Norwegian multi-instrumentalist, composer, & producer John Erik Kaada knows a thing or two about making sounds that people want to hear. Over the course of his musical career he’s made quiet a lot of them across a diverse spectrum of genres and formats – solo albums, collaborations, soundtracks, and live shows. He has just released another album and while he no doubt wants people to hear to it, what he really hopes is that it will drive home the message of how important it is for people to listen, really listen, to one another. The title of each song on Closing Statements is either a quote or fragment from things that people, both famous and infamous, uttered when they were about to die. A somber theme to be sure, but Kaada gives it a life-affirming twist. While so much music about death look inwards towards feelings of grief, loss, or nostalgia, he discards such well-worn tropes to reveal a surprisingly poignant lesson for the living.
“I don’t think I’ll have more important things to say when I’m on my deathbed than I have generally in life. This applies to most people, I guess. Final words aren’t any wiser or cleverer than anything you’d normally say. But it’s the fact that you’re not going to say anything else ever again that makes this moment so special. You have the audience’s full attention…The underlying message of the album is that we have to listen to each other. In a modern world where people mostly don’t have the time or interests to get to know one another, we need to be reminded that we need to listen.” – John Erik Kaada
As 2017 drawing to a close, Stationary Travels premiered a track from The Amsterdam Sessions, an EP which resulted between Stockholm-based by Fabian Rosenberg (aka Klangriket) and Sjors Mans in his Amsterdam studio where they came up with five impeccably beautiful pieces named after locations in the city that intertwine ambient textures and atmospheric electronics with delicate piano-based compositions. It’s a pleasure to call attention to this project once more, this time on the occasion of the premiere of a mesmerizing video for “Prinsengracht” created by Frida Holmgren who also contributed violoncello on some of the tracks. In it she brings to life the pulsing patterns and blooming surges in what is the most kinetic piece on the album.
When Fabian first played the song for me, we were sitting in a studio at school. I saw the reflection of strip lights on a black computer screen and really liked the pattern it made. That is what initially inspired me. And I wanted to make a hypnotic video, since that’s how the song was for me when I listened to it. – Frida Holmgren
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
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
The first time hearing the music of Winterlight is a pleasurably disorienting experience. Circulating amidst its dizzying swirls & sonic eddies are decades of musical influences and waves of reverb-drenched melody which coalesce into sumptuous, prismatic compositions with vast depth of field. Structurally uncomplicated, but texturally complex, the origin of the sound traces its roots to founder Tim Ingham‘s absorption in the post-punk and shoegaze music of the 80s and 90s in his native Thames Valley England. It was not until 2006 that Ingham mined those influences in an effort to recreate the lush and hazy sounds of his youth. It was then the project came into being and quickly integrated itself onto the ambient/electronica scene over the course of several albums, singles, and remixes.
This band’s latest album had a lengthy gestation period of its own. The Longest Sleep Through Darkest Days is the culmination of nearly seven years of on and off “creative spurts, false starts, and second guesses” and reflects a turmoil hinted at in its title. The listener, however, is not burdened with the arduousness of this genesis. For us, there is only the bliss of its “melancholic euphoria”, expansive beauty, and deft nostalgic nods to the electronic music that informs it. Even better news is we don’t have to wait until the March release to enter the vortex of these mesmerizing sounds as the band is releasing the single with a pair of exclusive B-sides next week and you, dear reader, can check them out right now. Continue reading
Don’t be fooled by Martyn Heyne’s youthful appearance. The Hamburg-born composer & producer brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his debut full-length album. He took up piano and guitar at an early age teaching himself the instruments in non-traditional ways before going on to be classically trained at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. In addition to being a live performer with the acclaimed indie band Efterklang and opening shows for Nils Frahm and A Winged Victory for the Sullen as a solo artist, Heyne has worked with a diverse group of high-profile artists in his Lichte studio in Berlin including Peter Broderick , alt-J, and The National (for a nice sampling of these check out his ‘Monday is Ok’ mix here). He brings all of this compositional and recording experience as well as his fondness for the electric guitar to the table for the recently released Electric Intervals, an album which he approached with a very specific philosophy.
“The number of parameters that determine a recording appears to be infinite. The mood, instrument, tuning, settings, microphones, room, placement, temperature, time of day, etc. all contribute to sound. The magic, once captured, is impossible to recreate. This might seem a hindrance, but it’s really the whole point of recording for me and also the reason why I never use samples or virtual instruments…the better the instrument sounds, the more you want to convey that quality.’’ – Martyn Heyne
vaghy (Tamás Vághy) is a Hungarian composer and pianist who is making an appearance as a newcomer on the modern classical scene, but is no musical neophyte. Surrounded by his father’s old tapes and vinyl, his love of music came at an early age. Having developed into a multi-instrumentalist with a taste for a wide variety of genres, he performed in thousands of concerts from clubs to large festivals including serving a the keyboardist for the well-known Hungarian rock band Anna and the Barbies. During these years, in the quiet environs of his bedroom studio, he indulged a passion for classical music. After seeing a Nils Frahm video several years ago, Tamás was inspired to bring this more personal work into the public sphere, performing live sets in 2016 and again in 2017 in support of Frahm’s own worldwide Piano Day event.
Taking their name from the alias of the figure at the center of Rembrandt’s masterpiece “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp” who was central to the theme of their debut album (‘Floods’, 2015), Aris Kindt is a collaborative project from Gabe Hedrick and Francis Harris. The duo once again choose an artistic reference as a conceptual touchstone for their second album entitled Swann and Odette, a pair of protagonists from Marcel Proust’s sprawling seven-volume novel In Search of Lost Time. The album is a heady offering from a sonic perspective as well as a thematic one:
“Picking up where their first record (2015’s Floods) leaves off, ‘Swann and Odette’ is an evolutionary leap forward for the duo. The sonic palette is deeper, the grooves more sparse and the melodies are given more room to seep deep within a mix so expansive it feels almost tactile…a seamless interplay of synths and instrumentation cast loose from their origins and awash in oceanic delay.”
You can sample the ornate, cerebral soundscapes Hedrick and Harris are able to conjure from their extensive gear in this exclusive premiere of “Treatise”, a mesmerizing track that juxtaposes hazy swirls of guitar and malleable sonic forms with a steadily metronomic, pulsing groove.
If this all sounds rather modern for an album steeped in references to a turn-of-the-century novel, the point is not so much to soundtrack Proust’s story itself, but to explore concepts it suggests about the relationship of music to experience and memory or perhaps just the act of reading it in a current setting, both of which are suggested in John Stroud’s liner note essay (“Future Ghosts: Aris Kindt’s Soundtrack for a Radical Materialist Ontology”) which offers an assessment of the record as a kind of “post-structuralist pop”:
It is a science fiction record that launches our consciousness out into a speculative emotional landscape of decisively Proustian flavor while using techno’s taxonomic/serial bed of reference as an invitation to transmogrify that future into the pulsations of the actual body. As for Proust’s novel, it feels as much like a paperback thrown in a backpack more than any sort of foundation, something to read along the way while you’re waiting for your train (an image of which Proust would absolutely approve) while Swann and Odette plays over the radio in an altogether saner world. – John Stroud
Swann and Odette inaugurates Kingdoms, a new label being launched by Harris which he describes as “a new platform for adventurous music ranging from new voices in club-inflected jazz, contemporary composition, ambient, and electronic music to reissues of little-known obscurities from across the musical spectrum”. Editions of the album will be available from October 20 on digital and an attractive limited edition colored vinyl LP.
Links: Bandcamp (DL/LP) | Kingdoms
On their first two albums Chicago-based trio To Destroy a City introduced us to a sophisticated and exhilarating sound forged from layers of guitars, synths & pianos and driven by electronic beat production intertwined with live percussion. In two weeks when they roll out their third record entitled Go Mirage, fans and new listeners alike will be treated to not only their most stunning sonic tapestries yet, but an inspired new vocal dimension which does no harm whatsoever to their post rock pedigree.
“This follow-up to 2014’s post-rock paragon SUNLESS has an added immediacy due to the soaring nature of guitarist Michael Marshall’s step toward the mic…Idealists might bark that To Destroy A City can’t continue to fly the post-rock flag with such a vocalic album. The enlightened will find that the addition of vocals places the band as contemporaries to artists such as Caspian, Mogwai, and Album Leaf which have effectively used vocals as key components in their music.” – n5MD
After releasing a number of EPs and singles under his own name, Brooklyn-based composer and filmmaker Austin Johnson will be making his official debut under his new alias breaking with the October 20 release of the soundtrack to his short film babyteeth on Seattle’s Hush Hush Records. The unobtrusive textures and moody atmospherics of his minimalist soundscapes well serve the film’s intimate indie feel and its understated treatment of tension & conflict in the context of everyday life.
“The main idea behind both the film and the soundtrack was to convey anxiety and angst through the lens of tranquility. It’s easy to get lost in anxiety, so in “babyteeth” I depict a boy’s rough journey to tranquility in an environment where that seems impossible.” – Austin Johnson (aka breaking)
Since its founding in 2009, Home Normal has consistently been one of the shining lights on the landscape of experimental ambient & electronic music. Conscientiously curated and uncompromisingly supportive of its artists, it is more than a label; it is a hub for a community of artists and mindful listeners who appreciate thoughtfully crafted, emotionally honest music.
“Based in Japan, the label was run as a way to connect to a sense of what ‘home’ and ‘normal’ could mean to someone who was in what was essentially an alien environment to them. The focus of the label was to release the ambient and electronic works of friends within the live scene we were part of in Tokyo and the surrounding areas, but soon expanded to include the work of many artists worldwide…We see the label as a family of friends who work together to create unique works that have a hold and impact on whoever can take their time to absorb our music and aesthetic”
Featured here are recent & upcoming releases by Ian Hawgood + Wil Bolton, Giulio Fagiolini, and Jason Van Wyk,
Archives is a label based in Valencia, Spain run by DJ, producer, & musician Agustín Mena (aka Warmth, SVLBRD). You won’t find a lot of words written by the label about itself. Its impressum can be found in the music which focuses uncompromisingly on pure ambient, downtempo & dub techno aesthetics with a preference for soothing, warm tones and meditative atmospheres. Presented here are six recent releases by an international roster of artists including Logic Moon (Germany), Robert Farrugia (Malta), Yoyu (Canada), Purl (Sweden), Shuta Yasukochi (Japan), and Halftribe (UK). Also highly recommended are their Ambient and Soundscapes compilation series and Warmth’s own ‘Essay’ which was one of the best reviewed ambient albums of 2016.