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Lawrence English * Monolog & Subheim * Pinkcourtesyphone

Monologue & Subheim - Conviction

Cruel Optimism

LAWRENCE ENGLISH – CRUEL OPTIMISM

Can ambient music be politically or socially engaged? Raising the question is answering it: yes, of course.
But if you’re in doubt consult Lawrence English – and his latest album release in particular.
Cruel Optimism could hardly have been released at another time-frame than the current, I think.
And although English tries all he can to focus on the ‘optimism’, things are not looking too good. ‘Cruel’ has taken over – almost.

Cruel Optimism is a confronting, hard-hitting album, and not exactly easy listening. But, contrary to some others in the ‘power-ambient’ scene who enjoy turning up all amps up to eleven and leave it there or even try to stretch it up to twelve, Lawrence English never forgets that a real story needs dynamics.
Tension and release.
Suspense can be a lot more frightening than horror.

Cruel Optimism “meditates on how power consumes, augments and ultimately shapes two subsequent human conditions: obsession and fragility.[…] A meditation on the challenges [of current times] and an encouragement to press forward towards more profound futures. This record is one of protest against the immediate threat of abhorrent possible futures.”

Unlike many of his previous projects, this album is a result of interchanging ideas and perspectives of many other artists. Among the many collaborators on this album are Norman Westberg (guitar), Tony Buck (drums), Brodie McAllister (trombone), Heinz Riegler (guitar), Chris Abrahams (piano), Mats Gustafsson (saxophone), a choir of Australian Voices, and many others. But you’ll probably have a hard time to distinguish their particular contributions, because they all have been subjected to English’ musical vision.
A vision that tells us that the future may look grim and dark, but it’s our own inescapable responsibility to make the best of it.

Also on Spotify


Monologue & Subheim - Conviction

MONOLOG & SUBHEIM – CONVICTION

That last sentence above is also a seamless introduction to Conviction, a collaborative work from Monolog (Mads Lindgren) and Subheim (Kostas Katsikas).

Conviction is dark and heavy yet full of light and hope, expressing the closing of important chapters and the beginning of new ones”

Monolog and Subheim are both Berlin residents. The atmosphere of the city has been a source of inspiration: “Berlin’s night sky, the urban scenery, faces and places, action and reaction, the calm before the storm as well as the storm itself.”

The ‘ambience’ of this relatively short album (5 tracks, 24 minutes) is provided by Subheim mainly, Monolog‘s drum rhythms and slow basslines make sure that we don’t lose connection with earth and the Berlin cityscapes. The thundering rhythms from the first tracks slowly dissolve until, in the closing track Colorful Flight we finally drift away into more etheric dimensions.

Also on Spotify

MONOLOG + SUBHEIM – MAKE STONES CRY


Taking into account ....

PINKCOURTESYPHONE – TAKING INTO ACCOUNT ONLY A PORTION OF YOUR EMOTIONS

The music of Richard Chartier in his Pinkcourtesyphone disguise is usually rather dark, but never without humor. But that does not mean the music is to be taken lightly… humor can be a serious matter!

The music bears reference to music from The Caretaker, Angelo Badalementi, William Basinski and stuff like that. But this namedropping like this is a bit offensive, since it could also be the other way round: Richard Chartier himself is a reference artist… top shelf when it comes to experimental electronic music. 

Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Richard Chartier and Pinkcourtesyphone show different aspects of the same personality.
Pinkcourtesyphone is a more emotional, dare one say musical side of his work. Dark but not arch, with a slight hint of humor. Amorphous, changing, and slipping in and out of consciousness.”
There have been many collaborations with diverse artists like Cosey Fanni Tutti, Kid Congo Powers, William Basinski and dutch harpist Gwyneth Wentink. 

Taking Into Account… is a solo project, a set of “new coded messages of sumptuous distant drones and glacial orchestral heartrendings” are “poised and polished slow motion pulsations tug at your emotions (but only a portion of them)”.
One that comes with slightly ominous instructions: “Please don’t hang up. This call is important. You’re coming with Pinkcourtesyphone… leave everything… it’s getting late.”
Unnecessary instructions, by the way, because once you start listening it’s impossible to hang up.

(Trivia detail: dedicated readers/listeners may recognise the samples in Reference Point Intermission 1 and 2: the original Reference Point was generously submitted as one of the track for last year’s Ambientblog Anniversary Collection)

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David Toop * Lawrence English * John Grzinich

David Toop Entities

David Toop Entities

DAVID TOOP – ENTITIES INERTIAS FAINT BEINGS

Contemplating a release on the Room40 label, David Toop asked Lawrence English “Why would anybody release music in the 21st century?
“He laid out his philosophy;” Toop continues, “I was convinced.”

The philosophy of Lawrence English is not further explained here and may remain a mystery, but Entities Inertias Faint Beings is an answer to the question in itself: because there are always new territories to explore…  Because there always will be new languages to come…

Toop takes his material from all over the world, from all kind of instruments and all kind of environments – from east to west, natural as well as electric and ethereal.
He then combines them into complete alternate realities, creating music that is unlike anything you heard before, music that feels like it’s not from this world at all.
It is ‘environmental’ music, in a way, assimilating the atmosphere of “the placement of stones in Japanese stone gardens, the chanting of Buddhist sutras, daylight listening in thin air, kookaburra chatter, catapult elastic, radio waves in a kettle, electric buzzers….” (and possibly everything else you can imagine).
But at the same time it isn’t – because no environment sounds as mysterious like this.


Also on Spotify


Approaching Nothing

LAWRENCE ENGLISH – APPROACHING NOTHING

Approaching Nothing is a very direct reference to Presque Rien (Almost Nothing)  by Luc Ferrari, one of the earliest soundscape compositions (1970) including what R. Murray Schafer defined as ‘soundmarks’ (“a sound which is unique to an area”) – “Once a Soundmark has been identified, it deserves to be protected, for soundmarks make the acoustic life of a community unique.”
And it’s not just a reference in title: for this album Lawrence English traveled to Vela Luka (Croatia) – the exact location where the original sounds for Ferrari’s ‘Presque Rien’ were recorded. So it might very well be possible that some of these soundmarks were present on the original recordings also. I guess there are: the sound of the boats is exactly the same, the only difference is in the enhanced recording techniques.

Though they are subtly edited and manipulated to complete a detailed postcard-like view of the surroundings (and sometimes not very subtly: at some moments a passing car is deliberately cut off quite radically to shift to another scene), these are the most ‘natural’ kind of environmental recordings imaginable. There is no ‘musical’ content at all – no other instruments, no musical arrangements, no enhancements or processing. There shouldn’t be, of course: if there was one thing that Luc Ferrari’s ‘Presque Rien’ demonstrated it was that music everywhere around for those who care to listen.


John Grzinich

JOHN GRZINICH – PREVAILING WIND, TANGLED UNDER

For those interested in environmental recordings, the Corollaries series on the Crónica label is a definite must-check.
This (sixth) edition in the series is an acoustic exploration of a deserted, metal water tower about four stories high made by soundscape artist John Grzinich.

“People are pulled inward upon hearing the depth of the reverberations from within. In numerous instances time seemed to stop as we gathered around, crawling about, climbing, plucking, bowing, striking, howling, stringing and generally playing in and around the great structure.”

Two single-take recordings were made: “the first was a dialogue of sorts between three artists carried out through sporadic sounds and the second was a solo follow-up to meditate on how the various artifacts attached in the previous months were affected by the windy conditions”.

The metallic sounds – clangs, whistles, whispers and moaning – from within the tower suggest that it’s alive and breathing.
A fascinating recording of post-industrial environmental ambience, available as a Name Your Price download (as are all editions in this series).

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