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Felipe Otondo – Tutuguri

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Some albums get you nailed to your seat right from the start…you can’t stop listening until it ends, and barely move inbetween because you don’t want to miss anything.
This is exactly what happened to me when listening to Tutuguri, a new album from Chilean sound artist Felipe Otondo.

An important part of this spell came from the extreme clarity of the sound, especially in the opening track Irama’, which ‘investigates distinctive rhythmic features of traditional gamelan music using the unique timbral explorations of contemporary electroacoustic music’.

After studying acoustics in Chile, Felipe Otondo moved to Denmark for post-graduate studies in sound perception, focusing on spatial sound and timbre perception.
In someone else’s hands, this could result in a somewhat academic approach – music that tells theories, not stories.
But Felipe Otondo manages to tell a clear story, and takes you along on a trip “from Buddha to Zapotec”.

From the four tracks on Tutuguri, the second track ‘Teocalli’ is an impressive example of contemporary program(me) musicor ‘narrative’ music:
‘Teocalli’ is inspired by Julio Cortázar’s short story ‘The Night Face Up’, in which ‘a man driving a motorbike is involved in an accident and ends up in the hospital. In the middle of his hazy fever, he dreams he is a fugitive trying to hide from the Aztec indians, who are active in their annual manhunt for the ritual human sacrifice. The short story alternates between the hazy environment of the hospital and the intense environment of the jungle and the sacrifice temple Teocalli.’
It is a haunting soundtrack, indeed: you don’t need any images to visualize it. In fact you probably don’t even need to know the background story, because it transcends in every single fragment.

‘Ciguri’ is based on sounds that are somewhat similar to ‘Irana’, also exploring different types of bell sounds. It ‘is structured as different states of intensity stemming from the ritual of the peyote.”
The bell sounds on the closing track, ‘Sarnath’, on the other hand, are based on field recordings from various Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India. After the sonic experience of a fever trip as well as a peyote ritual, these sounds slowly take you back into a more earthly, yet still meditative, state of mind.

It’s not hard to tell why this album is so very different from many others. It is not just the sound quality – although that definitely is a very important factor. But it’s also because Otondo manages to combine his own Chilean background with his in-depth knowledge of acoustic sound perception.
Even though this CD contains only sounds (no visuals or other multimedia performances), I would not dare to call this just ‘music’. Because it is an ‘experience’.


FELIPE OTONDO – IRAMA

 

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My Home, Sinking; Bluhm; Pan-American; Chr. Virant; W.R. Fritch;

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In the Shortlist sections, I will mention the albums that I enjoyed listening to, but couldn’t find the time (or the right words) for a “full” review for. Still, I definitely think they deserve your attention, with or without extra words! 

My Home, Sinking

MY HOME, SINKING – MY HOME, SINKING
Enrico Coniglio often refers to Venice (Italy) in his music, which may explain the name of his new project. Released by Fluid Audio in a stunningly beautiful package (which is quickly selling out so don’t hesitate) it marks the label’s venture into new musical territory: ambient/experimental/improv crossover to rock/pop oriented music. This might have been risky ’cause when it failed it would have lost both audiences. But with this incredible set – and the help of people like Barbara De Dominicis, Laura Sheeran, Orla Wren and Katie English – Enrico Coniglio and Fluid Audio manage to define a completely new quality standard.

“The joined arsenal boasts acoustic instrumentation as well as synthesizer, manipulations and field recordings. Here guitar, cello, piano, harmonica, melodica, percussion and voice ring alongside Korg Monotron, Orla Wren’s processing, and Coniglio’s vinyls.Tracks range from glowing string examinations to humming whitewashes, from vocal reveries to textured pop allure.”


MY HOME, SINKING – MORNING WALK


Bluhm

BLUHM – THE VALE OF TEARS
The newly-set Fluid Audio standard is immediately and easily met by the labels follow-up release by Bluhm, a collaboration of Tim (‘Maps and Diagrams’) Diagram and Macedonian singer Genoveva.
They present a sound more ‘psychedelic’, with washes of echoes and vocal dubs, but (as My Home, Sinking does) their new releases also clearly marks a new musical direction.

“The musical production side utilises Tim’s trademark palette of drone, delay, reverb, discord, distortion, tape effects and granular synthesis. All consciously crafted with the light, ardour and purity that is always associated with his oeuvre. These primary melodies were presented to Genoveva, who then added her seraphic vocals.”
“It’s an exploratory, elemental union that includes a significant, immersive and expressive vocal narrative. The overall theme of light and hope is perhaps not so apparent on the first few listens because the vocals are full of hidden mystery. However, its nascent sense of optimism does become apparent the more you listen to it, essentially it’s a journey of hope”


BLUHM – WHEN WE CRY


Cloud Room, Glass Room

PAN-AMERICAN – CLOUD ROOM, GLASS ROOM
“With percussionist extraordinaire Steven Hess now a full fledged member, Mark Nelson and Pan-American deliver their first new album since White Bird Release from 2009. Bobby Donne (Labradford, Cristal) plays bass on multiple tracks, further emphasizing the live band feel.”
CLOUD ROOM, GLASS ROOM” delicately meanders from soft guitar rock-oriented soundscapes (‘Cloud Room’) to harsher noise experiments (‘Virginia Waveform’) or combinations of the extremes. With the thriving rhythm section underneath, Pan-American re-defines and sustains a completely unique sound.


PAN-AMERICAN – CLOUD ROOM


Christiaan Virant

CHRISTIAAN VIRANT – FISTFUL OF BUDDHA
Christiaan Virant was one of the originators of the now legendary Buddha Machine series, which may explain the somewhat contradictory title. Some sounds of the Buddha Machine are recognisable, as is the overall Zen-like feeling, but these nine tracks are full compositions, not just a collection of ‘loops’.

“Moving between China and Europe has allowed Virant a continuous access and appreciation of musical developments across the continents. Whilst still deeply Zen in mood and tone, the tunes here interweave minimal textures through drone and drift. Classical-trained Virant pays due homage to structure, drama and effect whilst completely understanding that, as Lou Reed once so accurately remarked, “repetition is anti-glop” Devotees of the Buddha Machine will treasure the connects and departures”.
But not just the devotees, I hope…


CHRISTIAAN VIRANT – RIVER PEARL


W.R. Fritch - Waiting Room

WILLIAM RYAN FRITCH – THE WAITING ROOM
Soundtracks are often great ways to bring music to an audience that otherwise probably would never find it. And there are quite a few names in contemporary music creating soundtracks: Cliff Martinez, Max Richter, Ólafur Arnalds, Johann Johannsson, Ben Lukas Boysen…and that’s just a few…
William Ryan Fritch has previously released music as Vieo Abiungo, but this soundtrack is released under his own name. “The Waiting Room” is a documentary by director Peter Nicks about the Emergency Room of Highland Hospital, Oakland, California.
“Fritch’s Waiting Room soundtrack is the ideal complement, with persistent gravities and thudding tempos that are keenly aware of the passing hours. The crawl of time is transcribed to sound with prolonged string notes, potent repetition and exquisite silences between topographies.”


WILLIAM RYAN FRITCH – CODA


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Robert Henke – Layering Buddha

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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.

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