Travelogue 2018.04.15: From Winter into Spring with Dauw

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Dauw is a Belgian boutique label based in Ghent that specializes in handmade cassette releases of electroacoustic ambient music of an especially organic & pastoral nature and features a unifying visual aesthetic based on the graphic artwork of Femke Strijbol. The label offers sounds and colors eminently suited to the gentle awakenings of springtime and it is our good fortune that they have put up some irresistible new releases for the season.

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Sound Impression: From Water by Paddy Mulcahy [Phases Records]

A little over a year after his patient fusion of close mic’ed solo piano with delicate synthesizer constructions on The Words She Said (reviewed here), Irish-born, Montreal-based composer/producer Paddy Mulcahy returns with an enigmatic foray into finespun electronica & percussion in the form a striking five-track EP entitled From Water.  It begins with the shimmering  “You Could Walk Across the Shannon” which treads a fine line between hope & melancholy in keeping with what Mulcahy sought to put across in the song.

“‘You Could Walk Across The Shannon’ is about overcoming the impossible. It’s a musical representation of being an underdog in a vicious race; it’s the rare ability to walk across a riverbed at low-tide. I want to inspire people who are suffering, people who are sad and feel like there’s no point. This music was inspired by nature, people and overcoming my depression.” – Paddy Mulcahy in DJ Mag, 03/09/2018 Continue reading

Sound Impression: Circuit Bloom by 36

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It is hard to conceive of a more fitting title for latest offering from 36 (pronounced three-six), the ambient / experimental project of Dennis Huddleston from the United Kingdom. Circuit Bloom is like a garden of electronic flowers that bud and blossom in a slow, kaleidoscopic efflorescence of fleeting ephemeral beauty.  In a shift from recent 36 releases that resonated on a cosmic scale, Huddleston chose a more introspective theme for a group of songs which serves as a prelude a full-length album to come later this year.

“[Circuit Bloom] contains a selection of 6 predominantly piano-based tape loops, exploring the themes of isolation and escapism, through a Cyberpunk-inspired lens. For me, Cyberpunk is about people living on the fringes of society, finding ways to deal with the hardships they face, through the manipulation and exploitation of technology. It’s a genre/aesthetic I’ve always loved and its influence has always seeped into my music.” – Dennis Huddleston, aka 36

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PREMIERE: “Here” by Walrus Ghost & Max Frankl [Hush Hush Records]

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It almost sounds like a pitch for a screenplay. European jazz guitarist travels to New York and answers and ad for an open room posted by an experimental electronic music producer. Kindred spirits who followed very different musical paths, the two hit it off and end up creating an album of music together. Only it’s not a screenplay. It is the story of Munich-born and Zurich-based guitarist Max Frankl and Brooklyn-based Christian Banks aka Walrus Ghost. At the time Frankl moved in, Banks was about to release his debut album Uplifting Themes for the Naysayer. Despite striking up an instant friendship, it took time for their mutual appreciation of each other’s approaches to writing & playing music to grow. But, grow it did. First a song, then a handful of tracks, and finally a complete album called Avenues and Remembrances which will be released later this month.

“When we first met, we could both feel a great connection between the two of us. Some weeks later we recorded some music together, which was one of the greatest experiences I had while playing and recording with a lot of different musicians in New York. The things I treasure in Christian`s music have a lot to do with my compositional approach towards music: I like warm and rich environments that bring a particular quality to the music that is sometimes lacking in hectic day to day life: calmness, silence, and tranquility.” – Max Frankl

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Through a musical lens: Memory Sketches by Tim Linghaus [Schole/1631 Recordings]

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What is a memory? It is not such a silly question. Just stop and think about it for a moment. Try to put it into words. What IS a memory? How do they accrue such significance to our sense of self?  Musician Tim Linghaus wrestles with this in a beautiful and touching way on his latest album called Memory Sketches. Tim’s experiences with making music began when he discovered his father’s Yamaha drum machine and guitars when he was a young boy in the GDR. During his university years he played guitar in a couple of bands ranging from metal to singer/songwriter, but of late his music is mainly based on piano, synthesizers and noise. If you have had the joy of listening to his debut Vhoir, then you know it is of an exceptionally thoughtful and delicate nature and the new album continues very much in the same vein but with a very particular purpose as Tim explains.

“What is a memory? Is it a residue of our past conjured into being by pictures in our minds? Is it our former self communicating with our present one or the other way around? Is it a recurring emotion or smell we notice in a déjà vu or a daydream? Is it an individual sum of those aspects? What I know is that memories help me to define who I am. They establish connection between me and everything that is not present or future – sometimes sharp and palpable, more often soft and frail. Unfortunately, some memories fade away irrevocably. Hence, I am quite afraid of losing them.” Tim Linghaus

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Sound Impression: Sacred Groves by Rime Trails [Shimmering Moods]

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Some artists prefer to work under a cloak of anonymity and let their music forge its own identity, and so it is with Rime Trails, an ambient music project based in Denmark. Over the past few years that identity has emerged as one associated with contemplative soundscapes rich in textural elements and reflective of natural surroundings. Given the Scandinavian setting, it is not surprising to find an abundance of wintry themes, but the latest offering is music for another season. Sacred Groves is “music for springtime in eight parts” that was recorded between April and September of 2016.

Crafted from various unnamed instruments and synthesizers, each track is a verdant reverie and an evocation of mystery and contemplation in equal measure. The mood is cloistered and meditative while the sounds wind their way through wooded paths wrapped in tendrils and bathed in shifting light.  When the din and clamor of the world becomes too much, you might find this is just the sanctuary you crave. 

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Dura – Repetition Suppression [Scissor Tail Records]

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A couple of years ago I left my listening chair and went on a rare musical field trip to see Slow Meadow and Hotel Neon play an intimate show at the now defunct Union Arts Center in Washington, DC. It all seems a bit surreal now. For one thing, I rarely make it to live shows, let alone ones featuring artists I write about, and, for another, the property that once hosted the eclectic venue is now undergoing major redevelopment. So, by and large, the experience only lives on in my memory as a pleasant dream. One of the sharper recollections, however, was the unexpected pleasure of meeting the affable and talented Mattson Ogg, aka Dura, who opened the proceedings by filling the room with some captivating and heady soundscapes crafted from looping ambient guitar. Since then he has put out a number of releases each one taking its listeners on similar thoughtful and abstract journeys.

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Duologue: A conversation with r beny

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Electronic ambient music is a funny animal when you think about it. How is it possible to create compelling music with no conventional instruments, no words, and no beat? But, Austin Cairns, aka r beny, is one of those rare sonic alchemists who does just that weaving rich aural tapestries and exploring the labyrinths of memory using modular & hardware synthesizers and tape machines. Using  His 2016 debut full blossom of the evening deservedly caught the ear of many discerning followers of the ambient scene with its broad spectrum of beautifully crafted sounds and varying moods. Then, after a period of personal difficulty and transformation he created what surely must be considered one of the best albums of its kind last year, cascade symmetry. Far from exhibiting a sophomore slump, Cairns found the soul of his machines and delivered a quiet stunner with a palpable melancholy and potent emotional undertow that was little short of astonishing. Now, following his most recent release, the delicate and peaceful saudade on Belgian tape label Dauw, Cairns talks with us about how he got started, his creative process, his gear, and what’s on the horizon.  Continue reading

A Sense of Place: Anenon – Tongue [Friends of Friends]

Amidst the teeming diversity and cacophonous sprawl of Los Angeles are scores of people who specialize in making and selling dreams. There is probably no place on earth that has not been imagined or portrayed there and preserved on celluloid.  But to truly experience the soul of a place, to connect with it, soak it in, and meaningfully interact with it, you really do need to be there. Perhaps it was with this mindset that Brian Allen Simon aka Anenon packed up his instruments in the spring of 2017 and left behind a roiling political/cultural climate for the serene and picturesque rolling hills of Tuscany, home to millenia of sublime artistic expression and enviable provincial life. There, in a makeshift attic studio on the third story of a 16th century villa in the small town of Palaia he embarked on a month long musical odyssey which resulted in his fourth LP entitled Tongue. 

“I live in the city of ephemerality. The omnipresent LA light soaks my mind and body and moves me forward towards a dark and inconsistent absence of remembrance. Around me, histories are bought and sold daily in an unplanned, urban and suburban dwelling that on paper makes zero sense, but in reality has become a haven for wide open creative thinking and action that couldn’t exist anywhere else…I wanted to make music that can live inside of anywhere one finds themselves: city or country. It’s a series of shifting moods and melodies that through the heart, mind, hands, throat, and tongue sing an outpouring of metaphysical, nuanced psychedelic passing truth.” – Brian Allen Simon

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Emmanuel Witzthum – Songs of Love and Loss [Eilean Rec]

coverEmmanuel Witzthum is an Israeli musician, violist, composer, multidisciplinary artist, and lecturer who has been involved in projects, festivals, and orchestras all around the globe including including New York, Jerusalem, Paris, Berlin, and Madrid. Some readers here may recall his work with collaborator Craig Tattersall (aka The Humble Bee) as E& I on their sublime Eilean Records release The Colour of Sound (2016) an album described on this site as “a complete suspension of time and the invocation of a blissful, halcyon torpor conducive to a state of deep reflection” and “a truly gorgeous album of quietly epic proportions”. Two years later Witzthum returns to the enigmatic label with a new solo work entitled Songs of Love and Loss which brings his viola and voice work into a sharper and more impassioned focus as he offers up a quartet of ardent compositions each represented by a haiku and associated with a different season.

Eyes shut, leaves 
Lift in winds across 
Autumn skies 

Soft rain falls 
Winter solitude 
At night, still 

Shy flowers 
Cloud sighs, clear blue sky, 
Breeze turns warm 

Against tree 
Eyes look to sunset 
In summer 

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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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PREMIERE: Fragmentary Blue by Aukai

Aukai is a Hawaiian word for seafaring traveler or sailor, a suitable metaphor for the musical project of the same name from Markus Sieber conceived after a move from Europe to Mexico and born from his desire to create music that could work in tandem with film, video, theater and the visual arts. The distinctive sound that permeates the music of Aukai owes much to the love affair Sieber has cultivated with the ronroco, a stringed instrument of Andean origins recently popularized by film composer Gustavo Santaolalla.  The magic happens as the instrument’s brightly arpeggiated strings are deftly woven into expansive compositions fleshed out by an ensemble that includes cellist Anne Müller (Agnes Obel Band, Nils Frahm), violinist Bogdan Djukic, pianist Angelika Baumbach, keyboardist Alexander Nickmann, and longtime collaborator Jamshied Sharifi (Laurie Anderson, Sting, Dream Theater) .

It is a formula that received a warm & enthusiastic reception for Aukai’s self-titled 2016 debut and works a treat again on the forthcoming follow-up album Branches of Sun which began as a series of recordings made by Sieber during a retreat to a small cabin near the Old Spanish Trail in Colorado last winter far away from a world of human and technological distractions. Perhaps the mood is a bit more austere and contemplative this time as the pristine, remote atmosphere of the high-mountain country looms in the background, but the luminosity and nomadic spirit in the music remains irrepressible and life-affirming. For a taste of the new record, have a listen to the gorgeous interplay of cascading piano runs with the sun-soaked ronroco set off by warm swells and textures of cello that characterize “Fragmentary Blue” offered here in an exclusive premiere.

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