Following last year’s impressive full blossom of the evening, California-based r beny returns with another beautifully crafted opus fashioned from modular and hardware synthesizers entitled cascade symmetry. The album, which was recorded in San Jose but features additional field recordings captured in South Korea is a work the artist refers to as the “culmination of an intense and transformative year-long period” and “an ode to new beginnings and the disintegration of the past”. While that may be true creatively speaking, the listener will experience this album as a soothing immersion in a world of sumptuous textures; a warm and inviting quiescence of time as lush, shrouded, and remotely melancholic as Austin Cairn’s imagery of the Oregon coast on the cover suggests.
Minnesota based composer Chris Bartels is a man of many musical faces. Under the umbrella of his hybrid record label and production house Anthem Falls Music, he tends a variety of projects under different monikers along with work under his own name for film, TV, & advertising. The one that should be most familiar to fans of ambient music with a cinematic bent is Elskavon, which saw its debut in 2012 with the excellent Movements In Season followed by Release in 2013 and Reveal in 2014. Three years later, it is great to see Chris reactivating the project with previews of a fourth LP due in January. Each song on the new record is inspired by a particular memorable moment or era in his life and he has furnished us a prime example in “Dusk Line Hills” which I am pleased to premiere today. The backdrop for this track is an unforgettable moment that occurred in the Black Hills where Bartels was vacationing with his wife, one-year old son, and in-laws just as they were discussing how much they would like to get a glimpse of the elk that roam the area.
Literally as we take a right on the road to exit the route, there’s an elk, and then we see another one. We slow down and pull over to watch. It was getting close to dark. All of a sudden we hear some cries and look up the hill. There’s about somewhere between 60 to 80 elk. They started calling at or to each other, and then running up and down the hill for a minute – maybe there were two herds, I’m not sure. I just remember that moment so clearly – I remember all of us in the car just sort of gasping and then falling silent for a bit, watching, listening, taking it all in. Then in no time, they were gone. Disappeared over the dusk line hills”
A good friend and active supporter of instrumental music as the creative force behind the revered Headphone Commute (a huge influence on Stationary Travels, btw), Mike Lazarev has more recently revealed himself to us as a fine composer of solo piano music with a pair of mini-albums released on 1631 Recordings. Completed in New York before a move to London and intended to be listened to as the second half to last year’s Unhinged, the forthcoming follow-up entitled Dislodged offers ten exquisite pieces that explore “the outer reaches of spatial and reductionist pianism”.
If the two albums comprise a journey, it would seem (and we would hope) it is on a path to healing. Muted, wistful, and plaintive Dislodged may be, but the track titles hint at peace and recovery while sweet melodies and the occasional flourish of other instruments as well as a TV interlude add a sort of warmth to the proceedings. One might imagine the dark face of a building at night in the heart of the city where a single window glows with light and, as we peer inside and tune our ears to sounds coming from that direction, we get a glimpse of the composer having a dialog with his instrument. Intimate and personal perhaps, but expressed in a universal wordless language that anyone who has experienced detachment, isolation, or heartache will instantly understand. Continue reading
My guest for this edition of duologues is award-winning composer Jane Antonia Cornish who grew up in England and is currently based in New York City. In addition to composing scores for the acclaimed documentaries, Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood and Citizen Jane: Battle for the City as well as the drama Fireflies in the Garden, (starring Julia Roberts, Ryan Reynolds and Willem Dafoe), Cornish was the first female in history to win a British Academy Award (BAFTA) for music in 2005. In that same year the UK Film Council also honored her with a Breakthrough Brit in Hollywood award. Most recently she has released her third solo album Into Silence, an exquisite, intimate, and deeply affecting work that ICON Magazine called “A virtual blessing in a world gone mad”, a sentiment with which I would wholeheartedly agree.
Taking their name from the alias of the figure at the center of Rembrandt’s masterpiece “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp” who was central to the theme of their debut album (‘Floods’, 2015), Aris Kindt is a collaborative project from Gabe Hedrick and Francis Harris. The duo once again choose an artistic reference as a conceptual touchstone for their second album entitled Swann and Odette, a pair of protagonists from Marcel Proust’s sprawling seven-volume novel In Search of Lost Time. The album is a heady offering from a sonic perspective as well as a thematic one:
“Picking up where their first record (2015’s Floods) leaves off, ‘Swann and Odette’ is an evolutionary leap forward for the duo. The sonic palette is deeper, the grooves more sparse and the melodies are given more room to seep deep within a mix so expansive it feels almost tactile…a seamless interplay of synths and instrumentation cast loose from their origins and awash in oceanic delay.”
You can sample the ornate, cerebral soundscapes Hedrick and Harris are able to conjure from their extensive gear in this exclusive premiere of “Treatise”, a mesmerizing track that juxtaposes hazy swirls of guitar and malleable sonic forms with a steadily metronomic, pulsing groove.
If this all sounds rather modern for an album steeped in references to a turn-of-the-century novel, the point is not so much to soundtrack Proust’s story itself, but to explore concepts it suggests about the relationship of music to experience and memory or perhaps just the act of reading it in a current setting, both of which are suggested in John Stroud’s liner note essay (“Future Ghosts: Aris Kindt’s Soundtrack for a Radical Materialist Ontology”) which offers an assessment of the record as a kind of “post-structuralist pop”:
It is a science fiction record that launches our consciousness out into a speculative emotional landscape of decisively Proustian flavor while using techno’s taxonomic/serial bed of reference as an invitation to transmogrify that future into the pulsations of the actual body. As for Proust’s novel, it feels as much like a paperback thrown in a backpack more than any sort of foundation, something to read along the way while you’re waiting for your train (an image of which Proust would absolutely approve) while Swann and Odette plays over the radio in an altogether saner world. – John Stroud
Swann and Odette inaugurates Kingdoms, a new label being launched by Harris which he describes as “a new platform for adventurous music ranging from new voices in club-inflected jazz, contemporary composition, ambient, and electronic music to reissues of little-known obscurities from across the musical spectrum”. Editions of the album will be available from October 20 on digital and an attractive limited edition colored vinyl LP.
On their first two albums Chicago-based trio To Destroy a City introduced us to a sophisticated and exhilarating sound forged from layers of guitars, synths & pianos and driven by electronic beat production intertwined with live percussion. In two weeks when they roll out their third record entitled Go Mirage, fans and new listeners alike will be treated to not only their most stunning sonic tapestries yet, but an inspired new vocal dimension which does no harm whatsoever to their post rock pedigree.
“This follow-up to 2014’s post-rock paragon SUNLESS has an added immediacy due to the soaring nature of guitarist Michael Marshall’s step toward the mic…Idealists might bark that To Destroy A City can’t continue to fly the post-rock flag with such a vocalic album. The enlightened will find that the addition of vocals places the band as contemporaries to artists such as Caspian, Mogwai, and Album Leaf which have effectively used vocals as key components in their music.” – n5MD
Founded by members of two projects known for soaring instrumental rock, namely No Grave Like The Sea and Katmai, Purna is a newly formed experimental/ambient trio that explores much more nebulous territory where stillness, restraint, and nuance hold sway. Their debut effort entitled Grachiel is on the cusp of its release via AM 800, a recently established DIY label that is also home to bands previously featured here such as North End and Signal Hill. To give a taste of the lush, moody soundscapes on display on this record, you can have an exclusive first listen here to the track ‘11545kHz’
After releasing a number of EPs and singles under his own name, Brooklyn-based composer and filmmaker Austin Johnson will be making his official debut under his new alias breaking with the October 20 release of the soundtrack to his short film babyteeth on Seattle’s Hush Hush Records. The unobtrusive textures and moody atmospherics of his minimalist soundscapes well serve the film’s intimate indie feel and its understated treatment of tension & conflict in the context of everyday life.
“The main idea behind both the film and the soundtrack was to convey anxiety and angst through the lens of tranquility. It’s easy to get lost in anxiety, so in “babyteeth” I depict a boy’s rough journey to tranquility in an environment where that seems impossible.” – Austin Johnson (aka breaking)
It has been a little while – too long in fact – since we have visited the shores of the Eilean, an imaginary territory the map of which is now dotted & colored by 60 albums covering a broad and eclectic spectrum of ambient, electroacoustic, and modern classical music. The label saw five outstanding releases over the summer months by Bill Seaman, Toàn, Josco & Spheruleus, Francesco Giannico & Giulio Aldinucci, and Monty Adkins and has begun the transition to autumn with an exceptional debut record by Cicely Irvine. Here is a brief synopsis of each along with selected tracks for the reader to explore as well as links to the artists whose work is featured on the covers where available. (Note: most of these limited editions sold out soon after their release, but some may be available in small quantities; check the linked Bandcamp pages for details).
Hymn Binding marks the third full-length album by From the Mouth of the Sun, a collaboration formed in 2011 by Aaron Martin and Dag Rosenqvist. It also marks a new zenith in the potency of their alchemic fusion of acoustic sound sources (cello, piano, acoustic guitars, lap steel, banjo, ukulele, singing bowls, and pump organ) into creations of otherworldly beauty and stirring emotion. Organic by its very nature, it is a process which Rosenqvist explains requires the musician to be willing to embrace forces over which they do not have complete control:
“There’s something very beautiful and rewarding to working with acoustic sound sources. Because when you record them, you never know what you’re going get, and you can never repeat it exactly the same way. The wood in the instrument changes from air pressure and with different temperatures. You change your sitting position from one take to another and all of a sudden it sounds slightly different. You move the microphone or you move something in the room and it sounds slightly different. Acoustic sound sources allow for chaos to be a part of the creative process, allowing for something you can never fully control.” – Dag Rosenqvist
It is time for the slow fade of summer. The northern hemisphere starts to tilt away from the burning sun and the slanted light begins to take on a golden tint in the afternoons. The comforting crisp austerity of autumn awaits, but it is still warm, hazy, and verdant and a fine time to sink into languid, introspective sounds of the kind of delicate construction that can be found on the six albums featured here – a trio from the Whitelabrecs label by Ludmila, Steve Pacheco, and Floor Overhead along with EPs by M. Grig and Josh Mason, and a forthcoming October release by Ghost and Tape on Home Normal.
No matter how many solo piano pieces I listen to, I never cease to be amazed how musicians can channel so much of their own individual character through the same single instrument and weave so many intangible qualities into the notes and hammer strokes. As I listened to the music on Tristan Eckerson‘s new album Disarm, I found myself laboring to articulate what those intangibles were – that is until I read his bio.
The composer is currently based in the lovely mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina but was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and has lived, traveled, & studied in places as far-flung as Charleston, South Carolina, San Sebastian, Spain, San Francisco, California, & Seattle, Washington and has performed in multiple groups on both U.S. Coasts recording with members of the Ray Charles Orchestra, writing string arrangements for the Magik*Magik Orchestra, and performing at numerous music halls & festivals. And then it suddenly seemed obvious what I was hearing woven in and around the notes was a kind of restlessness, a sense of wanderlust and hunger for new experience.