It’s been a good year.
Actually, it’s been an extremely good one, since earlier this year Sounds Of A Tired City didn’t even exist.
However, these last eight months have been more than significant, and we would like to thank YOU, dear readers and listeners who became faithful citizens of this imaginary city while we have published a total number of 36 interviews, 22 guest mixes and 20 highly personal insights into film, literature and travel.
Summarizing facts is not a complicated task, but epitomizing a year in music is a damn difficult one. We loathe to love and love to loathe end of year lists, since everything is so relative, highly personal and subjective, no one can argue with that. Even so, it can be a wondrously inspiring journey to sink into a list full of – supposedly – impressive, powerful, substantial [insert optional number of eulogistic adjectives] releases. If someone manages to discover at least one record they haven’t heard before, it was already worth all the effort. Especially because we don’t write reviews or rate releases otherwise.
Here comes our list with 50 records we’ve enjoyed this year. Don’t forget to click on the artist/title/label to get more information and actually listen to the records!
If you ever get to discover Babe Rainbow’s music, your main reason for checking it out probably won’t be this cover. However, once you get over it you can find yourself in a secret dimension where Harold Budd satisfies the needs of cheerful souls. Cameron Reed hadn’t really made electronic music before starting this project, he was way too busy making angular punk music in Vancouver. His 1080p debut in cassette and digital form comes as a surprising parallel to his main body of electronic work but aligns closely with the labels ethos as a space for casual experimentation and genre exploration.
Stripping instrumentation back to solely piano reveals crystalline and oblique meditations on residual influences from Phillip Glass, Erik Satie, and Terry Riley to Keith Fullerton Whitman and Nils Frahm.
It’s highly intriguing to watch Nine Inch Nails’ Alessandro Cortini, one of the pre-eminent Buchla masters in North America finding his own medidative voice during these last years. His debut on Dominick Fernow’s Hospital Productions consists of nine analogue synth pieces blended with various field recordings and ambient sounds. It was recorded in hotel rooms, using a Roland MC 202 through a delay pedal, recorded direct, sometimes into a small portable speaker system.
“I liked to walk around the room with a handheld recorder to hear where the sequence would sound better, turn on faucets, open doors or windows to see how the ambient sounds would interact with the MC 202/delay/speaker sound. It was very relaxing and liberating to make music this way…”
Listening to ‘Sonno’ triggers the same sensations: it’s very relaxing and liberating.
Almost 10 years after releasing the first part of ‘The Sleepover Series’, the builders of brumal soundwaves and installers of musical wallpapers, Hammock are back with the second installment of their experimental sleep music project. Losing their recognisable post-rock touch, this ambient record stripped-down to endless drones and lush soundscapes is the perfect companion during the night. However, we would recommend that you stay awake and get immersed in their beautiful silent treatment.
“We did our best to just ‘follow the sound’ and stay out of the way, attempting to leave space and texture as opposed to specific and linear melodic phrases […] This work would probably not exist if it not for the ongoing search for peace and stillness. So if this collection helps ease the mind or assist in lulling one to sleep then all the searching has not been in vain.” (Marc Byrd)
TJ Hertz’s debut album on PAN was definitely worth the wait. While working on numerous singles during the last three years, releasing split 12″s with SBTRKT, Cosmin TRG and Dopplereffekt, Objekt spared the best bits and pieces recorded between 2012 and 2014 for his grand manifesto. ‘Flatland’ is a playful dark experience, drifting further and further away from conventional electro and techno narratives – for the best.
“This is an effervescent body of work, its sound design evoking vivid imagery and conveying the same unmistakeable sense of detail and movement for which Objekt has become known. On his first attempt, Objekt has constructed a mature and multilayered album with its own story to tell, from whichever angle you choose to approach it.” (PAN)
Rainer Veil’s second EP for Modern Love is a rave-soaked, jungle-scented exploration, a sacred obeisance to England’s electronic past, present and future. If we would be fond of the term ‘dub rave’, would most probably use it in this case. But we won’t.
“The five tracks of ‘New Brutalism’ are a product of their Northern environment, making pointed reference to the kind of deep-rooted rave heritage documented in Mark Leckey’s ‘Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore’ soundtrack through a prism of angular, vulnerable club music. Conceptually, it adopts a similar perspective on British nightlife to Burial or Lee Gamble, surveying the ‘floor as if during an out-of-body experience or through closed eyes from a corner of the club at 5am.” (Modern Love)
Hope the UK will survive though.
Mohammad is the project of Coti K, ILIOS and Nikos Veliotis, working on the principles of inter-modulation between electronic and acoustic sources using contrabass, oscillators and cello. Mohammad are also the best thing that happened to the Greek music scene these last years. As much as last year’s brilliant ‘Som Sakrifis’ (released on PAN) was praised around the world, ‘Zo Rèl Do’ was just as much neglected and overlooked this year.
Highly inspired by traditional Greek music, religious overtones and dissonant patterns, Mohammad’s forth full length album is the first volume of a trilogy that explores the sounds of the geographical area between 34°Ν-42°Ν and 19°Ε-29°Ε. In this new adventure they further enrich their monolithic, resonant and deep-dark melodic sound with rhythmic shreds, seismic vibrations that echoes past and future rituals. The second volume ‘Lamnè Gastama’ was released in October, while the last part will see the light early next year. Something worth looking forward to.
Lumisokea is a Belgian-Italian duo consisting of Koenraad Ecker and Andrea Taeggi. Their music is highly physical and rich in texture, using both acoustic (cello, prepared piano) as well as analog hardware to create a dark and introspective listening experience. Their influences range from dub to noise, bassmusic, techno, musique concrète and contemporary classical music, while remaining focused on the key elements in their music: to induce trance-like states, to move bodies and to emphasize the tactile qualities of sound.
Their second release on Stephen Bishop’s Opal Tapes lives up to all expectations, delivering an even deeper understanding of how the ideal mixture of noise and techno should sound like. The term ‘apophenia’ originally denotes the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data, and this is exactly what this record is about. Once you found the patterns in Lumisokea’s chaotic imaginarium, it’s going to turn into a rather comfortable place to live in.
Emma Ruth Rundle is a Los Angeles based singer-songwriter, guitarist and visual artist who just released her first official solo album after many years of participating in various music projects (Marriages, Red Sparowes, The Nocturnes). ‘Some Heavy Ocean’ is profoundly heavy indeed, emotionally exhausting yet sensitive and cathartic on all levels.
“I hope to never be stuck in any one world, as I feel often happens to bands and artists, but would like to create in an uninhibited fashion or act in whatever way is honest. I am just a person making noise – sometimes it’s folk sometimes it’s not.” (Emma Ruth Rundle)
Combining modular synthesis, Max/MSP programming and live instrumentation, Mark Nelson, Steven Hess and Robert Donne made a splendid attempt to amalgamate the world of Pan•American with Labradford (we were secretly hoping for a hint of Aix Em Klemm atmosphere as well). The result is a pleasant mixture of washed out noise and warm ambience with a somewhat menacing tinge.
“Guitar, bass and Steven Hess’ (Locrian, Fennesz, Pan•American) live percussion give the eight pieces an immediacy and create a framework for the more abstract sounds of digital and analog synth programming. The product of twenty plus years of friendship, Anjou is refined and challenging. An extension of the Labradford sound-world but no mere victory lap, Anjou represents Donne and Nelson stepping out and forward, their eyes firmly focusing on the future.” (Kranky)
All seasons are cyclical, like real life shit. We adapt and venture through each phase with intentions of engagement, embracing mistakes and chances that eventually become the foundation of identities and roles we take on in life. All pain is temporary, as in joy, anger, doubt and all human emotions. Nothing is forever. Just a constant cyclical randomization processed in patterns and algorithms. We can’t predict life, but we can try to brace ourselves for the ever changing tides of time.
Some dreams, are worth breaking your limbs for.
Dedicated to ALL the young gods out there.
Alex Zhang Hungtai
June 13th, 2014. Lisbon, Portugal”
Steven R. Smith (perhaps best known as a member of Hala Strana) is an American musician, instrument-builder, and printmaker. His main instrument is guitar, both acoustic and electric, although other exotic sounding instruments like the hurdy gurdy, bouzouki, fretted spike fiddles, and assorted ethnic instruments have been incorporated into his work.
He has released two albums these last years under his Ulaan Passerine moniker. If we would’ve had a list last year, his first release named ‘Ulaan Passerine’ would have definitely be on it. All we can do right now is to spread the word about his latest record, which totally fell under the radar. Could easily serve as the perfect soundtrack for your worst nightmares, with the large scale of his instruments it makes you feel uneasy and whist at the same time.
Melancholy, simplicity and honesty at its best, like a gust of warm wind coming from the coldest and darkest parts of Norway. Could be the perfect companion for lonely souls spending Christmas time alone, since it’s powerful enough to convince yourself that you can end this year gracefully.
Otto A Totland’s modern compositional elements are most widely recognized as half of the Norwegian duo Deaf Center, where his melancholic, intricate piano work provides haunting relief to the beds of noise and deep strings from Erik K Skodvin. This is Totland’s first full-length release, his previously brief vignettes are now expanded into a fully personal realization of his own style. (Sonic Pieces)
‘Sea Island’ is a collection of new material composed and recorded over the past two years. While many of these compositions were performed live extensively prior to recording, others were constructed in the studio and are being heard for the first time here. Musically, the album represents a range of compositional approaches. Murky, densely textured depths of sound are explored with subtle pulses and pings woven within, contrasted with composed or improvised moments of acoustic instrumentation making a move into the foreground. Certain tracks make rhythm their focus by exploring subtle polyrhythms and investigating colliding moments of repetition and variation. Though staunchly electronic at its core, instruments such as vibraphone and piano make appearances, and layers of live musicality, improvisation and detail appear in the looped and layered beds of manipulated sound recordings. (Kranky)
Also, it looks like we are using the same font type!
When you see a cover like this, you know where it’s coming from: Preservation’s Circa series.
Talk West is one of Dylan Aycock’s numerous projects hailing from Tulsa, Oklahoma. For this act “he has distilled his otherwise diverse bag of musical tricks down to only a pedal steel (of couse you may hear some mutilation here and there). Improvising over this single instrument, Talk West unearths brief sketches that might conjure dust-covered imagery of the American Midwest. The music is reflective of a simpler side of American music and history, but it teeters on the edge of experimentalism just enough to stir you from your hypnosis and give cause for pause.” (Dylan Aycock)
While you’re checking out ‘Black Coral Sprig’, make sure you read our interview we made earlier this year with Andrew Khedoori, the founder of Preservation. There is even more music in there to discover.
Be it Olan Mill or Pausal (together with Simon Bainton), Alex Smalley has something enchanting for us every year. This time he slightly returns to the aesthetics of ‘Home’, keeping it more simple and silent, providing enough space for his gentle drone waves to wash everything away.
“The etymology of the expression ‘half seas over’ comes from the notion of a ship being so heavy that it sits low enough that small waves (half seas) wash over the deck of a ship. Over time it has changed from meaning ‘halfway across the sea’ to ‘halfway through a matter’ by the late 1600’s. This really heightens the elements when we consider the more modern usage of ‘intoxication’. The sound of Olan Mill could easily be symbolized by the sea, with its great vastness, power and magnificence. But then again, it could also be that the subtleties, the intimate parts beyond that sheer size of such works, lies in the little waves, the ‘half seas’ that wash over us. ‘Half Seas Over’ is the sound of an artist absolutely at the height of his immense powers, encompassing dreams in auditory form for us lucky sailors.” (Home Normal)
…just make sure you don’t sink, it’s rather dangerous.
[Recorded Fields Editions]
If someone is in touch with Krzysztof Penderecki these days, you should really share some of Curgenven’s last work with him. You bet he would love ‘SIRÈNE’ as much as we do. Same goes for ‘They Tore The Earth And, Like A Scar, It Swallowed Them’. It was rather difficult to choose from these two enormously epic pieces that have been released this year. However, the massive drones of SIRÈNE are not exactly new as they consist of unprocessed pipe organ recordings collected from the last 30 years.
In a way, the original title of ‘Turner’s Tempest’ (The Internal Meta-Narrative of Turner’s Tempest As He Is Tied To The Mast in Order to Create the Direct Experience of the Drama Embodied Within a “Snow Storm – [wherein a] Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth making Signals in Shallow Water, and going by the Lead. [is rendered by virtue of the claim that] The Author was in this Storm on the Night the Ariel left Harwich”) perfectly demonstrates the atmosphere of this album: a long, neverending wave of celestial drones. Unfortunately it does end though… but at least you can always start over.
Chris Herbert is dedicated non-musician creating highly-textured, improvised pieces initially via live performance and working alongside local artists in developing sound installations reclaiming the city’s post-industrial spaces. (Not sure how can you call someone a ‘non-musician’ when they make such beautiful music like this for instance.)
“After certain life events, the windows, already scant, within which to make music were diminished to tiny slivers. Rather than feeling frustrated by this I realised the most radical thing I could do was to accept the limitation and exploit it as an asset. There simply wasn’t time to investigate new approaches or technology. The best way forward was to use techniques I felt fluent in and be prepared to capture anything of value, regardless how small or seemingly inconsequential.” (Chris Herbert)
“Sharing some stylistic affinity with his previous records, which excavated his deeply personal history with UK jungle and rave, and techno, this new work dives even deeper to reveal a singu- lar and intimate musical vantage point, shifting to approaching music as projection, state, hallucination, an other place. In ‘KOCH’, we experience an artist constructing a future after time spent deconstructing the past.
In the music we witness such dimensional abstraction, zooming between epic macro scenery and claustrophobically close detail, disorientation and absolute focus. Rhythms fuse together and phase apart, club tracks tunnel into an anxious wilderness, with themes and textures emerging as threads throughout the record, wormholing between each track.” (PAN)
“Jon Porras creates drone music with a refined sense of atmosphere and remarkable forward motion. Regardless of the tools he uses, be it guitars and stacks of amplifiers or modular synthesizers, Porras creates cavernous sound-worlds that are as inviting as they are alien, shifting his focus entirely to electronic synthesis, using a wide array of analog and digital systems to exponentially expand his sonic palate. The resulting sounds are silhouettes of distant rhythms, abstracted traces of techno wastelands that come in and out of focus like an urban, post-industrial sprawl being overtaken by fog.
Porras constructed and arranged the tracks as an architect would design a building, thinking of the sub-bass as a foundation, percussion as walls and support beams, and white noise and oblique melodies as the light filling the open spaces. Rather than writing passages or song structures, he focused on designing sounds from the ground up, building gestural movements with these sculpted slabs. Through this technique, patterns and musical phrases emerge in subtle and surprising ways. This theme of architecture and design is reflected in the album cover, which was taken at Maison La Roche, a villa designed and built by Le Corbusier.
Light Divide reveals Porras as a restless explorer, constantly finding new means by which to create expansive, impressionistic music. It demands close listening, and stands apart in Porras’ solo and Barn Owl discography for its intense attention to detail.” (Thrill Jockey)
Hiss Tracts: Shortwave Nights
‘Shortwave Nights’ is the debut album by Hiss Tracts, a new duo featuring David Bryant (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Set Fire To Flames) and Kevin Doria (Growing, Total Life).
“The sonic preoccupations of Bryant and Doria are well-known and well-documented across many highly acclaimed recordings over the past fifteen years, from the organic, group-based, semi-improvised collage albums of Set Fire To Flames to the glimmering, immersive minimalism of Growing and the more maximalist full-spectrum noise works of Total Life.
The album defies categorization by terms like ‘drone’ or ‘ambient’ and it does not easily slip into any of the predominant subgenres that have proliferated around studio-based soundscape work in recent years. Insofar as drone is a touchstone, this has mostly to do with the approach to mixing, which tends towards a transcendent/trance-inducing integration of elements into a unified, saturated, wall-of-sound stereo field. The album contains no beats or programming and very little that is identifiably loop-based or overtly sampled and sampler-driven. Occasional deployments of digital signal processing remain firmly in the service of Hiss Tract’s overriding framework and commitment to analog sources and human instrumentation. This is not an electronic record, nor does it sit comfortably at either the pastoral or spooky/sinister poles of any ambient or ‘whatever’-wave spectrum; it can perhaps best be placed within the broad lineages of post-industrial and musique concrète.
Meditative and visceral, humming with the electromagnetic atmosphere through which all manner of frequencies, transmissions and surveillances pass and collide, it strikes an evocative balance between sonics captured-channeled-harnessed vs. composed-sculpted-performed, with an almost documentary rigour and restraint that nonetheless remains profoundly charged and engaged.” (Constellation)
SEX, SEX, SEX.
From Bristol with love. Not safe for work and not suitable for children.
Icelandic dub techno with Japanese vocals – how more exotic could you get? Profound, ample and dubbed out enough to satisfy every need.
“I wanted to create an album that’s atmospheric, repetitive, and easy to listen to over and over again. Something that works well in the background (e.g. when concentrating on work), as well as up close in a big sound system. I also wanted to learn how to make my music sound better than before, since I’m a huge sound-nerd, so that was a part of the goal for me personally.”
The album is a fine fusion of tropes from Yagya’s earlier albums, features jazz instrumentalists that improvise beautiful melodies over monotonic, almost drone-like, techno beats and also uses live recordings of Japanese vocals, saxophone and guitar to counter the repetitiveness of the rhythms. (Delsin)
“This is a product of pure happenstance. Earlier this year, Vladislav Delay was denied entry to the United States and was forced to cancel an entire tour. Suddenly left with unhindered time and a surplus of creative energy, he was able to give birth to the album in a span of only two weeks. He describes this time as a moment in which “a valve broke open… and I collected what came out the pipes.”
This is Delay’s first foray into ambient music in over ten years, yet it is not simply passive background music. Rather it is an active entity, a soundscape built from textured layers of evocative industrial noises and dream-like melodic loops. Clocking in at just under an hour and made almost entirely with analog hardware, the album was designed to be listened to at high volume and in full detail. Beatless and void of percussion, Visa’s five cuts challenge the listener to participate in this journey through time and musical machinery.” (Ripatti)
Andy Stott has slowed down a bit and it fits him swell.
“Making use of on an array of instruments, field recordings, found sounds and vocal treatments, it’s a largely analogue variant of hi-tech production styles arcing from the dissonant to the sublime […] The most memorable and oddly cohesive of Stott’s career to date, built and rendered in the spirit of those rare albums that straddle innovation and tradition through darkness and light.” (Modern Love)
The fruit of a very long writing process and a project which Ben Lukas Boysen had been wanting to bring for completion for years, ‘Conversions’ is a homage to his peers, influences and friends. From Bersarin Quartet to Lusine ICL, from Svarte Greiner to The Outside Agency, Hecq chose for this album eleven tracks which mean a lot to him, and delivers here his own versions and remixes. A highly personal and uncommonly varied album which Hecq has been creating with care and carrying close to his heart.
An original concept and a very diverse output, all the while under the banner of Hecq’s masterful production and highly evocative creations, it’s is a deeply personal addition to the discography of an important figure of today’s electronic music world.
“To combine tracks that have been around my personal and musical environment for years it felt great to salute these artists – it‘s a ‘thank you’ more than anything else really.” Well, thank YOU, Ben!
“It let them float and drift, break apart and converge. Where they broke away, cracks, rifts, trenches remain; where they collided, ranges of folded mountains appear.” (Hans Cloos)
‘Continental Drift’ came about from an idea inspired by Alfred Wegener’s book ‘The Origin of Continents and Oceans’. Fuzz Lee is a believer in the romantic notion that a person is truly shaped by the landscape and environment the person is in. A person’s personality and character in daily life, because of the environment that he or she is in, will also be expressed naturally in musical form. With that in mind, what would the results be when three individuals from three different continents with their own unique approach and style to music making are made to work together?
René Margraff (Pillowdiver) from Germany and Samuel Landry (Le Berger) from Canada were specifically invited by Fuzz to join him in this musical experiment. The tracks are made in a 3-way ‘triangular’ process. Each musician has to come up with two tracks or samples, pass it on to the second musician from the next continent to work on and once that musician is done, he will then pass the tracks on to the third and final musician from another continent who will do the same. The tracks can only be worked on once for each musician.
If you replace ‘continents’ with ‘sound’ in structural geologist Hans Cloos’ quote about the continental drift theory, the creation, mixing, layering and other working processes of the samples and tracks are not too dissimilar, “It let them float and drift, break apart and converge. Where they broke away, cracks, rifts, trenches remain; where they collided, ranges of folded mountains appear”. These 6 tracks are the ‘trenches’, the ‘cracks’, ‘folded mountains’ and ‘rifts’ in musical form. (Home Normal)
Kassel Jaeger is a Swiss-French artist based in Paris, France. ‘Toxic Cosmopolitanism’ explores and questions the very nature of the material experiments contained within. Each side consists of two clearly defined sections based on the same material.
‘Toxic Cosmopolitanism’ is a large scale work based on distinct sounds of different cultures, instruments such as the balafon, tremolo, gnbri, gee, tibetan gongs, pan flutes and the like are all deployed but rendered of the sonic properties identifying them to a specific region. The question that lies at the heart of this experiment: is such a swirl a creative process or a destructive one? This is the ambiguity of toxic cosmopolitanism.
The results are an honest exploration of both culture and form. At once cerebral, enlightening and immensely rich in scope and sonic vision. (Editions Mego)
Opitope is a duo by Japanese ambient master Chihei Hatakeyama and Tomoyoshi Date. The concept of their project is to produce tracks with imaginative stories. ‘Physis’ was entitled with the meaning of invisible generating power within the nature, and they have created four long stories with poetic names. However, you’ve only got the titles, the rest of the story is up to your imagination to perceive and construct your own story.
This album was mainly produced after the terrible earthquake that happened in Tōhoku, Northeast Japan in 2011, and tells the story of the destructed place with just ruins and no signs of human beings, gradually recovering from its soil into the usual green paradise. Opitope are the sound of hope and the light at the end of a neverending tunnel.
“Tara Jane O’Neil’s music is integrated and contextual, idiosyncratic and deeply psychedelic, akin to a lucid dream journal caught on magnetic tape. She appears to be interested in all sounds equally. In her tireless search for a music that mirrors and reflects her alchemical, deeply syncretic approach to sound, color, language, surface and texture, she has found herself in a somewhat singular category.
Choral voicings spread out across the stereo field like muted cloud formations split by sudden outbursts of vibrant color, verdant mosses on ancient stones, opal sized windows of clear blue set against a vast horizon. Pump organ drones swell and respirate, patient and slow, with softly resonant gongs from the roof of the world. This is music about healing, about listening, about surviving and transmuting the strange inheritance of language. Moving towards a direct perception of apparent reality through collaboration, breath, sound and song.
Listen to this new album with open ears, forgetting any previous incarnation, or perception of what you believe this mercurial artist to be or to have been. Using some very basic recording equipment and her vivid musical imagination, she has achieved a rare essentialism wherein all unnecessary elements have been stripped away leaving only the most indispensable sounds. Concise, but expansive, stripped of unnecessary gestures; guitars resonate, amps hum, and an exquisite, languid melancholia appears out of the haze.” (Kranky)
“Anyone who follows Ambarchi’s work knows that it has many facets: explorations of the outer limits of rock with Keiji Haino, psychoacoustic interference and sizzling harmonics in his solo performances, delicate improvisations with Keith Rowe or John Tilbury. To all these projects, Ambarchi brings his particular sensibility, patiently allowing sounds to develop on their own terms without forsaking their intrinsic physical and emotional power. Similarly, although Quixotism is shaped by its many contributors, the resulting sound world is unmistakably Ambarchi’s own. His most substantial solo release since Audience of One (Touch, 2012), Quixotism represents the summation of Ambarchi’s work over the last few years while also pointing to the future.
Recorded with a multitude of collaborators in Europe, Japan, Australia and the USA, ‘Quixotism’ presents the fruit of two years of work in the form of a single, LP-length piece in five parts. Ambarchi’s work in recent years has evinced an increasing fascination with the possibilities of combining abstract sonic textures with rhythm and pulse, and ‘Quixotism’ takes this aspect of his recent work to the next level: the entirety of this long-form work is built on a foundation of pulsing double-time electronic percussion provided by Thomas Brinkmann. Beginning as almost subliminal propulsion behind cavernous orchestral textures and John Tilbury’s delicate piano interjections, the percussive elements slowly inch into the foreground of the piece before suddenly breaking out into a polyrhythmic shuffle around the halfway mark, being joined by master Japanese tabla player U-zhaan for the piece’s final, beautiful passages.“ (Editions Mego)
Pinkcourtesyphone is dark but not arch, with a slight hint of humor. Pinkcourtesyphone is amorphous, changing, and slipping in and out of consciousness. Pinkcourtesyphone operates like a syrup-y dream. Pinkcourtesyphone strives to be both elegant and detached. Pinkcourtesyphone remained dormant for a long time. Pinkcourtesyphone is actually Richard Chartier, some sound and installation artist, considered one of the key figures in the current of reductionist electronic sound art which has been termed both “microsound” …
The third full length album of Pinkcourtesyphone… Los Angeles, a city of mirrors, twinkling lights, noir history, and deep secrets is the new home for Pinkcourtesyphone. This third full album explores Hollywood dreams and deception… meant to be slowly sipped. We all pretend but in Hollywood pretending is its dark sustenance… a plastic organic unity ready to enfold and repackage you. (Pinkcourtesyphone)
Written and conducted by pianist David Moore, ‘Tomorrow Was the Golden Age’ is a halcyonic journey to a neverending place, where music waxes, wanes and drifts imperceptibly from silence to grand, glowing sound. Formed in the mid-aughts among music student friends at New York City’s New School, Bing & Ruth’s lineup has shifted with the scope of each recording. For ‘Tomorrow Was the Golden Age’, the group whittled down from the eleven players on their first album, ‘City Lake’, to seven: two upright bassists, two clarinetists, a cellist and a tape delay tech, all supporting David Moore’s sublime yet resonant piano scores.
With untethered textures inspired by the indeterminate music of Morton Feldman and later torch bearer Gavin Bryars, ‘Tomorrow Was the Golden Age’ achieves canon-level quality for instrumental music. Within the piece’s extended passages, Bing & Ruth wander through gradient fields of color, illuminated by a delicate architecture of slowly developing microtonal harmonies, Steve Reich-ian piano lines and the same analog tape delay that launched both Brian Eno‘s Apollo and the greatest dub reggae engineers into the unknown. (Rvng Intl.)
“Mythical animals were a big inspiration,” says composer and songwriter Jenny Hval about ‘Meshes Of Voice’, a new collaboration between her and Susanna. “We looked at Medusa, Athena and Harpy (a combination of woman and bird) – as examples of depictions of woman – the ugly, the goddess-like, the gruesome,” agrees Susanna. This collaboration – featuring the two strongest Nordic voices around today – started back in 2009 as an exchange of letters, then developed into two live performances, one at Oslo Jazz Festival, the other at the Henie Onstad Art Centre, where this album was recorded. Mixed and mastered by Helge Sten (Deathprod, Supersilent), ‘Meshes Of Voice’ presents a stunning vocal universe of confessions, whispers and seductions.
A key inspiration was film maker Maya Deren’s surrealist, cyclical ‘Meshes of the Afternoon’, a milestone of visionary film from 1943. Deren’s famous image of a cloaked figure with a reflective face recurs on “A Mirror In My Mouth”, creating a complex world of musical fictions akin to those of Julia Holter and Joanna Newsom. (SusannaSonata)
[Milan, Rough Trade]
“It was a very immersive experience, and I got obsessed with it. It took about nine months of working pretty constantly. I’ve made my own instruments in the past but for this I mainly used viola to write and record, although we brought in other players to back up my rusty playing and thicken things up.
For ‘Under The Skin’, we were looking at the natural sound of an instrument to try and find something identifiably human in it, then slowing things down or changing the pitch of it to make it feel uncomfortable. There was a lot of talk of perverting material. It does sound creepy, but we were going for sexy.
I didn’t listen to a lot of other soundtracks while I was writing; I was worried about being porous. A lot of the influences either came from quite visual directions or 20th-century music I’d cut my teeth on at Guildhall: Giacinto Scelsi, Iannis Xenakis and John Cage… these big, music-changing composers. But I also took a lot of inspiration from strip-club music and euphoric dance as well.” (The Guardian)
Ueno Masaaki takes his musical cue from natural phenomenon and laws of nature by trying to reconstruct, not simulating them. The results are mainly rhythmical patterns that set off a chain reaction, expanding and contracting and creating new formations all the time.
The four tracks he presents on ‘Vortices’ are characterized by solid sound structures that appear to be very harsh and straight, sometimes even brutal, whereas the high pace even intensifies this impression. Apparently repetitive at first sight, the tracks are in fact highly complex and intelligently arranged, presenting unforeseen breaks and shifts in direction. (raster-noton)
What is 1979?
“There’s not a doubt in my mind that memory is our greatest gift. Our memories give us access to time, to identity, to dreams. I have long explored memories through stories and songs, documenting them in order to share them further. But as the speed of documentation began overtaking the time I used to fill with remembering, I knew I needed to take a step back. 1979 is a celebration of memory in its essential, shared nature. Guided by the wisdom of Jackson Sonnanfeld-Arden, discoverer of the Nine Pure Tones, we constructed 1979 as a concept album through which we could share not only his brilliant theory, but also our true love of memory.” (Deru)
“Distress is a condition not of the body or the brain, but of the mind or self or soul – the thinking and feeling essence of the human being. But we have been tending to deny the existence of this ‘self’ as an independent, decision-making entity with a nature of its own. We have been denying our own humanity, and identifying ourselves merely with body and brain as rather clever but essentially reactive machines.”
‘Will To Be Well’ reflects writer-producer Marc Dall’s continued interest in the life and arcana of R.D. Laing, but also alludes to more universal and enduring mysteries: the relationships between body and mind, illness and wellness, the physical and the metaphysical.
The fifteen tracks assembled here also showcase the maturation of a uniquely gifted and expressive composer: Dall’s stirring, efflorescent melodies and stately harmonic architectures, with their grievously honed simplicity, are a delight: lucid, lyrical, immediate. For all the modernity of Dalhous’s approach, the album recalls a bygone era in synthesized and sample-based music, a time when its practitioners were not just set-designers but storytellers too. (Blackest Ever Black)
Ketev is a project by Yair Elazar Glotman, a musician and sound artist focusing on experimental electroacoustic composition, sound installations, and sculptures.
A post techno project made by phasing patterns from reel-to-reel tape loops that are manipulated by 4-track cassette decks, Ketev creates roaring textures above slowly shifting rhythmic mantras. ‘Ketev’ was described as “picking up where the darkest records by Andy Stott and Sam Kerridge left off” (Boomkat).
Instantly noticeable in Ketev’s music is his willingness to dig into slower tempos and murkier territory than many of his post-techno contemporaries, a deliberate heaviness that through lengthy, patiently built tracks becomes totally immersive. “…the music of ‘Ketev’ stands out thanks to the artist’s use of dense yet delicate textures among the glacial rhythms, jet black atmosphere and haunting traces of melody. The accomplished result is something as meditative as it is challenging.” (Juno Plus)
‘Deep/Float’ is arguably Saåad’s most crafted and coherent work to date. The record is broadly inspired by their week-long auditory experiments at the Faï farm in 2013 where, in a valley at the foot of the Alps, they improvised music in a completely natural atmosphere using three giant horns reverberating against a cliffside to amplify their sounds. Over the following six months, the duo decided to carry on reinventing their writing. They have stripped their rig right down to its bare skin, exploring the essence of their work and coming up with an extremely minimal, almost carnal approach to their music.
The final outcome is a luminous album, a 40 minutes musical healing cure made up of a complex mix of field recordings, ambient improvisation and abstract drone.
Iranian artist Siavash Amini just released his first full length album on Futuresequence entitled ‘What Wind Whispered to the Trees’, a modern classical drone masterpiece a few months ago.
In ‘What Wind Whispered to the Trees’ Amini references characters from Dostoevsky’s ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ and ‘The Devils’. Conveying a sense of loss and of longing from opening track, the album unravels chapter by chapter holding the listener in a dark, dense and poetic tale, as if translating Dostoevsky into musical form. The raw string melodies, fine tonal auroras and contrasting heavy drones are expanded and deepened by stunning mastering from Lawrence English.
Keep an ear (or two) on this young man. If there won’t be a new Stars Of The Lid album anytime soon, he will all do it by himself before we know it.
Although it was released on April 1st, The Body’s fourth full-length album is everything but a joke. Occasionally having a weak spot for doom metal, this record basically swept us off our feet, pushed us into a dark hole and let us die there. It’s highly relevant that the album was produced and arranged by The Haxan Cloak, which should be a good reason already to get curious about it. After last year’s ‘Excavation’ most probably all of us want to hear more from Bobby Krlic. He is apparently the best thing that ever happened to The Body. So far.
As the lyrics of ‘Alone All The Way’ say (taken from John Zaritsky’s ‘The Suicide Tourist’ documentary): “I’ve got two choices. I either actually go through with it, or I say, “You know what? I’m too scared right now. I don’t want to do it.” If I go through with it, I die, as I must at some point. If I don’t go through with it, my choice is essentially to suffer and to inflict suffering on my family, and then die, possibly in a way that is considerably more stressful and painful than this way. I’ve got death.”
You only have one choice: to check out this brilliant album even if you would not do it otherwise.
London’s Darren Cunningham has been threatening us for years now, declaring he is going to quit making music. I don’t think anyone agrees with his decision, but if by any miracle it would happen, this would be a glorious ending without any doubt. Hopefully though this is all just part of the act. Quite confusing at first listen with its lengthy, abstract pieces, ‘Ghettoville’ grows on you like a hungry octopus, squeezing with thousands of tentacles, refusing to let you go.
“Ghettoville is the bleached out and black tinted conclusion of the Actress image. Where the demands of writing caught the artist slumped and reclined, devoid of any soul, acutely aware of the simulated prism that required breakout. Four albums in and the notes and compositions no longer contain decipherable language. The scripts now carry tears, the world has returned to a flattened state, and out through that window, the birds look back into the cage they once inhabited. Spitting flames behind a white wall of silence. The machines have turned to stone, data reads like an obituary to its user. A fix is no longer a release, it’s a brittle curse. Zero satisfaction, no teeth, pseudo artists running rampant, but the path continues. R.I.P Music 2014. Actress”
Quite a dramatic tone if we consider that he already released an EP a few months after the ‘last’ album came out. Let’s wait and see.
Imprints are an ambient-noise band from London, UK. Alex Delfront, Darren Clark and Shaun Crook have released their first album on Huw Robert’s exceptional (small but independent and efficient) record label based in Wales. ‘Data Trails’ is a surprisingly refreshing shower of sounds from the very first seconds… and now that we’ve used the word ‘surprising’, it’s unbelievable that this masterpiece never really made it ‘out there’. There’s tremendous work and immense talent behind it, so it’s rather crushing to watch it disappear into thin air when it should be celebrated. One of the most satisfying aspects of compiling a list like this is to emphasize the important of these records.
Imprints is a technical nightmare of tape machines, synthesizers, homemade pedals, mixing desks and Max/MSP patches; a band perpetually on the brink of collapse. Their music examines the uneasy relationship between dissonance and melody, the contrast between dense masses and harmonious space. Contorted textures and tape-saturated atmospheres merge with pedal-steel-guitar, generative feedback and live sampling to produce a sound that is both organic and electric.
‘Bécs’ is undisputedly a brilliant album, although we have to admit that Fennesz got extremely lucky with the succession of the tracks. After a start like ‘Static Kings’, you kind of know that nothing can go wrong… And it does not. Personally, we haven’t met anyone who had negative feelings about the Austrian legend’s new ‘abstract pop’ work. Have you? Why is that?
Bécs (pronounced ‘baeetch’) is Hungarian for Vienna and is the first full length Fennesz solo release since 2008’s ‘Black Sea’. You can clearly see how influential it quickly became – if you want to look for the actual Vienna in Hungarian in Google, all you get is information about Fennesz.
Eschewing his previously more drone orientated works, Fennesz returns to the more florid pop mechanisms. ‘Static Kings’ features the extra leverage of Werner Dafeldecker and Martin Brandlmayer who deploy a range of atmospheric abstract effects to shape a bewitching sound world. The 10 minute centrepiece ‘Liminality’ is classic Fennesz: epic, evocative, beautiful, impossible. ‘Pallas Athene’ creates a sanctuary of hovering beauty which leads into the title track. Emotional and assured, the track ‘Bécs’ is an astonishing contribution to contemporary pop. ‘Sav’ (which means ‘acid’ in Hungarian) inhabits a less structural terrain as one enters a forest of small sounds and oblique atmospheres, where the closing ‘Paroles’, a gentle melody unravels amongst swirls of electronics and fried disruption. Bécs is not just an album or a series of songs, it’s a world to inhabit, a landscape ripe with sounds, songs and that esteemed Fennesz signature. (Editions Mego)
“‘Ruins’ was made in Aljezur, Portugal in 2011 on a residency set up by Galeria Zé dos Bois. I recorded everything there except the last song, which I did at mother’s house in 2004. I’m still surprised by what I wound up with. It was the first time I’d sat still for a few years; processed a lot of political anger and emotional garbage. Recorded pretty simply, with a portable 4-track, Sony stereo mic and an upright piano. When I wasn’t recording songs I was hiking several miles to the beach. The path wound through the ruins of several old estates and a small village.The album is a document. A nod to that daily walk. Failed structures. Living in the remains of love. I left the songs the way they came (microwave beep from when power went out after a storm); I hope that the album bears some resemblance to the place that I was in.” (Liz Harris, Grouper)
We cannot possibly imagine the state she was in while recording this extremely personal homage to life as it is, but it definitely bears some resemblance to our own melancholic moments and deepest despondency in the lonely hours. Stepping out of her comfort zone and entering the untamed world of her profound feelings doted with an abundant amount of vocals, Grouper makes an impression that this release is one of a kind, an odd-one-out… and perhaps for the next album we should prepare for even more noise than ever before.
“These with a thousand small deliberations
Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,
Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,
With pungent sauces, multiply variety
In a wilderness of mirrors.”
The phrase, wilderness of mirrors, draws its root from T.S Eliot’s elegant poem ‘Gerontion’. During the cold war, the phrase became associated with campaigns of miscommunication carried out by opposing state intelligence agencies. Within the context of the record, the phrase acted as a metaphor for a process of iteration that sat at the compositional core of the LP. Buried in each final piece, like an unheard whisper, is a singularity that was slowly reflected back upon itself in a flood of compositional feedback. Erasure through auditory burial. ‘Wilderness Of Mirrors’ is reflection upon reflection, a pure white out of absolute aurality. “We face constant and unsettled change. It’s not merely an issue of the changes taking place around us, but the speed at which these changes are occurring. We bare witness to the retraction of a great many social conditions and contracts that have previously assisted us in being more humane than the generations that precede us. We are seeing this ideal of betterment eroded here in Australia and abroad too. This record is me yelling into what seems to be an ever-growing black abyss. I wonder if my voice will reflect off something?” (Lawrence English)
It certainly does, and thank you for making us slow down to reflect on what is going on around us before we blindly rush off to our self-destructive activities once again.
May 24, 2007. Bologna, Italy. Adam Wiltzie on tour, playing with Sparklehorse on their final European tour. Wiltzie had invited his friend and colleague Francesco Donadello to see the concert, and Francesco’s guest that evening was Dustin O’Halloran. They didn’t know it back then, but this night turned out to be probably one of the most important ones in the history of modern classical-ambient music.
At this time of the year, ‘ATOMOS’ certainly does not need any kind of special introduction. It happens once in a blue moon that something that we’ve been waiting for quite a long time truly lives up to its expectations. It happens even more seldom that we know that respective record is going to be one of our favourites that year – even without having heard it. However, this was the case with A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s second full-length album, ‘ATOMOS’. If you’ve managed to see them somewhere performing live as well, you know what we’re talking about… If not, go and see them as soon as possible.
Eric Holm: Andøya
In the far North of Norway, at the northern end of the Lofoten and Vesterålen island chain you will find the spectacular island of Andøya. It was the only place in Europe not covered by ice during the last ice age. Andøya is special for many reasons: the giant whales living just off the coast, thousands of nesting puffins, and spectacular geology and from now on, London-based Eric Holm’s splendid debut on Subtext named after this exceptional place. Now that you have a slight idea how Andøya might look like, imagine someone going out in the wilderness with a proper winter jacket and attaching a single contact microphone to a remote telegraph pole that connects the island’s array of military listening stations and recording whatever comes through.
Holm crafts a detailed expansion of this solitary sonic moment, shaping the sound into an immersive meditation on man, nature and isolation. The telegraph pole connected to a seemingly endless network of traversing lines harnesses the dense ambiance of the landscape, both absorbing and distilling the essence of Andøya’s harsh beatific character, and considers the position of microphone as witness within a vast cycle of physical transition and terrestrial flux (Subtext). On a side note, it reminded us of the glorious days of Goem, the somewhat exciting, mechanic purring of the machines is a comforting substance to be surrounded with.
When in doubt, just consult Dave Huismans’ discography.
The Dutch producer is a brilliant example of how someone can transform and improve his own style year by year, album by album, at the same time keeping a highly distinct and recognizable voice. Going through different phases of dubstep and techno, 2562’s fourth full-length album, ‘A New Today’ is yet another crisp conceptual revelation fiddling with the idea of wonky ambient. After a hyper-energetic ‘Fever’ Huismans has substantially slowed down, kind of suggesting he could speed up anytime, but in the end he doesn’t really (especially compared to his previous records) – and that’s the beauty of it. It reaches the extremity without actually getting to it, the climax inheres in unfulfillment. Highly recommended both for vertical and horizontal positions.
We have no idea who’s the person behind the Black Swan project, but that’s maybe for the best. We think no end of him. Since the beginning of this decade we get our yearly fair share of haunting drones from New York and we should not question their origins. Each record has been thoroughly examined. Secretly looking for a fatal fault. Something that could stop this madness of being so consumedly drawn to these dreamlike horror scenes. As a listener you play the main part in this epic imaginary soundtrack, which could be your first and last role ever as it could easily eat you alive.
‘Tone Poetry’ came out in January, which means that it was our faithful companion throughout the whole year. We’re still in the process of digesting it, however we’re very much looking forward to the next trip into the abysmal dismay of Black Swan.