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recordings come from locations as varied as Japan and Korea as well as the UK and the impromptu recording sessions have been replaced by an asynchronous approach of sharing, augmenting, processing, and remote exchange.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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Jane Antonia Cornish – Constellations [Innova Recordings]

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Jane Antonia Cornish is an award-winning composer who grew up in England and lives in New York City. In addition to being the first female ever to win a British Academy Award (BAFTA) for music and her growing list of film credits, she has a fine catalog of exquisite and deeply affecting albums which gains a new addition with the recent release of Constellations. As with last year’s Into Silence (2017, Innova), Cornish once again presents us with an overarching narrative of transcendent beauty woven from the purest of sonorities by an impeccable ensemble, but the cosmic theme gives her quiet new pathways to explore in the dimensions of space, time, and light.

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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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Max Richter – The Blue Notebooks 15th Anniversary Reissue [Deutsche Grammophon]

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Not all protest music is loud and angry. Sometimes it is simply an affirmation of the positive in the face of the negative, an advocacy of quietude and beauty in the face of rancor and violence, an embrace of reflection over confrontation. Such was the case with Max Richter in 2003 when he composed The Blue Notebooks against the backdrop of global protests against a war in Iraq. Though this conflict was very much on Richter’s mind at the time, the music he created was devoid of specific geopolitical references and aspired to a broader and more holistic view. Intertwined with the words of writers like Franz Kafka and Czesław Miłosz, what Richter came up with was an introspective meditation on violence and war that transcends any particular historical context.

“I wanted to invite the listener in, allowing them space to reflect, rather than be beaten into submission. The world is tough enough, and I don’t want to add to the brutality. Over the years, I’ve realized that there’s a balance to strike, and that actually, as our world spins into something quite threatening that’s increasingly based on loud and vicious rhetoric, I want to talk about quiet protest”  – Max Richter
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Video Premiere: Murmuration by Erland Cooper & William Doyle

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Earlier this year award-winning multi-instrumentalist and producer Erland Cooper released Solan Goose, a magical journey to the Scottish archipelago of Orkney celebrating its landscapes, avian fauna, and local dialect (read the ST review here). Then, this summer he surprised us with an impromptu release of a spontaneous new ambient work based on the original material called Murmuration which he developed in collaboration with musician William Doyle (aka East India Youth). If Solan Goose was the vision, then Murmuration is the dream. One is a vivid and transportive sonic portrait that sweeps the listener up into its exhilarating narrative, the other a haunting, chimerical reverie in which to get completely and pleasurably lost.

“Sound is important to me. Over the years the word ‘murmuration’ has been associated solely with a flock of starlings, but it actually refers to the sonics of a flock of birds. So when Bill Oddie and others say: ‘Let’s go and see this murmuration’, that’s not quite right – you hear it. The theme of this record fits with a particular group of sea birds that, unlike many other birds, spend the first 5-10 years of their lives travelling far and wide out to sea in solitude, before settling down to find a partner and lay a single egg. It’s a recycling or ‘upcycling’ of sounds, themes and layers into a new collaborative work.”Erland Cooper

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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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Album Stream: Melding by Marika Takeuchi [bigo & twigetti]

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Composer and pianist Marika Takeuchi has been involved with music her entire life. She began studies in classical music at the tender age of three in her native Japan and, at age 18, went on to study composition at Shobi Music College in Tokyo and do early career work for Japanese national radio and Universal Music Japan. In 2009, she moved to the United States to study film scoring at Berklee College of Music and saw the release of here first solo album ‘Night Dream’ before graduating in 2012. Since then, she has continued to work on a wide variety of projects as a composer, pianist, orchestrator, and arranger while continuing to release solo recordings such as ‘Impressions’ (2013), ‘Rain Stories’ (2014), and ‘Colors in the Diary’ (2016) which was produced by Windham Hill founder & Grammy-winning producer Will Ackerman and features cellist Eugene Friesen and Boston Symphony Orchestra violinist Si-Jing Huang. Continue reading

Duologue: A conversation with Danny Mulhern

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In this edition of Duologues, composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer Danny Mulhern  talks to us about his recent releases Metanoia and Safe House (both available via 1631 Recordings), his exceptional collaborative partnership with London Contemporary Orchestra, discovering & supporting new music, and exciting projects in the works including his score for the new Elizabeth Chomko film “What They Had which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. He even gives us a little insight into some new ideas attracting his creative attention which we truly hope he finds the time & opportunity to pursue. It is a captivating read and a gateway to some outstanding listening for modern classical fans. Included among the words are sample tracks and Danny’s own outstanding “Safe House Mixtape”, an hour-long selection of pieces that inspired and compliment his recent music.

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Premiere: I Will, For You (Sophie Hutchings Rework) From Diary Reworks by Michael Price

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Last year, Emmy-award winning composer & pianist Michael Price gave us some precious insight into his creative process with Diary, a set of purely improvisational single-take recordings he compiled over a six week period (you can read more about the project here). While Price has since been at work on TV & film scores as well as his highly anticipated new Tender Symmetry project, a stellar cadre of eight artists have revisited the 30-track collection and hand-picked some of its “raw” entries to be polished into pure moder classical diamonds for a new EP called Diary Reworks.

The songs on Diary were certainly lovely enough and warmly accessible on their own terms, but, by their very design, they were unrefined and unedited. In the context of Diary Reworks, we can think of it as a sketchbook left behind by the artist for others to embellish and bring to life as full color, multi-dimensional works of art.  Case in point is the lovely treatment of “I Will, For You” by Sophie Hutchings , premiered here for the first time.

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Sound Impression: Piano Works by Lucy Claire

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This past March, London-based composer & producer Lucy Claire began her wonderful new ‘Works’ series, a string of EP releases each featuring a different focus. The second installment has just arrived in the form of Piano Works, a beguiling collection of bittersweet compositions and sketches performed on a range of pianos from grands and uprights to electric keyboards and toy & thumb types. Ever the consummate collaborator, this edition features Lucy alongside guest performances by cellist Ren Ford (Keaton Henson’s Romantic Works), violinist Marie Schreer (The Royal Northern Sinfonia), and ambient guitarist Pete Lambrou (VLMV).

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Whale Fall – Sondersongs

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This summer marks the welcome return of instrumental collective Whale Fall with their first album in nearly four years and a glorious one it is. The sprawling vistas of The Madrean, their 2014 post-rock homage to the natural & urban landscapes of the American southwest, give way to a more broadly referential cycle of songs called Sondersongs which takes inspiration from the neologistic definition of a word found in John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

sonder – n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own — populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries, and inherited craziness — an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk”  – The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

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