Lowercase Noises – The Swiss Illness

It is hard to believe it has been three years since the last full-length Lowercase Noises album.  Chalk part of that up to the ever-increasing speed with which time in general seems to pass these days and the rest up to Andy Othling’s constant efforts to stay in touch with his fans, put on live performances, and regularly share new EPs, improvisations, and videos. But you have to go back to 2014’s This Is For Our Sins to find an album as immersive and conceptually integrated as The Swiss Illness which will be releasing in May.  The theme once is again is a somber one, but the post rock, vocal, and folk elements that served well in telling the tragic story of Russia’s Lykov family give way to a more  contemplative, modern classical leaning style that suits a highly emotional exploration of the emotion of nostalgia even as he exposes the very origins of the word.

I wanted this album to be about death, but it didn’t fit. Instead I expanded on the idea of loss and made it about nostalgia, which for me means the loss of things both large and small, both incredibly heavy and largely inconsequential. I experienced all those things in 2016, and as a result the only thing I could create was a minimal, slowly-evolving and (hopefully) beautiful dive into that feeling. Overlaid is the story and history behind the word “nostalgia”, which was coined by doctors studying Swiss mercenaries far away from home, and the physical ailments brought on by their feelings. – Andy Othling

Continue reading

Hotel Neon – Context [Fluid Audio]

Whoever said “don’t sweat the small stuff” surely was not talking about ambient music. When it comes to this genre, nuances can make all the difference between a bland listening experience and a compelling one. For an outstanding example of the latter, consider Context, the forthcoming third album by Hotel Neon, the Philadelphia-based trio of Michael Tasselmyer, Andrew Tasselmyer & Steven Kemner. Speaking of his own ambient music, Brian Eno once suggested that it should “accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular”, a characteristic very much on display here. It was the band’s choice on this record not to thrust any particular narrative on the listener but rather, as the album title suggests, to provide a context to which they could connect to their own.  Spend an hour or so with these warm, heavily textured crepuscular drones and you are likely to agree it is mission accomplished.

“Context is arguably the only thing that gives a song its meaning in the mind of a listener. The direct message of a track title has disappeared. Vague symbols have usurped them, unable as they are to contain any kind of subliminal message. As a result of this, the listener has been given a lot more freedom to interpret the music as they see fit – they put the ambient washes of sound into a context of their own making. ” – Fluid Audio

Continue reading

Hauschka – What If [City Slang / Temporary Residence]

One of the most recognizable 21st Century proponents of prepared piano music, Volker Bertelmann aka Hauschkareturns with his first full-length studio album since 2014’s Abandoned City.  It is not as if he has not been otherwise occupied during the intervening time. Quite the opposite in fact. He has been touring, curating festivals, collaborating on special performances, and composing soundtracks such as the Oscar-nominated score for “Lion” with Dustin O’Halloran, not to mention releasing a live album, a collection of remixes, and an EP. So, perhaps it is remarkable that he ever found the time to create What If which is now on the cusp of its official release.

“I definitely decided with What If to make a record that might be my most radical. The lyrical piano has disappeared, and the sounds I’m fascinated by – like noise and electronic elements – have taken over”

Continue reading

Daigo Hanada – Ichiru [Moderna Records]

Based in Montreal, Québec, Moderna Records is a recently founded label that has quickly established itself as a home for wonderful new voices in experimental and modern classical composition. Having introduced many listeners to artists such as Veronique Vaka, Ed Carlsen, and Tim Linghaus, they do it yet again with the debut solo album by Japanese composer & pianist Daigo Hanada. Written in Berlin and Tokyo over the course of a year, Ichiru is a collection of intimate vignettes recorded with only an upright piano, a pair of microphones and two hands.

Continue reading

Paddy Mulcahy – The Words She Said

On his most fully realized album to date, composer/producer Paddy Mulcahy offers up eight beautiful experiments in juxtaposing solo piano minimalism with vibrant synthesizer constructions. While some of his previous releases demonstrated Mulcahy quite capable of inventively sketching and improvising in a compressed time frame, the music on The Words She Said was cultivated over a two-year period

The album was started in the Summer of 2015 during a recording trip around Germany and London. Paddy then continued to work on the album while finishing his BSc degree in Music Production at Limerick Institute Of Technology. The album was inspired by the similarities and contrasts between pianos and synthesizers, and this relationship was conveyed through the use of various recording and mixing techniques.

Continue reading

Josh Mason & Nathan McLaughlin – On the Brink [Eilean Rec]

cover

Collaborative releases are not the mainstay of the Eilean Rec. label, but when they appear, they are always something special. The latest of such is On the Brink which brings together two authentic sonic explorers from the eastern seaboard of the USA – Josh Mason (Jacksonville, FL) and Nathan McLaughlin (Hudson, NY). The album is a metaphorical journey from a unique perspective that examines the state of mind as one faces the possibility of failure.

“…we traveled together with the wind on our faces, holes in our shoes and short that one layer that can provide the necessary comforts we tend to rely upon. raw nerves, biting hunger and a drive to see the unknown corners kept us moving forward. we can offer these markers and surveys as proof of our trip and as evidence of what lies slightly beyond our immediate purview but with a combined effort – within reach.” – Nathan McLaughlin & Josh Mason

Continue reading

Dear Avalanche – Lights & Motion [Deep Elm]

Four years ago Christoffer Franzen released his debut album as Lights & Motion. Reanimation was the culmination of many months of long Scandinavian nights spent in the studio composing, performing, and engineering an uplifting and distinctly cinematic style of post rock to the delight of a close-knit group of fans gathered on social media who knew they were hearing something special from the first snippets and fragments that emerged during the embryonic stages. As much a fan of Hans Zimmer as Explosions in the Sky, the ever-prolific Franzen has gone on to a release a trio of albums of music oriented towards film & television under his own name along with three more Lights & Motion records, the newest of which is entitled Dear Avalanche.

“While it may sound paradoxical because an avalanche is so dangerous, it reminds me that there is always a precious silver lining in everything that happens. Events in your life will threaten to overpower you, but there is strength in facing them head on, accepting them for what they are and choosing always to look for the positive message in all the hardship and struggle. I hope people listening to this album will feel like they’ve been taken on a journey, as I worked hard at creating a world of sonic panoramas to get lost in.” – Christoffer Franzen

Continue reading

Glories – There Is No Stillness

Finding the right balance between continuity and change is challenge all bands have to face once they establish themselves with an audience. Change too much and risk losing your artistic identity; change too little and risk boredom and stagnation. But find the right balance and it can be a beautiful trajectory, which I would argue is the case when it comes Glories as the prepare to release their third full-length record, There Is No Stillness. The key elements that have endeared the Birmingham, Alabama based band to so many post rock music fans remain firmly in place, but enough has changed to endow the album with a luster of freshness and excitement.

Continue reading

North End – Alpha State [AM 800 Sound]

Listening to the taut, lightning-quick interplay of instrumental rock band North End on their new album Alpha State, it seems impossible to imagine they did not record it in the same room feeding off each other’s energy, making eye contact, and communicating in the seemingly telepathic way of kindred spirits who are used to performing together. But that is hot how the new record came together at all. Whereas the band members were once co-located within a 20 mile radius near Philadelphia, life changes scattered them around the country forcing them to find new ways to collaborate if they were to continue, a challenge they embraced with the same unbridled enthusiasm that characterizes their music.

Life changes quickly, in a positive way, if you let it, and Alpha State is a culmination of these changes manifesting into the style of music we love to write, play and share….Drums were tracked in KB’s basement, guitars, some keys, and bass were tracked at Pete’s house, mixes were generated by Kam while still in an RV in Yellowstone and tracks were mastered by Paul Gold of Salt Mastering in Greenpoint Brooklyn. If you listen to the closing moments of “Imperial” you can hear the faint sound of rain captured by a single microphone in the park as Kam wrapped up the final edits during mixing.” – North End

Continue reading

Alejandro Bento – Ripples [Subtempo Records]

Since this blog began only a few odd years ago, we’ve seen the emergence of some wonderful new labels which are now fixtures on these pages – Eilean Rec., Moderna Records, and 1631 Recordings to name a few. But there is plenty of room for new voices and new ideas as evidenced by the recent arrival of Subtempo Records on the scene. The label founded last year by Rocco Tyndale will be focused on “left-field leaning, classical and electronic” music coupled with a strong focus on visual art and an emphasis on creating “long lasting pieces of art” and their first physical release is a delightful EP by Alejandro Bento, a self-taught pianist from Spain who also records electronic music as Axel Toben. Ripples is a triptych of solo piano pieces accompanied by a remix contributed by award-winning producer/composer Robot Koch. The heartfelt sentiments that come across in the music are just as Bento intended.  

“These songs speak of origins and horizons. But most of all, they speak of love, friendship and care, of presence and joy. They speak of following the heartbeat and believing in one’s self and in others.” – Alejandro Bento

Continue reading

Alex Kozobolis – Weightless [Futuresequence]

Alex Kozobolis could be seen as something of a creative nomad and a sort of renaissance man. He is a filmmaker and an outstanding photographer whose work runs the gamut from capturing fellow musicians in portrait and live performance, artistic album covers, and mesmerizing abstract images. He also composes music which until now had only been released in digital form. That changes with his forthcoming new record entitled Weightless, a collection of four solo piano miniatures followed by comparatively more expansive reworks created by Tom Adams, Siavash Amini, Hedia, and Transept which is to be released in striking vinyl and CD editions.

“The remixes and their respective artists were meticulously considered and approached with the intention of creating a cohesive album rather than a fundamentally detached congregation of unrelated pieces of music. Each artist was asked to interpret not only the music but also the title of the tracks..  The result, i think, and hope, is something which you’ll be able to listen to from start to finish and feel consistently engaged by…” – Alex Kozobolis

Continue reading

Stefano Guzzetti – Escape (music for a ballet) / Leaf / Waiting for Spring

Ensconced in the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean and surrounded by fabulous cities such as Rome, Naples, Barcelona, Valencia, and Marseille, one is tempted to imagine a blissfully idyllic existence on the island of Sardinia, but it is home to one of the most industrious and prolific modern classical on the scene today in  Stefano Guzzetti. In addition to scores & sound design for short films, applications, and video games, he has put out 3 full-length releases in 2016, the most recent being Escape (music for a ballet), which features music he composed for the ‘Escape’ aerial dance performance by LCP Dance Theatre performed in London and at Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  As a result of positive feedback from those shows, he edited and distilled the music into shorter pieces suitable for an album-like listening experience and offered them in an eye-catching CD package.

Continue reading