The Young Person’s Guide to Generative Music

Dark Symphony

Koan, the music software that can be credited for creating a musical form that was neither “recorded” nor “live” (see previous post here ) did generate a lot of interesting musical projects.
Brian Eno’s diskette-release “Generative Music 1” may have been the most noticeable release, but certainly it wasn’t the only one that was interesting.

The Innocence Mission – We Walked in Song

It’s hard to tell what it is exactly that touches me everytime I hear the songs of The Innocence Mission. Is it the pureness (innocence?) of singer-songwriter Karen’s voice, reminding me of early 10.000 Maniacs? (This connection is no coincidence: Karen and Don Peris contributed to Natalie Merchant’s Ophelia).
Is it the open, seemingly simple, acoustic arrangements played by Don Peris on guitar and Mike Bitts on bass?
Is it the combination? Does it matter, anyway? 
What really matters is that The Innocence Mission released at least TEN records, and that none of these gained any serious attention in Europe. Please, notice them! You can start with ‘We Walked in Song’ and work backwards from there…

Nest – Nest

Ambient music collectors no longer visit the local record shop to find the latest releases. Most of the times, the titles are not even stocked. Still, the genre is lively and growing bigger than it ever was. Not through the ‘old’ distribution channels and brick and mortar shops, but through the internet mostly. This weblog only covers a small tip of the iceberg of the music available.

Pole – Steingarten

Looking at the cover should be your first warning. Steingarten shows the kind of castle even Disney would have considered ‘over the top’. In a landscape you could never even imagine.
The warning seems to serve a purpose, because at first casual listen this album feels far more lightweight than earlier Pole albums. We did not expect this kind of poppy electronics from Stefan Betke!
Well: time to adjust the expectations and retry.

Martyn Bates and Troum – To a Child dancing in the wind

Martyn Bates and Troum

By definition, ‘ambient music’ cannot be ‘vocal music’ unless only wordless syllables are sung (by my traditional definition, that is). Recognisable text generally asks too much attention, and singing almost always requires chords that can be ‘remembered’ easily. Still – in the last year I have heard some great examples of music that defies this narrow definition. There are quite a few examples of “songs” that work very well with a clearly ambient, droney background. For a good example, listen to Wheely Down cover by the Uncertain Music Corps.

Banabila + Asid: Oh No Uaredero

Banabila + Asid

I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again: Michel Banabila’s music (a well-balanced fusion of electronic, ambient, jazz and ethnic music) deserves much more attention, and not only in Europe! 
To get a good impression of his versatility, you can check the myspace accounts listed below. Or read the ‘Hilarious Expedition’ weblog entry earlier. Or just click the icon below to listen to ‘Oh No Uaredeo’ with Salar Asid on violin).

Svalastog – Woodwork

Woodwork

Rune Grammofon does it again! Can you imagine what ‘electronic’ music based on the sound of a ram’s horn, a cow’s horn and a harpeleiki (a norwegian zither) could sound like? Well – in fact it sounds a bit like the compositions of Information’s ‘Biomekano’, because that’s where Per Henrik Svalastog comes from. Only this time the sound is much more natural (as opposed to electronic), due to the nature of the instruments used. This is a complete new definition of the electro-acoustic genre. Fascinating!

Helios – Eingya

helios

Although Keith Kenniff’s (aka Helios, aka Goldmund) music is labelled as ‘ambient’ in fact it’s nothing like it. At least not in my definition of the genre. There’s way too much melody and rhythm in it, you could even hum along…
It’s not just strictly electronics – there’s a soft guitar, piano, laid back percussion. This is the sort of music that feels like a warm bath. It’s very ‘friendly’ music…opposite to the dark threatening atmosphere that ambient drones sometimes have.
Sounds a bit like Susumu Yokota on his better works, and, yes indeed, Goldmund.

Susanna and the Magical Orchestra – Melody Mountain

melody mountain

To say that I was touched by “Melody Mountain”, by Susanna and the Magical Orchestra would be an understatement. In fact, it hit me quite hard.
It may seem a bit strange to have an entry on this blog about a vocal cd containing pop covers…if it weren’t for the music in the background. This sparse, mainly electronic music will certainly appeal to the ambient music fan. It is created by jaga Jazzist keyboard player Morten Qvenild and produced by Deathprod (Supersilent) – who is well known for his own ambient music and his collaboration with Biosphere. Backed by this (almost ambient) soundtrack, Susanna’s voice sounds even more intimate and honest.

The selection of artists covered may well raise an eyebrow (or two): Prince, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, AC/DC (!!), Kiss (!!!!), Depeche Mode, Fairport Convention (the cover of Fotheringay is especially moving) , and the inevitable Joy Division (sampled here). If you like Nouvelle Vague but think they were a bit too light-hearted, be sure to try out Melody Mountain!

Sacred Dub Podcasts

Sacred Dub Podcast logo

If you’re a fan of the music of Bill Laswell, then probably you’re also one of the followers that cannot seem to get enough of that stuff! Check out www.sacreddub.com.
Apart from a wealth of information, hot news, and an extensive discography, the collection of downloadable podcasts is especially interesting. At time of writing there are already 13 available, each one lasting one hour, and complete with full track details!

As the title suggests, these podcast focus on Laswell’s (ambient-) dub experiments. Apart from Laswell’s own music there’s also interesting material from artists closely related to his style. The nonstop mixes are available as 128 Kbit MP3-files, which is good enough to listen on your MP3-player. Polish up your internet connection and start downloading before it’s too late!

Modern Institute – Excellent Swimmer

modern institute

Ambient electronic music sometimes seems to lack self-relativism and humour. That’s why track-titles like “ECM Haircuts” or “Sign Everyone in Iceland” call for immediate attention.

“Excellent Swimmer” – the latest Modern Institute Album on Expanding Records – has just the right mix of relativism and seriousness, and a perfect blend of electronic and acoustic sounds too..

It’s Martina Bertoni (on cello) and Teho Teardo (on everything else) – with a little help from Mark Beazley (Rothko) on the track you can listen here (called “post.ino”). 

“Excellent Swimmer” defies standard genres; there’s quite a lot of references found in it…sometimes it even reminded me of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra.

Nice. Or more than nice – Great!

Kerbaj’s Environment

Environmental ambient music. Peace & Quiet, Whales, Birds. The reassuring sounds of the city. The dreamlike landscapes of your subconscious mind.
Most of us hardly have any serious worries.

Mazen Kerbaj is a musician playing improvised music using his trumpet in a sort of Arve Henriksen style.
He is living in Beirut. Hís environmental sound at this very moment is the sound of the Israeli airplanes bombing his city.

On the night of 15/16 july 2006 he recorded this track (“Starry Night”) on the balcony of his flat in Beirut.
This is where environmental music gets very, very frightening.

Burial – Burial

Burial

We already enjoyed Pole, of course, and Deadbeat, and don’t forget Rhythm & Sound. And now from London comes Burial with this self-titled CD.
The genre is called ‘DubStep’ – and there are quite a lot of new electronic DJ’s exploring it. Lot of times it sounds flat, one-dimensional, analogue and not very inspiring. But every genre has it’s geniuses.
Burial is a very good example of how adventurous this new music can be. Neither Dance(-able) nor Reggae, neither ambient nor classic dub. Yet all of these at the same time, and very heavily electronic. A bit like Adrian Sherwood mixes from another dimension…??On the ‘Hyperdub’ label, which describes it as “Burial’s parallel dimension sounds set in a near future South London underwater. You can never tell if the crackle is the burning static off pirate radio transmissions, or the tropical downpour of the submerged city outside the window. In their sometimes suffocating melancholy, most of these tracks seem to yearn for drowned lovers.”

‘The tropical downpour of the submerged city’ …(well it wás quite hot in London, that’s true)….’yearn for drowned lovers’…Just top thát for a description!

Whitney Music Box

Whitney Music Box

'Krazydad' Jim Bumgardner created quite a few amazing projects (involving Flickr photographs, for example, such as a caleidoscopic screensaver based on flickr photos). 
This particular one is based on the musical theories of John Whitney, as described in his book "Digital Harmony". While the theory may be for diehards only, most people will simply just enjoy the harmonic aesthetics. Play and enjoy!!

Your Life in the Bush of Ghosts

Eno-Byrne-cover

Those of us that bought the original album back in 1981, would never have dreamt anything like this would ever be possible…:
To celebrate the re-release of Brian Eno & David Byrne’s “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” there’s an opportunity to remix two of the tracks yourself.
From the special remix website, you can download track-packs for “Help me Somebody” and “A Secret Life” and start working on them yourself.
Re-upload your mix, and you’re in..!

The Beethoven Time Warp

9BeetStretch cover

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is part of mankind’s collective memory – everyone knows and recognises it (or at least parts of it).
Can you possibly imagine how this 74 minute symphony would sound, if it was stretched to 24 full hours? I bet not. Still, it’s worth a try. Leif Inge is the man who actually did this, and the resulting 9BeetStretch is unforgettable. If there’s a sound of infinity, this must be it.