yndi halda – A Sun-Coloured Shaker

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If yndi halda was in the market for a new tag line they might consider “no music before its time” (a riff on the 70’s era Orson Wells commercial for Paul Masson wine for any of our readers too young to remember). Consider their resplendent opus Under Summer (2016), which the band worked on over a nine-year span following 2007’s Enjoy Eternal Bliss, clear evidence of their patient willingness to take as long as necessary to nurture their music to the point they feel it is ready to put out into the world. The same can be said of their new single A Sun-Coloured Shaker. In fact, it was that extended period of slowly chipping away at the composition, arrangements, and production of the last record that left the band with what they refer to as “small pockets of music which [they] really loved but had no home for”.  One piece in particular they felt truly belonged with the album but simply needed more time to develop and so they lovingly tended the vine as best they could until the fruit was ready.

“We knew it had to be a part of the album eventually, but also that it needed more time. So, between tours and obligations for Under Summer, we met to continue writing, and we eventually reached our destination: an accompaniment to the album, a new song that tells the leftover stories. We see A Sun-Coloured Shaker as the passing of night that follows Under Summer’s day. The dawn after the album’s dusk has faded. We wanted to express the realization that something as simple and everyday as sunrise can be so truly life-giving. That the natural rhythm of nightfall and daybreak is a foundation of reality and being.” – yndi halda

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Poppy Ackroyd – Resolve [One Little Indian]

Poppy_Ackroyd_Resolve_CoverWhen we got a chance to speak with Poppy Ackroyd this past summer, she was about to release Sketches, an album of solo piano reworks of material from her first two studio albums as well as pieces from an upcoming new work. Now that album has arrived, erasing any possible vestiges of doubt that she is one of the most innovative and exciting artists on the experimental classical scene and a truly distinctive artistic voice.

Resolve finds Poppy building and expanding upon her dynamic and percussive approach to playing the piano in ways both conventional and unconventional. It also find her collaborating in the studio for the first time with other musicians including Manu Delago (Bjork, Cinematic Orchestra, Anoushka Shankar) on hang, Mike Lesirge (Bonobo, Andreya Triana) on clarinets and flute, and Jo Quail on cello. It is a vibrant and mesmerizing record with a positive impetus behind it. 

“Resolve is about the determination to embrace the good things in life whilst dealing with unexpected and challenging difficulties. Finding the light in the dark, facing sadness and loss head on, and developing a growing inner strength.” – Poppy Ackroyd

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Hammock – Columbus (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) / Mysterium

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.

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Maiya Hershey – Tides [Shimmering Moods]

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.

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James Maloney – Gaslight [Moderna Records]

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.

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Chuck Johnson – Balsams [VDSQ]

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.

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yadayn – Adem [Navalorama]

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

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Chiehei Hatakeyama – Mirage [Room40]

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.”

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Emilía – Down to the Sadness River [Rottenman Editions]

Blue is the color and blue is the mood of Down to the Sadness River by Emilía, a new collaboration between Lee YiVanesa 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.

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Video: Sorg Sea by Flying Hórses

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

Manos Milonakis – Festen [Moderna Records]

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.

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Pausal – Avifaunal [Dronarivm]

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.

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