For this post I check out the recent work from former Tangerine Dream member Paul Haslinger and the Valencian sound artist Edu Comelles.
“We’re on an immersive and adventurous travelogue with the former member of the legendary Tangerine Dream, Paul Haslinger – this is a man who knows how to build tension, hold moods, illustrate contempt, lies, passion and pleasure; He can create fear, loathing and love – he’s been unlocking the nuances of such emotions in a hugely successful career as a TV and film soundtrack composer (Halt And Catch Fire, Underworld and the Golden Globe-nominated Sleeper Cell).
‘Exit Ghost’ is his long thought out opus, a moment caught in time, flicking through reference points, taking an ethereal excursion that permeates musical genres as it becomes awash with intricate sounds and cross-pollinating rhythms. Built originally from the warmth of his grand piano ‘Exit Ghost’ resonates with purity and power, from an eerie and evocative between world, that’s at once expansive and rolling, then intoxicating and suffocating in equal measures; modern composition at its most uplifting; cerebral, celebratory, intense and beautiful.
Created over the span of eight years and filled with literal and personal references, the album itself is a testament to the search – a quest filled with hints, particles and suggestions.”
When you read the words “ex Tangerine Dream” it conjures up an expectation of what the music may sound like. You would be wrong in thinking that this album is full of proggy synths. Haslinger was a member of that famed group from 1985 to 1990 and performed on 15 albums with them and sometimes being the only member alongside founder Edgar Froese. Since then he has been working on a variety of score and soundtrack work (which he was involved in his Tangerine Dream days) working with the likes of Graeme Revell (SPK), Brian Williams (Lustmord) and such film and television such as the “Underworld” series of films and “Fear The Walking Dead”. With most of his discography being score work, this could possibly be his first non soundtrack release since the mid 90’s.
With such a varied background as well as studying at the University of Vienna and the Vienna Academy of Music in his youth, you know you are in for a musical treat and one that crosses genres and styles. Pieces move from genres/sounds such as modern classical, electronic, ambient and pieces that could easily find their place on scores. From the opening moments of “The Faltering Sky” you are brought into Haslinger’s world, one which is rich without being decadent and at times epic and at others subtle. You get a sense of a distillation of the artists musical journey of almost the past forty years. The origins of the pieces on the album are recordings from 2011-19 throughout different studios and at times of different projects.
Haslinger has a way of balancing emotions and styles within pieces, like the fusion of modern classical and ambience on “White Sun” which sees a minimal piano motif alongside a gentle whisper thin ambient drone laced with melody. The piano piece “Berlin 86-11” feels naturally personal from the title alone (depending on the source he was involved with Tangerine Dream from either 1985 or 1986), but if you weren’t sure then the slight melancholic and wistful sound will resonate with the the listener. Could be it be a longing for past adventures of situations or a love affair from a place once familiar? “Valse 1” is a piece that links Haslinger to his ‘day job’ with it’s filmic and slightly noir-ish feel, as does “Undertow” with it’s very minimal in the sense of instrumentation, but maximal electroacoustic effect. Haslinger’s electronic and ambient styles come through on pieces like “Shuiyeh” and “Ferndell” (which he encompasses into his piano playing).
Over the musical journey that is “Exit Ghost” Haslinger uses the techniques that he has mastered over his varied career and without a guiding principle or theme to compliment, he has a freedom to create pieces that are open and welcoming to other styles of music that compliment his original piano sketches. One thing you will find is a consistent mood as the pieces never go through peaks and troughs, rather they are composed for a feeling of introspection or comfort. “Exit Ghost” is available on the new Artificial Instinct label on Lp, Cd and Digital.
“Línia / Pedra / Paisatge / Solc (Line, stone, landscape and groove in Catalan) is a sound composition in two parts, based on the skyline that can be seen from the top of the ruins of the castle of Culla, a small village inland of the Castelló province (Eastern Spain). The first piece (Línia / Pedra) is composed based on the skyline between northeast and southwest. The second piece (Paisatge / Solc) has been composed using the skyline between southwest and northeast.
The line is the voice that describes the landscape. The stone is the central element, a source of history, legacy and shelter for those who live in this hard land. The landscape is all around us, it extends in-clemently into the stratified and muffled horizon. The groove is the drawing of man in this land, a cut on the ground, and the groove where the sound travels in this album.
Both sonic pieces were recorded and composed at the old school at Pla del Sabater nearby Culla, during October 2018. All sound sources used in the production of this work were captured during a period of a week living in residence on that isolated place. Sound sources include field recordings and voice, nothing else.“
Sometimes you have a certain idea of what something may sound like purely as a result of the artist’s background or for example a press release. Take this particular press release, you would possibly be thinking of a piece of music that exists more within an experimental sphere, where the theory of the piece transcends the actual music. If you were to take such an approach with “Línia / Pedra / Paisatge / Solc” then you could miss out on the subtle beauty of the drones.
Divided into two sixteen minute pieces the album opens with “Línia / Pedra” aka “Line/Stone” which is a piece that is all about tension and drones. There are a mixture of what sounds like metallic strings droning and throbbing which are counter acted by a choral sound and sounds which have a light and fragile feel. With both pieces based on field recordings and voices alone, you are taken into a highly constructed soundscape, one which does not remind you of the those two sonic components.
With “Paisatge / Solc” aka “Landscape/Groove” opens with sounds that you can easily relate to as being field recordings, but just like the previous track you quickly cast aside pre-conceived opinions and realise you are in the presence of a sound alchemist. I hazard a guess that unless you lived in the area of inspiration you would not detect the origins of the sounds. Like the previous tracks you will be taken into a sound world that in this case is melodic, wind soaked, loop orientated and somewhat glitchy. As much as the sound is linear, you will have those that have a rippling effect.
What both tracks reveal is a vibrant selection of sounds which Comelles is then able to weave into a sonic fabric, one which is removed from its source as it is entrancing providing an engaging listen that reconfigures field recordings on a way that alters their sound and appearance.
“Línia / Pedra / Paisatge / Solc” is available on limited Cd-r and Digital and is suited to all types of ambient listeners.