With The year and decade coming to an end, I continue clearing out the backlog of releases from 2019. This time ’round I cover the great FLAU and Schole labels. Both these labels are from Japan and are well known for the quality of their releases and the diversity of music they put their stamp on. With this post I cover two releases from each label.
“Hiking in the Mist is a hiking journal Cicada wrote with music for the mountains in Taiwan. Cicada walked through misty forest, rested by streams, admired clouds during sunset in North Dawu Mountain and encountered sunlit grassland at Qilai south peak. They hiked up to the ridge line overlooking the city, met wildlife in the cabin, experienced pouring rain and snows in cirque… Growing up in an island with more than 260 peaks over 3000 meters in height, it’s always been in our mind to be surrounded by nature and write about the mountains. At the 10th year of Cicada, we arise from the ocean and step into the forest. Everything we experienced in the wilderness led us to seek within.
Cicada from Taiwan was formed in 2009 consists of violin, cello, acoustic guitar, and piano. It’s named after Cicada because people are aware of cicada’s existence by their sound instead of forms. In 2013, Cicada began to compose for Taiwan. The theme of Coastland was the west coastland in Taiwan, and Light Shining Through the Sea was inspired by the east coast of Taiwan and the Pacific Ocean. These two albums personify the land and portray the feeling undergoing all the changes and damages.”
FLAU presents their fourth album working with Cicada which started back in 2015 with the album “Ocean” followed by 2016’s “Farewell” and 2017’s “White Forrest”. One of the benefits of doing a blog is regularly being introduced to either new name or artists that had come across my radar before. Cicada is one of those acts that I have some how missed out on before and come to this album with fresh ears and also the question “How come I did not know about this group?”.
One of the things that stand out for me when listening to this album is the luxury of space. Sometimes when it comes to music that exists within the modern classical framework there is an inherent understanding about the beauty and romance that is a central tenant to the music. For that reason the music can occasionally be over blown and crowded. Cicada are aware of this and the four musicians have a way of offering that breathing room that the music needs. By opening up the pieces to space, even when all the instruments are interacting, it adds to the overall passion of the music.
Mostly piano and string lead, when they introduce guitar into their repertoire it has the ability of changing the feeling of the pieces with a hybrid folk/post rock feel. This is felt on both “Over Look Where We Came From” and “Ferns Between Roots And Rocks” as the whole quartet change with the guitar leading the feeling of the piece in a more pastoral and contemporary style that is as much slow core as it is modern classical. For me a track like “Sneaky Visitors In The Cabin” or even the title track are great points of entry as they highlight the music in ways that are similar, but also different. It’s like they are representing different times of the music, from the more current “Hiking…” to the classic and near operatic “Sneaky…” which hearkens back to a century ago.
Cicada succeed with “Hiking In The Mist” because of the way that the music feels like it comes from the heart. The music comes out effortlessly as if the old standard feeling as the musicians are just conduits for the pieces, rather than trying to create something. “Hiking In The Mist” is available on LP, CD and Digital.
“Klavierraum” is the place where my piano is, but it’s also a virtual space and spiritual shelter whenever needed – it immediately appears when I am playing piano, floating in sound and resonating with melodies. “Klavierraum”, my very first solo piano album, tells a story of arranging a tea time for a rendezvous. For the new album I used previously unpublished material of the original Klavierraum session. Some parts were recorded later on, but in the same setting and similar spirit. – Henning Schmiedt
“Henning Schmiedt is a composer & concert pianist from Berlin. He grew up in former East Germany where working with art and music represented social freedom. He played, arranged and produced for many international artists like Mikis Theodorakis, Zülfü Livaneli, Sema, Lauren Newton, Al di Meola, Petros Pandis to name a few. Creative desire for musical experiments: film soundtracks for Cinema, documentaries , reframing of Mahler’s “Songs on the Death of Children”, sound installations, composition of chamber music, vocal music, etc. Since 2008 he published for Tokyo’s label FLAU six Piano Solo albums with original compositions. Furthermore he teamed up for another album with label founder Yasuhiko Fukuzono aka aus under the moniker HAU. and released a Duo Production with violinist Christoph Berg.”
Like Cicada, Schmiedt is a long term Flau artist with some eight releases on the label dating back to the original release of the “Klavierraum” album in 2008. He has also released on labels such as the Peregrina and Neuklang labels. As Schmiedt has won some Jazz awards (Jazz award of IFPI, Second prize International Jazz Festival) it is natural that some of this style finds it’s way into his piano pieces. While predominantly recorded around the time of his first Flau release “Klavierraum”, the album which it’s title translates to “Piano Room, Later” has a very current feel. Rather than just be a stark piano based album, Schmiedt infuses the material with a healthy dose of subtle ambience as heard on “Becher Milch” and “2 Reife Mangos” for example that gently occupies what would have been silence and adds textures to the pieces which may have been different if they were just piano alone.
There is a very laid back feeling to Schmiedt’s pieces, one which focuses on the artists control of the instrument. There is a tone to the piano that is both warm and calming. When Schmeidt enters into flow as on “Guten” there is a confidence in the playing that accentuates the narrative driven piece. A piece like “Morgen!” aka “Later!” sounds exactly as the title would suggest. It’s one of those pieces that can only evoke late into the night, where everything is quiet and no one else is around. The final two pieces are remixes and reworks from tracks of the original album by Terreke (who is described on Resident Advisor as percussion enthusiast, soft techno and warm house) and Mono Fontana (An Argentinian musician) which re-frame the pieces and are probably best compared if you buy the set with both albums.
This album is quite different to the one reviewed above and feels like it is the type of album that is best suited to a certain time or place for the listener to get full enjoyment of it. As the music has the laid back and calm, yet slightly introspective feel, that time for me is late at night where you can be one with the album, with a drink in your hand, free from distraction. The album comes as a single CD, a double with the original release or as a Digital release.
“On March 2018, Tim Linghaus has released his first album “Memory Sketches” from Schole Records, which he expressed his childhood memories with some heartwarming noise and piano sound. Then this will be his second album. This new album titled “We Were Young When You Left Home”, the music expresses about the childhood emotions whom went through an experience of parental divorce. This brilliant sound structured with piano-dominated compositions with noise sound to express the texture which gives more depth into music, then overlays with synthesizers and a gentle voice as it if telling a story. Artwork beautifully represents the world view of this album is done by Alexander Hanke, the nostalgic printing production by Shin Kikuchi from Schole Label, from this collaboration work has produced a wonderful package design as previous album.”
The last two years have been important for Tim Linghaus who’s first release was as a digital release on the Moderna Label. Once he put out “Memory Sketches” on Schole in March, 2018 he followed it up in 2019 with the companion album “About B. (Memory Sketches B-Sides Recordings” on Sound In Silence in January of 2019. In November, 2019 he returned to Schole for the different “We Were Young When You Left”.
Keeping with Linghaus’ penchant for short pieces and a personal narrative continues with this, his second album proper. Only two track pass the three minute mark with most being around the minute and half mark. Interestingly the album, when you look at the rear cover has divided the tracks into four sections called: “Young Hearts, Divorces, Rear Seats (*), Other lives”, “Disintegration”, “Socially Inept” and “Bonds Molecules” with each section collecting four pieces as if they are chapters in the story.
The music is a continuation of what has come before it, but with more of an emphasis on synth and vocals than the previous albums. There is a very retro feel within the music, whether it be the synths or the saxophone. A piece like “Sunbeams Caressing Flowers” fits the laid back 80’s vibe nicely. Previously his music was centred around piano and additional/ field recordings and found sounds. On this particular album, while Linghaus has returns to childhood emotions without repeating the motif’s of his previous work. In fact this is probably his most musically diverse work with tracks changing their styles throughout such as “Dad’s Ghosts” as well as during the album. Examples of this change are the muted piano and bright synths of “Hearse Park” and the down tempo meets light Jazz of the previously mentioned “Sunbeams Caressing Flowers”.
You get the feeling that there is a lot of creativity going on in Linghaus’ head. I would imagine like with “Memory Sketches”, that there would be a compendium of material as you get the feeling that his music is very much a stream of consciousness. Because of the short times and varied styles, its a little hard to get a handle on both the music and the meaning, but there is a darker feeling to the music than his two other releases. This is evident with the lyrics of “Bury My Love” which is slightly obscured with it’s vocoder effects. Looking at the tracks that are divided into the four sections I have been trying to follow the narrative. In the early ones like “Young Hearts…” and “Disintegration” you can tie them into parental divorce and losing his father. The final two sections are less obvious, but I guess in a way it is coming to deal with the life events that have happened and processing them. But then maybe only Linghaus knows himself.
If you enjoyed Linghaus’ previous work then you will find interest in this album. If you like music that has a easily identifiable theme, then this might not be for you. However, if you like being brought into a person’s life and are interested in trying to see through their eyes, this might be perfect for you. “We Were Young When You Left” is available on Lp and Digital.
*Apologies if I got this wrong. I was squinting at the Bandcamp picture.
““Diary 2016-2019” is a first music archive compilation of Akira Kosemura’s music composed between 2016 and 2019, selected by the artist himself. All the music included in the album are the first time to be released on CD, and not been released on either CDs or records previously. As this album titled as “Diary”, all the tracks are listed in time order, which includes the original sound track for “Konatsu and Hiyori” (Kansai TV Production), a music composed for the ending scene of French movie “Mais vous êtes fous (Losing It)”, a short composition series ‘In Moonlight’ produced during the score production for “Chūgakusei Nikki” (TBS TV Drama), ‘You’ which was used as a theme song for an American TV Drama “Love Is __”, a rework version of ‘Someday’ featuring Devendra Banhart, and 2 unreleased tracks ‘Red Diary’ and ‘Late Night Tales’. With total of 17 songs included in the album. This album can be an introductory piece for piano music lovers, but also can be recommended to soundtrack fans. It is a music diary written with a piano, colored with his sensitive emotions.”
What really needs to be said for a review about the music of Kosemura? Realistically the review would be incredibly short, it would simply say, recommended. This particular release compiles Kosemura’s previously digital only or unreleased pieces. The “In Moonlight” Ep is included in it’s entirety which was covered previously here. With a career now into it’s thirteenth year, Kosemura has been expanding on his activities with his own label Schole which includes more score works. The first six pieces on this album is a taste of some of this work from Japanese and French Films with the opener “Main Theme – ‘Konatsu and Hiyori'” being a very early highlight. For the most part it’s the Kosemura we have come to love with delicate piano and plaintive piano, but I have never heard such as percussive work of his like “But You’re Mad” (From ”Mais vous êtes fous”) with it’s hypnotic percussion that ends with a crescendo. The majority of the album is a nice mix between solo piano and piano with strings. The electronics that where a part of his last full studio album “In The Dark Woods” are mostly absent (with “A Song For The Past” being a notable exception), but hopefully not entirely out of the picture with his forthcoming material.
The material of this collection (which is very close to selling out) is a nice addition to the releases that Kosemura has previously put out and a great sampler of sorts for someone new to his works. As Usual this is recommended. “Diary 2016-2019” is available on CD and Digital.