Few artists in the world of instrumental music have a compass as locked on to true north as Hammock. For years, this Nashville-based project of Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson has served up a rich sonic feast spanning the genres of ambient, post-rock, and modern classical while resonating with heartfelt, and often heart-wrenching, emotion. Perhaps what they are capable of was summed up best and most succinctly in a comment to one of their recent videos where the listener said “Hammock has this way of telling you, ‘Everything will be okay.’, in the most beautiful way possible”. And in 2017 we have a double helping of new work from the band, an original motion picture soundtrack and a full-length studio album.
If you visit the Soundcloud page of Lebanese sound producer and visual artist Maiya Hershey, you’ll find a veritable menagerie of beautiful experiments in ambient & electronic music and other sonic ephemera constructed from piano, loops, and voice. There is arguably enough material there to have allowed her to cobble together a complete album, but her full-length debut demonstrates she was willing to be patient enough to develop something truly substantial and cohesive. Tides is presented as a fictional story whose protagonist is an unseen creature born from deep waters that “inherited all of human consciousness and memory” and it possesses all the strange, otherworldly beauty such a concept portends.
The field of film & theater composers releasing debut albums of original compositions is ever-growing. For lovers of indie, modern, & post-classical music it is a healthy trend that means we are increasingly spoiled for choice, but it also raises the bar for the kinds of creativity and inventiveness needed to keep the genre fresh and compelling. That is where artists like James Maloney come in.
Originally from Birmingham, having studied music at Oxford, and now the Music Associate at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Maloney has just released his debut solo record entitled Gaslight on Moderna Records. Conceived of largely at night as a reaction to the noise and the pace of city life and built around a closely mic’d old piano accompanied by trumpet, vibraphone, & glockenspiel, it sparkles with that elusive lustre of pure inspiration and effortless enchantment.
Few sounds evoke soulful yearning and rural landscapes as the venerable pedal steel guitar. For many listeners its dreamy, tremulous twang is inextricably wound into the roots & branches of country and western music, but over the years some have creatively sought to unshackle it in other genres and contexts. I dare say none of them have turned out as beguiling and restorative as what Chuck Johnson coaxed from the instrument to create the tone paintings and soundscapes on his latest album entitled Balsams.
The early days of summer bring with them the warm sounds of Gowaart Van Den Bossche’s solo guitar project yadayn in the form of his fourth album entitled Adem. The spirit of the word, which means ‘breath’ in Dutch, permeates the music which has been conceptualized as two suites divided into six tracks. The song titles reflect the key elements of the short poem that accompanies the liner notes (a rare two-line haiku?) – hear, space, sea, breath, time, feel.
Hoor de Ruimte die de Zee Ademt,
alsof je Tijd Voelt
Hear the space that breathes the sea,
As if you feel time
The inspiration for Chihei Hatakeyama’s Mirage came during a trip to Turkey taken by the artist about five years ago. The diverse & exotic architectures, streets, bazaars, and waterways were no doubt a feast for the eyes, but it was what Hatakeyama heard with his keen musical ear that spurred the creation of the new album. Framed as “a meditation on the phenomenology of music and architecture” it explores the way sound is shaped and influenced as it traverses and mingles with the surrounding structures.
“Walking through the labyrinthian bazaars of Turkey, Hatakeyama took inspiration from the way sounds emerged and decayed within those spaces. Looking to replicate these experiences in the creation of the album, he developed a series of new processes and transformations that expanded his approach to textural music.”
Blue is the color and blue is the mood of Down to the Sadness River by Emilía, a new collaboration between Lee Yi & Vanesa Jimenez (aka Meneh Peh). The album is being released on the multi-disciplinary Rottenman Editions which was founded by Jimenez and where you can also find their 2012 recording under the moniker Niñocometa along with Yi’s lovely Motet EP from earlier this year. The album’s description alludes to “a painful life” and “a suffering past, tragedy and the slow search of the long road to stillness” and while the artists respect their own privacy regarding the details, there are poignant clues in the song titles and there is certainly nothing held back in the haunting intensity of the music.
Nearly two years after Tölt, the debut release of Montreal composer Jade Beregron’s solo project Flying Hórses, she returns in stunning form with an eleven-plus minute epic single called Sorg Sea. It is not that she has not been busy in the interim. Bergeron was invited to play Iceland Airwaves Music Festival in 2015 as well as the world-renowned Festival International de Jazz de Montreal in 2016 before joining The Banff Centre for Performance Art for their Independent Music Residency later that year to work and collaborate with Juno award-winner Charles Spearin (Broken Social Scene, Do Make Say Think) who is among the guest musicians on the new piece. Also performing are Alex Mah (cello), Kathleen Edwards (gutiar), and Brock Geiger (double bass) while Efrim Menuck (GYBE, Silver Mt. Zion) helmed the mixing controls. Continue reading
Festen is the third solo work by Manos Milonakis, a composer/producer/performer and architect born & raised in the Greek port city of Thessaloniki. It is his original score for the theatrical adaptation of Thomas Vinterberg’s 1998 film of the same name which premiered last November at the National Theatre of Northern Greece. Milonakis spent 3 months of theatrical rehearsals and studio work fusing the sounds of piano, persephone, synthesizer, glockenspiel, violin, viola, cello, guitar, and theremin with programmed beats and loop processing into his score which has now been marvelously condensed into album form for release by Moderna Records.
Imagine the textured, aerated drones of Sky Margin (Own Records, 2013) and the pastoral romanticism of Along the Mantic Spring (Infraction, 2014) fused into a single amalgam and then elevated into a dazzling, symphonic edifice of sound. Avifaunal is the brand new lush and expansive musical narrative created by Alex Smalley (aka Olan Mill) and Simon Bainton under their collaborative moniker of Pausal now out on Dronarivm. The grandiosity of the new record has its origins in a live performance a couple of years prior at a venue which invited experimentation on a large sonic scale.
In 2015 the band were asked by Martin Boulton of Touched Music to perform in Pembrokeshire, Wales and set about generating new material for the show. It was also an opportunity to develop a new equipment setup including looped turntable, voice microphones and synths. A local hall was hired for improvisation and practice sessions which provided an interesting sonic space to explore and possibilities to work at far louder volumes, both of which helped shape the eventual live set and the track “Murmuration” as that is represented here. “Spiral”, “Scatter” and “Soar” were also edited and assembled from the recording sessions around this time.
Even if you don’t know the name, there is a very good chance you’ve heard the music of composer Angus MacRae before. His compositions have graced films & commercials ranging from the BBC to companies like Sony, Toyota & Vodaphone while he has also written for a wide variety of live arts performances across Europe including theater and dance. Having released a pair of studio EPs in 2015 which saw a combined digital release last year on 1631 Recordings, he returns to the format and the label with a beautiful collection of modern classical vignettes entitled Cry Wolf.
When the resonator guitar was first invented, it was to address a simple, practical need to help guitar players be heard in ensemble settings and cut through the din of the noisy venues where they performed. There are many other ways to address such needs these days, but none that offer the distinctive sound this instrument generates. Used traditionally, it instantly adds an earthiness and authentic Americana flavor to almost any piece of music. In the hands of Andy Cartwright (aka Seabuckthorn) however it is something else entirely – a seemingly bottomless well of unbridled creativity and a veritable builder of worlds. On his third full-length album entitled Turns, Cartwright adds a new dimension to the peregrine narratives and wide-screen atmospheres he created on I Could See the Smoke and They Haunted Most Thickly to create his most complete artistic statement yet.
‘Turns’ is far more of a cerebral experience than its predecessors. transitioning seamlessly between hypnotic long-form pieces, minimal harp-like ballads and the primal stomping world-builders that have become Seabuckthorn’s calling card. – Lost Tribe Sound