title! He made it up! Jeff and his cute dog Baxter like winter and I’m glad he gave it a cheerier title than something goth-y I would’ve given it. I’m from the south and I go real darkside when it’s cold!

JZ: The track starts with my Korg Mono/Poly slowly fading in and droning. My whole setup is going through a Roland Space Echo tape delay, and I’m making slight adjustments to the rate of the delay by hand, which creates a woozy, seasick feel by minutely altering the pitch of the synth drone. Mary starts playing on top of that, and in another minute or so I add an octave up pitch shift, which opens up the sound, and then I start looping and layering the synth and Mary begins adding in tweaked-out harp delays. I honestly don’t remember what’s going on with acoustic strumming noises that you can hear in the room. I think I may have been playing a psaltery and just strumming it open somewhat randomly? The track becomes a bit more static around the 4 minute mark and both Mary and I are tweaking our pedals. At 4:15 or so introduce a melody on processed melodica that I continue playing and looping for the next few minutes. Elements then gradually strip away until you’re left with the initial drone and the new melodica melody, and the track fades out on the Mono/Poly drone.

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Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler Press Photos 2014

Mary, you have been involved in an endless array of utterly compelling collaborations, having recorded and performed with Kurt Vile, Meg Baird, Ed Askew, Steve Gunn and Thurston Moore to name but a few. These projects must be so rewarding and fulfilling to be part of. How do these collaborations feed its way into your own music and music-making process? Are there certain parallels you see that exist between these collaborations? Can you shed some light please on what collaborative works will next see the light of day?

ML: I love both collaborating and contributing to other people’s songs, writing parts. It’s fun to see how people you admire work, to see behind the curtain, to be a part of the process. For me, it doubles the magic of it, when you get to see the human trial-and-error, the scrapping something, and the million takes, and the finally getting it. I love the sitting around listening to what somebody else is doing, listening back to your overdubbed part, and trying it again but up an octave, listening back, over and over. On my own record and for this duo one, it’s a totally different process, where it’s all exorcism and improvisation, but I also love the perfectionism of working on someone’s thought-about song, and witnessing the deliberate series of choices that are being made. All the little choices, capturing a vibe and sharpening a song. Working on the new Steve Gunn record was a total feelgood delight, up at Black Dirt in upstate New York. The musicians were next level, a solid group of talented people. I just had the pleasure of making a harp and koto record with this friend Maxwell August Croy. It’ll be out next year. That one was improvised.

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Jeff, as a recording engineer you have recorded albums for musical luminaries such as The War On Drugs, Kurt Vile, Nothing and Purling Hiss. I would love to gain an insight into this aspect of your work. Are there certain rules or beliefs you abide by and stick by when recording? Also, I would love to know how early in life did your fascination with sound begin? Can you pin-point the moment you realized music would be the path for you to follow?

JZ: There are certain sounds and techniques that I gravitate towards, and people tend to come to me for that aesthetic, but to not break your own rules every once in awhile would be pretty limiting and counter-productive. I guess what generally appeals to me is what’s fairly evident on ‘Slant of Light’— a combination of the organic and the inorganic helping to create a unique and somewhat unidentifiable space. I’m a huge fan of luring people in with a familiar sound and then “enhancing” it in such a way that either accentuates its’ beauty or warps it in such a way that creates a sense of unease. Or maybe takes you to a place that’s less literal place then the elements suggest on their own.

I think the point at which I realized that there was no turning back was when I began playing guitar again in college and would borrow the school’s 4-track cassette recorder and just experiment with different recording techniques and unintentionally started incorporating a lot of “concrete” techniques into my songwriting, making the two somewhat permanently intertwined in my mind.

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‘The White Balloon’ is yet another stunning tour-de-force. The music evokes moods and colours in much the same way a beautiful landscape painting would create. I imagine the voice of Ed Askew will appear at any moment during the meditative harp passages- returning nicely to a previous collaboration of yours with  ‘For The World’. What are your memories of writing this particular piece of music?

ML: This song was created with my friend in mind, the one who’d passed away. I’d just seen these photos:

http://www.theparisreview.org/art-photography/5839/airship-lena-herzog-graham-dorrington

A photograph from photographer Lena Herzog and aeronaut Graham Dorrington’s sketchbook ‘Airship.’ The series details Dorrington’s dream of “pure, silent, slow flight over the jungle treetops,” which was documented in Werner Herzog’s film The White Diamond. (Paris Review)

Somehow I wanted for us to make something that represented flight, maybe some kind of enlightenment, getting lighter. I love Jeff’s playing on it. My Granny had also just died, too, so I think the piece was kind of influenced by recent ghosts of beautiful people. There’s a really nice music video for it, created the wonderful Naomi Yang (www.naomivision.com) and it was shot in my hometown, Asheville NC, at my Granny’s cabin.

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The cover painting is by Philadelphia-based artist Becky Suss, whose stunningly beautiful work also graces the sleeve of ‘The Withdrawing Room’. Please talk me through the concept of this artwork and indeed your fascination with her work? It’s so very distinctive and unique, I’m very glad to have come across her work through your music. 

ML: Becky is so talented!! She is amazing. Her work on both covers has gotten so many compliments and I feel really fortunate that she’s been so generous. I think the worlds match well, hers and mine/mine and Jeff’s. They just make sense together. A lot of her paintings are of rooms of her grandparents’ house. The style reminds me so much of a beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright house or something. Nature, collections and treasures, clean shiny big windows, weird sculptures, thoughtful and layered memories of an empty house – I feel like I can smell what the house smells like just looking at them. It was, sadly, demolished and she’s painted from her memory of it. Her website is www.beckysuss.net. The best.

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Please discuss the current music scene in Philadelphia, Mary? What a time it is right now with the likes of The War On Drugs – as ever – going from strength to strength.

ML: My friend Kathryn just put on the greatest event of the summer, the second Kensington Picnic. All of the buddies from the neighborhood came out and lots of good genius friends played –  Laura Baird, Fursaxa, Randall of Nazareth, Spacin, Hohlraum, Strapping Fieldhands, the amazing Birds of Maya, and Jeff and I played too. We have a great community in Philly. Our great pals Purling Hiss have a record coming out on the same day as ours. Yeah, War on Drugs are killing, Kurt Vile and those guys are gonna be working on a new one, Chris Forsyth and his Solar Motel band are always awesome, Jeff is working on a great solo record, Watery Love are gonna be playing the night before my birthday, so that’ll be a treat. Feel lucky to know a ton of sincerely creative, driven people and it all feels really supportive.

JZ: Philadelphia’s music scene is pretty insane right now! There are so many great bands and artists working on so many different fronts and it makes me really happy. There’s generally a ton of support and positivity and a bunch of different scenes that exist outside of each other but still tend to cross-pollinate to some extent. There are some exciting newer bands — Amanda X, White Lighters and Myrrias spring to mind, and also a bunch of lifers like Chris Forsyth, Purling Hiss, Kurt Vile, the War on Drugs guys, etc that are just doing what they do and have been for ages because it’s their thing. I think the fact that Philly is still relatively cheap and very central just draws a lot of people to it who have a common purpose. It’s getting increasingly gentrified, which worries me, but I think we’re safe from getting as soulless as New York has for at least a few decades.

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Jeff, your band Arc In Round creates such a mesmerising wall of sound. Please discuss the inception of this band and plans for an upcoming release?

JZ: Thank you! We are unfortunately on a semi-permanent hiatus. I’m currently recording an amazing LP for Myrrias, the new band of Mikele Edwards, who was the other creative half of Arc in Round, and I’m in the process of finishing up a solo LP that’s sort of in line with the AiR material, but aside from the occasional show and possibly a loose album of extended improvised music I don’t foresee us doing much. I should have this new as-yet-unnamed project up and running in the Spring and am also currently working on a beat and sound design-heavy record that will probably include some pretty great Philly rappers on it too.

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Last December, the both of you performed a live score for Philippe Garrel’s 1968 film ‘Le Revelateur’ in Marfa, TX. Can you please recount your memories of this particular night? What is the process and experience like when performing a live score to a film? Do you have plans to do this again in the near future? I hope you and Jeff tour this new record of yours, before too long.

ML: Yeah, we definitely have plans to tour! We played the score with the film in Philly and Chicago in September. We’ve been on tour with Steve Gunn for the first two weeks of October, which has been real cool, but not with the film.

We were asked to compose and perform a score for a silent film for Marfa’s annual event that happens around New Year’s Eve. Jeff and I got together and wrote some themes that corresponded with images and scenes, with bits of improvisation connecting the themes. The film is very beautiful and strange, intentionally silent, but we were able to get Garrel’s blessing. I’d never been to Marfa before (Jeff had been there with his band Arc in Round) and so it was such a treat to check out that little town in a new part of the country.

Saw my first shooting stars out there!! It worked out really well, I think, and we’re looking forward to diving into the film again and getting reacquainted with the music we wrote.

JZ: It was amazing! Nicki Itner and everyone else from Ballroom Marfa are great people and were such a pleasure to work with. It was all a bit of a whirlwind, as it was only the second time we had played along to the film on a large screen instead of a laptop, so it was harder, for me at least, to recognize cues, which was slightly nerve-wracking but once we started everything fell into place pretty naturally. Process-wise, things worked in a manner that’s fairly similar to how we wrote the album: one of us would come up with a part for a scene and the other person would try to enhance it, we would go through the scene, discuss what worked and what else we might be able to do, and then go from there. Since it’s all semi-improvised there’s a bit of wiggle room…..but not much.

 


 

 

Mary Lattimore   Jeff Zeigler - Slant of Light Cover - 374

 

‘Slant Of Light’ is available now on Thrill Jockey Records.

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