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.”
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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
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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…”
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Glåsbird is an alluring new project inaugurated, we are told, under a cloak of anonymity by an established artist within the ambient/modern classical scene to focus on chosen themes and develop them into carefully crafted conceptual soundtracks. The first published material from this project was the highly evocative Drift Stations which took a mere ten minutes to put the listener in thrall to the austere beauty of the Arctic Circle. While the EP held its own as a compact narrative, it was also a prelude of much more to come as the “Land Ahead” at the end of its 2-track journey turns out to be the sprawling ice-capped island country of Greenland which is majestically explored on the full-length Grønland now out on Whitelabrecs.
“Glåsbird imagined that they were assigned the task of scoring the soundtrack to a film about Greenland and spent a great deal of time researching the subject. Hours of documentaries, drone helicopter footage, NASA and satellite images, Instagram traveler accounts, 360° photos, web articles and maps were surveyed, to the point where this artist felt sufficiently immersed in this sub-zero but beautiful land…” – Whitelabrecs
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Each of these sixteen albums is conceptually, thematically or musically connected to places or moments in time. While this is a somewhat common motif in instrumental music (ambient in particular), it is absolutely integral in these outstanding works released in 2018. Some are personal narratives and some are depictions of landscape either real or imagined. Others are sonic interrogations or interactions inextricably linked to the locations where they were formed. Whatever their nature, all of them proved captivating and memorable. One might say they represent the very essence of stationary traveling…
Continue reading “2018 In Review: A Sense of Place and Time”
Earlier this year award-winning multi-instrumentalist and producer Erland Cooper released Solan Goose, a magical journey to the Scottish archipelago of Orkney celebrating its landscapes, avian fauna, and local dialect (read the ST review here). Then, this summer he surprised us with an impromptu release of a spontaneous new ambient work based on the original material called Murmuration which he developed in collaboration with musician William Doyle (aka East India Youth). If Solan Goose was the vision, then Murmuration is the dream. One is a vivid and transportive sonic portrait that sweeps the listener up into its exhilarating narrative, the other a haunting, chimerical reverie in which to get completely and pleasurably lost.
“Sound is important to me. Over the years the word ‘murmuration’ has been associated solely with a flock of starlings, but it actually refers to the sonics of a flock of birds. So when Bill Oddie and others say: ‘Let’s go and see this murmuration’, that’s not quite right – you hear it. The theme of this record fits with a particular group of sea birds that, unlike many other birds, spend the first 5-10 years of their lives travelling far and wide out to sea in solitude, before settling down to find a partner and lay a single egg. It’s a recycling or ‘upcycling’ of sounds, themes and layers into a new collaborative work.” – Erland Cooper
Continue reading “Video Premiere: Murmuration by Erland Cooper & William Doyle”
Erland Cooper is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist and producer whose previous projects include The Magnetic North and Erland and the Carnival as well as scoring and producing music for TV & film. Cooper was born and raised far from the urban landscape surrounding his London studio in Orkney, situated just beyond the northern tip of the Scottish mainland. It is a breathtaking locale steeped in folklore, myth, and nautical culture and it is the place to which he returns for his debut solo project called Solan Goose. The album prominently features the area’s avian fauna and the local Orcadian dialect which reflects the intertwining of its Scots and Norse lingual heritage.
“Having grown up on the Scottish archipelago of Orkney, he wrote this work as a response to ease anxiety and claustrophobia working in a city. It explores the borders between electronic, alternative and classical music while creating for him and the listener a work of balance and calm – a kind of liminal space. Each song is entitled with a bird name but in local ‘Orcadian’ dialect. It’s a record to travel to, and evokes themes of migration, restoration and childhood memory.”
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Amidst the teeming diversity and cacophonous sprawl of Los Angeles are scores of people who specialize in making and selling dreams. There is probably no place on earth that has not been imagined or portrayed there and preserved on celluloid. But to truly experience the soul of a place, to connect with it, soak it in, and meaningfully interact with it, you really do need to be there. Perhaps it was with this mindset that Brian Allen Simon aka Anenon packed up his instruments in the spring of 2017 and left behind a roiling political/cultural climate for the serene and picturesque rolling hills of Tuscany, home to millenia of sublime artistic expression and enviable provincial life. There, in a makeshift attic studio on the third story of a 16th century villa in the small town of Palaia he embarked on a month long musical odyssey which resulted in his fourth LP entitled Tongue.
“I live in the city of ephemerality. The omnipresent LA light soaks my mind and body and moves me forward towards a dark and inconsistent absence of remembrance. Around me, histories are bought and sold daily in an unplanned, urban and suburban dwelling that on paper makes zero sense, but in reality has become a haven for wide open creative thinking and action that couldn’t exist anywhere else…I wanted to make music that can live inside of anywhere one finds themselves: city or country. It’s a series of shifting moods and melodies that through the heart, mind, hands, throat, and tongue sing an outpouring of metaphysical, nuanced psychedelic passing truth.” – Brian Allen Simon
Continue reading “A Sense of Place: Anenon – Tongue [Friends of Friends]”
Each of these albums is conceptually, thematically or musically connected to a particular place or time – personal narratives, journeys remembered, or depictions of landscape real or imagined. Each one takes the listener on a journey and immerses them in a unique place or moment in time. One might say they represent the very essence of stationary traveling, which makes them quite to special to this listener in particular…
Continue reading “2017 In Review: A Sense of Place and Time”