James Murray | Falling Backwards [Home Normal]

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Those who have followed the minimal electronic and electroacoustic music of James Murray have learned there is always a method behind the London-based composer’s work. Offering much more than simple atmospheric soundscapes, there is almost always some important conceptual arc or contextual backdrop to lend deeper meaning and, hence, deeper connection for the listener. This has never been more true than on his latest opus just out on Home Normal entitled Falling Backwards. The album is a poignant exploration of a peculiar coping mechanism Murray developed in his youth.

“When I was a child I would fall backwards, literally. If I felt life unfair or hadn’t control of my world, instead of losing my temper I’d go still, silent, bolt upright, close my eyes and just let go. At home, in public, wherever, it didn’t matter. Always backwards, vertical then inevitably, violently, not. After a few of these episodes the people in my life learnt to see the signs and usually someone would be there to catch me in time…Recent scans investigating tinnitus discovered an infarct in the back of my brain. The cognitive effects of this damage are unclear, best guess as to cause is historic trauma. I’d all but forgotten those self-destructive childhood descents, but this surprise transported me back at once to those earliest, strongest feelings, to the bitter intensity of that which first mattered most. The long free fall through darkness, the outright surrender of the will, and the delicious anticipation of impact. It’s strange isn’t it, the things we do to cope.”James Murray

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Dauw + Eilean | Dialog Tapes II

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Among the musical highlights of 2015 was a collaborative project between two distinctive ’boutique’ labels – Dauw, curated by Pieter Dudal with a specialization in handmade cassette releases, and Eilean Records curated by Mathias van Eecloo, a limited edition CD imprint based on a concept of mapping out an imagined place. Located in Belgium and France respectively, they are European neighbors as well as kindred spirits. The joint project called Dialog Tapes comprised two albums released in parallel wherein every track was a collaboration between a different pairing of artists selected from each label (read more about the first volume here).  It turned out to be nothing less than treasure trove for listeners who appreciate electroacoustic ambient music steeped in eclecticism, minimalism, and filigree while at the same time blending diverse artistic styles in new & creative ways.

Needless to say, it was very gratifying news indeed to see a second iteration of the project on offer this year. Once again, the quality of the music across the two volumes is exquisite and the thoughtful pairings yield utterly captivating results full of subtle sonic surprises in their many permutations and juxtapositions. 

“In its essence, Dialog Tapes is an ambitious attempt to connect a musical field through its own creative forces. It’s about connectivity and making new unexpected musical ties between individual actors…Four years later, both labels now express a distinctive sound and found their place within the field of minimal ambient and electro-acoustic music. Hence, Dudal and Eecloo found that the time was ripe to initiate the follow-up of the first Dialog Tapes output. After a long process of carefully selecting the artists and curating the collaborations, a wonderful group of musicians started to explore musical overlap, looked for new approaches to make music and ultimately went in a dialog with another artist. ”  – Dauw/Eilean 

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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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Sound Impression: Fieldem by Silent Vigils [Home Normal]

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One of the steadiest sources of light among labels that feature & promote ambient music from around the globe is Home Normal under the guidance of Ian Hawgood, a fine artist and mastering engineer in his own right. The newest entry to their catalog brings together two outstanding artists who likewise both curate independent labels while creating their own music, Stijn Hüwels (Slaapwel Records) and James Murray (Slowcraft Records).  The new collaborative project is called Silent Vigils, a suitable moniker for the liminal quiescence of sound these two kindred spirits have reached across water to create with one another.

“Molenbrook, Mossigwell, Zwartewall, Fieldem… places neither here nor there; half in the world, half in the mind. We began this project as an exchange of gestures across the water, a dialogue motivated by mutual respect and revolving around our shared love of the minimal, the graceful and the understated. We completed it on 22nd March 2017 – the day of the Westminster attack, one year to the day after the Brussels bombings. These four pieces have become our personal dedications to the quiet strength of blended culture, free thinking and open borders.” – Silent Vigils

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Sound Impression: Distant Scenes by Ashlar [Whitelabrecs]

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Lazy Saturday afternoons in Liverpool provided the context for Ashlar, a collaborative project of  Wil Bolton and Phil Edwards. The two began collaborating about 7 years ago ahead of their debut release Saturday Drones (Time Released Sound, 2011) which was based on sessions recorded in the public houses of the city’s Georgian quarter while St. James’ Gardens (Hibernate Recordings, 2014) was inspired by field recordings made in & around the park of the same name. Bolton has since relocated to London, but the project lives on in a new record aptly titled Distant Scenes based on a similar modus operandi with adjustments made to accommodate the geographical separation. This time the field recordings come from locations as varied as Japan and Korea as well as the UK and the impromptu recording sessions have been replaced by an asynchronous approach of sharing, augmenting, processing, and remote exchange. While this may have been a dramatic change in how the project was conducted, the listener will find the languorous beauty and friendly experimentation that characterized Ashlar’s previous work lives on albeit with a new patina burnished with welcome touches of melancholy and nostalgia.

Distant Scenes is an album built around distance, time and space as their different recording locations inspired new but separate ideas. A warm but blurry canvas has been woven over a four year period, as time has rusted the memories of the good old days spent jamming on their earlier albums and newer ideas have been corroded into a melancholic fuzz. – Whitelabrecs

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Premiere: “Pont” by Zoltan Fecso [Hush Hush Records]

coverNow based in Melbourne, Australia, Zoltan Fecso‘s musical evolution began as he grew up in Budapest, studying classical piano from an early age and then discovering a fascination for electroacoustic music while at university. Seeking to fulfill a unique vision of performing live with acoustic guitar and electronics, Zoltan had an opportunity to work with renowned luthier Ian Noyce in the creation of an acoustic guitar with MIDI capabilities capable of fusing organic instrumentation with endless possibilities of electronic programming. It turned out quite the success, leading to a busy period of industry recognition, an artist residency, live performances, a viral video, recording under a variety of monikers, and engaging in music technology talks throughout Europe.

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Sound Impression: Dissimilar Lake Pigments by Lee Yi [Rottenman Editions]

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The soft pink textures on the cover of Lee Yi‘s new album Dissimilar Lake Pigments might at first seem to be at odds with its title, but delve into the liner notes and you will learn that this immersive new exploration of color and sound was inspired by Lake Hillier, a body of water just off the Pacific coast in Western Australia which is, in fact, astoundingly pink in color.

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Travelogue 2018.06.17: An Ambient Summer

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As spring dissolves into summer, the stillness of beautifully crafted ambient drones and languid electroacoustic soundscapes are just the ticket for the right state of mind. Fortunately some of the finest artists in the field have unveiled new recordings for us to enjoy and here is a look at eight of them you won’t want to miss.  Featuring Ant’lrd, Benoît Pioulard, Bradley Sean Alexander, Halftribe, Solidarity Hymn, Sven Laux, Tapes and Topographies, Valotihkuu, and Warmth

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Sound Impression: A Light, A Glimmer by Various Artists [Polar Seas Recordings]

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Since starting out mostly as a home for Canadian duo North Atlantic Drift and the side projects of members Brad Deschamps and Mike Abercrombie, Polar Seas Recordings has expanded its reach in recent years and boasts a surge of excellent new releases for 2018 by artists such as Celer and Hakobune. The most recent of these is an outstanding new charity compilation called A Light, A Glimmer which will support of Wishing Well Sanctuary, a farmed animal sanctuary in Ontario that provides both for animals in need and education for children and adults with the goal of promoting compassion for other species.

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Duologue: A conversation with James A. McDermid

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The summer series of duologues begins with special guest James A. McDermid. Those who pay close attention to the goings on in the community of artists who make experimental & electronic music have likely taken increasing notice of his work with three full-length albums on as many labels over the past year as well as the launch of a new Mixcloud radio show. Not only that, but James can be found on Twitter passionately supporting the work of many fellow artists. This burst of activity, however, began after nearly 9 years without a release and the devastating loss of a dear family member. I am very pleased to share this candid and insightful conversation with James about his artistic journey and recent & upcoming albums.

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From the Mouth of the Sun – Sleep Stations [Lost Tribe Sound]

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With their third consecutive release on Lost Tribe Sound, it seems that the duo of Aaron Martin & Dag Rosenqvist as From the Mouth of the Sun have found an ideal home for their music on the Phoenix-based label which eloquently describes itself as specializing in “organic, gentle, and exploratory music that transcends genre, technique, or trend”. That is not just a well articulated statement of its vision; it is a spot-on characterization of the exquisite, ephemeral experience offered by Sleep Stations which will see release as part of the label’s Dead West cassette series.

In the liner notes we learn that the somnolent title track was originally meant to be included on the sumptuous full-length Hymn Binding (2017) and subsequently acted as both centerpiece and starting point for the music that Martin & Rosenqvist recorded in the process of scoring Joshua Z. Weinstein’s ‘Menashe’. The film ultimately demanded a more sparse & rustic style and this freed the duo to plant the composition in a new context, this time building their own distinct narrative around it.

The core sound will be instantly recognizable for those who’ve followed their previous endeavors, comprised of cello, piano, acoustic guitars, lap steel, banjo, ukulele, pump organ, soft humming electronics and warm layer of static… Arranging Sleep Stations as an EP, has allowed Aaron and Dag to tell a shorter story, one that doesn’t have to be such a grand gesture, which is something they’ve wanted to explore for a while now. It’s a beautiful reminder, that a collection of music can still be simple yet deeply affecting, without being overwrought and excessive.  – Lost Tribe Sound

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Various Artists – Thesis Collected 01

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Gregory Euclide is an artist and teacher living in the Minnesota River Valley. A recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, his work has been featured in museum exhibitions both across the country and abroad and has been featured in a variety of prestigious publications. His work has also been frequently connected to music. He provided the memorable cover for Bon Iver‘s self-titled 2012 Grammy winning record as well as album covers for a number of artists featured on these pages including Will Samson, Seabuckthorn, and Loscil – which brings us to the topic at hand, the THESIS project founded by Euclide in 2016 with assistance from Gabor Kerekes. More specifically, the occasion is the first CD release from this remarkable project, Thesis Collected 01, which allows entry into its vault of musical wonders for those for whom the vinyl format is still a constraint.

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