Sound Impression: Paces by Jakob Lindhagen

Jakob_Lindhagen_Paces

After providing the music to films such as the 2017 Cannes-nominee ”Push it” and the Guldbagge-awarded/ Prix Europa-nominated ”Skörheten” (Fragility), Stockholm-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Jakob Lindhagen has just released a new full-length solo album called Paces. It features nine pieces led by piano & string trio and colored with unexpected instrumentation such as musical saw and zither as well as other sounds resulting from both deliberate experimentation and happenstance.

”I was recording with equipment that wasn’t always functioning properly. For example, one microphone occasionally started to pick up radio frequencies. At times it was really faint and turned out to be a detail just adding to the overall impression, so I decided to keep it. Other times it was really “in your face”, instead inspiring me to incorporate it into the composition” – Jakob Lindhagen

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Travelogue 2017.09.17: A Summer of Eilean

It has been a little while – too long in fact – since we have visited the shores of the Eilean, an imaginary territory the map of which is now dotted & colored by 60 albums covering a broad and eclectic spectrum of ambient, electroacoustic, and modern classical music. The label saw five outstanding releases over the summer months by Bill Seaman, Toàn, Josco & Spheruleus, Francesco Giannico & Giulio Aldinucci, and Monty Adkins and has begun the transition to autumn with an exceptional debut record by Cicely Irvine. Here is a brief synopsis of each along with selected tracks for the reader to explore as well as links to the artists whose work is featured on the covers where available. (Note: most of these limited editions sold out soon after their release, but some may be available in small quantities; check the linked Bandcamp pages for details).

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Sound Impression: This Body Is Not Me by Slow Heart Music [Whitelabrecs]

The first thing that strikes you on This Body Is Not Me by Slow Heart Music (aka Ben Rath) are the mellifluous tones that resonate with a sun-soaked, pastoral warmth from the wooden body of an impeccably tuned guitar. The tunes are brand new yet instantly take on the aura of the timeless and familiar. This subtle sorcery becomes even more impressive when you learn that Rath improvised these pieces, many in a single take, using a second-hand instrument picked up on the cheap.

“Slow Heart Music was conceived as a way to create music in a more spontaneous and live way, with minimal electronic interference and using a basic, lo-fi set-up. The tracks on ‘This Body Is Not Me’ were recorded on a small classical guitar Ben purchased for £5 from a bring-and-buy sale in the basement of a cafe. Ben would improvise on this guitar in a relatively free and unstructured way until a theme or melody organically developed. He’d then press record on a digital audio recorder and create a spontaneous composition out of that theme.” – Whitelabrecs

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From the Mouth of the Sun – Hymn Binding [Lost Tribe Sound]

Hymn Binding marks the third full-length album by From the Mouth of the Sun, a collaboration formed in 2011 by Aaron Martin and Dag Rosenqvist. It also marks a new zenith in the potency of their alchemic fusion of acoustic sound sources (cello, piano, acoustic guitars, lap steel, banjo, ukulele, singing bowls, and pump organ) into creations of otherworldly beauty and stirring emotion. Organic by its very nature, it is a process which Rosenqvist explains requires the musician to be willing to embrace forces over which they do not have complete control:

“There’s something very beautiful and rewarding to working with acoustic sound sources. Because when you record them, you never know what you’re going get, and you can never repeat it exactly the same way. The wood in the instrument changes from air pressure and with different temperatures. You change your sitting position from one take to another and all of a sudden it sounds slightly different. You move the microphone or you move something in the room and it sounds slightly different. Acoustic sound sources allow for chaos to be a part of the creative process, allowing for something you can never fully control.” – Dag Rosenqvist

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Through a Musical Lens: Loving Vincent OST by Clint Mansell [Milan Records]

Oddly enough, I don’t remember which painting it was, but I will never forget the way it felt to stand for the first time in front of an original Van Gogh at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. In some ways it was a disorienting experience. I recall becoming light-headed as if the colors & textures on canvas were alive and in perpetual motion. This phenomenon proved to be no fluke as I found in subsequent opportunities to view his work in person again years later at the VMFA’s Art of the Flower exhibition and again during a first visit to the Art Institute of Chicago.

I am sure I am far from being  alone in being so viscerally affected by the vibrancy of Van Gogh’s work. In fact, there is now a stunning new film that goes so far as to literally bring many of the his paintings to life even as it purports to tell the story of the events leading to his tragic early death. Written & directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, their animated film Loving Vincent was meticulously hand-painted by a team of 115 artists.

“Loving Vincent is the upcoming biographical animated film from newcomer directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman about Vincent van Gogh’s final days and the attempt by an acquaintance of his son (played by Douglas Booth) to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. A film unlike any other, it is entirely hand painted – each of the movie’s 65,000 frames is an oil painting on a canvas created using the same techniques as Vincent van Gogh.”

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Duologue: A conversation with Francesco Berta

Francesco Berta is  a music composer, multi-instrumentalist, and visual artist from Italy and currently living in London. While his earliest albums featured a generous amount of exhilarating instrumental rock, since 2014 he has focused increasingly on compositional forms producing some truly beautiful and compelling work. In 2017, Francesco undertook an ambitious project in which he challenged himself to release new material on a monthly basis for the entire year, an effort that has seen 7 new releases so far (find them all here).  We got a chance to catch up with Francesco to talk about the project as well as his frank & insightful views on the process of composing and his participation in the 10th annual Film Music Festival in Krakow.  

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Travelogue 2017.09.03: As Summer Fades

It is time for the slow fade of summer. The northern hemisphere starts to tilt away from the burning sun and the slanted light begins to take on a golden tint in the afternoons. The comforting crisp austerity of autumn awaits, but it is still warm, hazy, and verdant and a fine time to sink into languid, introspective sounds of the kind of delicate construction that can be found on the six albums featured here – a trio from the Whitelabrecs label by Ludmila, Steve Pacheco, and Floor Overhead along with EPs by M. Grig and Josh Mason, and a forthcoming October release by Ghost and Tape on Home Normal

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PREMIERE: “Ruts” by Tristan Eckerson [1631 Recordings]

No matter how many solo piano pieces I listen to, I never cease to be amazed how musicians can channel so much of their own individual character through the same single instrument and weave so many intangible qualities into the notes and hammer strokes. As I listened to the music on Tristan Eckerson‘s new album Disarm, I found myself laboring to articulate what those intangibles were – that is until I read his bio.

The composer is currently based in the lovely mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina but was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and 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 multiple groups on both U.S. Coasts recording with members of the Ray Charles Orchestra, writing string arrangements for the Magik*Magik Orchestra, and performing at numerous music halls & festivals. And then it suddenly seemed obvious what I was hearing woven in and around the notes was a kind of restlessness, a sense of wanderlust and hunger for new experience.

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Travelogue 2017.08.20: Topographies of the Soul

Ambient music, when masterfully constructed and emotionally invested, has the power to cross inner oceans, map out the topographies of the soul, and expose the deep strata of memory. This introspective listening journey consists of a quartet of releases that do just that. Featuring the intricately woven and emotive soundscapes of Tapes and Topographies (Todd Gautreau), Bird Traps (Marcus Skinner), Wil Bolton, and James Murray.

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Sound Impression: In Distance We Are Losing by Alaskan Tapes

The suited man toting a bag across a barren landscape on the cover of In Distance We Are Losing speaks volumes about stark emotional tone of this new album from Alaskan Tapes, a project from musician Brady Kendall out of Toronto, Canada. If you have heard his music before, you know there are going to be moments of arresting beauty and ethereal interludes, but there is a sense of isolation, preoccupation, and distraction present in these tracks that tugs in another direction while the visceral presence of the cello parts contributed by Raphael Weinroth-Browne lend as much rawness as eloquence to the proceedings.

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Travelogue 2017.08.07: Spotlight on Home Normal

Since its founding in 2009, Home Normal has consistently been one of the shining lights on the landscape of experimental ambient & electronic music. Conscientiously curated and uncompromisingly supportive of its artists, it is more than a label; it is a hub for a community of artists and mindful listeners who appreciate thoughtfully crafted, emotionally honest music.

“Based in Japan, the label was run as a way to connect to a sense of what ‘home’ and ‘normal’ could mean to someone who was in what was essentially an alien environment to them. The focus of the label was to release the ambient and electronic works of friends within the live scene we were part of in Tokyo and the surrounding areas, but soon expanded to include the work of many artists worldwide…We see the label as a family of friends who work together to create unique works that have a hold and impact on whoever can take their time to absorb our music and aesthetic” 

Featured here are recent & upcoming releases by Ian Hawgood + Wil Bolton,  Giulio Fagiolini, and Jason Van Wyk,

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Video Premiere: ‘Esquisse IV’ by Dominique Charpentier

Earlier this summer, French pianist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Dominique Charpentier released an EP consisted of five songs each of which was developed in less than two hours. He chose this format as an experiment in form and a personal challenge. While compressing the creative process into a fixed time always risks an uncertain outcome, in this case it produced an enchanting quintet of piano-based pieces with a touch of melancholy and a touch of musette so as to weave a spell of melancholic and nostalgic romance in the space of twelve minutes.

Inspired by the music, the folks at Piano & Coffee have created a video to accompany songs using a montage of grainy, sepia-toned footage shot around a bustling 1970’s Paris turning “Esquisse IV” into a plaintive scrapbook of shared memory. Continue reading