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James Murray – Falling Backwards

Falling Backwards

Falling Backwards

JAMES MURRAY – FALLING BACKWARDS  Also on Spotify

Some of you probably wondered why the recently published James & Anne‘ mix does not feature a track from James Murray‘s most recent release Falling Backwards. The answer is simple: because the mix was finished quite some time before this album was released. Otherwise it would have definitely contained a track from this album, because with this release Murray seems to surpass all his earlier releases in terms of musical soundscapes that are very personal and will resonate with many listeners on an emotional level.

James himself explains the album title (and the cover image) like this:
“When I was a child I would fall backwards, literally. If I felt life unfair or hadn’t control of my world, instead of losing my temper I’d go still, silent, bolt upright, close my eyes and just let go. [….] After a few of these episodes the people in my life learnt to see the signs and usually someone would be there to catch me in time.”
James forgot about these ‘self-destructive childhood descents’ but the memories came back after ‘recent scans investigating tinnitus discovered an infarct in the back of my brain’, possibly caused by historic trauma.
These memories of ‘the long free fall through darkness, the outright surrender of the will, and the delicious anticipation of impact’ were the inspiration for this Falling Backwards album, definitely his most personal to date.

It is an interesting question: what makes an album full of instrumental ambient soundscapes, ‘abstract’ as they are by nature, feel so very personal? But, on the other hand, not só personal that it refers to the artist’s unique situation only… but ‘personal’ for the listener too?

I don’t know, I can’t really explain. I can only assume that part of that comes from the accompanying explanation – with another text and a completely different context the listener’s mindset could be framed otherwise. But another (and important) part must be the intention of the artist is clearly felt: the honesty, opennes and vulnerability he’s not afraid to show. This can be felt and recognised – and probably is also one of many reasons why James Murray has become one of the more important artists/producers in this genre.

Falling Backwards is not released on his own label Slowcraft Records this time, but on Ian Hawgood’s Home NormalIt is the labels last release for this year, before it goes into a (hopefully short) hibernation. The choice could’ve hardly been better, because this one can go on repeat for a while.

(Interesting – though possibly unrelated – sidenote: Anne Garner‘s (James’ wife)  Wherever You Ggets a somewhat different connotation with the background of Falling Backwards. The track is from her 2015 Be Life albumand also the closing track of the James & Anne Mix

BTW: If you want to hear more from James Murray (besides his previous releases), I strongly recommend to check out his live set from October 2017 recorded at his performance for Fluister in Tivoli/Vredenburg Utrecht.

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Silent Vigils * Ian Hawgood

Silent Vigils

Silent Vigils

SILENT VIGILS – FIELDEM  Also on Spotify

I admit I had to look up the meaning of the word ‘vigil’, to find out it refers to a ‘period of keeping awake during the time usually spent asleep, especially to keep watch or pray’.
Add ‘silent’ to that moment and the name of this duo perfectly describes the atmosphere of their music. Perfect for listening while awake in moments usually spent asleep.

Silent Vigils is James Murray (UK) and Stijn Hüwels (B). Both are prolific musicians, producers as well as label owners: Slowcraft and Slaapwel, respectively. But Fieldem is not released on any of their own labels, but on Home Normal.
The album presents four long pieces with titles that seem to refer to locations that could be in the UK as well as in Belgium: Molenbrook, Mossigwell, Zwartewall, Fieldem.
“Places neither here nor there; half in the world, half in the mind.”

45 Minutes of peaceful, unhurried music – a “dialogue motivated by mutual respect and revolving around our shared love of the minimal, the graceful and the understated.”


Ian Hawgood 光IAN HAWGOOD – 光 (HIKARI)   Also on Spotify

Ian Hawgood does not need any further introduction I suppose. Even if you’re remotely interested in the ‘ambient’ and ‘experimental’ genre, you’ll have met his name on many occasions, be it as the curator of the Home Normal label, or as a multidisciplinary artist, educator, instrument builder or sound engineer.
He has lived a great part of his life in Japan but currently resides in Warsaw, Poland. The two different cultures are reflected in the titles of the tracks on this album: the first five are in Japanese, the last four are in plain English. Which, by the way, does not mean the music in these two parts are completely different: after all Ian Hawgood is the same person, wherever he lives.

(Hikari) translates as “Light” or “Shine”. Judging by the titles alone, there’s a difference in atmosphere that seems to tell a personal story: while the Japanese titles refer to concepts as Preface, Waves, Refraction, Journey and Extinction, the English titles sound sadder than that: Every Ending Is A Little Sadder Now You’re Gone, Hurt Whispers On. Gladly, the closing track of the album is titles A Light That Never Dims.

The first thing you’ll notice is the deliberate lo-fi sound quality of the recordings, which is perhaps not what you’d expect from a seasoned sound engineer. The music is performed on his childhood piano, using old disused reel to reel recorders and an array of vintage synths.
The result is that these pieces are very intimate: it’s as if this album was specifically recorded personally for you.

is not released on Home Normal, by the way: it is number 14 in the Eilean Records release series.
“color: blue. season: summer”

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Various Various

Homework Year 1

A selection from the many label compilations that were recently released – looking ahead at 2017, looking back at 2016, or maybe even looking back at the last 15 years:

anticipation of an uncertain future

ANTICIPATION OF AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE

The near future of 2017 may be unpredictable on a worldwide political scale, but fortunately this 40 minute (9 track) compilation of recent and upcoming Preserved Sound releases is reassuring: there will always be great music to take a break from everyday absurdity!

Artists include Visionary Hours, Aaron Martin, Richard Youngs, Max Ananyev, Endless Melancholy, Poppy Nogood, Adrian Lane, Ales Tsurko and CovarinoIncorvaia.
A wide range of instrumental genres show all kinds of beauty this label has to offer. There’s influences from ambient, folk, improv,  jazz, post-rock, neo-classical and experimental electronics (the Ales Tsurko track [Grusha] uses regular expressions to generate music from random Wikipedia articles!)

Generously offered as a Name Your Price download.


Illuminations

ILLUMINATIONS

I am not sure if all tracks from this massive Dronarivm compilation are previously unreleased, but the subtitle “The New Year 2017 Free Compilation” suggests so.
But even if they were previously released, only the most dedicated label addict would recognise all of the 28 tracks on this two-and-a-half hour compilation.
The collection is presented without any notes but a quote from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Illuminations VI‘:
“… The colours proper to life deepen, dance and detach themselves around this Vision in the making…. .

Currently, Dronarivm is one of the experimental ambient genre’s most important labels, and the line-up of this collection shows why: Olan Mill, Giulio Aldinucci, Autistici, Spheruleus, The Green Kingdom, Offthesky, Aaron Martin, Dag Rosenqvist, Elegi, Legiac, Maps and Diagrams, Strom Noir, Wil Bolton, Enrico Coniglio, Christopher Bissonnette, Porzellan and Bartosz Dziadosz  – and that is only about two-third of the contributors!

Generously offered as a Name Your Price download.


Home To Wander

HOME TO WANDER

Home Normal looks back to 2016 with this 11-track (58 minute) overview featuring tracks they ‘were lucky enough to release in 2016’.
It’s a kaleidoscopic overview of the versatility of this quality label that cannot be pinned down to one style but always guarantees a journey into adventurous new paths.

Artists include David Cordero, Altars Altars, Giulio Aldinucci, M. Ostermeier, Ian Hawgood, Stefano Guzetti Ensemble, Isan, Asuna, Stijn Hüwels/Dudal and A New Line Related.

Generously offered as a Name Your Price download.


Homework Year 1

HOMEWORK, YEAR 1

In an ascending order of track count and playing time, this compilation comes last.
52 tracks that fill up seven (7!) hours and 40 minutes! And, apart from that, áll of the tracks are new and previously unreleased.

The concept of this overview is a bit different: is doesn’t look back to 2016 only, or looks ahead at 2017, but it celebrates the 15 years of existence of the Taâlem label. And they do so in a special way: asking every artist that ever had a release on Taâlem to contribute an unreleased track that was recorded or finalised in 2016 – so it’s all brand new music, not a retrospective!
The list of contributing artists is not complete: some of the artists could not be retraced, others have stopped making music, etc. But the result is imposing enough as it is!

Due to the label’s nature, the music is more abstract and experimental than usual, presenting a lot of sound experiments, field recordings, musiqe concrête and industrial soundscapes – so it’s also the most ‘hardcore experimental’ compilation in this short list. But the tracks are thoughtfully arranged: playing the collection feels like complete overview of all corners of experimental electronics and ambient music.

I cannot mention all of the 52 contributing artists here, so I’ll randomly pick a few familiar names: Aidan Baker, Mathieu Ruhlmann, Emerge, Yui Onodera, Tobias Hellkvist, Encomiast, Simon Whetham, Fabio Orsi, Strom Noir, Pleq/Lauki, Philippe Lamy, Enrico Coniglio, Yannick Franck and Jeff Stonehouse.

And the best news, once again: generously offered as a Name Your Price download.

 

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