Dronarivm x 2: Sven Laux “Paper Streets”/ Aaron Martin and Machinefabriek “Seeker”.

The Russian Dronarivm label have been somewhat quietly, in the sense that they don’t make a big song and dance about it, constructing a catalogue of releases that woould make most label bosses green with envy. These two releases are from the end of 2017 (with a fresh release from Bruno Sanfilippo due out this week) are no exception. They are also quite different which keeps listeners engaged to what the label is putting out.

German artist Sven Laux has released nine albums, for the most part digitally only and some in the Techno and House genres. “Paper Streets” sees him go Neo Classical and reveals a new talent in this particular field.

The label state that “Sven paints minimal landscapes with water colours in shades of violin, cello & piano; stripped bare & soaked in memory. The artist’s work bares a sense of detachment & reflection that usually occurs with the passing of time. Forlorn irony shows itself as it reminds you what feels like to fall in love for the first time., while conjuring ghosts from the last time you shared a gaze. A departure from Sven’s earlier work, “Paper Streets” is an organic, neo-classical journey heard through a cinematic lens. Orchestral notes surge like tides and resonate like heartache. Nostalgia echoes and dissolves with a disarming vulnerability.”

“Are You Still With Me?” straight from the beginning we are introduced to sweeping soundscapes of soaring drones that sound like you are floating through clouds. Sounding orchestral and wind-swept, the layering keeps in the central plains – not too high or too low in their sounds and fluctuating enough as not to be stagnant and boring. The track is reminiscent of classic Eno and sets the tone for the rest of the album.

“A Glimpse of Memory” shuffling field recordings, piano and strings brings in the neo classical direction. The piano has soft glassy tones, the lyrics hello and violin have an edge to them as if they are cutting through the sound like a saw. Fragments of sound flutter about alongside deep lush sections of drones as the music sort of feels like being on a boat pounded by waves as it has that cascading feel.

“Out of the Blue” takes a glacial cold drone alongside violin drones and delicate minimal muted piano tones and field recordings to create a slow, meditative loop like piece that unfurls slowly, ever so creeping up in intensity. There is a definite dark feel to the track which is highlighted by cello progressions, but what gives it color amongst the darkness are the delicate piano tones that ripple out – sometimes in a highlighted section, other times buried under other elements.

“Paper Streets” starts with clashing field recordings before the music goes large-scale with the piano, violin and cello all coming together to create a vast layered sound reminiscent of an orchestra and sounding like something out of a Hollywood movie. There is a strong filmic quality that inspires scenes of an important part of a movie such as a setting sealing intro or an action transition setting. The way the instruments fuse and flow together is instrumental in the feeling you get from the track. The repetition also helps build the mood and maintain the intensity.

“From Sadness To You” the first track on the album where the piano is front and center. Slightly melancholic, it is joined by violin and drones that resonate and are looped at a speed slightly faster than the consistent piano playing. Some backwards electronics and the track changes its direction with an almost jazz feel of haunting broken trumpet sounds and soaring strings sections that are embedded with a layer of drones that also feature synth stabs. For me it’s a tale of two halves of which my preference as the first one.

“There’s Still Hope” field recordings, dusty sounds, church like organ, electronics that swirl and sound affected are joined by sweeping drones reminiscent of the albums opener and return once more to Neo classical and widescreen sounds previously enjoyed before. The pace on this piece is deliberate, slow and has had the time and care to construct. Not everything is crammed into it. It just slowly takes it time to unwind and reveal itself. Much like the title track, this has a strong Hollywood feel to it.

“The Lost Violin” begins like it’s a second part of a track with haunting drones, granular sounds, violin arcs, field recordings and synths. The synths add a rich sound to the track and come across as having both a Neo classical feel but one with a tinge of a proggy sci-fi feel. Like other tracks repetition is used, but unlike others, for me, it is not as successful as before. Possibly this could by the variation on the sound with the synth’s influence.

“I Wish I Could Sleep” long form Neo classical bellowing drones with flickering sounds on ever second section fill up the sound with metallic sounding violin sections that travel off into the distance. Creaking field recordings add to the violin sounds which are now joined by low bowed cello sections that give the track its bottom edge. With the last few minutes left in the track the strings start to dominate with long flowing orchestral drones that fill out the track and elevate it up making the sound full and dense, but not overpowering or making it claustrophobic. There is a “Disintegration Loops” feel to the way the track loops.

Sven Laux has constructed an impressive album that is full, considered and an enjoyable listen with highlights being “Paper Streets” and “There’s Still Hope”. The only slight and this is very slight negative, is the occasional sameness which is not over powering in any way but is noticeable to a certain extent. Recommended listening.

Rutger Zuydervelt  (Machinefabriek) was invited to work on a score for a dance with Choreographer Iván Pérez called “Hide And Seek” in collaboration with American musician and all round collaborator Aaron Martin (with whom Pérez had previously worked with on the piece called “Kick the Bucket”).

As Rutger states “I don’t think he knew at that point that Aaron and I had worked together previously (on “Cello Drowning,” an EP released on Type in 2007). Living in the US, Aaron started recording parts and sending them to Iván and me. Then, I would use his recordings to build the score: processing them, editing them, adding sounds, etc..

The tracks on the “Seeker” album are basically the refined versions of the first sketches we made, trying out how our sounds would blend, and what directions and atmospheres could be used in the dance performance. After that, these tracks were morphed into one long collage, tailored to the choreography. This final score is added to the album as a digital bonus.”

The dance performance includes six dancers who find themselves in a space, not knowing each other, but relying on each other. The audience is described as being “drawn into an atmospheric trip, where desires, frustrations, madness, and humour are slowly revealed.Hide and Seek is a game that not everyone will wish to play.”

“Wake” sounds like electronic rhythm slowly disintegrating, like a signal that is breaking down and mutating which is paired after a while with Martin’s cello which is playing a similar rhythm and also at times sounds affected. The tones generated in the electronics are markedly different to that of the violin, but both work well together. Towards the end of the track the music changes with the electronics sounded distant and fragmented, while the violin also shares in the distant feel, but that could possibly be due to mixing.

“Wings in the Glass” static building up scatters around with flashes of noise before an all-conquering low cello drone that has the bass feel of the didgeridoo rumbles into the pieces to submerge the electronics underneath it before they start to flicker above and take control. More sections of cello are layered on with one baring low drones while two to three deeply melancholic sections wrap around each other while the electronics scattered about and a noisy ,but sweet melody joins in. In the end the swarm of electronics engulfs everything before all elements drop out to reveal Raster Noton style glitches.

“Arms Turn Slowly” a percussive sound of something clacking it put through effects giving it a sound reminiscent off something bouncing off a surface. More electronics in an off kilter melody which turns to be a plucked instrument like kalimba and bass thumps are joined by swirling strings and more juxtaposing instruments and layered hummed vocals. If the piece involves six dancers then this track comes across as featuring an instrument for each dancer.

“Leaves are Swimming” brightly strummed string instrument like ukulele is accompanied by similar wordless vocals to that of the preceding track with rustic harmonica like tones and electroacoustic electronics. The electronics splutter and retreat while swirling noisy loops career over the layered strummed instruments created a storm like squall before fading to reveal the initial start of the piece.

“Hidden” haunting drones with field recordings and electronics swirl in circular fashion moving around, ebbing and flowing. While not going particularly dark, the music travels in that direction but has enough light to it as not to overpower. It feels like a fusion of Ambiance and electroacoustic experimentalisation without being wholly one or the other.

“Seeker” Martin’s low bowed Cello sets the tone of the piece with layered sections creating emotive almost distraught music for mourning. The music flows, cadcades and wails before Zuydervelt’s touch is noticed with slight electroacoustic touches of static and effects.

“A Small Crowd Points” electronic tones bounced around like static on an electrical wire. A distant oscillating sound is unwinding to reveal a drone which is short and looped with a similar feeling origin to the original tones. This oscillating sound becomes the central part of this track as the sound scatters around before a cello drone joins in as well as other elements of the instrument such as scraping of the strings, plucking the strings and striking of the body. The cello part is like an organic version of the tones that Zuydervelt was constructing at the beginning and it is almost like a baton has been passed between the artists.

“Close To Dark” a distant dark rumble like a storm with the beginnings of a drone are cut by a sharp section of electronic pulses that act like progressions or like a measurement for the drone. They sound crisp and vibrant with a hint of compressed air, crackles and disintegration. They sound very foreign and almost out of the world like a transmission. They scatter, click, roar and pop and just when they reach the peak buzzing cello enters the picture alongside someone panting and more sonic detritus. There is a slightly claustrophobic feel to the music which is heightened by the panting as if the person is under the cloak of darkness trying to get free.

“Buried Cloth” breathy vibrato vocals are layered with occasional bass motifs that act as a slight percussive device. The vocals cover the range from more haunting to almost weeping through to rich almost vocal drones. This track is quite different to what has preceded it without the cello and electronics. Presumably watching the dance might give it the context that I am unaware of and its importance in the score.

The album finishes with the digital only bonus track of the full score of the performance of the piece as “Hide and Seek (Music)”. For this track the music was collaged to be tailored to the choreography.

As an album it stands up, let alone as a soundtrack to a dance piece. I have checked out a few of the videos of the performance and as I have no knowledge about contemporary dance I can’t comment on the movements, the music’s experimental nature suits the performances. Martin and Zuydervelt prove to be great collaborators with the results being cohesive and not a case of two artists adding their sections to each others music.

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1921 – In my veins.

1921 - In my veins - cover.jpg

In My Veins” by Swedish duo 1921 was originally released digitally back in November 2017 and sees a vinyl release on February 16. 1921 consist of David Åhlén and Andreas Eklöf on vocals and Synthesizers & Electronics respectively.

The label states: “In my veins” marks David Åhlén’s return to the Compunctio label (“We sprout in thy soil,” 2009) and Andreas Eklöf’s continuation after the Manifest-winning album “Klavikord” (Compunctio 2013). Even while working on the album “We sprout in thy soil,” David and Andreas collaborated, then as now, with producer Andreas Runeson.

In their collaboration, 1921, both of their musical expressions have reached full force while being united in an almost unimaginable manner. David’s timeless melodies and angelic falsetto voice, which have inspired e.g. SVT Kultumyhetema to name him the Arvo Part of indie pop, are interlaced with Andreas Eklöf’s electronic-organic soundscape, full of harmony and counterpoint.

Together, they create an electronic chamber music of sorts. This collaboration between an inimitable voice and an electroacoustic composer brings to mind Antony, Bon Iver and Vangelis. The similarities may end there, but there is also a touch point in that both groups create an epic soundscape where one readily lingers.”

The music is a fusion of Åhlén’s falsetto and occasionally fragile vocals and Eklöf’s retro-futurist synth pads. Describes as a mix of Bon Iver, Jon & Vangelis and Antony Heggarty. I am not much for vocals in music as they can be overpowering and at times pompous, but I am happy to say that is not the case with Åhlén’s control and ability to deliver emotion convincingly.

“Holy” floating, oscillating synth lines with Åhlén’s fragile, at times close to breaking vocals, form the basis of this track. The vocals are front and center at times being a pointer to where the music will turn to next. Breathy croons welcome ambient sections. The music pulses underneath and is light, melodic and bubbly, holding its own and letting the vocals be the focal point of the song. Only when the breathy parts welcome ambient sections do we hear the music rise above the levels of sound it previously inhabited.

“Always” starts with humming almost bellowing synth progressions over which Åhlén breathfully sings about “filling me with light” and “you’ve always been there” amongst others. The synth sound is almost colorful in its sound and if it was a color it would be blue as there is a touch of regret that is emphasized in the lyrics which is is felt noticeably through the music.

“New Worlds” Åhlén’s vocals on this track remind me of Peter Broderick in the way they sound close to faltering. The music is almost funereal with its minimalistic tones and percussion. The synths traverse all the levels of the sound with light gliding tones to darker synth stabs with a shimmering stormy static cutting through and towards the end of the track almost taking over.

“Inter” an instrumental piece where synth keys resonate out as if hit and stretched out creating ambient drones that spread out and quickly dissipate. It sounds like rain drops hitting a steel roof giving off a percussive sound.

“In My Veins” the first time where you feel an almost beat to the music which gives the piece a pace with light and dubby synth stabs. The track also features extra female vocals which double track the lines “the spirit in my… veins/ blood/ heart..calls me”. The music fuses the ambient electronic sphere with an almost pop feel to it. It is not straight forward pop, but also not totally ambient.

“Similar” dark synth tones with a slight industrial edge and harsh feel cut in and out saw like unveiling short sections of almost melodic pieces that are cut short. They extend out to be cut off very quickly, much like waves that chop and change, before being propelled out again crashing on the shore. The tones are maintained throughout the piece with not much fluctuation, which could explain the title of the track.

“Psalm 115” emerging from almost silence the vocals emerge worth a rich tone to them under which competing synth tones emerge – the slightly dark but uplifting tone and the darker bass tone. Both synth tones work as drones rather than as flowing synth lines and towards the second half of this track have an ethereal feeling about them which makes sense with the lyrics being derived from a Psalm that apparently was sung by Jesus and his followers on the night he was arrested and betrayed and the night before his crucifixion.

“No One” is probably the most upbeat track on the album and I guess a devotional piece from one lover about another where the phrase “there is no one like you” repeated over and over. The music is similar to “In My Veins” in its dubby feel with the music feeling like an electronic ball bouncing around with truncated sections and several layers of drones that occupy melodic and more haunting territory. The track itself is rather short and you feel they could extend it as at times you get the feeling that it is going to expand fully into an electronica dance track.

“The Clear Fount” Åhlén starts the track acappela style before the familiar jaunty electronics come in with their light tones and bouncy feel and the welcome return of (uncredited) female vocals that are multitracked. The lyrics for this track as well as “New Worlds” come from mystic and author Linnea Hofgren whose year of death also gives the project their name.

“Arteries II” feedback light tone welcomes you with very low sounding synth progressions that are both futuristic, but also rather like a church organ. The synths slowly rise up with volume as does the feedback like drone which starts fluctuating. The synths continue to have a flowing feel to them, almost like creating a texture rather than as flowing pieces, like something is passing through like weather, or in this case due to name, blood. The elements change as the track goes into the second have with the drones briefly fading out before returning and oscillation as the synth progressions continue to vary. I am not sure if the track works as it is a bit too freeform for my liking and I am not sure what the intention is.

For the album the best tracks are those as a duo, especially those with the additional female vocals. The tracks that appear to be just Ekhöf seem to have a different feel to those the duo create. They come from a similar place but lead in a different territory. If you like minimal music with impassioned vocals and some lovely synth excursions, this may just be what you are looking for.

1921

Compunctio

Forthcoming: OKADA – Misery.

n5MD have announced the second release for 2018 this time coming from Gregory Pappas aka OKADA. The “Misery” album is due for release on April 6 with pre-order’s commencing on February 9th via the label’s bandcamp store. The label describe the album thusly “OKADA’s familiar epic length tracks to take the listener on a journey injected with achingly beautiful vocals, nostalgic atmosphere, and OKADA’s epochal dirge-paced beats.” You can see a teaser trailer for the release below.

Jakob Lindhagen – Paces.

So, this album came out late September 2017 on Feeder Recordings (vinyl with Digital) and 1631 Recordings (Digital only). I had looked forward to hearing it after being blown away by his “Skörheten” release, but the nature of trying to balance the variety of releases sent my way (which is at tipping point, no pun intended) has seen me hold off on reviewing this. In fact, I made sure I didn’t listen to it so I could enjoy it as a whole as opposed to knowing certain tracks before hand.

Jakob Lindhagen works on film soundtracks such as the previously mentioned “Skörheten”, as well as “Brottas”, “Push It” and others. Because of this, in my opinion, he stands out in the Solo Piano/ Modern Classical field because his ears are more attuned to listening and he knows how to construct pieces that bring forth mood, textures and feelings.

According to Lindhagen when it came to recording the album “I was recording with equipment that wasn’t always functioning properly. For example one microphone occasionally started to pick up radio frequencies. At times it was really faint and turned out to be a detail just adding to the overall impression, so I decided to keep it. Other times it was really “in your face” and it inspired me to incorporate it into the composition.”

“Kenopsia” starts the album with swirling alien like electronics accompanied by fragile piano lines. The piano sound is natural with the constituent elements captured. A haunting, howling sound floats in the background presumably from the saw. Looped decaying noises briefly make an appearance and disappear not long after they have arrives to leave the piano almost alone with those swirling electronics nearly being out of ear shot before further sections of noisy decay break through.”Kenopsia” refers to the eerie or forlorn atmosphere of a place that is usually bustling with people, but is now deserted. This is referenced musically by the melancholic piano lines and the haunting and decaying sounds which have a ghostly quality.

“Shelter” field recordings of people talking, ambient like electronics and slow stark piano form the opening of this track. This is a slight operatic feel to some of the background noises and a slicing sounding cello cuts through with deep tones. Electronics take over alarm like breaking up sections with brief zither clangs over the piano which is jostling with the electronics for the center of attention, which it loses as the noisy electronics take over the sound scape engulfing almost everything else before the stark piano emerges and leads the track to completion.

“The Tipping Point” appears as the first fully fledged solo piano piece until saw, violin and cello make their impression. A brief haunting wind soaked melody appears with the same feel as the string section which them returns to put its stamp on the music and elevate it up more to a piece, that like the title implies, is full of musical pointers to something or someone going over the edge. This is felt with the slow deliberate pace of the piano and the long forlorn deep drones constructed.

“Forgotten” a hopefully melody is played out with natural warts and all piano sounds. The musical tone is one that is uplifting with just a hint of being held back with a little bit of restraint. In the second half of the track the change in pace and feel of the track is noticeable. It is almost like a piece with two sides to it that transforms just in front of your ears, like in a movie or a real life situation where you are a aware something has just happened, but are not sure what did happen.

“In the Machinery” rumbling drones and repetitive snatches of fragments of dialogue are laid over a bed of introspective piano which has a totally different feel to the accompanying electronics. They electronics have a breaking down feel to them. Suddenly the track is turned on its head. There still are electronics rattling around (of a different nature), but it’s the introduction of violin, accordion and the increase in pace of the track that changes the complexion and feel of the track. From a track that I wasn’t sure of the fusion of the electronics and the piano to its second half when I wanted more of it. Towards the end there is an almost reprise of the beginning, but in my opinion a better fusion than that which started the piece.

“Overcoming” field recordings of people talking manipulated electronically start of this track with a very minimal piano section that straddles many emotions or feelings that the instrument can convey such as stark, austere, melancholic, sombre, but not falling into one set sound. The piano is joined by viola, what appears to be saw and scattering electronics which create quite a storm like feel/sound to the track. As the elements drop out and electronics splutter to their death the piano is joined by violin with long flowing lines, the piano itself is more intently played with a flowing feel as the sound scape once more picks up with the other instruments mentioned previously filling the space around these two instruments. My interpretation of the music in relation to the title would be the way the music changes and elements come in and out and the changing of the feel of those instruments indicates a change of feeling and mood. This is best shown subtly in the way the playing of the piano changes the mood expressed in the piece.

“Trepanation” a post apocalyptic science fiction sounding rumble greets the listener with a feeling of transmissions from a broken space craft which is paired alongside long drones and gently caressed but totally intentional piano keys. If the title is to be taken literally, then the early post apocalyptic sounds refer to the drilling of the skull to treat health issues. It can also refer to other parts of the body to relieve pressure, which is what I think the intention of the track is all about – relieving pressure. The piano has a melancholic undertone, which when combined with the electronics could be a reference to the pressure and strain inside someone with depression or who is going through something that requires release.

“Afterwards” reflective, paced, natural piano lines unfurl with almost weeping sounding violin that has a tortured core and is joined by cello to give it that deeper tone. Musical saw provides a melody reminiscent of soaring ambient lines that compliment the piano so well. When all the elements come together the sound is amplified and uplifting. At no point has the album tried to force the issue with its intensity or its epic-ness, which is why this track works so well as it shows the tracks have been varied and the album’s track listing has been selected to get to this point. It is not just a repetition of what has happened before.

“S,47” starts of very quiet with piano keys being slowly played inducing a rippling affect which is joined by further piano parts which start building suspense with the very slight increases in intensity of the playing. The music starts to invoke a film scene of a grand scale involving love, loss, emptiness, solitude, reflection but then the tone starts leading you down dark places with the deeper tone and the increase in pace. This is accentuated by the way the notes hang as almost as if a gong had been struck and let to ring out to silence. The piano returns to those emotions listed before, but with more intensity as if something is being resolved and action is being taken. If this was a film the leading man would be rushing out of the house, keys in one hand, jacket in the other on his way to resolve who knows what.

Now that I have had the chance to fully submerge myself in the album there is a little regret that I didn’t get to it earlier, as this would have been jostling for a spot on my best of list for last year. I have said before about my admiration for Lindhagen’s work, so I will simply repeat what I said about “Skörheten” and apply it to “Paces”. Totally recommended.