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High Plains * Ceeys

High Plains - Cinderland

High Plains - Cinderland

HIGH PLAINS – CINDERLAND Also on Spotify

High Plains is the name of a duo of classically trained cellist Mark Bridges and Scott Morgan (who is also known as Loscil).
Their collaboration started with Bridges playing cello to Morgan‘s generative music app Adrift (which according to the press release notes should be available for iOS as well as Android, but unfortunately I couldn’t find it in the Play Store so I guess it’s iOS only… please correct me if I’m wrong).

The nine tracks of Cinderland were recorded in two weeks, in a refurbished school in Saratoga, Wyoming, culminating in “a collection of recordings that evoke a shadowy introspective and dizzying winter journey”, and “takes cues from classical, electronic and cinematic musical traditions but is mostly a product of the rugged, mythic landscape; vast and sprawling with a wild, uncertain edge.”

It’s a highly adventurous collection, with tracks taking different approaches: sometimes focussing on the modern classical sound above all, sometimes leaving out the cello and focussing on electronic and synth sounds (Ten Sleep, Rushlight), sometimes tense (A White Truck) or haunting (Hypoxia) and sometimes very relaxed and sleepy (Black Shimmer).
The closing track Song For A Last Night combines it all: Morgan‘s unobtrusive electronics and Bridges’ cello part reminiscent of Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel Im Spiegel. 

There are many albums presenting the cello combined with performing with piano and/or electronics, but the Kranky label once again managed to hand-pick one of the best of the crop!


CEEYS - Concrete Fields

CEEYS – CONCRETE FIELDS Also on Spotify

CEEYS are the Berlin-based brothers Sebastian and Daniel Selke, subtly merging their chamber music arrangements of piano (Daniel) and cello (Sebastian) with electronics and field recordings.
Concrete Fields is the follow-up to their debut album The Grünewald Sessionswhich was recorded live in a small church.

Concrete Fields (Betonfelder in German) is the first part of a trilogy. The title refers to the area they grew up in the 80’s: Europe’s largest prefab estate Marzahn-Hellershof, Berlin, East Germany.  “A state established in the Soviet Occupation Zone during the Cold War Period, and now the endless grey blocks of cold concrete, steel, and glass communicate only anonymity and oppression.”

Think ‘Berlin-inspired music’ and David Bowie’s ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes’ probably jumps to mind immediately. But Concrete Fields sounds nothing like that kind of Berlin. For the Selke‘s, “the region always kept a blend of an edgy feeling of departure and a vague melancholy. [Here] we had our daily lives, with school and friends and holidays”.

To capture the atmosphere of the area CEEYS are referring to, the album is completed with photos from Anne Krauszand a set of visualizations on Youtube. But you may very well have other associations with this music… possibly about your own childhood area.

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Loscil * Library Tapes * Aaron Martin/Leonardo Rosado

In the Dead Of Night

Monument Builders

LOSCIL – MONUMENT BUILDERS

The inspiration for the new Scott Morgan album came when he watched an old VHS copy of KoyaanisqatsiThe ‘VHS’ format added lo-fi enhancement to the visual experience:

“Something about the time-tarnished visuals and the pitch warble on Philip Glass’s  epic score added a new layer of intrigue for me. Glass has always been an influence, but lo-fi Glass felt like a minor revelation, as if the decay was actually enhancing the impact of the film’s message”.

This also explains the many references to Philip Glass’s repetitive, minimalist composition techniques on this album – especially in the horn section arrangements.
Of course these pieces are not performed by a full-scale acoustic ensemble: Morgan carefully reconstructs the enhanced deterioration with his samples and use of electronics.

There’s another resemblance to Koyaanisqatsi: “a bleak notion that we humans don’t have much to say in how it all turns out”.
At the time of writing the music for Monument Builders, “the life-and death battles of close friends and family forced Morgan to examine his own feelings on mortality”.
But, like the film, at the same time the album offers solace and leaves room for exploration and surprise.


Library Tapes Europe

LIBRARY TAPES – EUROPE, SHE LOVES

Europe, She Loves is the original soundtrack for a the same-titled movie by Jan Gassman.
‘Europe on the verge of social and economic change. A close up into the shaken vision of 4 couples, daily struggles, fights, kids, sex and passion. A movie about the politics of love.”

In the more than ten years history of Library Tapes, this is David Wenngren‘s first non-piano record. I haven’t seem the movie (yet), but the music seems to capture the intimacy of the subject. Credits for that go to Wenngren himself, of course, but also to the sensitive cello parts played by Julia Kent.

Hearing this soundtrack definitely makes me want to check out the movie, exploring “in semi-documentary intimacy the sensitivities of a generation of twentysomethings in Europe”.

Also on Spotify


In the Dead Of Night

AARON MARTIN & LEONARDO ROSADO – IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT WHEN EVERYTHING IS ASLEEP

Since this is one of those luscious packed Fluid Audio releases, the physical release has of course sold out long ago. But, thanks to our digital age, the download version remains available.
And is definitely worth checking out without the spectacular package, just for the music it contains.

Leonardo Rosado needed to break away from his musical routines, which ‘locked himself in his own idiosyncrasies’. In Aaron Martin he found ‘a soloist with a deep soul to guide my feelings towards something different, something that breaks me away from myself, without betraying who I am.”

When the basic tracks were ready for Aaron Martin to join in, they had no titles that might suggest a direction. 
Aaron 
completed the tracks, his cello a perfect match for Rosado’s soundscapes. Only when the recording was complete, the titles revealed itself: ‘a poem formed itself magically’.

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Loscil; Olan Mill; Linear Bells; Fabio Orsi; Alphaxone

Conche de Matha

For Greta

LOSCIL – FOR GRETA
A strikingly beautiful three-track set from Loscil (Scott Morgan), released as a fundraiser for his friends whose daughter Greta has been diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma.
More recommendation to download this and pay generously for it should not be needed.


Half Seas Over

OLAN MILL – HALF SEAS OVER
Short (26 minute) but beautiful set from Olan Mill (Alex Smalley), presenting some live tracks as well as new studio pieces. More than before, “the hauntingly beautiful vocals that have become increasingly predominant in his works really take centre stage here.”
Originally, the expression ‘half seas over’ “comes from the notion of a ship being so heavy that it sits low enough that small waves (half seas) wash over the deck of a ship”.
Which perfectly fits the waves of sound ‘washing’ over the listener.

Also on Spotify


Conche de Matha
LINEAR BELLS – 
CONCHE DE MATHA
As you probably guess from the cover, it’s only a very small step from “Half Seas Over” to Linear Bell’s “Conche de Matha”  – thematically ánd musically. David Teboul’s ‘washes’ are created from the sounds he recorded when visiting a small French island in December: “I decided to trap all the surroundings sounds and soak up the best of this autumnal atmosphere.” At home, the sound atmosphere was recreated with additional layers of guitar, cello and organ. The result can be heard found in this beautiful name-you-price download.


Fabio Orsi-Thrill

FABIO ORSI – JUST FOR A THRILL
These eight tracks, all simply titled “Just for a Thrill”, all evolve from minimalist melodic tunes that are embedded in a warm synth pad backing. The album starts with ‘classic’ piano themes but slowly gets more ‘electronic’ and abstract near the end; as if the ‘backing’ takes over. Most of the tracks are around six minutes in length, with the exception of (4) and (8) that are considerably longer (up to 20 minutes for the closing piece).
Released in Home Normal style: packed in locally cultivated and harvested washi paper and also including en 16 page booklet with Fabio Orsi’s polaroid photographs.

Also on Spotify


Alphaxone

ALPHAXONE – ALTERED DIMENSIONS
Considerably darker atmospheres come from Alphaxone, which is the alias of Mehdi Saleh (from Iran). “Altered Dimensions” is a great title capturing the cinematic sounds of this masterfully produced album “of smooth frequency manipulation.”
“Creating dark ambient soundscapes with a futuristic touch”, Alphaxone “reaches a new level of audio fidelity and there is always something subtle in the background as protruding from beyond the physical plane.” 

Also on Spotify

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Loscil – Sea Island

Sea Island

A new Loscil release is always something to look forward to.

Sea Island” is Scott ‘Loscil’ Morgan‘s new album, the follow up to 2012’s “Sketches from New Brighton” (not counting some splits and collaborations with BVDub, Kelly Wyse and Fieldhead).

Eleven tracks (72 minutes) of music in a style that is immediately recognisable – yet also opens some new directions. Some of these track were created while performing them live, while others were constructed in the studio.

Loscil is still essentially Scott Morgan’s solo act, but there are different contributors to this album that help hum further develop his sound: Jason Zumpano (Rhodes), Josh Lindstrom (vibraphone), Elaine Reynolds (violin), Kelly Wyse (piano) and Ashley Pitre (vocals).

Starting with a bright rhythmic vibraphone pattern in the opener “Ahull”, Loscil takes us through different moods and atmospheres – finally coming to a peaceful rest in the closing track “Angle of List”.

“Murky, densely textured depths of sound are explored with subtle pulses and pings woven withing, contrasted with composed or improvised moments of acoustic instrumentation making a move into the foreground. Certain tracks make rhythm their focus by exploring subtle polyrhythms and investigation colliding moments of repetition and variation.”

With its cinematic soundscapes, distant dub-techno references an subtly constructed ambient soundscapes, Sea Island” is an album that defies genre tagging.
Maybe it’s because Loscil is defining his own ‘genre’ more strongly with every release.

Also on Spotify

LOSCIL – HOLDING PATTERN

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Loscil – Coast/Range/Arc

Loscil

Although seemingly operating somewhat below the radar in terms of release frequency, Glacial  Movements  has earned their status when it comes to quality standards.
In the past, they released albums by Rapoon, Lull, BVDUB, Francisco Lopez (among others) – the future will see new releases by BVDUB. Pjusk and Thomas Köner.

Like the name suggests, Glacial  Movements chooses to release albums that thematically deal with vast, deserted (and mostly cold) landscapes:
“Places that man has forgotten…icy landscapes…fields of flowers covered eternally with ice… Icebergs colliding amongst themselves…” “Glacial Movements is a label born to describe and spread these thoughts/images through sound.”

Knowing this, it is no surprise that Glacial  Movements is the label to release Loscil’s latest release,  Coast/Range/Arc“. It is a perfect match.

In previous releases (most of them released on Kranky), Canadian composer Scott ‘Loscil’ Morgan has proven to be able to transfer desolate territories into haunting soundscapes. His ability “to write environmental weavings which revolve around a well-defined subject” has made him one of the most important performers in what could be called ‘environmental isolationist ambient’.

Coast/Range/Arcrefers to the coastal mountains of the Pacific Northwest, studded with glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, canyons and epic views.

Mountains are hardly static – in fact they are dynamic on a time scale beyond the human experience.  They grow, buckle, twist, erupt and erode at an epic pace. The Coast Range Arc is filled with such mountains and valleys, their dynamics nearly imperceptible. They evoke awe and a connection to an imperceptible past. They are constantly changing, yet represent such a seemingly stoic fixture in our relatively short lives.”
A beautiful description indeed, and one that fits the mountains as well as the seemingly stoic music on this album, which progresses with nature’s inevitability.

That inevitabilty may be threatening at times, but it is also comforting, since it’s the way nature’s supposed to be – and way beyond human control.
In that way I always find it remarkable that this kind of music is mostly described in terms like ‘desolate’ and  ‘cold’ – while for me it also transcends calm and timeless peacefulness.


Loscil – Névé

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Loscil – Endless Falls

Loscil

In the last ten years, Scott “Loscil” Morgan has built himself quite a reputation in creating fascinating ambient music.
“Endless Falls” is the follow up to 2006′ “Plume” (not counting last year’s EP “Strathcona Variations”).

The cover image immediately takes us to the main theme of this album: Rain.
Pictured through a bright glass window. Not too dark – fresh – welcome even, to settle down the dust.
That’s in fact a description of the atmosphere of the album,  too.

Endless Falls” starts off with the very impressive post-classical title track featuring a violin part by Robert Sparks.
From there, the atmosphere slowly gets darker as well as more electronic.
Estuarine still features piano sound to cling to, but at the third track (Shallow Water Blackout), we’re in deep electronic territory. Beautiful glitchy drone sounds, dubby echo effects, and deep rhythms to keep you interested enough not to drift away completely.

Near the end of the album, it’s like surfacing again, back to the real world.

The last track ‘The Making of Grief Point’ brings in a surprise by introducing spoken word vocals (by Daniel Bejar from New Pornographers. According to Wikipedia he’s “renowned for his challenging and often cryptic lyrics and unorthodox vocals”.

Over a beautiful glitchy background, he talks about something that sounds like a description of the birth of a musical  track, a composition growing. I cannot completely understand what he talks about, but as he admits himself  “The right reading is that I just don’t understand it…at all”.

“I’ve lost interest in music. It’s horrible.”

As peaceful as the album starts, the dramatic it ends when after the Bejar’s statement “It is done” the pouring rain sets in again.

This closing track may be a style break from those before, it’s also a subtle climax distinguishing this album from many others in the genre.

It’s not music that’s never been heard before, but Scott Morgan definitely masters the genre.

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