James Murray – Killing Ghosts [Home Normal]

The origin of the latest work by James Murray goes back to 2014 when he and his wife Anne were set to vacation in a remote log cabin in the mountains. Unfortunately, Anne took ill from the moment they arrived, but as it turns out James had packed a laptop, small midi keyboard, and hard disc recorder, and while she recuperated the eerie beauty of the surrounding landscape invoked his creative mode which he now had time to indulge.

“Pines groaned in the woods all around us, walls and floorboards continually creaked and china rattled on the shelves. I recorded everything that made a sound, then manipulated and distressed those recordings, letting them bleed into one another, forming their own shifting rhythms and gritty, grainy textures. I added deep sub-bass sines, electronic washes and gently improvised motifs that felt in step with the strangely watchful energy of the place. Between the crackling of the open fire and the wild, wide landscape outside, I seemed to have stumbled into the perfect environment for exploring these unsettled yet tenderly nostalgic feelings I’d been having. The music flowed…” – James Murray

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Stefano Guzzetti – Escape (music for a ballet) / Leaf / Waiting for Spring

Ensconced in the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean and surrounded by fabulous cities such as Rome, Naples, Barcelona, Valencia, and Marseille, one is tempted to imagine a blissfully idyllic existence on the island of Sardinia, but it is home to one of the most industrious and prolific modern classical on the scene today in  Stefano Guzzetti. In addition to scores & sound design for short films, applications, and video games, he has put out 3 full-length releases in 2016, the most recent being Escape (music for a ballet), which features music he composed for the ‘Escape’ aerial dance performance by LCP Dance Theatre performed in London and at Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  As a result of positive feedback from those shows, he edited and distilled the music into shorter pieces suitable for an album-like listening experience and offered them in an eye-catching CD package.

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M. Ostermeier – Tiny Birds [Home Normal]

You would be hard pressed to find an ambient composer/musician out there with a more clearly defined minimalist aesthetic than Baltimore-based M. Ostermeier.  He describes his compositions as often featuring “skeletal piano melodies that are augmented with electronics, acoustic recordings, and occasionally guitar”. True to that aesthetic, his most recent work draws inspiration from simple and elegant structures found in both the seen and unseen world, a propensity which perhaps has its origins in his background as a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

In the case of Still, released on his own Tench label last year, the inspiration was architecture, a musical echo of the clean and spacious designs of the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright or Frank Gehry.  On his latest, about to be released by Home Normal, it is the marvelously lightweight and compact natural engineering of the humble bird.

…amongst the gorgeous little melodies at play here, there is a careful depth of sound design from a variety of found sounds and field recordings…It is just the kind of album we love around these parts: namely, a work that takes its time to develop as it sees fit, without any need to rush to its restrained conclusion. – Ian Hawgood

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Olan Mill – Cavade Morlem / Half Seas Over

OM_Covers_2Cavade Morlem, due to be released soon by Moscow-based Dronarivmis the first new work from composer and musician Alex Smalley, aka Olan Mill, since he closed out a year of numerous solo and collaborative efforts in 2014 with a fine EP on the Home Normal label called Half Seas Over.  If you enjoy beautifully crafted, blissful, and serene ambient music, you won’t want to miss either one of these.

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Hotel Neon – Hotel Neon [Home Normal]

 Hotel Neon

In the summer of 2013, brothers Andrew and Michael Tasselmyer released their first album under the name Hotel Neon.  While it embraced the same thoughtful, unobtrusive minimalism of some of their earlier work as The Sound of Rescue, especially Furniture Music, it had a distinctive enough focus to warrant being inaugurated as a new project.  And, with the release of the expansively dynamic Forms by the band as well as the recent addition of 4th member, it seems perhaps that the Tasselmyers now have two well defined canvases on which to continue rendering their creations going forward – one steeped in immersive drones and another near the summit of elegant, melodic post rock.

Early 2015 marks the reissue of the self-titled Hotel Neon debut on the Home Normal label, remastered by none other than Ian Hawgood himself.  He explains what drew him to the album as well and how he both preserved the intent of the original recording, which was created simply with a 2-track USB recording device and inexpensive equipment, while drawing out some of its hidden treasures.

“Much like the music, Michael and Andrew are wonderfully understated when noting the album came about through simple means: a usb recording device, cheap guitars, effects processors, and a computer. Yet the result is really quite something, as a good few people have now started to notice…When we heard it, apart from enjoying it solidly for a good few days, we decided to play around with twin  decks to focus on the beautiful lows that were hidden within. Through tape saturation the lows became beautifully transparent giving us a deeper focus to the work, and hopefully an album that contains with it that stirring element of something glorious yet hidden within the recesses of the mind’s eye”. 

The difference remains subtle in ‘A Lament’, the achingly melancholic opener, but becomes increasingly apparent as the album becomes more sonically subaqueous, particularly the grainy textures and mechanized rhythms of ‘Dust and Drag, the subterranean pulses of ‘The Eye’s Mind’, and the distant thundercloud rumblings that permeate ‘Lowly’.  The effect is not unlike the way the right matte and frame can flush out the deeper hues and enhance the composition of a painting.

The mantra of the project is “Restraint over haste, Perception over presumption, Awareness over intent”, a perspective that is born out in the music and maintained consistently throughout the record.  If you have not heard Hotel Neon and appreciate well crafted ambient drones, you owe it to yourself to check it out.  If you are familiar with the original recording, you owe it to yourself to hear this lovingly remastered version. Either way, it’s a very rewarding and immersive listening experience.

The Home Normal edition of the album can be obtained in digital format or in a CD edition using locally cultivated and harvested washi paper stock including unique vintage slide and photograph (limited to 500 copies).

More informationhttp://homenormal.com/066-hotel-neon-hotel-neon

Orderhttps://homenormal.bandcamp.com/album/hotel-neon

Album sampler:

 

Through a musical lens: Wil Bolton – Bokeh [Home Normal]

“Through a musical lens” is a short series of reviews focusing on albums that present and explore human experience through music. Each album incorporates field recordings, ephemera, or motifs that revolve around everyday life and memory thus creating an especially intimate connection between their transportive sounds and the listener. 

Bokeh by Wil Bolton

An artist in sound, video, and photography, Wil Bolton‘s music is always rich in texture as well as human and environmental connections. His summer release on Home Normal entitled Bokeh is a wonderful addition to his body of work and one that that had a very specific motif:

The album’s title obviously refers to a photographic term, deriving from the Japanese word for blur and used to describe the aesthetic quality of background blur in photographs especially with a shallow depth of field. My work is often informed by visual cues, particularly from the landscapes and architecture of the environments where their initial sounds were recorded. For this album I was particularly interested in parallels between the aural and the visual and between photography and sound – it’s pretty abstract, but when working on these tracks I was constantly thinking in terms of photography, qualities and effects of light, and other visual elements and trying to express these in sound …” 

Like its namesake, the title track is diffuse and captivating, an exquisite piece of sound craft. Gentle drones ebb and buzz as Bolton creates a sense of light and color through percussive bells and chimes. As it progresses, sounds of city life slowly introduce themselves and become part of the music such as the Doppler effect of running engines and tires rolling by in the rain, or the hiss and gasp of a stopping bus.

This approach is repeated through the album, but the tones and sounds vary for each track, thus creating a different mood and sense of place in each case. ‘Tremadog’ incorporates sounds captured in a picturesque Welsh village. ‘1887’ and ‘Sash’ bring the listener back to the city, namely Liverpool, the former invoking street sounds and the later a mild cacophony of voices indoors. ‘Pentaprism’ takes the listener on a walk about the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.  In every piece the sounds of the environment blend seamlessly with the music, capturing motion and activity while preserving a sense of stillness and objectivity. It is as if we are experiencing these places through the camera eye.

The album then ends on a charming and magical note with ‘Moonlight (for Sophie)’ in which Bolton recorded and looped sounds from his niece’s toy telephone and rattles. With the din of the day’s sounds faded away, it wraps the listener in a cocoon of soft light and the comforts of home, a perfect way to end the journey.

Bokeh was mastered by Ian Hawgood for his Home Normal label and is available as a digital download or in a limited edition on CD packaged with locally cultivated and harvested washi paper cover and a unique vintage slide.

Order the album:  https://homenormal.bandcamp.com/album/bokeh

Read an interview with Wil: http://homenormal.com/wil-bolton-on-bokeh

‘Bokeh’ – music and video by Wil Bolton

Listen to a sampler of Bokeh:

Islands of Light – Ruebke [Home Normal]

Ruebke by Islands of Light (Dino Spiluttini)

Islands of Light is a new music project from Vienna-based musician and graphic designer Dino Spiluttini. The moniker is one which he chose to differentiate from his darker, more experimental solo work, but which soon revealed itself to be a poignant metaphor for the music that was being created. That music can now be heard for the first time on Ruebke, just released on the Home Normal label.

Ruebke is the name of a little village near Hamburg, Germany where Spiluttini lived for several years and, as he shared in a recent interview, the music on the album is inspired by a particular aspect of his time there spent caring for many animals, enjoying their company and sadly observing the cruelties of nature or humanity taking them away.  Those sentiments are reflected in the gentle and somber melancholy of the compositions.

Despite the funereal tones, there is much comfort the music of Ruebke.  Spiluttini also shared that he developed these tracks over a four year period spent suffering debilitating bouts of depression and anxiety.  The music he was able to produce during this time became his “islands of light”.  Seen this way, Ruebke becomes a musical archipelago of emotional sanctuary and hope, a place of stillness and beauty.  The experience of the listener is well described by Ian Hawgood who finished mastering the album in June:

“After a period of adjustments and careful editing, ‘Ruebke’ was finally mastered in June 2014, a particularly heavy rainy season here in Japan. Outside our house is a beautiful river that rises to a height that from our studio we can see that patter of raindrops slowly work their magic on the river’s raised surface. As I listened to the final masters whirl away on a very lovely reel-to-reel, the tubes glowed, the reels wobbled as they have a tendency to, and the rain continued. It was one of those rare moments where everything just fit; a moment of timeless perfection. This encompasses exactly what Islands Of Light’s ‘Ruebke’ achieves through its melodic developments and grainy surfaces; the sound of the soul’s ardour.” – Ian Hawgood’

The album balances muted and textured drones (‘Praeludium’, ‘Honung’, ‘Heimfeld’) with traditional elegance (‘Goerde’, ‘Schlump’, ‘Joses’) on a fulcrum of tension found in one piece that somewhat counters the mood, ‘Muemmelmannsberg’. Ironically, Spiluttini describes himself as a “terrible pianist”, but no doubt he is being much too hard on himself there. Perhaps he is not going to play a Rachmaninoff concerto anytime soon, but on Ruebke he coaxes delightful melodies and a wide range of emotions from the instrument. Ruebke is a cohesive and moving work that rings true from the first note to the last.

Ruebke is available in digital format or on CD in a 4 panel thick card package designed by Dino Spiluttini.  It can be ordered from Home Normal via their Bandcamp or from a variety of distributors in Japan, UK, and Europe (see links below)

Bandcamp: https://homenormal.bandcamp.com/album/ruebke

More info / Artist interview: http://homenormal.com/dino-spiluttini-islands-of-light-on

Listen to an album sampler: 

‘Gypta’ from Ruebke, music & video by Dino Spiluttini 

Travelogue: Week 2014-29

Looking back on noteworthy news, musical discoveries, and social media interactions from the past week.  For a complete list of songs featured this month on the Stationary Travels Facebook and Twitter feeds, check out the July Songdrop mix.

Deru

I am at least a month late to the party, but this week I finally got to dig into the amazing new 1979 project by Deru (the electronic music project of LA-based composer/producer/sound designer Benjamin Wynn) along with Effixx (filmmaker and designer Anthony Ciannamea). On his project site Deru describes 1979 as “an audiovisual time capsule, a perpetual relic, a collective beating heart, a breathing human record, a meditation on nostalgia, my fifth studio album, the year I was born”.   The music here is outstanding, but it is about so much more. To see what it is all about, follow the the links below to visit the interactive site and to read an excellent in-depth feature and interview on the ISO50 web site (ISO50 is the design pseudonym of Scott Hansen, aka Tycho)

1979 interactive site: http://www.1979.la
ISO50 Feature: http://blog.iso50.com/33584/deru-1979-experiencing-an-album/

Tomonari Nozaki & EUS 

Tomonari Nozaki (aka UNKNOWNjp) and EUS (one of several projects of Jose Acuña) partnered to release this sumptuous 4 track album.  EUS offers his original mix of ‘Sol Levit’, which appeared on his October 2013 release of the same title, and Nozaki offers his previously unreleased ‘Adansonia’ and then each remixes the other work.  EUS brings to the table his dark ambient and rich melancholic undertones and Nozaki his cinematic, nearly effusive romanticism. The two are seamless merged through the warm analog medium of reel-to-reel tape and the end result is as absorbing and as emotionally resonant as ambient music can be.  This is generously provided as a free download.  I strongly recommend you grab it while you can.

Wil Bolton 

Bokeh is the new album by Wil Bolton mastered by Ian Hawgood and due to be released next month on Hawgood’s Home Normal label and available now for pre-orders.  Above is the album sampler on Soundcloud and below is the video Bolton created for the beautiful title track which treats the viewer to a fine example of the bokeh effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bokeh).

Oskar Schuster

Berlin-based composer Oskar Schuster released a lovely solo piano EP this week called Matilda.  It is available as a 5 track digital download or in a handmade physical edition which includes sheet music for all the pieces and 2 bonus tracks.  This is one modern classical fans should enjoy and may be of special interest to those who play.  Follow the link the Bandcamp site for full information.

Matilda on Bandcamp: http://shop.oskarschuster.com/album/matilda-ep

Peaceful Wrath

Peaceful Wrath is a music project of Belgium-based artist Stéphane K. Vandezande which blends ambient, electronic, and modern classical elements together with a cinematic perspective.  Featured here is ‘Canvas’, one of my favorite tracks from his album Fields.  I was curious about the vocal sample heard around 4:40 and found that they were the words of Hal Lasko, also known as “the pixel painter”.  The video below shares his amazing story in a very touching presentation:

A Sudden Burst of Colour 

A Sudden Burst of Colour is an instrumental rock band based in Motherwell, Scotland.  They have a particularly fresh and uplifting sound which is in full regalia here on their latest single ‘Yume’ courtesy of Stereofox.  I particularly enjoy the clean, crystalline, reverb heavy sound of the guitars.  If legendary guitarist Hank Marvin made a post rock record, this is what I imagine it would sound like. Lots of melodic invention and nice changes here too. Play this one loud and often.

First listen: “Traces of Light” by Chronovalve on Home Normal

Chronovalve’s “Traces of Light” is an exceptionally pure & atmospheric ambient debut effort written & produced by Mike Engebretson and mastered by Ian Hawgood for his Home Normal label.  The album features rich, celestial tones and a minimalist structure that is absorbing and soothing.  Fans of the styles of Eno and Budd might especially want to check this out. Featured here is the track called ‘Respite’.

Traces of Light on Bandcamp

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