Snorri Hallgrímsson is a composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist from Reykjavík, Iceland. Originally starting out as a classical guitarist, he fell in love with film music during his teen years and, having secured a degrees in composition from both the Iceland Academy of the Arts and Berklee College of Music, his name is associated with a growing list scores for cinema and television. Now he has a full-length solo album to call his own and it is very much imbued with not only the atmospheric elements of filmic music but also an elusive and haunting mystique captured by only a handful of Icelandic composers such as Ólafur Arnalds with whom Hallgrímsson has worked on such projects as Island Songs, The Chopin Project, and the BAFTA-winning score for Broadchurch. Certainly one can hear echoes of these works on the sumptuous offering that is Orbit, but we are also introduced to Hallgrímsson’s own voice not only as a composer and arranger, but quite literally thanks to his bold decision to add vocals to many of the songs. The result is an album of arresting, hypnotic beauty and extraordinary emotional depth.
“Recorded primarily at Ólafur Arnalds’s studio in Reykjavík, the songs on Orbit explore the difficulties of living in and moving between vastly different places: from Mexico’s sunny days to Iceland’s long winter nights and their emotional toll. Orbit is also about people met along the way, of friends and family whose absence is bittersweet. The concept of ‘home’ is replaced by an ‘orbit’ the composer circles from place to place.” – Moderna Records
Norwegian multi-instrumentalist, composer, & producer John Erik Kaada knows a thing or two about making sounds that people want to hear. Over the course of his musical career he’s made quiet a lot of them across a diverse spectrum of genres and formats – solo albums, collaborations, soundtracks, and live shows. He has just released another album and while he no doubt wants people to hear to it, what he really hopes is that it will drive home the message of how important it is for people to listen, really listen, to one another. The title of each song on Closing Statements is either a quote or fragment from things that people, both famous and infamous, uttered when they were about to die. A somber theme to be sure, but Kaada gives it a life-affirming twist. While so much music about death look inwards towards feelings of grief, loss, or nostalgia, he discards such well-worn tropes to reveal a surprisingly poignant lesson for the living.
“I don’t think I’ll have more important things to say when I’m on my deathbed than I have generally in life. This applies to most people, I guess. Final words aren’t any wiser or cleverer than anything you’d normally say. But it’s the fact that you’re not going to say anything else ever again that makes this moment so special. You have the audience’s full attention…The underlying message of the album is that we have to listen to each other. In a modern world where people mostly don’t have the time or interests to get to know one another, we need to be reminded that we need to listen.” – John Erik Kaada
As 2017 drawing to a close, Stationary Travels premiered a track from The Amsterdam Sessions, an EP which resulted between Stockholm-based by Fabian Rosenberg (aka Klangriket) and Sjors Mans in his Amsterdam studio where they came up with five impeccably beautiful pieces named after locations in the city that intertwine ambient textures and atmospheric electronics with delicate piano-based compositions. It’s a pleasure to call attention to this project once more, this time on the occasion of the premiere of a mesmerizing video for “Prinsengracht” created by Frida Holmgren who also contributed violoncello on some of the tracks. In it she brings to life the pulsing patterns and blooming surges in what is the most kinetic piece on the album.
When Fabian first played the song for me, we were sitting in a studio at school. I saw the reflection of strip lights on a black computer screen and really liked the pattern it made. That is what initially inspired me. And I wanted to make a hypnotic video, since that’s how the song was for me when I listened to it. – Frida Holmgren
A little over a year after his patient fusion of close mic’ed solo piano with delicate synthesizer constructions on The Words She Said (reviewed here), Irish-born, Montreal-based composer/producer Paddy Mulcahy returns with an enigmatic foray into finespun electronica & percussion in the form a striking five-track EP entitled From Water. It begins with the shimmering “You Could Walk Across the Shannon” which treads a fine line between hope & melancholy in keeping with what Mulcahy sought to put across in the song.
“‘You Could Walk Across The Shannon’ is about overcoming the impossible. It’s a musical representation of being an underdog in a vicious race; it’s the rare ability to walk across a riverbed at low-tide. I want to inspire people who are suffering, people who are sad and feel like there’s no point. This music was inspired by nature, people and overcoming my depression.” – Paddy Mulcahy in DJ Mag, 03/09/2018 Continue reading
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
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.
A vibrant and eclectic selection where genres never define of confine, but only serve as reference points for those of us with inadequate words to describe the music.
vaghy (Tamás Vághy) is a Hungarian composer and pianist who is making an appearance as a newcomer on the modern classical scene, but is no musical neophyte. Surrounded by his father’s old tapes and vinyl, his love of music came at an early age. Having developed into a multi-instrumentalist with a taste for a wide variety of genres, he performed in thousands of concerts from clubs to large festivals including serving a the keyboardist for the well-known Hungarian rock band Anna and the Barbies. During these years, in the quiet environs of his bedroom studio, he indulged a passion for classical music. After seeing a Nils Frahm video several years ago, Tamás was inspired to bring this more personal work into the public sphere, performing live sets in 2016 and again in 2017 in support of Frahm’s own worldwide Piano Day event.
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.
Links: Bandcamp (DL/LP) | Kingdoms
On his most fully realized album to date, composer/producer Paddy Mulcahy offers up eight beautiful experiments in juxtaposing solo piano minimalism with vibrant synthesizer constructions. While some of his previous releases demonstrated Mulcahy quite capable of inventively sketching and improvising in a compressed time frame, the music on The Words She Said was cultivated over a two-year period
The album was started in the Summer of 2015 during a recording trip around Germany and London. Paddy then continued to work on the album while finishing his BSc degree in Music Production at Limerick Institute Of Technology. The album was inspired by the similarities and contrasts between pianos and synthesizers, and this relationship was conveyed through the use of various recording and mixing techniques.
Floating Away From the World is the third album in as many years by OKADA on the n5MD label and his fifth overall (the first two being issued by Fluttery Records). It is the first, however, that Gregory Pappas developed for this project since relocating from Mobile, Alabama to Seattle, Washington with a corresponding shift in style that seems to match the cool, wet climate of his new home. As on previous albums, Pappas offers up a quartet of fluid & emotive long form works that fuse ambient textures & modern classical elements with downtempo beats and ethereal vocals, but the mood on the new album is distinctly overcast and deeply introspective while the rainy textures will be pure bliss for even the most casual pluviophile.
In the space of ten months, Dennis Huddleston has released three albums from his experimental ambient project 36 (pronounced three-six). Far from making music to simply zone or chill out to, Huddleston often weaves rich thematic and imaginative material into his sonic tapestries for an especially emotive and cerebral listening experience. Considered together, this trio of albums cover a vast perspective spanning past, present, and future.