Jason van Wyk – Attachment.

Home Normal have brought about the re-release of Jason van Wyk’s “Attachment” that originally came out on the Eilean Rec label, alongside his new album “Opacity”. Jason van Wyk is a Cape Town, South Africa based electronic artist who has predominantly released Trance and IDM. The newly remastered album comes eighteen months after its original release, this time as a 500 run edition as opposed to the original 130 copies.

Home Normal boss Ian Hawgood had the job of mastering the original release. He had this to say: “One of the great joys of being a mastering engineer is when you come across a release so special, that you simply feel an innate privilege in the process, and unadulterated joy in helping something in the final stages of its fruition. Jason has been releasing electronic music since the tender age of just 14. Whilst he continues to be known for this work, his most recent output has seen him focus on his beautiful piano playing, intertwined this with his subtle sound design and wide open soundscapes.

’Attachment’ was his first foray into an ambient / post-classical piano cross-over, and it was met with acclaim, selling out of its limited edition immediately. Quite apart from being a breath of fresh air with its flowing and soulful piano elements, the sound design and lush melodious pads just had me absolutely hooked. After creating a very clean master of ‘Attachment’, I felt there was another layer to be told in the work, with its close recording techniques, dusty piano tones, and overall warmth. After inviting Jason to release his follow-up on Home Normal, we also agreed that a complete remaster using tapes would be a lovely way of approaching ‘Attachment’ again.”

“Kept” opens with a natural sounding recording of piano with the ambience of the room being recorded as well. The piano has a padding on the hammers which gives it a bristle like percussive sound as the keys are played. Walls of windscreen Synth drones slowly start creeping in the mix as the piano playing starts to have a sense of urgency and the drones start building up and vanquish the piano. Some clattering sounds like a flag blowing in the wind appear before a quick piano reprise is swamped by the drones and a slightly throbbing Synth line.

“Before” field recordings , airy drones, piano and acoustic guitar combined create a track that at the start has a Message to Bears like feel before the electronics and percussion arrive to take this in another direction that fuses folktronica and post rock influenced electronica, but then abruptly changes to a solo piano modern classical track. Circulating Synth drones compliment the piano till the tracks end.

“Coherence” cinematic drones gently ease the listener accompanied by the sound of decay before the music picks up in grandeur with medium paced piano and complimenting strings. The track feels like it is just getting started when it finishes. Being a little over two minutes, it could easily and gladly cover three times that length and be equally enjoyable.

“Unsaid” has a similar natural recording to kept, however this time the piano playing has more of a sense of romantic urgency as van Wyk fingers gently glide across the keys. With a length of one minute Abdi two seconds it is a nice vignette.

“Return” much like “Kept” and “Unsaid” features that ‘natural’ piano recording technique which gives it an authenticity sometimes missing in Modern Classical where it is more about the feel than the sound and the feel of the piano. The music has a slightly melancholic feel which ever so subtly paired with drones that make the sound feel fleshed out, but still make the piano the lead instrument.

“Stay” is where the electronics and drones come into focus create a tapestry of sound with some backwards effects and field recording like augmentation. The piano with its strident playing in a driven fashion provides the transition between the two drone sections, the second of which is accompanied by regular glitches, soaring sections and a more overall noisy feel than its predecessor.

“Red” deftly played solo piano that shares some of the same emotion as the others and the same style of recording.

“Found” a long spindly drone starts becoming joined with an almost accordion like drone before a single piano key signals them to retreat to the background before the quickly paced and complimenting piano is joined by a long haunting violin piece as the drones hover and attach themselves to the piano at certain times which expands the sound making it fully, but at no point taking it away and changing the feature of the track which is the playing if the piano. All the elements work well and thus shows van Wyk at his best in the way that the track is constructed and the placement in the constituent places work so well.

“Evanesce” Grainy static mixed with a funereal drone that shares an icy feel and church organ touch dominates the track. The track is mammoth with its drones that come across like Brian Eno’s classic “An Ending (Ascent)” in the way that they convey that floating on air ambience that when achieved results in a stunning listen.

“Outset” sees van Wyk return to his more trance based past with bubbly electronics with a Tangerine Dream feel roll around joined by string drones and minimal piano stabs. The sound builds up quickly and dramatically falls away to a distant drone version of the track, like it is buried deep in the ground. There is a feeling of experiencing the music from up high. The electronics bubble at low volume almost out of hearing while field recordings , the piano stabs and minimalist drones lead to another slightly less dramatic stop. It would have been great if the ending straight away brought back the intensity of the start with the electronics to make it come full circle.

“Away” starts off slowly with piano and matching drones before the theirs movement changes thirty seconds in and brings the intensity up in the playing. The mood changes slightly around the one minute, 7 second mark with turn to melancholy.

“Depart” takes the album to the end with an almost pure drone track that changes ever so slightly two thirds into the track with the addition of the piano. Up to this point you feel you will be taken away to the drone-scapes, which are as cinematic as they get augmented by field recordings of some sort of wind disturbance/static, before the focus is the desolate piano which is paired perfectly with the timbre of the drones.

“Attachment” is an enjoyable listen and for me works best when the songs are fuller, with the drones or electronics added. The solo piano pieces are enjoyable, but as the recording technique is the same, they can across as similar sounding on first pass. You can see why Home Normal saw fit to re-release it. Recommended.

Original 2016 master:

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In Brief: Leonard Donat “Deer Traps”/ Channelers “Faces of Love”.

One of the goals of this blog was to attempt to cover everything sent. At times the song count has hit 170+ which makes it difficult especially with a lot of releases around the sane time. In Brief will be an occasional series to make sure I cover everything sent.

“Deer Traps” is a four track CD/Cassette (limited to 15 copies)/Digital release on German label Blackjack Illuminist Records. Alexander Leonard Donat records under a variety of aliases making music that goes across genres such as Indie Pop, Darkwave, Dream Punk and Oriental Krautrock (those last two are new ones to me).

The label has this to say about the album: “Deer Traps” is a 40-minute lucid veil of night that pulls itself over the body of the listeners until they are fully covered and unable to move. It’s carefully drizzled in anaesthetic which unfolds just fast enough for the listener to find a place to lie low. Donat uses classical instruments and occasional voices, then loops them and combines them with field recordings and synthetic sounds to create a hissing and crackling, rustling and creaking fever dream. The sounds are distant, ghostly, they melt into one another until they become a whole that’s either peaceful, menacing, or both – depending on the listener’s perspective and mood.”

“Fog Horn Deer Trap” if this is a modern classical track it is covered in a thick dose of ambient static, bird song field recordings and almost wind howling like drones. It feels like the recording of the piano was made several rooms away from where it was being played as it is distant in the mix. The playing of the piano is rather subtle and has a nice rhythm that reveals itself from time to time.

“…And Then It Materialized” features layers of static, howling drones, clanging sounds and dark ambience. It is like the sound of haunting and decay. Things are falling apart, a transmission signal is cutting in and out till just the drones remain as the city burns.

“Alteglofsheim Night Pedal” the decay continues, but not as claustrophobic as the previous track. Semi- melodic elements are off on the fringes while a drone with equal parts of melody and ominous sound rolls in under the static and wind recordings. As the track progresses this sound becomes more industrial – like with clanging rhythms and all the elements coming together to create a chugging motion. The one draw back is the sort of muddiness that while adds atmosphere, probably removes the intensity a clearer recording/mix could give.

“Forest Fire” brings in layers of looped metallic drones with a distant rumble of built up recordings creating noise that start taking over the sound as the track approaches the half way mark and lead the track into decay with the drones peaking through the noise before the track fades to the end.

Alexander Leonard Donat shows how he is capable of constructing layered drone music with additional influences from his other musical excursions. For me the static elements can be a little overpowering and could be used bit sparingly.

Channelers is the project of Sean Conrad, based in Oakland, CA (USA). This release comes out as a cassette (in an edition of 75 copies) on his label Inner Islands (not to be confused with the Canadian Inner Ocean label).

The label have the following to say about the release: “Faces of Love is the product of a practice of recording and improvising as a mindfulness practice, playing to listen to and be with the sound. Naturally, the rhythm of the sound follows the rhythm of the body and the pace of the breath. It is a simple mirror. It is music both as a practice and process, as well as for sharing and listening. The pieces are static in their mood and atmosphere, but could wander infinitely. Presence amidst the ever-changing. Solidity and freedom. “Always Been” focuses on the tidal undulations of the breath, while “Pressure Sigh” is a balance between two individual forces, weaving a conversation. The two pieces that comprise the album are from a series of sessions devoted to this practice. The pieces were recorded using harmonium, bowed bass, dulcimer, piano, and Juno-60.”

“Always Been” if you’ve ever done mindfulness training or meditation you would know that it’s all about being present and focusing on the breath. This is what happens in this track. A drone oscillates  in a constant measured loop underneath minimal playing on the dulcimer. There is not a lot going on in the track, which can have a drawback at nineteen and a half minutes in length, but it follows the intention of the artist. The use of the Dulcimer gives it a sort of Asian feel which also would fit in with the mindfulness/meditation intention.

“Pressure Sigh” the two opposing forces is the minimal piano and underlying field recording like drones which initially start of as if radiating from the piano to then inhabiting their own territory, but never over powering. Much like “Always Been” this track is over nineteen minutes in length and is minimal and slowly building. If you like stark slowly flowing minimal ambient/drone and possibly something to meditate to, this might be for you.

Hannu Karjalainen – A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert.

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“A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert” is the third Hannu album following on from “Worms In My Piano” (Osaka 2006), “Hintergarden” (Kesh 2009) and the “Harhailua” Ep (Kesh 2009). This is his first release to feature his full name. During the past eight years, Hannu has been keeping himself busy with his multimedia art explorations utilizing photography and film, more of which can be viewed here.

“A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert” is released on the Berlin based Karaoke Kalk label (home to Hauschka, Dakota Suite, Senking and others) on vinyl /CD /Digital editions with physical pressings in editions of around 500 copies. Hannu Karjalainen’s association with Karaoke Kalk started with his remix of Dakota Suite’s “The End Of Trying Part III” on “The Night Just Keeps Coming In” in 2009, which also featured remixes by the likes of Hauschka, Deaf Center, Loscil and many more.

The label describes the album as “Instantly captivating and for lovers of ambient music, dream listening. As an artist who trained in photography and is mostly active in the world of visual art, Hannu Karjalainen clearly enjoys a great deal of creative freedom in his music. This is the kind of desert you won’t mind getting lost in and even take pleasure in roaming through the expansive sonic landscapes and horizons it embodies.”

“Angel” opens the album with lush affected swathes of ambient Synth with granular before the major hook of the track is introduced which takes on a variety of shapes as it is manipulated and twisted around. This is complimented by deep ambient Synth that give the track an almost dubby feel in relation to how thick they are as opposed to traditional dub techno like sounds. The synths and the granular sounds consistently change shape and position filtering in out of the soundscape providing contrast from the more nicer sounds to the grittier sounds. The ambient synths particular have a pulsing sound like they are waves crashing as they pound the coast. The label describes it as being reminiscent of Boards of Canada’s finest work, but I find it has more depth than BOC.

“The Emigrant” a slow paced rhythm starts off the track on Glockenspiel and Synth that has a highly melodic if subdued sound, mixed something a bit more ominous and also Sci-Fi as well. The Sci-Fi Synth waves come in layered loops, while the Glockenspiel has a percussive edge to it and a child like playfulness. Pulses of electronic sound splatter out like tentacles and synth ripples float out filling up every aspect of sound making the track aurally rich with the feature being the Glockenspiel rhythm.

“Love, Unconditional” mixes up dreamy ambient Synths with watery piano keys, static loops to create a pure ambient track where everything is flowing out and engulfing. The Synth is thick with weight, the piano keys ripple out and the static loops remind of field recordings of natural electricity.

“Meille” is a haunting drone meditation with string like sounds and subtle ambience that are low in tone and are mournful in their length. A flute like bird song comes into play and gives the melodic transition to a more darker territory where the synths have an austere sound to them and in way almost like the haunting sounds of whale songs. A nice comparison of elements.

“A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert” has an intro reminiscent of one of those classic Richard D James or Aphex Twin albums (the label quote later period Susumo Yokota) with multi layered piano loops come in and out. The contrast is that one is more subdued than the others frantic rhythm. Despite the title track being 2:15 in length it is a nice counterpoint in that the album can oscillate between Ambient and IDM and this track covers both genres easily.

“A Year In The Day” starts with electronica style Synth pulses with crackled beats and looped handclap percussion. Just when you think you know the direction the track is heading in a melodic guitar that sounds almost Synth like comes in and changes the direction of the track. After a short break down the original electronica styled Synth returns with a shaker percussion accompanying it before the guitar returns and the handclaps lead the track out to the end. The track manages to cover the electronica side of things with a slight nod to post rock in the guitar department.

“Love Is A Black Lion” features a piano sample of the Dakota Suite tune “The End Of Trying Part III”, which is what brought Karjalainen to the label in the first place. The track opens with record groove dust sounds while a haunting drone cascades and a minimal section of morose piano is played. Other drones enter the mix with sounds seemingly lurking deep in the mix which build up the sound. Industrial like sounds cut in an out in a haunting desolate fashion with a dark ambient edge to it. Parts of additional piano sound like they are played on instruments that have been exposed to nature. This is a track that goes over several genres and is not easily pigeon holed.

“Breaks My Heart She Aria” is the epic and fitting finale. Layers of choral samples over granulated sound form a heavenly drone which is supported by synth drones. Train brake slamming like noises shudder in and out as a swirl of electronics swarm around the drones with sounds going in every possible direction. The layers cascade over each other and build up ever so slightly in intensity with storm like feel that settles down to center on the drones in the last two minutes of the track just leaving the choral ambience to take us to the end. The track never goes over the top and Karjalainen knows when to reign it in perfectly.

While his previous albums were more rooted in the Experimental/Electronica genre with Electroacoustic influences, “A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert” finds itself more in the Ambient/Electronica field and is a much deeper ,epic, widescreen and lush album. Definitely one to listen to again and again and get repeated enjoyable listens.

HannuKarjalainen

An interview with Lost Tribe Sound’s Ryan Keane.

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In the first in an occasional series bringing light to those that are responsible the physical release of music, I sent off some questions to Lost Tribe Sound boss Ryan Keane. Ryan is responsible for releases from William Ryan Fritch, The Green Kingdom, Graveyard Tapes, Western Skies Motel, Part Timer and others. There will be more reviews of the LTS catalog to come, but in the meantime please enjoy this interview.

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Please introduce yourself. Why did you start Lost Tribe Sound? Did you have experience with music before starting the label? Is it a one man operation?

Hi DAF, thanks for taking the time to talk with me. I’m Ryan Keane, owner at LTS. Lost Tribe Sound originally started as a way for my buddy Andrew Sanchez and I to release the music we made as Tokyo Bloodworm back in 2007. After one self release we decided it was a better idea to release with a more established label, so we reached out to Andrew and Craig at Moteer to release our next two albums.

In 2009, I had the crazy notion I could take on releasing music from other artists. Enter William Ryan Fritch’s Vieo Abiungo project. And yes, I am technically a one man operation. Of course all the musicians, visual artists, and fans play a big part in keeping me busy. But I am the PR team, the art & video department, the packing & shipping division, manufacturing and the complaint department.

From the outside looking in you and William Ryan Fritch have a close relationship. How did you meet/come across his music? How important to Lost Tribe Sound is he?

William and I first met in Tempe, AZ where I was living at the time, he came down from Flagstaff to play a show that my musical project Tokyo Bloodworm was also scheduled to play. I ended up backing out of the show, but I’d become interested in his music from some of the samples online so I decide to attend. William and I hit it off almost immediately, discussing our similar taste in music for artists such as Muslimgauze, Manyfingers and Bonnie Prince Billy to name a few. At that point, I mentioned it might be fun to release some of William’s music he had posted from his experimental ethno-centric project Vieo Abiungo. It immediately struck me as the sound I had been hoping someone would create for years. Deep drums, modern classical elements, textured as hell, and it dipped in the realm of world music without coming off as cheesy or contrived.

It’s easy for me to say, that without William Ryan Fritch there would be no Lost Tribe Sound. He has definitely been the most crucial and central artist on our roster. His talents as a multi-instrumentalist are unparalleled. The rough-hewn and organic approach Fritch delivers on all of his releases, speaks so perfectly to the central vision I had for Lost Tribe Sound from the beginning. The fact that we still speak almost daily, and that he’s trusted LTS to release 26 of his albums since 2010, I realize is an unbelievable privilege. Fritch is my closest ally, a best friend, and the most talented individual I ever had the opportunity to work with. I always remind him he needs to remember the little people when he is famous one day.

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You also do publishing/licensing with Settled Scores. How did this come about? Do you represent other artists than those on Lost Tribe Sound?

Settled Scores is the licensing arm of Lost Tribe Sound. It has been a slow burning project since 2013 or so, spawning from much of the work for film that William Ryan Fritch was bringing in. We expanded the licensing end to include other artists from the LTS roster and beyond in 2014, working with clients like GoPro cameras and an ever-growing list of indie film makers and forward thinking companies. Including the LTS roster, we represent catalogs for a select group of artists who approach making music in a similarly rustic and unique way. The goal behind Settled Scores is to show commercial, tv and film makers that we offer a great alternative the highly overused and often times drab music that seems to dominate the industry. I personally love seeing a high action scene set to music that is more contemplative and out of the ordinary, it adds a tension and interest to the shot, that no canned “action music” could even touch (example).

I’m hoping that more directors move in this direction, as there is a big beautiful world of experimental and extraordinary music out there that deserves their attention. Our Settled Scores roster outside of the LTS catalog currently includes works from Christoph Berg, Skyphone, Aaron Martin, James Murray, Anne Garner, Wickerbird, Glacis, Kyle Bobby Dunn and Mid-Wife to name a few.

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What quality do you look for in a release for Lost Tribe Sound? Do you accept demos?

There is no set genre or style I hold a LTS release to. I am more attracted to the vibe and mood the music offers. Usually, LTS releases tend to be less electronic, with a focus on real instrumentation. Not to say they can’t feature electronic elements but it is more about the nature in which they are treated. I love music when it is hard to place a time or region it may have come from. Of course rustic, dark, pulsing blends of folk, classical and ancient sounding rhythmic oddities always hit the spot, yet I feel like we also managed to created our own intriguing take on pop, indie and rock music as well. I’ve tried to get in the frame of mind of gathering more seasons within the music, yet the winter and fall toned music always seems to have the biggest draw for me.

Not opposed to receiving demos if the artist has really checked out the music we release and really gets it. Most LTS releases come by way of a friend of friend type situation, but every now and then I come across an artist and fall in love, enough to reach out to them and see if they are interested in releasing on LTS. It’s just hard releasing all the music I enjoy on the label. Just because I like an album doesn’t mean it is the best thing to release on LTS. I have to really love it, usually listening to it over a period of month, to make sure the music stays with me emotionally. Running a small operation I have to be overly picky, since one or two poorly received physical releases can really make or break my budget.

How important is the visual identity of packaging and format to the label? It’s a pretty huge part of label. I’d say the artwork is the second most important part of the release, outside of the music sounding amazing and carrying the right impact. Keeping with the vibe of the music, most of the artwork we choose fits that timeless, rustic vibe I am a sucker for. Sometimes the artist brings the art to the table and other times, I get to work on the artwork and design from scratch. This happens to be my most favorite things I get to do running the label. We’ve had the chance to work with some of the most amazing visual artists over the years, like Joao Ruas, Gregory Euclide, Jamie Mills and Sail. They’re some of the most exciting illustrators and fine artists in the modern-day, so blown away by the depth and detail they bring to their art. I always try to treat each LTS release like a piece of fine art, from the cover design to the music within.

Sometimes I creating handcrafted packaging to give it the feel it deserves, hopefully coming off like a precious artifact. For example, the new panoramic CD editions for this year’s Prelude to the Decline (Subscription Series), I wanted to design a case that felt substantial and provided a much larger canvas for the artwork than standard CD packaging provides. I tested a lot of materials and different paper stocks in the design, also figuring out how the metal screws would work into the design. The end result feels and looks amazing, so hopefully when fans hold them in their hands they will get a sense of how much love went into them.

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2017 is a pretty ambitious year with the great Prelude to the Decline series. Have you looked beyond the year or are concentrating on the releases from that schedule?

It has been an ambitious year with the series, perhaps too ambitious, as I’ve barely had time for anything else.  I’ve already hand-built over 600 CD cases, hand-numbering them all, along with the hand-numbered the vinyl editions. Oddly enough even with the generous deal the subscription series offers, the response to subscribe to it has been slow.  Not sure if it’s just the uncertainty times we are living in or what, but I stand behind it as perhaps the greatest thing the label has managed to pull off.
We are still looking to the future with Lost Tribe Sound, we have a few amazing releases lined up for next year already from a couple of my favorite artists Skyphone and Spheruleus, along with a brilliant new release from a lesser known artist, Phonometrician, that should have fans drooling. Fritch may go into a slow down period in 2018. He’s been on such a rampage of releases over the last few years, we figured it might be a good idea to put some distance between them. Perhaps this will help folks realize his brilliance and better appreciate his work. That said, we may still have a surprise or two from him in 2018.  We’ll see how many more years of LTS I have left in me. I treat each release like it was my baby, so it is not always easy on the psyche when a release does poorly, or is just not well received by the public.  If I am no longer feeling useful to the artists or the music community any longer than what’s the point.
I think a lot of labels face concerns of adequacy, I rarely mention it publicly with regard to LTS.  But it is always in the back of my mind. Pushing to get real press for a release, selling enough copies to have a physical edition make sense, and being able to pay our artists something decent always stresses me out. My main love has always been the music, but not being able to create a beautiful physical edition anymore would really make me lose interest. The fans we have are very supportive, and send some great encouragement (usually when I need it the most), but it still bums me to see those waste-of-space download sites passing around our artist’s releases for free like they’re worthless.  Moaning aside, I think real music fans know to show their support through buying the music from the labels and artists they love.  It’s so vital to continuing to bring high quality music into the world.  So in that, I have hope for the future of LTS.

 

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Many thanks for Ryan talking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about the label via the following :

Losttribesound.com

Losttribesound.bandcamp.com

Soundcloud.com/losttribesound

https://www.youtube.com/user/Losttribesound

Giulio Fagiolini – Dietro a un vetro.

Over the eight years and almost 103 releases, the Home Normal catalog has released a variety of music genres that are vaguely under the ambient umbrella. One related form that has not seen a lot of action on the label is solo Modern Classical. With the exception of Stefano Guzzetti and the first release on the label by Library Tapes, Modern Classical has not seen a footing until now with this release from Giulio Fagiolini.

According to label boss Ian Hawgood “most modern piano ‘music’ leaves me (personally) a bit cold and detached. I generally feel there is a huge lack of soul in the music.” Giulio’s album arrived when Ian was engineering a bunch of Noise artists and needed something calm to listen to. What Ian also needed was an entry point or reference and his reference for this album is the work for Studio Ghibli by Joe Hisaishi (aka Mamoru Fujisawa).

As Ian states “The music is so simple, so direct, and just so childlike, it imbues the films with a certain old-world (or at least, not of this modern world anyway) innocence. The line between sickly-sweet and this is very fine indeed, but Joe Hisaishi always matches the mood and gets just the right amount of innocence in such a beautifully restrained way. To say the music of Giulio Fagiolini strongly left me with the same feeling as Hisaishi-san’s music, says as much as you need to know.” For an overview of Hisaishi’s work check out the Pitchfork feature here.

“Libello nell’ aria” (“Libra in the air”) opens the album with a muted playful piano piece that is slow-paced, minimal and not overly melancholic as some solo piano can be. The recording is not stark and has a warm edge to it. The music fuses high lighter notes with darker bass notes using them in tandem and then combining them. The lighter notes have a melodic almost whimsical feel to them, while the bass notes give the track depth.

“Vivere allo stato liquid” (“Live in the liquid state”) the first thing I think of when listening to this is that it reminds me of German/British Pianist/Composer Max Richter and it would fit perfectly on an album of his such as “Infra”. It is large-scale Modern Classical solo piano that is gently paced and registered in lower keys that builds up a more frantic motif in juxtaposition to the original introductory section. After a brief burst it returns to the more sedate speed and then starts up the layered section once more, this time adding a melodic section on top. The feeling for this sort of track is one for soundtrack using the piece alongside some drone or Go-pro footage taken high in the sky.

“Mentre nuoti” (“While Swimming”) there is something romantic going on with the recording. There is a distance to the recording in where it doesn’t sound right on top of the listener. You get a sense that Giulio is quietly in control of his playing and there is no need to rush, just letting the music flow. There are moments of minimal pace at the beginning and at the end. The pace starts picking up, but with a relaxed gentleness as the sections flow together. It is almost bittersweet as well, as if it’s about lost love.

“Magneti” (“Magnets”) the feel of this piece to me, feels of regret. The chords feel like that are well thought out and chosen with the utmost care and to relate the feeling that they will convey. Much like the tone to the rest of the tracks, the piano with its minor reverberation gives a warmth and melody that comes across earnestly.

“Dietro a un vetro” (“Behind a Glass”) sees a similar style to that of “Vivere allo stato liquid” where the chords are quite strident and epic. While other tracks you feel that Guilio is gently caressing the keys, you get the feeling this time around that his playing has more urgency and drive to it. This is best illustrated in the runs of keys that pick up speed that are paired with the slowly caressing style to emphasize the urgency and epicness of the piece.

“L’attesa” (“The Wait”) we return to the romantic modern classical style exhibited previously on “Mentre nuoti” where the opening section sets the tone and provides a hook or anchor for the track to return to. The pace is slow and minimal with use of light and heavier playing of the keys that help build up the mood and in a way at the end with the final section gives it a sort of resigned feel of something that is over.

“Suprema” (“Supreme”) sees a more strident opening and an initially different feel of recording, a bit more intimate, like you are in the room. This is a slight ominous feeling of dread mixed with equal portions of hope and resignation. After a brief section of silence the tone and playing of the piano change to a more quieter one before the hope briefly comes in an a melodic section before the strident playing (even more so than at the beginning) returns and leads the track back to the grounds of resignation once more.

“Dietro a un vetro” is quite a stunning record especially as debut’s go. There is a great range of material and the fact that Giulio shows great restraint in his playing shows that he is in total control. The field of Modern Classical solo piano is one that is full to the brim, but Giulio easily adds to the field without it being simply ‘another piano album’. Totally recommended.

Alaskan Tapes – In Distance We’re Losing.

I have to admit being unaware of Brady Kendall aka Alaskan Tapes. For whatever reason his name has not come across my radar. Over the years he has released a series of singles and three self released vinyl lps, the latest being “In Distance We’re Losing” which came out on August 10 in an edition of 100 clear vinyl and 50 Digipak CD copies (alongside Digital).

According to the press release “In Distance We’re Losing shows the fragile, and isolated side to Alaskan Tapes’ music. Focusing on evolving layers of instrumentation throughout long pieces, showcasing the textures of cello played by Raphael Weinroth-Browne, minimal guitar melodies, as well as incorporating vocals from Jay Rodger and Chantal Ouellette, In Distance We’re Losing combines the intricate melodic elements of modern classical composition, with the classic ambient techniques Alaskan Tapes’ is known for.”

I have a soft spot for artists who don’t rely on someone else to release their music. It shows in their dedication to what they are doing with their art and also in their belief in themselves. The album was prefaced by two single releases in “Maybe (feat. Jay Rodger)” and “Blue, In Script ” alongside a video for the former.

The album starts with the before mentioned “Maybe (feat. Jay Rodger)” which combines London-based Rodger’s double tracked vocals alongside plaintive piano. Normally vocals are not my thing, but Rodger has a great voice and one that is probably suited for a mainstream audience such as its quality. The piano leads into an ambient section which combines gritty static alongside drones, guitar and Rodger’s harmonizing vocals before the piano returns to the fold. An impressive start to the record.

“Paths” starts with a slow drone that evolves and sounds like some sort of squeezebox/bagpipe, but is more likely Weinroth-Browne’s cello which is slowly played and stretched out to a long drone and manipulated and layered alongside subtle guitar playing that takes more of a lead in the second half of the track to which it becomes the more dominant motif as the drones retreat further in the mix.

“In Distance We’re Losing” the title track combines Field Recordings that evoke a port or central city area while a squall like sound with static like glitches alongside Kendal’s Post Rock like guitar and swathes of ambient synths. The elements fuse together smoothly with the guitars being layered to give texture and rhythm and the ambience to give light. As the track continues the balance of elements changes to the point where the field recordings dominate to a point of almost noise.

“Blue, In Script” centers around minimalist piano while spindly drones and forlorn cello form the base for ethereal vocals by Heather Mcalendin to float above. The majority of elements drop out to reveal a short guitar section that was largely hidden before the piano takes center stage, until dark ambience like an impending storm with the occasional bird chatter and loops sees a return of the guitar lines alongside piano played in a choppy style. In the almost six and half-minute duration there is a lot of sonic territory is covered.

“Hours (feat. Chantal)” static, field recordings, drones and (presumably) the voice of Chantal Ouellette open this track before Eno-esque ambience, chiming guitars and cello come together with the cello taking center stage as the vocals get swallowed up in the mix only to fight back to front and center. The sound then becomes uncluttered with the guitars playing alongside Ouellette’s harmonies as for the first time on the record beats enter the fold alongside field recordings and male harmony vocals (possibly Kendall himself?) to a point where the phrase “This Can’t be the End” is repeated. The field recordings which appear to be manipulated water sounds build up in volume and lead into the intro for “We’re the Only Ones Here” which also uses the distorted/manipulated field recordings alongside before contemplative guitar is joined by short sections of looped distant percussion, bass guitar and drones which threaten to turn into a full-on post rock track only to subside to focus on the bass and field recordings. If this had become a full-on track in the direction it (in my opinion) looked to be heading it would have worked very well.

“Because Finally It’s Everything” spindly guitar based drones coalesce and grow with additional drones from cello fusing with haunting ghost like recordings to form a grand modern classical drone track. The recordings of the cello (made by Kendall) are vibrant and are layered over the other elements in way that brings them to the fore without drowning out the other elements. With the final two minutes returning to a quieter tone, it gives a sense of melancholy or despair as slightly muted piano comes in giving the track an extra emotional feel to it, which is similar to that of the cello.

“Tomorrow’s Song” found sound like field recordings of things being moved, taken away are joined by two drones in with different timbres that are joined by a third. They grow in intensity slowly building up, oscillating while the distant field recordings creak and clang. The drones disappear with one and a half minutes left to go and the shuffling of things, the moving around a room, openings doors continues with accompaniment of muted piano.

When artists make albums sometimes they can end up with material that is very familiar sounding to each track. With this album Alaskan Tapes has used a variety of different sounds and subsequently there is enough of a difference to each track so that it doesn’t fall into the ‘samey’ category (although sometimes there can be a slight over reliance on the same sort of drones). Kendall has followed the goals set out in the press release of evolving layers and showcasing the various vocalists and the cellist. It would be interesting to see more of the guitar and beats enter the mix (ala Lowercase Noises) as combined with the ambience, the piano and cello I think they would complement Alaskan Tapes’ music. Overall an enjoyable release with credit going to Kendall, the guest artists and the fabulous mastering from the ever-present Taylor Deupree.

William Ryan Fritch x 2 – The Old Believers & The Sum of the Parts.

If there ever was such a relationship between a label and its artist that is responsible for such a wealth of material as there is between Fritch and Lost Tribe Sound, I would be surprised to find one. 2015 saw the “Leave Me Sessions” series which saw a total of 11 albums (over six and a half hours in total, spread over CD, digital and vinyl) released to subscribers. Lost Tribe Sound has released over 20 of his albums including those under the Vieo Abiungo moniker.

“The Old Believers” and “The Sum of the Parts” were two soundtracks that were part of the aforementioned “Leave Me Sessions” and sees them gain a wider release with both releases getting new artwork and “The Old Believers” having an additional 8 tracks from other works that compliment the original album. With such a wealth of material , I have selected tracks from each release to focus on.

Lost Tribe Sound boss Ryan Keane has this to say about these albums: “It should be noted, that calling ‘The Old Believers’ and ‘Sum Of Its Parts’ soundtracks paints an incomplete picture. Too often the genre or classification of “soundtrack” brings to mind sloppily arranged carbon copies of a film’s cues; often just a few main themes and a collection of one minute tracks that, when not set to picture, fall short of an overall worthy listen.”

This last statement is noted when listening to these albums as while short in length (length ranging from 1:14 to 4:06), the pieces don’t seem to be vignettes or have a different musical style to represent different moods. You would be none the wiser if you did not know of their soundtrack status.

“The Old Believers” is a documentary short film that tells the story of a group of Russian Orthodox Christians who are attempting to preserve their 17th century way of life in 21st century America and coping with surrounding modernization and internal conflicts.”

“Of A different time” opens the album with violin drones and cello that cut a mournful feel and also one with a hint of nostalgia laid over the faintest fielf recordings. Shimmering strings lead into a section of isolated percussion while violin repeats a fast rhythm that drops out to return to the original mournful cello and an ambient sounding string section to the fade out.

Acoustic guitar with gentle tones comes into the mix on the track “Clouded Was Every Prospect” (not on the original album) which becomes the bed for a variety of string sections such as cello and violin to attach themselves to and veer the piece between such styles as folk, modern classical and ambient. There is deft texture and layering of instruments that give both depth and feel to the piece. Judging by the title of the track but not seeing the film, it’s for a section of the film presumably where no decision is ultimately the best one. This could be heard in the musical territory covered.

“Left to Wander” sees percussive guitar that is roughly plucked and strummed with some minimal bass drum beats woven into an alt – folk tapestry with different speed of instruments as strings such as cello and violin with some clattering, while others are gently strummed. Sounds like something that could come out on the Constellation label.

“Still and Dense Solitude” (not on original album) sees layered classical guitar with a slight Spanish feel accompanied by the bass rumbles of cello and soaring violin with all instruments propelling in the same direction and speed. As opposed to other tracks that see the instruments and their sounds juxtaposed, these sounds compliment each other and they all build up with the same pace in the second half of the track.

“Who fell the Last Tree” (not on original album) fuses a lush Ambient intro alongside picked and scratchy violin with field recordings and a haunting multilateral drone and percussion. The field recordings which sound like someone walking through snow are paired with a shaker like instrument that gives the impression of an axe being swung into a tree. The Ambient touches, the first for the album give the track a much different feel than others while still retaining the core instrumentation and overall theme.

“By the Letter” is a beautiful interlude with gently played acoustic guitar with a lead element played over the rhythm that has a feel of distance , while a near silent drone slowly increases in volume from the shadows to be the feature element as the guitar almost abruptly stops. When listening to this track I am visualizing a scene where images of the past are superimposed overprotect times.

“We Fear Change” is a multi layered piece with at least five different things going on at the once – from the likes of delicately finger picked guitars, bass drones,violins and percussion elements (but maybe not traditional percussion instruments). A highly layered and textural piece that while packed with elements is not stuffy or claustrophobic. The layered guitars propel the track with the elements like violin providing the mournful quality like the title would imply. Possibly the standout track on the album.

“The Last Frost” is pure drone piece where a central drone emerges at a slow pace that is vibrating while accompanied by a lighter melodic one which is mimicing its texture, while a more celestial drone starts creeping in trying to come through which it briefly does just before the track finishes.

“The Old Believers” features a similar motif to that of “We Fear Change” and “Clouded Was Every Prospect” in respect to the guitar playing which has the natural unadorned picking style. It doesn’t take long for other elements to come in such as bass drum beats, violins, drones and very sad sounding cello. Fritch gives each instrument its chance but also gives the track the space to breathe with elements such as the cello and drones retreating and the focus being brought back to the rhythms created by the acoustic guitars. It is a well measured track with sections that overlap give depth and continuation.

“‘The Sum Of Its Parts,’ the feature film from award winning filmmaker/editor Fiona Otway’s introduces some of the world’s foremost robot researchers alongside tomorrow’s future leaders in robotics. This film explores the messy front lines of the crusade to make robots part of our everyday experience. From initial sketches, to soldering wires, to programming actions and performing experiments “in the wild”, scientists, high school students, and artists obsessed with bringing robots to life are shaping a new era in our relationship with technology. Yet, by observing their successes and failures along the way, what becomes clear is that robots actually have a lot to teach us about what it means to be human.”

The obvious idea for composer when writing for a film that is about robotics and future technology is to do a futurist (or retro futurist) electronic soundtrack. Fritch doesn’t take that approach, instead he ops for making the music more orchestral, large scale and sounding epic.

“The Sum of the Parts” has a radiant drone opening this string driven mini opus with the quality you would expect from a Clint Mansell soundtrack. Cutting strings, bowing cello’s and drones wrap around each other, building up each layer with a driving quality. The feel is reminiscent of a scene of a movie where the central or climatic part of the movie is happening. Subtle bass drum keeps the pace while the strings build up speed.

“Idling” is a short track with an ambient loop leading the intro makes you think it will remain in this genre, but it becomes a string driven track with a ‘glassy’ ambient feel. The combination of cello and violin mixes with the prominent ambience and acoustic guitar to a very light and summery feel. Is like a modern classical track without the austerity.

“Mechanized” You get the feeling of wonder when listening to a track like this at how one artist can come out with such layered pieces such as these. With violin strings sawing over the thump of a cello accompanied by a swarm of strings that’s literally at least 5 or 6 different sections all working together in support if each other. Time is given to let each instrument shine with elements being tge focus before retreating into the background to reveal itself once more.

“Gnashing Metals” starts with a thump of cello before entering a section of a series of violin pieces, presumably prepared piano with a toy like sound and picking or scraping sounds of string instruments to create this motorik piece that has a driving nature and falls in this almost bleak apocalyptic alt-folk sound with its clanging instruments.

“Unfounded” the return to the cinematic soundtrack as mentioned in the title track is the hallmark of this track. All encompassing ambience with classical strings that move in a glacial pace and have a haunting mournful sound to them. The strings lilt and waft before xylophone heralds in the low timbres of the cello to add bottom drone that is almost entirely droned out by the strings as they gain in intensity and and total domination over the track till towards the end where just the ambience, xylophone and bass drum remain.

Throughout these albums Fritch shows his musical chops in the form of composer, musician and recorder. His strength lies in his ability to construct multi layered pieces with an attention to, structure and how the instruments work together. If I were to chose between these two albums Would pick “The Sum of the Parts” purely because my taste leans more to the cinematic feel than the more rustic Alt-Folk that his is familiar with. However, both albums are recommended.