Travelogue 2017.08.20: Topographies of the Soul

Ambient music, when masterfully constructed and emotionally invested, has the power to cross inner oceans, map out the topographies of the soul, and expose the deep strata of memory. This introspective listening journey consists of a quartet of releases that do just that. Featuring the intricately woven and emotive soundscapes of Tapes and Topographies (Todd Gautreau), Bird Traps (Marcus Skinner), Wil Bolton, and James Murray.

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Sound Impression: Yonder by Sophie Hutchings [1631 Recordings/Hobbledehoy]

The release of a new album by Sophie Hutchings to coincide with Piano Day 2017 has been one of the year’s most pleasant surprises. Having beguiled us with the dreamy abstractions of Wide Asleep (Preservation) which only came out last summer, Yonder finds Sophie in a more ebullient mood as radiant melodies ripple and flow from her piano with pure élan.

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Sophie Hutchings – Wide Asleep [Preservation]

When composer/pianist Sophie Hutchings set out to record her third studio album Wide Asleep, she decided not to wait until after the music was released to let it forge a connection with her listeners, choosing instead to partially crowdfund the project so a special vinyl edition could be produced while at the same time peeling back the curtain a bit on her creative process.

“That’s the beauty of instrumental music. It’s felt, not spoken. Sometimes the things we feel can’t always be put into words and I think music replacing that can be something special on its own.” – Sophie Hutchings

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Tess Said So – Scramble + Fate [Preserved Sound]

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“One piano player. One percussionist.” With I Did That Tomorrow (2014), Rasa DaukusWill Larsen as Tess Said So introduced their unique creative partnership, a vibrant collection of tracks that defied the apparent limitations of their chosen format. The same improvisational spirit, bold elegance, and impeccable musicianship that made such a resounding first impression on their debut shines just as brightly on Scramble + Fate which is released today on Preserved Sound.

“Rasa and Will wrote the tracks together in the same room at the same time; improvising, exploring, innovating, jamming, tweaking, feeding off each other’s ideas and looking for just the right combination, just the right sound. Sometimes searching for that perfect combination involved hours frantically exploring every instrument available in every combination (“Scramble”). Other times, they were grateful for the happy accidents that improvisation can bring (“Fate”)”

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Sound Impression: Solo Andata – In the Lens [12k]

Nearly seven years after their eponymous release on 12k, Australian duo Solo Andata returns to the label with a sublime electroacoustic gem called In the Lens which was born from fragments and recordings “found in the interstices of decades-old hard drives, lost email threads from disused accounts, and forgotten samples recorded on cassette dictaphones”, apparently just the sort of raw material from which they like to work.

“Solo Andata’s Kane Ikin and Paul Fiocco have always pushed aside the digital studio in favor of a more haphazard and hands-on workshop vibe to their productions. They prefer near-broken acoustic instruments, cheap microphones and, as can be witnessed by their live performances, tend to turn anything they can get their hands on into a beautiful sound-making object.” – 12k

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Travelogue 2016.05.15: A Modern Classical Sunday (Piano Edition)

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Quiet Sunday afternoons and piano music just seem made to go hand in hand. Every note simply seems to sound more resonant and soothing and these four exquisite modern classical releases are as beautiful as they come in that regard. Featuring Julien Marchal (France), Dirk Maassen (Netherlands/Germany), Andrew Lang (Australia), and Federico Albanese (Italy/Germany). 

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Tess Said So – I Did That Tomorrow [Preserved Sound]

I Did That Tomorrow by Tess Said So

Tess Said So refer to themselves simply as “an indie classical band…one piano player, one percussionist”.  Not unlike their music, the description is concise, accurate, and lacking pretentiousness. But perhaps it does not convey the level of sophistication and inventiveness that is revealed in their debut album I Did That Tomorrow (released on Preserved Sound).

The piano player is Rasa Daukus, who is also currently the Director of Music at the University of Canberra in Australia. She is “inspired by the physicality of pulse and rhythm, the possibilities of pattern and repetition, and the emotive impact of sound” and cites influences as rich and varied as 20th century French harmony, Steve Reich, David Bowie, and Miles Davis.  The percussionist (much more than just a drummer I assure you) is Will Larsen, an ARIA award winning musician and guest artist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Opera Australia, Orchestra Victoria, The Australian Ballet, and a composer of several film scores not to mention performing with The Bolshoi Ballet, The New York Ballet, and Andrea Bocelli among others.

A strong musical CV is one thing, but the ability to conceive and implement fresh ideas that engage and surprise the listener is quite another and that is where this creative partnership really shines. Daukus and Larsen have chosen roads less frequently traveled in the burgeoning indie classical field to produce an album that fells both invigorating and inspired. The format of one pianist and one percussionist which might sound limiting to the uninitiated frees these two very competent artists to invent and explore and take the listener on an exhilarating journey.

“I Did That Tomorrow is a collection of pieces about initiation and reaction, travel and stillness, simplicity and mutation. The sound world of piano, percussion and electronics, engineered at Will Larsen’s Recliner Studios in Melbourne, shifts through organic, improvisatory, imperfect patterns, playing with the idea of movement in light, space, and liquid, usually resolving – though not necessarily tonally – for a sense of agreement.”  (from the Preserved Sound promo page). 

One need go no further than ‘Dew Point’ which opens the album to catch on.  From calm beginnings, Daukus builds up a head of steam with driving piano runs while Larsen seems always fill the space with just what is needed from chimes and delicate cymbal accents to thunderous rolls on the toms.  On ‘Sometimes Never’, Larsen shows he is equally at home playing a wide range of orchestral percussion instruments to accompany Daukus’ bold dynamics and one begins to realize the exciting possibilities of seeing this duo perform live.  The album continues to move seamlessly move between classical, jazz, and pop motifs. There are moments of delicate beauty (‘Trace’, ‘Seven Suns’, Within It Along’), powerful resonance (‘Directly Not Now’, ‘Paper Tatoo’, ‘Intervention’),  playfulness (‘The Snap Beans Aren’t Salty’, ‘I Did That Tomorrow’), and even a bit of the avant garde (‘Planted This To Imagine’).

I Did That Tomorrow does not require any smoke or mirrors to create it’s magic. It succeeds on the strength of the compositions and the bold and skillful playing of the musicians.  At no point did it ever seem that “something more” was needed.  These two can sound like a whole orchestra when they need to.  What we have here is one of the most delightful debut albums of the year and hopefully the promise of much more to come.

The album is available from Preserved Sound in a variety of digital formats or in a handmade CD package limited to 150 copies.

Order from Preserved Sound: http://www.preservedsound.com/tess-said-so.html

Tess Said So web site: http://www.tesssaidso.com/

‘Dew Point’ by Tess Said So