Travelogue 2018.03.11: A Modern Classical Matinee

vid1This musical weekend matinée features a collection of four beautiful modern classical compositions by Tambour, Roberto Cacciapaglia, Erland Cooper, and Fabrizio Paterlini set to video. For just a little while, leave your cares behind and enjoy the transportive magic of these musical stories. 

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Dura – Repetition Suppression [Scissor Tail Records]

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A couple of years ago I left my listening chair and went on a rare musical field trip to see Slow Meadow and Hotel Neon play an intimate show at the now defunct Union Arts Center in Washington, DC. It all seems a bit surreal now. For one thing, I rarely make it to live shows, let alone ones featuring artists I write about, and, for another, the property that once hosted the eclectic venue is now undergoing major redevelopment. So, by and large, the experience only lives on in my memory as a pleasant dream. One of the sharper recollections, however, was the unexpected pleasure of meeting the affable and talented Mattson Ogg, aka Dura, who opened the proceedings by filling the room with some captivating and heady soundscapes crafted from looping ambient guitar. Since then he has put out a number of releases each one taking its listeners on similar thoughtful and abstract journeys.

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Duologue: A conversation with r beny

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Electronic ambient music is a funny animal when you think about it. How is it possible to create compelling music with no conventional instruments, no words, and no beat? But, Austin Cairns, aka r beny, is one of those rare sonic alchemists who does just that weaving rich aural tapestries and exploring the labyrinths of memory using modular & hardware synthesizers and tape machines. Using  His 2016 debut full blossom of the evening deservedly caught the ear of many discerning followers of the ambient scene with its broad spectrum of beautifully crafted sounds and varying moods. Then, after a period of personal difficulty and transformation he created what surely must be considered one of the best albums of its kind last year, cascade symmetry. Far from exhibiting a sophomore slump, Cairns found the soul of his machines and delivered a quiet stunner with a palpable melancholy and potent emotional undertow that was little short of astonishing. Now, following his most recent release, the delicate and peaceful saudade on Belgian tape label Dauw, Cairns talks with us about how he got started, his creative process, his gear, and what’s on the horizon.  Continue reading

Sound Impression: Voz by Richard Luke [1631 Recordings]

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Releases may not be flying out at quite the prolific rate they were during the first 18 months or so following the launch of 1631 Recordings, but the Swedish imprint remains a steady and reliable source of wonderful new modern & post-classical music.  Most recently, the label has offered up the debut album of Glaswegian multi-instrumentalist composer and producer Richard Luke, a collection on which he collaborated on with Scottish Chamber Orchestra first violinist Amira Bedrush McDonald entitled Voz.

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Tomorrow We Sail — The Shadows [Gizeh Records]

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The very name of the band Tomorrow We Sail evokes an aura of journeys into far off horizons full of promise, an apt metaphor for the creative odyssey the Leeds-based band has been on since their formation in 2009. Their 2014 debut, For Those Who Caught The Sun In Flight, was the culmination of four years spent developing the euphonious and stirring blend of folk, post rock, neoclassical, and atmospheric elements they can now claim as their own signature sound. What followed was a restless period of musical exploration and a traveling hiatus with the band eventually reuniting less one member (violinist David Ramsey who remained abroad) to work on a new record. Without venturing any conjecture about the personal sojourns that took place during the intervening years, what is abundantly clear is how much band has grown musically. Now out after three years in gestation, The Shadows finds the six-piece collective spreading their wings wide and soaring to majestic new heights on the strength of potent songwriting, intricate arrangements, and engaging vocals.

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A Sense of Place: Anenon – Tongue [Friends of Friends]

Amidst the teeming diversity and cacophonous sprawl of Los Angeles are scores of people who specialize in making and selling dreams. There is probably no place on earth that has not been imagined or portrayed there and preserved on celluloid.  But to truly experience the soul of a place, to connect with it, soak it in, and meaningfully interact with it, you really do need to be there. Perhaps it was with this mindset that Brian Allen Simon aka Anenon packed up his instruments in the spring of 2017 and left behind a roiling political/cultural climate for the serene and picturesque rolling hills of Tuscany, home to millenia of sublime artistic expression and enviable provincial life. There, in a makeshift attic studio on the third story of a 16th century villa in the small town of Palaia he embarked on a month long musical odyssey which resulted in his fourth LP entitled Tongue. 

“I live in the city of ephemerality. The omnipresent LA light soaks my mind and body and moves me forward towards a dark and inconsistent absence of remembrance. Around me, histories are bought and sold daily in an unplanned, urban and suburban dwelling that on paper makes zero sense, but in reality has become a haven for wide open creative thinking and action that couldn’t exist anywhere else…I wanted to make music that can live inside of anywhere one finds themselves: city or country. It’s a series of shifting moods and melodies that through the heart, mind, hands, throat, and tongue sing an outpouring of metaphysical, nuanced psychedelic passing truth.” – Brian Allen Simon

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Emmanuel Witzthum – Songs of Love and Loss [Eilean Rec]

coverEmmanuel Witzthum is an Israeli musician, violist, composer, multidisciplinary artist, and lecturer who has been involved in projects, festivals, and orchestras all around the globe including including New York, Jerusalem, Paris, Berlin, and Madrid. Some readers here may recall his work with collaborator Craig Tattersall (aka The Humble Bee) as E& I on their sublime Eilean Records release The Colour of Sound (2016) an album described on this site as “a complete suspension of time and the invocation of a blissful, halcyon torpor conducive to a state of deep reflection” and “a truly gorgeous album of quietly epic proportions”. Two years later Witzthum returns to the enigmatic label with a new solo work entitled Songs of Love and Loss which brings his viola and voice work into a sharper and more impassioned focus as he offers up a quartet of ardent compositions each represented by a haiku and associated with a different season.

Eyes shut, leaves 
Lift in winds across 
Autumn skies 

Soft rain falls 
Winter solitude 
At night, still 

Shy flowers 
Cloud sighs, clear blue sky, 
Breeze turns warm 

Against tree 
Eyes look to sunset 
In summer 

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yndi halda – A Sun-Coloured Shaker

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If yndi halda was in the market for a new tag line they might consider “no music before its time” (a riff on the 70’s era Orson Wells commercial for Paul Masson wine for any of our readers too young to remember). Consider their resplendent opus Under Summer (2016), which the band worked on over a nine-year span following 2007’s Enjoy Eternal Bliss, clear evidence of their patient willingness to take as long as necessary to nurture their music to the point they feel it is ready to put out into the world. The same can be said of their new single A Sun-Coloured Shaker. In fact, it was that extended period of slowly chipping away at the composition, arrangements, and production of the last record that left the band with what they refer to as “small pockets of music which [they] really loved but had no home for”.  One piece in particular they felt truly belonged with the album but simply needed more time to develop and so they lovingly tended the vine as best they could until the fruit was ready.

“We knew it had to be a part of the album eventually, but also that it needed more time. So, between tours and obligations for Under Summer, we met to continue writing, and we eventually reached our destination: an accompaniment to the album, a new song that tells the leftover stories. We see A Sun-Coloured Shaker as the passing of night that follows Under Summer’s day. The dawn after the album’s dusk has faded. We wanted to express the realization that something as simple and everyday as sunrise can be so truly life-giving. That the natural rhythm of nightfall and daybreak is a foundation of reality and being.” – yndi halda

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PREMIERE: “I Can’t Start Being Happy For Feeling Sad” by Winterlight

The first time hearing the music of Winterlight is a pleasurably disorienting experience. Circulating amidst its dizzying swirls & sonic eddies are decades of musical influences and waves of reverb-drenched melody which coalesce into sumptuous, prismatic compositions with vast depth of field. Structurally uncomplicated, but texturally complex, the origin of the sound traces its roots to founder Tim Ingham‘s absorption in the post-punk and shoegaze music of the 80s and 90s in his native Thames Valley England.  It was not until 2006 that Ingham mined those influences in an effort to recreate the lush and hazy sounds of his youth. It was then the project came into being and quickly integrated itself onto the ambient/electronica scene over the course of several albums, singles, and remixes.

This band’s latest album had a lengthy gestation period of its own. The Longest Sleep Through Darkest Days is the culmination of nearly seven years of on and off “creative spurts, false starts, and second guesses” and reflects a turmoil hinted at in its title. The listener, however, is not burdened with the arduousness of this genesis. For us, there is only the bliss of its “melancholic euphoria”, expansive beauty, and deft nostalgic nods to the electronic music that informs it. Even better news is we don’t have to wait until the March release to enter the vortex of these mesmerizing sounds as the band is releasing the single with a pair of exclusive B-sides next week and you, dear reader, can check them out right now.  Continue reading

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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Poppy Ackroyd – Resolve [One Little Indian]

Poppy_Ackroyd_Resolve_CoverWhen we got a chance to speak with Poppy Ackroyd this past summer, she was about to release Sketches, an album of solo piano reworks of material from her first two studio albums as well as pieces from an upcoming new work. Now that album has arrived, erasing any possible vestiges of doubt that she is one of the most innovative and exciting artists on the experimental classical scene and a truly distinctive artistic voice.

Resolve finds Poppy building and expanding upon her dynamic and percussive approach to playing the piano in ways both conventional and unconventional. It also find her collaborating in the studio for the first time with other musicians including Manu Delago (Bjork, Cinematic Orchestra, Anoushka Shankar) on hang, Mike Lesirge (Bonobo, Andreya Triana) on clarinets and flute, and Jo Quail on cello. It is a vibrant and mesmerizing record with a positive impetus behind it. 

“Resolve is about the determination to embrace the good things in life whilst dealing with unexpected and challenging difficulties. Finding the light in the dark, facing sadness and loss head on, and developing a growing inner strength.” – Poppy Ackroyd

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