Even with a thesaurus ever just a mouse-click away, one begins to run out of superlatives to describe the music of Aaron Martin. Perhaps it is the unpretentious, organic beauty. Perhaps it is sublime balance between the earthly and the empyrean. Perhaps it is simply that truth resonates in each handmade note, of which not one is ever wasted. If you have heard Aaron’s work, you know exactly what I mean. If you have not, then a wonderful starting point would be his contribution to Touch Dissolves, the album portion of sixth edition of IIKKI Books in which volume is presented as a dialog between two artists, one visual and one musical (the visuals in this edition are provided by Turkish photographer Yusuf Sevinçli).
After putting out two superb albums already this year in Fathoms and Opiates, Texas-based musician Todd Gautreau has pleasantly surprised with yet a third Tapes and Topographies release right on the cusp of the fall equinox. As its title suggests, Insomnia Drones is a suitably soporific offering that lulls the listener into a welcome state of melancholic languor and deep rumination.
A native of Chicago where she is currently based, composer, producer, and musician Lena Natalia spent several years living in Paris and, indeed, much of her music manages to capture that elusive je ne sais quoi and aura of timeless elegance and melancholic romanticism that the mere mention of the city evokes for many. While that remains true on her forthcoming album Lonely Satellite, the new record also finds her displaying new facets to her work right down to the eye-catching cover and the message it conveys.
“The intent is that the cat and the device are both, in fact, “lonely satellites,” seeing each other from their own, very distant vantage points. They are two beings making a connection; there is a sense of longing. They are also both satellites in the sense that they are solitary objects separated from something, somewhere else, while always remaining in each other’s orbit.” – Lena Natalia
The arrival of the Fall equinox in Britain today seems the perfect time to cast a light on a lovely EP just released by Crow Versus Crow, an interdisciplinary project based in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire which also includes a radio show, podcast, and visual design work. Version & Delineation is a collection of improvisational vignettes jointly created by Euan Millar-McMeeken, aka glacis, and Fraser McGowan better known as Caught in the Wake Forever.
“These six short works hinge upon glacis’ raw piano improvisations, recorded, without prior planning or subsequent revision, straight to IPhone Voice Memo software…Using the Make Noise System Cartesian & Akai S20 Sampler to incorporate culled and processed snapshots of domestic minutiae, Caught In The Wake Forever’s intricate abstract compositions mirror the fragility and transient ephemerality of glacis’ piano pieces.” – Crow Versus Crow
In a few short years, New York based musician, producer, and filmmaker KJ Rothweiler has solidly established himself among the serious purveyors of compostional ambient music with a string of captivating albums including the brand new ex now out on Dronarivm and mastered by none other than Rafael Anton Irisarri at his Black Knoll Studio.
Just a piano and a voice. But not just any piano or any voice. The kind of eloquent and expressive piano that stops time and a charismatic voice that stops you in your tracks with its fierce vulnerability. It is this arresting juxtaposition of influences ranging from Satie & Debussy to Fiona Apple & Regina Spektor that defines the latest album by composer and musical force of nature LAVALU. With its intimate presence and starkly beautiful minimalism, Solitary High distinguishes itself from the jazz-pop crossover sound of her critically acclaimed ‘Now’ (2009) and the theatrical music she composed for Het Pauperparadijs (The Pauper’s Paradise)
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