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.
Reflections on a Dead Sea is the debut full-length album by British composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Danny Mulhern which presents an augmented, evolved and extended version of his purposefully muted original score for short film The Dead Sea, directed by Stuart Gatt. Set in Libya and backed by the humanitarian organization Medicins Sans Frontieres (aka Doctors Without Borders), the film tells the harrowing story of Emmanuel and Olu, a husband & wife who become incarcerated in a migrant detention center following a failed attempt to flee to Europe. The album was recorded in collaboration with the London Contemporary Orchestra and cellist Oliver Coates in a format that fuses composed and improvised elements together as Mulhern explains:
“We discovered the sound that fitted the film best was extremely soft articulations, played so they were barely audible. It opened up a fascinating sound world that I felt could go beyond the film…For the album sessions I had some pre-recorded piano improvisations, with instructions for each player to play over them within certain parameters (such as articulations, choosing notes from certain chords and never staying longer than a bar on any given note.) We could then home in on interesting sounds that were suggested with each take – a sort of controlled randomness. This way of working was an epiphany; it was really exciting to essentially hear new music coming out of the control room speakers for the first time.”
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.
To hear the music of Australian pianist Sophie Hutchings is to be spellbound by its unfettered beauty. Rich in melody and sonic colors in constant movement, her compositions and arrangements can summon wide open spaces on a grand scale or turn inwards with the most calming and intimate warmth. After a busy year in which she released two albums (Yonder and Byways), toured in Europe, performed at the inaugural Q3Ambientfest, and traveled to India, Sophie was kind of enough to take some time to chat with us about her recent projects and her music in general.
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
There are few artists who are able to convey the full drama and scope of the existential ache through their music as Amir Abbey aka Secret Pyramid. Drawing inspiration from the vast Pacific Northwest where he is based, he builds plaintive minor key melodies into monumental edifices of sound that somehow never lose their intimacy or emotional compass and he as the height of his powers on his latest album entitled Two Shadows Collide. This music is full of compelling paradoxes. It is crepuscular and illuminated; tentative and transcendent; lush and barren, majestic and devastating. But it is these very conflicts that are at the heart of the album’s themes.
Carefully built and fluidly performed, the record expands Abbey’s relationship with modern composition and abstract songcraft. Each song’s main inspiration comes from the notion behind the album title, the intersection and attraction of forces and worlds, clashing of sounds, and the dualities within our lives. That such a meditative release is built upon conflict is ironic, but therein lies the perfect way to listen. – Ba Da Bing Records
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)
After providing the music to films such as the 2017 Cannes-nominee ”Push it” and the Guldbagge-awarded/ Prix Europa-nominated ”Skörheten” (Fragility), Stockholm-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Jakob Lindhagen has just released a new full-length solo album called Paces. It features nine pieces led by piano & string trio and colored with unexpected instrumentation such as musical saw and zither as well as other sounds resulting from both deliberate experimentation and happenstance.
”I was recording with equipment that wasn’t always functioning properly. For example, one microphone occasionally started to pick up radio frequencies. At times it was really faint and turned out to be a detail just adding to the overall impression, so I decided to keep it. Other times it was really “in your face”, instead inspiring me to incorporate it into the composition” – Jakob Lindhagen
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).
The first thing that strikes you on This Body Is Not Me by Slow Heart Music (aka Ben Rath) are the mellifluous tones that resonate with a sun-soaked, pastoral warmth from the wooden body of an impeccably tuned guitar. The tunes are brand new yet instantly take on the aura of the timeless and familiar. This subtle sorcery becomes even more impressive when you learn that Rath improvised these pieces, many in a single take, using a second-hand instrument picked up on the cheap.
“Slow Heart Music was conceived as a way to create music in a more spontaneous and live way, with minimal electronic interference and using a basic, lo-fi set-up. The tracks on ‘This Body Is Not Me’ were recorded on a small classical guitar Ben purchased for £5 from a bring-and-buy sale in the basement of a cafe. Ben would improvise on this guitar in a relatively free and unstructured way until a theme or melody organically developed. He’d then press record on a digital audio recorder and create a spontaneous composition out of that theme.” – Whitelabrecs
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