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Christoph Berg * Jeffrey Roden

Conversations

Conversations

CHRISTOPH BERGCONVERSATIONS  Also on Spotify

Christoph Berg, the man formerly known as Field Rotationhas released music under his own name for quite some time now. The change is also reflected in his music: a slow drift from atmospheric ambient into more contemporary classical music, putting the string arrangements in the foreground (Berg plays the violin, double bass, organ and piano on this album).
It’s not a radical change, however: the music is still very atmospheric, with ‘ambient’ backgrounds, drones and subtle effects. It’s still recognisable as genuine Christoph Berg: subtle, withheld arrangements in a perfect production. Music that feels very ‘personal’ and intimate.

Conversations is released by Sonic Pieces – the ’boutique record label’ from Berlin. If you know the label, you know that’s a quality guarantee for musical content, production standard as well as for a stylish physical (limited) edition.

The tracks ‘essentially express contemplation, consciousness and the urge for retreat from the sometimes overwhelming present times’. It is fragile, comforting  and intimate music, but also heartbreaking sad at times. Apart from referring to Conversations, Monologue and Dialogue, the titles refer to Memories, Grief and Farewell. But it’s a beautiful melancholic kind of sad, not a really sad kind of sad…

The title track of the album has a somewhat disruptive effect: the amplified sound of the piano and organ’s mechanic pedals and the wood that the instruments are built with. Including the mechanical sounds of an instrument while playing is not new, of course, we’re used to it ever since Nils Frahm (among others) introduced this way of recording his piano. But here, Christoph Berg puts the sound in the foreground, amplifying it more than usual, until it feels like a strange, out-of-place sound. Even more so because the sound is not clearly related to the piano or organ: the string instruments play the lead part. It’s a confusing effect, sounding like clockwork, as if to remind us we only have limited time to have the important conversations before it’s time to say farewell…

Sidenote:
For those that can appreciate a more classical sounding approach it may be interesting to know that Christoph Berg also released Bei, a collaboration album with pianist Henning Schmiedt: “a collection of instant compositions based on first takes that have been recorded in several improvisation sessions, intentionally opposing the habits of classical music by praising the beauty of imperfection.. 


Jeffrey Roden Threads of a Prayer 2

JEFFREY RODEN – THREADS OF A PRAYER Vol. 2

This is, of course, the follow-up to Threads of a Prayer Vol. 1.

Volume 1 presented two different kinds of instrumentation: one CD with compositions for piano and another with compositions for string ensemble. In this respect, Volume 2 seamlessly continues this concept, but this time on one single CD that “takes the listener even deeper into Roden’s mind – towards a space he refers to as ‘the other place'”.

The album opens with two pieces for string ensemble (The Field and As We Rise Up) and then continues with two pieces for solo piano (Threads of a Prayer and 6 Pieces for the Unknown).
The music is taken from the same sessions as Volume 1: “the same mood of introspection. Fragility and immediacy also prevails here”.
The album breathes the same ‘intensely quiet’ atmosphere, the same mindful calm. But it also introduces new instrumental aspects such as the drone organ in As We Rise Up (performed by Tobias Fischer).

All of these compositions radiate an immersive calm that may be unsettling to some.  In the second half of the album, the piano solo compositions (performed by Sandro Ivo Bartoli) the silence-between-the-notes become more important than they ever were.

Jeffrey Roden‘s music has been compared to that of Arvo Pärt and Morton Feldman for obvious reasons. But to be honest Arvo Pärt feels like a speedfreak when you’re listening to Threads of Prayer and 6 Pieces for the Unknown.
In these hectic times, it may take some getting used to music that feels “monumentally long and almost outside of time”… which is exactly what Jeffrey Roden is aiming at.
Moments of reflection and mindfulness like this might be one important thing the world needs today.

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Kid Koala + Emiliana Torrini * Mario Batkovic

Mario Batkovic

Music to Draw to

KID KOALA Feat. EMILIANA TORRINI – MUSIC TO DRAW TO: SATELLITE

No matter what specific genre you’re into, there’s always that moment that ‘sameness’ begins to bother you a bit. Too many people copying the familiar sounds, too few people pushing the boundaries. That is the moment that you’ll welcome a fresh wind, an album displaying an original point of view,  an unexpected surprise. Music to Draw To is such a surprise (at least for me).

The album title in itself refers to many classic ambient albums. It’s a reference to the live events where Kid Koala (Eric San, from Montreal) played his music while he invited the audience to draw. You can take this literally, too: the Deluxe CD version comes with a hardcover sketchbook.
But who would expect the scratch DJ/turntablist, known for his Ninja Tune albums and his live-sets with Radiohead, Beastie Boys, Arcade Fire, DJ Shadow and many more, would completely leave out the samples in favor of synthesizers, keyboards and guitar to create an album full of (18) atmospheric ambient pieces?

Music to Draw To is also the start of a new series featuring different vocalists, with Kid Koala writing and producing and performing.
The guest vocalist on this particular album is Emiliana Torriniwhose whispering dreamy voice and endearing Icelandic accent adds an irresistible romantic flavor to the seven songs on this album that feature her. Songs that “tell a tale of discovery and loss through the lens of lovers separated by an early space mission to Mars”.

It’s ‘ambient-pop’, more than ‘ambient’ by its strict definition.
But who really cares if it’s also music to make you dream? … Ánd draw?


Mario Batkovic

MARIO BATKOVIC – MARIO BATKOVIC (SOLO)

I saw many concerts at last year’s Le Guess Who festival in Utrecht, but the performance of Mario Batkovic was one of the most impressive I attended.
A Bosnian/Swiss guy, performing his solo work on his Zerosette Accordion to an audience that probably hardly knew what to expect apart from what they read in the festival program notes.

In Batkovic’ hands, the accordion sounds as powerful as a full orchestra. You have to look twice to check that he is only using his two hands… and then again to check that there really are no additional effects or electronics.
He filled the church completely with his majestic sound, and received  a well deserved ovation from a stunned audience.
This picture perfectly captures the experience (photo by Tim van Veen):

Batkovic LGW 16 photo by Tim van Veen

 

To give an impression of his mastership, here’s a video from an intimate session on the Eurosonic/Noorderslag festival in January 2017 (with thanks & credits to 3voor12):

 

Batkovic’s album was first released in 2015 on the Veruston label as “Solo”. It has been almost impossible to find until now, unless you were lucky enough to attend one of Batkovic’ performances.

Fortunately it is now (re-)released on Invada Records – including two additional tracks: Semper and Eloquens.

Most of the compositions on this album are built upon repetitive themes, in a way that reminisces the minimalist work of Philip Glass – but with the accordion as the full ensemble packed into one single instrument.
If you (like many) unfairly think the accordeon is an uncool instrument, not suitable for performing exciting music, this album proves you’re wrong.
And if you experience Batkovic performing live, without the help of any additional effect, you will realise you were VERY wrong.

Note: the Bandcamp link only offers the digital download version. Check the Invada site to obtain vinyl/CD version.


Also on Spotify

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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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Soccer Committee / Machinefabriek: “Soccer Machine Mix”

Soccer Machine

A few days ago, Wouter van Veldhoven mentioned his praise for Soccer Committee‘s album sC (2007).
‘It’s almost ten years old now’, he wrote, ‘It is also probably the best minimal album ever made, regardless of subgenre. The album would likely be labeled minimal folk/songwritery music, but please give it a good listen, because this is way way more than just songs.’

I remember seeing (and hearing) Mariska Baars (Soccer Committee) for the very first time when she played support for a Stars of the Lid show in Utrecht in 2007, and I remember feeling the same way: these are not ‘just songs’ – there’s something more to them, something that is hard to grasp and explain.

Around that time (december 2007), I made a mix from Soccer Committee‘s music paired to that of Machinefabriek. This mix was never published here before, because it was made for the NPS-Folio radio show broadcast.
The Folio shows are archived in this Mixcloud profile, but I don’t usually mention them here. Time to make an exception to that rule: Wouter van Veldhoven’s post made me decide it was time to dust off the 2007 mix and publish it again. Because it’s still as powerful now as it was back then, almost 10 years ago.

Connecting Soccer Committee‘s acoustic, minimalist and pure songs to Machinefabriek‘s experimental electronics may seem like a strange conjunction of opposites, but it works very well (at least, for me it does): it seems to bring out a somewhat hidden, ‘peaceful and true’ emotional layer to their music.
And it’s not such a strange combination as it seems to be: Mariska and Rutger have been working and performing together for many years in projects like Piiptsjilling and various other combinations.

A lot has happened since 2007. Machinefabriek‘s musical career (and his discography) has exploded to worldwide acclaim, and while Mariska Baars is still incidentally performing music in various projects, Soccer Committee is not active anymore: she now expresses herself through her paintings mainly.

Soccer Machine SequenceThis mix contains Soccer Committee Songs:

  • Here I go again (sC, 2007)
  • Moi et mon Coeur (Soccer Committee, 2005)
  • Le Jardin (Soccer Committee, 2005)
  • Carps (sC, 2007)
  • Stripping the Nude (sC, 2007)
  • Blessed (sC, 2007)
  • True (Soccer Committee, 2005)
  • Look at You (Soccer Committee, 2005)
  • White Stone (sC, 2007)

…interspersed with (fragments of) tracks by Machinefabriek:

  • Het waait over (Fabriek + Fabriek, 2007) 
  • Maris (Weleer, 2007)
  • Licht (Bijeen, 2007)
  • Stoffig Stuk (Wouter van Veldhoven – Ruststukken, 2007)
  • Stofstuk (Stofstuk, 2007)
  • Carps (Remix) (Carps (Machinefabriek Remix), 2006)
  • Fluister (Weleer, 2007)
  • Donderwolk (Weleer, 2007)
  • Verdrinkwater (Bijeen, 2007)
  • Zeeg (Baars, van Veldhoven, Zuydervelt – Zeeg, 2007)
  • Slaapmiddel (Slaapzucht, 2007)
  • Wieg (Huis, 2007)
  • Bloesem (Huis, 2007)
  • Schaduw (Huis, 2007)
  • Polderlicht (Fabriek + Fabriek, 2007)
  • Thole (Thole, 2007)
  • Zucht 2 (Slaapzucht, 2007)
  • Slaapzacht (Huis, 2007)
  • The African Guy (Manchester, 2005)
  • Kinderboerderij (Huis, 2007)
  • Piano.wav (Bijeen, 2007)
  • Curb (Manchester, 2005)
  • Het is weer vroeg donker (Bij Mirjam, 2004)

Download SOCCER MACHINE Now (95Mb; 60:00 min.)

Or stream it on Mixcloud:

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Max Richter – (From) Sleep

Max Richter - Sleep

From 7″-single, 12″-single, vinyl album to compact disc, the physical format has always limited the maximum length of an album. But with internet broadband availability this has stopped being a limiting factor: compositions can be as long as the composer wants them to be.
If you forget about download versions but focus on streaming audio, there is no limit in length at all: check longplayer.org for instance, a web stream of a thousand (!) year long  composition – and a nice one to listen to, too!

This does not mean that there were no long-form compositions ‘before the internet’: around 1985 John Cage (who else!) wrote ‘As SLow aS Possible’ (ASLSP) for organ – it’s performance in Halberstadt, Germany, ‘started in 2001 and is scheduled to have a duration of 639 years, ending in 2640’.

Long-form compositions are a challenge to a composer, because he (she) has to deal with the audience’s relatively short attention span: not many people will be able to focus and keep their concentration for 4 hours or even more.
For this reason, it is no surprise that several long-form experiments are found in the realm of ambient music, and are often written to be played during sleep.
Some examples from this blog alone: Robert Rich‘s Sleep projects Somnium” and Perpetual“, Stephan Mathieu‘s “Nachststücke” and Marsen Jules’ 24 hour version of The Endless Change of Colour“. And let’s not forget about Leif Inge‘s 24 hours stretched version of Beethoven’s Ninth (9Beet Stretch“)!

Enter Max Richter, who recently surprised the musical world with his latest project called SLEEP” an 8 hour (+ 24 minutes)  composition, intended to help you sleep.
It is not a drone piece, but a set of 31 ‘variations’ meant to be played in a continuous sequence. It is not a purely electronic piece either (although there is a significant role for synth and electronics). The main themes are performed by a real-life ensemble: the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, featuring the beautiful soprano voice of Grace Davidson and Max Richter himself playing piano, organ, synth and electronics.
Different sleep phases are represented with their own variations. The thematic parts – performed in various settings by the acoustic ensemble – representing the moments of lighter sleep, while phases of deep sleep are guided by less distinct synth drones and abstract soundscapes.

“It is a piece that is meant to be listened to at night.”

Its purpose is nót to be a full-fledged dramatic symphony with extreme dynamics. That would only keep you awake. The basic themes sound deceptively simple, and are often repeated in (slightly) different variations – resulting in a soothing effect, a vaguely familiar feeling.
But don’t underestimate the difficulty of playing relatively ‘simple’ themes like this – especially in a live setting!

“Somehow, in Europe, over the last century, as complexity and inaccessibility became equated with intelligence and the avant-garde, we lost something along the way. Modernism gave us so many stunning works, but we also lost our lullabies.”

But: lullabies had a specific purpose – they were sung to help you fall asleep. They were not sung continuously for the rest of the night until you woke up… So how is this different?

“It’s a set of questions. Is there a difference between ‘listening’ to music and ‘hearing’ it? Is there even such a thing as listening while you’re sleeping, because we don’t ascribe that sort of intentionality to sleep?”

To be honest: I have tried but could not sleep to it very well. Partly because I’m a light sleeper, but also because there are certain aspects in the work that do demand attention – it is not completely ‘ignorable’.
So I prefer playing it at daytime. It has the exact length of a working day, and proves to be a great accompaniment for a full days work, at home, alone.
I found out that the piece does not become boring or irritating for a single moment – and in fact that was a big surprise for me because I expected it to be almost impossible to listen to a work like this uninterrupted, while awake. The repeating themes effectively work their way into your subconscious; they are like a favourite hit-single on heavy radio rotation.
And, after the piece is ended and switched off, they won’t easily leave your mind.

Due to it’s length, SLEEP” can only be downloaded as MP3-album.
Unfortunately, Deutsche Grammophon has decided to offer it through iTunes only. A strange choice, since it should’ve been offered cross-platform of course, preferrably with the choice of lossless versions too. Many have asked that question so who knows what will happen in the near future.

From Sleep

Not everyone will have the patience to sit through a composition of this length.
For those (ánd for those that want physical copies), there is also a one hour edition, from SLEEP, released on vinyl and CD. This is a kind of ‘abstract’ from the larger work, containing different and shorter versions of the full-scale variations.
And, if that is still not enough for you, you may want to check Rough Trade, who made this their album of the month and include yet another 3-track (30 minute) bonus CD!


Also on Spotify


MAX RICHTER – PATH 19 (YET FRAILEST)
(from ‘from SLEEP’)

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Good Weather for an Airstrike, Offthesky + Man Watching the Sky, Eugene Carchesio, Max Wuerden

In the Shortlist sections, I will mention some of the albums that I enjoyed listening to, but couldn’t find the time (or the right words) for a “full” review for. Still, I think they deserve your attention: use the links to find more info and hear previews.

Lights

Good Weather for an Airstrike – Lights
“Good Weather For An Airstrike (the name comes from a Sigur Rós piece) is an ambient/post-rock project by Tom Honey from Winchester, Hampshire UK. The idea of the project was to create a collection of relaxing sounds which would help Tom alleviate the issues caused by suffering from tinnitus, which causes a ringing sensation in the ear and can often result in difficulty sleeping. Combining processed guitars, dreamy strings, piano, synths, drums, lulling drones and subtle field recordings, Lights is full of wonderful soundscapes that mix ambient, electronic, post-rock and neo-classical sounds perfectly.”

Afar, Farewell

Offthesky & Man Watching the Stars – Afar, Farewell
Experimental violinist Brendan Paxton joins Jason ‘Offthesky’ Corder on these “five gorgeous tracks of slowly evolving melody on a soft bed of processed guitar, molten strings and Offthesky’s deep and quirky signatures”.

Circle Music

Eugene Carchesio – Circle Music
“The name Eugene Carchesio may not be an instantly familiar one – but for some two and a half decades, Carchesio has been a permanent fixture on the Australian music scene.
Circle Music is the first in a series of archival releases from Eugene’s huge electronic music catalog. A pulsing spiral of compositions, Circle Music taps the shoulder of minimal techno before scooting past into less familiar sonic territories. It’s a playful, bouncing collision of electronics, pulse and repetition”.

Orlost

Max Wuerden – Or Lost
The Farfield label returns from hibernation exactly 10 years after Wuerden’s “Ortlos” album. The title is not just an anagram: together, the track titles spell out “Finding the Perfect Moment is it a Dream Fulfilled or Lost”.
“Wuerden works with many diverse samples – from atmospheric field recordings to unusual instruments (like a parasol stand) – to create moody, vast soundscapes and complex rhythms alike. He used a contact microphone to discover the world of sounds hidden in an old hard drive and reinterpret the well-known clang of a porcelain bowl. The result is darkly mysterious in one moment, only to become powerfully intensive the very next”.

Lok

Max Wuerden – Book Sounds 1: Lok & 2: Transfer
While checking out the Or Lost release, I stumbled upon two other fascinating releases by Max Wuerden, called Books Sounds. Both are a single soundscape, about one hour long, created for playing while reading a book.
Book Sounds 1: Lok” was specifically created for the novel Die Lokomotieve byThorsten Nesch (but it is claimed to also work with other dark tales).
The second Book Sound, calledTransfer“, was not written with a specific title in mind.“It works with horror, mystery, fantasy and other dark tales.”
In my experience, these deep and adventurous soundscapes work very well – even without any book.
Both titles are offered for an extremely low price (1€ minimum each).

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Michael Gordon – Timber

Timber

To some, waves on the shore, leaves from a tree, flames in a fire all look the same.
Others can stare at this fractal beauty and find Zen-like peacefulness in the fact that this ‘sameness’ is just an illusion, because every single detail is different – and no single detail ever occurs twice.

Michael Gordon‘s Timber” may achieve the same effect in sound.

Timber” is scored for six “wooden 2x4s, each cut into different sizes, giving each one a slightly different pitch.”
Called a “simantra“, this percussion instrument was first devised by composer Iannis Xenakis.

The work is somewhat reminiscent of Steve Reich‘s ‘phase shifting’ compositions, yet it is quite different in form.
As Bang on a Can co-founder Michael Gordon says: “I wanted to clear my mind of pitches and orchestration. For that reason, I decided early on that Timber would be for non-tuned percussion and that each percussionist would play one instrument only. I imagined that the six instruments would go from high to low, and that, through a shifting of dynamics from one instrument to the next, the group could make seamless and unified ascending and descending patterns.”

Slagwerk Den Haag, the percussion ensemble that commisioned this work, does a remarkably disciplined job in this work – that is obviously a LOT more difficult to play than it is to listen to.

The immersive polyrhythmic structures are quite overwhelming yet calming at the same time – like the fractal images of water, leaves, flames can be.

The package of this beautiful work cannot be left unnoticed. Timber” comes in a beautiful wooden case, which is easily one of the most beautiful from my entire collection.
If you thought about downloading the digital version or streaming it from Spotify, look again!

It is available from the Slagwerk Den Haag website, or from Cantaloupe Music.

Slagwerk den Haag: Michael Gordon – Timber

 

Spotify– (Also on Spotify)

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Johann Johannsson – The Miner’s Hymns

Miner's Hymns

Created as a soundtrack for the Bill Morrison movie depicting the disembling of the North East England’s mining community (the movie DVD will be released in june), this CD version is recorded live at the Durham Cathedral with a surprising cast of a 16-piece brass ensemble, church organ, percussion and electronics (the latter pre-recorded to catch the reverberation of the cathedral itself and use it in the recording).
No string section – in instrumentation and style Johannsson returns to the time of “Virthulegu Forsetar” (Touch, 2004).

But The Miner’s Hyms is much less static and more dynamic than Virthulegu Forsetar. It starts dark and gloomy but gradually builds to a very dynamic piece (therefore playing it with appropriate volume is recommended!)

The movie’s basic theme (the disembling of the English mining industry, but also the strength of its community) can be found in the cover image and in the titles (which are taken from trade union banners), but also in the constantly raising and decending notes.

Although the CD starts very dark, it ends in a more positive, maybe even optimistic scale.
The trailer (below) raises interest in seeing the complete film, but also without the accompanying images this is a fascinating and deeply moving composition.


The Miners’ Hymns trailer

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Peter Broderick’s Flickr Album

broderick

Peter Broderick is not afraid to try out some new directions. With his music (ranging from minimal electronics via minimalism to new-folk), as well as with the ways to distribute them.
Some of his records were released on fairly wellknown labels as Type and Kning, or on lesser known labels as Slaapwel Records and Fang Bomb. But also on cassettes, freely available mixtapes, and now even using Flickr (the  web 2.0 photo sharing site).

As far as I know, he’s the very first artist creating a ‘Flickr Album‘ this way.

All songs were created in the second half of 2009, while on the road (he recently toured with Efterklang).
Most of them are quickly recorded compositions or improvisations, created and published without much re-thinking or hesitation. This gives the set a remarkable lo-fi feeling (and sometimes even literally since most of the files are published at a 160kbps bitrate, unfortunately).

This is not an ambient album: there is no music like on his recent Slaapwel record (‘Music for a Sleeping Sculpture…‘) or on Blank Grey Canvas Sky with Machinefabriek.
But the music presented will probably appeal to most ambient music listeners too.

It’s a collection of songs and sketches, clearly demonstrating Peter’s musical versatility. (And if you like this, you may also want to check out his sister’s album ‘From the Ground’, which he has produced and co-written).

One of the tracks (‘Numbers’) also comes in two ‘cover versions’ (by Colin Kenniff and Matthew Loiacono).
‘Luzern’ (the track below) is a live-recording from a performance with Nils Frahm on piano and Peter on everything else (voice, Yamaha CP-70 piano, violin, musical saw, shaker, postcard weevil, and field recorder).

What’s the reason Peter is giving away this beautiful music for free?
The answer can be found in “I do this” :
“I do this ’cause I want you to like me…”

The Flickr album can be collected [here]
Also, Subversion Central hosts a mix containing 8 of the Flickr album tracks.

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Phill Niblock – Touch Strings

TO:79

Though he’s not the only one working in this musical area (think of Eliane Radigue, her ‘Trilogie de la Mort’ especially, or Alvin Lucier with his ‘Music on a Long Thin Wire’), I can hardly think of anyone creating drones more ‘minimal’ than Phill Niblock does.

Phill Niblock (born 1933) has a vast catalogue of compositions exploring the essence of sound by asking the listener to zoom in almost indefinitely and forget about time. To the casual passer-by, the music may sound like it’s only one endless chord and if you don’t have the right mindset you’ll probably get extremely bored soon. But if you let the sound grab you, you’ll hear the subtle nuances and interplay of the interacting waveforms.

As Bob Gilmore puts it in the lines notes: Niblock’s materials create a web of subtle pitch distinctions that appears static but which in fact undergoes constant changes. The patterns created in air by the beating an phasing of near-unison tones are like wet paint with one colour streaking into another; tiny striations appear and disappear, like figures in mist.’

Touch Strings is Niblock’s fourth release on the Touch label. As the title suggest, the compositions on this double CD use string sounds as basic sound material. The three different compositions have quite a different approach but fit together on this album very well.

On ‘Stosspeng’  the layered sounds of sustainer guitars and bass quitar with e-bows produce a calm fluctuating sound. The name comes from its performers: Susan Stenger and Robert Poss.

Arne Deforce’s cello playing is layered 32 times in ‘Poure‘, which makes the piece quite ‘agressive’ sounding when played loud (at some points the sound even reminded me of the sound of bagpipes).

‘One Large Rose’ 
concludes the album, and is in fact a few realtime recordings of the same piece superimposed on each other. This results in a massively immersive sound created by The Nelly Boyd Ensemble.

Of these three compositions, ‘Stosspeng’ is my personal favourite because of its softness, but I noticed that the experience of all three works can change dramatically if you listen to them on different volumes.

This music is definitely not meant for the casual listener. And a restless mind won’t help too. But if you give it the time and space to develop, you’ll discover wondrous results.

At 76, Phill Niblock may very well be viewed as avant-garde’s answer to Sun O)))  😉

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