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Alapastel * Group Listening

Alapastel

Alapastel

ALAPASTEL – HIDDEN FOR THE EYES

Until now, James Murray is primarily known for his own impressive discography, released on his own Slowcraft label. He also released and produced beautiful albums with his wife Anne Garner as well as different collaborations, such as My Home, Sinking. (While on the subject, don’t forget to check out his beautiful performance at Fluister which can be found [here] and can be downloaded for free).

But it doesn’t stop here: he’s now also the proud owner of a brand new label series called Slowcraft Presents. The inspiration for starting this label came from the music of the Slovakian composer Lukáš ‘Alapastel‘ Bulko, whose Hidden For The Eyes is the first release of this promising label series.
As far as I know, this is also the debut release of Lukáš Bulko, who took his time (eight years) to come to this result.

There is something mysterious about this album: but it is quite hard to pinpoint what it exactly is.
The first association is that it present ‘modern classical’ music, but it is quite far removed from the contemporary classic albums that have defined the genre. It is as much ‘electronic’ as it is ‘classical’ even though the electronics are somewhat hidden in the overall sound. And then there’s the vocals in about half the tracks, performed by Alex Lukáčová and Marián Hrdina. Sung in a language you (or most of you) won’t understand (a link to the Slovakian folk roots), unmistakably present but not very prominently mixed so as a  result they feel very improvised and natural – not classically trained as you might expect in a setting like this .

To be short, this release is definitely something different.
And that probably is exáctly what triggered Murray to release Hidden For The Eyes as the first in a new series “of exceptional, unclassifiable music offered in carefully handcrafted limited editions for people who treasure beautiful audio artefacts.” A promising start for a label with an auspicious mission. The bar is set rather high from here!

I hope, that if we are able to uncover the profound beauty of things, that seem to be hidden, it is possible to become more humble and appreciative of life around us.
(Lukáš Bulko, 2018)

 


Group Listening

GROUP LISTENING – CLARINET & PIANO SELECTED WORKS VOL. 1

I don’t usually read the information that comes with promos before listening to the music a few times. This way I try to listen to each release without context, regardless of the artist’s history, try to hear it as if it was a debut album by an unknown artist.

When I listened to this Group Listening album, I definitely enjoyed the music but still decided it was not something for Ambientblog. Because it didn’t sound like ‘ambient’ in any way.
Covering the area somewhere between jazz, modern classical and light experimental music, there were vague references to Simon Jeffes’ Penguin Orchestra. Which is a recommendation in itself but not necessarily music for Ambientblog.

However – there was something strange about these arrangements. Some fragments seemed strangely familiar but I could not tell why.
I realised what it was when I got halfway and recognised the theme of Julie With…, a Brian Eno track from Before And After Science that I literally played to death ever since its release in 1977.
Only then it dawned on me, and I realised that I should have known right from the opening track called Wenn Der Südwind Weht – an equally archetypical Roedelius release from 1981: these were (almost unrecognisable) rearrangements of ambient/experimental tracks.
And, in fact, an amazing selection it is, too!

Group Listening is a project by Stephen Black and Paul Jones, who met at music college but since then went their own musical way: Stephen into pop and Paul into jazz. Meeting again after years, they shared their love of music – ambient music among many other genres. The main instruments on Clarinet & Piano: Selected Works Vol. 1 are piano and clarinet (duh, obviously), but while post-production and overdubs are kept to a minimum, their instruments are ‘passed through guitar stomp boxes and other analogue effects to enable processing and manipulation directly in performance, while mbira and drum machines are sparingly deployed amid enveloping folds of space echo..”

Apart from the Roedelius and Brian Eno tracks mentioned, the collection features tracks from Arthur Russell (A Little Lost), Robert Wyatt (Maryan), Euros Child (The Dog), Steve Roach (Snow Canon), Disasterpeace (Jay) and Raymond Scott (The Happy Whistler). You’ll probably only recognise them if you’re familiar enough with the original version, because these tracks are “shot through Group Listening’s electro-acoustic lens, these works evolve into something supremely calming, poignant and new.”

These ‘songs’ are a rewarding listen in their new arrangements – but it’s even more fun when you do some searching to compare these new arrangements to their original versions.

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Dictaphone * OMRR * Ghost and Tape

Ghost and Tape - Var

Dictaphone April 70

DICTAPHONE – APR 70  Also on Spotify

Five years after Poems From A Rooftop (on Sonic Pieces) and even 15/11 years after their initial releases on City Centre Offices, suddenly there’s an unexpected new release by Dictaphone (not to be confused with the Dictaphones from the Dale Cooper Quartet).
APR 70 is released by Denovali – who (as the often do) celebrate the new release by also re-releasing the previous titles.

The trio (Oliver Doerell electronics, bass, guitar, Roger Döring – sax, clarinet and Alex Stolze violin) have been working three years on this album. Their unique and unclassifiable sound is immediately recognisable: it is the combination of instruments that perfectly matches the genre-defying arrangements. There’s a clear jazz-feel, but it is not jazz. And it’s the same for ‘ambient’, or ‘experimental’, or ‘improv’. It is all of that and none of that at the same time: ‘Dictaphone always want to create something that was missing before.’

‘It feels as if each of the uncountable layers of which the intricate arrangements are made has just the right amount of contrast to be visible, but there are only very few moments where one of the elements noticeably dominates the others. The cool jazz bits, analogue flourishes, hypnotic rhythms and refined electronics feed a dark serpent-like creature meandering in ever-changing morphologies through shapeless landscapes.’

Remarkable sonic poetry – and definitely one of this year’s most interesting releases!


OMRR

OMRR – DEVILS FOR MY DARLING  Also on Spotify

The colourful cover image – by Francisca Pageo – is a promising statement: expect something else, something different from the usual. This is not your average ambient soundscape.
The adventurous Dronarivm label broadens its territories with this release by omrr – the somewhat strange stage name of Omar El Abd from Caïro, Egypt.
Not much is known about omrrapart from the fact that Eilean Rec released his previous album Music for the Anxious in 2016. Before that there were a few self-released titles in 2014 and 2016.

Combining many different genres into such a bright, light-hearted, mix-up ‘based on glitch, noise, micro-sounds, sampling and field-recording’ is quite an achievement. Not often is ‘experimental’ music so ‘accessible’ at the same time without losing its fresh weirdness.
I’m not familiar with the experimental music scene in Egypt at all, but if omrr‘s music is representative it’s a great start to to dig deeper into that local scene.


Ghost and Tape - Var

GHOST AND TAPE – VÁR  Also on Spotify

In the old ‘Norse’ language, the word Vár means Spring. Releasing an album with a title like that (and a cover like that) at the end of October accentuates the coldness of the current months but also help us know that we can look forward to another spring coming soon!

Heine Christensen (Ghost And Tapereleased his fourth full album (since 2010) on the Home Normal label – a fitting place for his intricate and detailed work.

“Inspired by and a tribute to Nature, in all its wonderful chaos, pure and forceful with mystifying, beautiful patterns”.

The description of Nature also neatly fits the music on Vár: as fresh as a new spring. Fragile, but strong at the same time – optimistic about the new start and the promises it hides.

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DreamScenes 2017 – 5

DreamScenes Logo

The monthly editions of DreamScenes were never meant to present strictly ‘ambient’ music only. I prefer to merge different – though somewhat related – styles that share a dreamy, introvert, reflective, melancholic atmosphere (or whatever you would like to call it).

So, for this May edition, you can expect a bit of contemporary classical, a bit of piano, a bit of jazz , some drones and  (0f course) some ambient soundscapes too, to bring you a small hour of quiet dreamscenes  when needed.

Keep on (day)dreaming:

tracklist:

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Piano Interrupted; Cassie/Kearley; Bill Seaman; Juxta Phona; Yamaoka

Unified Field Reconstructed

PIANO INTERRUPTED – THE UNIFIED FIELD RECONSTRUCTED
Full album remixes are not always enhancing quality of the origial, and the risk is even greater when the original album sounds as fresh as this particular one (The Unified Field“, from 2014) .
But since reconstructing their own work is part of Piano Interrupted‘s creative process, it was an obvious decision for them to ask other artists to “reinvent” some of the original tracks.
And when you listen to the seven reworks back to back with the original tracks, you’ll know it was a wise decision.
It’s not that the tracks got better compared to the original (they were great then and they still are now), but they are different – every track retains Tom Hodge and Franz Kirmann‘s original ideas but seems repainted with new colours added by no less than Hidden Orchestra, Origamibiro, John Lemke, Saffronkeira, Second Moon of Winter (with a vocal remix of “Camera Obscura”) and Floex.
Quite a nice way to spend the time waiting for Piano Interrupted‘s new album which is scheduled for later this year!


PIANO INTERRUPTED – CROSS HANDS
(HIDDEN ORCHESTRA REMIX)


Cassie Kearley
CASSIE/KEARLY – YOUR INSIDE VOICINGS
Combine the album title with the cover image and you might think that we’re venturing into new age territory here, but we aren’t! And I strongly advise to check out this album because this too is a refreshing kind of ‘new jazz’ created from “treated acoustic pianos, textural ambience, explorative harmony”.
Both Dan Kearley and Daryn Cassie bring a remarkable musical history to this collaboration: Kearly has worked with bands like Nickelback, Strapping Young Lad, Lamb of God and Front Line Assembly (but now focuses on releasing his own electronic-based material), while Cassie – besides being a keyboard player in various bands – also produced experimental sond art installations and community projects.


Bill Seaman F (Noir)

BILL SEAMAN  – F (NOIR)
Previous releases were mostly collaborations, with artists like Craig Tattersall, The Humble Bee, The Boats, etc. This is Bill Seaman‘s first real solo album. Although that ‘solo’ is a relative thing since he is accompanied by quite a large ensemble including voice, bass, trumpet, strings, and assorted samples.
Combined with Seaman‘s “structured piano improvisations and sample selections” the mysterious and dreamlike atmosphere of this music is immediately recognisable.
This music touches on many levels: Bill Seaman has the gift of making his music sound organized and improvised at the same time. He does not polish it too much or edit out the rough spots, which makes his music even more intense.
The sad news: Eilean Records releases always come in very limited editions.. this means the run of 130 for “F (Noir)” has sold out already…. unless you can get Bill to sell you one of his very last copies. After that, there’s only digital copies left (which are rewarding enough too, of course).




Juxta Phona

JUXTA PHONA – WE WILL NOT BE SILENCE
I expected a “D” at the end of this title but the omission is obviously intended.
Juxta Phona is one of the projects of Jason Corderalso known as Offthesky and many other constellations – “a relentless producer who feels that sleep is best done when one is dead.”
Juxta Phona is not a solo project, but an “ongoing communal collaboration with a slew of open minded cameos” – in this particular case people like Ian Hawgood, Gurun Gurun, Colin Campbell, Morgan Packard (among others).  Juxta Phone “tight-rope walks the intermittent lines between crafty beat action and washy melody, all tangled up with a wonderful playful spirit”


JUXTA PHONA – WE ARE THE SHAKERS OF THE WORLD


A Baoa Q

YAMAOKA – A BAOA Q
Frantic electronic rhythm patterns cán have a hypnotic effect and ambient feel – that’s the first thing this Yamaoka album proves!
Yamaoka used to be a duo from the start in 1991, but since 2007 it is Kenichi Oka‘s solo project.
The rhythmic tracks, inspired by Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra, are created in real time using all kinds of analog machinery.
Works best if played loud!

Á Bao A Qu,  by the way, is the name of a legendary creature from J.L. Borges’ “Book of Imaginary Beings”:
“[….] it gives a small cry, so soft that it sounds similar to the rustling of silk. When touched, it feels like the fuzz on the skin of a peach.”

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Boozoo Bajou – 4

BoozooBajou

The music of Boozoo Bajou (German duo Florian Seyberth and Peter Heider) has always been quite atmospheric.
The three full albums (and numerous 12-inches) they have released since 2001 contained the low-tempo dubby trip-hop often called ‘Lounge’ – the lush kind of sounds that German musicians seemed to master exclusively.

Their latest album, 4, manages to build on all they did before, and use it as a foundation to create an album that ‘transcends basic categories and expectations’.

Which does not mean that 4 contains ‘classic’ ambient and drone-tracks – far from that. It’s an album that contains a lot of different styles, blending them to a sound that is undeniably Boozoo Bajou’s, yet also contains hints of music like Brian Eno, John Hassell or Basic Channel.

“We had that ambient spirit at the back of our mind for a long time. […] Blues, Jazz, Dub and all those roots were the spark, as on all our work, but we used them more as a basis – an original vibe from which we could find our own handwriting.”

It is a clear step away from the mid-90’s Lounge-scene:
“We never felt based in that [Chillout] scene, but we fell right in those ‘golden times’ of chillout-lounge stuff. We like laid back music, yes, but […] if there is no deep perception, concept and sincerity implied to the music, it just becomes empty easy listening.”

While 4 is not exactly ‘difficult’ music to listen to (“Doing abstract-noise soundscapes is easy too, but not a very interesting challenge for our project.”), it is exactly this musical sincerity and curiosity that makes this such a multi-faceted album.

For this project, Seyberth and Heider brought in some remarkable musicians to help them create their sound, such as Markus Stockhausen (fluegelhorn), Frank Freitag (duduk), Max Loderbauer (synth), Frank Zeidler (guitar) and Stefan Pötzsch (violin, viola and thumb piano).

4 brings together a lot of different details.
Boozoo Bajou proves that when all ingredients are carefully chosen and fit together, the whole cán be far more than the sum of its parts.


Boozoo Bajou – Hirta

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Michel Banabila – Float

Float

Beginning his career in the early 80’s, Michel Banabila‘s albums covered many different styles.
So many, in fact, that his place in music was a bit difficult to pinpoint which sometimes seemed to confuse critics as well as potential audiences.

His albums presented world music, jazz, theatre play soundtracks as well as electronic music of the abstract or ambient kind – all kinds of genres which Banabila seems to be able to cross over with ease.

In recent years, his output became more focused on experimental electronics. There were collaborations with Machinefabriek, Scanner, Zenial, Radboud Mens, and multimedia performances with Geert Mul and Gerco de Ruijter (who also created the striking cover image for this album)

Nothing wrong with abstract electronics of course (on the contrary), but it should not be forgotten that apart from creating impressive abstract music, Banabila also has a distinct way of composing more melodic instrumental pieces of a very different kind. Pieces that often gain extra depth with the contributions of a variety of guest musicians.

Float is a compilation album that helps us remember exactly that!

The eleven tracks on this compilations demonstrate Banabila’s more ‘radio-friendly’ side.
(I mean serious music radio here, not just hit-list rotators).

There are two exclusive tracks (a string version of “Ears Tell Us Where We Are in Space”, and the title track) – the remaining tracks are taken from previous releases “Migrations”, “Traces”, “Route Planner”, “Fields of Flowers” and “Precious Images”.
The album selection fits together remarkably well, as if all tracks were composed especially for this album. The sound production is flawless – as always – and there are impressive contributions by artists like Anton Goudsmit, Eric Vloeimans, Michel van Schie, Salar Asid, Anne Bakker, Mete Erker, Mehmet Polat , Yasar Saka and more.

Float may not bring much new music for those already familiar with Banabila’s work. But it’s a perfect introduction to his music if you’re relatively new to his ‘more melodic’ side!

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Piano Interrupted – The Unified Field

Piano Interrupted

The collision of different backgrounds can sometimes yield amazing results.
As Piano Interrupted impressively demonstrates with their new album The Unified Field.

Tom Hodge (UK) and Franz Kirmann (France) are not only from different countries, but also come from different musical worlds: Tom being a classical and minimalist composer, Franz coming from the world of electronica, pop and techno.
Combining such different backgrounds has of course been done before. Many tried, some succeeded, many failed.
But not often the result was as sparkling and refreshingly original like this.

The combination of cut-up samples, piano, cinematic strings and double bass (Tim Fairhall) works particular well here, because Kirmann and Hodge manage to combine complex arrangements and rhythm changes with a melodic content that immediately captures the listener, just to guide him further on a ‘seductive joyride through a diverse range of emotions’.

“The title of the album comes from David Lynch’s book ‘Catching The Big Fish’. In the context of his film-making, Lynch explains that if such a field exists then everything within it interconnects in one way or another, so that scenes and elements that may initially seem disconnected from each other emotionally or in terms of meaning, would in fact eventually make sense. This idea seemed particularly fitting in a musical context also, as it neatly captures Piano Interrupted‘s core music-making methodology; namely to draw upon multiple, varied styles and influences and bring them into one coherent unifying whole.”

This album is comfortably easy to listen to, yet at the same time remarkably complex and subtle.
And thát may exactly be exactly what’s lacking on most other albums combining different musical backgrounds with such a wealth of ideas.

Release Date October 25 on Denovali Records


PIANO INTERRUPTED – EMOTICON

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The Necks – Open

Ambientblog


Open

The ambient tree has many branches. In fact it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what “ambient” music is. This has raised many discussions, as the music called ‘ambient’ ranges from strict and almost unchanging drones to techno beats one can even dance to.

As the genre evolves, some borders are crossed. “Ambient” music can sometimes involve introspective (and sometimes psychedelic) folk music, massive guitar chord walls… or even jazz.
Most of the times, ambient music also involves electronic sounds or processing acoustic sounds.
But not always: sometimes ambient music is created strictly using acoustic instruments.
Enter The Necks with their latest album called Open“.

Knowing that this is the seventeenth (!) album from this Australian cult jazz trio (featuring Chris Abrahams, piano/keyboards, Tony Buck, drums/percussion and Lloyd Swanton, bass), whose music is often described as ‘lengthy pieces which slowly unravel in the most mesmerizing fashion’, I should have been prepared for something like this. But I wasn’t.
Open
hit me as something I had never experienced before.

The single 68 minute track opens with a sitar-like drone chord, introducing slow piano improvisation over bright bell percussion. Just when you are totally accustomed to that immersive sound and atmosphere, the percussion takes over into one of the most radical drum solo’s I have ever heard. (‘Radical’ in the exact opposite meaning of what you might expect from the word: it takes a lot of courage to include a percussion solo as sparse as this and keep it going for minutes and minutes…)
Just when the album seems to stretch into a ‘no compromise’ minimalist approach, the piano improvisation themes are re-introduced and slowly start to build a climax half-way the album. From there, the trio takes a slow descend back to the original point of departure.

I guess the ‘jazz approach’ may not be to everybody’s liking. And with their wayward approach to achieve ‘a calm, immersive stillness’, they’re probably not to the liking of the average jazz music lover, too.

But what this trio creates here is nothing short of amazing. 
And, hadn’t this been the trio’s seventeenth album, I’d also say “unheard”..  

Open is released on CD only because it’s too long for vinyl.
I have seen no mention of a digital download (yet).


THE NECKS – OPEN (Short Fragments)

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Marsen Jules Trio – Présence Acousmatique

Ambientblog


Marsen Jules Trio

Only short after the minimalistic generative soundscape presented on The Endless Change of Colour“, Marsen Jules displays a completely different musical approach with this album by the Marsen Jules Trio.

As the …Trio indicates, this album presents Marsen Jules’ atmospheric soundscapes with the addition of two other musicians: twin brothers Anwar Alam (piano) and Jan-Philipp Alam (violin), with whom Marsen Jules played tours and festivals across the USA, Canada and Europe.

Présence Acousmatiqueis a stunning synergy of ambient, avant-garde, modern classical and introspective jazz music. It is released on Jules’ own Oktaf label, but stylistically it would have also fitted the ECM (new) series.

Présence Acousmatique is the Marsen Jules Trio‘s first full album release, but this was preceded by the short 4-track album Les Fleurs Variations in 2011, which presented the trio’s variations on Jules’ own Les Fleurs (2006, City Center Offices).
“Œillet Parfait / Œillet Sauvage”, the album’s opener, is a new variation of two of the tracks of the 2011 EP.

According to Wikipedia, Acousmatic Music is “a form of electroacoustic music that is specifically composed for loudspeaker presentation. It stems from a compositional tradition that dates back to the introduction of musique concrète in the late 1940s. Unlike scored music, compositions that are purely acousmatic exist solely as audio recordings (as fixed media) and are often intended for concert reception via multiple loudspeakers.”

There’s an interesting contradiction in the title with the fact that this Trio originated from playing live performances. Apart from the opener, all tracks have grown from the trio playing together. The tracks feel as if they are played live, which is not exactly an ‘acousmatic‘ approach?
If acousmatic music is music that is created to be reproduced through loudspeakers only, what could acousmatic presence be?
Interesting questions maybe, but also hardly relevant when listening to the music (which sounds perfectly though loudspeakers, as expected).

On two tracks, the trio’s intimate performance is accompanied Roger Döring (Dictaphone) on saxophone. His sound and style is somewhat comparable to Jan Garbarek‘s style, although Döring plays more restrained and avoids ‘Garbarekesque’ eruptions). On these tracks especially, the sound is also reminiscent of Bohren & Der Club of Gore.

But comparisions like this always fail.

The Marsen Jules Trio definitely has its own identity and sound, and Présence Acousmatique definitely guarantuees their place in the ambient/jazz/experimental/modern classical Hall of Fame!


MARSEN JULES TRIO ft. ROGER DÖRING – ÉCLIPSE

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Eivind Aarset – Dream Logic

Dream Logic

Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset will probably be known by many of you, just for his contributions to the music of artists like Nils Petter Molvaer, Arve Henriksen, David Sylvian.

When reading about his new solo album, the combination of some details made it clear to me that this was a release to look forward to:

First: it is released on the ECM-label.
Second: it is co-produced and co-composed by Jan Bang
Third: it’s title is Dream Logic” 

The title of this album is well-chosen indeed:
“With its drifting planes of sound-texture, built from layers of processed guitar, sometimes supported by subliminally-throbbing bass, and its otherworldly ambience, it attains an almost hallucinatory quality, underlined by its avoidance of stressed time.”

The guitar may always be the starting point, but from there the processed effects and added samples create a dark, yet sometimes also comforting atmosphere, developing and expanding the emotional core of the material”.

These fascinating soundscapes Aarset and Bang create together, are also proof of their invaluable contribution to the works of the artists they have worked with in the past.

The eleven tracks vary in length (from under two minutes to over seven) as much as in dreamlike atmospheres. The colour of those atmosphere ranges from lovely green to pitch-dark black; and the images are clear at some times but mysteriously hazy at others.

“The beauty of Decay” , the album’s closing track (featured below), is a respectful dedication to the Fourth World Music of Jon Hassell.

It’s almost impossible to classify this music because it surpasses any genre definition. It may be classified as impressionist jazz, electronic experimental soundscapes,ambient – or all of those.  

But whatever genre it may be filed under, many (if not most) visitors of this weblog will definitely favourite this album.


EIVIND AARSET – THE BEAUTY OF DECAY

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