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Akira Rabelais – Spellewauerynsherde

Spellewauerynsherde

Maybe it’s because of this unpronounceable title, but I have completely missed this (2004!) release. I never have heard about it until recently. Better late than never, because this is easily one of the strangest and the most compelling albums I ever heard!

Upon hearing only the first track of this haunting album I realised that this is a sound completely different from all I heard before.
It’s as if a voice coming from the middle ages haunts you in your deepest sleep. It’s beautiful, heavenlike. But at the same time it’s distorted and confusing, scary even.

“Spellewauerynsherde” is built up from found sounds, field recordings of traditional Icelandic accapella lament songs recorded in the late 1960s or early 1970s on Ampex tapes and then forgotten about. After discovering the neglected tapes, cleaning them up and digitizing them for a library, Rabelais became fascinated with the heartbreaking sadness of the voices and began to think of them as source material for a series of compositions.

As the title (Spelle, Wavering, Sharde) suggests, you will not understand a word of what is sung. But somehow the message will come through.

This incredible record is available through samadhisound (David Sylvian’s label)

A Boomkat (recommended online store specialised in recordings like this) quote: “Not many album’s will move you in quite the way that this album does. Believe. “
Believe, indeed!

the Roches – Nurds


Since 1980 the spelling of the word may have changed a vowel, but the meaning is still the same.

In the gymnasium
I was not a hit
There was something really interesting
about the way my gymsuit fit

The Roches (Maggy, Terry and Suzzy) were -and still are- nurdy but irresistable! And if you may doubt their skills: Robert Fripp played with them on this record…you can’t get more intellectual credibility than thát, can you?

Murcof – Remembranza


Fernando Corona’s alias Murcof is a ‘hot’ name in the ambient music scene. And with a reason.
With his earlier releases (Martes, Utopia and some other, all released on Leaf) he defined his own particular sound, quite unlike most other contemporary ambient music around.
It’s a warm, emotional sound, maybe because he is born (and lives) in Tijuana, Mexico. A Biosphere from warmer regions, you might say?

His latest release is called Remembranza, and the music is as beautiful as the title. It is as adventurous as it is quiet.

However, the glitchy clickin’ rhythms on some of the tracks may pinpoint this release to 2005: I’m afraid it’ll be these rhythm tracks that will make this album sound a bit dated ten years from now. In my opinion these tracks would have been ‘timeless’ without these rhythmic backgrounds…but I’m nitpicking now. Remembranza easily belongs to the very best recordings I have heard in many years!

The Sony rootkit: a Major Mistake!


I’m not gonna repeat all things already said about the Sony/BMG CD’s that are copyprotected and install their ‘rootkit’ software on your computer when playing the cd on it: almost every weblog about music and/or computers has written about it already.

If you want the details: the original Mark Russinovich article can be found here, and there’s a follow-up here.

By installing software generally known as the worst kind of computer infection (and most difficult to remove), Sony / BMG have made a complete fool of themselves, and they managed to make it worse by releasing crappy uninstaller-software under public opinion pressure.
I guess they’re not even sorry, they’re just afraid to loose their profit – especially now.
Remember: it’s november, which means bad timing for bad press!

In my opinion, SONY/BMG deserves a total consumer strike against them, for at least the rest of the year.
Don’t buy SONY/BMG cd’s for present this christmas. Especially those of the copy-protected kind!

I know, this is a “Major” record company, so there’s quite a lot of big artist-names n?t to choose from, but if you look a bit further there’s a wealth of alternatives to be found.

And if you can’t think of anything: a package of blank CD-R’s can be a welcome present, too!

the Buddha Machine

BM

Recently I stumbled upon some news about the buddha machine: a small device that looks like a cheap fm-radio that endless loops 9 ambient samples. You can switch samples, connect a headphone, or listen to it using the built in speaker. The ambient sample-loops for this small device are created by Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian, known as FM3.

Brian Eno is said to have bought eight of these things, for obvious installation purposes.

Well th?t’s a gadget (*) I cannot refuse! So I immediately ordered one from Staalplaat.
It’s a conceptual thing: it’s the idea that counts more than the result. Due to the inexpensive hardware the samples don’t even nearly sound like they do on-line (click the speaker icon below to hear the online version).
But still – the Buddha Machine proves irrestistable. After the initial scorn for buying ‘crap’ like this (“it doesn’t even play decent radio!”) I found my family playing with the thing and enjoying this piece of obvious irrelevancy. Although I probably won’t buy the complete series, I certainly won’t regret this purchase….

(I’m very curious to hear about any other ‘ambient gadget’ you may have found, so please let me know if you did)

(*) there’s a matter of definition here: a gadget is defined as ‘a device that is very useful for a particular job’ – whereas ‘a device of clever design that has no practical purpose’ is called a novelty item. It’s up to you to decide which one the buddha machine is.

Brian Protheroe – Enjoy It


2005 celebrates the 30th birthday of a record that belongs to the few that I must have played hundreds of times when I was fairly young: Brian Protheroe’s Pick Up (1975). Along with the preceding Pinball (1974) and the following I/You (1976), this album belongs to my all-time favourites.
When you hear these records now, it may be a bit difficult to hear why they did appeal to me so much then. But even nowadays the strong voice still sounds appealing, the tongue-in-cheekness of the lyrics still can bring on a smile. It’s only some of the the arrangements that sound so very 70’s, sometimes musical-like. (I hate musicals, by the way).

The performing scene clearly attracted Protheroe: after he quit recording albums he has continued his career as an actor and has been performing in numerous musicals. Check his CV on his website for details (by the way – this is by far the worst website I have seen in years!).

These albums records have been hard to find in their time , but they have been re-released on CD by Basta.

Nine Horses – Snow Borne Sorrow


If you’re one of the people that cannot stand the voice of David Sylvian, you’re not gonna like this record, because he is one of the main performers in this one-off group. But if you can, you’re gonna love this project!
Nine Horses’ ‘Snow Borne Sorrow’ sounds just a like slick sounding coffee-table album — when you don’t give it enough attention. But in fact the music is very subtle, probably because Sylvian and Jansen chose interesting performing partners like Burnt Friedman (adding his unrivalled adventurous and ever-surprising arrangements and sample wizardry), Arve Henriksen (haunting Jon Hassell-like trumpet whispering), and a host of others like Stina Nordenstamm (voice), and good old Ryuichi Sakamoto – to name just a few.
But beware: these beautiful sounds ultimately reveal a very dark, maybe even depressing atmosphere, which may hit hard when the days start to turn darker:

'its a wonderful world / and she doesn't knows why
she wakes up each day / and continues to cry'

If this were a David Sylvian project, it’d be the best he has done in many, many years.
But this is not a David Sylvian project. This is Nine Horses – one of the unexpected musical pleasures of this year. Perfect release for the closing days of 2005.

Inside and Outside


Being the prolific musician that he is, Stephen Philips has come up with quite some unusual ideas (see the recent post about the drone download project, for an example).

There’s quite a few projects under his name at www.darkduck.net. Inside and Outside is presented in the form of an extremely limited multi-part subscription project, which immediately raised my interest.
Only the final (fifth) album of this series, which is planned to end in december 2005, will be available as a non-limited release, but the preceding four (ánd an extra bonus disc) will be available only for the 25 subscribers lucky enough to have spot this in time..I guess we’re talking about a 100% collectors item release here!

The music is a combination of field recordings (from near Washington DC), blended with dark deep ambient drones and textures. The field recordings are made only just before creating the albums, so the complete series finally turns out to be an auditive description of this year’s summer, fall and the beginning of winter. I like that idea. And I like the music.

Most of the two cd’s that were releases until now contain dark, moody drones (though the atmosphere gets lighter in the seconds half of part two…)

Drone Download Project


DDP Year 2 CD cover

It?s heading to complete its third year already, so if this is the first time you hear about the Drone Download Project, you?ve already missed quite a few free ambient-drone download opportunities. You missed 80 tracks of the first two years, to be precise. But don’t worry: the third year (including a Year 2 Megamix) can still be downloaded.

As you?d probably expected by now, all material is of the minimalist drone kind, some even quite extreme.
New tracks are available online for a limited time only, so you have to keep an eye on the site, but Stephen sends out notifications to you if you want.
If you?re into this kind of music (and can spend some money on it), I can heartily advise ordering the first two years on convenient MP3 CD format. Listening to all tracks until now takes op 21+ full hours…

The DDP – as it is sometimes referred to – was started by Stephen Philips, and boasts some famous names. And some more less famous names too. There?s a lot of material by Stephen Philips himself, some other names you may already have heard before are Sundummy, Brannan Lane, Esa Ruoho, Austere, Igneous Flame, Jeff Greinke. To name just a few.

All material is created for this occasion especially, and most of it is not available in any other format.

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