Jason Sweeney is known for a wide variety of projects and many musical aliases over the past two decades. Perhaps the most personal and intimate is the classically oriented Panoptique Electrical which saw a new release this month, the first since last year’s Disappearing Music for Face. A great deal of what you need to know about the know record is encapsulated in its title – Quiet Ecology.
In 2016 Sweeney undertook a quiet odyssey across four Australian cities (Adelaide, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne), searching out and mapping quiet spaces in and amongst these built environments. He wanted to discover as many zones of quiet or retreat in these cities and make compositions in response to these locations. He created maps and listening walks that took him from space to space. His desire was to ask a simple question: Can you find a way to release yourself, if only temporarily, from the noise of the world? ‘Quiet Ecology’ is a sonic memorial to these spaces and a musical act of quiet preservation. – Sound in Silence
It was the piano that first captured composer Alina K’s imagination as a child in Lithuania. Having moved to London with the intention of further developing her piano
playing skills and performed at the opening ceremonies of the prestigious Vancouver Fashion Week, she recently took the bold decision to leave a steady work in the world of luxury retail to focus full-time on her music. This has led to her first collection of music to be formally released, an EP due in early February of 2018. Produced by Nick Tauber, who has worked on bestselling albums for Thin Lizzy, Def Leppard, and Marillion, Awakening will feature selections from fourteen original compositions that she recently recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios. The first track from the album, the aptly titled “New Beginnings”, premieres today and allows listeners to experience the uplifting beauty and direct emotional appeal of her elegant compositional style.
“I want to create music that transcends boundaries. My compositions come from my heart and I am so happy to see them bringing joy and positivity to the audience.” – Alina K
Few artists in the world of instrumental music have a compass as locked on to true north as Hammock. For years, this Nashville-based project of Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson has served up a rich sonic feast spanning the genres of ambient, post-rock, and modern classical while resonating with heartfelt, and often heart-wrenching, emotion. Perhaps what they are capable of was summed up best and most succinctly in a comment to one of their recent videos where the listener said “Hammock has this way of telling you, ‘Everything will be okay.’, in the most beautiful way possible”. And in 2017 we have a double helping of new work from the band, an original motion picture soundtrack and a full-length studio album.
Don’t be fooled by Martyn Heyne’s youthful appearance. The Hamburg-born composer & producer brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his debut full-length album. He took up piano and guitar at an early age teaching himself the instruments in non-traditional ways before going on to be classically trained at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. In addition to being a live performer with the acclaimed indie band Efterklang and opening shows for Nils Frahm and A Winged Victory for the Sullen as a solo artist, Heyne has worked with a diverse group of high-profile artists in his Lichte studio in Berlin including Peter Broderick , alt-J, and The National (for a nice sampling of these check out his ‘Monday is Ok’ mix here). He brings all of this compositional and recording experience as well as his fondness for the electric guitar to the table for the recently released Electric Intervals, an album which he approached with a very specific philosophy.
“The number of parameters that determine a recording appears to be infinite. The mood, instrument, tuning, settings, microphones, room, placement, temperature, time of day, etc. all contribute to sound. The magic, once captured, is impossible to recreate. This might seem a hindrance, but it’s really the whole point of recording for me and also the reason why I never use samples or virtual instruments…the better the instrument sounds, the more you want to convey that quality.’’ – Martyn Heyne
A good friend and active supporter of instrumental music as the creative force behind the revered Headphone Commute (a huge influence on Stationary Travels, btw), Mike Lazarev has more recently revealed himself to us as a fine composer of solo piano music with a pair of mini-albums released on 1631 Recordings. Completed in New York before a move to London and intended to be listened to as the second half to last year’s Unhinged, the forthcoming follow-up entitled Dislodged offers ten exquisite pieces that explore “the outer reaches of spatial and reductionist pianism”.
If the two albums comprise a journey, it would seem (and we would hope) it is on a path to healing. Muted, wistful, and plaintive Dislodged may be, but the track titles hint at peace and recovery while sweet melodies and the occasional flourish of other instruments as well as a TV interlude add a sort of warmth to the proceedings. One might imagine the dark face of a building at night in the heart of the city where a single window glows with light and, as we peer inside and tune our ears to sounds coming from that direction, we get a glimpse of the composer having a dialog with his instrument. Intimate and personal perhaps, but expressed in a universal wordless language that anyone who has experienced detachment, isolation, or heartache will instantly understand. Continue reading
Classical composer and pianist Andrew James Johnson will release his debut solo album Winter’s Heart in November 2017, a record he developed over a number of years, taking inspiration from travels from the Californian coast and Hawaii, to the Canary Islands and mainland Europe. Born in Birmingham to a family of six siblings, Andrew was brought up on the music of The Beatles, Elton John and David Bowie while at the same time he developed an unprompted love of classical music immersing himself in the works of Beethoven, Schumann and Chopin – a juxtaposition in styles that shaped the musical landscape of his childhood and is reflected in his passionate compositional style which Johnson embraces with genuine conviction as he seeks to forge a genuine connection with his audience.
‘Winter’s Heart’ is my debut classical album. It’s the summation of my creative output as a pianist/composer over the last few years. The ‘winter’ theme represents what I personally tap into when I’m alone with nature – stillness, clarity, openness and purity. The piano has such a wonderful sound world to explore. It’s sonorities are limitless and can reach into our emotional core with just a few notes! I hope that my music will touch listeners and allow them to experience their own beautiful isolation and to be lost in the ebb and flow of the unraveling musical textures, much like winter itself…”
My guest for this edition of duologues is award-winning composer Jane Antonia Cornish who grew up in England and is currently based in New York City. In addition to composing scores for the acclaimed documentaries, Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood and Citizen Jane: Battle for the City as well as the drama Fireflies in the Garden, (starring Julia Roberts, Ryan Reynolds and Willem Dafoe), Cornish was the first female in history to win a British Academy Award (BAFTA) for music in 2005. In that same year the UK Film Council also honored her with a Breakthrough Brit in Hollywood award. Most recently she has released her third solo album Into Silence, an exquisite, intimate, and deeply affecting work that ICON Magazine called “A virtual blessing in a world gone mad”, a sentiment with which I would wholeheartedly agree.
Links: Solo Albums | Order signed CDs | Into Silence via Innova
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.