Video: “Universalis” by Hammock

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On their first full-length studio album since the deeply elegiac ‘Mysterium’ a little over a year ago, the Nashville-based duo of Marc Byrd & Andrew Thompson known as Hammock find themselves following a “vertical, upward movement back toward the light”. This progression from the low places of grief toward beckoning illumination is subtly depicted on the cover of Universalis and the hopeful, healing tone of the music echoes that trajectory while hearkening back to some of the most beloved recordings in the band’s canon as well as some of their early influences. For example, one can hear the sweeping atmospheric balladry of ‘Raising Your Voice to Stop an Echo’ and the glacial stillness of ‘Maybe They Will Sing for Us Tomorrow’ alongside the orchestral neoclassical grandeur of their more recent works.

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Through a musical lens: Metropolitan by Madeleine Cocolas [bigo & twigetti]

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Madeleine Cocolas is no stranger to incorporating music with other art forms. She has composed numerous works music for film, dance, and art exhibitions from painting to textiles. It should be no surprise, then, the fondness she developed for The Metropolitan Museum of Art after recently relocating to New York and on her newest album she finds a unique way to express her love for both the city and the museum while creating a highly engaging intersection between modern art, generative music, and compositional forms.  The approach is best described by Cocolas herself:

“When I moved to New York City, I knew I wanted to write an album somehow connected to the city, but I wasn’t sure how to anchor it. It was probably on my third or fourth trip to The Metropolitan Museum of Art that I realized how much I loved The Met, and how much it meant to me to be there. I chose nine artworks…that really resonated with me, used custom software programmed by Gregory Long specifically for this project to analyze an image of each artwork to create sounds, and then incorporated those sounds into my compositions.  Each track on the album represents an individual artwork, so the album is like a collection of individual works.” – Madeleine Cocolas

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Through a Musical Lens: Touch Dissolves by Aaron Martin [IIKKI]

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Even with a thesaurus ever just a mouse-click away, one begins to run out of superlatives to describe the music of Aaron Martin. Perhaps it is the unpretentious, organic beauty. Perhaps it is sublime balance between the earthly and the empyrean. Perhaps it is simply that truth resonates in each handmade note, of which not one is ever wasted. If you have heard Aaron’s work, you know exactly what I mean.  If you have not, then a wonderful starting point would be his contribution to Touch Dissolves, the album portion of sixth edition of IIKKI Books in which volume is presented as a dialog between two artists, one visual and one musical (the visuals in this edition are provided by Turkish photographer Yusuf Sevinçli).

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Sound Impression: Insomnia Drones by Tapes and Topographies [Simulacra Records]

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After putting out two superb albums already this year in Fathoms and Opiates, Texas-based musician Todd Gautreau has pleasantly surprised with yet a third Tapes and Topographies release right on the cusp of the fall equinox. As its title suggests, Insomnia Drones is a suitably soporific offering that lulls the listener into a welcome state of melancholic languor and deep rumination.

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PREMIERE: The End Approaches from Lonely Satellite by Lena Natalia

LN_Lonely_Satellite_coverA native of Chicago where she is currently based, composer, producer, and musician Lena Natalia spent several years living in Paris and, indeed, much of her music manages to capture that elusive je ne sais quoi and aura of timeless elegance and melancholic romanticism that the mere mention of the city evokes for many. While that remains true on her forthcoming album Lonely Satellite, the new record also finds her displaying new facets to her work right down to the eye-catching cover and the message it conveys.

“The intent is that the cat and the device are both, in fact, “lonely satellites,” seeing each other from their own, very distant vantage points. They are two beings making a connection; there is a sense of longing. They are also both satellites in the sense that they are solitary objects separated from something, somewhere else, while always remaining in each other’s orbit.” – Lena Natalia

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Sound Impression: ex by kj [Dronarivm]

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In a few short years, New York based musician, producer, and filmmaker KJ Rothweiler has solidly established himself among the serious purveyors of compostional ambient music with a string of captivating albums including the brand new ex now out on Dronarivm and mastered by none other than Rafael Anton Irisarri at his Black Knoll Studio.

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PREMIERE: Inward (excerpt) by Hotel Neon

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Since arriving on the scene roughly five years ago with their self-titled debut, Hotel Neon has established itself as a highly productive outfit when it comes to creating atmospheric soundscapes of extraordinary depth. They recently released their fourth full-length studio album entitled Means of Knowing (2018, Archives), arguably their most impressive and accomplished effort to date, while managing to stay quite active with individual solo projects, collaborations, and remixes (so much so that some of us who know the members of the band have kidded only in half-jest that they must have equally talented doppelgangers secretly helping them out).

Far from being studio hermits, Hotel Neon frequently performs live and tours extensively, engaging audiences with their immersive resonances enhanced with projected film and images. This fall they will be heading west for a special string of shows along with Benoît Pioulard (based in Seattle, WA) and Marcus Fischer (based in Portland, OR) and they will be bringing yet more new music with them, a long-form cassette release called Inward. While the tapes will initially only be available at the concert venues, it will eventually see release on Bandcamp and you can sample a gorgeous 9+ minute excerpt of it right here in an exclusive premiere.  Continue reading

Travelogue 2018.09.07: A late summer long-form journey

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This audio journey features a globe-spanning quartet of immersive long-form single releases by Saariselka (Chuck Johnson & Marielle Jakobsons), Hakobune, Arash Akbari, and Dave Watkins.

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Helios – Veriditas [Ghostly International]

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The roots of Keith Kenniff’s Helios project go back to 2001, well before he graduated Berklee College of Music in 2006 (the same year he released the timeless and much-loved ‘Eingya‘) and before he began making piano-based modern classical music as Goldmund or collaborating with his wife Hollie as Mint Julep. It goes back to before he began composing custom music for some of the biggest brands in the world including Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Starbucks, Disney, Samsung, & more. The music has evolved over the years and the location has changed (the Kenniffs have been based in Portland, Oregon since 2008), but the composer who deferentially uses “Unseen Music” as the umbrella name for all his projects, still likes to make quiet music at night using the same mini-cassette recorder (“a lovely little imperfect way to treat sounds”). And from those quiet nocturnal experiments comes another sumptuous and warmly enveloping Helios record entitled Veriditas, a title taken from a term coined by medieval abbess and philosopher Hildegard von Bingen as a fusion of two Latin words: green and truth. Though her concepts were quite theological in nature, Kenniff found inspiration in the word’s more abstract connotations.

“While I’m not a very spiritual person as it relates to a religious belief, I do feel an overwhelming connection between the aesthetics I find pleasing in my experience of nature and my experience of writing music.” – Keith Kenniff 

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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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Album Stream: Melding by Marika Takeuchi [bigo & twigetti]

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Composer and pianist Marika Takeuchi has been involved with music her entire life. She began studies in classical music at the tender age of three in her native Japan and, at age 18, went on to study composition at Shobi Music College in Tokyo and do early career work for Japanese national radio and Universal Music Japan. In 2009, she moved to the United States to study film scoring at Berklee College of Music and saw the release of here first solo album ‘Night Dream’ before graduating in 2012. Since then, she has continued to work on a wide variety of projects as a composer, pianist, orchestrator, and arranger while continuing to release solo recordings such as ‘Impressions’ (2013), ‘Rain Stories’ (2014), and ‘Colors in the Diary’ (2016) which was produced by Windham Hill founder & Grammy-winning producer Will Ackerman and features cellist Eugene Friesen and Boston Symphony Orchestra violinist Si-Jing Huang. Continue reading

Whale Fall – Sondersongs

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This summer marks the welcome return of instrumental collective Whale Fall with their first album in nearly four years and a glorious one it is. The sprawling vistas of The Madrean, their 2014 post-rock homage to the natural & urban landscapes of the American southwest, give way to a more broadly referential cycle of songs called Sondersongs which takes inspiration from the neologistic definition of a word found in John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

sonder – n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own — populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries, and inherited craziness — an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk”  – The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

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