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.”

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

Aidan Baker / Simon Goff/ Thor Harris – Noplace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Otto Lindholm – Alter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Otto Lindholm

Gizeh Records

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