Among the most recent batch of releases from the Amesterdam-based Shimmering Moods label is an understated gem entitled You Don’t Belong by Kirill Mazhai from Minsk, Belarus. Mazhai’s account of the album lets us know that it serves as a somewhat personal document, but it deals with one of those passages in life to which most of us can relate.
“All the tracks on the album are dedicated to several places from those times, that meant or still mean something very special to me. A house by the lake, an apartment on the first floor, a park in the middle of the city – the places that stuck with me for a long time and don’t let go. It’s a tribute to those times, but also some kind of closure. The album was mostly a reminder to myself that when you feel attached to something in one way or another, you need to keep going, to move forward, that you really don’t belong anywhere. It was a reminder that it’s never too late to move on.” – Kirill Mazhai
Since arriving on the scene roughly five years ago with their self-titled debut, Hotel Neon has established itself as a highly productive outfit when it comes to creating atmospheric soundscapes of extraordinary depth. They recently released their fourth full-length studio album entitled Means of Knowing (2018, Archives), arguably their most impressive and accomplished effort to date, while managing to stay quite active with individual solo projects, collaborations, and remixes (so much so that some of us who know the members of the band have kidded only in half-jest that they must have equally talented doppelgangers secretly helping them out).
Far from being studio hermits, Hotel Neon frequently performs live and tours extensively, engaging audiences with their immersive resonances enhanced with projected film and images. This fall they will be heading west for a special string of shows along with Benoît Pioulard (based in Seattle, WA) and Marcus Fischer (based in Portland, OR) and they will be bringing yet more new music with them, a long-form cassette release called Inward. While the tapes will initially only be available at the concert venues, it will eventually see release on Bandcamp and you can sample a gorgeous 9+ minute excerpt of it right here in an exclusive premiere. Continue reading
Those who have followed the minimal electronic and electroacoustic music of James Murray have learned there is always a method behind the London-based composer’s work. Offering much more than simple atmospheric soundscapes, there is almost always some important conceptual arc or contextual backdrop to lend deeper meaning and, hence, deeper connection for the listener. This has never been more true than on his latest opus just out on Home Normal entitled Falling Backwards. The album is a poignant exploration of a peculiar coping mechanism Murray developed in his youth.
“When I was a child I would fall backwards, literally. If I felt life unfair or hadn’t control of my world, instead of losing my temper I’d go still, silent, bolt upright, close my eyes and just let go. At home, in public, wherever, it didn’t matter. Always backwards, vertical then inevitably, violently, not. After a few of these episodes the people in my life learnt to see the signs and usually someone would be there to catch me in time…Recent scans investigating tinnitus discovered an infarct in the back of my brain. The cognitive effects of this damage are unclear, best guess as to cause is historic trauma. I’d all but forgotten those self-destructive childhood descents, but this surprise transported me back at once to those earliest, strongest feelings, to the bitter intensity of that which first mattered most. The long free fall through darkness, the outright surrender of the will, and the delicious anticipation of impact. It’s strange isn’t it, the things we do to cope.” – James Murray
Among the musical highlights of 2015 was a collaborative project between two distinctive ’boutique’ labels – Dauw, curated by Pieter Dudal with a specialization in handmade cassette releases, and Eilean Records curated by Mathias van Eecloo, a limited edition CD imprint based on a concept of mapping out an imagined place. Located in Belgium and France respectively, they are European neighbors as well as kindred spirits. The joint project called Dialog Tapes comprised two albums released in parallel wherein every track was a collaboration between a different pairing of artists selected from each label (read more about the first volume here). It turned out to be nothing less than treasure trove for listeners who appreciate electroacoustic ambient music steeped in eclecticism, minimalism, and filigree while at the same time blending diverse artistic styles in new & creative ways.
Needless to say, it was very gratifying news indeed to see a second iteration of the project on offer this year. Once again, the quality of the music across the two volumes is exquisite and the thoughtful pairings yield utterly captivating results full of subtle sonic surprises in their many permutations and juxtapositions.
“In its essence, Dialog Tapes is an ambitious attempt to connect a musical field through its own creative forces. It’s about connectivity and making new unexpected musical ties between individual actors…Four years later, both labels now express a distinctive sound and found their place within the field of minimal ambient and electro-acoustic music. Hence, Dudal and Eecloo found that the time was ripe to initiate the follow-up of the first Dialog Tapes output. After a long process of carefully selecting the artists and curating the collaborations, a wonderful group of musicians started to explore musical overlap, looked for new approaches to make music and ultimately went in a dialog with another artist. ” – Dauw/Eilean
This audio journey features a globe-spanning quartet of immersive long-form single releases by Saariselka (Chuck Johnson & Marielle Jakobsons), Hakobune, Arash Akbari, and Dave Watkins.
Since his nomadic teenage years when he left his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, composer/pianist Tristan Eckerson has lived, traveled, & studied in places as far-flung as Charleston, South Carolina, San Sebastian, Spain, San Francisco, California, & Seattle, Washington and has performed in solo and group settings on both U.S. Coasts as well as Canada and Europe. He has since returned to Cincinnati and over the summer released a lovely new solo record called Dream Variations, a complete DIY effort from writing, mixing, and mastering to producing the cover art.
Eckerson stands out as one who is quite comfortable traversing a wide variety genres, including some not often associated with solo piano, and citing influences as diverse as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Beethoven, Sigur Ros and Tigran Hamasyan. A case in point is his new digital single which is a solo piano rendition of the DeVotchKa‘s “How It Ends”, an indie pop song originally released in 2004 and which has achieved near ubiquity through placements in theatrical and commercial trailers (see the many references here) and a YouTube video with close to 5 million views. Continue reading
In the early stages of my discovering new realms of instrumental music (circa 2012), one of the first albums that really caught and held my attention was Canvas (Polar Seas Recordings) by North Atlantic Drift. I was mesmerized and haunted by the vast melancholic landscapes and the melding of statuesque post rock melodic structures with glacial ambient textures. Followin in fairly quick succession with Monuments (Sound in Silence) and Resolven (Polar Seas Recordings), the project entered a relatively quiet period as members Mike Abercrombie (aka Transits of Mercury) and Brad Deschamps (aka Anthéne) worked on their respective solo endeavors and growing their Polar Seas Recordings label.
The Great Lake Swallows is the seventh entry in the Dark Peak series from Manchester UK’s Gizeh Records and introduces a very special first time collaboration between Canadian cellist Julia Kent and Belgian guitarist/tape machine manipulator Jean D.L. Recorded in Charleroi, Belgium in 2015 during a video installation with Sandrine Verstraete, the album’s long elegiac arc comprises four movements, chapters if you will, in a single riveting whole punctuated by brief caesuras that mark subtle shifts in the narrative.
The roots of Keith Kenniff’s Helios project go back to 2001, well before he graduated Berklee College of Music in 2006 (the same year he released the timeless and much-loved ‘Eingya‘) and before he began making piano-based modern classical music as Goldmund or collaborating with his wife Hollie as Mint Julep. It goes back to before he began composing custom music for some of the biggest brands in the world including Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Starbucks, Disney, Samsung, & more. The music has evolved over the years and the location has changed (the Kenniffs have been based in Portland, Oregon since 2008), but the composer who deferentially uses “Unseen Music” as the umbrella name for all his projects, still likes to make quiet music at night using the same mini-cassette recorder (“a lovely little imperfect way to treat sounds”). And from those quiet nocturnal experiments comes another sumptuous and warmly enveloping Helios record entitled Veriditas, a title taken from a term coined by medieval abbess and philosopher Hildegard von Bingen as a fusion of two Latin words: green and truth. Though her concepts were quite theological in nature, Kenniff found inspiration in the word’s more abstract connotations.
“While I’m not a very spiritual person as it relates to a religious belief, I do feel an overwhelming connection between the aesthetics I find pleasing in my experience of nature and my experience of writing music.” – Keith Kenniff
UK composer Matt Emery‘s music has been heard by literally millions with cinema and television placements for companies like Hugo Boss, BT Sports, BBC’s Top Gear, Ford, and GoPro as well as appearing in the trailer for the critically acclaimed IFC film “The Escape” starring Gemma Arteton and Dominic Cooper. Last September saw the release of his gorgeous debut album Empire on Injazero Records and this September he returns to the label with a brand new single on the label called “I Put a Flame in Your Heart” which recently debuted on Stephen McCauley’s Soundscapes program on BBC Radio Ulster and can be streamed here for the first time.
Klangriket is a pseudonym chosen by Fabian Rosenberg for his explorations in solo piano and experimental ambient music which he began in 2016 as he sought to find his own voice as a composer and producer and to create an identity apart from the one developed during the preceding years with trumpet and jazz. While there have been sundry singles and sketches as well as a fine studio collaboration with Sjors Mans released last year, the most complete artifact of that period is Rosenberg’s beautiful new 4-track EP Tjärn soon to be released by Piano and Coffee Records.
For the first time here you can listen to the opening track “Elin”, a beguiling introspection consisting of delicate piano intertwined with textural filigree and aching strings. Continue reading
This travelogue entry features the mesmerizing music of the new summer singles series from Moderna Records, a label founded several years ago in Montreal by Évolène Lüthi “to trace a line from electronic sound designers to classical composers, connecting them through the realms of ambient and cinematic music”.