Through a musical lens: øjeRum – He remembers there were gardens [KrysaliSound]

Originally released on cassette in 2013, Italian label KrysaliSound has remastered and reissued a mesmerizing long form composition by Danish collage artist & musician Paw Grabowski under his artistic pseudonym of øjeRum. An undulating, hypnagogic organ-based drone, He remembers there were gardens was conceived as an alternate soundtrack to the 1962 “photo-roman” (photo-novel) La Jetée by Chris Marker which is still recognized as a unique and highly influential experimental cinematic work

The film, presented in a series of stills, paints a dystopian vision of post-apocalyptic Paris where survivors live underground below the galleries of the Palais de Chaillot. Its protagonist is a man who is held captive and forced to travel time in a quest to find a source of energy to regenerate a decimated society. The man is chosen because of the power of his obsession with the past, specifically the allure of a fragmented, pre-war memory of a woman on the observation platform (“the jetty”) at Orly Airport and a tragic incident that occurs there which becomes the focal point of the story’s haunting denouement.

“Those familiar with the film with have no difficulty in recalling the flashes of a destroyed world, the status of the museum, and the moment on the platform. Even if you haven’t seen the film, the breathing of Grabowski’s organ will conjure similar images and moments. It fluctuates between the drifts and falls and the throb and hum of a person lost in time and place.” – KrysaliSound

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Through A Musical Lens: CEEYS – Concrete Fields [1631 Recordings]

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After giving us a taste last year of their new modern classical project with The Grunewald Church Session, brothers Sebastian and Daniel Selke are about to release their full-length studio debut album entitled Concrete Fields as CEEYS. The moniker they chose is a neologism forged from references  to their respective instruments – a combination of the French spelling for cello (‘violoncelle’) played by Sebastian and ‘keys’, of which Daniel uses a wide variety in constructing their distinctive narratives including a 1912 Steinway and some intriguing vintage gear. But sound is only part of the story the Selke’s have to tell. Concrete Fields is in fact the first installment of a triptych and incorporates images & videos to resonate their experience growing up in a prefab estate in East Germany and navigating dramatic personal, political,. and cultural change.

“It is our remembrance of a childhood growing up in Europe’s largest prefab estate Marzahn-Hellersdorf, Berlin, East Germany…After the ‘quiet’ revolution in 1989 and the fall of the wall, and throughout the 90s, the region always kept a blend of an edgy feeling of departure and a vague melancholy. We like that the politics tried lots of things to bring more colour and life into the post-revolutionary landscape, but the strange feeling never fully left us. To carefully handle all the different facets of this time period we decided to release our musical version of what the Germans call ‘Betonfelder’ in the form of a trilogy spread across the next few years.” – CEEYS

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Through a Musical Lens: Spheruleus – Obsolarium [Whitelabrecs]

The old Sleaford Bass Maltings brewery complex in Lincolnshire stopped being used for its originally intended purpose in the 1950’s and has been derelict for nearly a quarter century, its imposing brick malthouses, water towers, and kilns now no more than a mute echo of the bustling hub of local industry it once was. Its Grade II listing status is evidence of the interest taken in its distinctive historical and architectural characteristics while it has also shown allure to enthusiasts of abandoned places as well as those with an eye towards future redevelopment (which has yet to come to fruition).

Harry Towell, aka Spheruleus, on the other hand, found musical inspiration here. Using a plethora of analog and electronic sound sources (acoustic instruments, samples, drone loops, an out of tune piano at a local pub, a de-tuned piano belonging to a  friend, a violin, classical guitar, voice, harmonica, zither, a warped music box, a cello iPad app, and vinyl samples), he brings that inspiration to life in a unique sonic portrait called Obsolarium.

“Obsolarium tells a story starting with the commercial success of a powerful brewery, the rail links used to distribute the produce before descending into a melancholy reflection of what once was, accompanied all the while with a crumbling disintegration. Whilst everything unravels and fragments, the series of structures remain.”

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Through a Musical Lens: Danny Clay and Katrien De Blauwer – Stills [IIKKI]

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A little over 2 years ago, Mathias Van Eecloo launched Eilean Rec. The label already has over 40 albums in its catalog, nearly halfway to the 100 releases planned as part of its unique concept, and has garnered a well-deserved and devoted following thanks to its imaginative premise, overarching design motifs by Rémi Verdier, and a consistent musical aesthetic which seems to inspire something special every artist that contributes. With that project running now at a steady hum, Van Eecloo & Verdier have opted to embark on something new with a different scheme but a kindred spirit to Eilean. IIKKI is an “edition project” in which each release is the result of a collaborative dialog between a visual and musical artist beginning with Stills featuring the work of Katrien De Blauwer and Danny Clay.

Katrien De Blauwer calls herself a “photographer without a camera.” The Belgian artist collects and recycles pictures and photos from old magazines and newspapers to create stunning collages of distant mood and place. These fragmentary images evoke faded memories that are quickly brought to the fore. In turn, the viewer becomes a character in De Blauwer’s stories. Danny Clay is a composer and sound artist from Ohio, currently based in San Francisco. His works frequently utilize open forms, archival media, found objects, toy instruments, analogue and digital errata, family history, graphic notation, and the everything-in-between. Stills is their dialog. – IIKKI

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Through a Musical Lens: North Atlantic Explorers

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In 2005, Glenn D’Cruze stepped out from behind the drum kit where he supported of a variety of Vancouver based bands and launched his own called North Atlantic Explorers along with Jonathan AndersonAfter the debut record (Skylines), the project remained quiet until 2014 when they returned with the first of an ambitious brace of conceptually related albums called My Father Was a Sailor.. Now, with release of the purely instrumental All the Ships At Sea, the musical diptych is completeThe albums are bound by their source of inspiration – D’Cruze’s late father’s life at sea with the British Merchant Navy:

As a young man, my father left his parents and eight siblings in a faraway country and set out to see the world. He arrived in Glasgow, Scotland circa 1952 to begin a life as an engineer with the British Merchant Navy and he spent the better part of a decade on the steamer ships. Upon returning from the sea, he fell in love with and married a stenographer and began a new life in Canada. But that was a lifetime ago…I can only wonder, and I often do, what life was like for him as a young man sailing out to distant seas and being out at sea for endless days” – Glenn D’Cruze

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Through a musical lens: Francesco Giannico – Metrophony [Time Released Sound]

“Through a musical lens” is a short series of reviews focusing on albums that present and explore human experience through music. Each album incorporates field recordings, ephemera, or motifs that revolve around everyday life and memory thus creating an especially intimate connection between their transportive sounds and the listener. 

Metrophony by Francesco Giannico

In August of 2013, electroacoustic musician and video artist Francesco Giannico recorded the entire route of the “B” line of the subway in the city of Rome, that connects the Rebibbia station with the Laurentina station, and the “B1″ line that connects the Bologna station with the Conca D ‘Oro station.  He then transformed those samples electronically and enriched them with additional instrumentation to produce an utterly absorbing cinematic musical journey for an album and art installation called Metrophony.

The album is presented as a single long form piece which lasts about 40 minutes. It begins exactly as one might expect, with a chattering voices and mechanical sounds that instantly place the listener inside a bustling subway station.  What the first time listener may not expect, however, is just how absorbing and engaging the narrative is about to become as the first musical coda arrives.  As the doors to the train hiss open, strings of reverberating guitar are patiently plucked and suddenly everything slows down.  The cacophony of the crowd recedes into the background and, gradually, synth tones begin to flower. The listener is no longer a passenger, but a transcendent and melancholic observer.

To be compelling, a narrative requires a certain amount of conflict, however subtle it may be. Giannico explains the duality that drives the narrative of Metrophony.  “The metro trip represents a dynamic soundscape in conflict with a static soundscape boxed in itself with a lot of samples already listened in a circular way like the mechanical sounds, doors of the train, train brakes and so on.”

It certainly helps that the dynamic musical elements are so gorgeous. Lovely guitar textures, lush swells of synthesizer, and doleful strings dovetail with sounds of the journey.  Between stations, the hypnotic rhythm of the tracks becomes a part of the music. For the most part, the stillness of reverie prevails, but periodically we awaken from the daydream to the sound of braking cars, opening doors, station announcements, new passengers shuffling on board, and the occasional laugh or loud talker. What Giannico has created here is so spellbinding that 40 minutes goes by surprisingly quickly.  In fact, Metrophony has turned out to be one of the most satisfying ambient records this listener has enjoyed all year.

Metrophony is available through Time Released Sound who specialize in artfully bespoke hand made releases. The deluxe limited version (only 75 copies) comes in a vintage, hand stamped, 7” 45rpm sleeve from a 60 year old vinyl binder with the outer envelope tied up with a string from which hangs a used ticket from the Rome metro system. Inside is a set of hand silk-screened 6” square prints each printed on a different sort of paper (ancient ledger papers, music sheets, rice papers, antique vellum, cardboard etc.) as well scraps of paper and ephemeral detritus found on the Rome metro station platforms and trains and the factory pressed CD in a hand stamped cotton sleeve.  A standard digipack version is also available.

Francesco Giannico web site: http://www.francescogiannico.com

Deluxe: http://timereleasedsound.com/shop/releases/francesco-giannico-metrophony-deluxe-version

Standard: http://timereleasedsound.com/shop/releases/francesco-giannico-metrophony-standard-version

Excerpts from Metrophony:

 

Through a musical lens: Celer – Sky Limits [Two Acorns]

“Through a musical lens” is a short series of reviews focusing on albums that present and explore human experience through music. Each album incorporates field recordings, ephemera, or motifs that revolve around everyday life and memory thus creating an especially intimate connection between their transportive sounds and the listener

 Sky Limits by Celer

A sense of place. Sights and sounds. Memories made and invoked. The juxtaposition of the mundane and the profound as we move through the arc of a day. All these aspects of life are all captured eloquently in Sky Limits, the latest full length work by American musician, writer, & photographer Will Long recording as Celer. The place the album is rooted in is Japan, which has been home now to Long for the past 10 years.  The artist himself frames the mindset behind the album for the listener:

“Hill towns and empty mountains pass by, but the smoothness of the train blurs the view, and it’s easier than ever to fall asleep in the low morning sunlight coming in through the train’s windows. We’re sleeping, or staring out at the cities and landscapes; it’s easy to imagine the sound, and connect it with these events. There’s a contrast and connection between this reality and imagination. They’re separate, but happening simultaneously. On a walk through the crowded streets of Kyoto, or a half-asleep morning, what was it like? Later, what do you remember? “

How does one capture the essence of this in a musical recording? Celer does so beautifully by interleaving recordings of the most mundane aspects of daily life with elegant, billowy ambient drones that tap the deep wells of memory and emotion that silently accompany even the most banal moments of our daily routines.

The concept works to perfection. The listener is immediately taken to a place of stillness with the airy reflections of the opening track, ‘Circle Routes’.  We emerge from the reverie to the sounds of making a cup of tea with a TV broadcast in the background.  Then, seamlessly, we drift back into reverie mode with the elegant tones of ‘In plum and magenta’.

This motif becomes a pattern throughout the record.  Celer immerses us in the sounds of the commute – boarding the Shinkhansen or walking the busy streets of Kyoto – as well the sounds of home – feet across the floor, opening and closing of doors, the jangling of car keys. Each time we drift into another shimmering reflection with appropriately poignant titles such as ‘Equal to moments of completion’, ‘Wishes to prolong’, and ‘Attempts to make time pass differently’. Each of these could easily stand alone as fine pieces of music, but they become so much more compelling when integrated into the whole.

By inviting us into his life and his reflections, Celer brings us in closer touch with our own. This is a truly lovely album and one that is affecting as it is atmospheric. Sky Limits is available from Long’s own Two Acorns label on black vinyl or as a digital download.  See links below for ordering and to sample the music.  You can also read an interview with the artist recently published as part of the “in the studio” series on Headphone Commute here:  http://hcdi.gs/Celer

Order black vinyl edition: https://celer.bandcamp.com/album/sky-limits

Order MP3/FLAC: http://boomkat.com/downloads/1164979-celer-sky-limits

Video by Will Long

Listen to an excerpt:

Through a musical lens: Wil Bolton – Bokeh [Home Normal]

“Through a musical lens” is a short series of reviews focusing on albums that present and explore human experience through music. Each album incorporates field recordings, ephemera, or motifs that revolve around everyday life and memory thus creating an especially intimate connection between their transportive sounds and the listener. 

Bokeh by Wil Bolton

An artist in sound, video, and photography, Wil Bolton‘s music is always rich in texture as well as human and environmental connections. His summer release on Home Normal entitled Bokeh is a wonderful addition to his body of work and one that that had a very specific motif:

The album’s title obviously refers to a photographic term, deriving from the Japanese word for blur and used to describe the aesthetic quality of background blur in photographs especially with a shallow depth of field. My work is often informed by visual cues, particularly from the landscapes and architecture of the environments where their initial sounds were recorded. For this album I was particularly interested in parallels between the aural and the visual and between photography and sound – it’s pretty abstract, but when working on these tracks I was constantly thinking in terms of photography, qualities and effects of light, and other visual elements and trying to express these in sound …” 

Like its namesake, the title track is diffuse and captivating, an exquisite piece of sound craft. Gentle drones ebb and buzz as Bolton creates a sense of light and color through percussive bells and chimes. As it progresses, sounds of city life slowly introduce themselves and become part of the music such as the Doppler effect of running engines and tires rolling by in the rain, or the hiss and gasp of a stopping bus.

This approach is repeated through the album, but the tones and sounds vary for each track, thus creating a different mood and sense of place in each case. ‘Tremadog’ incorporates sounds captured in a picturesque Welsh village. ‘1887’ and ‘Sash’ bring the listener back to the city, namely Liverpool, the former invoking street sounds and the later a mild cacophony of voices indoors. ‘Pentaprism’ takes the listener on a walk about the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.  In every piece the sounds of the environment blend seamlessly with the music, capturing motion and activity while preserving a sense of stillness and objectivity. It is as if we are experiencing these places through the camera eye.

The album then ends on a charming and magical note with ‘Moonlight (for Sophie)’ in which Bolton recorded and looped sounds from his niece’s toy telephone and rattles. With the din of the day’s sounds faded away, it wraps the listener in a cocoon of soft light and the comforts of home, a perfect way to end the journey.

Bokeh was mastered by Ian Hawgood for his Home Normal label and is available as a digital download or in a limited edition on CD packaged with locally cultivated and harvested washi paper cover and a unique vintage slide.

Order the album:  https://homenormal.bandcamp.com/album/bokeh

Read an interview with Wil: http://homenormal.com/wil-bolton-on-bokeh

‘Bokeh’ – music and video by Wil Bolton

Listen to a sampler of Bokeh: