Otto Lindholm – Alter.

On October 13 (Friday the 13th in certain places) Gizeh Records releases the second album from Belgium based Double Bassist/Electronic musician Otto Lindholm. Lindholm’s self titled debut came out on Icarus Records /Vynila Vinyls in 2015 and gained critical appraisal from the likes of Fact Magazine and influential broadcaster Mary Anne Hobbs.

Lindholm had this to say about the album’s genesis “My original idea was to work on the melody and the play of the arco (ed note: Arco being the returning to playing bowed after pizzicato), looking for expressive music from this combination. To do it, I first decided to work on ‘modes’ and their specific color. With these modes I could work on tensions, frictions and color shading. Working on the melody aspect, I was looking to go beyond the romantic, easy listening or sentimentalizing, trying to suggest more than an expression of concrete emotions.

The album contains four tracks with a consistent length with times ranging from just over eight minutes up to ten and a half minutes. The record comes in a vinyl edition of five hundred copies on 180g vinyl with download code and bonus 12″ x 12″ print if purchased via the labels store. It was mastered by Lawrence English of the Room40 label.

“Fauve” (a Fauve is a type of artist from the Fauvism movement that featured the “radical use of unnatural colors that separated color from its usual representative and realistic role, giving new emotional meaning to colors”). On this track slow bowed strings and monolithic bass swells are the first thing you hear, pulsing and throbbing. There is a deep dark sound to the track, but also room for melodic touches. Layers of double bass come in an out with low-level electronics and manipulated bass sounds. The more the track moves on, the more elements are added with the electronics mimicking the bass swells, but also being off rhythm to them. The tracks fluidity enables it to cover the genres of modern classical and certain elements of post rock. With the use of tones and manipulated organic and electronic sounds you could state the Lindholm has started he aim for the album straight off with the opening track.

“Lehena” (which in African names means one who refuses) arcs of bass vibrate across with a swarm like sound underneath that build up before a violin like section takes the focus before an electronic section of pulsing loops, ambience and squelchy beats provides a counterpoint to the organic sounds created by the double bass. The electronics threaten to take over the track and lead it in a more dance/electronica based vein, but while they lead the track to its finish they remain as one of the elements of the sound palate.

“Alyscamps” a deep dark drone is joined by ghostly electronics and glacial ambience. The drones intertwine with the electronics combing the acoustic with the electronic. Flickering sections lead to the feeling of a broken transmission from a deserted outpost. The flickering remains a constant while scattershot sounds with haunting presence form like a storm which is subdued just before the end for some distinct double bass. The “Alyscamps” is a Roman section in Arles, France and was the burial ground for nearly 1,500 years. The haunting music could be easily influenced by this landmark.

“Heliotrope” a Heliotrope is a popular flowering plant that happens to be a toxic plant. On this particular track the double bass recordings are deep and are used under a bed of higher at times bordering on screeching drones. While tracks like “Alyscamps” utilized the electronics in a different way, “Heliotrope” relies more on the ambient and drone elements that can be coaxed from the double bass. There are effects in the piece with juddering sounds, sounds that cut in an out, degradation of sounds, etc…. which gives it a more experimental / cut up feel.

On “Alter” Lindholm expands on what he started with on his self titled debut, but comes across more as focusing on the qualities of his chosen instrument than the electronic component of his debut. Don’t get me wrong, the electronics are still there but appear to be more of a tool of his experimentalism than as a feature. For those who checked out the recently reviewed Alder & Ash should also check out this album.

Otto Lindholm

Gizeh Records

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Astrïd & Rachel Grimes – Through The Sparkle.

The latest release from Gizeh Records is a collaborative release from French quartet Astrïd and American pianist and former member of Rachel’s, Rachel Grimes. Grimes’ music I am familiar with when she was with Rachel’s, but I haven’t kept up to date with her releases on the likes of Temporary Residence, etc… Astrïd is a group I was familiar only in name with Cyril Secq having a collaborative release with Orla Wren on Dronarivm and three of the members being joined by Sylvain Chauveau as Butterfly in the Snowfall on Home Normal (as well as appearing on the “Elements” series of compilations as Astrïd). Astrïd have previously appeared on the Arbouse Recordings, Monotype and Rune Grammofon labels. They comprise of Vanina Andréani : violin, kalimba, metallophone, Yvan Ros : drums, percussions, Cyril Secq : guitars, harmonium, Juno, Rhodes, bass and Guillaume Wickel : clarinet, bass clarinet, Juno.

The album is the result of mail and email exchange that led to two lots of songwriting in France. Astrïd invited Rachel to come for a residency to make music together and play shows in France. They gathered for a few days, here and there, in 2012 and 2013 to write songs in Cyril and Vanina’s home studio in the countryside.

Gizeh Records describe the record as “The compositions found on Through the Sparkle glow with a unique, connected energy and a pure, instinctive musical understanding. Considered contributions from all sides allow the pieces to unfurl naturally. Each note and phrase feels like it simply couldn’t be placed anywhere else in the album. Charming, gentle and cinematic sounds are found here in abundance. Melodies circle and reveal themselves without force, allowing the listener to focus and explore the depths of what is on offer. Musically, Through the Sparkle is an expansive and evocative album.”

“The Herald en Masse” – Grimes’ piano is the first thing you hear before Violin, Brushed Percussion, Clarinet and other instruments combine to create a track that has elements of the almost Folky / Post Rock sea inspired music of Rachel’s “The Sea and the Bells” and the meandering feel of The Dirty Three (Ros’ brushed percussion also brings to mind Jim White). The elements build up nicely with each occupying their own space giving a feel of an orchestral recording rather than that of five musicians. The piano anchors the track while other elements like guitar and clarinet are able to color the sound and come screeching in or providing more depth.

“M5” – Secq’s tremelo guitar opens the track with long spindly chords that spread outwards before being joined by minimal piano lines and string based drones for the first half of the track with the guitar setting the dark mood. This all changes with briskly played piano with an urgent sound is joined by brushed percussion, kalimba, clarinet and guitar (which has changed from darker mood to a more melodic tone). The Clarinet builds up the melody in mirror like form to the guitar with the percussion keeping the pace with the piano. It is a track where the instruments are in sync with each other.

“The Theme” – Haunting Clarinet and chiming tremelo guitar combine with kalimba, piano, brushed percussion and violin in an almost improv style with the elements colliding at times while at others occupying their own space. It all comes together in the last minute of the track largely led by sparse drums which give the track a direction to go in.

“Mossgrove & Seaweed” – is a track that is purely about building tension between the instruments. What sounds like layering of piano and Rhodes keys hammered that build up on intensity with harmonium coming through and string drones. The instruments keep building to a crescendo where the strings and harmonium alongside the cymbals take over the track before it is paired back to the elements of the start and brings it all back to where it started.

“Hollis” – is the track featured on both Soundcloud and Spotify and it is easy to see why. It starts with a barely audible drone that piano is then added to before swinging jazz-style drumming comes in supported by bass, clarinet, metallophone and kalimba and has a jazz meets post rock and almost trip hop feel. There is a swing to the playing that is under pinned by the great drumming which drives the track along as well as the piano does in the start. The other elements add different textures and color to the track, with the clarinet adding a melodic is slightly melancholic feel.

“M1” – Secq’s prepared sounding guitar opens the track with a melody underneath it presumably from the Juno. The feeling of the guitar is almost Western in sound. As it unfurls the bass clarinet comes into sound and slowly other elements are added like percussion, Rhodes, Piano and the guitar drops out. It builds up after the Rhodes and Piano to become fully formed alt folk piece where the strings take the place that guitar once held and work well in tandem with the clarinet gives two different types of sound – the higher sound of the violin meets the bass tones of clarinet.

“Le Petit Salon” – is a stunning piece of cinematic music with mournful violin strings cutting above piano with a haunting feeling that would be well placed in a period movie about loss. Other instruments start to fill out the sound like bass clarinet and harmonium, prepared guitar playing screeches and off kilter urgent ramshackle drumming careens around. The extra instruments give the piece weight but don’t over power the two main instruments and the overall theme of the track.

The playing and compositions of this album give you the feeling of a long-standing band, not a band and a collaborator. The way Astrïd and Grimes fuse together is so seamless with each others influences forming together to create something their own. Elements of Grimes’ sounds developed in Rachel’s come through and fit nicely within the Astrïd framework to provide an enjoyable and cohesive piece of work. The label describes it perfectly : “Through the Sparkle is a record of miniature symphonies, of elegant restraint. A gracious and generous offering from a group of musicians at one with each other and at the top of their game.”

You can buy the album here.

Astrïd

Rachel Grimes

Gizeh Records

Drifting, Almost Falling – Spotify playlist

I have put together a playlist of artists that have or will be featured in this blog. Only one track per release per artist and naturally only those that have their music featured on Spotify. This will be updated when more releases are featured on this blog and/or available on Spotify.

Enrico Coniglio & Matteo Uggeri – Open to the Sea.

Dronarivm return to the musically fertile country of Italy for their latest release. Although the release is credited to Enrico Coniglio and Matteo Uggeri there are a decent amount of collaborators on this release such as vocals/lyrics coming from Francesca Amato’s (aka Comaneci), Lau Nau, Violeta Päivänkakkara and British actor John Guilor.  Extra brass from Fabio Ricci (Vonneumann), electronics from Guilio Aldinucci and Stella Riva (Satan Is My Brother) and mastering by James Plotkin rounds out the collaborators.

The label describes the collaboration as s result of fruitful email conversations and describes the collaboration as “Sweet and minimal melodies on piano, organ and guitar of Enrico meet the efforts of trumpet and drums of Matteo whose electronics treatment and delicate beats provide the solid ground to a music that seems a perfect match of the two artists sensibility.  “Open to the Sea” explores a variety of merging organic sounds where the calm and intimately of the album is disrupted by incursions of gentle noises and sometimes curious juxtapositions.”  

Coniglio describes himself as a Guitarist, environmental sound recordist and sound artist with an interest in the landscape aesthetics. He has previously appeared on labels such as Fluid Audio, Crónica Electronica, Taalem, Glacial Movements as well as co-running the digital label Galaverna. 

Matteo Uggeri is a frequent collaborator with releases with artists such as Andrea Ferraris, Maurizio Abate and Christiano Deison on labels such as Hibernate, Time Released Sound and Scissor Tail to name a few.

“Open to the Sea” starts off with Francesca Amato’s sweet sounding double track voice reciting the title. Ambient tones and granular glitches start the track which is no hurry floating at a gentle pace. Lau Nau’s haunting vocals float over the soundscape which is building in intensity ever so slightly before violin cuts through and field recordings of possibly a market place enter that are crisp enough to make you think they are there in the room with you. I would file this under electroacoustic sound art than as ambient per se.

“Jessaias de reduire mes medicaments” begins with Scanner-like recording of a phone conversation/ interview which is joined by melodic ambient tones and musical saw like drones which are peppered by glitchy electronics that are pulsing and phasing. This short track combines the experimental elements alongside the more the melodic electronica and fuses them together well.

“Up Over The Harbours Lights” Coniglio’s guitar opens the track in a blues like style alongside ambient drones that coincide with the final strum of the guitar before piano, industrial sounds, field recordings and samples enter the sound mix. The track shows the musicians soundtrack-esque construction to create a sound palate of dissimilar origins to work together.

“I Am The Sea” features Violeta Päivänkakkara on vocals and lyrics and starts with her ethereal vocals before melancholy minimal piano, guitars, synths, distant percussion, bells, electronics and trumpet fuses together to form a track that is so many genres mixed into one. The haunting trumpet that cuts through mixed with Päivänkakkara’s vocals, alongside piano and electronic and traditional percussion works so well as it covers post rock, electronica, Electroacoustic and soundtrack works so easily.

“Floating Metal Sheets” this experimental sounding track sees assistance from fellow Italian and Dronarivm artist Guilio Aldinucci. This track starts with acoustic guitars and some sort of background percussive noise source that I can’t get my head around. Some crackling electronics start and flutter with drones lightly covering them as a rolling noise pans left and right. Trombone joins the track with an effect similar to a car slamming on its breaks, before changing to slow mournful blowing over the acoustic guitars while electronics scatter about.

“Dutch Street Theatre” features UK voice over artist and actor John Guilor who has worked on Dr Who. Guilor’s narration is laid over piano, drones and violin and field recordings of people talking. I am not sure where the narration comes from and whether it is related to the theme of this album, but it doesn’t personally work for me.

“Now I’m Silent” starts with an electronic heart beat sound paired with darting drones, piano and percussive noise with electronic whistling, before venturing into jazz territory with wailing trumpet and electric guitar, disjointed gunshot drums. It’s a track of two quite separate halves that work well separately, but take time to get used to the differences.

“Allarme” begins with a broken piano like opening, before alarm sounds pan in and out and glitch electronics, cymbals and piano are gently caressed. Field recordings, possibly of radio or loud-speaker transmissions traverse the piece that is being slightly held together by piano while non traditional percussion rattles and rolls with brass instruments and intermittent sounds. Again Coniglio and Uggerri manage to fit a lot of source material in a piece that while at times seems like a juxtaposition, but also compliments one another.

“I Say I May Be Back” sees radio samples and static overload piano with a hint of paning banjo, guitars and percussion that has a nautical feel with Francesca Amato’s vocals that bring the album full circle with the recurring title line. The instruments one by one break down leaving Amato’s voice to finish out the album much like she started it.

“Open to the Sea” is not a straight forward album to get a handle on. There are so many constituent parts that make it up and it covers Ambient/Drone/Post Rock/Experimental/ Electroacoustic genres, sometimes in the same track. The thing it has going for it is it’s unpredictability and it’s depth is that it’s not a release that can be easily glossed over. Most of the tracks work extremely well and the depth that James Plotkin has gotten in the master allows for that richness and shows why he is one of the most popular masterers around.  There is a special version of the release limited to 50 copies which comes with a jigsaw and bonus digital ep.

https://soundcloud.com/dronarivm/i-am-the-sea

Sound in Silence x2 – Liam J Hennessy – Held / [.que] – Wonderland.

Sound in Silence is the fine Greek label run by George Mastrokostas (aka Absent Without Leave) and his two most recent release are from the UK’s Liam J Hennessey and Japan’s [.que]. Amongst a roster that includes the likes of bvdub, Wil Bolton, Hessien, Daniel W J Mackenzie and Absent Without Leave, these latest released are a fine addition to the catalog.

Liam Hennessey a few years ago recorded under the name Drops and produced a 7″ in an edition of 1 and a CD ep on Heat Death records as well as a split digital ep with Umber (who features on this release). For the last few years he has been focusing on music for film and television and in 2016 started a project of recording one song every month. “Held” is the result of half of this project. Hennessey’s music is highly melodic with a nice balance of natural acoustic and electronic elements.

The label states that the construction of “All tracks include field recordings and found sounds, captured with a portable microphone on trips to various places during the month each track was recorded. The sounds captured were used as the basis of the tracks, giving a nice natural sound, while the field recordings where chopped up and manipulated to make the beats. Then layers of nostalgic guitar melodies were added and filled with additional background ambience created with a mixture of guitar swells, ebow, warm synths and lots of filters and reverb.” 

“Frozen Lights” opens with field recordings of water and nature sounds and light Synth drones before sprawling guitar leads somewhat reminiscent of Robin Guthrie weaves their magic, before acoustic guitars and scattered beats clatter around. The track then has more focused traditional beats that hold the track and give it the base for it center it. Layering of guitars give it the depth, volume and light and makes it a pastoral post rock almost folktronica.  In the past the comparison with Message to Bears has been made and is comes through in this track, which is not a bad comparison at all.

“Beacons (feat. Good Weather For An Airstrike)” has that classic ambient sound of uplifting drones mixed with field recordings and layers of different tone guitars with sections of field recordings used as a pexcessive device. Elements drop out to reveal just the guitars before a drone brings in a section of crunchy beats that become the focus while sounds of children playing float and then the guitars again become the focus. Military like percussion builds up the pace in the final minute as it joins the scratchy crunchy elements of before and leads the guitars to the end. For all the elements that are included in the track there is no feeling of overcrowding. While I am not aware of who contributed what to the track, the collaboration works extremely well.

“Soen”  layers the acoustic and guitars, underpinned by drones with a shaker like percussive instrument and glitchy micro-beats. The building guitars that swell in their number and rise in their intensity is the focal point to the track. It shows Hennessey’s ability at constructing something with such depth with relatively few elements. 

“Mirror Lake (feat. Umber)” sees Hennessey re-untied with his fellow split ep artist. The track begins with backwards loops and drones before crisp acoustic guitar creeps slowly into the mix, the field recording made beats and an almost alt country like drone and central guitar part become the feature. The music is very bright and summery with a heavy dose of melody and because of the Alt country feel adds something different to the album.

“Over the Bay” was the first track from the project to be uploaded on Soundcloud and is a fitting penultimate track. Cinematic drones, spindly guitars, field recordings, loops, the crinkling of undergrowth, the way elements drop out and then are rebuilt in a different configuration, the panning of sound, the timbres of the guitars all work well together. 

“Viewpoint” takes the elements that have featured in the previous tracks and adds more of a standard ‘rock formation’ with percussion (maybe not traditional percussion, but more than the previous field recording based beats) and bass and rather than an ambient styled track it’s definitely in the post-rock mould. The track opens with what sounds, acoustic guitars and drones before coming fully fleshed. While it is nice, for me the joy is in the previous less ‘rock’ tracks.

As mentioned before the Message to Bears comparison is still valid, but Hennessey is as equally talented as Jerome Alexander and his constructions are lush and interesting. A mention must go to the mastering by George as all sounds are fully realized and vibrant.

There are times when you can hear a piece of music and you can determined the countries origin straight away. This release by Japan’s Nao Kakimoto aka [.que] is one such release. Some Japanese music can infuse a sense of whimsy and innocence in the music and this is one such release. Since 2010 he has released seven albums, one ep and three singles on labels such as Schole,  IntroDuCing! and his own Embrace label. This, his eighth album and the first I have heard, is according to the label “a concept album of ten tracks based on ideas that started taking shape when Kakimoto composed the soundtrack of the short film Kurokawa Wonderland back in 2015. Harmonizing the warmth of acoustic instruments and folk elements with electronic textures and field recordings,  [.que] creates a wonderful album full of emotional melodies and delicate rhythms.”

“Quiet” opens with closer coming and receding footsteps, the sound of rain pouring and the delicate keys of a piano with a melodic sound that could easily melt the ears of those not too partial to piano playing. It is coupled with a string section like drone with some backwards loops paning in and out.  It sets the mood for the rest of the album.

“Faraway” opens with a similar piano loop with cascading and receding electronics before glitch beats and cymbals are joined by folktronic elements and rhythmic beats, layered Synth drones and spiraling layered guitars. There are alot of elements going on, but the central part to this whole track is melody which is present in all the parts.

“Drip” opens with reverb laden acoustic guitar coupled with squelchy, glitchy scattershot electronics that seem to inhabit a nowhere zone in the track until a beat rears its head and leads age track in a direction where all the elements unwind into their own space. The most experimental of the tracks so far, it is over before it can start falling apart.

“Forest” is a short minimalist piece where a distant looping rumble falls behind a piano which is accompanied by birdsong. The looping reminds of sounds of a train rolling along wooden tracks and has a broken beat sort of sound to it. The piano has the feel of effects or processing as the notes linger and travel out infusing the track with ambience. 

“Vast” is mostly electronic in nature with the exception being the organic nature of the piano. Electronics filter and flutter, glitches pop in and out, sped up keys run in circles, Synth washes ebb and flow while a metronomic beat gives the track structure and form for the instruments such as the piano to pace alongside. The glitch elements remind me of Nobukazu Takemura. 

“Waterfall” panning backwards loops, drones, field recordings of a storm, guitar form the structure to this track. Without a percussive element it gives the track the feel of an intro as opposed to a fully fleshed track. You are almost waiting for the next section to begin.

“Afterglow” sees Kakimoto return to the fusion of ambient elements of drones, electronics and field recordings alongside guitars, basses and percussion. Some of the percussion in electronic nature, alongside hand claps or snapping of fingers gives it a retro feel. This is the most driving song, but also sharing a light theme on the album with the percussion and guitar leading the way while the Synth drones pulse to provide an extra element of percussion. 

“Nostalgia” sees the layering of acoustic guitars and an electric guitar joined by soft Synth keys that counterpoint the melody of one of the layers of guitars. Unfortunately it is over too briefly as it’s a really pleasant track that could be expanded. 

“Laputa” glitches and static from vinyl are joined by a series of cut up backwards loops one of which evolves onto a part that doesn’t sound like guitar, but some sort of string element, acoustic guitar and electronic tones reminiscent of a phone dial pad. The elements start faded out with a drone coupling the string part alongside the vinyl crackles and electronic tones. Kakimoto shows his strength on fusing elements that seem to be disparate and being able to construct tracks with them.

“Wonderland (Album edit)” makes me wonder if this is from the film or just inspired by it. Layers of drones are joined by electronic blips and blops before a retro percussive Synth section joins on and the more frantic beats reminiscent of earlier track “Drip”, but also give the feeling of a live drummer doing a version of drum n bass. There is a respite part in the middle of the track wwhereas cymbal crash leads to where the beats slow to just bass drum beats the piano and electronics flow before another cymbal crash brings the track back to pace.

Described by the label as being of interest to fans of The Album Leaf, Message to Bears, Epic45 and Miaou (another Sound in Silence artist), this release is fully realised and not tentative. Kakimoto layering and structuring are exemplary and is use of both nature and electronic means are well fused together. Again hats of Mastrokostas’ mastering which is vibrant and clear.