Richard J. Birkin divides his time between making music as a recording artist, composing for TV & film, and being the lead creative technologist for Time Travel Opps where his artistic and technical acumen come together to produce digital projects for the arts as well as consultation in the commercial sector. The common thread in all these aspects of his work is a focus on creating emotionally compelling interactive experiences that people can connect to in a meaningful way. This makes him perhaps the ideal person to have collaborated with author Jon McGregor in the promotion of his award-winning novel Reservoir 13, which examines life in a village in England’s Peak District in the days, months, & years following the mysterious disappearance of a teenage girl.
McGregor was looking for a way to promote the book on tour that would be more engaging than the de rigueur format of simply reading passages and answering questions for an audience. Enter Birkin, who keyed off the novel’s atmospheric nature and repetitive themes to create a soundtrack that would help bring it uniquely to life in live, interactive, and recorded performances. The music was based on a local Derbyshire folk song called “Tip O’Derwent” which, serendipitously echoing the novel itself, is also about someone who goes missing in the wilds in that part of the country.
Currently based in Britain’s idyllic Ribble Valley, Muldue is a solo project that musician Max Ramsden first established while living in the medieval market town of Stratford-upon-Avon. His new EP entitled A Place Both Foreign and Familiar shortly to be released on Seattle’s Hush Hush label finds Ramsden building on the alchemical style he first introduced on ‘Due Melodies of a Concrete Soul‘ (2015) and ‘A Cruel Light From Below‘ (2016) while evolving toward a more organic sound steeped in pastoral slowcore beauty and gauzy atmospherics.
The third and final installment in Lucy Claire‘s “Works” series is a beautifully conceived EP that takes her music out of the confines of living room and studio to integrate with a variety of soundscapes. In a rather fresh take on the concept, she has taken an especially interactive approach which, when combined with her keen sense of narrative and use of binaural recording techniques, creates a series of vivid, immersive and pleasantly disorienting scenes. The magic is in the layering and juxtaposing of the many field recordings used in each piece and then contriving musical reactions to each setting.
“a Lisbon tram journey
a walk through an old ship building yard named Bucklers Hard
a car journey across the Pennines in a hail storm
a walk along a towpath in Dorset
a hike to a castle in Schwarzwald, Germany
a walk in the New Forest…”
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.'”
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.
It would seem Anne Lovett literally has music in her blood. Though currently residing in London, she was born in Normandy, France, a birthplace she shares with Erik Satie. Her family is a musical one, her father being a luthier and her mother a dancer. Anne herself picked up piano at only three years old and developed an interest in composition early on. She went on to study at the Conservatoire Supérieur de Paris as well as the Royal Academy of Music and later at King’s College, London. Since graduating, she has performed at prestigious venues and festivals throughout Europe and been heard on classical broadcast radio. If you have listened to her debut solo album Beyond (and Below), you already know she is both an electrifying pianist and an imaginative composer. On her partially crowd-funded second album entitled The Eleventh Hour, however, she balances her virtuosity & passion with poignant introspection to create a stunning new opus in collaboration with members of the London Contemporary Orchestra.
“The main narrative of the album was conceived during a period when intense shifts were taking place within our society which had a deep impact on the composer. The result is a deeply felt work that mourns the loss of a spiritual home as well as reflecting a dazed comprehension of the world having been permanently tilted on its axis. Best described through the Japanese concept of Kintsugi or “broken beauty”, ‘The Eleventh Hour’ is a heartbreakingly beautiful contribution to the modern classical genre. The thirteen tracks are all meticulously crafted and ring out with a dark luminosity, like an elegy to our troubled times”. – 1631 Recordings
Those who have followed the minimal electronic and electroacoustic music of James Murray have learned there is always a method behind the London-based composer’s work. Offering much more than simple atmospheric soundscapes, there is almost always some important conceptual arc or contextual backdrop to lend deeper meaning and, hence, deeper connection for the listener. This has never been more true than on his latest opus just out on Home Normal entitled Falling Backwards. The album is a poignant exploration of a peculiar coping mechanism Murray developed in his youth.
“When I was a child I would fall backwards, literally. If I felt life unfair or hadn’t control of my world, instead of losing my temper I’d go still, silent, bolt upright, close my eyes and just let go. At home, in public, wherever, it didn’t matter. Always backwards, vertical then inevitably, violently, not. After a few of these episodes the people in my life learnt to see the signs and usually someone would be there to catch me in time…Recent scans investigating tinnitus discovered an infarct in the back of my brain. The cognitive effects of this damage are unclear, best guess as to cause is historic trauma. I’d all but forgotten those self-destructive childhood descents, but this surprise transported me back at once to those earliest, strongest feelings, to the bitter intensity of that which first mattered most. The long free fall through darkness, the outright surrender of the will, and the delicious anticipation of impact. It’s strange isn’t it, the things we do to cope.” – James Murray
UK composer Matt Emery‘s music has been heard by literally millions with cinema and television placements for companies like Hugo Boss, BT Sports, BBC’s Top Gear, Ford, and GoPro as well as appearing in the trailer for the critically acclaimed IFC film “The Escape” starring Gemma Arteton and Dominic Cooper. Last September saw the release of his gorgeous debut album Empire on Injazero Records and this September he returns to the label with a brand new single on the label called “I Put a Flame in Your Heart” which recently debuted on Stephen McCauley’s Soundscapes program on BBC Radio Ulster and can be streamed here for the first time.
Hibernate was formed in the “rain-soaked paradise” of Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire by music enthusiast Joanathan Lees in 2009. The label saw a diverse array of top-notch artists contribute releases to its sterling catalog for the better part of six years before a entering a period of low activity in 2016 & 2017, so the arrival of fresh material in recent months is a most welcome development. The revival began with a pair of new entries in the “postcard series” this past spring and it continues this summer with a gorgeous new full-length album by Pausal. Though Volume Flow is the first release for the project on the label, its members Alex Smalley (aka Olan Mill) and Simon Bainton have each appeared twice before as solo artists. Continue reading
One of the steadiest sources of light among labels that feature & promote ambient music from around the globe is Home Normal under the guidance of Ian Hawgood, a fine artist and mastering engineer in his own right. The newest entry to their catalog brings together two outstanding artists who likewise both curate independent labels while creating their own music, Stijn Hüwels (Slaapwel Records) and James Murray (Slowcraft Records). The new collaborative project is called Silent Vigils, a suitable moniker for the liminal quiescence of sound these two kindred spirits have reached across water to create with one another.
“Molenbrook, Mossigwell, Zwartewall, Fieldem… places neither here nor there; half in the world, half in the mind. We began this project as an exchange of gestures across the water, a dialogue motivated by mutual respect and revolving around our shared love of the minimal, the graceful and the understated. We completed it on 22nd March 2017 – the day of the Westminster attack, one year to the day after the Brussels bombings. These four pieces have become our personal dedications to the quiet strength of blended culture, free thinking and open borders.” – Silent Vigils
Lazy Saturday afternoons in Liverpool provided the context for Ashlar, a collaborative project of Wil Bolton and Phil Edwards. The two began collaborating about 7 years ago ahead of their debut release Saturday Drones (Time Released Sound, 2011) which was based on sessions recorded in the public houses of the city’s Georgian quarter while St. James’ Gardens (Hibernate Recordings, 2014) was inspired by field recordings made in & around the park of the same name. Bolton has since relocated to London, but the project lives on in a new record aptly titled Distant Scenes based on a similar modus operandi with adjustments made to accommodate the geographical separation. This time the field recordings come from locations as varied as Japan and Korea as well as the UK and the impromptu recording sessions have been replaced by an asynchronous approach of sharing, augmenting, processing, and remote exchange. While this may have been a dramatic change in how the project was conducted, the listener will find the languorous beauty and friendly experimentation that characterized Ashlar’s previous work lives on albeit with a new patina burnished with welcome touches of melancholy and nostalgia.
Distant Scenes is an album built around distance, time and space as their different recording locations inspired new but separate ideas. A warm but blurry canvas has been woven over a four year period, as time has rusted the memories of the good old days spent jamming on their earlier albums and newer ideas have been corroded into a melancholic fuzz. – Whitelabrecs
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.