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.
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
Oddly enough, I don’t remember which painting it was, but I will never forget the way it felt to stand for the first time in front of an original Van Gogh at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. In some ways it was a disorienting experience. I recall becoming light-headed as if the colors & textures on canvas were alive and in perpetual motion. This phenomenon proved to be no fluke as I found in subsequent opportunities to view his work in person again years later at the VMFA’s Art of the Flower exhibition and again during a first visit to the Art Institute of Chicago.
I am sure I am far from being alone in being so viscerally affected by the vibrancy of Van Gogh’s work. In fact, there is now a stunning new film that goes so far as to literally bring many of the his paintings to life even as it purports to tell the story of the events leading to his tragic early death. Written & directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, their animated film Loving Vincent was meticulously hand-painted by a team of 115 artists.
“Loving Vincent is the upcoming biographical animated film from newcomer directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman about Vincent van Gogh’s final days and the attempt by an acquaintance of his son (played by Douglas Booth) to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. A film unlike any other, it is entirely hand painted – each of the movie’s 65,000 frames is an oil painting on a canvas created using the same techniques as Vincent van Gogh.”
Francesco Berta is a music composer, multi-instrumentalist, and visual artist from Italy and currently living in London. While his earliest albums featured a generous amount of exhilarating instrumental rock, since 2014 he has focused increasingly on compositional forms producing some truly beautiful and compelling work. In 2017, Francesco undertook an ambitious project in which he challenged himself to release new material on a monthly basis for the entire year, an effort that has seen 7 new releases so far (find them all here). We got a chance to catch up with Francesco to talk about the project as well as his frank & insightful views on the process of composing and his participation in the 10th annual Film Music Festival in Krakow.
No matter how many solo piano pieces I listen to, I never cease to be amazed how musicians can channel so much of their own individual character through the same single instrument and weave so many intangible qualities into the notes and hammer strokes. As I listened to the music on Tristan Eckerson‘s new album Disarm, I found myself laboring to articulate what those intangibles were – that is until I read his bio.
The composer is currently based in the lovely mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina but was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and has lived, traveled, & studied in places as far-flung as Charleston, South Carolina, San Sebastian, Spain, San Francisco, California, & Seattle, Washington and has performed in multiple groups on both U.S. Coasts recording with members of the Ray Charles Orchestra, writing string arrangements for the Magik*Magik Orchestra, and performing at numerous music halls & festivals. And then it suddenly seemed obvious what I was hearing woven in and around the notes was a kind of restlessness, a sense of wanderlust and hunger for new experience.
The suited man toting a bag across a barren landscape on the cover of In Distance We Are Losing speaks volumes about stark emotional tone of this new album from Alaskan Tapes, a project from musician Brady Kendall out of Toronto, Canada. If you have heard his music before, you know there are going to be moments of arresting beauty and ethereal interludes, but there is a sense of isolation, preoccupation, and distraction present in these tracks that tugs in another direction while the visceral presence of the cello parts contributed by Raphael Weinroth-Browne lend as much rawness as eloquence to the proceedings.
Since its founding in 2009, Home Normal has consistently been one of the shining lights on the landscape of experimental ambient & electronic music. Conscientiously curated and uncompromisingly supportive of its artists, it is more than a label; it is a hub for a community of artists and mindful listeners who appreciate thoughtfully crafted, emotionally honest music.
“Based in Japan, the label was run as a way to connect to a sense of what ‘home’ and ‘normal’ could mean to someone who was in what was essentially an alien environment to them. The focus of the label was to release the ambient and electronic works of friends within the live scene we were part of in Tokyo and the surrounding areas, but soon expanded to include the work of many artists worldwide…We see the label as a family of friends who work together to create unique works that have a hold and impact on whoever can take their time to absorb our music and aesthetic”
Featured here are recent & upcoming releases by Ian Hawgood + Wil Bolton, Giulio Fagiolini, and Jason Van Wyk,
Earlier this summer, French pianist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Dominique Charpentier released an EP consisted of five songs each of which was developed in less than two hours. He chose this format as an experiment in form and a personal challenge. While compressing the creative process into a fixed time always risks an uncertain outcome, in this case it produced an enchanting quintet of piano-based pieces with a touch of melancholy and a touch of musette so as to weave a spell of melancholic and nostalgic romance in the space of twelve minutes.
Inspired by the music, the folks at Piano & Coffee have created a video to accompany songs using a montage of grainy, sepia-toned footage shot around a bustling 1970’s Paris turning “Esquisse IV” into a plaintive scrapbook of shared memory. Continue reading
With her 2012 debut ‘Escapement’, Brighton-based composer Poppy Ackroyd entered the same rare air as such esteemed innovators of modern classical and electronic music as Nils Frahm and Hauschka. Classically trained on violin and piano, she creates utterly mesmerizing music by manipulating and multi-tracking sounds primarily from these two instruments in sometimes unconventional ways, an approach she expanded upon with her second album ‘Feathers’ in 2015. This year she brings us a flurry of new projects to enjoy starting with her new mini-album ‘Sketches’ in which Poppy reinterprets pieces from her first two records as pure solo piano pieces along with several new compositions. She also has a brand new full-length album in the works for release in November and all this in the midst of performing as part of Hidden Orchestra, who themselves have a wonderful new record out called ‘Dawn Chorus’. I am ecstatic that Poppy was willing take time from her busy schedule to answer a few questions for Stationary Travels readers and thus kick-off the very first in our new series of artist interviews called Duologues.
The field of film & theater composers releasing debut albums of original compositions is ever-growing. For lovers of indie, modern, & post-classical music it is a healthy trend that means we are increasingly spoiled for choice, but it also raises the bar for the kinds of creativity and inventiveness needed to keep the genre fresh and compelling. That is where artists like James Maloney come in.
Originally from Birmingham, having studied music at Oxford, and now the Music Associate at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Maloney has just released his debut solo record entitled Gaslight on Moderna Records. Conceived of largely at night as a reaction to the noise and the pace of city life and built around a closely mic’d old piano accompanied by trumpet, vibraphone, & glockenspiel, it sparkles with that elusive lustre of pure inspiration and effortless enchantment.
Chicago-based pianist & composer Lena Natalia is a storyteller who speaks through a piano rather than a pen, able to create scenes, moments, and characters only through the moods and melodies of her compositions. Her experiences living in Paris served as the backdrop for her first two albums while last year’s Second Youth explored personal and nostalgic territory closer to home. Her fourth collection of songs entitled Almost Home finds her broadening her sonic palette to include more varied piano textures, tasteful use of string & choral like synths, and even a bit of percussion. Listen here to an exclusive premiere of “Chess Players”, an especially elegant and cerebral piece with an evocative hint of Slavic flavor.
At the beginning of 2017, Francesco Berta challenged himself to publish new creative work at the pace of at least once per month throughout the year. The Italian-born, London-based composer & multi-instrumentalist has made good on that commitment with a half dozen singles and EPs released by the beginning of summer, a commendable achievement for someone who holds himself to such an uncompromising personal standard when it comes to authenticity and attention to detail.
His latest piece entitled ‘Chrysalis’, which Stationary Travels is very pleased to premiere, is a prime example. How many ideas, layers and emotional cues can be contained in less than two minutes of recorded music? Quite a lot apparently. It begins with Francesco’s general approach to music and a very specific concept for the piece in compositional, melodic, and metaphorical terms.
“I love melody and my works are overflowing with melody, I always start with a theme. This time it was different, you can hear three different, subtle and quite short melodic themes but they’re hidden. The whole track is a metaphor of life and chaos, and the fact that takes quite some time to find an order in the chaos and sometimes you solve the problem by letting go and enjoying it a bit.”