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After dazzling us last year with Solan Goose, the soaring inaugural entry of his poetically inspired Orkney triptych, composer, producer & multi-instrumentalist Erland Cooper and his talented supporting cast return in 2019 to continue the story with another transportive musical portrait of one of the planet’s most enchanting places. Entitled Sule Skerry, the new album shifts perspective from the sky above the Scottish archipelago and its avian fauna to the sea below and the people whose lives & stories are inextricably linked to it. Once again, Cooper commands the expedition using piano, Minimoog, tape loops, field recordings, & electronics supported by his fabulous live ensemble consisting of Anna Phoebe (violin), Jacob Downs (viola), Lottie Greenhow (soprano) and newly added member cellist Klara Schumann withatmospheric embellishments added by Leo Abrahams on ambient guitar.

It’s a record about the sea, our relationship with the outside world, forces outside of our control but it’s also about creating a nest within that, nurturing and protecting our own sea havens, those sheltered bays, those safe places. Always returning back in some form, as we step in and out daily.”

Continue reading “A Sense of Place: Sule Skerry by Erland Cooper”

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Since 2009, William Ryan Fritch has composed music for over 30 feature films and more than a hundred short films as well as releasing over 20 solo records. How does one attempt to showcase such a body of work in a single album and make it cohesive and compelling? Consider Deceptive Cadence: Music For Film Volume I & II a masterclass in just that. At forty-five tracks and a two & a half hour run time, the cleverly titled double album is sourced from material bound to many disparate narratives, yet Fritch has carefully curated the selected compositions in a way that transcends the original context to create something majestic and new, a singular opus that a listener can come to with fresh ears and experience with unfettered joy & wonder.

“Most of those familiar with Fritch, know only of his albums as a singer songwriter or genre-elusive multi-instrumentalist, which truly represent a small fraction of the depth and range of his work. ‘Deceptive Cadence…’ gathers the most remarkable and memorable pieces from Fritch’s vast catalog of film compositions. Rather than filling up two volumes with half assembled film cues and fragmented themes, Fritch has gone to great lengths with ‘Deceptive Cadence…’ to make sure both volumes tell a story, build theme, and create a satisfying full album experience as good as any movie they may have come from. While this music once graced a particular film, show, or commercial, it has all been reimagined, reworked and made whole in post-production to complete the epic narrative of ‘Deceptive Cadence…’ ” – Lost Tribe Sound

Continue reading “Through a Musical Lens: Deceptive Cadence: Music For Film Volume I & II by William Ryan Fritch”

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“I grew up between these hills, under the sun…”

Founded by Taylor Deupree in 1997, the 12k label now has spanned two decades refining its distinctly conceptual approach to experimental music with the intent of providing “a conscious counterpoint to the information overload of the 21st century”. Over that time, one could argue 12k has become more than just a label. It has become both a platform and a community for a group of creators with a shared aesthetic while embracing the distinctive qualities of their respective artistic voices. One of the guiding principles that Deupree has followed in nurturing the label and growing this community is to “evolve constantly, but slowly”.  He has achieved this by continually curating new artists into the fold with an especially discriminating ear. The most recent of these is Michael Grigoni, a composer & multi-instrumentalist originally from the Pacific Northwest, who now lives in Durham, North Carolina and records under the name M. Grig.

Grigoni specializes in dobro, lap steel guitar, and pedal steel guitar and it is his layered, atmospheric approach to these instruments that brings something new to 12k’s sonic domain while managing to fit perfectly into its vision.  Having produced several EPs and done a fair amount of film & session work, Mount Carmel is the first full length album by M. Grig and employs an approach that derives from his study of ethnomusicology while attending the University of Washington which introduced him to ethnography.

“Ethnography is a method for field-based research developed by anthropologists. The method involves spending time with people and learning about different ways of being in the world and taking notes while you do so—jotting impressions, observations, feelings, snippets of speech, sketching maps, landscapes. Putting experience to paper in the moment again and again over a lengthy period of time—for months, sometimes years. This sensibility colors my music; this layering of ideas, feelings, and textures. Something emerges, or is discovered or revealed, through this process. Combing sounds made with an instrument with sounds recorded in the field, blending and enfolding these sources, is deeply satisfying and grounding for me.” M. Grig

Continue reading “A Sense of Place: Mount Carmel by M. Grig”

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Located near the pine forests of southern Mississippi, Laurel was founded in the 19th century as a lumber town and has produced a number of notable actors & musicians in the modern era including opera singer Leontyne Price. It is also here we find talented musician & composer Jameson Nathan Jones quietly doing some really lovely work that fans of modern classical and ambient music will no doubt appreciate. His latest album is a gorgeous foray into the blending of organic elements (piano, cello, and the human voice) with electronics and manipulated tape loops which Jones dubbed Static Deviations.

Continue reading “Sound Impression: Static Deviations by Jameson Nathan Jones”

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Nil Ciuró is a composer and sound designer based in Barcelona who creates music for TV, advertising, motion graphics and short film. Next month he will  be making his second appearance on the 1631 Recordings contemporary classical imprint with a new album entitled Inwards.  The first preview of the new record was the Piano Day 2019 release of the fluttering ballad “Even”, but the second single shows the more kinetic side of Ciuró’s work.

Continue reading “Premiere: Boundaries by Nil Ciuró”

Veins_Cover_3000pxBorn in East Berlin to actor Klaus-Peter Thiele and painter Rosemarie Rautenberg, Valeska Rautenberg grew up living and breathing creativity and has followed that path throughout her life. She started working as an actress at the age of eleven and continued starring in movies and television shows on & off while at school and later during university. During her teen years, however, she discovered music was her true love and since then she has engaged in all aspects of it as an instrumentalist, singer, composer, producer, and teacher.

Rautenberg has also performed in a wide array of settings from pubs & underground clubs to gala events and major venues, but her latest release is an especially personal and intimate one. Part of a series of releases that began in 2017 after taking some time off to tend to her personal life, Veins (Songs for Piano, Wind, & Water) is a collection of four beautiful piano-based vignettes inspired by early morning walks on the streets of Berlin and being attuned to sounds that can easily be drowned out when the city is bustling.  Continue reading “Video Premiere: “Wandering” by Valeska Rautenberg”

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“A week before leaving, I bought a dictionary and phrasebook…”

Under the moniker of Celer, American musician, writer, & photographer Will Long has released a staggering amount of material – a wide assortment of drones, soundscapes, sketchworks, and processed loops. No doubt his many followers each have their own favorites, but personally I always find his work most compelling when he creates deeply immersive on-location narratives such as Sky Limits (2014) which presented a sense of daily commuter life in urban Japan, or Two Days and One Night (2016) which wistfully retraced the steps of an elderly uncle’s tragic visit to Tunisia in the 1984.

Long’s preternatural ability to capture scenes and emotions in a kind of musical amber and then turn it into a story comes to the fore again on Xièxie, in which he takes us on a journey from Shanghai to Hangzou on China’s high-speed rail line. Like a cinematographer who slows fast-moving action on celluloid for dramatic effect, Long turns the journey into a mesmerizing soporific reverie punctuated by scene-setting cues like the bustle of a busy station or the whir of a speeding train. To deepen the immersion, he narrates the excursion in the liner notes with all the eloquence of a novelist.

“Covered in rain, during the days and even the nights, Shanghai was lit in a glow, a mist turning to a constant grey fog. Buildings lined with neon and LCD screens flashed, and from around corners and behind buildings, the night was illuminated much the same as the day. Cars separated the classes, their horns voices punctuating the streets, as pedestrians in groups loosely scattered the streets, talking and walking on speakerphone…”

Continue reading “A Sense of Place: Xièxie by Celer”

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After a little winter hibernation, things are beginning to spring to life over at 1631 Recordings, one of my favorite contemporary classical labels since its inception. In addition to three releases announced in conjunction with Piano Day 2019, the label will be bringing us a collection of brand new reworks of material from Jakob Lindhagen‘s ‘Paces which was originally released in late 2017 (read the ST review here).  While Lindhagen successfully etched the quintessence of long Scandinavian nights into each of the album’s austere, delicate compositions, these carefully curated reworks reveal how just how adaptable they are to new ideas and constructions.  Continue reading “Premiere: Jakob Lindhagen – In The Machinery (Aisling Brouwer Rework)”

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Ian Hawgood‘s name is absolutely inseparable from the contemporary ambient & experimental music scene. His Home Normal label, which just marked its tenth anniversary, is one of the first and still one of the best of its kind. He is also a tireless and kind supporter of other musicians in this space and has had a hand in mastering many of their albums across a wide array of labels. His own solo albums, however, have been few & precious so it comes as great news to see one arrive this spring only a year after last year’s for Eilean Rec. Hawgood himself draws a connection between the two, saying that they are “partners in construction”, the result of patient late-night cultivation over nearly a five-year period spent living in Warsaw and Tokyo before ultimately selling off his entire collection of synths and reels, some of which went to the British Library.  One might argue he saved his best for last as Impermanence is a sublime document of sonic ephemerality and extraordinary filigree in terms of both texture and emotion.

“After many years of in-demand mastering, label curation and collaborative focus Hawgood now offers us a definitive portrait of the technical expertise and personal integrity demanded by exemplary modern tape-based practice…In studios between Tokyo and Warsaw walls of reel-to-reel tape recorders, analogue synthesizers, processed textures and degraded cassette recordings were all carefully coaxed into braiding together their hiss, wow, flutter and warmth into this beautifully flowing nine-chapter arc of delicately unpredictable sound.” – James Murray (Slowcraft Records)

Continue reading “Premiere: “Whispers” from Impermanence by Ian Hawgood”