Toàn – Histós Lusis.

​Once more Eilean Rec has found a gem. Toàn (real name Anthony Elfort) is a French electronic musician based in the UK. As a beatmaker, he has produced several albums mixing jazz and hip hop influences under the pseudonym of Qiwu Selftet. With the change of name to Toàn the focus is now on freer musical forms, close to ambient and modern classical. His first album “Histós Lusis” (which translates to “He Played Histos”) was constructed without using any synths and entirely composed by samples found on old records, live instruments and field recordings. The album was composed between 2015 and 2017 in Angoulême and Cruguel in France.

The album has a feel of a well crafted cinematic mix of elements like every single structure, instrument and style was carefully thought out and executed well. This is not an album rushed or one to rush through. The pace of the album is very gentle and it flows smoothly.

“Inland” combines water sounds with chimes, clips or fragments of sounds, drones, violin, horns and bells to create a percussive mix of elements that mold together and overlap each other in a flowing motion. The mix of field recordings including the water work well amongst the more mysterious sounds that are generated from both the fragments and the violin.

“Post Tenebras”  (“After Dark”) opens sounding like something from Canadian duo Hanged Up, before vinyl crackle and piano are joined by bells, triangles, oriental sounding wind instruments and strings to give the track a very cinematic feel. The pace is relatively slow, with elements slowly filtering in and out with the strings steering the track through the elements.

“Une Touche De Pluie” (“One touch of Rain”) naturally starts with a storm clattering on pots and pans catching the rain with this long dense drone with a sound that reminds me of Marconi Union. The drone is elongated and fills out the sound with waves and pulses and is overlapped. It’s like a pebble being thrown into water and as it ripples out, the next ripple starts forming.  Slow cutting violin intersects with micro elements of percussion before martial like free jazz drumming and mournful noir violin and scrapping percussion bring the track to the end.
“Ghostly Ballet” starts almost like the previous track ends with a scrape of a gong, brushed cymbals, clattering noises, alarm noises, static noise, piano alongside horns, violin and a muffled shimmering drone that rises and keeps building up with a variety of percussive devices creating a cacophony of sound before dropping out. The sound landscape becomes formed with the sounds of running water, harp, violin, plucked Asian instruments, bells, chimes, drums and humming underlying tone. Elements collide with so many sounds that the track covers many genres from free jazz, ambient, sound art, Electroacoustic and bears the artist’s Jazz and Hip Hop past.

“Plume” adds piano over broken beat looped crunchy sounds, scraped metal sounds, field recordings, bells and violins. The piano segment has a ‘running feel’ which is joined by fragments of jazz drumming, growing string drones, metal Neubauten-esque percussion and the regular paced bell. There is a post apocalyptic feel without it degenerating into an industrial pastiche. There is a strong feel of loneliness and isolation, but with out total melancholy that would render the track bleak.

“अरोड़ा” ( Hindi for “Aurora”) mines the Basinski territory with subtlety crafted ambient loops that are then joined by static, mournful flute, with buried micro elements like strings, percussion, harp, glitches that slowly build over the languid pace of the loops. There is something relaxing listening to something that appears to be growing organically while you listen.

“Unsolved” stabs of piano travel out in ripple effect over vinyl crackles before muted horn punctuations, waves of ambient Synth, glide above the piano. Asian percussion and string instruments change the feeling of the track from a smoky droning jazz track to one colluding with Chinese classical music down a dark and mysterious alley way.

“Une Si Délicate Tempête” (“A Stunning Storm”) is the longest track on the album clocking in at 12:43 and the sound pallet matches the title with its volume and its depth of sound. What appears to be a kaleidoscope of grainy sounds, violin and field recordings clatter and glitch about with ebbs and flows much like a real storm where there is a a break before the template changes to a more Electroacoustic ambient sound and then veers into broken piano and strings with the granular drones and sounds returning before the calm is over. At first the track tends to lead you to an expectation that is turned on its head around the four minute mark, which in a way sums up this album as a whole.

While quite different to his Jazz/Hip Hop work “Histós Lusis” shows Toàn’s ability to create vibrant sounding records that show a richness to sound, which in this case was expertly mastered by label boss Mathias Van Eecloo.  Although physically sold out at the label it is available via the artist and soon Stashed Goods or Experimedia.

Enrico Coniglio & Matteo Uggeri – Open to the Sea.

Dronarivm return to the musically fertile country of Italy for their latest release. Although the release is credited to Enrico Coniglio and Matteo Uggeri there are a decent amount of collaborators on this release such as vocals/lyrics coming from Francesca Amato’s (aka Comaneci), Lau Nau, Violeta Päivänkakkara and British actor John Guilor.  Extra brass from Fabio Ricci (Vonneumann), electronics from Guilio Aldinucci and Stella Riva (Satan Is My Brother) and mastering by James Plotkin rounds out the collaborators.

The label describes the collaboration as s result of fruitful email conversations and describes the collaboration as “Sweet and minimal melodies on piano, organ and guitar of Enrico meet the efforts of trumpet and drums of Matteo whose electronics treatment and delicate beats provide the solid ground to a music that seems a perfect match of the two artists sensibility.  “Open to the Sea” explores a variety of merging organic sounds where the calm and intimately of the album is disrupted by incursions of gentle noises and sometimes curious juxtapositions.”  

Coniglio describes himself as a Guitarist, environmental sound recordist and sound artist with an interest in the landscape aesthetics. He has previously appeared on labels such as Fluid Audio, Crónica Electronica, Taalem, Glacial Movements as well as co-running the digital label Galaverna. 

Matteo Uggeri is a frequent collaborator with releases with artists such as Andrea Ferraris, Maurizio Abate and Christiano Deison on labels such as Hibernate, Time Released Sound and Scissor Tail to name a few.

“Open to the Sea” starts off with Francesca Amato’s sweet sounding double track voice reciting the title. Ambient tones and granular glitches start the track which is no hurry floating at a gentle pace. Lau Nau’s haunting vocals float over the soundscape which is building in intensity ever so slightly before violin cuts through and field recordings of possibly a market place enter that are crisp enough to make you think they are there in the room with you. I would file this under electroacoustic sound art than as ambient per se.

“Jessaias de reduire mes medicaments” begins with Scanner-like recording of a phone conversation/ interview which is joined by melodic ambient tones and musical saw like drones which are peppered by glitchy electronics that are pulsing and phasing. This short track combines the experimental elements alongside the more the melodic electronica and fuses them together well.

“Up Over The Harbours Lights” Coniglio’s guitar opens the track in a blues like style alongside ambient drones that coincide with the final strum of the guitar before piano, industrial sounds, field recordings and samples enter the sound mix. The track shows the musicians soundtrack-esque construction to create a sound palate of dissimilar origins to work together.

“I Am The Sea” features Violeta Päivänkakkara on vocals and lyrics and starts with her ethereal vocals before melancholy minimal piano, guitars, synths, distant percussion, bells, electronics and trumpet fuses together to form a track that is so many genres mixed into one. The haunting trumpet that cuts through mixed with Päivänkakkara’s vocals, alongside piano and electronic and traditional percussion works so well as it covers post rock, electronica, Electroacoustic and soundtrack works so easily.

“Floating Metal Sheets” this experimental sounding track sees assistance from fellow Italian and Dronarivm artist Guilio Aldinucci. This track starts with acoustic guitars and some sort of background percussive noise source that I can’t get my head around. Some crackling electronics start and flutter with drones lightly covering them as a rolling noise pans left and right. Trombone joins the track with an effect similar to a car slamming on its breaks, before changing to slow mournful blowing over the acoustic guitars while electronics scatter about.

“Dutch Street Theatre” features UK voice over artist and actor John Guilor who has worked on Dr Who. Guilor’s narration is laid over piano, drones and violin and field recordings of people talking. I am not sure where the narration comes from and whether it is related to the theme of this album, but it doesn’t personally work for me.

“Now I’m Silent” starts with an electronic heart beat sound paired with darting drones, piano and percussive noise with electronic whistling, before venturing into jazz territory with wailing trumpet and electric guitar, disjointed gunshot drums. It’s a track of two quite separate halves that work well separately, but take time to get used to the differences.

“Allarme” begins with a broken piano like opening, before alarm sounds pan in and out and glitch electronics, cymbals and piano are gently caressed. Field recordings, possibly of radio or loud-speaker transmissions traverse the piece that is being slightly held together by piano while non traditional percussion rattles and rolls with brass instruments and intermittent sounds. Again Coniglio and Uggerri manage to fit a lot of source material in a piece that while at times seems like a juxtaposition, but also compliments one another.

“I Say I May Be Back” sees radio samples and static overload piano with a hint of paning banjo, guitars and percussion that has a nautical feel with Francesca Amato’s vocals that bring the album full circle with the recurring title line. The instruments one by one break down leaving Amato’s voice to finish out the album much like she started it.

“Open to the Sea” is not a straight forward album to get a handle on. There are so many constituent parts that make it up and it covers Ambient/Drone/Post Rock/Experimental/ Electroacoustic genres, sometimes in the same track. The thing it has going for it is it’s unpredictability and it’s depth is that it’s not a release that can be easily glossed over. Most of the tracks work extremely well and the depth that James Plotkin has gotten in the master allows for that richness and shows why he is one of the most popular masterers around.  There is a special version of the release limited to 50 copies which comes with a jigsaw and bonus digital ep.

https://soundcloud.com/dronarivm/i-am-the-sea

Sound in Silence x2 – Liam J Hennessy – Held / [.que] – Wonderland.

Sound in Silence is the fine Greek label run by George Mastrokostas (aka Absent Without Leave) and his two most recent release are from the UK’s Liam J Hennessey and Japan’s [.que]. Amongst a roster that includes the likes of bvdub, Wil Bolton, Hessien, Daniel W J Mackenzie and Absent Without Leave, these latest released are a fine addition to the catalog.

Liam Hennessey a few years ago recorded under the name Drops and produced a 7″ in an edition of 1 and a CD ep on Heat Death records as well as a split digital ep with Umber (who features on this release). For the last few years he has been focusing on music for film and television and in 2016 started a project of recording one song every month. “Held” is the result of half of this project. Hennessey’s music is highly melodic with a nice balance of natural acoustic and electronic elements.

The label states that the construction of “All tracks include field recordings and found sounds, captured with a portable microphone on trips to various places during the month each track was recorded. The sounds captured were used as the basis of the tracks, giving a nice natural sound, while the field recordings where chopped up and manipulated to make the beats. Then layers of nostalgic guitar melodies were added and filled with additional background ambience created with a mixture of guitar swells, ebow, warm synths and lots of filters and reverb.” 

“Frozen Lights” opens with field recordings of water and nature sounds and light Synth drones before sprawling guitar leads somewhat reminiscent of Robin Guthrie weaves their magic, before acoustic guitars and scattered beats clatter around. The track then has more focused traditional beats that hold the track and give it the base for it center it. Layering of guitars give it the depth, volume and light and makes it a pastoral post rock almost folktronica.  In the past the comparison with Message to Bears has been made and is comes through in this track, which is not a bad comparison at all.

“Beacons (feat. Good Weather For An Airstrike)” has that classic ambient sound of uplifting drones mixed with field recordings and layers of different tone guitars with sections of field recordings used as a pexcessive device. Elements drop out to reveal just the guitars before a drone brings in a section of crunchy beats that become the focus while sounds of children playing float and then the guitars again become the focus. Military like percussion builds up the pace in the final minute as it joins the scratchy crunchy elements of before and leads the guitars to the end. For all the elements that are included in the track there is no feeling of overcrowding. While I am not aware of who contributed what to the track, the collaboration works extremely well.

“Soen”  layers the acoustic and guitars, underpinned by drones with a shaker like percussive instrument and glitchy micro-beats. The building guitars that swell in their number and rise in their intensity is the focal point to the track. It shows Hennessey’s ability at constructing something with such depth with relatively few elements. 

“Mirror Lake (feat. Umber)” sees Hennessey re-untied with his fellow split ep artist. The track begins with backwards loops and drones before crisp acoustic guitar creeps slowly into the mix, the field recording made beats and an almost alt country like drone and central guitar part become the feature. The music is very bright and summery with a heavy dose of melody and because of the Alt country feel adds something different to the album.

“Over the Bay” was the first track from the project to be uploaded on Soundcloud and is a fitting penultimate track. Cinematic drones, spindly guitars, field recordings, loops, the crinkling of undergrowth, the way elements drop out and then are rebuilt in a different configuration, the panning of sound, the timbres of the guitars all work well together. 

“Viewpoint” takes the elements that have featured in the previous tracks and adds more of a standard ‘rock formation’ with percussion (maybe not traditional percussion, but more than the previous field recording based beats) and bass and rather than an ambient styled track it’s definitely in the post-rock mould. The track opens with what sounds, acoustic guitars and drones before coming fully fleshed. While it is nice, for me the joy is in the previous less ‘rock’ tracks.

As mentioned before the Message to Bears comparison is still valid, but Hennessey is as equally talented as Jerome Alexander and his constructions are lush and interesting. A mention must go to the mastering by George as all sounds are fully realized and vibrant.

There are times when you can hear a piece of music and you can determined the countries origin straight away. This release by Japan’s Nao Kakimoto aka [.que] is one such release. Some Japanese music can infuse a sense of whimsy and innocence in the music and this is one such release. Since 2010 he has released seven albums, one ep and three singles on labels such as Schole,  IntroDuCing! and his own Embrace label. This, his eighth album and the first I have heard, is according to the label “a concept album of ten tracks based on ideas that started taking shape when Kakimoto composed the soundtrack of the short film Kurokawa Wonderland back in 2015. Harmonizing the warmth of acoustic instruments and folk elements with electronic textures and field recordings,  [.que] creates a wonderful album full of emotional melodies and delicate rhythms.”

“Quiet” opens with closer coming and receding footsteps, the sound of rain pouring and the delicate keys of a piano with a melodic sound that could easily melt the ears of those not too partial to piano playing. It is coupled with a string section like drone with some backwards loops paning in and out.  It sets the mood for the rest of the album.

“Faraway” opens with a similar piano loop with cascading and receding electronics before glitch beats and cymbals are joined by folktronic elements and rhythmic beats, layered Synth drones and spiraling layered guitars. There are alot of elements going on, but the central part to this whole track is melody which is present in all the parts.

“Drip” opens with reverb laden acoustic guitar coupled with squelchy, glitchy scattershot electronics that seem to inhabit a nowhere zone in the track until a beat rears its head and leads age track in a direction where all the elements unwind into their own space. The most experimental of the tracks so far, it is over before it can start falling apart.

“Forest” is a short minimalist piece where a distant looping rumble falls behind a piano which is accompanied by birdsong. The looping reminds of sounds of a train rolling along wooden tracks and has a broken beat sort of sound to it. The piano has the feel of effects or processing as the notes linger and travel out infusing the track with ambience. 

“Vast” is mostly electronic in nature with the exception being the organic nature of the piano. Electronics filter and flutter, glitches pop in and out, sped up keys run in circles, Synth washes ebb and flow while a metronomic beat gives the track structure and form for the instruments such as the piano to pace alongside. The glitch elements remind me of Nobukazu Takemura. 

“Waterfall” panning backwards loops, drones, field recordings of a storm, guitar form the structure to this track. Without a percussive element it gives the track the feel of an intro as opposed to a fully fleshed track. You are almost waiting for the next section to begin.

“Afterglow” sees Kakimoto return to the fusion of ambient elements of drones, electronics and field recordings alongside guitars, basses and percussion. Some of the percussion in electronic nature, alongside hand claps or snapping of fingers gives it a retro feel. This is the most driving song, but also sharing a light theme on the album with the percussion and guitar leading the way while the Synth drones pulse to provide an extra element of percussion. 

“Nostalgia” sees the layering of acoustic guitars and an electric guitar joined by soft Synth keys that counterpoint the melody of one of the layers of guitars. Unfortunately it is over too briefly as it’s a really pleasant track that could be expanded. 

“Laputa” glitches and static from vinyl are joined by a series of cut up backwards loops one of which evolves onto a part that doesn’t sound like guitar, but some sort of string element, acoustic guitar and electronic tones reminiscent of a phone dial pad. The elements start faded out with a drone coupling the string part alongside the vinyl crackles and electronic tones. Kakimoto shows his strength on fusing elements that seem to be disparate and being able to construct tracks with them.

“Wonderland (Album edit)” makes me wonder if this is from the film or just inspired by it. Layers of drones are joined by electronic blips and blops before a retro percussive Synth section joins on and the more frantic beats reminiscent of earlier track “Drip”, but also give the feeling of a live drummer doing a version of drum n bass. There is a respite part in the middle of the track wwhereas cymbal crash leads to where the beats slow to just bass drum beats the piano and electronics flow before another cymbal crash brings the track back to pace.

Described by the label as being of interest to fans of The Album Leaf, Message to Bears, Epic45 and Miaou (another Sound in Silence artist), this release is fully realised and not tentative. Kakimoto layering and structuring are exemplary and is use of both nature and electronic means are well fused together. Again hats of Mastrokostas’ mastering which is vibrant and clear. 

Covarino/Incorvaia – Granada.

I’ll put my hand up and say reviewing an improv release is probably not my forte. I have, in the past tried to get into improv. The likes of Bailey, Braxton, Rowe and others have passed in and out of my collection. Experimental electronic improv is probably easier to get a handle of due to it’s more flexible nature. When you are using more traditional instruments like drums and guitar it can be a bit trickier to, as a listener, not follow pre-assumed expectations of what the sounds will be like.

Covarino/Incorvaia are musicians Francesco Covarino (drums) and Alessandro Incorvaia (guitar), originally from Perugia in central Italy. Their debut release emerged last year on Poland to UK imprint Preserved Sound and was named after the artists’ hometown. Both artists grew up together and played in bands together but now find themselves in different countries. Alessandro based in London, UK and Francesco in Granada, Spain. Their follow-up album is named after the latter as they focused on a live and more improvised set as a duo, without the additional musicians included in ‘Perugia’.

They recorded this album over Christmas with their influences of Post Rock, Indie, Free Jazz and Ambient coming to notice. They chose not name the tracks, just like “Perugia’s” tracks titled “1” – “6” as to not put a prescribed theme to the album.

“Granada 1” opens with a distortion led drone with faint flickering in the background with Post Rock style guitar (think Slint of June of 44) looping with the first subtle padding of percussion appears without over powering the guitar. Francesco’s drumming starts to get a little more urgent but also in a jazz form while Alessandro’s guitar holds path before both musicians start experimenting for a short period before returning to the gentle patterns of the start.

“Granada 2” opens with percussive use of space and various Toms and cymbals before guitar makes its entrance inhabiting both a sense of space, but also holding the same post rock sound as the opener. Francesco’s drumming uses different paces and is mostly free form in the jazz tradition rather than in the sense of creating walls of sound with the symbols etc… While “Granada 1” was mote guitar focused, “Granada 2” sees the drums more central.

“Granada 3” opens up with guitar drone and the exact cymbals that were mentioned in the previous tracks. They shimmer and crash while the toms are beaten, bells are shaken as the drones stretch out before being joined by more guitar that ventures into almost post metal territory with the volume and heaviness which ends the track to silence.

“Granada 4” both guitar and drums start off this track and the percussion reminds me of Jim White of The Dirty Three and indeed Alessandro’s guitar is also Mick Turner-esque in it’s delicate strumming of the strings.

“Granada 5” sees the fluidity between the two musicians in that it doesn’t come across as an improv track, both the guitar and drum follow their same consistent, but separate paths that are fused together well with the pace of each musician machine the other. Harmonious drone also accompanies the track giving it a melody but obvious in the other tracks. Probably for it’s more cohesive nature this is the standout track.

“Granada 6” starts with slow spindly guitar strumming building up a rolling almost ale country come post rock piece that builds as this time both members are on guitar with Francesco playing classical guitar alongside Alessandro. Humming drones wraparound the guitars give them a dose of ambience and some distortion and compliments the guitars. A close second to “Granada 5” for standout.

“Granada” shows two musicians who are comfortable playing together to support each other as well as experiment around each other. It will be interesting to see where there paths continue to go in the future.

Mixtaped Monk & Cousin Silas – Soundtrack To Your Own Fantasy.

Soundtrack To Your Own Fantasy album art.jpg

“Soundtrack To Your Own Fantasy” is a split digital release between relative newcomer Mixtape Monk (aka Arka Sengupta from India) and prolific veteran Cousin Silas (aka David Hughes from the UK). It is released by the New York based label Studio 4632.

The label describes the album as: “Bordering around ambient, post-rock and experimental music, the album blends ambient and cinematic music sensibilities of Cousin Silas with the experimental-minded post-rock sensibilities of Mixtaped Monk.” 

As with split records or compilations there is always comparison, you just can’t escape it, especially when the artists rotate the tracks. This album contains four tracks from each artist and a collaborative track. I will review by artist in the order of their tracks.

Mixtaped Monk as mentioned before is a relative newcomer. He has previously put out an album “Urban Lonesome”, the “Light of the East” Ep and 5 singles. He describes himself as a person who enjoys solitude and that music has been a companion for him and something for him to explore.

“Let them Play” starts with a field recording of kids screaming and playing before drones come in held together by a pattern that even if I was unaware of the artists origin, I would describe as having an Asian theme.  In a way it reminds me of some Chinese classical music which could be played on some sort of glockenspiel or percussive string instrument. The melody holds the tracks as the layered drones and field recordings cut in and out in loop like fashion. The sound of the track is full without being dense and has a nice balance to it.

“Wanderer” opens with field recordings of birds chirping before drones, multiple electronics, guitar and violin weave themselves together in a tapestry. The use of panning, especially for the violin is particularly affective. My one criticism would be the lack of variation in that possibly elements could be used a bit more sparingly in sections to accentuate other elements.

“Revelations” fuses percussive guitar, piano, violin and takes what I said about in the previous track and mixes the elements together to create a track that is progressively propelled in almost trance like nature as it builds up in a forward chugging motion.

“Twilight Wishes” is a Synth led track with a Sci Fi vibe and guitar doodling that unlike the other tracks, for me, is not as cohesive. It has elements that seem to float, but there is nothing tying them together, which is a shame considering the other tracks having more to them.

Cousin Silas is a prolific musician with at least 11 releases that have come out this year (and 154 listed on Discogs). I have to admit coming into this review cautious of an artist who releases so much. Do they put out too much? Is the music affected? Do the fire up the machines and go off to make a cup of tea? I am also cautious about coming to conclusions before giving the artist a chance.
“Remembering Days” starts with an ebbing Synth drone that gets washed over by a larger drone before minimal guitar part comes in. I am aware that Cousin Silas’ name comes from a character in a King Crimson song so he is probably a Fripp fan, but my thoughts initially was Mark Knopfler. The track appears to have a low bass note section. Initially I thought glacial ambiance, but the synths bring quite a bit of light.

“Entangled” brings in the glacialness with Synth and guitar – which has a feedback howl like drone to it. There is central drone to the track were others come in with icy stabs and as the track reaches conclusion the guitar becomes a bit more forceful.

“Daylight on Saturday” Silas switches it up with a piano meets drone meets guitar piece which is quite a nice variation compared to the other two tracks. The piano has a controlled and well paced sound while the other elements offer filigree and it would be nice, in my opinion to remove those reaching guitar solo-esque parts as the rest of the track is quite pretty and these can distract from the emotional elements of the track.

“Silver Sky” is a revisit to the style of the first two tracks with the reaching synths with the elevating sound that leans ever so slightly in the bright side of the equation. The guitar parts are minimal, which is a relief as they can make the sound dated, but the minimal elements of piano are welcome.

Mixtaped Monk and Cousin Silas

“Awakening” straight away you can differentiate between each artists elements that are brought together in this track. It starts off with Mixtaped Monk before Silas’ guitar is layered over the top, Silas’ drones compete with Monk’s electronics and the track moves on. It would be curious to know how at was constructed, if each part has added as a response to the other artist or if they were two pieces combined.
As I said at the start of the review it is easy to compare the two artists into what works and what doesn’t.  The interesting thing is that they are both at different stages in their respective careers.  Mixtaped Monk has recently started, but Cousin Silas is some decade and a half into his. Musically I appreciate the Monk tracks over Silas’ and while I probably wont revisit the release in the near future there were elements that were enjoyable.

“Soundtrack To Your Own Fantasy” is released on July 7.

Jakob Lindhagen – Skörheten.

Jakob Linghagen from Stockholm, Sweden is one of the latest signings to the 1631 Recordings label and before he releases his 1631 Recordings debut proper they have re-issued his soundtrack “Skörheten” digitally and added 3 bonus tracks. If his name is familiar that is because his name graced this blog recently when he helped out on his girlfriend’s Vargkvint project.

Jakob, a multi instrumentalist, also records under the Other People moniker (previously known as “…”) and released the “Somewhere Far Away” CD and remix EP “Black Swans” on the Feeder Recordings labels. The project was split between the UK and Australia. He has also worked on other short films and other commissions.

“Skörheten” which translates to “Fragility” in English, is an award-winning Documentary film (Winner Newcomer of the year, Guldabaggegalan, Sweden, 2017 -Winner of Best Swedish Feature – The City of Gothenburg Award, Gothenburg Film Festival, 2017 as well as being nominated in other festivals). The film’s synopsis is “In the peak of her career documentary filmmaker Ahang Bashi falls down in a deep gorge of panic attacks and depression. With a skin deep precision, beautiful imagery and a black humor she carries the viewer into the swirling world of anxiety, sometimes dark and sometimes hopeful. With the camera as her tool she brings us back in time to the escape from Iran and the little girl who did not understand.”

“Intro” opens the album with slightly grainy humming vibrations with screeching droves cascading in an out, sounds that reach out like a pebble dropped in water, minimal piano and electronics.  As the film is about anxiety/panic attacks/depression the building humming and drones can replicate the onset of panic attacks and the minimal piano can represent the alone feeling of depression. A nice start to the album.

“Ett Mörker” which translates to “A Darkness” continues with similar grainy humming beginning and longer drones paired alongside a delicate piano line. It could almost be a reprise of “Intro” if not for the more ominous grainy electronics that form the underbelly of the track and come to the fore at the end and brings “The Darkness” to the track.

“Mottagningen” which translates to “The Reception” is a layered mournful piano piece with double bass that keeps the mood the same being a bit down beat. This theme follows into the track “Varför mår jag dåligt?” which translates to “Why am I miserable?” which opens with accordion alongside piano and double bass and has, naturally, a jazz meets noir feel to it. In the last-minute of the track it totally changes with rippling ,echoing presumably synthesizer keys floating out.

“Läggas in?” translated to “Being Admitted?” is mournful solo piano that conveys despair in its rolling keys, use of silence and the way Lindhagen uses the lengths of the notes to accentuate this. There is a slight section where you think the mood of the piece will change, but it keeps on with despair.

“I Parken” translates to “In the Park” opens with backward loops of some sort of string drone, double bass, piano, synthesizer and electronics. The piano and synthesizer parts work well together with the synthesizer having an aquatic feel to it, like slightly echoing or shimmering. The loops form a nice background for the other elements to add onto and give the piece pace.

“Fotot” translates to “The Photo” and is a reprise of “Varför mår jag dåligt?”, but is shorter and focuses a little more on the piano element.

“T-Centralen” translated to “The Central Station” shares similar opening elements as “Intro” before electronic sounds scatter about like glass balls rolling around, grainy/glitch loops , drones,  Sci Fi like synths all collide together in a pattern. Without seeing the movie the impression is of being in a central station at night, alone, isolated with impending anxiety crowding around someone. The track is a great slice of cinematic electronica which separates itself from the other tracks on the soundtrack. Naturally with it being a piece from the film the length is short to fit a scene, but it would be great to see this extended and fleshed out.

“Samtel med Roxy” translates to  “Conversation with Roxy” has some sound of steps or like a metronome with a distant noise and solo piano which continues with a walking sort of sound that changes to sharper keys in the middle of the track to the end. Again, not having seem the film the change in the piano of the track makes me think that there is a change in the conversation in the film. Whether that is good or bad change in the conversation I am not sure.

“Jävla Ångest” or “Damn Anxiety” is a stripped back solo piano track, hammers and all that mines the same territory as “Läggas in?”, but is very brief.

“Skörheten” which translates to “Fragility” takes a variation of the synthesizer part from the second half of “I Parken” as it’s central part. A humming sound supports the synthesized progressions with reverberating pinging keys that expand out and build up ever so slightly in intensity with a distant and growing distortion replacing the humming that ends in decay. I imagine this to be the music to match the end titles of the film.

“Skevheten”  which roughly translates to “The Skewedness” (and is a play on the word “Skörheten”) is a mere fragment of a track being only 33 seconds in length, but still gives the listener a visual impression to it’s aural key. For me it could be used in a scene where the character is looking at themselves in a mirror and examining all the parts of their face and the way they perceive themselves to look in the way that depression or anxiety can cloud over someone and affect the way they see themselves.

“Bra Liv” translates to “Good Life” and is the true essence of melancholic solo piano that appears to have some sort of echo effect at points where notes are slightly stretched out.

“I Parken 2”  aka “In the Park 2” takes the original piece and changes it from piano to Synth parts with the drones instead of being backward appear forward and three-quarters into the track percussion of a dubstep or trip hop persuasion comes and gives it a “versioning” feel rather than a remix.

Overall this is an impressive album with miniatures that would be great if expanded. It shows of Lindhagen’s talent and flexibility and a composer to use different elements to the tracks so it’s not a case of “same same”. I look forward to what he brings us on his next release. Totally recommended.

Nhung Nguyen – An Ordinary Narrative. 

Nhung Nguyen is a Vietnam based musician and sound artist who from 2011-2015 recorded as Sound Awakener and appeared on labels such as Soft (“Belonging to the Infinity” with Linear Bells), Unknown Tone Recordings (“Here cones the Acoustic Season” with Gallery Six) and Flaming Pines (Tiny Portraits – “Nocturnal Scenes”). Since 2015 she has been recording under her own name.

“An Ordinary Narrative” started with recording beginning in January of this year just after the release of “Nostalgia” and uses her standard upright Yamaha piano and a variety of out of tune pianos in public and private settings.

Nhung describes the Ep as for “the little moments in our lives. Bold, repetitive and simple are three suitable words to described the material…this Ep is the representation of my everyday life – a narrative which is both real and surreal. Seven piano pieces with a touch of soundscape are processed with a minimal level of editing to create a sense of imperfection. The raw quality in these pieces carry my honest and sincere feelings toward life, memories and music.”

“After Spring” has a lo-fi feel that gives it the impression of time and distance. There is a feeling of hope in the music mixed with a tinge of sadness that fills out the second half of the track. The difference between the themes of the two halves of the track are clear with a slight overlap in the middle.

“Memento” begins with lush ambient effect laden piano with stark notes matched with shimmering keys of which both fully fill up the sound so that there is no space, it is awash with sound. The tone of the shimmering keys is uplifting and is perfectly placed on top of those emanating ambient waves.

“Ode to Simplicity” returns to the lo-fi nature of “After Spring” (possibly recorded at same time or conditions) with the addition of a brief section of field recordings and has a melancholic but positive feel to it. The feel of the piece is like you are at a recital.

“An Ordinary Narrative” is the longest piece of the album and utilizes space with the opening being slowly paced, gently building up and being slightly melancholic. It is easy to see the reason behind the album sharing the title with this track. There is a lot of chance for the music to breathe. The use of out of tune pianos gives the track a bit of a hazy feel. There are several sections that make up the piece which make it not easily predictable to listen too, for instance towards the end is quite different to the start before the final reprise.

“Bittersweet” seems to be quite a random track, which I am not detecting a feel or motif. There are washes of field recordings that come in and out and the track ends rather suddenly. There are elements that are repeated, but it comes across, to me like an improvised track, which is rather different to the other composed ones.

“An End” is a short piece full of lo-fi natural sounds and is a gentle piece full of reflective playing. You can imaging Nhung sitting at the piano and early morning light shining in, it has that feel to it. Could be also nice at twice the length.

“Summer ’14” while the piano is the focal point there are enough effects on the recording to be more than just the some of the parts. There are drones and the piano has an icy feel to it, almost like stabbing sounds that work with the drones as they build up before quickly fading. Much like “The End” it is over before you know it. It would be interesting to see it extended with more electronics and even subdued beats of some sort as it has that quality to move across genres.

“An Ordinary Narrative” is available now.