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[Law-Rah] Collective/Cinema Perdu; Celer; Book of Air

Celer - Two Days and One Night

Invocation

THE [LAW-RAH] COLLECTIVE / CINEMA PERDU – INVOCATION

Since 2000, The [Law-Rah] Collective has been operating in various formations on different projects. Their discography boasts 14 full albums and numerous other projects. Bauke van der Wal is the constant factor of this ever-changing group of contributors.
On this occasion, he is the single [Law-Rah] member performing. Other tracks on this split album are performed by Martijn Pieck – who has been releasing his work as Cinema Perdusince 2012. In times, he was a member of the collective too. So, in a way, this album can be seen as a ‘collective’ effort, too. Each performer delivers two solo tracks, and they perform together on ‘Invocation 4’.

According to the liner notes, this album is all about friendship. Or rather: the ways friendship can end.
It’s also about friendships that never end, ‘even when said friend has left this dimension. The feeling that we’re left with is just about the worst feeling ever…’
The tracks on Invocation are ‘personal views and interpretations of the emptiness that remains. Finding closure in a process of grief’.

The extended, minimalist drones clearly do not radiate happiness – but on the other hand you would probably have a different interpretation of these sounds when you didn’t know about the artists’ intention. Drones like this create their own vast space to let your thoughts wander to whatever occupies your mind.

With an average length of about 10 minutes each, these five tracks are the kind of sonic immersion that makes time stand still, while everything outside the space it creates seems to disappear. At the same time, the sonic space is filled with sparse details, accents that seek attention and can keep the listener focused and avoid drifting off too far. Especially on the collaboration track, Invocation 4, which has a more industrial feel and is less ‘droney’ than the other pieces.

Van der Wal and Pieck each have their own approach but they obviously share the same artistic vision too. That is why they fit together very well on this split release that feels like a single album instead of being two completely different parts.

Also on Spotify


Celer - Two Days and One Night

CELER – TWO DAYS AND ONE NIGHT

Coincidentally, Celer‘s Two Days And One Night is another album about loss and dealing with grief. On this album, Will Long retraces the steps his great-uncle travelled in 1984, from Tunis to Hammamet, ‘where he rented a hotel room, bought swimming trunks, and by the afternoon had drowned in the ocean.’ He was 80 years old.

Celer re-creates this trip using his own experience, ‘a re-imagining of what my great uncle might have heard and experienced 31 years before.’
The ambient washes of sound in the longer tracks are merged with shorter – sometimes almost inaudible – local field recordings, creating a dreamlike and slightly exotic atmosphere.

It is amazing how personal Celer‘s music feels, considering his enormous output. But, as personal as its background is, this music tells a story everyone can relate to somehow.

“It’s a shame he didn’t see the burnt orange sunset swirling over the horizon as I did… but then again, maybe he did.”


Vvolk

VVOLK – BOOK OF AIR

Think of a group of 18 improvisers ‘with roots in jazz and classical music’ performing. What sound do you expect to hear? Personally, I expected mayhem, pandemonium, ‘organised chaos’ and disruption.

So much to my surprise, this music is none of that. Or maybe it is, but in a completely unexpected way.
In these two pieces, each referring to two seasons of the year, the Book of Air collective demonstrates an almost incredibly controlled restraint.  This is especially fascinating considering they do not use electronic instruments: the ensemble features drums, bass, guitars, harmonium, euphonium, rhodes, saxophones, flute, percussion and kankles.

 

I’m not sure what the title, Vvolk, refers to exactly (*). But maybe it’s the VV is the ancient notation for W – in which case it translates to “cloud”.
The music originates from the questions Book of Air asked themselves:
“what are the possibilities in playing music, when changes in this music pass by unnoticed? How do we as musicians relate to the running time of a performance? How does our hearing and memory react to these slow changes?”

Vvolk is the follow-up to Fieldtone from november, 2015, on which Book of Air performed as a quintet created music dedicated to ‘roomtone: “the ‘silence’ recorded at a location or space where no music is played or dialogue spoken’.
Check that one out too, if you can. You’ll probably have a hard time finding any better ‘ambient jazz’ than this.

(*) [Edit august 2018]:
Only recently I found out that Book of Air is the name of the ongoing project series, and thus not the ‘band’ name.

Fieldtone and Vvolk are the two different collectives that perform the first two parts of this series. I left the text above as I wrote it in 2016. 

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Unland; Elderbranch Campaign; Wouter van Veldhoven

Wouter van Veldhoven - A Head Stuck In Tapes

Unland - Die Ruhe

UNLAND – DIE RUHE NACH DEM STORM
The quiet before the storm can be frightening, because you don’t know what’s to come. The quiet áfter the storm can be reassuring – depending on the fierceness of the storm – because you know the storm has passed.
Unland is a german trio consisting of Jonas Meyer (piano, effects), Christian Grothe (guitar, effects, sampler) and Shabnam Parvesh (clarinet). They create “improvised soundscapes between conventional composition and digital abstraction”.   Not too digital, since their core instruments are acoustic, and their sound is, too, although the instruments are manipulated in real-time.
This relatively short album (29 minutes) demonstrates their sound, which “defies any definition and is influenced by jazz, classical music, kraut-rock and ambient-meditations.”



Unland – Die Ruhe Nach Dem Sturm


Elderbranch Campaign

THE ELDERBRANCH CAMPAIGN – SACRED SONGS OF THE FIELD
I must admit that I had not heard of The Elderbranch Campaign before, but it turns out this duo (G.M. Slater and Stephen Robert Rook Thompson) have already released quite a few titles since 2012: Sacred Songs of the Field is their 11th album.
It’s an homage to other albums dedicated to animals, such as The Residents’ “Animal Lover” and Pink Floyd‘s “Animals”.  It contains three long tracks that, in their own words ‘showcase their interpretation of how animals (in this case sheep, pigs and dogs) would express themselves musically’.
That was not exactly what I thought of when listening to The Lamentations of Sheep, The Sacrifice of Pigs and The Passion of Dogs, but it’s an interesting thought anyway. Not the happiest animals, apparently, because these dark ambient soundscapes are quite haunting and hardly leave room for light to enter.
But they are a fascinating set of sculptures created from synths, guitars, found objects, voices and processed field recordings.
‘Absolutely best experiences over headphones’.

Also on Spotify


Wouter van Veldhoven - A Head Stuck In Tapes

WOUTER VAN VELDHOVEN A HEAD STUCK IN TAPES
This is simply presented as a collection of unreleased works. The reason why they remained unreleased, even when there were enough labels interested in releasing his work, is Wouter Van Veldhoven‘s personal insecurity about the musical results:
“[I] have often delayed releases to a point where I didn’t want to release the material at all anymore. For now I am not going to release anything until I might accidentally might create something I would really like to release.”

His insecurity may be somewhat understandable if you’re familiar with his audio-visual performances, the complex contraptions of his reel-to-reel tape recorder performances. There is as much to see as there is to hear – there is definitely much more going on than “just” audio. But still, I think he underestimates the power of his music!
The proof of that is in this collection of almost 2 hours of unreleased material, which demonstrates Van Veldhoven’s unique (deteriorated) sound created by interplaying vintage (and often worn-out) tape-recorders.
Because he considers this as ‘unfinished’ music, not intended for official releases, this collection is presented as a Free/Name Your Price download!

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CEEYS; Poppy Nogood; Joe Frawley

CEEYS - GrunewaldCEEYS – THE GRUNEWALD SESSIONS
Two brothers from Berlin, Sebastian and Daniel Selke recorded this intimate live performance in a church. They are both classically trained, but their music has many different influences – jazz, minimal, ambient and pop – and transcends all of them. Cello and piano are their primary instruments, but their music is different from the overwhelming stream of ‘post-classical’ music released recently, because of their use of electronics, synth pads and field recordings. Not just the ordinary contemporary electronics, but the use of some original, restored electronic instruments by East-German company Vermona back in the 70’s and 80’s like this one: the ER 9 rhythm box.

This combination of sound, combined with the duo’s skills and experience, the jam-session live setting and the well-recorded acoustics of the Grünewald church – all these details result in an outstanding album. Which, by the way, is presented as a ‘sketchbook’ for their upcoming studio album Concrete Fields, to be released later this year.
Talk about setting a high standard….!

Also on Spotify


Music for Mourning

POPPY NOGOOD – MUSIC FOR MOURNING
It is to remain unclear for now who is hiding behind the Poppy Nogood alias, but it’s an easy guess that he (or she) is inspired by the Terry Riley composition Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band (from the 1969 album A Rainbow in Curved Air – a piece for heavily dubbed soprano sax and electric organ – and reel-to-reel tape loops knows as the time lag accumulator).

For Music for Mourning, this anonymous Poppy Nogood plays the violin as the main instrument, and Steve Reich, Max Richter and Bing & Ruth are credited as other major (and recognisable) influences.
Similar to Kreng’s impressive album The Summoner, this album represents various stages of mourning: it starts calm and mournful (Max Richter style), but gradually the mood changes and in the second half of this short album other (more intense emotions) kick in. This is narrative ‘program music’, even though the compositions are created from improvising: “I really don’t know where I’m going until I start recording”.

Though this is the first album on Preserved Sound, I’m sure that Poppy Nogood has released other work before (I seem to recognise the violin sound and playing style but cannot really attach a name to it). But in the end that doesn’t really matter: it’s the music that speaks for itself!


Cartomancer

JOE FRAWLEY – CARTOMANCER
With his combination of acoustic instruments (piano, violin, glass xylophone), background electronics, found sounds and vocal samples, Joe Frawley has developed a unique (and immediately recognisable) personal style.
Dreamy, somewhat psychedelic in nature, a bit confusing too: it’s not always clear if the dreams are pleasant or nightmarish.

Cartomancer refers to Olney H. Richmond, author of The Mystic Test Book(1893), outlining ‘a complex system for using a standard deck of playing cards for divinatory purposes’. He was the founder of the Order of the Magi, one of the many astrological religions founded in 19th century America.

There’s a fascinating story behind this album, but it’s not necessary to know about all of this the slightly occult undertones of this music. And that’s because Joe Frawley is perfectly capable to capture the enigmatic atmosphere in his music.

Also on Spotify


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Eilean & Dauw Dialog Tapes

Dauw - Dialog Tapes

In recent years it is not uncommon that artists work together without meeting each other in real life. On-Line collaboration is a common working method: sending work-in-progress to each other until it’s ready. It’s one of the many wonders the Internet brought us.

But as far as I know, two labels collaborating together in this way – matching their artists to work in duos on a collaboration track – has not been done before.

It’s a bold project by Eilean Records and Dauw to match 15 of their artists and let them make 14 collaborative tracks that are released as “Dialog Tapes” on two different media: a CD from Eilean and a Cassette tape from Dauw.

It’s a matching pair – the one should not be listened without the other. Just consider it a double album released on two different media – by two different labels…
No need to think about that too long, by the way: the physical editions will probably be sold outby now (though there may be some copies of the CD left at Experimedia or Stashed Goods). But luckily both releases are still available as a perfect pair of digital downloads.

Dauw - Dialog Tapes

One might expect a somewhat hectic clash of extremes when so many artists are paired, but it’s not. On the contrary: the fourteen tracks are pleasantly varied, often lo-fi, seemingly improvised, introvert, but néver dull, soundscapes.
The labels  – ánd their artists, at least those participating here – clearly share their view of what contemporary soundscapes should sound like!
(A honorouble mention is in place here for the mastering of Ian Hawgood)

14 tracks by 15 artists working in duo’s must mean there is one duo involved (Sokkyo is Heine Christensen and Ciro Berengues) which means that two tracks are created by a trio, not a duo. Not that that really matters, it’s just for those that want their math to be correct…

So, each artist that is present in two different combinations, each interacting with what the other party does best.
And beyond that, it is great to see labels not competing but working together.

The artist names to wet your appetite (find out the combinations yourself):
Stijn Hüwels, Danny Clay, Ruhe, TwinCities, Miguel Isaza, Monolyth & Cobalt, Wil Bolton, Leigh Toro, Aaron Martin, The Humble Bee, Sokkyõ, Masayaka Ozaki, David Andree, Dudal.

As demonstrated by this release, the result can indeed be much greater than the sum of its parts.

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Frans Friederich – Ambient 1998 – 2013

Friederich Links

Frans Friederich is a dutch trumpet-player, musician, composer and music teacher living in Zierikzee, Holland.
He has been playing since 1980 in different musical constellations – in bands like  Dull Schicksal and Trespassers W, bands that gained local cult status due to their experimental and improvisational approach.

In 1997 he started working on his enormous Recyclopedia project: releasing a cd-album for every single letter in the alphabet.
A large scale project with solo works and collaborations that is still in progress but slowly nearing completion now.
(I had the honour of remixing samples of editions [A] to [Q] to a special mix that was released as the edition for the letter [R]: you can still find this mix [HERE])

Friederich’s Bandcamp page displays an extensive overview of his work, all compiled by their different styles  – and all freely downloadble (!!).

All these compilations present a large array of adventurous experiments, but there are two specific releases that justify recommendation here on Ambientblog: 
Ambient 2002 – 2013” and Ambient 2 – 1998 – 2013” , respectively (- you probably guessed thát).

These eleven tracks (130 minutes total), show that Friederich’s approach to music comes from a broader vision than ‘ambient’ music alone, and this is what makes them somewhat ‘different’ from most ‘mainstream ambient’.

Some of the tracks are quite bare-bone solo pieces (the closing track “Bos” is a 24 minute piece built from environmental forest recordings), others are created with partner-in-ambient-crime Robert Kroos, who helps creating deep zen-like drone pieces.
As an exception to this, there is also “F für Friede (P for Piece)”, featuring an ensemble of no less than 19 performers (including Michel Banabila). 

Friederich is a generous man, obviously: all his compilations are offered as free downloads… not even pay what you want. So here’s your chance to take a dive into his history – and wíth that into some interesting parts of the dutch experimental music.

 

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Various Artists – Places

Places

Lomechanik is a dutch independent experimental music label celebrating their 25th release with the compilation called Places: a ‘Name Your Price’ (!) download of 25 tracks (over two hours) especially created for this project by “old familiars as well as newly involved artists, with a certain place and/or memory as a starting point.”

Originating from a collective based in Nijmegen, Holland, even the ‘old familiars’ will probably be unknown names outside Holland (and probably even in the larger part of Holland), but Places proves that the local experimental music scene is alive and well and breathing a fresh air into the world that definitely deserves to be heard elsewhere also.

It’s almost impossible to define the styles here. Sometimes acoustic, sometimes electronic, often both, ambient elements but hardly ever ‘ambient music’. But it’s not your average classic rock, either, as you may have guessed!

For an album that has so many styles coming from so many different backgrounds, the overall coherence is remarkable. The atmosphere is exciting and relaxing at the same time.
This must be due to the single directive: “The only rule we’ve established: No use of beats.”
“The result is a movie-like musical trip over mountains, through hills, past cities and villages, right through the desert and the deep-sea. From serene atmospheres up to extremely ominous, it’s for the adventurous traveller.”

Places is released as a digital-only album, but for those that find it hard to live without something physical to hold on to, Lomechanik has an optional extra: a set of 25 postcards: one black and white postcard for every track (with the link to the audio file printed on them so you can send the appropriate postcard with the audio file to anyone you want.
The pictures printed on the postcards are also embedded in the digital file, so every track has its own ‘cover’.

Original and innovative in music as well as in the form it is released in, this is a fitting anniversary release for a label that defies borders!

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Anne Chris Bakker – Reminiscenses

ACB

A few months ago I wrote some words about Anne Chris Bakker‘s beautiful album Tussenlicht“, a self released limited edition CD-R. (If you haven’t checked this one yet: the digital edition is still available!)

It’s a pleasant surprise to find that his new (first “official”) album Reminiscenses is now released on Dronarivm, the (Moscow-based) contemporary ambient and modern classical music label curated by Pleq and Dimitry Taldykin.

While “Tussenlicht” can be described as one single composition in four parts, the six tracks on Reminiscenses are more separate, stand-alone tracks, each with a somewhat different instrumentation.

Like on his earlier albums, Anne Chris Bakker plays all instruments himself.
In style, the music is loosely related to that of the Kleefstra brothers (known from their work with Piiptsjilling and the Alvaret Ensemble, among other projects), with who Bakker regularly performs. This also means the music comes from improvisation sessions mostly:

“Reminiscences existed with no detailed plan. It is more the result of spontaneous playing and recording over a period of 5 months using guitar, pedals and and a violin bow.
During playing lots of images came up in mind, quite similar to the half sleep state of mind where images and situations flow and bind in an unstructured way.
While playing and listening to the material it opened up a map of lost memories.
This is how I recollect. Reminiscences.”

The album’s opener “Between the Garden and the Lake” is a striking opener, because it is extremely unhurried. A statement of calm that sets the atmosphere for the rest of the album.
“I thought my heart was calm” starts with a quiet, indefinite, whisper – and takes its time to slowly build a climax which is quite noisy yet still manages to retain its inner calmness.

These two tracks make for the first half of the album. The second half contains 4 shorter tracks (between 2 and 7 minutes in length): piano themes merging with field recordings, drones and a closing ambient track called with the great title “Droesem” (= Dregs).

After “Tussenlicht”, my expectations for this album were sky-high.
I’m happy to find that Reminiscenses easily lives up!

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Kleefstra-Pruiksma-Kleefsta – Deislieper

deislieper

Deislieperis the third release in what I like to call the Kleefstra Wire Trilogy“.
In fact, there’s no real ‘trilogy’, but three separate albums that were presented by three independent labels on one single advertising page in Wire Magazine: “Wurdskrieme(on Experimedia). Tongerswel”  (on Home Normal), and now Deislieper(on Hibernate).

“Deislieper”, by the way, is a Frisian name for the nightjar and literally it means ‘day sleeper’

Rooted firmly in the improv scene, core members Jan (poetry) and Romke (guitar, effects) Kleefstra never work alone.
With Piiiptsjilling, most of the contributors were Dutch fellow musicians (like Rutger ‘Machinefabriek’ Zuydervelt, Mariska Baars, Chris Bakker), but soon they also started playing with an international cast of musicians like Peter Broderick, Nils Frahm, Greg Haines (on the Seeljocht project).
Tongerswel presented their work together with saxophonist Gareth Davis, and now Deisleeper features the incredible percussion music by Sytze Pruiksma.

Packed in a strikingly beautiful white digipack (designed by Antonymes, based on photography by Ruurd-Jelle van der Ley), this albums contrasts quite heavily with the dark layout of Tongerswel. In another way, however, they fit together perfectly. 

While the basic musical ingredients are not very different from what you might expect after the previous releases (slow guitar soundscapes and a dreamy vocal performance of the, mostly rather dark, Frisian poetry), the album definitely gets its own identity from Sytze Pruiksma’s percussion.

To get an idea of his percussion craftsmanship, you may watch this session recording from last summer’s Into the Great Wide Open festival (also featuring the Kleefstra’s and Peter Broderick). (I know I’ve published this link before, but the session is too beautiful not to be seen!)

2012 Will probably bring numerous new projects involving Jan and Romke Kleefstra.
But for now, 2011 has been an incredibly productive year for Jan and Romke Kleefstra.

I don’t know if any award for Frisian Culture Export Products exists, but if it does, these guys definitely should be nominated!

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Piiptsjilling – Wurdskrieme

Wurdskrieme

On the debut release in 2008, Piiptsjilling was the name of the album performed by Machinefabriek & Jan Kleefstra, together with Romke Kleefstra and Mariska Baars.
Following this remarkable debut, the original contributors have kept working together and performing in as well as outside Holland – to growing critical acclaim.

Now, Piiptsjilling is used as the name of the band.

One might think this kind of spoken word music, spoken in the Frisian language (Friesland is a province in the north of the Netherlands) would be of local interest only.
Luckily, the opposite prove to be true: the message of their music came across widely outside Friesland too.

The new Piiptsjilling album, called “Wurdskrieme(Cry of Words) is now released on Experimedia.net.
Compared to the original Piiptsjilling album, it’s a quite different view of the same concept.

Wurdskrieme was recorded in improvisational sessions in March 6/7, 2010. (Other recordings from the same session will soon be released as Molkedrippen on the Spekk label).

The improvised sessions were post-processed by Rutger ‘Machinefabriek’ Zuydervelt (and masterfully mastered by Taylor Deupree), maintaining the live feel but adding a different sonic dimension. It is this fact that results in an extraordinary, unusual feeling of timelessness.

Like the earlier releases (Yes: plural, since Wink should also be considered a Piiptsjilling release, although it was recorded as Kleefstra-Bakker-Kleefstra), these tracks have a dreamlike, unhurried feel.

This is clear from the beginning of  Unkrûd (Ill Weeds), which starts out like an Indian raga with Mariska’s vocals over a slow guitar drone.
But the ‘nocturnal atmospheres’ change into quite dark (in Sangerjende Wyn (Lilting Wind)) – and into a downright uneasy, seemingly undirected, improv guitar instrumental (Utsakke Bui). From there, it’s back again into dreamy realms.

Though they are using elements already existing elsewhere, they manage to create music in a completely new and unique context.

While Piiptsjilling stays close to what they started, this “experimental supergroup” clearly is unafraid to stretch borders and to explore new directions.
Which they shóuld of course, otherwise they would not be ‘experimental’…

 

Spotify– (Also on Spotify)

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Toshimaru Nakamura – Egrets

Egrets

The Samadhisound label, founded and curated by David Sylvian, simultaneously released three impressive titles. Together they present a landmark of the current experimental/electronic/ improv scene.
Be prepared: none of these albums are ‘easy listening’ music – in fact, a lot of this music wouldn’t even be considered ‘ambient’.

Next to David Sylvian, it’s Arve Henriksen linking Toshimaru Nakamura‘s album to that of Jan Bang.
However, Henriksen’s trumpet handling is quite different here: it includes the sound of the instrument itself (like the clicking of the valves), as well as the breathing of the player.
This perfectly fits the music of Toshimaru Nakamura – who is a household name in the Japanese onkyo (noise) and improv scene.

Apart from playing guitar, Nakamura’s main instrument is the ‘No Input Mixing Board’: a mixing board without external input: the output directly connected to the input – the player manipulating the resulting feedback.

Nakamura has released quite an impressive array of albums experimenting with this  technique, which explains that that “NIMB”(No Input Mixing Board) tracks are numbered 42 to 45). He is able to control the feedback from the board very subtly.

On ‘Semi’, he improvises to the seemingly generative guitar playing of Tetuzi Akiyama. The tracks with Arve Henriksen sound like a dialogue of two musicians communicatie ‘from the gut of one instrument to the other’.

To me, improv music often feels like ‘musician’s music’ – it does not really seem to include me as a listener.
Not on this album, however: Nakamuru is able to create a musical environment I can connect to and get involved with.
But again: this does not mean this is ‘easy listening’ music….!

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