A sense of place: Ólafur Arnalds – Island Songs

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Iceland’s dramatic landscape belies the island country’s relatively small footprint on the globe. Its breathtaking and mysterious beauty is inextricably woven into the music and literature of its people and draws travelers and artists from around the world like a siren call. But that is not the perspective of this magnificent place that Ólafur Arnalds seeks to present in his latest project. He gives us a much more intimate view by taking us into Iceland’s towns, church & concert halls, and living rooms and brings us face to face with some of its people.

Island Songs is a “living musical film” documented in real-time by director Baldvin Z in which Arnalds travels  to 7 different locations in Iceland – one per week – to record a series of new compositions in collaboration with local artists. It is an endearing portrait of an unique island not as landscape, but as a place of community, connection, collective memory, and shared creativity. It also yielded an exquisitely beautiful collection of songs.
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Marconi Union – Ghost Stations [Just Music]

What do you do for an encore after recording “the most relaxing track in the world“? Earning that accolade along with extraordinary visibility and respectability in a cluster of eclectic genres that get too little of either might be enough to lure a band into stagnation, but on the evidence of their output since “Weightless”, there is little chance of that happening to Marconi Union. Their latest full length studio album, Ghost Stations, incorporates many elements from their earlier work that have won over and endeared them to so many listeners, but it stretches out in some enticing new directions as well.

“We always want to move forward and try new things, there’s no point in just treading water, so it was great to use a couple of guest musicians (Digitonal‘s Andy Dobson on clarinet and Giorgio Li Calzi on trumpet). Sometimes you need real playing, especially when it comes to feel”. – Marconi Union 

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Sound Impression: Tambour – Chapitre II [Moderna Records]

A waltzing piano, a twinkling glockenspiel, an exquisite string quartet, an air of wistful nostalgia, and a touch of cinematic whimsy all wrapped up in a poignant minimalist aesthetic – these are the elements that make up the aura of enchantment that surrounds the music of Tambour, a modern classical project of Montreal based composer Simon P. Castonguay. 

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Sound Impression: Coastlands – To Be Found


Coastlands is an instrumental band from Portland, Oregon who clearly draw inspiration from the surrounding forests, mountains, and coastline of the Pacific Northwest and manage to harness some of the rugged beauty of those landscapes in their latest opus To Be Found which comprises six lush, sprawling post rock narratives with the peregrine spirit of the wide-eyed traveler.

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Travelogue 2016.08.07: Walking on a cloud with 1631 Recordings

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The steady outpouring of new albums, reissues, and V/A & single artist compilations from 1631 Recordings shows no signs of abating and that is great news for lovers of modern classical & ambient music. This travelogue presents a globe-spanning selection of seven of the more recent entries in their catalog, as well as their publishing/licensing offshoot 1631 Music, including the second volume of their outstanding Piano Cloud series as well as albums by Egor Grushin, Simeon Walker, The Bird’s Companion, Gabriela Parra, Marco Caricola, and JP Hartnett.  

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Sophie Hutchings – Wide Asleep [Preservation]

When composer/pianist Sophie Hutchings set out to record her third studio album Wide Asleep, she decided not to wait until after the music was released to let it forge a connection with her listeners, choosing instead to partially crowdfund the project so a special vinyl edition could be produced while at the same time peeling back the curtain a bit on her creative process.

“That’s the beauty of instrumental music. It’s felt, not spoken. Sometimes the things we feel can’t always be put into words and I think music replacing that can be something special on its own.” – Sophie Hutchings

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Will Samson – Lua [12k]

Will Samson has always had a penchant for incorporating delicate textural layers and achingly beautiful strings into his fine spun brand of pop music – just consider Ground Luminosity (2015) or Balance (2012) – but when a recent facial injury sustained while relocating from the UK to Portugal forced him to temporarily put singing aside, he decided to extemporize with tape recording equipment and purely instrumental motifs and ended up creating a most serene and salutary album called Lua.

“The whole process was about being open and allowing the music to flow out naturally, without letting my analytical mind become involved. To just press record on my tape machines and see what happens. This experiment allowed me to produce some honest documents of how I was really feeling at the time with all that was going on in my life.“ – Will Samson 
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Sound Impression: øjeRum – Væv [Eilean Rec.]

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A glistening gossamer web spun from reminiscence and longing. The warp and weft of memory woven into a translucent sonic tapestry. A collage of frozen time and faded beauty. All of these are suggested by both the title and music of Væv, the latest work of Copenhagen-based musician and collage artist Paw Grabowski under the moniker of øjeRum (the word væv, rooted in Old Norse, can be translated as tissue, loom, web,  or weave).

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Porya Hatami & Arovane – Kaziwa [Time Released Sound]

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While very well established and highly respected as solo artists, Porya Hatami and Uwe Zahn, aka Arovane, have only recently formed their creative partnership, but it has turned out to be a fruitful one with the release of three full length albums featuring their collaborative work in less than a year – Resonance on ÉTER (2015), Veerian which also featured Darren McClure on Eilean Rec (2016), and now Kaziwa which is about to be released in two physical editions by artisan label Time Released Sound who also released Hatami’s sublime solo effort Arrivals and Departures (2014). As one might expect from artists with such deep wells of experience and creativity to draw upon, the new record goes down a different path than its predecessors:

“Uwe Zahn (Arovane) and Porya Hatami’s latest collaborative project finds the pair concentrating their sound sources and focusing on a specific instrument: the piano. Hatami is known for the piano work that appears throughout his previous material, but with this release, it takes center stage. For his contributions, Zahn delved into the sonic possibilities of Native Instruments’ new Una Corda, a modern virtual synth that captures the sound of a custom made contemporary piano.”

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Sound Impression: Albosel – Container [Hawk Moon Records]

The balmy, languid days of summer are a perfect time to discover the arcadian sounds of Albosel, an ambient folk trio from Nottingham, UK and their new album, Container about to be released on Hawk Moon Records. Theirs is an ethereal and melancholic sound built around pristine guitar lines intertwined with layers of gauzy vocals, and a delicate smattering of electronics, violin, & flute. 

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Travelogue 2016.07.24: Anthéne / Benoît Pioulard / Russel Glynn / Zenjungle

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Four distinctive artists and four distinctive albums. But there are common threads here that make for especially immersive listening – profound stillness, sumptuously layered atmospheres, and expressive drones that suspend time while invoking reflection & reminiscence. Featuring recent or upcoming releases by Anthéne (Brad Deschamps), Benoît Pioulard (aka Thomas Meluch), Russel Glynn, and Zenjungle (Phil Gardelis). 

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Sound Impression: A Sudden Burst of Colour – Ambivalence [Good Grief Records]

The four track EP is a great format for Glaswegian post rock band A Sudden Burst of Colour. It worked a treat on last year’s Waves Will Rise on Silent Water and seems the perfect length to showcase their effulgent brand of instrumental rock laden with incandescent guitars, soaring melodic hooks, and cracking rhythms all of which are on display again in their latest record entitled Ambivalence  – an ironic choice as the music it contains comes across with an abundance of purpose and conviction. .

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