Lowercase Noises – The Swiss Illness

It is hard to believe it has been three years since the last full-length Lowercase Noises album.  Chalk part of that up to the ever-increasing speed with which time in general seems to pass these days and the rest up to Andy Othling’s constant efforts to stay in touch with his fans, put on live performances, and regularly share new EPs, improvisations, and videos. But you have to go back to 2014’s This Is For Our Sins to find an album as immersive and conceptually integrated as The Swiss Illness which will be releasing in May.  The theme once is again is a somber one, but the post rock, vocal, and folk elements that served well in telling the tragic story of Russia’s Lykov family give way to a more  contemplative, modern classical leaning style that suits a highly emotional exploration of the emotion of nostalgia even as he exposes the very origins of the word.

I wanted this album to be about death, but it didn’t fit. Instead I expanded on the idea of loss and made it about nostalgia, which for me means the loss of things both large and small, both incredibly heavy and largely inconsequential. I experienced all those things in 2016, and as a result the only thing I could create was a minimal, slowly-evolving and (hopefully) beautiful dive into that feeling. Overlaid is the story and history behind the word “nostalgia”, which was coined by doctors studying Swiss mercenaries far away from home, and the physical ailments brought on by their feelings. – Andy Othling

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Last Days – Seafaring [n5MD]

With his fifth album on n5MD, Northumberland native Graham Richardson’s Last Days project revisits the theme of his first release on the label over 10 years ago – the sea. Whereas his debut record was more of a personal reflection, Seafaring casts a wider net as it paints a variety of portraits & vignettes of maritime life both modern and historical.

“Drawing inspiration from shipping routes, to Ernest Shackleton and his crew’s ill-fated voyage on the Endurance, to families being disjointed and reunited, Seafaring goes some way to hint at what the oceans present to us.” – n5MD

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Video Premiere: “Flying the Nest” by Danny Mulhern

Danny Mulhern is a composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer from London. His film and TV scores include long-running forensic crime drama Silent Witness (BBC Drama), BBC wildlife documentary strand The Natural World, major arts and science documentaries for the BBC including How Art Made The World and Alternative Medicine, plus entertainment shows with Derren Brown, Matt Lucas and Simon Pegg. Much of his recent work has been with members of the London Contemporary Orchestra on the award-winning short The Dead Sea as well as developing three EPs of solo and small ensemble music which have been picked up for release by 1631 Recordings.

The first EP, entitled Metanoia, will be available on May 26 and is heralded by this beautiful new video presentation of the short but very sweet “Flying the Nest” directed by Antony Barkworth-Knight with bird animation by Rachel McMahon and guest musicians Violeta Barrena-Witschi and Nathaniel Anderson-Frank on violin, Helen Sanders-Hewett on viola and Miriam Wakeling on cello.

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Travelogue 2016.04.21: Spotlight on Shimmering Moods Records

Shimmering Moods is a label based in Amsterdam that has already had a fruitful 2017 with a number of excellent limited edition CD releases and quite an international roster of artists. Featured here are recent works by Andrew Tasselmyer (USA), Snufmumriko (Sweden) , Rime Trails (Denmark), and Gallery Six (Japan). Also highly recommended are two albums featured on our 2016 year-in-review – Radio Sea’ by Adzuki and ‘Mothers Garden’ by Å Asher-Yates, a brand new reissue of ‘Naar Vi Vaagner’ by øjeRum, and a pair of works by Dimitar Dodovski, ‘Derive’ (2016) and ‘In Every Direction’ (2015). All releases can be found here on their Bandcamp site

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Travelogue 2017.04.18: Spotlight on Sound in Silence

Sound In Silence is a small DIY record label based in Athens, Greece that has been releasing limited editions presented in collectible handmade packaging since 2006.  Featured here are four of their most recent releases by moshimoss & stabiloanthéne, bvdub, and (ghost). I also recommend browsing through the rest of their Bandcamp catalog where you’ll find gems by artists such as Wil Bolton, Caught in the Wake Forever, Good Weather for an Airstrike, and North Atlantic Drift

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Leandro Fresco & Rafael Anton Irisarri – La Equidistancia [ASIP]

La Equidistancia (‘the equidistance’) is an extraordinarily apt title for the first-fruits of a newly formed creative partnership between Leandro Fresco and Rafael Anton Irisarri just released by A Strangely Isolated Place. It can be seen as a nod to the meeting of creative minds over long geographical distances (Fresco in Argentina and Irisarri in New York) but the album also intersects some musical and symbolic midpoints as it consummately strikes a balance between careful sound design and raw emotion, between melodic sensibility and textural aesthetics, and between melancholic reflection and purifying catharsis. In the sublime center of all of these things we find these six beautifully constructed, soul-searching instrumentals that are capable of forging a powerful human connection.

I really love that grainy aspect you can hear in the music, degraded in a way, like it’s been trough some rough patches (as both Lean and I have been through over the years)…There’s a lot of sadness and memories in the music. I feel that one most embrace this sadness and share it; make others know we are not so different; not alone in this world”. – Rafael Anton Irisarri

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A sense of place: Suddenly woken by the sound of stillness by David Evans [Flaming Pines]

Traversing the ancient trade routes and vast landscapes of Asia via the legendary Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian railways is rightly considered the trip of a lifetime by many. One of the oft-selected itineraries runs from Beijing to Moscow by way of the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar and the Russian city of Irkutsk, Siberia’s gateway to the west. While many have documented this grand excursion in words and pictures, Melbourne-based musician & field recordist David Evans presents the experience from a unique sonic perspective on his new album Suddenly woken by the sound of stillness. Constructed from recordings captured on a trip taken in 2015, it is an aural document that traverses not only geographical boundaries, but the abstract territories which the artist describes as exploring “ideas of memory, movement and place, and the boundaries between creation and documentation”.

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Sound Impression: Yonder by Sophie Hutchings [1631 Recordings/Hobbledehoy]

The release of a new album by Sophie Hutchings to coincide with Piano Day 2017 has been one of the year’s most pleasant surprises. Having beguiled us with the dreamy abstractions of Wide Asleep (Preservation) which only came out last summer, Yonder finds Sophie in a more ebullient mood as radiant melodies ripple and flow from her piano with pure élan.

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Sound Impression: Clem Leek – America [YEN]

There always been something quite personal in the music of Clem Leek. Trained as a pianist from a young age and now a developed into a composer, sound artist, sound designer, and multi-instrumentalist, he has drawn heavily on his surroundings and life experiences from the very start; consider the misty, overcast reflections of growing up in England on Holly Lane (2010) and the intimate piano & guitar based sketches of Lifenotes (2011) and Rest (2013). The past year has apparently been on one of significant change for Leek and this is reflected in his latest opus and third studio album entitled America. 

“America is a reflection of Clem’s personal transition from Europe to the U.S. Each track refers to new experiences, both information and sensory. Moving from the countryside to the city brought about a plethora of new friends, landscapes and routines and this is reflected in the new styles, instruments and techniques that have bled into the album. “

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Hotel Neon – Context [Fluid Audio]

Whoever said “don’t sweat the small stuff” surely was not talking about ambient music. When it comes to this genre, nuances can make all the difference between a bland listening experience and a compelling one. For an outstanding example of the latter, consider Context, the forthcoming third album by Hotel Neon, the Philadelphia-based trio of Michael Tasselmyer, Andrew Tasselmyer & Steven Kemner. Speaking of his own ambient music, Brian Eno once suggested that it should “accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular”, a characteristic very much on display here. It was the band’s choice on this record not to thrust any particular narrative on the listener but rather, as the album title suggests, to provide a context to which they could connect to their own.  Spend an hour or so with these warm, heavily textured crepuscular drones and you are likely to agree it is mission accomplished.

“Context is arguably the only thing that gives a song its meaning in the mind of a listener. The direct message of a track title has disappeared. Vague symbols have usurped them, unable as they are to contain any kind of subliminal message. As a result of this, the listener has been given a lot more freedom to interpret the music as they see fit – they put the ambient washes of sound into a context of their own making. ” – Fluid Audio

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Hauschka – What If [City Slang / Temporary Residence]

One of the most recognizable 21st Century proponents of prepared piano music, Volker Bertelmann aka Hauschkareturns with his first full-length studio album since 2014’s Abandoned City.  It is not as if he has not been otherwise occupied during the intervening time. Quite the opposite in fact. He has been touring, curating festivals, collaborating on special performances, and composing soundtracks such as the Oscar-nominated score for “Lion” with Dustin O’Halloran, not to mention releasing a live album, a collection of remixes, and an EP. So, perhaps it is remarkable that he ever found the time to create What If which is now on the cusp of its official release.

“I definitely decided with What If to make a record that might be my most radical. The lyrical piano has disappeared, and the sounds I’m fascinated by – like noise and electronic elements – have taken over”

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Daigo Hanada – Ichiru [Moderna Records]

Based in Montreal, Québec, Moderna Records is a recently founded label that has quickly established itself as a home for wonderful new voices in experimental and modern classical composition. Having introduced many listeners to artists such as Veronique Vaka, Ed Carlsen, and Tim Linghaus, they do it yet again with the debut solo album by Japanese composer & pianist Daigo Hanada. Written in Berlin and Tokyo over the course of a year, Ichiru is a collection of intimate vignettes recorded with only an upright piano, a pair of microphones and two hands.

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