Ghost and Tape – Vár.

The fourth Ghost and Tape album was released on the nomadic (Japan/UK/Poland) Home Normal label and it is a perfect fit for artist and label. Mastered by James Plotkin with photography by Hitoshi Ishigara and layout design by Jason van Wyk and label boss Ian Hawgood, “Vár” sees Heine Christensen inspired by nature. According to the artist “This album is inspired by and a tribute to Nature, in all its wonderful chaos; pure and forceful with mystifying, beautiful patterns. The word ‘Vár’ itself means spring, and originates in Old Norse, symbolising a new beginning, a chance to start fresh.”

“Sprout” opens with slightly distorted melodic tones and shimmering hum-like ambience. Buzzing bee like electronics starts scattering around the fringes of the tones threatening to over power them, but manages to come close to the intensity of the melodic tones. A third electronic source, a drone enters in the final minute of the track which over powers the tones and electronics and leads to more ambient territory with broken tones still being slightly heard giving a feeling of the sound of water running in a creek.

“Eostre” is the Germanic goddess of Spring and Dawn (and the apparent name for Easter) sounds like a dawn chorus with micro clicks, glitches, field recordings that sound like noise of nature (earth sounds, movement of things) and layers of drones. The drones have the feeling of hazy warmth with a bed of fuzz throbbing underneath while soaring drones cascade over and melodic tones reverberate out. Although no instrumentation is listed, the feeling is manipulated guitar tones, synths and samples are used. There is a warmth to the piece which makes me think of dawn and the early increase in heat of the day.

“Monarch” opens with a drone which ripples out and oscillates before being joined by others of various intensities and colours. Granular sounds enter the fray exhibiting the same qualities as the drones and are washed over with beds of ambience and tones which are spindly and soaring. Guitar is a welcome addition with its gently strummed strings giving a deep dimension of sound. The sounds converge and wash over each other with a hive like intensity which is best noted at just over five minutes into the track which leads the track to its ending with layers of electronic spluttering.


“Hatch” field recordings of wind, bird song and someone or something walking through tall grass or scrunching things are joined be delicate and minimally spaced melodic tones which shimmer and hold drones as they radiate out. The track reminds me of Australian artist Cornel Wilczek aka Qua who can produce melodic tones that also sound like they are degrading, much like they do in this track. It’s almost as if something is breaking down which is noted by the way the track just stops.

“Anemone” looped tones with cascading transmissions that circle around your ears are accompanied by meditative guitar that sounds as if it was recorded on cassette and the tape came out and got warped when it was wound back in. Train like rattling sounds in the background give as close as you are going to get percussion on a Ghost and Tape album, but give a rhythm for the looped tones and guitars to sort of anchor to as they pulse in and out.

“Solsort” references the Blackbird, a territorial bird known for attacking other males. The track, while not attacking has the darker tones than those that have preceded it. There are scattershot electronics that jag around, Eon-esque soaring sky like ambience, shimmering electronics that chug in certain places,  long guitar tones which radiate out and electronics that remind me of Morse code tones.

“Vár” returns to the field recording/ environment feeling previously heard in the likes of “Eostre” with the sounds feeling they have come from a lake area early in the morning. Chimes and synth ambience are joined by well spaced out electrical pulses and glitches. This is as close to electronics as Ghost and Tape will get to. Tones are manipulated and semi looped as not to be predictable and offer a focus for the listener while the other elements wash over each other. Towards the ends the field recordings and glitches tones remain after the other elements have dropped out. These are then joined by distorted shortwave radio-like transmissions which lead to the end.

“Seabird” field recordings of storm like wind sounds which are gentle and joined by warm drones, degrading glitches, swathes of ambience and delicately played minimal guitar. There is a high quality of ambience as if looking down surveying the ground below you, which may be why the track is called “Seabird” and why the elements sort of undulated like waves. The music is meditative and slow taking its time to unfurl and gently reveal itself with a depth of layers.

Over the course of four albums in seven years, with the others appearing on Schole  and Slaapwel as well as Ep’s on Rural Colours and Hibernate, Heine Christensen has created his own place in the ambient scene with his thought out minimalistic, micro glitches and melodic tones. Expertly mastered by the former experimental grindcore practitioner Plotkin, “Vár” is a trip down the sun soaked dappled miniatures of Ghost and Tape and lives up to both his history and that of Home Normal’s class of 2017. Recommended.

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A.R.C. Soundtracks – DERELICTION // MIRROR.

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The first time I came across A.R.C. Soundtracks was via their submission on “The Pomona Comet” on the “Sequence 8” compilation. This, their third release following on from “Archive: Volume 1” (Little Cracked Rabbit) and “From a Shattered Beam” (Sacred Tapes) finds them on the Gizeh label which is well suited to their dark, experimental, post industrial sounds.

A.R.C. Soundtracks are an audio/visual duo comprised of K. Craig on Synth, Percussion and voice FX, alongside David Armes on Lap Steel, Electric Piano, Samples and Synths. On this release they are joined by Elizabeth Willow on voice. Created during a residency at Salford’s Islington Mill, a home to a variety of noise, experimental musicians and labels, the work is inspired by semi derelict spaces and the notion of ruins.

According to the label “This new film and soundtrack takes us into a bleak auditory realm of post-industrial structures and traces the role of the body within these liminal spaces. Strained harmonics and industrial, discordance mesh with veiled rhythms and spoken-word narrative to create a heavy static energy to both sound and visuals”.

“DERELICTION//MIRROR” the title track opens up the album with double bass like percussive moments, gongs, drones fusing together to build atmosphere but to be open to where the track will go. It’s intention is revealed when swathes of synth and piano enter the fray and start taking it in an ominous direction with pounding piano keys adding to the mood while becoming another percussive element. Screeching and pulsing electronics take the track further to the maelstrom before it reaches tipping point. The track has a definite post industrial feel to it.

“FIELD//TRESPASS” starts with soundtrack-esque clanging metallic drones that lay a desolate environment where sounds clash, reverberate and buzz. Minimal tribal percussion builds up at a subdued pace raising the intensity while arching drones scatter about filling up the sound scape with dark ambience. The elements drop out to change to a more distant disjointed ambient feel.

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“RUINS//RITUAL” shuffling sounds, distorted noises as if in a tunnel, what sounds lap steel effects are joined by a narrator who talks poetically over the track whose rhythm feels like a train is moving on rickety tracks. The narrator talks of dust and decay and as sounds enter and leave the field, with shuffling and random percussion plod along til they start clanging and banging under spluttering drones, synth bursts and applause like noises.

“INTERIOR//STRATA” film projector sounds that flicker and loop around are joined by Oscillating drones, random bright keys and Elizabeth Wilson’s narration which comes as a post industrial world view about Ruin and Decay.  Wilson’s voice is not as bleak as the previous narrator, but shares the similar theme. The looped material works well in that it doesn’t detract from the narration.

“DUST//SURVEILLANCE” transmissions from the other side with cymbal crashes, loops, repetitive lap steel, metallic foundry like drones, tribal percussion form the basis of this track which leads on a free-form direction before the elements get sucked into a vacuum and a form of distorted silence takes over.

“TERRAIN//VAGUE” cutting and screeching drones, backwards cymbals, bass drum beats, distorted electronics that pulsate on and out give the track, at the beginning of a horror film like feeling.  The drones cut across at various levels with some having that metallic sound which is quite sharp, while others have a more traditional bassy drone sound. The electronics give it the post apocalyptic feel with their dark pulses that with volume would shake speakers.

“FOUNDRY//CORE” the factory feel to this track is created by ominous drones, whip like sounds, industrial style percussion of metal bashed, treated distant electronics that sound like a broken transmission from another world. Elements enter and disappear as soon as they have entered the fray while others buzz around giving off the feeling of decay and destruction. The looped elements during the last-minute and a half are the breakdown of the transmission.

“HYBRID//AGENCY” (as heard below) is as close to a conventional drone track that you will get from this duo. Distant metallic percussion clangs, bubbling, gurgling electronics, sharp melodies and a delightful synth progression are joined by K. Craig’s narration talks of fragments and decay is joined Elizabeth Wilson to overlay double narration while oscillating sounds and arching drones weave about the sound scape.

“IMPERIAL//NOSTALGIA” sounding initially like the intro to Gary Numan’s “Cars”, the tone is changed with ghost like spectral sounds, pulsing electronics, affected vocals, ghostly presences, synth layers take their time to add to one another and build up with the parts forming a noisey drone. This drone is joined industrial percussion and screeching drones creating an environment of both desolation and destruction which is subtly counterpointed by a melody towards the end.

A.R.C. Soundtracks have built an album that is difficult to fully classify.  Is it Drone? Is it Experimental?  Is it Post Industrial? Is it a concept album? The answer to these questions is yes and then some more. By being essentially genre-less it is hard to classify and may not interest from people who like easily pigeon holed music, but for those who like it noisier, genre fluid and unclassifiable will find layers of interest in this album. Currently the album, limited to 175 copies as part of Gizeh’s Dark Peak series is on sale now here.

 

https://youtu.be/8fZmCeztXTs

https://soundcloud.com/gizeh/arc-soundtracks-hybridagency

Interview with Hayden Berry – Preserved Sound.

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I have been a fan of Preserved Sound and was lucky to discover them early on and have several of their releases in my collection. Over the years they have maintained a handmade aesthetic while producing releases over a variety of genres while cultivating a roster that includes Vitaly Beskrovny, Tess Said So, Adrian Lane, Ales Tsurko and label boss Hayden Berry’s own Visionary Hours project. Hayden generously answered the questions I sent to him.

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What were your intentions in starting the label? Was it to release your own music or document an artist(s) or scene? 

Preserved Sound was started by a small group of friends in Krakow, Poland, in 2011. Between us we were in four different musical projects producing music in the post-rock and ambient genres, and we felt that we needed some kind of platform to promote and release our music. We put on a concert by all four artists played and gave away a free 4-track sampler. This was followed by releases from Visionary Hours, New Century Classics and Lights Dim. At this stage, Preserved Sound wasn’t so much of a label, as a collective of artists who believed in strength in numbers and that we were better of promoting our music together than individually.

 

Shortly after this, we had an idea to release a compilation of ambient artists from Ukraine and Poland, and worked with our friends at AZK Promo in Kyiv to pull together some of the most important ambient artists working in both countries. We released this as a hand-made, limited edition double CD called It’s Not Boring, It’s Ambient, featuring artists such as Emiter and Pleq from Poland, and Heinali and Endless Melancholy from Ukraine. The compilation can still be downloaded for free from our website. On the back of the success of the compilation, we started receiving loads of requests from artists asking us to release their albums. And so Preserved Sound was born!

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You’ve developed a catalogue by putting out several releases by Vitaly Beskrovny, Tess Said So, Adrian Lane, Max Ananyev and others. Is it important to build a catalogue as opposed to being a destination label (by that I mean a label that has releases from artists who release on many other labels)?

Preserved Sound has always been about building a family of artists, rather than being a “destination” label. When we decide to release a particular artist, we do so with the understanding that the artist will develop, and we hope that he or she won’t just create the same album over and over again, but will deliver something new. Our artists understand that Preserved Sound won’t make them rich, but they also know that they are contributing to building a space for them to grow and develop their work. This is why it’s important for us to be loyal to our artists. We don’t use contracts, and our artists are free to take their albums elsewhere if they choose. Like many small labels, we operate on a good faith basis.

What are the fundamental requirements in putting out a release? Is it purely the music, the relationships formed or are there also economic considerations?

The only requirement for Preserved Sound to put out a release is that we like the music. This means that we’re prepared to take the hit if an album doesn’t do as well as we expected. But at the same time, it’s important that an artist is prepared to help promote their album. We’re all in this together, and it’s important for us to know that an artist won’t just sit back and expect everything to happen, but will be fully involved in the process. The more an artist is engaged in promotion, the further the album will go. Like Richard Knox from Gizeh Records mentioned in one of your previous interviews: “The only thing I’m concerned about is; are the people involved nice and is the music good.” This sums it up really!

 

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Labels have come and gone in the time you have been running Preserved Sound. What has kept you going while others have stopped?

 That’s a difficult question to answer. Running a small label can be a lonely pursuit, and I question why I do it on a fairly regular basis. I have a full-time job and a young family, and the time I can dedicate to running the label is pretty limited. I suppose the one thing that has kept me going is the belief in the music Preserved Sound releases. I enjoy the process of developing a release, from initial contact with an artist through to sending out the product. There’s something quite addictive about it! I also like the idea of giving a platform to unknown artists

 You’ve released one vinyl LP in Richard Youngs’ Red Alphabet in the Snow. Is this a format you would return to?

Yes! I’ve just released Beyond the White by my own Visionary Hours project as a limited edition vinyl of just 99 copies. And I’m releasing a new album on vinyl by Richard Youngs called Arrow in late spring 2018. I’d love to release more on vinyl, but the cost is quite prohibitive. It’s important for a label to be accessible, and unfortunately vinyl isn’t the most accessible format. How many people under the age of 25 can afford to regularly buy vinyl priced £15 or more? Not to mention the postage costs!

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What does the future bring for Preserved Sound? How far do you plan into the future?

 I never used to think we planned very much into the future, but when I look at what we’ve got lined up for 2018, I suppose you could call it a plan. Other than the Richard Youngs vinyl, we have a new album by cellist Aaron Martin coming in January. We’ve also got a couple of albums by new artists to Preserved Sound—more on that to come soon. Tess Said So and Poppy Nogood are also recording new albums.

Omrr – Devils for my Darling.

Omrr is Egyptian musician Omar El Abd. Based in Cairo his music is “based on glitch, noise, micro-sounds, sampling and field recordings. He uses a variety of instruments and software to create free form, dynamic and dense sonic landscapes. After previously releasing “Music for the Anxious” on Eileen Rec he has joined Russian label Dronarivm for his latest album.

Designed as an imaginary love story, the album was recorded, mixed, mastered and all instruments played by El Abd in 2017. And what a sonicly dense and clean release it is. For the amount of sound sources being used there is no feeling of claustrophobia, with sounds being crisp, vibrant and allowing a lot of space.

“Quicksands” sets the tone for the variation of sound sources to be heard across the album. Granular glitches, Electroacoustic sound sources, field recordings, some sort of hand played instrument, possibly kalimba being semi-randomly played. The broken beat nature gives the track a start. Sounds whirl in from the nether, pulsing around as the (let’s go with) kalimba starts playing out an off kilter looped melody that brings on Synth pulses which usher in a more composed glitch section that swirls around the listeners ears, chimes clang, metal sounds shimmer, the Synth pulses continue, ambient layers float, bells are struck, cornet blows and it’s almost like a storm is blowing around the kalimba loops. Sonically there is much to take on, such is the richness of sound sources, but this engages the listener and gives them elements to focus on and the rest to explore over repeated listens.

“Ink we Spill” glitch sounds and field recordings begin this track with an assortment of electronics, bells, buzzing drones, cut up fractured recordings, acoustic guitar slowly building up with the glitchy electronics and field recordings dominating the sound palate while the acoustic guitar plays a reflective piece. The construction of the many electronic layers makes it quite easy to miss when elements drop in and out. The acoustic guitar stops around when the electronics have gone from alarming to a more field recording storm like drone sound scape which washes out the remainder of the track.

“Illicit” dark drones, field recordings of nature, ominous tones, industrial like sound sources, static come together piece by piece to take the album in a different direction. This is pure drone that had not truly been heard before. The levels build up slowly creating a wall of sound and noise that becomes a mixture of drones, static squall and some sort of distant repetitive alarm that is warning people of something. If this is a love story, maybe this track signifies that something is wrong or is breaking down.

“Aquiver” brings the tone slightly lighter than the previous track. The drones are sharp, but not overbearing. The pattern percussive glitches sounds pop in out of the field of listening, electronics pulse and scatter to leave piano that is accompanied by very subtle mixtures of glitches, static, electronics and drones. The focus is the piano, but the other elements tease in another direction which surprisingly goes where you don’t expect. Big drones reminiscent of some modern classical drone pieces fill up the sonic landscape with the every present broken glitchy electronics scattering about. We return to the piano, this time accompanied by static and field recordings which take over the sound scape and leads the track in another direction. Mutated ambience with a melodic edge floats around recordings of presumably downtown Cairo with a percussive edge to them with beats, people clapping and sonic degradation.

“Your Heartless Sky” old age melodies, maybe from a 78, make way for manipulated electronics and bell sounds, while glitches flicker in and out, vocal snippets vanish as soon as they appear. Mournful melodic drones float above while the sonic landcsape has been joined by guitar, shakers, fragments of horn like sounds, cut up sections that sound like some sort of transmissions. The track comes across as an a Electroacoustic collage of sounds. I cannot personally put down a theme for it, but then by not achieving that, the piece remains open-ended for interpretation.

“Rotten Sky” a fusion of granular glitches, scattershot sounds, echoing noises, reverberating sounds leads on to a piano motif that is short before pulses and field recordings intertwined with drones swirl around creating levels of sounds before the piano returns minimally. The contrast between the minimalist piano which is gently played and the sonic ephemera surrounding it is noticeable. The dark ambient/Electroacoustic mix is the primary focus. As the album has progressed along it has gotten noticeably darker with this being the darkest track.

“Eloquent” acoustic guitar mixed with field recording, string like drone sections, glitched recordings, looped recordings of a person panting, kalimba, chimes, build up for the majority of the track before the music switches to a more kalimba – like melodic section still paired with the looped panting, drones and metallic electronic sounds that sound like metal shavings being swept up. If you take away the majority of the instruments for the most part of the track the string drone and ambient sections would be for some enough.

For this release Omrr has created a deep Electroacoustic release with elements of Glitch, Ambient, Drone and Modern Classical. While I am not sure I follow the narrative of the love story, the release is engaging with its great amount of sound sources within each track. It would be interesting to see what Omrr could achieve with a restriction on the amount of sound sources at his disposal and how that would affect the construction of his music. For a Sonically rich album it would be hard to find something as vibrant as this album. A mention should go to the great artwork of Francisca Pageo.

 

Akira Kosemura – In the Dark Woods.

Akira Kosemura would be a familiar name to those who love exquisite piano based music. He has released on the likes of Someone Good and his on label Schole which is also has been home to the likes of Haruka Nakamura, Flica, Ghost and Tape and others. Such is the popularity that Kosemura has gained over the years with his exceptional music that he has some 473,000 Soundcloud and over 357,000 monthly Spotify listeners. This particular album was released on vinyl, CD+DVD and on the Schole/ 1631 Recordings labels.

The press release states: Treasuring a serene feeling and an intimate conversation with oneself.” is the main concept of his new work, which recalls a vivid emotions, as music goes into one’s body and feels a blood flow deep into a heart. As indicated in the title, an entire album is filled with an obscure darkness and a world of misty sounds never to be feared of, like a comfortable quietness in the dark where a child in the womb is hearing mother’s heartbeat. As the music goes on, it gradually begin to widen an introspective worldview. The combined sounds of repeated phrases as seen in minimal music method, a sophisticated crossover sound in between acoustics and electronics, and an improvisational solo piano will present the worldview suggestive of a broad theme, such as a circulation of life or the law of nature.”

The album feels like an album within an album within an album. There are many styles and territories that Kosemura covers from solo minimalist piano to Sci-fi Synth explorations to Ambient detours to Haunting Modern Classical with occasional bleeding of these styles within tracks. Naturally the standout ones are the solo piano which shows Kosemura at the top of his field and if you’ve been following the artists covered in this blog in the same field (Stefano Guzzetti, Roberto Attanasio, Lorenzo Masotto, Dominique Charpentier, etc…), there is a lot of talented musicians/composers out there.

The album opens with “DNA” a meditative piece combining delicate lighter keys played with restraint under which more strident repetitive playing that has a hypnotic feel. Accompanying this is the sound of what appears to be sonar blips, low-level drones, bells and the natural sound of the piano from the keys and hammers which gives the track an organic and natural feel. The track makes a statement for the pieces to come with its variation and use of mixed elements.

This is followed by “Resonance” that continues in the natural recording style of the piano, presumably down to the placement of microphones to pick up the nuances of the instrument. It’s quite an intimate piece with an almost sing songy flow to it. Due to its short two-minute nature it comes across as an interlude or a bridge track.

“Between the Trees” follows the recording techniques set out before, but the sound has a bit more urgency in it. The playing is more intense with the piece feeling a need to convey or communicate with the listener, to get their attention. The track starts with ominous bass notes that make a return mid track, but make way for more melodic notes with a glacial haze to them. You can easily see this type of track in a soundtrack situation with its repeating theme coming full circle.

“Sphere” is where Kosemura goes interstellar with a Synth track that oscillates, has a jazzy lightly flowing section where you feel that his fingers are barely touching the keys as he floats over them. The contrast in the piece is the Synth oscillating loops are at odds with the seemingly improvises jazzy section. An ice-cold slice of ambience joins in bringing to this fore a hammering section of Synth that fully fits the interstellar vibe with its definite Sci-fi Synth prog feel.

“Kaleidoscope of Happiness” returns to the themes set our previous with the piano driven tracks. Feeling like a relative of “Resonance” you can see why Kosemura has done soundtrack work before as his compositions are a perfect accompaniment for visuals. There is a light feeling of remorse with the track, but not over the top melancholy as there is hope in the second section.

“Inside River #1” and “Inside River #2” are cut from the same cloth, but there are variations within them. The tones of the tracks are slightly different with “Inside River #2” at times feeling a bit muted in sound, but also a bit more intense. This could simply be down to the recording or also Kosemura’s playing.

“Shadows” picks up the speed in playing with the hammers jostling in the sound mix. The track is a mix of high and lower notes with the lower notes being subtle in the mix. When the track enters the final minute you see the intensity and volume peak as Kosemura brings the track to the precipice and stops just before it falls of the cliff.

“Dedicated to Laura Palmer” is a static drenched hazy ambient Synth exploration. There are beds of loops that float in and out, layers of Synth pulses, what sounds like treated electric guitar, glacial tones and hints of the theme music to the TV show by Angelo Badalamenti. The track is a mixture of 70’s ambience with a retro/futurist feel.

“Moving” is a bright hope filled track that uses its lower tones in an ambient fashion with what sound like crickets chirping in the distance. The playing has an intensity that fits the feel of the piece in that it is neither to slow or too fast. At under a minute this is a nice vignette.

“Snowy Sky” is full of field recordings of what sounds like rope scraping across wood like on a boat where the rope is being tightened. Half of the sound palate comes from this and accompanying piano sounds, while the rest comes from the actual piano keys which are melodic and have while comfortingly familiar offer a different feel and mood to that of the previous tracks. Going back to previous tracks on the album I can’t say its reminiscent of others which is a positive thing.

“Spark” opens with an ambient slice alongside minimalist piano with percussive chimes that vaguely bring back the sonar sound of “DNA”. The piano while central to the piece is not the core instrument as the chimes and the ambience make up equal sound to the track. A meditative piece on repetition could with the relaxed nature a reference to the meditative practice of thinking about situations and going over things in your mind which would link up with the album’s theme of Treasuring a serene feeling and an intimate conversation with oneself.”

“Innocence” has Kosemura hammering keys building up opposing sections of the faster lower keys with the spaced out minimalist higher keys creating that juxtaposition of sound and intensity. It brings two opposing styles to bring about different textures and moods. With a track titled “Innocence” I would have expected a more subdued relaxed and ambient-esque track, but I guess the purity is in the spaced out keys.

“The Cycle of Nature” sees Kosemura at his most intense with the fast repeating phrasing joined by what could be water, but is more certainly the hammers and pedals of the piano, a wash of (natural) ambience enters in bringing together another movement which features electronic keys that shimmer across another layer of piano bringing around four layers of keys together. Everything drops out for a brief section bringing it back to the beginning and erupting again with a massive Synth burst of ambience that hovers over everything before the track delightfully fades to silence.

“Stillness of the Holy Place” is the albums epic track clocking in just under ten minutes in length and has a more studio controlled recording where the only thing you hear is the keys and not so much the other elements of the piano (they are there, just not so pronounced) . By having this type of recording the track comes across grandly. There is a sense of control of the piece where you feel that there is a narrative at play. Half way through the track other piano elements come into the sound more clearly. There are several movements with in the track where the intensity shifts from almost calm to more strident, from more meditative to freeform, etc… I personally am not sure what the narrative is and for me the shorter tracks work better than this long one.

“In the Dark Woods” bringing the Modern Classical side into play. Layers of complimenting violin, viola, contrabass and cello cross over each other filling up with sound that is epic in scale and rich with emotion, melancholy and sweeping gestures. Slowly the layering builds up with intensity rising in a way filling up the sound and making the surroundings shrink which is what I presume the title is referring to.

“Letter from a Distance” brings the album to the end where Kosemura returns to the delicateness of solo piano that he has demonstrated throughout the album. After going epic on the second and third last tracks, we see the sublime playing lead out as if over the final credits of a movie, book ending the album and reinforcing the mastery of delicate, subtle, emotional piano pieces in the of Kosemura.

Throughout the album Kosemura has demonstrated why he has such a following. For some a strictly solo piano album could be too much of a same thing, but for Kosemura he knows how to construct an album that can sound familiar but you look back to the other tracks you cannot pin point which track it is. Naturally with a genre like Modern Classical /Solo piano that is fast becoming a saturated one, it helps to be a great composer and this is what Kosemura has on his side. Add to the fact that Kosemura doesn’t just rely on Piano and you have an artist that sustains the listeners interest and keeps them engaged.

Aiden Baker / Simon Goff/ Thor Harris – Noplace.

When I think of improvised music I tend to think that it falls into 3 groups. One – The group of players are doing their own thing and are seemingly unaware of the players around them, Two – The players are inhabiting their own world but interact with the other players weaving in and of each others sphere much like The Necks do and, Three – Those that are so attune to each other that you’d swear that this is music that was written by the group and tightly rehearsed. The music of “NOPLACE” easily falls into the third category.

Noplace is an improvised collaboration between Aidan Baker (Nadja / Caudal / B/B/S/), Simon Goff (Molecular, Bee & Flower) and Thor Harris (Swans, Shearwater, Thor & Friends). Having known each other for a number of years and previously contributed to one another’s recordings this trio finally came together as a whole on May 7th 2017 at Redrum Studios in Berlin. In a short, improvised session of just a few hours they set about laying down as much material as possible which was then subsequently edited and re-worked (without overdubs) to form this album.

The album art was done by Christopher Hefner another musical artist they have worked with before. Gizeh Records describe the music as a hypnotic and deep listen. Kinetic rhythms pulsate throughout whilst the guitar and violin jostle and weave around the metronomic beats, creating a cathartic and all-encompassing experience. The very nature of the instrumental repetitions give it an immediate avant/krautrock feel but the whole record is coated in a wonderful psychedelic atmosphere that’s both melodic, textured and innovative.”

Using a simple sound source of instruments such as Guitar, Drums and Violin the trio create a world of sound. “Noplace I” opens the album with the center being Harris’ tribal jazz-like drumming that is hypnotic and gives Baker’s guitar and Goff’s Violin a base to attach to and allows them to run across weaving lines of guitar and violin in drone like and feedback fashion. The violin and guitar aren’t used in typical fashion and use more in a melodic colorful way.

“Noplace II” takes the music into the more experimental realm with minimal cymbal dominated percussion, spindly guitar work and arcing violin cutting in and out. There is a hypnotic loop feel to the track that also comes across assoundtrack-esque. With the first piece being centered on drums, the change see the guitar and violins become the focal point of the track. There is an ominous edge to the instrumentation with sharp sounds being created by Goff welding to the darker tones conjured by Baker and Harris’ exercise in subtlety. You can image a track like this being extending into a solid hour hour piece.

“Red Robin” starts with Baker’s guitar that has a looping insistent almost art punk/post punk feel to it, with a classic drum section from Harris that could easily sit in either trip hop or post rock circles while Goff surveys the top section of the soundscape with barely reminiscent violin. This track comes across as the most layered. While the guitar and drums remain the same through out (with some subtler variation), other guitar section, effects and layering of instruments appear appear. There is a futuristic appeal to the track that leads it other directions than just the “rock format” that is its foundation.

“Noplace III” comes across as an ambient techno track , but one done without synths. The bass beat shuffled cymbals give the track it’s feel, but the guitar drones, spindly section and violin drones gives it the ambient element. The drones have both light and dark feel with the darker end have a bass feel vaguely reminiscent of an instrument like the didgeridoo. The fact that this is constructed without synths shows the way that the players can use their chosen instruments in a way to create textures that are not always ascribed to their instrument. If you told someone they would be listening to music constructed by Guitar, Violin and Drums, they would be pleasantly surprised by this.

“Tin Chapel” sees spindly Asian style guitar working alongside post rock style jazzy percussion with violin that makes me think of a combination of Egyptian and Jazz music. The drums drive the track and the guitar adds an intensity to the piece which is a swirling one, but the focal point is the violin which is used as the lead instrument. There is a section of stacatto violin playing which is in contrast to the drones built up and the and krautrock motorik percussion which drives the track. There is a balance of the structured and unstructured music in the track which comes across in a way of a power play in which element will win over.

“Northplace” starts with ominous affected fuzz guitar, pounding fluttering drums, long arcing violin drones and distorted shimmering guitars. The foot is definitely entrenched in the avant scene as the elements pound away, cutting in and out, building up and disappearing. The focal point changes early on from the percussion being the focal point to the guitar lines and distorted violin that is either droning or cutting up the sound leading through to darker ambient territory, albeit with conventional instruments.

“Nighplace” brings Dirty Three vibe to the with the brushed drums, southern style violin and minimal guitar lines (with maximal sound). It makes sense that this is the final track as it is more reflective than to those that have preceded it. The drums have a rustic feel while Baker and Goff work in tandem to color the piece with drones that at times are widescreen in their coverage. A section of distorted guitar gives a dirty bass element which gives an extra bottom layer to the track the introduction of this appears just before the intensity of the drone element increases to the point where it threatens to take over the track and for a moment the drums get lost in this sound.

It is quite amazing to think that this was recorded in a short period of time on one day, edited and re-assembled and then some six months later sounding like a fully formed album from an established group. Aiden Baker, Simon Goff and Thor Harris have produced a very enjoyable, rich album that thanks to Gizeh Records we are able to appreciate.

Jason Van Wyk – Opacity.

The second release of 2017 from Jason van Wyk, after the re-issue of 2016’s “Attachment” is “Opacity”. I enjoyed the former, but am very much impressed by the follow-up album again released by the flawless Home Normal label.

Label boss Ian Hawgood has this to say about both the album and artist “Whilst he continues to be known for this work, his most recent output has seen him focus on his beautiful piano playing, intertwined with his subtle sound design and wide open soundscapes. It is an album of such incredible beauty, patience, openness, soul, and subtlety, that we can’t think of a comparative album by anyone, on any label, in years that comes close to the calming serenity of ‘Opacity’. Whilst this might seem like hyperbole to some, I just ask you to sit down, let go, and listen to this pure work of art as it really is very special indeed. Alongside the alluring dusty-starred photography of Gregory Euclide, Jason has created an album that is timeless and bold; a freeing work of piano-focused tenderness, and huge luminous pads.”

That is a big call for a label boss to make and while every listener will have his or her interpretation about the album, in this case Ian was right and this is simply a very beautiful piece of work that is a pleasure to listen to.

“Shimmer” slow unfolding ambience descends upon the listener building up incriminantly with shimmering drones and understated minimal piano which starts to give the melodic tone to the track. The piano is understated as the listener’s attention is focused on the drones and electronics that are bubbling around. Once the drones drop out the bubbling electronica and piano are all that remain and fuses the organic elements with the purely electrical ones. A subtle opening track that doesn’t show its hand too much, but hints at what is to come.

“Blinded” eno-esque drones of a grand scale float with a siren like sound are supported by lower drones giving depth which lead into the plaintive flowing piano, recorded in the same style as the “Attachment” album with soft padding. A rather brief track that conveys much emotion and could easily take on a ‘epic’ life if the piano line was followed further.

“Until Then” another delightful brief track that has a beginning that utilizes silence between the keys which gives the track a feeling of hope with a hint of melancholy. The pace of the track picks up gently with the playing in a flowing style with more of an emphasis on the lower notes that are joined by thoughtful higher notes that provide this melancholy/hope hybrid, but seem not to tip in either favor.

“Recollect” is where van Wyk’s trance background begins to show its influence. A collection of weather – like Synth drones are joined by short prog like Synth stabs with a percussive edge briefly enter the sound scape before being replaced with orchestral drones that bring swells of sound. Minimal piano enters into the track for a short section before the track has another short Sci-fi/prog Synth section. For a piece running a little over four minutes, there are several movements that divide the track up, but don’t give it a split personality.

“Glow” comes across a soundtrack piece. Distant Synth drones awash with ambience slowly unfurl with piano entering the mix with a feeling of reflection to it. It’s almost as if in a scene from a movie a person is looking back on things that have happened in their life. The piano is the center of the track, but the tone is a perfect accompaniment to the drones and vice versa.

“Clouds” solo piano that paints a picture of gentle melancholy that has drones that start attaching themselves to the piano and teach out to take over the track. A grainy, storm – like muted drone provides the environmental feeling of the track as if you are leaving earths atmospheres and heading through the clouds mentioned in the track. There is static buzzing with an icy drone befitting the title.

“Beneath” this start to get almost symphonic with the opening of this track. Grand drones arc across an undercurrent of semi-buried noisier drones which leads into the soundtrack composer realm once more. There is definitely a widescreen approach to van Wyk’s construction of tracks. The levels and depth are shown with introduction of the piano which sits center aurally surrounded by swirling ambient drones which flesh out the sound and light flickers of electronics that are best suited to headphone listening.

“For Now” a brief interlude of a track that manages to include several elements in it’s all too brief seventy-four second length. Glitchy clicks and cuts sounding like detritus of broken down electronics meet string drones and trance like keyboard progressions alongside swathes of ambience, padded piano keys and some sort of crunchy field recordings. The track could easily go in many directions, but is more like a vignette than a full track as it’s almost over as it has just begun.

“Weightless” wall of drones ushering in Synth prog progressions that oscillate in an ambient fashion before fading to almost silence. Siren – like haunting drones cloud the air with melody before the synths return with urgency (slightly reminiscent of the soundtrack of Stranger Things) and with progressions that change in tone and colour, becoming more relaxed before fading and have a feeling of virtuosity that traverses the piece.

“Clearing” there is an under current to the drones which gives you a feeling of an extreme environment with a haunting tone to it. Like a glacial or frozen area where everything is seen through a sepia tone, blurring the vision and almost removing or at least affecting one of the senses. The drones fill up the sound, but have the variation to be more than one-dimensional and have an almost sing-song melodic feel to their sections.

“Hidden” glacial undertones, darker drones, field recordings and emotive strings bear weight to the piece. The glacial sections give an austere feeling under the strings which are striking. There is a definite haze to the track that contours up a storm or something impending. The darker drones have weight and support both the strings and glacial elements like a bookend where parts are nicely sandwiched between.

“Eyes Shut” controlled and solo unfurling the track begins growing with drones before pulsing prog Synth changes the focus of the pace of the track. The Synth flutters about left and right with muted drones, static haze joining it before a drop out section dramatically changes the electronics to a loop based section of electronica joined by ambient drones and prog Synth with static returning and increasing in its presence. This section leads to a more Synth based ambient section returning with an electronica feel with bass elements that drive this section. The pace of the piece alongside the haze is what makes this track laid back and dare say, introspective in nature.

“Opacity” refers to the lacking of transparency or translucency which can be compared to the pieces on the album where there are multiple elements. One of the synonyms of Opacity is haziness which can be occasionally heard in tracks like “Clouds” and the beginning of “For Now” for example. For “Opacity” van Wyk has taken on some of the elements of “Attachment” added some from his previous work and taken it further. The shorter pieces that come across as Soundtrack-esque is a something that would be interesting to see van Wyk detour into as I think he would pull it off with aplomb. A mention should be made of the cello and violin of Brittany Dilkes, Gavin Clayton and Lynn Donson for their important contributions to the album. Recommended.