Travelogue 2018.08.19: The Moderna Records Summer Singles Series

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This travelogue entry features the mesmerizing music of the new summer singles series from Moderna Records, a label founded several years ago in Montreal by Évolène Lüthi “to trace a line from electronic sound designers to classical composers, connecting them through the realms of ambient and cinematic music”. 

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Jane Antonia Cornish – Constellations [Innova Recordings]

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Jane Antonia Cornish is an award-winning composer who grew up in England and lives in New York City. In addition to being the first female ever to win a British Academy Award (BAFTA) for music and her growing list of film credits, she has a fine catalog of exquisite and deeply affecting albums which gains a new addition with the recent release of Constellations. As with last year’s Into Silence (2017, Innova), Cornish once again presents us with an overarching narrative of transcendent beauty woven from the purest of sonorities by an impeccable ensemble, but the cosmic theme gives her quiet new pathways to explore in the dimensions of space, time, and light.

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Max Richter – The Blue Notebooks 15th Anniversary Reissue [Deutsche Grammophon]

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Not all protest music is loud and angry. Sometimes it is simply an affirmation of the positive in the face of the negative, an advocacy of quietude and beauty in the face of rancor and violence, an embrace of reflection over confrontation. Such was the case with Max Richter in 2003 when he composed The Blue Notebooks against the backdrop of global protests against a war in Iraq. Though this conflict was very much on Richter’s mind at the time, the music he created was devoid of specific geopolitical references and aspired to a broader and more holistic view. Intertwined with the words of writers like Franz Kafka and Czesław Miłosz, what Richter came up with was an introspective meditation on violence and war that transcends any particular historical context.

“I wanted to invite the listener in, allowing them space to reflect, rather than be beaten into submission. The world is tough enough, and I don’t want to add to the brutality. Over the years, I’ve realized that there’s a balance to strike, and that actually, as our world spins into something quite threatening that’s increasingly based on loud and vicious rhetoric, I want to talk about quiet protest”  – Max Richter
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Video Premiere: Murmuration by Erland Cooper & William Doyle

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Earlier this year award-winning multi-instrumentalist and producer Erland Cooper released Solan Goose, a magical journey to the Scottish archipelago of Orkney celebrating its landscapes, avian fauna, and local dialect (read the ST review here). Then, this summer he surprised us with an impromptu release of a spontaneous new ambient work based on the original material called Murmuration which he developed in collaboration with musician William Doyle (aka East India Youth). If Solan Goose was the vision, then Murmuration is the dream. One is a vivid and transportive sonic portrait that sweeps the listener up into its exhilarating narrative, the other a haunting, chimerical reverie in which to get completely and pleasurably lost.

“Sound is important to me. Over the years the word ‘murmuration’ has been associated solely with a flock of starlings, but it actually refers to the sonics of a flock of birds. So when Bill Oddie and others say: ‘Let’s go and see this murmuration’, that’s not quite right – you hear it. The theme of this record fits with a particular group of sea birds that, unlike many other birds, spend the first 5-10 years of their lives travelling far and wide out to sea in solitude, before settling down to find a partner and lay a single egg. It’s a recycling or ‘upcycling’ of sounds, themes and layers into a new collaborative work.”Erland Cooper

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Premiere: I Will, For You (Sophie Hutchings Rework) From Diary Reworks by Michael Price

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Last year, Emmy-award winning composer & pianist Michael Price gave us some precious insight into his creative process with Diary, a set of purely improvisational single-take recordings he compiled over a six week period (you can read more about the project here). While Price has since been at work on TV & film scores as well as his highly anticipated new Tender Symmetry project, a stellar cadre of eight artists have revisited the 30-track collection and hand-picked some of its “raw” entries to be polished into pure moder classical diamonds for a new EP called Diary Reworks.

The songs on Diary were certainly lovely enough and warmly accessible on their own terms, but, by their very design, they were unrefined and unedited. In the context of Diary Reworks, we can think of it as a sketchbook left behind by the artist for others to embellish and bring to life as full color, multi-dimensional works of art.  Case in point is the lovely treatment of “I Will, For You” by Sophie Hutchings , premiered here for the first time.

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Floex & Tom Hodge – A Portrait of John Doe [Mercury KX]

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In the world of music, sometimes serendipity turns into collaboration and sometimes collaboration turns into a fruitful partnership. Such is the case with Floex (aka Tomas Dvorak) and Tom Hodge. Their new album A Portrait of John Doe has just been released on Mercury KX adding even more lustre to a catalog that already includes such artists as Òlafur Arnalds, Luke Howard, and Sebastian Plano. The pair began work on the music after a fortuitous chance meeting in Berlin and the project has taken three years to complete as they honed the compositions and worked with the Prague Radio Symphonic Orchestra (PRSO) to bring the arrangements to full bloom. A Portrait of John Doe is an ambitious record not only in terms of musical invention, but in the quest of its over-arching existential theme as well, a kind of “avant-garde” music for and about Everyman.

“We are looking for universal human stories, things that connect us. This is neither an apocalyptic or wildly optimistic vision, the album subject for ‘A Portrait Of John Doe’ is rather a search for modern human values. The theme of the album turns our attention to everyday moments of our lives, as a certain counterbalance to the unceasing pursuit of efficiency, singularity and uniqueness that is so characteristic of today’s times.“ – Floex and Tom Hodge

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Jeff Mercel – Lunescapes Volume One

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If you don’t know Jeff Mercel by name, there is a pretty good chance you have heard at least some of his music. A composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist, Mercel was a contributing member of the pioneering American indie rock band Mercury Rev from their critically acclaimed album Deserter’s Songs in 1998 until leaving the band in 2010 to focus on composition for television and film. His work has appeared on major TV shows like CSI and This American Life and commercials for mega companies like Pepsi, BMW, & Google and he continues to work as a session musician, band member (Miracle Whips, Ultraam), as well as being national music director for O+ (a national non-profit, based in Kingston, NY that works to provide musicians & visual artists with access to health care).

The music for his first full-length solo recording under his own name, however, is a much more intimate affair and was recorded in his home “mostly in the kitchen, on a sometimes unruly upright piano”. Lunescapes Volume One is a shimmering collection of instrumental “vignettes, intimate landscapes, and lo-fi fantasies” rendered with the sure hands of a skilled composer and journeyman musician with a keen melodic ear.

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Video Premiere: What We Should Protect by Hoshiko Yamane

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The music of violinist and composer Hoshiko Yamane embraces a wide and vibrant spectrum. Not only has she has been involved in a diverse array of collaborative, dance, and film projects, but as a member of Tangerine Dream you can find her lighting up stages across Europe this spring and summer as part of the band’s kinetic, kaleidoscopic shows. There is a much more introspective side to her music, however, which she displays on her latest solo album soon to be released by 1631 Recordings. Threads is a luminous collection of pieces leaning toward a minimal ambient aesthetic woven from loops & layers of acoustic violin into tapestries of sound both tender and transcendent.

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Kaada – Closing Statements [Mirakel]

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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

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From the Mouth of the Sun – Sleep Stations [Lost Tribe Sound]

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With their third consecutive release on Lost Tribe Sound, it seems that the duo of Aaron Martin & Dag Rosenqvist as From the Mouth of the Sun have found an ideal home for their music on the Phoenix-based label which eloquently describes itself as specializing in “organic, gentle, and exploratory music that transcends genre, technique, or trend”. That is not just a well articulated statement of its vision; it is a spot-on characterization of the exquisite, ephemeral experience offered by Sleep Stations which will see release as part of the label’s Dead West cassette series.

In the liner notes we learn that the somnolent title track was originally meant to be included on the sumptuous full-length Hymn Binding (2017) and subsequently acted as both centerpiece and starting point for the music that Martin & Rosenqvist recorded in the process of scoring Joshua Z. Weinstein’s ‘Menashe’. The film ultimately demanded a more sparse & rustic style and this freed the duo to plant the composition in a new context, this time building their own distinct narrative around it.

The core sound will be instantly recognizable for those who’ve followed their previous endeavors, comprised of cello, piano, acoustic guitars, lap steel, banjo, ukulele, pump organ, soft humming electronics and warm layer of static… Arranging Sleep Stations as an EP, has allowed Aaron and Dag to tell a shorter story, one that doesn’t have to be such a grand gesture, which is something they’ve wanted to explore for a while now. It’s a beautiful reminder, that a collection of music can still be simple yet deeply affecting, without being overwrought and excessive.  – Lost Tribe Sound

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Various Artists – Thesis Collected 01

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Gregory Euclide is an artist and teacher living in the Minnesota River Valley. A recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, his work has been featured in museum exhibitions both across the country and abroad and has been featured in a variety of prestigious publications. His work has also been frequently connected to music. He provided the memorable cover for Bon Iver‘s self-titled 2012 Grammy winning record as well as album covers for a number of artists featured on these pages including Will Samson, Seabuckthorn, and Loscil – which brings us to the topic at hand, the THESIS project founded by Euclide in 2016 with assistance from Gabor Kerekes. More specifically, the occasion is the first CD release from this remarkable project, Thesis Collected 01, which allows entry into its vault of musical wonders for those for whom the vinyl format is still a constraint.

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Video Premiere: Prinsengracht by Klangikret & Sjors Mans

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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

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