Murcof – Cosmos

Cosmos

2005’s Remembranza was a remarkable release, partly because the warm organic sound that made the music feel quite different. Cosmos has the same sound detail, but it sounds less melancholic and more dark and threatening.
Of course, with a theme and title like this it’s no wonder it sounds like some retro-futuristic science-fiction movie soundtrack. Murcof sets himself a high standard, partly referring to to the great modern composers such as Pärt and Ligeti. The heavy crescendo’s will not appeal to everyone I guess: this is NOT ‘drone’ ambient – No chance to softly dream away.
Still, he’s living up to his reputation easily, settling himself firmly between the great artists of this genre.

BTW – Murcof will be headlining the Interzone Ambient Festival in Utrecht on September, 26.

Sleep Research Facility – Deep Frieze

Deep Frieze

Sleep Research Facility should be credited for one of the best names in ambient music. Apart from that, Kevin Doherty was also responsible for the Nostromo release a few years ago. Nostromo was based on the first minutes of sound from the first Alien movie (Nostromo was the name of the spaceship) (*), and the music was as deep as outer space. (By the way: you cannot find this release anymore by now, but Cold Spring Records has announced a re-release later this year).

John Watermann – Calcutta Gas Chamber

In 2006, Cold Spring records has re-released a record from 1993. It only recently came to my attention, so I would not have written about it on this weblog (for it would be ‘old news’) – if it’s thematic content wouldn’t be so shocking.
John Watermann‘s album is called ‘Calcutta Gas Chamber’ – and that about says all.  Story goes that the recording artist has visited India in the early 90’s and came across nightmare-ish giant gas chambers that the Indian government used for ‘population control’.

Elegi – Sistereis

Sistereis

‘Sistereis’ is the opposite of a ship’s maiden voyage. It’s a ship’s doomed final voyage.

“All was as it had been upon my previous visit, save that the picture which I have described as having hung at the end of his bed had been cut out of it’s frame, as with a knife, and was gone. With this last link in a strange chain of evidence I close my diary of the voyage”

Machinefabriek – Weleer

Weleer

“Weleer” (Formerly, in old times) is the well chosen title for the 2CD selection of work from more than 30 3″-cd’s that Rutger “machinefabriek” Zuydervelt released last years. Most of these will be very hard to find, so this album is a good starting point for those that want to know what sort of stuff the machinefabriek produces.

This prolific musician (from Arnhem, Holland) draws some international attention (how do foreigners pronounce titles like “gruis uit het plafond”?) with his noise and drone experiments, as well as with his lovely naïve electro-acoustics (not unlike Colleen or Goldmund).

Weleer is a varied collection, but not for the faint of heart: not everyone will like all of the tracks. It’s impressing that one man can deliver so much great work in such short time. Machinefabriek deserves all respect and praise for his work, and not only from Holland!

Alva Noto – XERROX

William Basinski has built almost his entire oeuvre on deteriorating copies of original tape recordings. (The Disintegration Loops may be the best example).
So, when reading about the new Alva Noto release, Xerrox, I had to suppress a ‘not again’ yawn..

“Via the technique of duplication the copy often contains mistakes and glitches that differ from the original. The mutating copy emerges as a new original and thereby provides space for development”

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.

Arve Henriksen – Strjon

On this third solo project Arve Henriksen is accompanied by two fellow Supersilent members: Helge Sten (a.k.a. DeathProd) and Ståle Storløkken. Unlike most of the Supersilent albums Strjon breathes a natural, Zen-like balance and peacefulness.
Henriksen’s trumpet-playing is perfectly balanced with the almost chilling sound sculptures accompanying it.

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.

Pocka – Uhrwerk

Pocka - Uhrwerk

Good news for those of you that are fascinated by the current Buddha Machine hype (like me) : there’s a free download available of the album Uhrwerk by Pocka here.
It may not be as layered as Robert Henke’s ‘Layering Buddha’, but the sound of these Buddha Machine interpretations is very comfortable and authentic.
The recognisable Buddha Machine loops are enhanced by subtle bass guitar, piano, guitar pedals and software effects.

Michael Fahres – The Tubes featuring Jon Hassell

Michael Fahres - The Tubes

Cold Blue Music, a Californian record label that everyone enjoying contemporary ambient/electronic/minimalism should follow closely, is about to release a cd called “The Tubes” by Michael Fahres.

On the title track of this fascinating album, Fahres recorded the acoustic effect of the rock tube formations on El Hierro: a breathing sound created by waves forcing air through the volcanic rocks. Mixed with Jon Hassell’s breathy trumpet playing and Mark Atkins’ haunting didgeridoo, this piece is an ode to the breath of life itself…

Greg Haines – Slumber Tides

Greg Haines - Slumber Tides

In between the growing names of contemporary (post-)classic composers, Greg Haines’ debut stands out for it’s own style. It’s not trying to be too ‘classical’, because it’s more electronic than just that. But on the other hand it’s not exactly ‘ambient’ too (to continue the previous post about the ambient subgenres: we could define this music as ‘classbient’ – classy classic ambient 🙂 )

The record label Miasmah namedrops some of Greg’s inspirations: Arvo Pärt, Ryan Teague, William Basinski… If these names mean anything to you you know where to go. And dont’ forget Colleen for the sound of the glockenspiel.

This is a great cd for the dark winter days coming up!

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.