FRACTURED AIR

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Posts Tagged ‘The Leaf Label

Chosen One: Julia Kent

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Interview with Julia Kent.

“At this point, I am just trying to express the emotions I’m feeling, whether positive or negative, in whatever way I can.”

—Julia Kent

Words: Craig & Mark Carry

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‘Asperities’ is the fourth full-length solo work by the Vancouver-born and New York-based cellist Julia Kent. Released earlier this year by English independent The Leaf Label (and follow-up to 2013’s glorious ‘Character’), ‘Asperities’ sees a significant shift and development in Kent’s unique sound, with an increased focus being placed on the treatment of sound. While Kent’s work practice has always consisted of a looping pedal station with her beloved cello, ‘Asperities’ displays a heightened focus on how far this processed sound can be manipulated and pushed while maintaining the emotion distilled at the moment of initial playing. It is the manner in which both worlds of analogue and digital – acoustic cello plus processed electronic sound (which can also incorporate field recordings) – that strikes such an irresistible chord throughout the spine of ‘Asperities’. Significantly, the album was also recorded, produced and mixed in its entirety by Kent (who formerly performed as cellist to Antony & The Johnsons and Rasputina) in her New York studio while mastering duties were done by American composer and sound artist Rafael Anton Irisarri (The Sight Below, Orcas).

A distillation of emotion has always been at the fore for Kent’s recordings thus far – from her 2007 debut ‘Delay’ (released via Swiss label Shayo) to its 2011 follow-up ‘Green And Grey’ (Important Records) and her most recent album ‘Character’ (her first for the UK-based Leaf Label). Tracks such as ‘Missed’ (‘Green And Grey’), ‘Tourbillon’ or ‘Nina and Oscar’ (both from ‘Character’) are testament to this: the careful looping of cello lines interweave forcefully and gracefully all at once, creating moments of raw power and pure emotion in the process. The fact that the Canadian composer can conjure moments of both earth-shattering force and a fragile lightness of being (sometimes all at once) is both testament to Kent’s immense playing prowess but also her own very specific outlook and vision as an artist. Like similarly minded souls such as Iceland’s Hildur Guðnadóttir or Germany’s Hauschka, Kent is less concerned with mere technique or surface detail as she is with where such surfaces can take her.

On talking about the album’s title Kent has previously stated: “I was thinking about the concept of difficulty. Whether in life or in nature – of conflict, of being troubled. The idea of friction. Also in geology, an asperity is some part of a faultline that doesn’t move which can create an earthquake, which is quite an evocative concept.”
Indeed, such a concept beautifully encapsulates the album’s arc as a whole as well as its nine divine tracks. From the gradual build of album opener ‘Hellebore’ – where hard-edged cello lines cut through the foreground to stunning effect halfway through – a whole world of both impossibly intricate and fluid-like abstract textures awash the sonic palette. Its clear from second track ‘Lac des Arcs’ that an increasing focus is now placed on both the distance between notes as the precise notes themselves. Like a network of branches offset a winter sky, we lose ourselves in the infinite patterns of both positive and negative shapes in our midst. The ever-expanding well of emotions is palpable throughout – reminiscent of a prolonged mood-piece motion picture or an epic piece of fictional prose where we nervously await the outcome of our ill-fated protagonist – and brings to mind the other special souls making music in the modern classical realm today such as Jóhann Jóhannsson or William Basinski.

‘The Leopard’ begins with plucked cello lines which are looped throughout the piece (the longest cut on the album at six-minutes) and recalls vivid memories of witnessing Kent live in concert. For it’s in live situations one can readily appreciate (and effectively visualize) the construction (and simultaneously the deconstruction) of Kent’s majestic oeuvre. The impact of tracks such as ‘The Leopard’ leaves one loose complete sense of the present and existing moment; we are floating to some distant shore underneath the moon and stars above. In fact, the piece embodies no less an impact than as if played by a string quartet or full-scale orchestra where a seemingly endless gamut of mood, emotion and scale emerge from the horizon. ‘Flag Of No Country’ contains an alluring melodic line (akin to a piece of musical saw performed by Amiina), and precisely how these acoustic sounds merge with its processed electronic counterpoint (recalling both electronic and dub-influenced traditions) is a pure joy to behold. There is a meticulousness felt here and yet – crucially – what emerges most obviously throughout is a palpable sense of the present, the here-and-now (it’s as if we are a silent witness hearing the songs for the first time being performed in Kent’s New York studio). Fittingly, ‘Terrain’ sits at the center point to Asperities’ vast landscape where a synthetic drum line further accentuate the electronic arc of the album. Whereas on a previous track – for example, 2013’s ‘Tourbillon’ – such an addition may have functioned more as a backdrop to the main cello line narrative; here, each and every electronic element lives, breathes and seeps into every pore of Kent’s cello playing. Indeed, such a brooding atmosphere only heightens and intensifies as we continue to navigate side b’s precarious waters, where processed and found sounds (for example, the buzzing static on ‘Empty States’) merge and fuze to startling effect, recalling Murcof or Fennesz in the process.

There is so much evidence here that ‘Asperities’ is Kent’s most remarkable and life-affirming tour-de-force to date and – taking into account the exceptional output that has already been made by the hand (and mind) of Kent – this is a truly remarkable achievement all on its own.

‘Asperities’ is available now on The Leaf Label.

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

 

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Interview with Julia Kent.

Congratulations Julia on the truly breathtaking and exceptionally beautiful new record, ‘Asperities’. It’s such a pleasure to speak with you again and ask you some questions about this latest chapter in your beautifully storied career thus far. Please take me back to the making of ‘Asperities’ and the time and place these songs came to life? It really feels that this collection of music echoes the darkness of our times and the world as a whole of late. But nevertheless, in the darkness a deep sense of hope and strive for a better life prevails. The new music I feel captures this emotional depth and really feels (as all your records do) a special and emotional experience for the listener. I also love the many meanings of the album-title which in many ways filters into the album’s nine sonic creations.

Julia Kent: Thank you so much, Mark! Indeed, ‘Asperities’ was made under the influence of the stresses that I think we’re all feeling right now as humans: we seem to have lost empathy for one another as mutual inhabitants of this planet. And the title of course references the sense of harshness that echoes that sensation, as well as a sense of forces, whether tectonic or social, that are in conflict. But, as you say, there is still a sense of hope: there is still so much individual kindness that one encounters in life.

Please discuss the various stages of the album-making process: you recorded, produced and mixed the album in your own New York studio. This solitary process must really help shape the music that is eventually created. Also, I am very curious about the mindset and this concept of a musician’s mind when it comes to the creating/composing of music, and your instance, these heart-rendering cello-based compositions steeped in such unfathomable beauty. How do you feel your approach (and indeed the work of your mind) has developed across your solo works and in turn which has led to the creation of the latest masterpiece?

JK: The process of making ‘Asperities’ was actually fairly rapid, compared to my previous records. I’ve been playing some of the pieces live over the past year or so, so once I had some time in the studio, recording went quickly. And I tried to keep a sense of immediacy, and let the pieces go, rather than letting things percolate too long and getting stuck in an endless cycle of tweaking, as can sometimes happen when I’m working on my own. It’s great to have the objectivity that having someone else mix can provide, but I decided to mix myself, though I was lucky enough to be able to ask Rafael Anton Irisarri to master: I love his music and his sensibility so much, so it was really amazing to have the opportunity to have him do the mastering. I do think this record represents an evolution in my solo work: I’ve definitely become more comfortable with the idea of harshness and noise and sounds that aren’t inherently trying to be beautiful. At this point, I am just trying to express the emotions I’m feeling, whether positive or negative, in whatever way I can.

‘The Leopard’ is one of the record’s most captivating moments, and serves the centrepiece to the record’s Side A. In terms of the layering and meticulous crafting of the various sounds & textures, can you talk me through the construction of ‘The Leopard’? Also, I love how these intricate layers forever feels as if it’s one swarming ocean of sound (rather than many different isolated parts), something that has proved a great hallmark to your sonic creations. I love the reverb and heavy bass sounds that serve the pulse to this track, and creates a foreboding, menacing atmosphere whereas the counterpoint of strings forms a sea of sadness and pain. It’s such a moving, transporting piece of music.

JK: Thank you! It’s so interesting that you would point to ‘The Leopard’, because it had a particularly interesting genesis. It began as something I developed playing live for a dance piece: a very dark and powerful piece dealing with bearing witness to war and the inevitable repetition of conflict. I called it ‘The Leopard’ because there was a visual reference to the animal in the piece, but then I started thinking about the Lampedusa book, which also references conflict and social change, and has such a strong and evocative atmosphere. We ended up not using the piece in the dance performance, but I kept developing it, and eventually it evolved into what you hear on the record. I hope it conveys a sense of foreboding: that’s definitely what I feel when I play it. And I feel as though there is a tension within it between repetition and things that are trying to break free.

I am very curious to learn more about the electronic aspect of the music, Julia? Certain pieces like ‘Terrain’ contains sublime electronic textures that coalesce so effortlessly with the strings. What signals in you to incorporate more electronic-oriented sounds to be added to the cello-based compositions. A beautiful sense of motion and journey is inherent on tracks such as ‘Terrain’ and elsewhere dotted across ‘Asperities’.

JK: On this record, some of the pieces actually began first with electronics rather than cello, which I think made for a different point of departure, and created an interesting synthesis. And, in some cases, I was trying to see if I could erase the boundaries between the electronic and the organic textures, through processing and through blending the sounds.

The cello instrument is an extension of your own self and indeed your true voice, something that rings true when thinking of you and kindred spirits such as Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (fiddle), Lubomyr Melnyk (piano), Arthur Russell (cello) and so on. I also love how you bend the possibilities of the instrument to your own needs, for example a plethora of treatments to the cello is at work throughout ‘Asperities’. Please discuss the cello instrument, your first discovery of this beloved instrument, and indeed the voyage you began with this instrument back with debut solo LP, ‘Delay’ and even much before? Being so fortunate to witness your live performance, it was very special to visualize your cello-based compositions unfold and emit its magical spell.

JK: Oh, that is more than kind of you to mention me with Caoimhín and Lubomyr! They are great artists and I’ve been really fortunate to encounter both of them. And Arthur Russell is of course my hero: he really expanded the boundaries of the cello in such a personal way. The cello is, and always will be, my voice: it has such expressive possibilities. I’ve had a slightly troubled relationship to the instrument: I stopped playing for a couple of years after music school, because I was really disheartened by the whole process. But then I discovered another musical world, one that was freeing and creative, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to continue on that path. The cello at this point feels really like an extension of myself.

You have been heavily involved with score work for dance and film in the last couple of years, Julia. I wonder how does the music-making process vary depending on the particular medium? I can imagine some of this score work must have filtered into the overall makeup of ‘Asperities’?

JK: Yes, definitely the work I’ve been doing with dance and theatre and film has influenced this record a lot. I’ve found the process of making music for dance and theatre particularly interesting, because, in certain cases, I’m creating music live in reaction to movement or text or image, and that can be so inspiring and so immediate. I especially like working with dance: there is a sort of nonverbal communication that can happen with dancers on the stage that is really powerful.

The immense power of instrumental music – and your music typifies this simple truth – is the expression of emotion without words. I would love for you to share your thoughts on this whole idea and the journey you feel that has unearthed as a result of your musical path? Have there been other musicians, artists and records you feel that have truly moved and inspired you and has helped shape your own musical landscape?

JK: I do listen primarily to instrumental music – a lot of it electronic – and I find so much of it moving and inspiring. I think artists like Stars of the Lid or Kyle Bobby Dunn or William Basinski or Rafael Anton Irisarri or Markus Guettner are so conceptually and sonically powerful, and convey so much emotion in a relatively abstract way. And Oneohtrix Point Never and Tim Hecker and Haxan Cloak and Blanck Mass: it’s really an endless list of amazing music. But I think my own musical landscape is a fairly personal one: I really feel as though I’ve found my own way over the years, as one does.

Lastly, Julia, the penultimate track ‘Invitation To The Voyage’ feels like a very important piece of music on the new record, somehow akin to the approaching sun-lit horizon, reflecting hope and redemption. Please talk me through the various stages of this song’s inception and gradual development?

JK: ‘Invitation to the Voyage’ of course shares a title with the Baudelaire poem, but I also was thinking about the Watteau painting ‘Embarkation for Cythera’. I’m not particularly a huge fan of Watteau, but I’ve always been slightly haunted by that painting: it’s almost like a vanitas, with a sense of the ephemerality of life and of pleasure. You wonder if all those beautiful, frivolous people in fact made it back from Cythera? Or knew where they were heading in the first place? An invitation to a voyage conveys a sense of adventure and possibility, but there are some voyages from which one does not return. So I feel as though the piece is balanced between a sense of hope and a sense of elegiacness, and that it’s bittersweet in the way life is.

As a p.s.: I wrote all of the above before the most recent awful events in Beirut and in Paris and in Syria and elsewhere and who knows what else will have happened before you read this?… I don’t have any words other than: be kind and take care…

 

 


 

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‘Asperities’ is available now on The Leaf Label.

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

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November 26, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Fractured Air 37: No Rush (A Mixtape by Polar Bear)

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Polar Bear (UK/The Leaf Label) have established themselves as one of the most intriguing and vital contemporary collectives over the last decade or so. Since their debut full length ‘Dim Lit’ (Babel, 2003) the five-piece have ceaselessly explored new terrain while genres such as jazz, world, electronic, dub, hip hop, ambient and pop/rock have all found their way onto the band’s utterly beguiling and truly original sound palette. Led by drummer Sebastian Rochford (Brian Eno, Beck, Rokia Traoré, Yoko Ono) Polar Bear’s full lineup include the formidable talents of bassist Tom Herbert (The Invisible), electronic wizard Leafcutter John, saxophonists Mark Lockheart (Django Bates) and Pete Wareham (Melt Yourself Down, Acoustic Ladyland). 2015 marks the release of the band’s sixth studio album ‘Same As You’ (Leaf Label) and follow-up to 2014’s Mercury Prize nominated ‘In Each And Every One’.

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Fractured Air 37: No Rush (A Mixtape by Polar Bear)

To listen on Mixcloud:

https://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/fractured-air-37-no-rush-a-mixtape-by-polar-bear/

 

Tracklisting:

01. Tyshawn Sorey ‘Awakening’ [482 Music]
02. Blue Eyed Hawk ‘Oyster Trails’ [Edition]
03. Shabazz Palaces ‘#Cake’ [Sub Pop]
04. Actress ‘Voodoo Posse Chronic Illusion’ [Werk Discs, Ninja Tune]
05. Liberty Ellman ‘Pretty Words, Like Blades’ [Pi Recordings]
06. Leafcutter John ‘Music Under The Water’ [Desire Path Recordings]
07. BEAK> ‘Liar’ [Invada]
08. J Dilla ‘Let’s Take It Back’ (instrumental) [Stones Throw]
09. Micachu And The Shapes ‘Fall’ [Rough Trade]
10. Sebastian Rochford & Alice Grant ‘Rini Gave Word’ [The Leaf Label]
11. The Chordettes ‘Born To Be With You’ [Rhino]
12. Wilbert De Joode ‘Peg’ [Wig]
13. Hello Skinny ‘Revolutions Part 1’ [Slowfoot]
14. Eska ‘Red’ [Earthling Recordings]
15. Blue Eyed Hawk ‘Intro (For Fathers)’ [Edition]
16. Jim Black Trio ‘Actuality’ [Winter & Winter]
17. Rosie Lowe ‘Me & Your Ghost’ [37 Adventures]

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

 


 

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‘Same As You’ is available now on The Leaf Label.

http://www.polarbearmusic.com/
http://www.theleaflabel.com/

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Written by admin

June 17, 2015 at 10:58 am

Don’t Look Back: 2014 (Part 2)

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

Part 2 of a 2-part series.

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William Tyler (Nashville, USA)

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

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My year in review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some things I enjoyed:

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

My favorite modern country singles of 2014:

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

 

—William Tyler

 

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

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

 


 

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Félicia Atkinson (The French Alps, France)

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

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2014: A YEAR OF RENDEZ-VOUS

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

 

January:

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

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

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

February:

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

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

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

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March:

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

April:

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

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May:

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

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June:

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

July:

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

August:

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

September:

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

October:

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

November:

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

December:

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

THE END/THANK YOU!

 

—Félicia Atkinson

 

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

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

 


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

—Cian Ó Cíobháin

 

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

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

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

 


 

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Seán Mac Erlaine (Dublin, Ireland)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Seán Mac Erlaine

 

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‘A Slender Song’ is available now on Ergodos.

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

 


 

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Kat Epple, Emerald Web (Los Angeles, USA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

—Kat Epple

 

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

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

 


 

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Roll The Dice (Stockholm, Sweden)

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

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Tracks of 2014 by Roll The Dice:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014 Highlights Roll The Dice:

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

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

 

Highs 2014: 

Malcolm:
My 10 week old Staffordshire puppy, Billie.

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

Lows 2014:

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

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

 

—Roll The Dice

 

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

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

 


 

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Klara Lewis (Stockholm, Sweden)

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

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My top albums:

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

 

—Klara Lewis

 

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

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

 


 

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Seti The First (Dublin, Ireland)

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

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

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

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

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

 

—Seti The First

 

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

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

 


 

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Adrian Crowley (Dublin, Ireland)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

—Adrian Crowley

 

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

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

 


 

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David Westlake (London, UK)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

—David Westlake

 

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

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

 


 

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K. Leimer (Seattle, USA)

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

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

 

—K. Leimer

 

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‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983)’  is available now on RVNG Intl.

http://www.palaceoflights.com/
http://igetrvng.com/

 


 

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Matthew Collings (Edinburgh, UK)

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

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So, 2014.

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

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

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

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

I’m a very very lucky person.

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

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

 

—Matthew Collings

 

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

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

 


 

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Sophie Hutchings (Sydney, Australia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Inspiring Highlights of 2014:

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the best to everyone’s start to 2015.

 

—Sophie Hutchings

 

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

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

 


 

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

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

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

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Web: http://fracturedair.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FracturedAir
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Fractured_Air
Mixcloud: http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/

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Don’t Look Back: 2014 (Part 1)

with 5 comments

“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

 


 

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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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‘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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Fractured Air 26: Silence & Violence (A Mixtape by Roll The Dice)

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

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Fractured Air 26: Silence & Violence (A Mixtape by Roll The Dice)

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/fractured-air-26-silence-violence-a-mixtape-by-roll-the-dice/

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Tracklisting:

01. Marcel Duchamp ‘Musical Erratum: La Mariée Mise A Nu Par Ses Célibataires, Même, Pt. 2’ [LTM Recordings]
02. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis ‘The Cannibals’ [Mute]
03. Spiritualized ‘Stay With Me’ [Arista, Dedicated]
04. Boris ‘Akuma No Uta’ [Diwphalanx / Southern Lord]
05. Perc & Einstürzende Neubauten ‘Sado-Masodub’ [Submit]
06. Hank Williams ‘Angel of Death’ [MGM]
07. Okkyung Lee ‘Hollow Water’ [Ideologic Organ]
08. Swans ‘Mother of the World’ [Young God, Mute]
09. Harold Budd ‘Black Bart’ [Darla]
10. Sleeparchive ‘Hospital 8’ [Spannered]
11. Autechre ‘Altibzz’ [Warp]
12. Gavin Bryars ‘The Sinking of the Titanic’ [Obscure]
13. Portal ‘Writhen’ [Profound Lore]
14. Scott Walker ‘Two Ragged Soldiers’ [Philips]

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To read our recently published interview with Roll The Dice please see here:
https://fracturedair.com/2014/06/18/chosen-one-roll-the-dice/

 


 

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

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

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Written by admin

September 29, 2014 at 11:57 am

Whatever You Love You Are: Cécile Schott (Colleen)

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Cécile Schott reveals the music that has been inspiring her lately. This May marks the release of Colleen’s stunning album “The Weighing Of The Heart” on Second Language.

Words: Cécile Schott, Illustration: Craig Carry

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Records I’ve been listening to:

My boyfriend (illustrator Iker Spozio, who among other things does all my artwork) and I both got heavily into African music from the 70s and Jamaican music from the 70s/early 80s over the past few months. I was already familiar with quite a lot of traditional African music, but didn’t know that Africa had produced so many gems in the 70s, and frankly my mind’s been blown away by the beauty of some of those records. As for dub, I’ve been listening to it for a long time, but it’s one of those areas where you never get to know everything, and with the plethora of reissues these days it’s a never-ending cornucopia !

Some of my favourites:

African Brothers Band (International) – Tribute To Dk

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Alhadji Haruna Ishola And His Apala Group

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C K Mann & His Carousel 7 – Funky Highlife

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Francis Bebey – African Electronic Music 1975-1982

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L’orchestre Kanaga De Mopti

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Lee Perry
It’s too complicated for me to mention one single record as it’s almost impossible to go wrong with Lee Perry, who’s definitely my favourite dub producer.

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Burning Spear – Sounds From The Burning Spear

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The Heptones – Sweet Talking

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George Faith – To Be A Lover

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The Revolutionaries At Channel 1 – Dub Plate Specials

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Prince Douglas – Dub Roots

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“The Weighing Of The Heart” by Colleen is out now on Second Language.

http://colleenplays.org
http://www.secondlanguagemusic.com

Colleen is currently on tour, to check tour dates please click here.

Colleen’s three classic (and long sold-out) Leaf Label albums – “Everyone Alive Wants Answers”, “The Golden Morning Breaks”, and “Les Ondes Silencieuses” – are currently online at the Beat Delete Scheme website. The initiative entails fundraising to cover the pressing costs for each vinyl. If you wish to see Colleen’s first three LP’s on vinyl once more please click here.

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Chosen One: Colleen

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Interview with Cécile Schott, Colleen.

“To me, it really encouraged me to keep writing because what I find fascinating about writing is that if you take the same subject, say, the grass in Spring. Well if you are a bad poet you can’t write anything good about it but you can take ten different great poets and they will all have written something amazing about something as simple as the grass in Spring. And so, it just goes to show, it’s the way you do things, and your own way of looking at things which then you have to learn to transcribe into words – or into music – but I think it’s the look of the person that really makes something artistic in a way.”

Cécile Schott

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

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Cécile Schott is an artist in the truest sense. The Parisienne – now a Spanish resident – has been responsible for some of the most beautiful and compelling sonic creations to have graced this Earth. As ever, the music of Colleen bears Schott’s unique vision and masterful artistry. Ever since first hearing Colleen’s debut album, ‘Everyone Alive Wants Answers’ (The Leaf Label, 2003) ten years ago, her music has formed an indispensable part of my record collection. The series of universally acclaimed instrumental opuses recorded for the Leaf label are works of staggering beauty. Like any true artist, their output of work bears their mark. This is certainly true for Colleen, where a divine tapestry of beguiling sound is endlessly created. What I love about Schott’s music – and perhaps this is the ‘mark’ – is the deeply sensual aspect of Colleen’s transcendent music. The intricate layers of instrumentation (bowed and plucked viola da gamba, music boxes and a myriad of other sources) and intricate arrangements truly awaken your senses. It is music to savour. Ten years after the release of Colleen’s debut record, we are fortunate to treasure the newest creation, ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ and revel in its artistic brilliance and unwavering beauty.

‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ finds Schott seeking a new musical path. A central question was posed: “How can I incorporate the voice without losing the characteristics of my instrumental music?” What is most impressive to me is not only how the unique blend of delicate instrumental music retained but how all aspects of the music is heightened. A sonic canvas is etched across an immense sea of colours and textures before your very eyes. The songs are woven from the light of dawn that gently flows through the pores of your heart.

In many ways, I feel ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ is a defining moment, not only in Colleen’s songbook, but independent music as a whole. To witness an artist venture down new paths and expand new horizons is awe-inspiring. Music’s endless possibilities are distilled in the album’s eleven transcendent creations. The instrument of Schott’s voice interweaves majestically with the divine instrumentation of plucked bass and treble violas da gamba and the more orthodox sounds of classical guitar, clarinet, piano and organ. Furthermore, rhythm serves a vital role to the new sound captured on ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’. A gorgeous plethora of percussion, from minimal drum kit and frame drum, to toy gamelan and various bells breathes endearing life to the other worldly song cycles. In the words of Schott: “My music is just about rhythm as it is about melody.” A tremendous sense of joy permeates throughout making for a wholly uplifting and fulfilling sonic odyssey.

There is a lovely correlation between Colleen – and this new musical path – and the works of other luminaries, such as Moondog and Arthur Russell. The inception of ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ was heavily influenced by Schott’s love and admiration of these avant-garde composers; “prompted by my love of Moondog’s records.” Colleen’s music shares the kindred spirit of Moondog and Russell where an undeniable spiritual essence is arrived at. Similar to the unique songcraft of Moondog, an ethereal dimension is wonderfully tapped into by Schott, where the epic and surreal are wonderfully drawn from. A sound is formed that is distinctively Colleen’s. Few others could conjure up such delicate emotion through the art of sound.

‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ was written, played, produced, recorded and mixed in its entirety by Cécile Schott. It simply astounds me how this work can be created solely by one person. The music reflects an artist at the height of her powers where there is a further deepening and refining of her unique songcraft. The songs were captured at home and in a former olive shop (which Schott turned into her rehearsal space), used in the quiet of night once the bustling Spanish life finally ceased. The special spark of creativity is effortlessly captured on these recordings. The resulting body of work possesses an otherworldly realm that transcends both space and time.

Lyrically, themes of the natural world and natural elements form the foundation to the album’s sonic canvas. The lyrics for me reflect haiku-like stanzas, where the refrain of words sung by Schott, offer wisdom and divine inspiration. A kaleidoscope of gorgeous shades and textures are formed of a “moonlit sky”, “lonely fields”, “the moon, the wind” and “the northern sky”. The subject matter was partly inspired by Schott moving away from the city and living in the Spanish countryside, “three minutes walk from the sea, surrounded by hills and mountains…where you can actually get away from civilization really quickly and easily.” Allow your heart and soul rejoice in the triumphant musical landscape.

Album opener ‘Push The Boat Onto The Sand’ comprises Schott’s mesmerising voice and delicate instrumentation of guitar. The refrain of “Push the boat onto the sand” possesses a meditative quality that effortlessly reels you in. A sublime cascade of looped tones and notes swirl magnificently amidst the sand and sea. A beautiful guitar passage ascends to the foreground of the clouds of sound. The closing choral refrain of “O to sail away” shares the spark of Julianna Barwick where raptures of choral bliss forms footprints in the sand.

As I was walking by the Great Bear in the northern sky
I found the seashell missing from the shore below

‘Ursa Major Find’ is my personal highlight on ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’. In fact, this could be the most formidable creations of Colleen’s songbook thus far. Music as precious as this is rarely found. The breathtaking arrangements of Cécile’s voice, blended with treble viola da gamba, guitar and piano is something to truly behold. A heavenly spectrum of organic sounds and timbres opens up a sea of infinite beauty. The lyrics concern the planet and the Great Bear constellation, where a seashell is “missing from the shore below”. The words mix the real and the imaginary. ‘Ursa Major Find’ makes the impossible happen.

‘Geometría Del Universo’ comprises Colleen’s trademark treble viola da gamba. This solo performance encompasses many worlds of sound, closest I feel to Malian music. I feel the spirit of ‘In The Heart Of the Moon’ by Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabeté permeate the song’s headspace of delicate viola notes. ‘Humming Fields’ evokes nostalgia, the passing of time and childhood memories, as a whirlwind of percussion, bells and voice fills your heart and mind. The song could be taken from any one of Moondog’s records. The song’s intimacy and directness is nothing short of magical where I feel the breeze of the wind rustling the reeds. A magical sense of place and bliss of solitude radiates from the compelling instrumentation as Schott’s voice transports you to forgotten dreams.

In lonely fields I’ve been humming
Only the grass overhearing
The cat woke me up with his dreaming

‘Break Away’ distills the essence of ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ where Schott’s voice serves as the glorious instrument that echoes the enchanting sounds of Julia Holter, Arvo Pärt and Moondog. ‘Going Forth By Day’ is sublime instrumental music evoking pastoral landscapes and colours of spring. I love the rhythm (maracas) that serves as the song’s pulse throughout. The use of clarinet breathes new colours and textures to Colleen’s achingly beautiful tapestry of celestial sound. ‘The Moon Like A Bell’ is an ethereal folk gem. The song shares the spirit of Linda Perhacs’ ‘Parallelograms’ where the refrain of “Moon be bright and shine” brings the lament to a fitting close.

‘Moonlit Sky’ is sublime. I love the cinematic quality captured within the recording. The clarinet melody meanders magnificently throughout, resembling the blowing wind in all its power and glory. The arrival of the Farfisa Compact instrument towards the song’s close is the perfect score to the formation of “the moonlit sky”. ‘Breaking Up The Earth’ comprises of bass viola da gamba, voice, muffled floor tom and snare drum. I feel all the elements of Colleen’s artistry is allowed to shine brightly here. The hypnotic rhythms stops you immediately in your tracks. Schott’s voice adds gorgeous ambient flourishes to the three-dimensional sphere of sound.

‘Raven’ is a love song with a gorgeous ebb and flow of viola notes. Schott’s words are simple and direct, yet have an everlasting hold on me. The lyrics resemble a haiku where a wonderfully vivid short story is condensed within the stream of words:

Raven, why stare at me with those eyes?
Don’t you know I love you
Just as you are?

“The time has come to weigh my heart” is a lyric that resonates powerfully on album closer, and title-track ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’. The lyrics – inspired by the Egyptian Book of the Dead – encompass life, death, the after-world and righteousness. A purity is distilled in the words and music that, for me, embodies the triumphant return of the special soul that is Cécile Schott. We are very grateful for your return.

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“The Weighing Of The Heart” is out now on Second Language.

http://colleenplays.org
http://www.secondlanguagemusic.com

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colleen_2_craigcarry

Interview with Cécile Schott, Colleen.

I love your new album. It’s such an amazing record. For the records before ‘The Weighing of the Heart’, it was this beautiful instrumental music, but I love how you are able to incorporate your voice so perfectly into the music, while retaining that special sense of beauty. It works very well.

Thank you. Well, basically, I think that was the hardest thing for me to achieve. When I went back to making music – which was about 2010 – I had taken a break for about a year and when I started making music again, I knew that I wanted to incorporate the voice – I knew that – but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. First of all, because I’m not really a singer, well I’m not a singer at all actually. But first of all I had to literally find my voice, so that took me quite some time. And then I struggled with lyrics and also even beyond those two problems of learning how to sing and finding the kind of lyrics that I wanted to have. There was also a problem of fitting vocal melodies into my music. It took me a long time to work on the album because sometimes I had the lyrics but I didn’t have the actual vocal melody to put inside the song. Or it was the reverse, I had the vocal melody that I really liked on some music but I couldn’t see what kind of lyrics to put on there. That really clicked into place quite late, I would say, last summer, you know. I recorded the album from November to January of this year and it’s only in August that I finalized the lyrics. I had things ready in September/October but it was really until the last-minute that I was looking for ways of making everything fit together. It’s true that when I decided to work on the voice, I was aware that there are so many people out there. Actually, it’s the most common combination, you know, in popular music in the wide sense: it’s someone singing and they’re playing some kind of instrument at the same time. And obviously that’s been going on for the longest time in history and I thought, well, if I am going to use my voice now, I have to make sure it’s really, really special and I have to keep the thing I did have which was special in my instrumental music. So I did work very hard in trying to achieve that.

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You certainly achieved it because it is very much away from that popular tradition. It reminds me very much of Moondog. I love for example ‘Break Away’ – it’s just your voice – but it has shades for me of Julia Holter and these wonderful voices, it works so well. It’s amazing.

Thank you so much. I was really worried that maybe it wasn’t going to be accepted by people, but thank you – I’m really glad of your compliments.

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I read that a lot of the music was prompted by your love of Moondog records. You must be a big fan of his work.

Yeah, yeah, I’m definitely a big fan. It’s something that’s been growing on me. His music, I loved it from the start but his output is quite large so I think he’s one of those musicians where you know maybe you, I don’t know – I’m trying to think of when I first heard some Moondog music – and I think it was probably more than ten years ago, but obviously I didn’t buy everything from the start. It’s not like I got the entire Moondog discography. Then I actually read his official biography which was published, I don’t know, maybe three years ago. Actually, I’m always fascinated and motivated by certain musicians – not just their actual music – but also their general approach to making music and almost their philosophy of life. So I think Moondog was very important and also, Arthur Russell, in much the same way. They’re people who had a large output but it was quite varied but it always bears their mark, and you can see that they spend, you know, thousands of hours refining their skills. When you listen to their music you know it’s distinctively theirs, you know, from the first second. For Moondog, I don’t know if you are familiar with his second album for Columbia?

Is that the double-album?

Yeah, now they do release it as a double album. The first one which was very orchestrated and then the second one is madrigals and canons and stuff like that, and it’s him and his daughter, so it’s like these dialogues between his voice and her voice, and all sorts of instruments. The songs are usually quite short – around the two-minute mark – buy they’re like these perfect miniatures, and definitely that record was like a model of what can be done with voices, they’re very melodic and yet it doesn’t sound like a pop form as such. It’s very much, you can listen to it in many different ways and that’s what I like, there’s a very strong melodic appeal but it’s also kind of like an experimental miniature but it’s also very human.

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What you say there, Cécile, to describe those two artists, you can say the exact same for your music. It has a very distinct sound. If you hear for example something off your first album-or any album-you know straight away, oh that’s Colleen, it has its own mark I guess. My favourite song on the new album at the moment is the second song, ‘Ursa Major Find’. I just love how those two lines you sing again and again, it really has a special feel to it.

I’m really happy with that song too and, again, it’s one of those songs that the lyrics are very simple but it took me a while to find out what the lyrics were going to be. So basically I live by the sea and that’s definitely a big influence on my lyrics, just living by the sea. And having moved from a city environment to a smaller place and for the first time in my life actually noticing the natural environment so that was part of the equation in those lyrics. In the other equation is just becoming more aware of the universe, it might sound a bit cheesy but I think it was about two years ago, I watched a series; do you know Carl Sagan?

I don’t actually, no.

He was a popular American scientist and he had this series called “Cosmos” from 1980 which was quite famous and I watched it. After “Cosmos”, I also watched a couple of other series that felt really inspirational in opening up my sense of history and of being “part of the universe” as it were: “The Ascent Of Man” by Jacob Bronoswki (1973) and David Attenborough’s “The Tribal Eye” (1975) and “The First Eden” (1987). It’s all about how the universe was created from scratch and things like that. Actually I got quite into that even though my sense of scientific knowledge is really, really poor but just the little notion of the bigger things around ourselves. So I think, in general, some of the lyrics on the album, they reflect this double interest of the immediate natural world you see, and the sense of wonder of the actual universe around us. I was interested in conflating the two and making the impossible happen. This thing about finding a seashell in the constellation Ursa Major is completely impossible, so that’s how it gets more poetic. It’s definitely not a realistic thing. It’s also more about having images. I also worked really hard in terms of having strong images or like a mini-short story in a way, like those two lines in ‘Ursa Major Find’, it’s like a very, very condensed short story, in a way.

Exactly, because it’s very minimal in terms of the words used but it’s the effect of those words then that makes all that magic happen. Even for me as I listen to it, I feel I am transported to this other universe. It’s really quite something.

That’s great.

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It’s very apparent on the new album, how there is a lovely sense of the rhythm and the wonderful layers of percussion that blends so well with your gorgeous instrumentation.

Well, that was the other thing that took me quite some time, apart from the lyrics and the singing. People perceive my music as being melancholic or even sad at times. I still have feedback on this album from people, that say it’s melancholy etc and from my end I see it as a much more joyful album than the stuff I’ve done in the past. And definitely when I discovered the world of percussion and – just in general – just taking a more rhythmic approach to playing. My aim in that was to try to push myself away from what comes to me more naturally and more easily which is the melancholy stuff. ‘Les Ondes Silencieuses’, the album before that, was definitely quite an austere album in some ways, and I definitely wanted to go away from that. At the time of making the album, I just wanted my music to reflect a sense of joy and movement in a way. So I think getting into percussion and into rhythm, it really helped me approach my instruments differently and to step out of my usual patterns. Because I think that’s the thing when you’ve been making music for a long time, and in my case, I am going to be thirty-seven soon, and I’ve started to play the guitar when I was fifteen. So, even though I released my first album ten years ago, it’s actually been twenty-two years that I’ve been making music. So I think you know, you go back to your instruments and you do form the same patterns. As far as I am concerned, a part of me think it’s OK and another part of me thinks you really have to always push yourself to try to find something new. If only because I would bore myself if I was playing the same thing again and again. So, definitely when I started to learn percussion, it mostly started with learning the frame drum. Then all of a sudden, I finally understood how the basic rhythms are put together, and then when I took my other instruments, it just felt immediately natural to play in a more accented rhythmic way. So I think it’s definitely a big step forward and I’m really looking forward to keeping on working in that direction. It’s what I really want to explore further is the rhythm and the use of the voice, that’s definitely the step forward for me I think.

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That’s wonderful. I’m also intrigued further with the lyrics; they’re almost like haikus. They’re very much like words of wisdom where there is very much a sense of the spiritual and the words are very poetic.

Well, thank you very much. Well actually you mention poetry and that’s one of the things I did when I was trying to write lyrics. I was writing stuff but I could see that it just wasn’t very good. I think one of the ways to go forward when you’re having some kind of block is to keep writing and writing and at the same time find inspiration in the best stuff. The idea is not to copy but just to soak up other people’s masterpieces, because I do think that, in a way, afterwards it does tend to rub off on you, even if subconsciously. And so I read a lot of poetry. I did read some haiku, although I’m not a haiku specialist. I am a big fan of Japanese culture in general, so that’s definitely an aesthetic I was already familiar with. Then I read some famous poetry of English-speaking poets and then I read some classics that I have never taken the time to read, like Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves Of Grass’. I read the entire works of Emily Dickinson [laughs]. That took me months and months because that’s actually huge, but it was really worth it. Especially for instance her poetry; my favourite things of hers are the poems where she describes the natural world and animals, and also things to do with the natural elements. To me, it really encouraged me to keep writing because what I find fascinating about writing is that if you take the same subject, say, the grass in Spring. Well, if you are a bad poet you can’t write anything good about it but you can take ten different great poets and they will all have written something amazing about something as simple as the grass in Spring. And so, it just goes to show, it’s the way you do things, and your own way of looking at things which then you have to learn to transcribe into words – or into music – but I think it’s the look of the person that really makes something artistic in a way, if that makes sense.

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Yes, it does. That was lovely. Even, Cécile, the title of the album, ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’, it’s something very beautiful having those words together.

Well that’s not from me because that’s actually inspired by the Egyptian Book of the Dead. So, basically when Egyptian people, mostly people of a certain standard in Egyptian society when they were buried, they usually had a book buried with them. The book was supposed to give them instructions so that they could pass onto the after-world, and so that they could have some kind of after-life. And so one of the first things that they had to do was to go through this weighing of the heart ceremony, where basically there were some kind of scales. On one half of the scales you had the feather of truth or justice (I can’t remember if it was the feather of truth or justice), and then the heart of the deceased person was put on the scales. If the heart was as light as the feather, then they could pass on to the after-world. So, basically it is the test as to how you have lived your life; If you’ve tried to do the right thing, to be a good person. Basically, I thought it was a really, really beautiful metaphor for certain situations in life where you’re faced with difficult events and you try to find the right response and not to get overwhelmed by things. At home, we actually have a really nice edition of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. I was reading it and I was really struck by the image itself, you know by the idea behind it and also the words used to express all these steps the deceased has to go through. It really stayed with me and I liked it so much that I chose it as the title of the album as well.

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It’s a title that works perfectly to represent the actual set of songs on the album, too.

Thanks, I haven’t thought of it that way but someone has actually told me kind of the same thing, that they thought also it was a reflection on the balance between the different musical elements and the instruments and the voice on the album.

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I’d be very interested to hear, Cécile, about your long-term interest in ceramics and stone-carving. These are a form of art in itself but I’d love to learn how this feeds into your music, because it must be a nice parallel.

Well actually I stopped making ceramics and stone-carving because basically I took lessons when I was still living in Paris. I was going through a period of having no inspiration at all to make music so I really threw my heart and soul into that and it really, really helped me because otherwise, I would have felt really terrible about not making anything creative. The really interesting thing for me to do was, first of all, I think I learned again how to concentrate on something. Because I think my problem was that my music was kind of successful. In my life I ended up spending way too much time dealing with emails, traveling, that sort of stuff and I just wasn’t concentrating anymore on making music. I think it’s the first thing that was beneficial for me in learning ceramics and learning stone-carving – even at a small level – because, you know, I’m not a ceramist or a stone-carver. You find yourself in a place for two hours, three hours, four hours, and all you do is you throw your ball or you carve your piece of stone. There is no email, no internet, it is just you and what you are doing. It kind of reminded me what went wrong for me, you know, if I’m going to go back to music, that’s just what I have to do, it just has to be me and the music and I just have to forget about the rest. So, that was the first thing and the second thing that was interesting was somehow there are parallels between all art. And that in a way all the ceramics that I did and my carved stone –  which was a bird – well, in a way they are a bit like my music. In music you have melodic lines and you also have texture, either depending on which instruments you are using. With ceramics it’s also the question of line, of colour, of texture and the clay you use. With the bird it is the same; are you going to sand the stone a lot, are you going to keep it rough. So it was just a really nice experience to just try different mediums. In the end I did think: “Well, I do want to go back to making music” [laughs]. That’s what I like the best. But for now that’s probably what I do best as well.

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I’m glad of that anyway. I was very interested to read you were recording the songs themselves at times in a disused olive shop.

Yeah, that’s not a marketing thing, it’s real [laughs]. So, basically, what happened was when I moved here, I couldn’t make music in my flat. I’m a professional musician but my way of doing things is very much DIY because I like working on my own, and to actually get a real, professional studio to myself all the time, you know is obviously beyond my means. So far my way of working was mostly working from home and in Paris, I was quite lucky – at first I didn’t have many neighbours – and the place was quiet and everything. Then that changed and after that I moved here to Spain and over here it wasn’t possible for me to make music in the flat. So what I did was I looked for a space to rent as a kind of rehearsal studio space. The place that I found hadn’t been used in years and it used to be a place where they would put olives and small peppers in brine. And from that place where they would have all the olives and peppers there, and apparently they would distribute these to the local bars. It’s really funny because when the people actually see me opening the doors of the shop – it happens like every week – that someone stops me and says, “Oh, are you from the same family as the man who had the olive shop?” So, apparently it was a legendary place in the neighbourhood.

It’s a really nice place but the problem is that because it is quite old, the doors don’t filter out any noise and it’s quite a noisy town, so that’s why I had to go and record at night because during the day it was just impossible with cars passing by and people walking by. So that was a bit of a challenge. I’m actually looking for another place – it may not be as nice or as pretty as the olive shop – but I just need to find a place to make music constantly. Because of the way I work, I make music all of the time. It’s not like I go into the studio for two weeks and record there. My way of working, ideally I make music and if it’s good I want to record it immediately. So, actually I wasted quite a bit of time because of this noise issue.

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I can only imagine too, it amazes me to think that you write, play, produce and record everything, it’s all just you. Is there a process in your head of how you see how a song starts and ends? It’s amazing because you are obviously behind all the stages of the song.

Yeah, well I don’t know if there is a process as such. It always starts in the same way; just me and an instrument and just playing. If something good happens I have two ways of remembering the stuff that I’ve come up with; I try to record it immediately, even if it’s very sketchy and I also take notes-I have this kind of tablature thing and I immediately try to write down how I actually played the thing. Then I just go back to things and now with the lyrics it’s even more complicated, because I have to think about lyrics. I have to say for this album it really is the first time that it is completely me. The first album (‘Everyone Alive Wants Answers’) was just samples from other people’s records, well it was 95% samples. The second album I did everything myself but, on the other hand, it was recorded through my looping pedal so it wasn’t something in terms of sound. I love actually the second album, ‘Golden Morning Breaks’, I think it’s my favourite of the ones I have done. But it wasn’t really, let’s say, a “professional” sound. And then the third album ‘Les Ondes Silencieuses’ I got lots of help from an engineer called Emiliano Flores who also mastered my first three albums, and we recorded half of the album in his parents’ place in an attic so ‘Les Ondes Silencieuses’ the really good sound mostly comes from his skills and his microphones.

But then, after that, he sold me a really good microphone and a really good pre-amp. Because I’d been able to observe the way he was recording stuff. Basically, I’m self-taught and it’s very hands-on so I think if a professional engineer saw how I make my records they’d be horrified because it’s not the right way to do things. So, definitely I learned a lot on making this particular album and especially the mixing was extremely hard but in the end it paid off. Finding the balance between the different elements because there is a lot of stereo panning going on and stereo recording that really brought life to the songs. I mean, the songs were there, everything was recorded but paying special attention to the mix. That really transformed the songs. It’s actually something I’m really looking forward to working on – this aspect of making a record – because I think you can go from something that is OK to something that’s much, much better by spending time on that.

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“The Weighing Of The Heart” is out now on Second Language.

http://colleenplays.org
http://www.secondlanguagemusic.com

Colleen is currently on tour, to check tour dates please click here.

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