After a burst of activity and blog posts I find myself in a little funk / writers block. Rather than just focus on the newer releases which are coming in thick and fast and ignore older ones, here are some brief looks at some fine releases from some newer labels such as Mendicant, Veriditas Recordings, and Ambientologist.
“Cathedral is an experimental elegy for chamber ensemble in three movements. The passages of this 17 minute piece are exercises and expressions on a theme. Orchestrations of classical guitar, woodwinds, brass, synthesizer, vocals, and piano are woven with tendrils of string movements and field recordings. Subconscious imagery acts as connective tissue, sense-memory recalling the theta dream-state. The movements work within an overarching reference to an inner cathedral or sanctuary, the spiritual chambers and corridors that we each have inside of us.
Rogai’s woodwind and brass ensemble, “Acceptance”, stands as the centerpiece; a medieval and Gregorian dirge which imagines Chet Baker’s sentimentality with the stillness of John Cage. Gothic and modern architecture meet in both literal and abstract passages, conveying a range of emotions in three variations. Orchestral shifts represent youthful exuberance (“Arrival”), the somber acceptance of letting-go (“Acceptance”), and the sublime and final reductive nature of transfiguration (“Ascent”).
Rogai previously appeared on these pages with the “Implications in D Major; Adagio for Chamber Strings” release and at the end of November last year on the Veridatis label. The release which in digital form is two pieces “Cathedral” and “Acceptance (Second Movement of Cathedral)” is complimented by the bonus work , the three track “Music For Essere Amato”. I am not sure where to place Rogai musically as he tends to stand in his own area. There is a strong feel of music from the past couple of centuries being the main influence on his works. That is not to say that there is nothing contemporary about it, but you get the feeling that Rogai is creating pieces with a definite nod to the past balanced with a mix of contemporary, experimental sounds and a film score feel.
The main part of the release is “Cathedral” which is broken into three movements – “Arrival”, “Acceptance” and “Ascent” with instrumentation including Synth, Guitars, Flute, Soprano Saxophone, Clarinet and Vocals. These three movements are quite distinct in their sound with “Arrival” being the most vibrant of the three with it’s soaring strings and flute melodies. It does however, toward the end initiate a form of a feel or mood which is further established in the latter two pieces which feel more like sound art pieces than contemporary classical. The double tracked vocals that feature on the two versions of “Acceptance” change the scope of the music and while it is not straight narration, there is a feeling of story telling occurring and the jazzy noir-ish feel further adds a different feel and texture to the music.
The B side of the album comprises the score to the short film “Essere Amato” which highlights Rogai’s temperament as a film composer. More contemporary classical based with the title theme, the other two pieces “Amore Andato” and “Anna and Luca” take on a more alt folk meets classical guitar and are in more in line thematically with the music of “Cathedral” than the title track of the film. Rogai’s music is the type that if you are becoming tired of the (over saturated) modern classical scene could be the type you are looking for. You get the impression that his musical scope is a lot wider than similar artists and he incorporates more stylistic ideas into his music.
“Cathedral” is available on LP, CD and Digital.
“Henrik has been an integral part of the Ambientologist family from the beginning, and it’s with great pride that his work be showcased as an early member of the label family, and more still in offering a rare full length album.
Själ ties everything the Stockholm based cellist has been doing into a consolidated, coherent and above all magnificent work, filled with rich emotion and, in keeping with its namesake, beguiling soul. As one of the most expressive instruments at a composer’s disposal, Henrik allows the cello to do the talking. Slow and deeply stirring arcs, married with sweeter taps of piano, cello plucks and subtle electronics.
Above all, Själ is as elegant as it is grounded in immersive feeling and deep, resonant imagery. And in his own words:
The soul communicating with the nervous system.
It gives you thoughts and images in your inner mind.
It can be memories or diffuse pictures. It takes you away from reality.
A musical-tonal floating away of the mind.
The world of Cello based musicians is probably one of the fastest on the underground Drone/Classical scene. Names like Aaron Martin, Julia Kent, Jo Quail, Raphael Weinroth-Browne, Alder & Ash come to mind and now Henrik Meierkord. “Själ” which translates to “Soul” in English is a fair description of the music on the album. Meierkord has a way of subtle nuances in sound as evidenced on the title track and this is carried throughout the album. Not content to just be a drone album, Meierkord adds jazz like touches with gentle plucks of the cello, while using voices to create beds of ambience and electronic effects to add extra dimensions to his music as witnessed on “Sväva” aka “Hover”. With any solo instrument music there is a concern about the music being cut too much from the same cloth which isn’t the case with the pieces on “Själ”. Meierkord has a real sense of making each composition stand on it’s own, whether it be a single style or a multiple layered piece, light or dark. Utilising this stylistic diversity makes for a strong and enjoyable album.
“I’d like to speak honestly and candidly about the ideas that helped inspire The Crowneater, my third album. Writing this album was like therapy. What I mean by that isn’t some saccharine, Instagram-friendly idea of what therapy is, but what real therapy is. Real therapy is an honest and stark look at who we are – a deliberate and painful effort to discover what we feel, why we do things, and how we can grow from our experiences. This isn’t an easy process, and it’s not a fun one. But it’s necessary.
During the process of writing this album, I was in a 6-month long depression. I don’t equate depression with artistry, nor do I wish to glorify where it fits in the artistic process. In fact, depression is a disease of motivation, so it is an inertia that prevents me from working on projects that are meaningful to me, including music. This was true of The Crowneater as well. In my worst moments I felt nothing and did nothing. In my best moments it was a tooth and nail fight to write notes on paper.
My usual habits and methods of coping with depression were not working. So instead of looking inward for solution, I decided to look outward at the world the birthed me. There were a few core anxieties that related to my place in the world, and after many years I still have not made peace with those facts. I took a look at my own emotional trauma and the ways I’ve been affected by it.
My struggles are far from over, and I will continue to write music about emotions that are rarely represented in popular art. The difference now is that these difficult emotions have names. And that may be the only power I have over them for now, but it’s a very good start.”
Honesty, emotional and real feelings are what make us human and are what I particularly search for in music. Music has to speak to me or it is just lost on me. A form like Hip Hop is one that I suspect I will never truly embrace because it doesn’t talk to me in a language I am familiar or represent my personal experiences. That said, the attraction to that form of music might be the same for some one like me who just wants to explore a world different to their own. In the case of Alder & Ash’s music the style and bio speak to me as I can relate to the influences behind the pieces.
The music of Adrian Copeland aka Alder & Ash is one that exists within the darker realms of various styles that intersect such as Dark Ambient, Experimental Metal, Classical and Noise. Technology is the key in Copeland’s musical world where layering and distortion are crucial parts to creating the dark, heavy and moody feelings of his pieces. “Lest This Fire Smoulder and Smoke” is a particularly good example to show the diversity within Copeland’s pieces as he brings the intensity and noise in parts, but is not one to not show the other side of his music – the tender and emotive side. You can see throughout this album hints of his two previous albums for the Lost Tribe Sound label, but you can also detect that on “The Crowneater” Copeland is both reflectively expressing his pain and letting out the demons through the music. There is more of a percussive feel to the music, where it was rawer on the earlier releases, it is more intensely delivered and forceful. But what this does not mask is the ability for Copeland to still create pieces that have fraught emotional nuances on a more intimate level, it is just that they have more of a personal meaning this time ’round. If you focus on the opening and closing tracks as book ends of an album and the tracks that exist between them as the bulk of the story, then the music changes from one that has a nervous sort of tension as displayed on the opener “Breath of the Ashen Earth”, while the closer “Still Beating, Still Born” has more of a hope laced melancholia, which feels as if there is light somewhere down the end of the tunnel.
“The Crowneater” is available on CD and Digital.