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.

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!