2017 : Twenty of the Best List.

 

TWENTY GREAT RELEASES OF 2017

I have to admit a sense of dread in compiling this list. These lists can be seen as from arbiters of taste and start well before the year ends. Sometimes it seems in competition to be the first to decree which album/label etc to be the finest of the year. I am not an arbiter of taste at all by any stretch of the imagination. This is a simple list of twenty releases I liked this year. There is no ranking, no breakdown into genres or sub groups (sorry, no best Winter albums as well, it’s not winter everywhere). Just a plain old list. My apologies go to those that had sent across material that has yet to be reviewed, but I endeavor to review them all. There is a supplementary list of three re-issues that also caught my attention this year. Without further ado and in no particular order….

 

Lorenzo Masotto “Aeloian Preocesses” (Dronarivm)

“Although I have not heard Masotto’s two previous releases and cannot compare this release to them (nor ascertain if the music matches the title of the album), what is striking is the use of electronic elements and instrumentation that compliment the solo piano. Such is the skill that this could sit comfortably in the Erased Tapes catalog.”

Toàn “Histós Lusis” (Eilean Rec)

“The album has a feel of a well crafted cinematic mix of elements like every single structure, instrument and style was carefully thought out and executed well. This is not an album rushed or one to rush through. The pace of the album is very gentle and it flows smoothly.”

Emilìa “Down To The Sadness River” (Rottenman Editions)

“Yi and Peh construct the album using only bowed guitar and piano to stunning effect. Recently I have been listening to music composed with lots of different elements and instruments, so it is quite a refreshing change to listen to something constructed with such few instruments that is so rich in sound.”

Giulio Fagiolini “Dietro a un Vetro” (Home Normal)

““Dietro a un vetro” is quite a stunning record especially as debut’s go. There is a great range of material and the fact that Giulio shows great restraint in his playing shows that he is in total control. The field of Modern Classical solo piano is one that is full to the brim, but Giulio easily adds to the field without it being simply ‘another piano album’. Totally recommended.”

The Green Kingdom “The North Wind and Sun” (Lost Tribe Sound)

“The production, performing and mixing were all done by Michael Cottone. I can only assume that the recording was done at home as there is no information to where it was recorded. If this is the case Cottone has done an outstanding job with such time and care put into this album which was expertly mastered by Taylor Deupree at 12k Mastering. If you have been a The Green Kingdom you will love this, if you are new to his work go back and get accustomed to his outstanding back catalog. Totally Recommended.”

Francesca Giannico & Giulio Aldinucci “Reframing” (Eilean Rec)

““Reframing” is a work that could be classified as Electroacoustic Ambience and has more than enough depth and variation for sustained listening. It is a perfect headphone listen to pick up all that is happening in the tracks. A mention should be made of the dynamic master of Ian Hawgood.”

Sontag Shogun and Moskitoo “The Things We Let Fall Apart” (Home Normal)

“On this single Sontag Shogun and Moskitoo have ably demonstrated how to collaborate. The way they have been able to fuse their music together and construct it results in an enjoyable listen. Hopefully this is not the only collaboration that the four of them come up with. Totally Recommended.”

From The Mouth Of The Sun “Hymn Binding” (Lost Tribe Sound)

“From The Mouth Of The Sun have delivered a stunning album and have carried on Lost Tribe Sound’s outstanding the Prelude to the Decline series. They show how to make deeply textured music seem effortless and reward the listener with an album to enjoy endlessly. Totally recommended.”

Roberto Attanasio “Behind Those Eyes I Rest” (1631 Recordings)

“As Roberto mentioned in our email exchange in regards to his method of writing /recording his music “The only thing I had to do was transcribe I had in mind, and that was incredible because what you listen to is exactly the song I played in my mind. I didn’t do any change respect to my music thoughts and maybe this is the beauty of the Ep : spontaneous and intimate.”

I think the last word of that quote best sums it up this Ep and the recording style of it. – intimate.”

Bruno Sanfilippo “Lost And Found” (AD21music)

““Lost & Found” sees a collection of material from a wide span of time be collected to form a cohesive album. Some work better than others, my personal preference would be “Soltario” to be shorter, but the album is an enjoyable listen for people looking for more than just a solo piano album.”

Crisopa “Transhumante” (Sound in Silence)

“There are no standouts on the album for me. That is because it is consistently good. There are elements that appear several times over (like the affected vocals) which can make the music a bit samey, but that can attributed to a fair amount artists. What Lizón has created here is an enjoyable, bright listen. It’s the aural equivalent of opening the curtains and letting the light shine in. If you like the artist references at the start of the review, then you will enjoy this album.”

Aidan Baker/ Thor Harris/ Simon Goff “No Place” (Gizeh)

“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.”

Adrian Lane “Playing With Ghosts” (Preserved Sound)

“To say he has achieved something jaw dropping is an understatement. Any concern you have of it being derivative of The Caretaker are easily forgotten.A special mention should go to his collaborators especially Bryan Styles’ Clarinet, which helps formulate many of the albums tracks. This album was released on August 18 in an edition of 150 copies, I urge you to check it out.”

Ghost and Tape “Var” (Home Normal)

“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.”

Jason van Wyk “Opacity” (Home Normal)

““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.”

Polaroid Notes “Unsung Memories” (Whitelab Rec)

“A thoroughly enjoy album from someone who would easily craft a great soundtrack in the future.”

The Prairie Lines “Eyes Down Slowdown” (Whitelab Rec)

“A thoroughly enjoyable release especially if you like your ambience coated in thick haze with layers to peel back and investigate.”

Astrïd & Rachel Grimes “Through The Sparkle” (Gizeh)

“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.””

Dominique Charpentier “Esquisses” (Self released)

“It would be easy to see this ep as something more than it is. It could easily be part of a soundtrack to a feature film. The length of the tracks are perfect and make great little vignettes. For an artist that is used to being self released, he could easily slot into the roster of say 1631 Recordings.”

Totally Recommended.

Akira Kosemura  “In The Dark Woods” (Schole)

“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.”

 

THREE GREAT RE-ISSUES OF 2017

 

Vargkvint “Brus” (Soft Recordings)

“It is fairly easy to see why Soft re-issued this and fits in well with their stable of releases that have included Darren Harper, Kate Carr, EUS and of course Linear Bells. This release is just simply one of those that come along and captivate you from the start and you hope that more than a limited audience gets to experience it.”

William Ryan Fritch “The Sum Of The Parts” (Lost Tribe Sound)

“Throughout these albums Fritch shows his musical chops in the form of composer, musician and recorder. His strength lies in his ability to construct multi layered pieces with an attention to, structure and how the instruments work together. If I were to chose between these two albums Would pick “The Sum of the Parts” purely because my taste leans more to the cinematic feel than the more rustic Alt-Folk that his is familiar with. However, both albums are recommended.”

Jakob Lindhagan “Skorheten” (1631 Recordings)

“Overall this is an impressive album with miniatures that would be great if expanded. It shows of Lindhagen’s talent and flexibility and a composer to use different elements to the tracks so it’s not a case of “same same”. I look forward to what he brings us on his next release. Totally recommended.”

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In Brief: Sana Obruent – August / Vlimmer – Randow (Original Soundtrack).

Two releases from the German label Blackjack Illuminist Records (whose Leonard Donat “Deer Traps” I reviewed some time ago) have been on the list for a while. But a wealth of material being received plus the usual work/life balance have seen them sit in the queue. Time to listen and cover them, although with 33 tracks on the Vlimmer release,  its more a case of an overview.

Sana Obruent is California-based artist Paul Lopez and this is his fourth album with three on Blackjack Illuminist. It follows “Dyatlov” which was by all accounts a Dark Ambient release. “August” sees Lopez go in the opposite direction, Glacial Ambience. According to the label “On his fourth album Paul Lopez sounds as if he wanted to imitate the sound of Icebergs floating by or massive mountain ranges scraping the earth, the new album “August” is intense Drone played with guitars only, bulldozer like, heavy Drone that shakes the listener’s living room walls”

The album which was released on cassette (edition of 15), cdr (edition of 50) and digital has six numbered tracks ranging in length from five minutes to ten minutes and fifty-eight seconds in length. “I” is waves of submerged glacial drones that don’t sound as if they were constructed on guitar. There is a certain amount of distortion to the track which could be explained by the fact that there is no mastering credit which leaves the material sounding raw. “II” the epic of the album follows a similar path with layers of wind-swept like drones with a more sinister desolate edge to them.

“III” features haunting drones that give the listener feelings of isolation. They are more varied than the previous two tracks and are environmental in tone. A glacial / dark ambient balancing act. “IV” the drones sound vaguely orchestral like ringing church bells. They fan out in loops while others circle around. “V” is the album’s epic clocking in at just over eleven minutes. Circular sounding drones change sound to become off kilter and oscillating and are the most synth like of the album. Half way through the track the tempo changes to longer duration and lower intensity.

“VI” takes the album to its conclusion with a darker, harsher track. As if recorded in a snow storm. The sound is bleak with little light visible. There is a change mid way through the track which adds more texture and a more obvious treated guitar sound, but in a similar vein to the original harshness to which the track returns to.

Randow is a podcast/audiobook about a small village located in a proximity of an inexplicable gap in space and tine where Berlin used to Vlimmer’s soundtrack serves as dark and deep, sometimes terrifying, in parts melancholic assistant for an uncanny story which is full of dubious characters and disturbing encounters in strange places”

Vlimmer is an alias of label boss Leonard Alexander Donat. He also records under names like Fir Cone Children, Infravoids, Feverdreamt and others. Clearly he is quite prolific as since this was released he has put out the five track albums/ Ep’s “IIIIIIII (aka 8)” and “IIIIIIII (aka 9)”. All have been released on CD (50 copies)/ Cassette (15 copies)/ Digital.

“Randow” begins with “Hiatus” that mixes pointed synth stabs with fluid waves of drones. A mixture of experimentation meets classic synth ambience with a certain amount of degradation and eerie (if you don’t understand German) voice over.

“Biologie” reminds ever so slightly with its intro of old SPK before the synth progressions that have a sci-fi feel to them. This is carried onto the next track “Stadtkarte” which is an ominous interlude that you can imagine the filmic version having a nasty ending.

“Frage” in it’s five second glory reminds my somehow off the synth sounds of the film “Liquid Sky”, but in a way that has become broken. Its following track “Einbruch” uses bass (presumably from synth) alongside rippling keys or chords that echo out till they disappear alongside vocalized/singing like drones (though no vocals were used on the album) and what sounds like guitar drones.

“Gestalt” could be the standout with its choppy rhythm that emerges from the sound of steam. You get the feeling of a retro-futurist “Blade Runner” type piece which the rhythms are complimented by icy drones which leads the track out to electroacoustic style electronics and more distant narration.

“Gefängnis” utilizes the bass and synth stabs alongside low-level ominous drones which provide a counterpoint in some sections,  but also compliment in others and add to the sense of unease and otherworldliness. The word “Gefängnis” refers to a place of captivity so this could possibly refer to the fictitious “Randow” in the sense of being stuck in the gap of the space time continuum or as a jail located in Randow.

“dliblegeipS” is “Spiegelbild” backwards which is the German word for mirror and features layers of drones that float over each other before narration comes in. Not knowing any German I can ony guess at whether the meaning of the title or the theme is revealed in the narration.

“Walddämmerung” features guitar which adds a different element, by still retains the similar feel. Drones cascade in the background with an ominous quality and some sort of their sounds occur which sound like people talking undescipherably.

“Selbstzweifel” which translates to self-doubt is the albums epic track with its slow rumble of industrial elements , the muted sound of decay and distance alongside buried sounds that morph into harsh drones that overwhelm the sound like a swarm. The sound varies in the final minutes with less rumble and more of a constant throb of the industrial-esque sounds alongside the noisier elements.

As a comparison between two albums on the same label, I feel one works and the other doesn’t. The Sana Obruent release, for me, needs some more variation. As there is no mastering credit mentioned and I am taking that it is unmastered. If this is the case I am sure mastering could elicit some more details to the material. As for Vlimmer, there is enough variation through the music and track lengths (the shorter tracks give a filmic interlude feel) to easily ustain the eighty minute length.

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

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

An interview with Lost Tribe Sound’s Ryan Keane.

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In the first in an occasional series bringing light to those that are responsible the physical release of music, I sent off some questions to Lost Tribe Sound boss Ryan Keane. Ryan is responsible for releases from William Ryan Fritch, The Green Kingdom, Graveyard Tapes, Western Skies Motel, Part Timer and others. There will be more reviews of the LTS catalog to come, but in the meantime please enjoy this interview.

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Please introduce yourself. Why did you start Lost Tribe Sound? Did you have experience with music before starting the label? Is it a one man operation?

Hi DAF, thanks for taking the time to talk with me. I’m Ryan Keane, owner at LTS. Lost Tribe Sound originally started as a way for my buddy Andrew Sanchez and I to release the music we made as Tokyo Bloodworm back in 2007. After one self release we decided it was a better idea to release with a more established label, so we reached out to Andrew and Craig at Moteer to release our next two albums.

In 2009, I had the crazy notion I could take on releasing music from other artists. Enter William Ryan Fritch’s Vieo Abiungo project. And yes, I am technically a one man operation. Of course all the musicians, visual artists, and fans play a big part in keeping me busy. But I am the PR team, the art & video department, the packing & shipping division, manufacturing and the complaint department.

From the outside looking in you and William Ryan Fritch have a close relationship. How did you meet/come across his music? How important to Lost Tribe Sound is he?

William and I first met in Tempe, AZ where I was living at the time, he came down from Flagstaff to play a show that my musical project Tokyo Bloodworm was also scheduled to play. I ended up backing out of the show, but I’d become interested in his music from some of the samples online so I decide to attend. William and I hit it off almost immediately, discussing our similar taste in music for artists such as Muslimgauze, Manyfingers and Bonnie Prince Billy to name a few. At that point, I mentioned it might be fun to release some of William’s music he had posted from his experimental ethno-centric project Vieo Abiungo. It immediately struck me as the sound I had been hoping someone would create for years. Deep drums, modern classical elements, textured as hell, and it dipped in the realm of world music without coming off as cheesy or contrived.

It’s easy for me to say, that without William Ryan Fritch there would be no Lost Tribe Sound. He has definitely been the most crucial and central artist on our roster. His talents as a multi-instrumentalist are unparalleled. The rough-hewn and organic approach Fritch delivers on all of his releases, speaks so perfectly to the central vision I had for Lost Tribe Sound from the beginning. The fact that we still speak almost daily, and that he’s trusted LTS to release 26 of his albums since 2010, I realize is an unbelievable privilege. Fritch is my closest ally, a best friend, and the most talented individual I ever had the opportunity to work with. I always remind him he needs to remember the little people when he is famous one day.

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You also do publishing/licensing with Settled Scores. How did this come about? Do you represent other artists than those on Lost Tribe Sound?

Settled Scores is the licensing arm of Lost Tribe Sound. It has been a slow burning project since 2013 or so, spawning from much of the work for film that William Ryan Fritch was bringing in. We expanded the licensing end to include other artists from the LTS roster and beyond in 2014, working with clients like GoPro cameras and an ever-growing list of indie film makers and forward thinking companies. Including the LTS roster, we represent catalogs for a select group of artists who approach making music in a similarly rustic and unique way. The goal behind Settled Scores is to show commercial, tv and film makers that we offer a great alternative the highly overused and often times drab music that seems to dominate the industry. I personally love seeing a high action scene set to music that is more contemplative and out of the ordinary, it adds a tension and interest to the shot, that no canned “action music” could even touch (example).

I’m hoping that more directors move in this direction, as there is a big beautiful world of experimental and extraordinary music out there that deserves their attention. Our Settled Scores roster outside of the LTS catalog currently includes works from Christoph Berg, Skyphone, Aaron Martin, James Murray, Anne Garner, Wickerbird, Glacis, Kyle Bobby Dunn and Mid-Wife to name a few.

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What quality do you look for in a release for Lost Tribe Sound? Do you accept demos?

There is no set genre or style I hold a LTS release to. I am more attracted to the vibe and mood the music offers. Usually, LTS releases tend to be less electronic, with a focus on real instrumentation. Not to say they can’t feature electronic elements but it is more about the nature in which they are treated. I love music when it is hard to place a time or region it may have come from. Of course rustic, dark, pulsing blends of folk, classical and ancient sounding rhythmic oddities always hit the spot, yet I feel like we also managed to created our own intriguing take on pop, indie and rock music as well. I’ve tried to get in the frame of mind of gathering more seasons within the music, yet the winter and fall toned music always seems to have the biggest draw for me.

Not opposed to receiving demos if the artist has really checked out the music we release and really gets it. Most LTS releases come by way of a friend of friend type situation, but every now and then I come across an artist and fall in love, enough to reach out to them and see if they are interested in releasing on LTS. It’s just hard releasing all the music I enjoy on the label. Just because I like an album doesn’t mean it is the best thing to release on LTS. I have to really love it, usually listening to it over a period of month, to make sure the music stays with me emotionally. Running a small operation I have to be overly picky, since one or two poorly received physical releases can really make or break my budget.

How important is the visual identity of packaging and format to the label? It’s a pretty huge part of label. I’d say the artwork is the second most important part of the release, outside of the music sounding amazing and carrying the right impact. Keeping with the vibe of the music, most of the artwork we choose fits that timeless, rustic vibe I am a sucker for. Sometimes the artist brings the art to the table and other times, I get to work on the artwork and design from scratch. This happens to be my most favorite things I get to do running the label. We’ve had the chance to work with some of the most amazing visual artists over the years, like Joao Ruas, Gregory Euclide, Jamie Mills and Sail. They’re some of the most exciting illustrators and fine artists in the modern-day, so blown away by the depth and detail they bring to their art. I always try to treat each LTS release like a piece of fine art, from the cover design to the music within.

Sometimes I creating handcrafted packaging to give it the feel it deserves, hopefully coming off like a precious artifact. For example, the new panoramic CD editions for this year’s Prelude to the Decline (Subscription Series), I wanted to design a case that felt substantial and provided a much larger canvas for the artwork than standard CD packaging provides. I tested a lot of materials and different paper stocks in the design, also figuring out how the metal screws would work into the design. The end result feels and looks amazing, so hopefully when fans hold them in their hands they will get a sense of how much love went into them.

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2017 is a pretty ambitious year with the great Prelude to the Decline series. Have you looked beyond the year or are concentrating on the releases from that schedule?

It has been an ambitious year with the series, perhaps too ambitious, as I’ve barely had time for anything else.  I’ve already hand-built over 600 CD cases, hand-numbering them all, along with the hand-numbered the vinyl editions. Oddly enough even with the generous deal the subscription series offers, the response to subscribe to it has been slow.  Not sure if it’s just the uncertainty times we are living in or what, but I stand behind it as perhaps the greatest thing the label has managed to pull off.
We are still looking to the future with Lost Tribe Sound, we have a few amazing releases lined up for next year already from a couple of my favorite artists Skyphone and Spheruleus, along with a brilliant new release from a lesser known artist, Phonometrician, that should have fans drooling. Fritch may go into a slow down period in 2018. He’s been on such a rampage of releases over the last few years, we figured it might be a good idea to put some distance between them. Perhaps this will help folks realize his brilliance and better appreciate his work. That said, we may still have a surprise or two from him in 2018.  We’ll see how many more years of LTS I have left in me. I treat each release like it was my baby, so it is not always easy on the psyche when a release does poorly, or is just not well received by the public.  If I am no longer feeling useful to the artists or the music community any longer than what’s the point.
I think a lot of labels face concerns of adequacy, I rarely mention it publicly with regard to LTS.  But it is always in the back of my mind. Pushing to get real press for a release, selling enough copies to have a physical edition make sense, and being able to pay our artists something decent always stresses me out. My main love has always been the music, but not being able to create a beautiful physical edition anymore would really make me lose interest. The fans we have are very supportive, and send some great encouragement (usually when I need it the most), but it still bums me to see those waste-of-space download sites passing around our artist’s releases for free like they’re worthless.  Moaning aside, I think real music fans know to show their support through buying the music from the labels and artists they love.  It’s so vital to continuing to bring high quality music into the world.  So in that, I have hope for the future of LTS.

 

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Many thanks for Ryan talking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about the label via the following :

Losttribesound.com

Losttribesound.bandcamp.com

Soundcloud.com/losttribesound

https://www.youtube.com/user/Losttribesound

William Ryan Fritch x 2 – The Old Believers & The Sum of the Parts.

If there ever was such a relationship between a label and its artist that is responsible for such a wealth of material as there is between Fritch and Lost Tribe Sound, I would be surprised to find one. 2015 saw the “Leave Me Sessions” series which saw a total of 11 albums (over six and a half hours in total, spread over CD, digital and vinyl) released to subscribers. Lost Tribe Sound has released over 20 of his albums including those under the Vieo Abiungo moniker.

“The Old Believers” and “The Sum of the Parts” were two soundtracks that were part of the aforementioned “Leave Me Sessions” and sees them gain a wider release with both releases getting new artwork and “The Old Believers” having an additional 8 tracks from other works that compliment the original album. With such a wealth of material , I have selected tracks from each release to focus on.

Lost Tribe Sound boss Ryan Keane has this to say about these albums: “It should be noted, that calling ‘The Old Believers’ and ‘Sum Of Its Parts’ soundtracks paints an incomplete picture. Too often the genre or classification of “soundtrack” brings to mind sloppily arranged carbon copies of a film’s cues; often just a few main themes and a collection of one minute tracks that, when not set to picture, fall short of an overall worthy listen.”

This last statement is noted when listening to these albums as while short in length (length ranging from 1:14 to 4:06), the pieces don’t seem to be vignettes or have a different musical style to represent different moods. You would be none the wiser if you did not know of their soundtrack status.

“The Old Believers” is a documentary short film that tells the story of a group of Russian Orthodox Christians who are attempting to preserve their 17th century way of life in 21st century America and coping with surrounding modernization and internal conflicts.”

“Of A different time” opens the album with violin drones and cello that cut a mournful feel and also one with a hint of nostalgia laid over the faintest fielf recordings. Shimmering strings lead into a section of isolated percussion while violin repeats a fast rhythm that drops out to return to the original mournful cello and an ambient sounding string section to the fade out.

Acoustic guitar with gentle tones comes into the mix on the track “Clouded Was Every Prospect” (not on the original album) which becomes the bed for a variety of string sections such as cello and violin to attach themselves to and veer the piece between such styles as folk, modern classical and ambient. There is deft texture and layering of instruments that give both depth and feel to the piece. Judging by the title of the track but not seeing the film, it’s for a section of the film presumably where no decision is ultimately the best one. This could be heard in the musical territory covered.

“Left to Wander” sees percussive guitar that is roughly plucked and strummed with some minimal bass drum beats woven into an alt – folk tapestry with different speed of instruments as strings such as cello and violin with some clattering, while others are gently strummed. Sounds like something that could come out on the Constellation label.

“Still and Dense Solitude” (not on original album) sees layered classical guitar with a slight Spanish feel accompanied by the bass rumbles of cello and soaring violin with all instruments propelling in the same direction and speed. As opposed to other tracks that see the instruments and their sounds juxtaposed, these sounds compliment each other and they all build up with the same pace in the second half of the track.

“Who fell the Last Tree” (not on original album) fuses a lush Ambient intro alongside picked and scratchy violin with field recordings and a haunting multilateral drone and percussion. The field recordings which sound like someone walking through snow are paired with a shaker like instrument that gives the impression of an axe being swung into a tree. The Ambient touches, the first for the album give the track a much different feel than others while still retaining the core instrumentation and overall theme.

“By the Letter” is a beautiful interlude with gently played acoustic guitar with a lead element played over the rhythm that has a feel of distance , while a near silent drone slowly increases in volume from the shadows to be the feature element as the guitar almost abruptly stops. When listening to this track I am visualizing a scene where images of the past are superimposed overprotect times.

“We Fear Change” is a multi layered piece with at least five different things going on at the once – from the likes of delicately finger picked guitars, bass drones,violins and percussion elements (but maybe not traditional percussion instruments). A highly layered and textural piece that while packed with elements is not stuffy or claustrophobic. The layered guitars propel the track with the elements like violin providing the mournful quality like the title would imply. Possibly the standout track on the album.

“The Last Frost” is pure drone piece where a central drone emerges at a slow pace that is vibrating while accompanied by a lighter melodic one which is mimicing its texture, while a more celestial drone starts creeping in trying to come through which it briefly does just before the track finishes.

“The Old Believers” features a similar motif to that of “We Fear Change” and “Clouded Was Every Prospect” in respect to the guitar playing which has the natural unadorned picking style. It doesn’t take long for other elements to come in such as bass drum beats, violins, drones and very sad sounding cello. Fritch gives each instrument its chance but also gives the track the space to breathe with elements such as the cello and drones retreating and the focus being brought back to the rhythms created by the acoustic guitars. It is a well measured track with sections that overlap give depth and continuation.

“‘The Sum Of Its Parts,’ the feature film from award winning filmmaker/editor Fiona Otway’s introduces some of the world’s foremost robot researchers alongside tomorrow’s future leaders in robotics. This film explores the messy front lines of the crusade to make robots part of our everyday experience. From initial sketches, to soldering wires, to programming actions and performing experiments “in the wild”, scientists, high school students, and artists obsessed with bringing robots to life are shaping a new era in our relationship with technology. Yet, by observing their successes and failures along the way, what becomes clear is that robots actually have a lot to teach us about what it means to be human.”

The obvious idea for composer when writing for a film that is about robotics and future technology is to do a futurist (or retro futurist) electronic soundtrack. Fritch doesn’t take that approach, instead he ops for making the music more orchestral, large scale and sounding epic.

“The Sum of the Parts” has a radiant drone opening this string driven mini opus with the quality you would expect from a Clint Mansell soundtrack. Cutting strings, bowing cello’s and drones wrap around each other, building up each layer with a driving quality. The feel is reminiscent of a scene of a movie where the central or climatic part of the movie is happening. Subtle bass drum keeps the pace while the strings build up speed.

“Idling” is a short track with an ambient loop leading the intro makes you think it will remain in this genre, but it becomes a string driven track with a ‘glassy’ ambient feel. The combination of cello and violin mixes with the prominent ambience and acoustic guitar to a very light and summery feel. Is like a modern classical track without the austerity.

“Mechanized” You get the feeling of wonder when listening to a track like this at how one artist can come out with such layered pieces such as these. With violin strings sawing over the thump of a cello accompanied by a swarm of strings that’s literally at least 5 or 6 different sections all working together in support if each other. Time is given to let each instrument shine with elements being tge focus before retreating into the background to reveal itself once more.

“Gnashing Metals” starts with a thump of cello before entering a section of a series of violin pieces, presumably prepared piano with a toy like sound and picking or scraping sounds of string instruments to create this motorik piece that has a driving nature and falls in this almost bleak apocalyptic alt-folk sound with its clanging instruments.

“Unfounded” the return to the cinematic soundtrack as mentioned in the title track is the hallmark of this track. All encompassing ambience with classical strings that move in a glacial pace and have a haunting mournful sound to them. The strings lilt and waft before xylophone heralds in the low timbres of the cello to add bottom drone that is almost entirely droned out by the strings as they gain in intensity and and total domination over the track till towards the end where just the ambience, xylophone and bass drum remain.

Throughout these albums Fritch shows his musical chops in the form of composer, musician and recorder. His strength lies in his ability to construct multi layered pieces with an attention to, structure and how the instruments work together. If I were to chose between these two albums Would pick “The Sum of the Parts” purely because my taste leans more to the cinematic feel than the more rustic Alt-Folk that his is familiar with. However, both albums are recommended.