PREMIERE: “A Walk With Mr. J” from Ancestral Dances by Luis Berra [1631 Recordings]

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Search as you might across the web, you won’t a great many words about pianist/composer Luis Berra. In part that may be because his debut album (‘Piano Creatures‘, 2017) came out only last year. To some extent, however, it appears that the Italian-born musician, who currently lives & works in Bavaria, simply prefers to let his piano do the talking. Whether teaching at a music school, performing on a stage or in the lobby of a luxury hotel, or recording in the studio, it is how he tells his stories and he does it with an eloquent and mellifluous voice. This is abundantly evident on his sophomore outing entitled ‘Ancestral Dances’, a splendid solo piano record that gracefully soars, sways and pirouettes through a dozen narratives spun from ivory keys and wooden hammers.

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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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PREMIERE: “Here” by Walrus Ghost & Max Frankl [Hush Hush Records]

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It almost sounds like a pitch for a screenplay. European jazz guitarist travels to New York and answers and ad for an open room posted by an experimental electronic music producer. Kindred spirits who followed very different musical paths, the two hit it off and end up creating an album of music together. Only it’s not a screenplay. It is the story of Munich-born and Zurich-based guitarist Max Frankl and Brooklyn-based Christian Banks aka Walrus Ghost. At the time Frankl moved in, Banks was about to release his debut album Uplifting Themes for the Naysayer. Despite striking up an instant friendship, it took time for their mutual appreciation of each other’s approaches to writing & playing music to grow. But, grow it did. First a song, then a handful of tracks, and finally a complete album called Avenues and Remembrances which will be released later this month.

“When we first met, we could both feel a great connection between the two of us. Some weeks later we recorded some music together, which was one of the greatest experiences I had while playing and recording with a lot of different musicians in New York. The things I treasure in Christian`s music have a lot to do with my compositional approach towards music: I like warm and rich environments that bring a particular quality to the music that is sometimes lacking in hectic day to day life: calmness, silence, and tranquility.” – Max Frankl

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Through a musical lens: Memory Sketches by Tim Linghaus [Schole/1631 Recordings]

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What is a memory? It is not such a silly question. Just stop and think about it for a moment. Try to put it into words. What IS a memory? How do they accrue such significance to our sense of self?  Musician Tim Linghaus wrestles with this in a beautiful and touching way on his latest album called Memory Sketches. Tim’s experiences with making music began when he discovered his father’s Yamaha drum machine and guitars when he was a young boy in the GDR. During his university years he played guitar in a couple of bands ranging from metal to singer/songwriter, but of late his music is mainly based on piano, synthesizers and noise. If you have had the joy of listening to his debut Vhoir, then you know it is of an exceptionally thoughtful and delicate nature and the new album continues very much in the same vein but with a very particular purpose as Tim explains.

“What is a memory? Is it a residue of our past conjured into being by pictures in our minds? Is it our former self communicating with our present one or the other way around? Is it a recurring emotion or smell we notice in a déjà vu or a daydream? Is it an individual sum of those aspects? What I know is that memories help me to define who I am. They establish connection between me and everything that is not present or future – sometimes sharp and palpable, more often soft and frail. Unfortunately, some memories fade away irrevocably. Hence, I am quite afraid of losing them.” Tim Linghaus

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Video: Dualisms #2 (Studnitzky Rework) by Illuminine

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As February draws to a close in this part of the world, we can’t help but start to anticipate the thawing of winter and the colors of spring and Belgian boutique label Dauw is a fine place to look for music that will suit the change in seasons. The label’s docket for March includes a collection of  reworked material drawn from #2 by Illuminine (aka Kevin Imbrechts), a lovely study in melancholia which the artist released last year. As was the case with 2015’s #1 Reworks an international roster of artists has been compiled to reinterpret or “reconstellate” the songs into new experiences across a diverse range of styles from delicate ambient and solo piano to minimal electronica and techno.

Like an early hint of spring, we’ve been gifted a glimpse into one of the new mixes, a sprightly polyrhythmic reworking of the previously wistful “Dualisms #2” by Berlin based multi-instrumentalist, composer & producer Studnitzky. The song is released along with a striking video entirely shot in Iceland by Melina Rathjen, a place that has a special meaning for both artists who spent time there working on their music.

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PREMIERE: Fragmentary Blue by Aukai

Aukai is a Hawaiian word for seafaring traveler or sailor, a suitable metaphor for the musical project of the same name from Markus Sieber conceived after a move from Europe to Mexico and born from his desire to create music that could work in tandem with film, video, theater and the visual arts. The distinctive sound that permeates the music of Aukai owes much to the love affair Sieber has cultivated with the ronroco, a stringed instrument of Andean origins recently popularized by film composer Gustavo Santaolalla.  The magic happens as the instrument’s brightly arpeggiated strings are deftly woven into expansive compositions fleshed out by an ensemble that includes cellist Anne Müller (Agnes Obel Band, Nils Frahm), violinist Bogdan Djukic, pianist Angelika Baumbach, keyboardist Alexander Nickmann, and longtime collaborator Jamshied Sharifi (Laurie Anderson, Sting, Dream Theater) .

It is a formula that received a warm & enthusiastic reception for Aukai’s self-titled 2016 debut and works a treat again on the forthcoming follow-up album Branches of Sun which began as a series of recordings made by Sieber during a retreat to a small cabin near the Old Spanish Trail in Colorado last winter far away from a world of human and technological distractions. Perhaps the mood is a bit more austere and contemplative this time as the pristine, remote atmosphere of the high-mountain country looms in the background, but the luminosity and nomadic spirit in the music remains irrepressible and life-affirming. For a taste of the new record, have a listen to the gorgeous interplay of cascading piano runs with the sun-soaked ronroco set off by warm swells and textures of cello that characterize “Fragmentary Blue” offered here in an exclusive premiere.

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Martyn Heyne – Electric Intervals [7K!]


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

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Travelogue 2017.07.06: Wandering the Archives

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. 

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Through a Musical Lens: Lowlands – Ester Vonplon / Taylor Deupree & Marcus Fischer [IIKKI]

Lowlands is the third edition of the recently launched IIKKI project, a unique concept in which each entry in the series is the outcome of a creative dialog between a visual artist and a music artist which results in parallel imprints – a fine art book and a vinyl record. This one began when Ester Vonplon traveled last year to Spitsbergen, an island in the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago, where she captured impressions of the calving glaciers and melting ice of the Arctic Ocean aboard a three-masted sailing vessel. The musicians chosen for this edition are Taylor Deupree and Marcus Fischer, frequent collaborators and potent alchemists in the art of electroacoustic minimalism, who fashioned an audio narrative from recordings made over a 3-year period in locations as far-flung as Iceland, Oregon, Florida, and New York. 

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VIDEO PREMIERE: The Last by Garreth Broke and Anna Salzmann

In a recent interview with the folks at Piano & Coffee, pianist and composer Garreth Broke spoke about growing up on a diary farm in West Wales where he forged a strong connection to the landscape and developed an acute awareness of how much changes are wrought over it with each season. That experience served as a large part of the inspiration for a quartet of EPs he would create with his artist partner Anna Salzmann, each of which would mark the beginning of a new season. The series comes to a conclusion next week with the release of June which features three compositions by Broke and vivid new imagery by Salzmann that is aflame with bright, warm colors.  Continue reading

Travelogue 2017.06.17: A Spring Quartet

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke

A brief survey of an exquisite quartet of modern classical albums for the Spring season by Christoph Berg & Henning Schmiedt on Flau, Tambour on Moderna Records, Julian Marchal on the newly launched Whales Records, and Moinho on 1631 Recordings. 

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Sound impression: Before We Dive by Altars Altars [auasca]

The sensation of floating weightless and carefree in lilting currents beneath an azure sky and a blazing sun casting webs of light on the sea floor below. Hours to drift, to explore, to gaze at the expanse of endless horizons or muse on what lurks in dark places or teems among the cloudy depths. There is no time nor age here in the midst of this collage of youthful memories fashioned from warm aqueous drones and marine sounds.

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