Pleq and Lauki; Jan Kees Helms; Nigel Samways and Ennio Mazzon

Two  releases on the Ephre Imprint label, and a collaboration from the label curator Nigel Samways with Ennio Mazzon. That’s a lot of fascinating material!

Gravity Lens

Pleq and Lauki – The Gravity Lens
Though they have never worked together (as far as I know), there’s a remarkable resemblance between Pleq (Bartosz Dziadosz from Poland) and Machinefabriek (Rutger Zuydervelt from Holland). Both are very prolific artists (their discographies can easily fill a single blog), not afraid to combine gritty electronics with aesthetic acoustic sounds and field recordings, and both are collaborating with a surprising array of adventurous artists. 

On The Gravity Lens, Pleq teams up with Lauki (Barcelona), to create a cinematographic “single longform piece which moves through several mournful, atmospheric sections. The arching melodies and harmonics reveal themselves further over time, rising in and out of submerged bass notes and fizzing field recordings.

Pleq and Lauki – The Gravity Lens (Excerpt)

Chihei Hatakeyama (Mirror) + Steinbruchel (Narrow)

Room40, the Australian based ambient/electronic/experimental label (run by Lawrence English) kicks off the after-summer season with a batch of fascinating releases. Among these are the beautiful drone-based albums by Chihei Hatakeyama and Steinbrüchel: 


Chihei Hatakeyama – Mirror
Chihei Hatakeyama has earned himself quite a reputation with his earlier albums (on Room40, as well as Home Normal, Hibernate and Kranky). Described as a minimalist with a “formidable reputation as a fearless textural experimentalist”, you might expect some loudness – but Mirror is about the opposite of loudness.
The deep drones (or polychromic and memory-evoking soundscapes if you prefer) are like a mirror indeed.

“Taking layers of composed instrumental passages and then re-recording them in a variety of reverberant spaces, Hatakeyama sought to accentuate and amplify the harmonic qualities of the sounds. Overtones were shaped by these spaces and rich fluctuations emerged from the original recorded elements.”

Some shorter field recordings mark the points of arrival and departure between the composed pieces. Together they present a fascinatingly calm and introspective album.

Chihei Hatakeyama – Alchemy

y0t0 (Year of the Ox) – Uriarra Road

“‘Uriarra Road‘ charts the decline of an outback town chasing survival as industry money crawls back to the city limits; left in its place, a confused and aging collective memory, drunk on nostalgia and the feral rantings of a right wing press.” 

The gloomy pictures in the booklet confirm the expression of the first track’s opening notes: Uriarra Road‘ may not be the most pleasurable road to wander, but its ‘rural decay’ has a distinct beauty for those susceptible enough to see it.

Various Artists – Just a Moment

Just a Moment

The Japan Earthquake and the Nuclear Disaster following it seem to have vanished from the media radar completely.
Which is strange enough, since the effects of the latter will be felt for decades (at the very least), and it’s unlikely that the people that were directly affected bu the earthquake have recovered from the disaster by now.

There have been some heartwarming beneficial releases by ambient/experimental artists until now, most notably the “Kanshin” and “For Nihon” albums. But for causes like this, there’s never ‘enough’ that can be raised for those that have suffered.

So, Harry ‘Spheruleus‘ Towell  teamed up with Bartosz ‘Pleq‘ Dziadosz  to curate another compilation in support of those affected by the Japan March disaster.

Just a Moment is released through the Audio Gourmet label, originally specialized in the short 15 minute  ‘coffee/tea break’ EP editions.

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.