Machinefabriek – Sol Sketches

sol sketches

Almost simultaneously with Wil Bolton‘s Chimes for a Wall Drawing”  (inspired by a Sol Lewitt wall drawing), Machinefabriek has released his new full length album Sol Sketches, containing sketches for a score for a documentary about Sol Lewitt (by Chris Teerink.  

That may seem coincidental but it’s not that strange considering that Lewitt is closely linked to the conceptual art and minimalism – which is of course also where these musicians their main inspiration. 

Rutger’s releases never fail to amaze me, especially when considering his output rate. This one is no exception. Or maybe it is, in a way, because “Sol Sketches” differs from most of his other releases in the fact that the piano is the main instrument here, not the guitar.

Field Rotation; Wil Bolton; Anna Rose Carter + Pleq; Umber; Simon Whetham

In this “shortlist” section, I will mention some of the albums that I enjoyed listening to, but couldn’t find the time (or the right words) for a “full” review for. 
Still, I think they deserve your attention (use the links to find more info and hear previews).

Field Rotation

Field Rotation – And Tomorrow I Will Sleep
“After countless nights of work for university suspending my circadian rhythm at last I decided to compose some pieces to set myself on sleeping mode. – Christoph Berg (Field Rotation)
This beautifully calm album was released a few months ago, but somehow slipped through the cracks and was never reviewed here. It should have been, since  the album keeps returning to my player to prove it is one of the best releases I have heard this year. 

Chimes for a Wall Drawing

Wil Bolton – Chimes for a Wall Drawing
Remarkably bright-sounding live recording of a 2009 performance at Tate Liverpool, inspired by the gallery’s display of Sol LeWitt’s ‘Wall Drawing #1136’
“In the spirit of Sol LeWitt’s use of seriality and arbitrary systems, this electro-acoustic composition used the artwork as an inspiration and graphic score, mapping its seven spectrum colours onto the corresponding notes on coloured chime bars. Chimes, handbell and electric guitar were processed live into elongated tones and drones, layered with electronics and field recordings made within the gallery and surrounding area.”

John Foxx & Harold Budd – Nighthawks (+2)

Nighthawks cover

After leaving Ultravox in the late 70’s, John Foxx (real name: Dennis Leigh)has released a few synth-pop albums in the first half of the 80’s (most notably Metamatic and The Garden), disappeared for about ten years before miraculously resurfacing and releasing a stream of albums on his own Metamatic label.
Among these albums are collaborations with well-known musicians like Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie.

Harold Budd probably needs no further introduction here. Ever since his name became well-known by the release of “The Plateaux of Mirror” (the second and perhaps most accessible part of the 4-part series released by Brian Eno that introduced ‘ambient music’ to a new audience around 1980), he has released a steady flow of albums – some more inspired than others, but all of them  succesfull in creating a comforting and pleasurable background atmosphere.

Human Greed – Fortress Longing

When waiting for this album to arrive, I have wondered about its strange subtitle: “The internal campaign for the safe and complete return of the sleeping egyptian to the desert”. 

How to prepare for an album about a sleeping egyptian craftsman, waiting endlessly in the British Museum, dreaming about his return to find rest under his lost ‘blanket of sand‘…?

I had no real doubts, of course, considering the preceding Human Greed albums, and Michael Begg‘s contribution to the Fovea Hex projects,  as well as his Fragile Pitches’ collaboration project with Colin Potter.

But, to be honest, I was somewhat reserved about this album’s mythological theme and the effect it might have on the music.

Restive – Generative 2

Ever since Brian Eno himself introduced the SSeyo Koan Generative Music software (way back in 1996!!) I have been interested in the Generative Music concept: music that is ever-changing, evolving from a single “seed”, consistent through musical parameters defined by the ‘artist’, the creator that has to refrain from influencing the ‘path’ of the music once it has left off.  

For his release Generative Music I, Brian Eno chose the most radical medium possible: a diskette containing the software, only reproducable when using the correct hardware (the SoundBlaster AWE32 soundcard: I actually bought one of those just to be able to reproduce Eno’s Generative Music!!).
Which sadly means you’ll have a hard time now to reproduce this music as it was intended then. 

This represents the dilemma for musicians creating Generative music. Apart from using it in sound installations, there is no way to distribute the music in its generative form, since every recorded medium stops it from being generative (= different with every new performance).

Which does not mean that a recorded ‘instance’ of generative music is not interesting to listen to….on the contrary. But, like a photograph compared to movement, it is a ‘frozen’ capture of an ongoing (musical) process.

For Nihon

For Nihon

If you are remotely interested in this kind of music you’re probably familiar with this release already. 
But in case you’ve missed it: 

Shortly after the Japan earthquake on March 11th this year, Keith Kenniff (a.k.a. Goldmund/Helios) and his wife Hollie decided to ask ‘a few friends’ to participate in a compilation album to help raise money for the Japan Earthquake Relief Fundset up by New York’s Japan Society.

The ‘few‘ friends quickly became ‘many‘, and the list of artists contributing to the (38) tracks featured on For Nihon” reads like an impressive who’s who in popular ‘pop ambient’:  
Arms and Sleepers, Dustin O’Halloran, Peter Broderick, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Biosphere, Hammock, Olafur Arnalds, Jon Hopkins, Nils Frahm, Alva Noto, Ryan Teague, Max Richter, Goldmund….And this is only just one-third of the full tracklist!
I guess it’s best to check the full list on the release page and order your copy immediately!

Maps and Diagrams – Get Lost

The traditional record industry is still having major trouble finding its place in the new age of music distribution.
But while they’re fighting what seems to be a death struggle, the artists that did not rely on this business in the first place seem to have settled for two different kinds of distribution.
The first is of course DIY independent digital distribution: you may have noticed that most of the releases mentioned here are distributed through Bandcamp.
On the other hand, there are the ‘labour of love’ labels, run by people definitely not into it “for the money”, releasing extremely limited physical releases mostly packed in hand-crafted artwork so delicate and complex that it would be impossible to create more than 50 copies of a release. 

One of these labels is Time Released Sound  –  “a lovingly hand made, limited edition release music label that is as much an art project as it is a musical outlet”. 
“Focusing primarily on classically infused and folk based ambient and electroacoustic sounds by the artists we know, love and admire, we will be striving at all times to produce visuals and packaging for these fine releases that are as original and uniquely beautiful as the music itself.” 

If you take some time to look at the TRS Releases, you will understand why most of these releases sell out very quick!
This may be frustrating for collectors that find out too late … but fortunately the limited releases are followed by a less limited digipack release.

Such as this particular example: Maps and Diagram‘s “Get Lost”  (which was TRS’s fifth release).

Lukanov & Mytrip; Leonardo Rosado; Jonathan Read; Desert of Hiatus; Aria Rostami

In this “shortlist” section, I will mention some of the albums that I enjoyed listening to, but couldn’t find the time (or the right words) for a “full” review for.
Still, I think they deserve your attention (use the links to find more info and hear previews).


Martin Lukanov & Mytrip – Two
With strict timings (10’01”, 0’10”, 1’00” etc. ) and titles that indicate timings and position of each (ml-s mt-e, mt-l ml-r), Martin  Lukanov (classically trained pianist and sound artist) and Mytrip (“negative dark ambient/drone project from the not so developed Bulgarian ambient scene”) present “a minimalist walk beyond and within the boundaries of drone ambient, accompanied by a gentle and melancholic piano on the verge between isolation and loneliness.”

Opague Glitter

Leonardo Rosado – Opague Glitter
After publishing 1.5 hour of music as “the Opaque Glitter Sessions”, Leonardo Rosado (who is also the curator of the FeedbackLoop label) asked his listeners to vote for their favorite 8 songs from this collection, thus compiling FeedbackLoop Label’s first ‘official’ CDr. As an extra, the release also includes a photograph with a poem of choice: 8 photos and 8 poems = 64 unique combinations!

Neue – The Planets

The Planets

Electronic music has always been closely related to (outer) space – scientific astronomics as well as sci-fi fantasy themes.   

Sometimes quite literally, such as in the 12-CD series created by Dr. Jeffrey Thompson from the original NASA Voyager I & II Space Probe Recordings that was released around 1990.
Although there has been a lot of discussion about the extent of manipulation of these recordings, these ‘pure space sounds’ are about the deepest, most soothing and timeless ambient drones imaginable.

The Planets, recently released by Neue – not from Germany as you might think, and not related to the legendary Krautrock band Neu, but an alias of musician and designer Mike Lemmon from Portland, USA – continues this tradition.