Robert Henke – Layering Buddha

Robert Henke - Layering Buddha

It seems there’s an ongoing outbreak of Buddha Machine–inspired releases…

Only a few days ago I reported about the ‘Buddha Jukebox’, containing all sorts of remixes based on the original Buddha Machine samples. One day later I stumble across this Robert ‘Monolake’ Henke release. (One track of his CD is also featured on the Jukebox Buddha: check the sample track below).

Compared to the Jukebox Buddha, there’s quite a different feel. Whereas the Jukebox Buddha explores all possible surfaces of the Buddha Machine, Henke dives deep into the soul of it. He has magnified the sounds, enhanced the unheard artifacts and created a layered soundspace that has ZEN written all over it.

It’s astonishingly beautiful (and not unlike his last year’s ‘Signal to Noise’ release).

Conceptually it’s lightyears away from the original FM3 Buddha machine, which was deliberately lo-fi and poor sounding.
But that really doesn’t matter at all. The Buddha Machine now has its own spin off of peaceful sounding drone recordings – would FM3 ever have imagined that their lo-fi anti-Ipod machine would ultimately lead to a whole new sub-genre??

Note:
The  original Buddha Machine sounds and the CD spinoffs will be featured in the FOLIO show early 2007.

The Jukebox Buddha

Jukebox Buddha

About a year ago the chinese duo FM3 released the Buddha Machine. 9 short ambient loops, to be played through a lo-fi plastic player with a deliberate crappy speaker. The ultimate ‘Anti-Ipod’ concept created an instant hype, and even those that cannot stand ambient music fell in love with this device after holding it. (The Buddha Machine is still available, so get one while you can).

A full year later we hear the beloved samples again on the cd Jukebox Buddha, in compositions much more complex. Among the artists showing their respect are some well-known names: Kammerflimmer Kollektief, Adrian Sherwood/Doug Wimbish, Robert Henke, Thomas Fehlmann, Blixa Bargeld, Sun O))). 
Impressing electronics for the more adventurous listener. Pay honour to the conceptual statement the Buddha Machine was/is.

Geir Jenssen – Cho Oyu 8201m

Geir Jenssen - Cho Oyu

Geir Jenssen, aka Biosphere, has conquered Tibet’s Cho Oyu –the sixth heighest mountain of the world. That, in itself, is a quite remarkable fact. Climbing mountains this high involves a lot of waiting,  to accomodate to the changing circumstances – and at those moments the Minidisc recorder came in handy. The beautiful package of Cho Oyu 8102 m – Field Recordings from Tibet contains a diary of this journey, as well as said field recordings.

The fact that this is released under Geir’s own name and not as Biosphere, is a statement in itself. This is not meant as musical compositions, it’s a Tibet soundscape. Still, in Geir’s hands, the use of the samples has a distinct musical quality, not unlike the Biosphere projects. It’s a document in itself – you can almost feel the impressive landscape, and imagine quite clearly how it feels to slowly lose contact with civilization ( the shortwave radio recordings like the sample track here). And how hard the journey itself can be (Neighbours on oxygen).

It must be the fact that these sounds illustrate Geir’s personal struggle with the mountain that makes this CD much more impressive than the latest Biosphere release Dropsonde.

Goldmund – The Heart Of High Places

Goldmund - Heart of high places

The sound of Goldmund (Keith Kenniff’s) piano on this record definitely reminds me of the early Harold Budd recording The Serpent (in Quicksilver).
The intimately recorded piano sound (including all pedal movements and instument cracking), the emotional melancholy themes…
Take, for example, this first track: ‘Unbraiding the Sun’. It’s only 1’33”, but put it on repeat and you’ve got a beautiful Satie-esque soundtrack.

The music of this short 6-track 7″ will haunt you much longer that the 10 minutes of music it consists.

Jacob Kirkegaard – 4 Rooms

Jacob Kirkegaard - 4 Rooms

If you record a room’s resonation, feed back the recording into that room and record it again, and do this a couple of time so that the feedback gets stronger and stronger, will the result reveal the ‘soul’ of that room?
And will something in this ‘soul’ reveal the fact that these rooms were once busy with people (church, gymnasium, swimming pool, auditorium) but are now completely desolated?
And will you be able to hear the fact that these rooms are all located in the Tchernobyl disaster area?

This, as you may guess, is not intended as ‘easy background ambient’.  The result is not unlike some of Thomas Köner’s work – but it’s the concept that makes is almost frightening.

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.

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!

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!

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!

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.

Nguyen Le – Duos

cover

I had a bit of trouble acccustomizing to this cd, because it is so diverse and has some rather fierce improvisational material on it. But after a few spins it finally got me hooked. The ‘duos’ (Lê alternately plays and improvises with trumpeteer Paolo Fresu and Oud-player Dhafer Youssef) are described as ‘musical dialogues in an electronic laboratory’, and that’s a well-fitting description. There’s very beautiful, inspired and adventurous music here. Sometimes resembling the sound of Nils Petter Molvaer, but with the focus more on jazz than dance. This is not ‘easy’ music, but you’ll be rewarded for your persistence. The sample track presented here – Thang Long – is a good example of the blend of world music roots, improvisational jazz end modern electronics.

Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble

Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble

Although this is a Jason ‘Bong-Ra’ Kohnen side project, there’s none of his usual mind-blowing breakcore to be heard here. It’s ‘dark jazz’ instead – inspired by and meant as a soundtrack for films like Metropolis and Nosferatu.
There’s a lot of beautiful atmospheric moments to be found: highlights are tracks like The Nothing Changes, Solomon’s Curse, Amyghdala, Guernican Perspective. These are, as you may have guessed, the more quiet tracks. At other times the music is nicely running off the rails for your more experimental experiences…

Loscil – Plume

Loscil - Plume

Just mention the words ‘Kranky‘ (for the label), ‘Loscil’ (for the artist alias of Scott Morgan) and ‘Plume‘ (for the cd title), and the experienced ambient listener that will know what to expect.  
This is the fourth full cd release since 2001 (after Triple Point, Submers and First Narrows). Again, it’s very good, as were the ones before. Comfortable atmosphere, beautiful sounds, never boring. And extremely peaceful.
“I opted to choose the better improvised passes and merely mix them in and out rather than cut them up. I think this leaves a lot more natural space and balances the heavily structured and repetitive electronic elements with more organic performed layers.”

And if this wasn’t enough, the free net release Stases can still be downloaded here!