Tim Linghaus – Memory Sketches.

“Memory is the faculty of the mind by which information is encoded, stored and retrieved. Memory is vital to experiences and Limbic systems, it is the retention over time of information for the purpose of influencing future actions. (Sherwood, 2015) If we could not remember past events, we could not learn or develop language, relationships nor personal identity.(Eysenck, 2012)”

 

Memory plays an important part in the make up of a person, these can include pleasurable and also traumatic memories. It’s understandable then, that in the Modern Classical and Ambient community’s, that releases devoted to the times in the life of the artist are increasing in their numbers. Influential works such as Basinski’s many releases, The Caretaker numerous albums and many more.

Tim Linghaus on his debut full length album “Memory Sketches” which is released on March 30 on the Schole and 1631 Recordings labels, delves into significant moments in his past. From pleasant memories such as crossing the inner German border after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 through to the sadder ones like the passing of his father. The majority of the memories are from growing up in the 80’s and 90’s with the most recent being the afore-mentioned passing of his father in 2002.

As Linghaus talks about the importance of memories: “What I know is memories help me to define who I am. They establish connection between me and everything that is not present or future – sometimes sharp or palpable, more often soft and frail. Unfortunately, some memories fade away irrecoverably. Hence I am quite afraid of losing them. The idea behind Memory Sketches is to give particular memories a form, to preserve them if you like.

As the title suggests the tracks on the album are short with an average running time of a little over a minute, which perfectly captures the essence of a memory which is generally a snapshot of time rather than a full-blown narrative. Over the sixteen tracks Linghaus, with the occasional help of Sebastian Selke (aka CEEYS) on cello utilizes an upright piano alongside synthesizer and the use of noises to, as Linghaus says “emphasizes the vague/blurry quality of most of the memories”

The album opens with “LOOKING FOR DAD IN RADIO NOISE” a half-minute static meets hypnotic loops meets noise with a brief flurry of sci-fi synth towards the end. The static nicely runs into “COMING HOME FROM GRADUATION , PT. 1 (YEARBOOK)” a melancholic slice of piano and cello dusted in a layer of sonic detritus and skipping field recordings including some buried dialog before naturally folding in to “DRIVE ME SOMEWHERE NICE” a natural piano recording with some field recordings and additional synth adding texture to the nakedness of the piano, which while not melancholic, does have a pensiveness to and a feeling of slight despair. The synths add to the mood as if the person needs to be taken somewhere nice to alleviate their mood.

“CROSSING BORNHOLMER” refers to the crossing which was one of the first opened between East and West Berlin following the falling of the wall. Dominated by Selke’s cello, the feeling is rather grand and austere, like a significant moment in time in the protagonists life. There is a certain weight to the piece that for all of its sixty-seven seconds in length makes the piece feel a lot bigger. “INTO THE DARKER ARCHICTECTURE OF YOURS” is a swirling drone piece with record groove static and is the second epic of the album coming in at over two and a half minutes long. The drones are joined by natural piano recordings of the minimal variety before veering with the addition of synths and a drum machine into vapourwave territory. The music has a real 80’s feeling that is fused with modern classical and ambient and it works really well. It doesn’t feel this a patchwork, it just flows seamlessly.

“C IN SHOENHAUSER” is light and fragile solo piano piece (adorned by the afore-mentioned static) that comes across slightly stark in its feel. At the end of the track swirling noise takes over the end of the track before a final note stretches out a cross it. “RX” takes us once more into vapourwave territory ala Oneohtrix Point Never with its looping synth progressions that are joined ever so slightly by a complimentary synth section and the beginnings of what sounds like military drumming, but more like insistent static which is drowned out by the pulsing synth loops before they fade out.

“ME IN YOUR REAR-VIEW MIRROR (BOYS DON’T CRY)” is the albums full-blown track that finds the pianos hammers, keys and peddles joined by chimes, radiating out lower in the mix drone and static. The piano playing feels as the track progresses, that it is breaking down. It becomes less present as if in real life with someone leaving the person is originally stoic, but then break down or become despondent and close off. “D(e)AD EYES” combines spindly electronics, static and submerged and murky piano lines in its brief existence. I am not sure of the musical narrative, but I hazard a guess that the piano is for alive, bright alert eyes and as the electronics take over and the track disintegrates towards the end, that is the change to lifeless eyes.

“GRANDMAS DEATHBED, PT. V (ROXY MUSIC IN THE RV)” is a melancholy rich piano piece with the tiniest amount of detritus with a welcome return with the subtle cello, being understated, but essential. Quite a heartfelt piece that you would love to hear expanded in a grand scale. “FUNERAL FOR DAD, PT. II (IT WAS NICE TO KNOW YOU)” continues, naturally, in the mournful feel with natural piano paired with cello drones that are initially lower in the mix, but have enough presence to add to the track, before soaring a bit more into the listener’s attention. Field recordings of people talking mixed with some sort of movement (possibly water) lead into the second movement with the piano tone feeling like it has gone from mournful to a reflective one, once more joined by the subtle cello. You feel with this track that there is a narrative in process rather than just a brief glimpse and it works well.

“WE WILL NEVER COME HERE AGAIN (LAMENT)” a colorful piano piece that unlike the title does not feel that it is a sad thing. The music conveys a sense of realization, but also understanding in that things have changed and the music feels like it’s looking forwards rather than backwards. “ADVENTURE PARK” is full of hazy synth drones that soar and oscillate with a concertina like sound to them, as if you are riding on a carousel.

“SONG FOR S” I am not sure who “S” is in Linghaus’ life, but just from this brief one minute and fifteen second song it is clear that they mean (or possibly meant) a lot for him. The music is composed of slow deliberate piano playing dripping in melancholy that is thoughtful alongside the orchestral qualities of cello which adds to the mournfulness of the piece. Just before the end however, is the briefest ray of light with a small ambient section less than ten seconds long which switches the tone slightly in a more joyful tone.

“I WAS ATOMS AND WAVES” consists of bubbling electronics that float and pulse alongside detritus, buried crystalline piano sounds, breathy with the cello cutting swathes through in and out. Very loop based with the exception being the cello which changes slightly as the piece goes on. The most electronic and abstract track on the album it stands apart from the other material as it has less defined structure and could represent a more blurry memory or just something that has just a more relaxed feel to it.

“YOU IN OUR REAR-VIEW MIRROR (CEMETARY PARK)” a piano piece that is full of natural ambiance with the piano’s creaking and hammers adding to the piece, but not overpowering it. The recording of the track reveals a rich tone that is not stark, but also has a certain fuzziness to it, especially as the notes ring out. The pace of the track varies as it foes through movements where some have a feel of the protagonist looking forward and other times reflecting back. The section with long stabs of piano feels to be the most poignant and reflective part and this naturally brings the track (and the album to the end).

With this album Linghaus is not re-inventing the wheel, but he adds his own personal touch to it tempered with a real intimate and authentic feel. In a world where piano albums are becoming a dime a dozen “Memory Sketches” effortlessly ruses to the top. Recommended.

You can order the album here.

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Lars Jakob Rudjord – Pharos.

“Pharos” is the latest single from Norwegian Modern Classical pianist/composer released on Fyrlyd records on February 23rd. It is the first track released since his acclaimed 2016 album “Indiepiano”.

According to Lars : “Sometimes you need to get out of your studio. There is an old lighthouse a few miles from my home, and the area is just so beautiful. Windy, Sunny and with a wide view to the North Sea, it’s a great place to clear your mind and get inspiration. There is a small art gallery with a piano next to the lighthouse, and I got to borrow the keys for a couple of days. I ended up writing and recording Pharos.”

“Pharos” refers to the lighthouse Pharos of Alexandria in Egypt which is one of the seven wonders of the world and the archetype for all lighthouses. There are various forms of symbolism for lighthouses from the darker side like danger or risk through to the lighter side of being alert and navigating through rough waters.

The music on Lars’ single falls in the latter side of the symbolism equation. The music is open, light, grand and with a sense of melody and narrative. Lars lives on the Southwest Coast of Norway, a windswept area and his music has been described as having an icy sound that is truly Nordic. This doesn’t come through in the piece.

The track opens with measured mid paced tones that are joined by a melodic, but airy violin drone section before the track moves in a cinematic direction that conjures up images of the sky, clouds and being above things. For a modern classical piece it has a fair amount of ambiance embedded in it. The music moves from this section to one that is similar to the start of the track and is quite melancholic which rather quickly changes the tone and feeling of the piece. The music has a raw quality to it where you can hear the idiosyncrasies of the piano and it lends to a more intimate recording. The track ends with a return to quicker paced playing alongside the restrained violin which nicely ends the track.

This is the first piece of music from Lars Jakob Rudjord that I have heard and I am curious to hear more. The feeling for me is of a soundtrack composer in a modern classicalists skin such is the visual feeling of the material. As it only goes for a little over three minutes on length you will be pressing start all over again. Recommended.

Lars Jakob Rudjord

Fyrlyd Records

In Brief: Good Weather For An Airstrike/ Corre/ The Volume Settings Folder.

One of the goals of the blog is to attempt to cover everything sent. Bear in mind that this is a solo blog and I have the usual work/life balancing act, it has got to the point where weekly submissions have easily exceeded output and subsequently the review queue has shown no sign of slowing down. The In Brief sectioning is for brief reviews to attempt to alleviate this queue. All work featured here are releases I recommend, but unfortunately don’t have the time for the usual big reviews.

Good Weather for an Airstrike is the long running project of Tom Honey. “Little Steps” is his ninth album with some of these self released, through his Hawk Moon label or via outlets like Sound in Silence, Hibernate or Rural Colors. This particular release is his first on vinyl and was put out by Sun Sea Sky Productions.

According to the label: “Little Steps” offers ten carefully and meticulously crafted tracks, combining elegant guitar work with hazy ambient field recordings to evoke feelings of traversal, transporting the listener through a fragile tapestry of ethereal ambient-inspired electronic post-rock.

The label have described this well as the tracks range from Ambient soaked Dream Pop of “Hello, Darling” with its soaring Ambience, thoughtful minimal guitar lines and welcoming melodies which sets the tone for a bright, light filled release through to the beats, descending piano lines, field recordings, backwards loops and slightly twangy guitar sounds of “Each Day is Different” which acts like part of an intro of “A Cold Like No Other”. This particular track carries on the backwards loops and focuses on the electronic side of GWFAA with delicate melodies bouncing around over lush synth washes. The title track features Liam J Hennessy (formerly known as Umber and who put out “Held” last year on Sound in Silence) on Guitar and Tom’s brother Rob on drums. This particular track is the purest electronic post rock on the album with long stretches of Ambience, off kilter melodies, fractured beats and country-esque guitar lines that give it a soundtrack feel.

Going backwards we have “Every Day’s New” which starts with light Ambience that is soaring, a minimal beat, spaced piano lines which has a further piano section and some tremolo guitar layered over it before martial drumming takes the drumming into an uplifting section before the track starts breaking down its elements and then reconstructing them in a different order with the guitar’s contemplative chords leading the track back into its rebirth. There is no rush, no sense of urgency, just control and pacing.

“Blossom” sounds like a church organ washing over the listener with a paired guitar line sneaking out of the side of it. This track features the ethereal voice of Lauren Honey that forms part of the Ambience and is complimented by chimes of some sort and aquatic sounding piano which sounds like water droplets.

“A Week Away” is a short vignette dominate by the short cut up backwards sounds that flutter about before being submerged in the mix of heavy synth drones that then subside revealing a delicate piano section that just leaves you wanting more. “Enemy” sounds positively uplifting compared to the title. Buried loops that oscillate under a cloak of drones are joined by field recordings of a small child and birds while icy cold drones with static clinging to them circle around creating this rich sound tapestry. Cascading piano lines that bounce around are joined by metronomic beats adding a dimension alongside the subtle guitar sections.

“Strawberries” features solo piano that is quickly submerged by drones that sound distant but loud. Field recordings and additional soaring drones which creep up and start to engulf the track join in creating a push/pull feel with the positioning of the elements as each one takes their place in the focus of the listener. “Just One More Evening” is a perfect end to the album. The soaring drones that have been a central point through out are paired with two guitar sections that have different tones, from the post rock like picking to the blues – like explorations. A further section of drones come across siren like in the way the enter one side and exit out with a slight reprise afterwards.

I have never been disappointed by one of GWFAA’s releases and this is no exception. Tom Honey makes it seem so effortless such is his ability to construct music with such melody and combination of elements that can reappear over an album, but yet not feel stale at all. Recommended.

Corre (pronounced Koh-ra) are an Audio/Visual collective from the UK who released the album “Form” on Akira records in October of last year. The label states: “Influenced by classical crossover composers like Nils Frahm and Max Richter, composer artist duo Henry Green and Hattie Ellis wanted to explore the ways in which a cross-genre alliance could be formed between electronic and classical music.”

The album is a collection of 10 relatively short pieces (approximately 30 minutes in total length) that will be leaving you wanting more, which is naturally a good thing. The feeling of the classical crossover is that they are leaning more on the electronic side of the fence.

The album opens with “A Spark, A Beginning” which sets the tone with its use of electronics alongside a bare piano with occasional scattered beats, low-key melodies, snatches of sound, washes of drones, etc… Everything is somewhat submerged, but close to the surface. “Aeon” sounds like bouncing electronic balls attracted to glitches with muted affected minimalist piano stabs alongside a repeating melody. A harmonica like drones snakes its way in and out alongside more traditional synth lines before the tempo picks up and the elements start working together to create this mist tinged electronics piece.

“Vast” feels composed of barely there elements such as the electronics which are used more as a rhythm than a melody piece. As further elements are introduced such as guitar and synth, the track emerges from its shell to open up its vision before returning to the earlier minimal beginnings.

“Signal” feels like a storm or bad weather is on its way with the use of a rather orchestral drone which is light and airy alongside weather infused field recordings. Beats enter as if they were performed by a version of Kraftwerk that was formed in the late 90’s as opposed to 1970 with a speed that is at odds with the rest of the other elements such as the drones which bathe the track out to its finish.

“Signal” fuses the organic with the electronic with retro futurist electronica meeting modern classical piano to create a reflective, but association introspective piece which is probably caused by the piano, but also enhanced by the repetitive loops at the end of the track.

“Proceed” feels like a pure ambient electronica piece with piano sections repeating alongside Robert Fripp like ambient guitar and scattershot beats that are joined by skittering sounds, both of which build up the track and them transport it into the next section which is dominated by melodic beats, washes of static noises and soft electronics.

“Transient (A)” buries the piano under cloaks giving the sound a nostalgic blurry edge while light flowing drones give a hint of melody, but do not dominate. Field recordings add a layer of detritus before the cloak is removed and suddenly the piano becomes clear and vibrant which leads to “Transient (B)” which sounds like the organic and natural flip side of the previous track. Crystal clear without a hint of something cloaking it the melody that was performed by piano is replaced by guitar (with some piano alongside it). This particular version has a classic post rock/ ambient feel and, for me, is the highlight of the album.

“Refuge” has washes of synth that start the track off, but then become a base for other elements to be added such as guitar, reverberating dub like sounds, melancholic piano that change the texture ever so slightly by increasing the pace of some instruments while retaining the original languid pace of others.

“Form” the title track starts with electronic rippling glitches that are joined by thick synth waves and warped sounds that echo around. As the track continues the music gradually peaks in its intensity before fading and never going over the edge.

As debuts go, this is rather stunning. The good news is Henry Green has a new album coming out shortly which, if this is an indication of the type of music he is capable of coming up, will be well worth the listen.

When you think of artists or labels that put together outstanding artwork and packages for their releases labels like Time Released Sound and Fracture/ Fluid Audio come to mind. One artist that has been doing this for his numerous release is Fillippo Bordigato aka The Volume Settings Folder. He has a wealth of self released music, but has also appeared on labels such as Organic Industries and Oscarson. “Hamlets” released in December is his most recent.

The story surrounding the release unfolds as: “During summer 2016 I visited a friend of mine who lives 50 kilometers away from my village, still here in North-East Italy. There was a big flea market in the town. We passed by lots of sellers. One in particular stuck with me, an old man selling all kinds of old pictures at unreasonably high price. I came home empty-handed. Months later I visited the market again, this time determined to bring home a set of beautiful aerial pictures I spotted during the previous visit. I already envisioned how to use them for a new album because they sparkled something, but I was not sure what. The man was still firmly decided not to lower the price for me. So I bought only one, for forty euros.
The picture is astonishing, in my opinion, also given the fact that it is a composite aerial view shot 99 years ago, in 1918, over the fields and marshes of the Venice Laguna. 2017 arrived and I had no new material to publish. Plus I got a new, stiff job. The pacing of my daily life changed dramatically. Weekends became a time-space to live entirely and properly, and also the only time left for my music. I composed a lot on the go, while clearing my mind among the lands of the laguna. I dusted my old tape recorder, and maximized its use to its broadest extent in my personal music making to date.
So after over a year I found that real place, and that aerial view found its music in an album about tension and release. A coming and going to the many places I explored in the few hours I had. An ode to all the villages and parishes, hamlets drowned in fog and mud.’

The album has a submerged dust soaked transmissions from the past feel to it. Opening with “Leaving the Dry Lands” there is an ominous drone which casts its gaze over granular broken transmissions of field recordings and fractured sound that reveal a sharp melody. “White Maize” has a haze attached to the acoustic guitar with field recordings. It’s almost like tape loops that have been exposed to the elements and are warped. Scattershot electrical sound shoot across randomly as a natural sort of Ambience is created under all the elements.

“Canola” features gritty field recordings alongside warped sounds and deep buried guitar that has a bass tone for depth. There is a storm/torrid wind-swept feel to the piece that covers over most of the track.

“Sorgum” follows similar territory to the opening two tracks, but this time there is a more constant drone feel that underpins everything. The warped sounds remain alongside some sort of random picking, but its the drones that make the track which could stand out a bit more if the other elements were omitted.

“The Tics and the Tocs” turns the album on its head with full swells of Ambience alongside what sounds like recordings of naturally occurring electricity. Toy like instruments make innocent sounds and playful melodies alongside tightening string sounds and seagull squaks. As the track progresses stormy static noises start to make their presence known alongside the warping sounds and a bassy tone gives the track a different tone. At just under 10 minutes in length it is the albums epic and if there was a slight bit of editing to bring forth some of the elements more to the center of the piece that would make it that little bit better.

“No Tillage” piles the haze on deep and thick relying on the listener to listen deeply and pull back the layers to reveal the music underneath. There are snatches of melody and rumbles of rhythm under drones and haze with the warped sounds making their distorted and decayed appearance once more.

“Landlubber” sounds like an exposed 78rpm recorded played for the first time after years of neglect. Church like rhythms and melodies struggle to be heard under years of dirt and grime and posses a haunting ghostly quality that has a certain twang to it. By the end of the track the melody and music has taken more a central spot with the detritus somewhat starting to fade as the drone wins out in the end.

“Grove of Reeds” features clattering field recordings entwined with minimal piano and tape loops. The piano has a stark but also lyrical quality to it and the playing varies from light and delicate to more heavy-handed full sounding. The recording is subdued which gives it a distant feel and while not cloaked like the other tracks, it is somewhat muted. An airy drone cuts through adding another texture to the piece, which due to instrumentation stands out from the rest of the album.

“Laguna Rising – Neon Flares Dripping Down My Spine” the warped sounds return with a vocal like drone, manipulated guitar pieces, snatches of sound that enter briefly and then depart sometimes looping back in. There are elements of beauty that start to reveal themselves after the four-minute mark like an accordion like drone and rolling melodic chimes that ripple out.

“Hamlets” is a release for those that love submerged music that has hidden elements in that are not all revealed at once. There is, for me a bit too much use of the warped elements that appear throughout the album. The album works well when other elements are introduced like the piano on “Grove of Reeds” which for me is the highlight.

Ljerke – Ljerke.

The first Eilean Rec release for the new year may just be their most ambitious one yet. The debut album by Ljerke, a collective of like minds artists comes as a multi media package with a DVD included that is a visual realization of the album from Netherlands and Icelandic artists Marco Douma + Haraldur Karlsson.

“Ljerke is a multidisciplinary live project which took form in the Frisian landscape as as source of inspiration. (which on a tourist website is described as “as Dutch as it gets. Blue skies with impressive cloudscapes. Vast meadows, in which cows graze amid narrow ditches. Sheep dotting an old dike with a village church on a hillock in the distance”). The project includes some music artists from Netherlands (Romke Kleefstra on guitar and effects, Jan Kleefstra on poetry and voice, Sytze Pruiksma on percussion, dulcimer and guitar with effects ) and Norway (Alexander Rishaug on electronics, Hilde Marie Holsen on trumpet and effects, Michael Duch on contrabass) completed with the video artists Marco Douma (NL) and Haraldur Karlsson from Iceland. A new project of live impro music, poetry and film, in the same context of former projects as Seeljocht (Piiptsjilling) and Skeylja (The Alvaret Ensemble).”

“Muurv” which translates to the project umber three can mean a variety of things. From wisdom, harmony and understanding to the number of time; beginning, middle and end, birth, life, death, past and present and death. The track opens with what sounds like a bass drum beaten (but could be the contrabass), before scattered electronics, manipulated guitar recordings, drones and fragments of sound are joined by the narration / poetry of Jan Kleefstra. Sounding like a pure electroacoustic piece that seems in a way a collage work, with the intention, I think, to create a sense of unease. There is no real consistent structure. Sounds enter and leave, quiet-ish narration and warped parts like guitar, that depart as quickly as they arrived. In the last-minute and a half the track goes as conventional as it will with feverish guitar and contrabass being strummed quickly building up a rhythm while also sounding quite random in their playing. As there is sparseness to the track it is hard to discern what is going on, but it hints at the direction the music will take over the album.

“Tsjilland” starts with a distant explosion like beat alongside scorching electronics and trumpet. The trumpet has a touch of melancholy alongside the metallic sounding electronics that have an electrical storm quality about them. Contrabass, scratches of guitar and dulcimer give a more noisy sound scape. The press release mentions the “Frision Landscape” as a source of inspiration, but for me this is like an alien transmission. Unless that particular landcsape is still, but with a sense of menace or unease to it, then I don’t get the influence. That said, it is not my environment, so that could be my lack of recognizing the influence. A large part of this alien feel is the electronics, which are early Mego-esque with their feel of splattering sounds. The contrabass lends a more mournful tone, along with the fast strumming of what sounds similar to violin, but possibly manipulated guitar, gives it a certain, dare I say, structure to the piece. Again, towards the end the track starts to take more of a shape than the preceding six plus minutes.

“Waarbekkasin” low contrabass rumbles with a Godflesh like intensity are joined by a squall of stormy noise before a high guitar drone and Kleeftra’s narration enters the picture.A metallic noisey drone is introduced before it departs almost as quickly as it entered. The sound of the track is cloaked in a fog, but you can sense elements building up which they start doing four minutes into the piece with what sounds like bells, but probably dulcimer ushering in the next phase which has the contrabass quickly strummed, guitar lines rippling out, bass drum beats and electronics adding to the mix. the final section is the most musical with the dulcimer giving the brightest shade to a predominantly dark piece.

“Skiermunk” begins rather subdued with a pulsing sound with smatterings of percussion, static, low-frequency electronics, trumpet, guitar manipulations building a subterranean soundtrack of fractured music. a bit like musical detritus in that the parts seems to decay in your ears. As the notes say mixed and edited by Rutger Zuydervelt (aka Machinefabriek) you are not sure if this is one combined improv piece of one that has been edited or constructed together. You get elements of Jazz Fusion meets Mego fuckery meets out-and-out electroacoustic experimentalism.

“Hettekobe” droning contrabass sounding didgeridoo like welcomes the listener with its manipulated deep low playing and scraping. Bells and Kleeftra’s narration enter alongside a swirling drone. The contrabass disappears to leave the drones alongside trumpet and table top electronics changing the texture of the track to a slightly lighter one before bashing percussion takes the piece into a third section which the percussion and trumpet lead the way. The Contrabass and electronics return alongside a searing drone, more percussion, trumpet and guitar manipulation to create an almost impenetrable wall of sound that swarms tp the tracks completion and crashes like a wave.

“Skjegfuggl” looping distant trumpet, long presumably guitar drones fuse together with electronics entering the fray and low bashed guitar creating a jazzy soundtrack-esque piece of noir which adds an extra level of noir with Kleeftra’s poetry narration. The music changes more to a drone piece, but not a traditional one as you would usually expect, but one that has a definite more experimental approach to it. Elements come across, enter and disappear, flash in and out and probably is the most controlled piece of the album.

The album was recorded as part of a tour in  November 2016 at the Landscape studio te Gauw, recorded by Jan Switters and later mastered by Norwegian Noise legend Lasse Marhaug. The recording is clear and there is enough space for the instruments to occupy various levels of the sound scape and be audible at any level. That said, If I am being honest, I probably wouldn’t listen to this a lot. This is primarily my desire for more structure and less improvisation. Improvised music relies largely on flashes of brilliance, while a more constructed piece can work more on building mood, texture, rhythms as the musicians are on the same page. With improvised music the musicians are in a way reacting to each other, so there is more chance encounters at something different as opposed to constructing something in a singular fashion. That said, if improv is your thing, this may be for you.

 

 

Hannu Karjalainen – A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert.

KK 101 HK Cover_rgb

“A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert” is the third Hannu album following on from “Worms In My Piano” (Osaka 2006), “Hintergarden” (Kesh 2009) and the “Harhailua” Ep (Kesh 2009). This is his first release to feature his full name. During the past eight years, Hannu has been keeping himself busy with his multimedia art explorations utilizing photography and film, more of which can be viewed here.

“A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert” is released on the Berlin based Karaoke Kalk label (home to Hauschka, Dakota Suite, Senking and others) on vinyl /CD /Digital editions with physical pressings in editions of around 500 copies. Hannu Karjalainen’s association with Karaoke Kalk started with his remix of Dakota Suite’s “The End Of Trying Part III” on “The Night Just Keeps Coming In” in 2009, which also featured remixes by the likes of Hauschka, Deaf Center, Loscil and many more.

The label describes the album as “Instantly captivating and for lovers of ambient music, dream listening. As an artist who trained in photography and is mostly active in the world of visual art, Hannu Karjalainen clearly enjoys a great deal of creative freedom in his music. This is the kind of desert you won’t mind getting lost in and even take pleasure in roaming through the expansive sonic landscapes and horizons it embodies.”

“Angel” opens the album with lush affected swathes of ambient Synth with granular before the major hook of the track is introduced which takes on a variety of shapes as it is manipulated and twisted around. This is complimented by deep ambient Synth that give the track an almost dubby feel in relation to how thick they are as opposed to traditional dub techno like sounds. The synths and the granular sounds consistently change shape and position filtering in out of the soundscape providing contrast from the more nicer sounds to the grittier sounds. The ambient synths particular have a pulsing sound like they are waves crashing as they pound the coast. The label describes it as being reminiscent of Boards of Canada’s finest work, but I find it has more depth than BOC.

“The Emigrant” a slow paced rhythm starts off the track on Glockenspiel and Synth that has a highly melodic if subdued sound, mixed something a bit more ominous and also Sci-Fi as well. The Sci-Fi Synth waves come in layered loops, while the Glockenspiel has a percussive edge to it and a child like playfulness. Pulses of electronic sound splatter out like tentacles and synth ripples float out filling up every aspect of sound making the track aurally rich with the feature being the Glockenspiel rhythm.

“Love, Unconditional” mixes up dreamy ambient Synths with watery piano keys, static loops to create a pure ambient track where everything is flowing out and engulfing. The Synth is thick with weight, the piano keys ripple out and the static loops remind of field recordings of natural electricity.

“Meille” is a haunting drone meditation with string like sounds and subtle ambience that are low in tone and are mournful in their length. A flute like bird song comes into play and gives the melodic transition to a more darker territory where the synths have an austere sound to them and in way almost like the haunting sounds of whale songs. A nice comparison of elements.

“A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert” has an intro reminiscent of one of those classic Richard D James or Aphex Twin albums (the label quote later period Susumo Yokota) with multi layered piano loops come in and out. The contrast is that one is more subdued than the others frantic rhythm. Despite the title track being 2:15 in length it is a nice counterpoint in that the album can oscillate between Ambient and IDM and this track covers both genres easily.

“A Year In The Day” starts with electronica style Synth pulses with crackled beats and looped handclap percussion. Just when you think you know the direction the track is heading in a melodic guitar that sounds almost Synth like comes in and changes the direction of the track. After a short break down the original electronica styled Synth returns with a shaker percussion accompanying it before the guitar returns and the handclaps lead the track out to the end. The track manages to cover the electronica side of things with a slight nod to post rock in the guitar department.

“Love Is A Black Lion” features a piano sample of the Dakota Suite tune “The End Of Trying Part III”, which is what brought Karjalainen to the label in the first place. The track opens with record groove dust sounds while a haunting drone cascades and a minimal section of morose piano is played. Other drones enter the mix with sounds seemingly lurking deep in the mix which build up the sound. Industrial like sounds cut in an out in a haunting desolate fashion with a dark ambient edge to it. Parts of additional piano sound like they are played on instruments that have been exposed to nature. This is a track that goes over several genres and is not easily pigeon holed.

“Breaks My Heart She Aria” is the epic and fitting finale. Layers of choral samples over granulated sound form a heavenly drone which is supported by synth drones. Train brake slamming like noises shudder in and out as a swirl of electronics swarm around the drones with sounds going in every possible direction. The layers cascade over each other and build up ever so slightly in intensity with storm like feel that settles down to center on the drones in the last two minutes of the track just leaving the choral ambience to take us to the end. The track never goes over the top and Karjalainen knows when to reign it in perfectly.

While his previous albums were more rooted in the Experimental/Electronica genre with Electroacoustic influences, “A Handful Of Dust Is A Desert” finds itself more in the Ambient/Electronica field and is a much deeper ,epic, widescreen and lush album. Definitely one to listen to again and again and get repeated enjoyable listens.

HannuKarjalainen

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.