For each new release, the french label IIKKImatches a visual artist with a composer. The resulting art is always published as a combined hardcover book and disc (vinyl or CD). So the most obvious thing to do is to listen and watch both together and find out what the relation is between the music and the images. But, according to IIKKI, the book can be also watched alone, and the disc can be also listened to alone. So the parts (book, discs, download) can also be obtained separately.
For their sixth edition, the music is created by Aaron Martin, and the photography by Yusuf Sevinçli. As usual, pictures speak louder than words so I can best leave it to this visual introduction:
I cannot really tell if this Touch Dissolvesis a ‘collaboration’ in the sense that both artists worked together in creating this release. I assume that Sevinçli’s photos already existed, and that they helped inspire Aaron Martin to create the music to go with them. But either way, the result is a dialogue: it becomes a dialogue the moment you listen and watch together.
As always, Martin‘s cello arrangements are very cinematic, and they fit the black and white pictures perfectly. The music is a rewarding listen on its own, too, as is watching the pictures.
But – as with all IIKKI releases – the true ‘added value’ lies in combining both.
And since we’re talking about the music of Aaron Martin, I might as well suggest to check out this soundtrack for William Armstrong’s short film Adam too. It’s a very short soundtrack: the seven parts take only seven-and-a-half minute and that includes two bonus tracks.
In fact I prefer to think of this set of fragments as one single track, since basically the parts are all variations on the main theme. In this way, Adam is a demonstration of Aaron Martin‘s skill for writing catchy soundtrack themes.
Of course, this is not a full album – and it is priced accordingly: it is a Name-Your-Price download.
And – by the way: the short movie by William Armstrong, a documentary about the life-changing diagnosis of Adam Voigt and how he dealt with it can be seen below and downloaded for free from Vimeo.
“You know every wave is different, and it’s up to you to choose how you wanna ride it.”
Ian Hawgood, owner/curator of the Home Normal label, starts off 2018 with a collaborative release with Danny Norbury. Hawgoodis providing the ‘decayed tones’ to accompany Norbury’s‘swirling cello’. It is not the first time the played together, but it is the first ‘official’ full length collaborative album.
Faintly Recollected should be heard as one single uninterrupted 33 minute track, even if on the album it is divided in seven parts. It is a very calm and subdued piece, with the soft processed Hokema Sansula kalimba tones and ambient loops colouring the background for the melancholic cello themes. Even with this relatively short length, the album creates a feeling of timelessness, a moment of introspection.
“This is the music for everyone who wants to enjoy the quietness and calm of hidden moments.”
Ian Hawgood also did the mastering for Aaron Martin‘s new solo album on the Preserved Sound label. A ‘memory-based’ recording, where Martin “tried to layer meanings in the music and titles, so that a single clear-cut reading of the music isn’t possible.”
There are definitely some effects used on this recording but still the album sounds like it’s completely acoustic.
The cello is the main instrument in most tracks, giving the album its characteristic melancholic atmosphere. But apart from cello, Martin also plays electric and acoustic guitar, bass, roll up piano, concertina, ukulele, singing bowls, lap steel and voice.
The (eleven) tracks are recorded in a detailed yet unpolished way which gives the feeling that they are performed right next to you, in your own room, just for you yourself alone.
I could easily fill all of this blog with Machinefabriek/Rutger Zuyderveltreleases. Blink twice and the release pages (solo/collaborations) will probably be updated with a new title. And, contrary to what you might expect with such prolific output, each release promises different surprises and thus deserves attention.
Time for a roundup of some recent releases:
Aaron Martin (cello, banjo, organ, ukulele, vocals) and Machinefabriek(electronics, processing, editing) have worked together before (on Cello Drowning, 2007). The tracks for Seeker were originally conceived for a dance piece by choreographer Iván Pérezcalled Hide and Seek.
The CD album version presents the (reworked and refined versions of) the original sketches that were created in preparation for this choreography. A remarkable combination of sounds covering a wide spectre of emotions – from gritty and noisy electronics to smooth vocal arrangements and organic folky strings… and many things in-between.
Included with the CD-version (and with the digital edition, of course) is a download of a 53 minute continuous remix of these pieces. This is what became the final score for the choreography.
This continuous mix is a perfect example of the added value of a good mix: take the original tracks (which are good enough to be played on their own, make no mistake about that), put them in a different order and they will tell a completely different story. Context is everything. You’ll recognise the tracks, but still it feels as if the mix is a completely different album from the version with the separate tracks.
Seekerhas waited to be released for more than two years. It was intended to be released on a different label but it was postponed for many reasons. Finally, Dronarivm came to the rescue… and we definitely should thank them for doing so.
The collaboration with choreographer Iván Pérez became a fruitful one: after Hide and Seek more Machinefabriekscores would follow. Becoming is the fourth product of their fruitful collaboration (following Attention The Doors Are Closing and Exhausting Space).
What was new for this particular production was that the score was produced live instead of using pre-recorded material. During performance, the dancers and the musician (Rutger Zuydervelt) have a real-time dialogue and so each performance is different.
“The choreography and music were created simultaneously, rehearsing together, and developing a movement and sound ‘vocabulary’ for the piece. The end result is structured, but still leaves a lot of room for improvisation in order to keep a natural flow. “
The CD release of Becomingis a ‘studio version’: a 40-minute piece edited from sounds recorded during the rehearsals. Again, Rutger Zuyderveltguides the listener through a landscape of contrasting extremes: from distorted noise that sets the listener in full alert mode, to dreamy drones and angelic choirs performed by Mariska Baars (soccer Committee/Piiptsjilling). To illustrate the way each performance can vary, the CD/digital edition includes a 46 minute live version recorded at the première performance of Becoming in Bassano del Grappa, Italy.
It is worth noting that this majestic sound is created using a relative ‘lo-fi’ setup of tools: pocket piano, pre-recorded cassettes, coil pick-up mic, contact mic, slinky spring, radio, dictaphone, tuning fork, scourer, micro amp, looper pedals, effects pedals.
Watching Machinefabriekperform live is nothing like the usual ‘laptop artist’ – it is watching a true sound alchemist at work.
Exactly one year after the Volume 1 release of the Astroneer game soundtrack a follow-up is released, simultaneously with a major game update. In the game, the music plays continuously and reacts interactively to the player’s decisions.
But for the CD/Download-release the eighteen tracks are presented as separate compositions. They are an addition to the 26 tracks of Volume 1, so that’s quite an impressive soundtrack altogether!
Astroneershows Machinefabriekat his most playful. Like on Volume 1, the synths have a retro sound that matches the games physics. Relatively short tracks, most of them quite light-hearted (except of course when danger or caves are involved).
Compare this release with the previous two and the one below, and you’ll probably find it hard to believe that these albums were created by one and the same person!
What it seems to be(Dutch: Wat het lijkt te zijn) is a collaborative project for an installation by Sarah Payton:a temporary artwork near the Buiksloterweg in Amsterdam.
It is a viewer made of concrete and rusting steel. When you look into the viewer you do not see the surroundings but watch a video with images of the city. You won’t find it there anymore: the installation has moved to different locations near the shores of the IJ until the end of october, and its current location is unknown. But we still have the soundtrack, thanks to the Dauw label.
With a beautiful and relatively soft-focused Machinefabriek‘s soundtrack, Sarah Payton tells stories “about things, such as a journey to another country, the properties of water, and the Wizard of Oz. Of potatoes, immigrants and homeless men that she encounters in the city. Threaded throughout is the search for a story in which everyone in the city could feel at home.”
For some reason I personally have concentration issues with spoken word performances – the same reason why I cannot listen to an audiobook: after a few minutes I hear the voice but not the meaning. I hear but I don’t understand – the voice has become an instrument and could’ve very well been a trumpet or any other solo instrument. Still, Saray Payton has a nice voice, and her observations are definitely worth concentrated listening.
The cassette release (or digital download) contains the original installation version (spoken) as well as the instrumental version on the B-Side. It is another example of Rutger Zuydervelt‘s versatility: no abrasive noise here but a soft, gentle, piece. Music that fits Sarah Payton’s contemplative observations about the world around her like a glove.
The inspiration for the new Scott Morganalbum came when he watched an old VHS copy of Koyaanisqatsi. The ‘VHS’ format added lo-fi enhancement to the visual experience:
“Something about the time-tarnished visuals and the pitch warble on Philip Glass’s epic score added a new layer of intrigue for me. Glass has always been an influence, but lo-fi Glass felt like a minor revelation, as if the decay was actually enhancing the impact of the film’s message”.
This also explains the many references to Philip Glass’s repetitive, minimalist composition techniques on this album – especially in the horn section arrangements.
Of course these pieces are not performed by a full-scale acoustic ensemble: Morgan carefully reconstructs the enhanced deterioration with his samples and use of electronics.
There’s another resemblance to Koyaanisqatsi: “a bleak notion that we humans don’t have much to say in how it all turns out”. At the time of writing the music for Monument Builders, “the life-and death battles of close friends and family forced Morgan to examine his own feelings on mortality”. But, like the film, at the same time the album offers solace and leaves room for exploration and surprise.
Europe, She Lovesis the original soundtrack for a the same-titled movie by Jan Gassman. ‘Europe on the verge of social and economic change. A close up into the shaken vision of 4 couples, daily struggles, fights, kids, sex and passion. A movie about the politics of love.”
In the more than ten years history of Library Tapes, this is David Wenngren‘s first non-piano record. I haven’t seem the movie (yet), but the music seems to capture the intimacy of the subject. Credits for that go to Wenngren himself, of course, but also to the sensitive cello parts played by Julia Kent.
Hearing this soundtrack definitely makes me want to check out the movie, exploring “in semi-documentary intimacy the sensitivities of a generation of twentysomethings in Europe”.
Since this is one of those luscious packed Fluid Audioreleases, the physical release has of course sold out long ago. But, thanks to our digital age, the download version remains available.
And is definitely worth checking out without the spectacular package, just for the music it contains.
Leonardo Rosado needed to break away from his musical routines, which ‘locked himself in his own idiosyncrasies’. In Aaron Martin he found ‘a soloist with a deep soul to guide my feelings towards something different, something that breaks me away from myself, without betraying who I am.”
When the basic tracks were ready for Aaron Martin to join in, they had no titles that might suggest a direction.
Aaron completed the tracks, his cello a perfect match for Rosado’s soundscapes. Only when the recording was complete, the titles revealed itself: ‘a poem formed itself magically’.
FROM THE MOUTH OF THE SUN – INTO THE WELL I won’t go into detail about the exuberant packaging of this Fluid Audio release, because it’s one of those releases that are probably sold out by the time you read this. If you want to know what is (or: was) included in the 2×3″CD package, you’ll find the details here. Into the Well is the second album from From The Mouth Of The Sun(FTMOTS) – the follow-up to their 2012 debut Woven Tide. FTMOTS is Dag Rosenqvist and Aaron Martinperforming most instruments,but with the additional horn section and vocal assistance this album has the sound of a full chamber orchestra setting. Some of the music has been compared to that of Sigur Rós, a comparison most obvious in the track called Bodies in Fog. But for me personally, this music has more impact because it avoids the obligatory ‘post-rock climatic eruptions’. Which – paradoxically – enhances their impact.
And, talking about paradox: the cover art, plotted maps and photo’s included bear strong war-time references: ‘an uncompromising and evocative tribute to sacrifice’. But to my ears, it is peaceful and consolatory music – music beyond fear.
CHRISTINA VANTZOU – NO. 3 When listening to Christina Vantzou‘s albums (No. 1 in 2011, No. 2 in 2014, and now: No. 3) in sequence, you can almost feel her grow as a composer. She’s still connected to her roots (linking her to Stars of the Lid/A Winged Victory for the Sullen since working with Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie in The Dead Texan), but working with a 15-piece ensemble of strings, horns, woodwinds and choir clearly opened up new possibilities.
‘Whereas 100% of the music of No. 1 and No. 2 was composed without time structure or steady click, the pillars on No. 3 adhere to a solid mathematical scheme.”
But, instead of venturing into more ‘modern classical’ compositions, Vantzou directs the ensemble straight back into performing otherworldly drones. Which proves to be the very right choice!
The ensemble’s arrangements are a perfect accompaniment to Vantzou’s synth parts, performed on DX7, Yamaha CS20, Roland Juno-6, and a selection of Eurorack modular synths.
There’s an eerie atmosphere to the cover, which is even multiplied by the mesmerizing movements on the Official 16 mm filmaccompanying the release. But if you strip away the eerie overlay, there is a profound beauty underneath.
It’s the synths that show (and honour) some of Vantzou’s sources of inspiration. Most clearly in the track Laurie Spiegel, but on other moments I even imagined hearing Tomita’s ghost tucked away in the background (or is that just my mind playing tricks? Check the second half of Cynthia..).
But in the end, this is a Christina Vantzoualbum, not just a collection of references. An album that easily meets the expectations set by its two predecessors.
If Christina continues her own traditions, I guess we can look forward to the No.3 Remixes, too.
NO.3 – OFFICIAL 16 MM FILM
Christina Vantzou – Robert Earl
MARK LYKEN / EMMA DOVE – MIRROR LANDS Scotland-based artists Mark Lykenand Emma Doveworked together on this soundtrack – ‘a lovely combination of minimal pastoral piano infused arrangements, industrial and natural field recordings, voice overs and evocative electronics’. As usual for Time Released Soundreleases, this comes in two editions: a standard digipak version as well as a Deluxe Edition. The latter is packed in a vintage 7″ square reel-to-reel tape box, filled with vintage prints of the Scottish Highlands, antique fold out maps and pages from 100 years old travel books.
Also included is a printed link to a private viewing of the award-winning Mirror Landsfilm in which ‘preconceived ideas of Highland life are challenged and the complex interactions between nature and culture are brought to the fore.’ With the soundtrack performed by six speakers forming a circular sonic space from the screen, I guess viewing Mirror Lands must be an impressive experience. Since the Deluxe Edition will probably sell out soon, I do hope the film can still be viewed in some way or another.
But even without its accompanying images the soundtrack stands firmly on its own, perfectly balancing electronics with field recordings and ‘natural’ instruments.
JÓN ÓLAFSSON & FUTUREGRAPHER – EITT Take two musicians from Iceland, combining piano with electronics and field recordings, and you knów you’re in for a treat! Jón Ólafsson (piano) is an experienced keyboard player: he has played with numerous artists (Emiliana Torrini and Björk among them), and received the Icelandic Music Awards as ‘best keyboard player’ twice. Árni ‘Futuregrapher‘ Grétar weaves a sonic tapestry with synthesizer, effects, and field recordings.
This is their first release together, and hopefully it won’t be their last: their contemplatice music sounds ‘fresh’ (- nót ‘cold’! – ), with a bright – ECM-like – production.
A bit like sunny days in spring. (In Iceland, that is).
GIULIO ALDINUCCI – SPAZIO SACRO Giulio Aldinucci‘s soundscapes (or, as he prefers to call it: his musical research) ‘always focuses on different synthesis and on the use of field recordings‘. The pieces on Spazio Sacro(Sacred Space) are all closely related to the area where he grew up: Tuscany, Italy. “The field recordings are taken in places that are related to the idea of ‘sacred’ in different ways. The starting point is a reflection on how human rites define new soundscapes (e.g. processions, architecture of churchesand cathedrals or ruins of isolated mountain sanctuaries).” In a way, this album could be described as a collection of audio postcards from Italy. Or better: small details of audio postcards, since the field recordings are heavily manipulated and moody layers of electronics are added for enhanced (sacred) atmospheres.
As with all TimeReleasedSounds releases, this album is available in a standard edition as well as in a beautiful luxurious hand-crafted Deluxe edition (limited to 75 copies).
AROVANE & HIOR CHRONIK – IN-BETWEEN The well-respected blog A Strangely Isolated Placehas also become a record label with special dedication to beautifully packed vinyl releases. After Uncharted Placesand Europe, their third release is a collaboration project by Arovane (Uwe Zahn, Germany) and Hior Chronik(from Greece).
Both artists merge their broad experience in different musical styles but at the same time keeping their focus on ethereal, orchestral and modern classical ambient music. It’s a kaleidoscopic collection, ranging from sequencer-based tracks to melodic guitar themes and all kinds of soundscapes ‘in-between’. “Pianos, field-recordings and strings amongst modular synthesizers create a shimmering canvas of ambient music, touching the heart, and transporting you to the musical equilibrium that exists between these two good friends.” In-Betweenis available as white double-vinyl in a gatefold sleeve, and as a digital download.
JEREMY YOUNG & AARON MARTIN – A PULSE PASSES FROM HAND TO HAND On this collaboration each piece starts with a slow, lo-fi piano tape loop, immediately resembling Basinski’s work.
From there the loop is “then augmented brick by brick in fluid, stream-of-consciousness instrumental improvisation”. There is no synth or computer sound here: just the tape loops, guitar, zither, brushes, whisks, field recordings (Jeremy Young)and cello, vinyl, lap steel, bowed cymbal, bowed banjo, organ and singing bowls (Aaron Martin).
“The four repeating tape splices never quite retreat too far from the foreground, and as the textures become more and more lush, the loops seem to change their definition, adapting endlessly to the sonics around them.”
SÖLL – CÄVV There is not a single word without a diacritic trema on this album by Söll – alias of Jorge Pandeirada from Portugal.
This adventurous debut is released on the dutch Esc.Rec(pronounced Ass.Crack) label – a label that specializes in releasing music that defies any categorisation.
With a degree in Music Production and Electronic Music, and now studying for a master in Sond Design, Pandeirada sure knows to create some fascinating detailes (‘fine-grained’) sound sculptures. “Listening to Cävv is like listening to the perfect soundtrack to an abstruse story, slowly unfolding. Like gliding into in the dreamworld of an abstract creature living in darkness, oblivious to light. Like probing the most placid moment of something monstrous. Like a deep reflection of consciousness.”