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.

Album Cover Madness

Someone mentioned this hilarious animation, entirely from album covers…it's a must-see for anyone that remembers the good old times of vinyl collection. I bet you see quite a few from your own collection (come on, admit it 😉  ). Just try to count them!

Here's the link (No ambient content, by the way)

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.

Banabila + Asid: Oh No Uaredero

Banabila + Asid

I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again: Michel Banabila’s music (a well-balanced fusion of electronic, ambient, jazz and ethnic music) deserves much more attention, and not only in Europe! 
To get a good impression of his versatility, you can check the myspace accounts listed below. Or read the ‘Hilarious Expedition’ weblog entry earlier. Or just click the icon below to listen to ‘Oh No Uaredeo’ with Salar Asid on violin).

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!

Dreamlines

Recently the Impakt festival in my hometown presented a ‘street’ version of the Dreamlines Project, originally created by Argentinian artist Leonardo Solaas for the internet. We’ve seen this kind of image-gathering trick done before (using Google or Flickr image collections), but never with results as beautiful as this! 

As the information states: “Dreamlines is a non-linear, interactive visual experience. The user enters one or more words that define the subject of a dream he would like to dream. The system looks in the Web for images related to those words, and takes them as input to generate an ambiguous painting, in perpetual change, where elements fuse into one another, in a process analogous to memory and free association.“

Yes – this is generative ambient art! It’s your visual companion to your ambient soundtrack.
So…start up the sound (by clicking the ‘play all available tracks’ above right), open up a new browser screen through the link below, enter some random keywords and enjoy…. 

Some examples? Just click here for the ambient association. Funny thing: entering four-letter words has equally aesthetic results (but with harsher colours). And just entering black is equally enchanting..

Thanks, Leonardo, for this beautiful vision.

Sacred Dub Podcasts

Sacred Dub Podcast logo

If you’re a fan of the music of Bill Laswell, then probably you’re also one of the followers that cannot seem to get enough of that stuff! Check out www.sacreddub.com.
Apart from a wealth of information, hot news, and an extensive discography, the collection of downloadable podcasts is especially interesting. At time of writing there are already 13 available, each one lasting one hour, and complete with full track details!

As the title suggests, these podcast focus on Laswell’s (ambient-) dub experiments. Apart from Laswell’s own music there’s also interesting material from artists closely related to his style. The nonstop mixes are available as 128 Kbit MP3-files, which is good enough to listen on your MP3-player. Polish up your internet connection and start downloading before it’s too late!

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!

Kerbaj’s Environment

Environmental ambient music. Peace & Quiet, Whales, Birds. The reassuring sounds of the city. The dreamlike landscapes of your subconscious mind.
Most of us hardly have any serious worries.

Mazen Kerbaj is a musician playing improvised music using his trumpet in a sort of Arve Henriksen style.
He is living in Beirut. Hís environmental sound at this very moment is the sound of the Israeli airplanes bombing his city.

On the night of 15/16 july 2006 he recorded this track (“Starry Night”) on the balcony of his flat in Beirut.
This is where environmental music gets very, very frightening.

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!

Bill Fontana – Harmonic Bridge

Tate Modern Turbine Hall

…And while in London, the inevitable visite to the Tate Modern Museum brought an unexpected auditive experience:Bill Fontana’s ‘Harmonic Bridge’ sound installation.
Just imagine a massively immersing multi-channel sound in the Turbine Hall pictured above!

In this installation, the Millennium Bridge acts as a giant string instruments. The processed sounds can be heard in the Tate Turbine Hall, as well as in London Underground’s Southwark Station (both locations are linked by this Millennium Bridge).

You can find more information HERE
“A network of vibration sensors have been placed within the bridge turning it into a vast stringed instrument which plays an ever-changing musical composition based on it’s surrounding environment. The noise created by pedestrians passing overhead, the wind, bicycles and the architectural elements which make up the bridge have been transformed into a sound installation which can be heard simultaneously in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall and also at Southwark Underground station.”

The sound from the bridge is picked up through “accelerometers” and is processed and transformed into “live sonic mappings”. As this sounds like a live (real time) process, I wondered why the sounds faded sometime to periods of silence – as this resulted in a bit of a pre-recorded feel..
The answer is in the project description on the artists website: “The work would enter the space as a slow moving wave, emerging from the ground tone of the background hum and then slowly decaying back into it.”

This installation is extended until august, 23. So when you’re heading for London be sure to visit the Tate Turbine Hall. Use the Underground, get off at Southwark Station and be sure to bang the bridge heavily while crossing it!

Whitney Music Box

Whitney Music Box

'Krazydad' Jim Bumgardner created quite a few amazing projects (involving Flickr photographs, for example, such as a caleidoscopic screensaver based on flickr photos). 
This particular one is based on the musical theories of John Whitney, as described in his book "Digital Harmony". While the theory may be for diehards only, most people will simply just enjoy the harmonic aesthetics. Play and enjoy!!