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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Angus MacRae – Cry Wolf [1631 Recordings]

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.

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Seabuckthorn – Turns [Lost Tribe Sound]

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

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Sound Meccano & Jura Laiva – Salty Wind and Inner Fire [Eilean]

With more than half of its 100 map points now filled in, the imaginary island of Eilean has evolved into a remarkably eclectic, globally diverse, and often magical place. Point 80 on the map has been selected by a pair of collaborating musicians from Latvia – sound designer and field recordist Sound Meccano (aka Rostislav Rekuta) and ambient guitarist Jura Laiva. Together they have contrived a vivid collection of soundscapes entitled Salty Wind and Inner Fire.

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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

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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

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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”

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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.

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