varda-cover copy

Taking its name from a series of guideposts used by Icelandic travelers to navigate in times of extended daylight, Varða roughly translates to “cairn” in English, a reference to the tiny rock towers that serve as trail markers and memorials on the pathways of the wayfarer. The duo of Bergur Þórisson and Pétur Jónsson envisioned such a trek on their second full-length and debut for Sony Music Masterworks as Hugar.

“Similar to those piles of rocks, the songs are like small cairns on the album. It’s not about the destination though, but rather this never-ending journey, which the whole record represents. There was never a plan to make our first album; it just happened. This time around, we set out to make a record that functioned as a whole piece where everything was related. It’s more polished from beginning to end.” – Bergur Þórisson

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Cipa_Retronyms_Edition

Carlos Cipa is a classically trained composer & multi-instrumentalist based in Munich who has scored music for film, dance, and theater and shared the stage with such neoclassical luminaries as HauschkaÓlafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, and Valgeir Sigurdsson. His third solo album, entitled Retronyms, is about to be released on Warner Classics and it will be his first full-length release since 2014’s All Your Life You Walk (Denovali).

The album title is a hint that we are about to see Cipa and his music in a new light. A retronym is essentially a new way of seeing something old, a renaming brought on by changes that require new clarity. For example, consider how acoustic guitars were simply known as guitars until the electric was invented. Retronyms emerge out of  periods of advancement and thus serve as markers of growth and development. Spend a little time with the new album and it becomes apparent why Cipa chose this metaphor. It marks a turning point in his album output, fusing established piano and classical motifs with bold new forays into pop, jazz, and electronic music resulting in his most multi-faceted and imaginative work yet. Continue reading “Track Premiere: Mame by Carlos Cipa”

LowChord_LC01_cover

Low Chord is a new experimental ambient project from Ontario-based producer and multi-instrumentalist Scott Orr and musician Gareth Inkster. Their first release debut next month on Orr’s Other Songs label with an EP entitled LC01. It is a finespun medley of “non-linear compositions” formulated with analog synths, lo-fi field recordings, and beautiful nylon string guitar by Orr intertwined with Inkster’s sparkling improvisations on piano.

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Moderna_Constallations_cover

Tambour is the musical project from Simon P. Castonguay, a Montreal-based composer and self-taught multi-instrumentalist who also has a background in film studies and has done work in the world of theater.  This summer sees the release of Tambour’s third album which was written largely in the fall of 2017 at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and features performances by the Mommies on the run string quartet (Mélanie Bélair, Mélanie Vaugeois, Ligia Paquin, Annie Gadbois) and Pietro Amato (Arcade Fire, Bell Orchestre), who also engineered the record, on french horn. Entitled Constellations (ou comment arrêter le temps), it is meant as both a reflection of the passage of time as well as a window  into Castonguay’s own recent past. The album’s subtitle translates to “or how to stop time” and that is what he does through both the format and compositions that make up the record.

“This collection of five tableaux sees Castonguay reflecting on notions of time ; its passing, the time we have and the time that we don’t, the time we take or choose not to ; time spent waiting after something or someone ; our perceptions of and relation to the world around us (and the stars beyond). Playing with these notions, Castonguay chose to play with the form of the record, configuring the listening experience as one continuous listen from start to finish. The listener is invited to lose themselves in time, and not focus on the bounds of individual tracks.” – Moderna Records

Continue reading “Sound Impression: Constellations (ou comment arrêter le temps) by Tambour”

Aeon_Eilean_cover

In the winter of 2017, pianist and Headphone Commute editor-in-chief Mike Lazarev began an intriguing remote collaboration with Uwe Zahn, better known in experimental music circles as Arovane. Over the next year and a half, the two kindred spirits developed a musical language of their own that has taken form this summer in the release of Aeon on the enigmatic Eilean Rec. imprint. In his London studio, Lazarev would record minimal piano pieces, often late at night, sometimes with the windows open, seeking to capture every sound resonating from the instrument. Zahn then delicately deconstructed these recordings, extracting not only the notes themselves but even the brush of fingers across the keys, the fall of the hammers, or the ‘breathing’ of the strings thus turning them into morphological units for the formulation of new means of expression,

“We both aspired to delve into this instrument and play with all of the sounds living within, as heard from the inside. Many ideas would come from Uwe in the form of a sketch, an aural vocabulary, or a sonic brochure, which I would interpret through a pair of closely placed microphones. There are even fewer melodies and even more spacial pianism on here than in my previous solo reductionist works, which Uwe so masterfully extracted with his experienced ear. In this incredible partnership, we have discovered a new dimension within the piano…”Mike Lazarev

Continue reading “Track Premiere: Unendlich, Endlich by Arovane & Mike Lazarev”

Seascapes-Album-Cover

Having immersed us in the empyrean beauty of the cosmos with last year’s Constellations, BAFTA award-winning composer Jane Antonia Cornish turns her gaze from the heavenly to the pelagic on her new record, an exceptional new collection of cyclical works for piano, strings, bass guitar, & electronics entitled Seascapes. Once again, Cornish achieves a consummate balance between painterly eloquence, cinematic grandeur, and refined minimalist expression as she captures the vastness and wonder of her chosen subject framed in contemplative stillness.

Continue reading “Sound Impression: Seascapes by Jane Antonia Cornish”

PIP_Orchestral_Studies_covers

Since arriving on the scene less than a year ago, Indianapolis-based Past Inside the Present has rolled out a rather dazzling catalog of thoughtful and immersive ambient releases of exceptionally high quality. Among these is a pair of gems under the title of Orchestral Tape Studies. The first record is by “healing sound propagandist” zakè (扎克), an homage to minimalist symphonic composers and orchestras in which fragmented orchestral loops have been compiled and woven together with oscillating repetitive strands of textural ambient drone. The result is a wonderful meditative exploration of liminality and tonality and one of the most serene and beautiful albums you could hope to enjoy.

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When Sony Masterworks releases ‘Reveries‘ by Rob Simonsen in September, it will technically by a debut album, but the Los Angeles based composer’s work should be well known to many.  Having worked with Mychael Danna on movies like 500 Days of Summer (2009) Moneyball (2011) and Life of Pi (2012), Simonsen has gone on to score a number of major independent and feature films such as The Way, Way Back (2013),The Spectacular Now (2013), The Age of Adeline (2015), The Front Runner (2018) and Captive State (2019) to name just a handful.  The album has a rather rich backstory as one might imagine for a composer as experienced and well-traveled as Simonsen, and the more one learns about it, the more apparent what a labor of love Reveries represents.  By his own account it is both a return to Simonsen’s roots escaping into and exploring the piano as youth as well as to an aesthetic he encountered and developed an affinity for while working in Paris and Berlin in recent years.

“I came back to LA and thought, I want to have those conversations here. I want to be able to go to a church and see a little concert. I want to connect more with people doing interesting explorations, and thinking deeply about their art.”

The music shows a clear kinship with the intimately immersive work of such composers as the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, Hauschka, Hildur Guðnadóttir, or Dustin O’Halloran (A Winged Victory for the Sullen), artists who journeyed albeit in the opposite direction, that is to say one of beginning as solo artists before entering the world of film & TV soundtracks. This is clearly evident in the somber, reflective beauty of “Spectre” which debuted along with a dramatic video treatment earlier this summer.  And now the profoundly emotive “Coeur”, the album’s second single, along with part two of a continued visual story are here to be enjoyed in an exclusive premiere.

Continue reading “Video Premiere: “Coeur” by Rob Simonsen”

TVSF_Hothocleana_cover

Since starting his ambient-drone-post rock music project in 2011, M. Beckmann has been making a unique brand of music as the volume settings folder while drawing on the “countryside ambience” of North-East Italy as his main inspiration. As Beckmann tells it, his process usually begins with a spontaneous rush of ideas which he then nurtures through a period of “music seasoning” which can involve months of post-production treatments to come up with the end product. While most of the albums and EPs produced over the past eight years – including some fine bespoke limited editions – have been self-released, there is a label to look to if you want to hear Beckmann’s finest work and that would be Oscarson. It is on this vinyl-centric imprint based in Germany that we find Laguna (2016), his lovely homage to memories of Venice, as well as his most recent album entitled Hothocleana.

Continue reading “Sound Impression: ‘Hothocleana’ by the volume settings folder”