Consemble Project

Consemble 

Quite some time ago, I wrote some entries about the fascinating concept of Generative Music: music that is different every time you play it – the missing link between recorded and live music.
SSeyo Music introduced their fascinating concept as KOAN software – a brilliant package that was released about fifteen years ahead of it’s time.
Brian Eno was on of the first to pick up on this concepts, because it fitted perfectly to his multi-CD installations.
Read more about this here and here, but be sure to get back to read on.

(Side Note: this software still exists: it’s called Noatikl now. )

So the concept of Generative Music is as fascinating as ever. Enter Parallel Music, or PMusic – (as opposed to RMusic: Recorded Music).

The Sounds of Spellborn

Logo

There are quite a few ways to listen to ambient / environmental sounds. Apart from buying CD’s and finding new musical releases, you can listen to the sound of your own environment. Take a walk and open your ears to the sounds you don’t normally hear.
Or: play a computer game.

A few years ago, the creators of Myst were praised for the use of sound in their game. They hád to pay attention to detail, because the game was a sequence of beautiful but non-moving images (can you imagine that nowadays?).
Currently, games tend to be almost lifelike experiences. Not only in graphic detail, but also in sound.

There may be quite a lot more people listening to ‘ambient music’ on daily bases, maybe even without realising it.

The MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) The Chronicles of Spellborn comes with almost 20 hours of sound.
About one hour of that is ‘composed’ soundtrack music (written by Jesper Kyd), the rest is environmental sound enhanced with ambient musical effects (created by Matthew Florianz).

Wixel’s 2009 Project

clouds cover

Wixel sometimes refers to the small group of musicians surrounding the Belgian artist Wim Maesschalk. When I recently saw them performing at a dutch festival (CrossLinx), I felt they sounded like Sigur Rós but without the vocals. Which is meant as a compliment, because when listening to most of Sigur Rós’s music I always wonder if I would like it better without the odd vocals. 

‘Wixel’ is also used as Wim Maesschalk’s artist nickname.
Wim ‘Wixel’ Maesschalk is a prolific artist, working very hard to find ways to get his music exposed to the world. (not unlike Rutger ‘Machinefabriek‘ Zuydervelt, though their musical angles are different).

Slowly, the world starts to find Wixel’s music too.

Mark Tamea – Tessellation

Mark Tamea, an english composer/sound artist living in Nijmegen, Holland, has released some quite adventurous work in the past (of which a lot of information and some free downloads can be found on his website: www.tamea.org).
His latest work, Tessellation, is one of the most intriguing recordings I have heard in the past year.

It combines a lot of different styles: ambient electronic soundscapes, field recordings, musique concrête, post-classical – but still feels organic and complete.

Ambrose Field & John Potter – Being Dufay

Being Dufay

Celebrating their 25th birthday, ECM Records released a recording of the unusual musical combination of saxophone player Jan Garbarek with the Hilliard Ensemble performing ancient vocal music (‘Officium‘, 1994).
An album so stunning it proved to be one of ECM’s biggest “hits”.
I was lucky enough to attend a live performance of this album in a church in my hometown that year, and amidst all of the concerts I have seen in my life this one especially is one I will never forget.
In 2009, ECM celebrates it’s 40th birthday. Could this be the reason they have searched for a musical combination as unusual and maybe even as unheard as on Officium? Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. But to me, ‘Being Dufay’ has about the same effect ‘Officium’ had.

Hilary Jeffery & Lysn – Katendrecht Spaceport

Katendrecht is a typical area in Rotterdam where you can expect to find a lot of things.
But the last thing to expect to find there is a spaceport where you can take a direct flight to Jupiter.

Still, a small venue called De Player created the exciting opportunity to embark on a spectacular journey to outer (inner) space on march 22, 2008. The journey was guided by Lysn, consisting of Hilary Jeffery (on trombone and tromboscillator), Chris Long (accordion and electronics), and Anne Wellmer (analogue electronics and harmonium).

This evening was presented as part # 3 in a series called Com.Post (‘Prancing around on the post-digital compost heap of contemporary music’).

I wasn’t there, that evening. And hearing the recording of this event that was recently released, that’s something to regret!

Machinefabriek – IJspret & Gris Gris

IJspret 

Some albums, particularly those by major artists, take a few years to complete. The many recordings of Rutger ‘Machinefabriek’  Zuydervelt are not among those.

This particular little gem, IJspret (‘Ice/Skating Fun’) was released within a few weeks after the short period that Holland enjoyed skating on natural ice (last days of december 2008 + some in january 2009). It had been a few years ago since the last time that had been possible, and may take a few years to happen again.

After noticing the strange sounds of ice crackling and the sounds of skates skating, Rutger used a contact microphone to record it. Those  field recordings were combine with some other (ducks, coots, and people playing) and completed with some improvised acoustic guitar sounds.

Robert Henke – Atom/Document

Robert Henke - Atom 

Robert Henke’s previous works (Layering Buddha / Signal to Noise / Piercing Music / Floating Point – not to mention Monolake’s music) almost makes “Atom/Document” a blind buy.
However, the music on this new album is quite different from the previous releases. So be prepared!

The album opens with […flicker] spreading a massively deep drone. But the drone only returns in [convex], and in the closing track [_exit]…and there’s quite a lot of beating, pounding and clanking inbetween.

Arve Henriksen – Cartography

Cartography

Albums released near or in december tend to fall through the cracks of the end-of-year-list frenzy. They are not noticed in the year they are released and will not get through next year’s selection because they are released the year before.
Some of these albums deserve special attention to help them get noticed.
(Especially since a lot of music addicts strongly tend to focus on their peer-group’s lists which – in the end-  makes every one of them buy the same album collection..).

One of these titles is Arve Henriksen’s Cartography.
Trumpet player Arve Henriksen already gained some attention with precious albums on Rune Grammofon (Sakuteiki, Chiaroscuro and Strjon) and as a member of Supersilent (operating on the other side of the musical spectre, where ‘silent’ isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind ).

His latest, Cartography, released on ECM, is an amazing collection of thoughtful sounds. His trumpet playing sounds like Jon Hassell, the overall musical sound sounds like that of Nils Petter Molvaer (who’s trumpet playing, in turn, sounds like Jon Hassell).

Machinefabriek & Soccer Committee – Drawn

Drawn

‘Opposites attract’. That’s quite appropriate when talking about Machinefabriek and Soccer Committee working together.

Their music seems quite incompatible at first: intimate acoustic folk vs. gritty electronics.
But Mariska Baars (Soccer Committee) and Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) have been playing together more often in the past.

Jacob Kirkegaard – Labyrinthitis

Labyrinthitis

You can trust Jacob Kirkegaard to come up with fascinating concepts. After recording the sounds of deep earth in Iceland and those of the deserted rooms of Tchernobyl, he now turns inward to record the sound of his own inner ear, using a medical technique used to diagnose hearing problems on young children. The recorded tones of his cochlea were used to create a fascinating installation for the Medical Museion in Copenhagen – which, judging by the photos of it – was visually as attractive as it was aurally.



Janek Schaefer – Extended Play

extended Play

At first listen, the ‘post-classical’ music on Janek Schaefer’s new CD “Extended Play (Triptych For The Child Survivors Of War And Conflict)” resembles the quiet peacefulness of the compositions of Arvo Pärt – especially in the beautiful 24 minute piece “acoustic ensemble”.
But there are some disturbing details: most artist would go a long way to avoid the vinyl crackle-and-pops for a CD release like this. The parts of the acoustic ensemble piece are also represented as solo piano, cello and violin piece, which contain some  stops and re-starts breaking the flow of the composition quite unexpected.
Janek Shaefer is, after all, not primarily know as a post-classical composer but as a ‘turntablist‘…. 

The installation picture on the cover explains the performance we hear:

Hammock – Maybe They Will Sing for Us Tomorrow

Hammock

The ‘making of’ of this album is a nice story to tell:

Hammock (Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson) released three full albums (not counting ‘The Sleepover Sessions’) since 2005.
Most of these filled with quiet, guitar-driven ‘post-rock’, with some crossover to the ambient realm.
If that description sounds a bit like Sigur Rós – so does some of their music.

The Inventors of Aircraft – Unknown Language

The Serein netlabel once again lives up to their expectations. With their latest release, ‘Unknown Language’ by The Inventors of Aircraft, the label now offers 17 free album downloads. All of which are quality ambient music, albeit in different styles. 
The latest one (#17) is “Unknown Language” by “The Inventors of Aircraft”.

Spiral Staircase / Mock Interiors

To be honest I had never heard the name of Esther Venrooy until recently, when I was struck by a track on a compilation CD ‘Avontuurlijke Muziek in Brabant’ (‘Adventurous music from Brabant’, a freebie with a recent Gonzo Magazine). This fragment from her CD ‘The Spiral Staircase’ (released on Entr’Acte) definitely proved checking out in full.

Stephan Mathieu – Radioland

Stephan Mathieu - Radioland

 Holger Czukay always used to mention ‘shortwave’ (radio) in the instrument credits on his album. The mysterious, vaguely distorted sound of shortwave radio has always seem to trigger the imagination of those interested in sounds of the unknown and unreachable.
Shortwave radio is a direct connection with uncharted territories. Its distortion and strange sweeping filter effects add another dimension to the radio broadcasts: the fleeting connection may be lost any moment. It’s as if you’re transferred through time and space to a world you did not know until then.
All of this magic gets lost when technology improves. The same stations may lose their attractivity when heard in full quality. They become part of normal everyday life (and then mostly prove to be as boring as the local stations).

In this time of world wide web global connectivity, where no place on earth seems out of reach, there’s an enhancing interest in shortwave sounds. For example, take “A Ghost in the Phase“, the latest in the series of the beautiful Low Light Mixes created by Dave Michuda. t’s a collage of shortwave samples and ambient sounds of artists using shortwave samples. Haunting and definitely worth listening.

Some of the shortwave fragments in this mix can be found on the Shortwavemusic weblog, strictly dedicated to found shortwave sounds.
Also included in this low light mix is a track from the latest CD by Stephan Mathieu, Radioland (‘Auf der Gasse’, also included below).

Machinefabriek & Jan Kleefstra – Piiptsjilling

Piiptsjilling

Just mentioning Rutger “Machinefabriek” Zuydervelt’s releases could fill a blog on its own. In the high quantity of releases he’s able to maintain a very high quality standard, making it hard to pinpoint highlights in the continuous stream of new releases.
But there’s no doubt ‘Piiptsjilling’ belongs in the ‘Best of Machinefabriek’ list!

Piiptsjilling, by the way, is the name of a bird:Wintertaling, or Teal (Anas Crecca), in the Frysk language spoken in Friesland, northern Netherlands.

Lull – Like a Slow River

Lull - Slike a Slow River

It is hard to imagine that there’s a direct link between Napalm Death and extreme ‘isolationist’ ambient. But there is, and ex-Napalm Death drummer Mick (MJ) Harris is the linking pin.

As Scorn he has created post-industrial dub (working with Bill Laswell, among others), and as Lull  he has createst some of the deepest, abstract ambient imaginable.