SASO – Thresholds [Melted Snow]

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Thresholds is the 6th studio album from SASO, a project formed in Dublin, Ireland in 2000 by composer & multi-instrumentalist Jim Lawler and producer/recording engineer Ben Rawlins and one which extends the duo’s collaboration with pianist Kevin Corcoran first heard on Mysterium (2016). The inspiration for the record came from the passing of Jim’s father, Brian Lawler, a musician and composer himself, and it was after his funeral that Jim and Ben began talking about creating compositions that would reflect the cycle of life and the journey to death. To do this, they decided to “go back to basics” and make a purely instrumental album using strings and piano while relying exclusively on vintage analog equipment to facilitate a minimal approach to recording and mixing while capturing most of live sessions in a single take.

“We wanted to press the reset button. We took everything we knew and put it to one side and embarked on a new chapter…We embraced the discipline of restriction so we could focus on the art rather than the convenience of technology. It felt like an antidote to modern digital production”Ben Rawlins, SASO

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A Sense of Place: Grønland by Glåsbird [Whitelabrecs]

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Glåsbird is an alluring new project inaugurated, we are told, under a cloak of anonymity by an established artist within the ambient/modern classical scene to focus on chosen themes and develop them into carefully crafted conceptual soundtracks. The first published material from this project was the highly evocative Drift Stations which took a mere ten minutes to put the listener in thrall to the austere beauty of the Arctic Circle. While the EP held its own as a compact narrative, it was also a prelude of much more to come as the “Land Ahead” at the end of  its 2-track journey turns out to be the sprawling ice-capped island country of Greenland which is majestically explored on the full-length Grønland now out on Whitelabrecs.

“Glåsbird imagined that they were assigned the task of scoring the soundtrack to a film about Greenland and spent a great deal of time researching the subject. Hours of documentaries, drone helicopter footage, NASA and satellite images, Instagram traveler accounts, 360° photos, web articles and maps were surveyed, to the point where this artist felt sufficiently immersed in this sub-zero but beautiful land…” – Whitelabrecs

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Duologue: A conversation with Tim Linghaus

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Born in the GDR in the early 1980s, German musician & composer Tim Linghaus had his first experiences with making music when he discovered his father’s RX 11 and guitars as a young boy. During his university years he played guitar in bands ranging from metal to singer/songwriter, but more recently he has been producing an understated, nostalgic, and deeply personal style of neoclassical music centered around piano, synthesizers and ambient noise. It began with the wonderful debut EP ‘Vhoir‘ (Moderna Records) in 2016 and on into last year with the poignant, quietly stunning ‘Memory Sketches‘ (Schole/1631 Recordings).

Tim begins the new year with ‘About B. (Memory Sketches B-Sides Recordings)‘, a collection of additional material that did not make it on to the first album and which has a slightly different focus which he explains in this conversation about the record.

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Sound Impression: Fragments by Last Days [Split Music]

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Any composer who develops their work over a period of years is inevitably going to end up with musical fragments that don’t make it onto a finished album. They could be tracks that were dropped due to the constraints of a physical release. Maybe they needed to be cut or altered to serve the overall narrative. Or, maybe they are simply diamonds in the rough, awaiting refinement and context before they can shine. But, sometimes what ends up on the cutting room floor can tell its own story and so it is with the latest release from Edinburgh-based musician & composer Graham Richardson as Last Days which features fourteen pieces culled from the twelve years during which he created such understated cinematic gems as Seafaring, Satellite, and The Safety of the North.

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PREMIERE: “Prelude 1” by Chris Child [FOIL]

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Chris Child is a musician and Emmy award-winning composer based in New York. In addition to scoring music for a wide variety of TV shows, commercials, and video games, he is known in electronic music circles by the moniker of Kodomo under which he has released numerous albums, EPs, & remixes and performed at music festivals around the globe. Come the first of February, he will be releasing a new album under his own name and newly launched imprint, a prismatic collection of solo compositions & ambient sketches entitled Pieces for Piano Vol. 1. Made using recordings captured on his iPhone and handheld recorder while traveling throughout the United States, Child chose the music of such classical composers such as Bach & Debussy as the album’s referential framework which he channels into mesmerizing offshoots, variations, and sonic experiments using a simple & direct approach.

“As much as I love gear and creating in the studio, the length and intensity of the process can be overwhelming. After ‘Divider‘, I wanted to try something that was completely different and that I had an immediate connection with.”Chris Child 

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Sound Impression: Noord by Sjors Mans [Piano and Coffee Records]

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Dutch musician & filmmaker Sjors Mans has quietly released some really lovely recordings over the past 2 years. These include various of sketches & singles on his Soundcloud page, a solo album entitled Dauw on 1631 Recordings, and an improvisational collaboration from his Amsterdam studio with Fabian Rosenberg (aka Klangriket) last year on Piano and Coffee Records. It is to this label he returns with a his new solo record Noord, a graceful and eloquent ode to the desire to create simply, instinctively, and without pretense.

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2018 Year in Review: The Art of the EP

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The EP is often overlooked when it comes year-end retrospectives, but this format can provide us with some very special musical moments and here are some from 2018 that I would not have wanted to miss.

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2018 In Review: Journeys in Modern and Experimental Classical


neoclassical_mosaic25_rFrom the delicate minimalism of a single piano to the aching beauty of a string ensemble to the mysterious studio alchemy of the analog fused with the electronic, here is a selection of some particularly memorable journeys in modern & experimental classical music released in 2018. 

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Illuminine | #3 [Ferryhouse Productions]

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Kevin Imbrechts may be from Belgium, but there is something unmistakably Icelandic in the character of the music he creates as Illuminine, a kind of atmospheric and enigmatic beauty.  No wonder Sigur Ròs sound engineer Birgir Jón Birgisson took an early interest in his work and invited Imbrechts to the band’s  Sundlaugin studio where he completed the recording of first album and went on to record the next two. Of course, there are other prominent strands in the DNA of his sound – melancholic neoclassical in the vein of Ólafur Arnalds or A Winged Victory for the Sullen (whose Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie has become a collaborator) and electric guitar which traces back to Imbrechts’ admiration for the more introspective work of avant-garde instrumentalist Buckethead citing ‘Electric Tears’ (Metastation, 2002) as an influence.

All of these elements are manifestly present on the newly released #3 which turns out to be the most personal Illuminine album yet as Imbrechts reveals it concerns a very dark chapter in his life during he was struggling with anxiety and panic attacks as well as being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Harrowing as that may sound, he says that writing the album was “the best therapy possible” and that it turned into a sort of “secret sound diary” which he molded to reflect the daily cycles from dawn to anxious, sleep-deprived nights and back to hopeful dawn again.

“It’s my own ‘channel’ to communicate with the world, to express feelings. Everyone can and should project their own ideas and feelings onto the music. Instrumental music is more powerful than vocal music with clear lyrics; it’s much more telling. I want to share this with the world, as I think people have to talk about these issues. It’s not easy to talk about it, but it helps.” – Kevin Imbrechts 

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Sound Impression: 88 by Cédric D. Lavoie [Preserved Sound]

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Based in the market town of Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, Preserved Sound has always been a friendly label to artists who create unique intersections of modern classical, jazz, and experimental ambient music, often featuring unconventional approaches to instrumentation.  Some of the more noteworthy recent examples include Tess Said So, Covarino/Incorvaia, Adrian Lane, and Trigg & Gusset. This month the label will add a new name to the catalog that fans of the aforementioned should very much appreciate – Canadian composer and founder of the Mismar ensemble Cédric Dind-Lavoie. His forthcoming solo album on entitled 88 originated on the piano and was then fleshed out with bowed & plucked upright bass as well as a keen focus on the use of discrete percussion and sound effects.

“Everything started on the piano. I also explored recording techniques emphasizing the sound resulting from the mechanics of the piano and my fingers on the keyboard. These sounds are rarely acoustically audible, but add an intimate and intriguing aspect to the recording… ​I also thought about hiring string players to play on some of the tracks but eventually decided to take on the challenge of playing everything on the upright bass, to achieve a darker and perhaps more unusual string section.” – Cédric D. Lavoie 

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PREMIERE “Eliza (Variation 5)” from A Shade Under Thirty by Stray Ghost [Phases Records]

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For the better part of a decade, self-taught multi-instrumentalist & producer Anthony Baden Saggers  has been releasing music as Stray Ghost both independently and on such respected boutique labels as Hidden Shoal, Time Released Sound, and 1631 Recordings. In a couple of weeks, he will be able to add Phases Records to that list as the London-based imprint is shortly to release his latest opus entitled A Shade Under Thirty. The title is an overt nod to the kind of milestone the album represents for the artist as he surveys his own past, present, and future while reaching out to forge a meaningful connection to his audience.

“The maturity he has recently talked of reaching at the age of thirty, leaving behind the young man he once was, is mirrored in A Shade Under Thirty by his vision of the world at a pivotal moment, his piano picking a path forwards through European disintegration, climate change and life in the digital age. As he says himself, ‘I don’t just want people to listen… I want them to feel.'” 

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PREMIERE: “Þægindi” from Close by Mark Wardale [Bottle Imp]

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After two full-length albums and a trio of EPs under the moniker of Row Boat, musician/composer Mark Wardale is about to release his first work under his own name. There is an amusing bit of self-deprecating cheek when he cites irreconcilable differences with himself in reference to the change, but when it comes to creating imaginative, ear-catching music that spans multiple genres, Wardale is as serious as ever.

To listen to ‘Close‘ is to enter a world where neoclassical, ambient, and post-rock elements are intertwined, infused with Scandinavian character, and ornamented with eclectic sonic flourishes. While the same could be said of the music of Row Boat, the new record marks a noticeable shift toward modern classical elements and cinematic flair as the ambient & post-rock atmospherics are employed much more sparingly. In addition, Wardale demonstrates his growing compositional prowess by weaving a cohesive tale in which the narrative of each track supports a greater one that flows through the entire album.

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