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Mind Awake, Body Asleep (Mix)

Mind Awake, Body Asleep

The moment I heard Rami Malek whisper “You lie in bed and repeat this mantra in your head: mind awake, body asleep” (Mr Robotseries 2) I knew this would be the inspiration for a new mix.
A mix about half-sleep, lucid dreaming impressions… ungraspable images… and about “letting go”.
After all, Mr. Robot’s tagline was “Control is an Illusion”.

Control proved to be an illusion indeed, with these different, unrelated, fragments coming together like pieces of a puzzle, creating a mix “like its own cinematic score.” (H_C)

So let go, indulge yourself in this mix, and leave control to wherever the sound takes you.
But (as is this is not one of those ‘feel good, sleep well’ mixes) be sure to keep you mind awake at all times!

This mix was created for – and is co-hosted on – Headphone Commute – for which I am very very grateful!

“Peter van Cooten’s intricate storytelling with his favorite piece is the precise definition of a true curator. But it’s not just a collection of sequential tracks that makes a mix from PvC a transforming experience, it’s also his multi-layered approach to weaving in the dynamics and textures of individual compositions that truly create a brand new one, disabling your mind from peeling apart the individual pieces (see below the screenshot of the entire sequence). The mix becomes an event of itself – one that I am honored to share with you.”

Thanks, H_C,  for the helping in spreading lucid audio-dreams ! 


Mind Awake... sequence



start time – fragment length – Artist – Title
Album Title, Year, Label Details

  • 00:00 00:53 Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil – Sloosha’s Hollow
    Cloud Atlas OST, 2012, Sony Classical 88765411202
  • 00:20 00:30 Rami Malek – Mind Awake, Body Asleep
    Mr. Robot, 2016
  • 00:50 02:02 Gideon Wolf – Disquiet
    Year Zero, 2016, Fluid Audio 038
  • 01:31 01:38 Kenji Kawai – Ghosthack
    Ghost in the Shell OST, 1995, RCA BVCR-729
  • 02:41 02:08 DirigentThe Perseids (Naviarhaiku 137)
    3 Years of Naviar Haiku, 2017, Naviar, Bandcamp
  • 04:11 01:22 Olivier AlaryXi
    Fiction – Non-Fiction, 2017, 130701 LP13-24
  • 05:14 02:19 Mayforest – –––––––
    Mayforest, 2017, Bandcamp
  • 07:13 03:00 Daniel WJ MackenzieAbandonment I (Moon Phase)
    Every Time Feels Like The Last Time, 2017, Eilean Rec 048
  • 09:35 02:59 Sij – Floating Clouds
    The Time Machine, 2017, Cryo Chamber CRYO 057
  • 10:08 00:26 Rami Malek – Mind Awake, Body Asleep
    Mr. Robot, 2016
  • 12:02 02:32 BJ Nilsen – Twenty Four Seven
    Eye of the Microphone, 2013, Touch TO:95
  • 13:10 02:19 Visible Cloaks – Wintergreen
    Reassemblage, 2017, Rvng Intl. RVNGNL37
  • 14:54 02:03 Stéphane Roy – III
    Migrations, 2004, Empreïntes Digitales IMED 0373
  • 15:57 01:10 Simon Fisher Turner – Burnt In
    Giraffe, 2017, Editions Meg EMEGO 231
  • 17:01 03:01 Max Richter – Morphology
    Three Worlds: Music From Wolf Works, 2017, Deutsche Grammophon 00289 479 6952 GH
  • 19:13 02:44 Angelina Yershova – Intermezzo 80 Hertz
    Resonance Night, 2017, Twin Paradox TPR004
  • 21:30 01:37 Gideon WolfNoise
    Year Zero, 2016,  Fluid Audio 038
  • 22:11 03:06 James MurrayAllways
    Killing Ghosts, 2017, Home Normal homen091
  • 24:40 02:47 Alva Noto – Gulf Night (For Peter Roehr)
    For, 2006, Line LINE_026
  • 25:49 02:17 Mario Batkovic – Desiderii Patriae
    Solo, 2015, Veruston VTR002 (2017: Invada INV16LP)
  • 27:07 04:00 J. Peter Schwalm – Endknall
    The Beauty of Disaster, 2016, RareNoise Records RNR059
  • 30:08 03:51 Abul Mogard – Tumbling Relentless Heaps
    Works, 2016, Ecstatic ELP020
  • 32:38 02:59 Lawrence English – Somnambulist
    Cruel Optimism, 2017, Room40 RM470CD
  • 34:43 01:54 Penjaga Insaf – Keinsafan
    Sama Sadja, 2010, Power & Steel PAS 27
  • 35:27 01:21 Olan Mill – Alve
    Orient, 2017, Dauw d21
  • 36:23 02:34 Jeffrey Roden – Threads of a Prayer
    Threads of a Prayer Volume 2, 2017, Solaire Records SOL1004
  • 38:50 01:40 Jóhann Jóhannsson – First Encounter
    Arrival OST, 2016, Deutsche Grammophon 4796782
  • 39:57 01:49 Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie – They Dream Of More
    Salero OST, 2016, Erased Tapes Records ERATP091CD
  • 40:23 00:14 Rami Malek – Mind Awake, Body Asleep
    Mr. Robot, 2016
  • 41:32 01:22 The Future Sound of London – Exerting Force or Influence
    Environment Six, 2016, fsoldigital CDTOT 70
  • 41:54 02:14 Andrew Wasylyk – Ghosts of Park Place
    Themes for Buildings and Spaces, 2017, Tape Club Records TAPCLB083
  • 42:43 02:57 Elegi – K-141
    Bånsull, 2017, Dronarivm DR-43
  • 44:43 03:02 DødsmaskinHeksetimen
    Fullstendig Brent, 2017, Malignant Records TumorCD104
  • 45:46 03:22 FM3 – Dui Xiang
    Ting Shuo, 2014, self-released CN-M69-14
  • 48:28 02:13 Scott Walker – Dream Sequence
    The Childhood of a Leader OST, 2016, 4AD CAD3620CD
  • 49:31 00:15 Rami Malek – Mind Awake, Body Asleep
    Mr. Robot, 2016
  • 50:00 03:47 Seabuckthorn – Passage of Old
    I Could See The Smoke, 2016, Lost Tribe Sound LTS-024
  • 53:07 01:50 Fabio Perletta – Ichinen Pt. 1
    Ichinen, 2017, Line LINE_085
  • 53:26 06:33 Olivier Alary – Epilogue
    Fiction – Non-Fiction, 2017, 130701 LP13-24


Download Mind Awake, Body Asleep Now 140 Mb (60:00 min.)

[Surround-version (DTS.Wav) here]

Or: Stream in on Mixcloud:


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DreamScenes 2017 – 5

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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:


  • 00:00 DreamScenes – Intro (Susanna)
  • 00:37 Justin Walter – Unseen Forces
    Unseen Forces, 2017
  • 06:34 Jeffrey Roden – As We Rise Up
    Threads Of A Prayer, Vol. II, 2017
  • 13:41 Mari Saino – Souls From The Past
    Wind Whispers, 2017 (t.b.a. – june)
  • 18:15 Ryuichi Sakamoto – Solari
    Async, 2017
  • 21:48 Lorenzo Masotto – Repeater
    Aeolian Processes, 2017
  • 26:14 Mayforest – –––÷–––
    Mayforest, 2017
  • 33:11 Gavin Miller – A Brief Flicker
    Illuminate, 2017 (t.b.a. – may)
  • 43:55 Nick Webb – Frozen Veins
    Music For Severn Sirens, 2017
  • 48:05 High Plains – Black Shimmer
    Cinderland, 2017
  • 52:04 Daniel W.J. MacKenzie – Abandonment II (Twenty Five Years)
    Everytime Feels Like The Last Time, 2017

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High Plains * Ceeys

High Plains - Cinderland

High Plains - Cinderland


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 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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James Murray * Michael Begg * Finglebone

Daubigny - Landscape by Moonlight

Eyes to the Height


James Murray is the label owner of Slowcraft RecordsHe is also the one that created the music of Anne Garner’s bewitching album Be Life, one of my personal favourite albums.

As a solo artists, his albums are always a surprise, because you’ll never know what to expect. Murray is always exploring different styles of electro-acoustic and experimental music: “switching things around when the time feels right.”

Eyes to the Height
, his seventh solo album, is “a ten chapter story reflecting the fragile beauty of life and loss, memory and function.”
It’s labeled ‘modern ambient’, but in fact it rises above a genre tag like that.
With the use of rhythms without losing the ‘ambient’ touch, this album manages to create a delicate balance of ‘pop’ and ‘ambient’ where many others have failed.

There’s a great attention to every detail: in sound production as well as in composition. The album is fully instrumental, but each of the ten pieces feels like a complete “song”.
Wouldn’t it be a nice experiment to create a vocal version of this album using these tracks? There are a lot of albums with instrumental versions of previously vocal tracks, but I’ve never seen that done the other way around.
It’s fun to think about where that would lead to. But let’s be clear: I don’t want to suggest that  something is ‘missing’ on this album. On the contrary!

There are only very few people capable of creating ‘quantum ambient’ music: music that is ambient and isn’t ambient at the same time.

Also on Spotify

A Moon That Lights Itself


In 2016, Michael Begg was commissioned to compose music based around the 19th century painter Charles François Daubignywho is considered an important precursor of Impressionism.
The music was performed in september at the Scotland National Gallery, by Michael Begg accompanied by cellist Clea Friend. After this performance, Begg completed the work in his studio.

A Moon that Lights Itself is dedicated to the work of Daubigny, who painted his nocturnal scenes from his  boat studio. It is conceptually linked to the invention of the phonautographthe earliest known device for recording sound, by Edouard-Lean Scott de Martinville in the same period (years before Edison’s phonograph!). The first ever recording of a human voice was Au Clair De La Lune.

That is a lot of conceptual background information, I know. But it helps to get the feel of this album, its atmospheres, and explains the reason for the ghostly Au Clair De La Lune theme in the track The Birth Of Modernism. 

You can trust Michael Begg to come up with a haunting album that matches this concept in every detail. Overall, the music is dark, like nocturnal music should be. But it’s not a darkness to be afraid of. It’s a darkness to dwell in… just imagine you’re drifting in a boat on a quiet lake, watching the night sky and the moon, and trying to capture that in painting.
Or in music.

Sunlit Plumes of Dust


Whitelabrecs (one of Harry Towell’s outlets of experimental electronic/acoustic music) rounds off its first year with this release by Finglebone, aka Adam VarneyAn album crossing the thin lines between folk/post-rock and electronic ambient. Adam’s finger-picking guitar adds a refreshingly bright sound to the imaginary landscapes, creating an “introspective world inhabited by the gosts of memories, the looming spectre of death and the passing of time.”

But it’s not a ‘dark’ album at all: the guitar strings, soundscapes and found sound mix is expressing “melancholy, reverie and the feeling of alienation.”
It’s a very personal album, “loosely based on Adam’s experience caring for his Grandfather during his final weeks. He witnessed how dementia would render him silent, lost in his own mind, but then release him back into reality.”

All but one of the eight tracks are instrumental pieces around 3-4 minutes in length. The exception to this is the 12 minute track Blazing Golden Sun, which features a poem by James E.M. Smith, “Grovely”, describing the local woods where Adam spent many hours as a child.

As usual for Whitelabrecs releases, the physical CDr edition has only 50 copies which will probably be gone soon.  

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Jeffrey Roden – Threads Of A Prayer, Volume 1

Jeffrey Roden - Threads of a Prayer Vol. 1

Jeffrey Roden - Threads of a Prayer Vol. 1


Jeffrey Roden has worked as a professional bass player in various genres and settings and has been releasing CD’s for solo bass.
In the early days of his career he was a session musician (for legends like Bo Diddley), an in-demand sideman in jazz, funk, soul, a rock songwriter and writer of classic pop songs.
But he turned his back on the music industry and ‘turned his gaze inwards and moved from chambermusical electro-jazz to solo improvisations. It was the spiritually and soft resolve of Arvo Pärt’s  oeuvre that would turn into the foremost source of inspiration”.

Threads of a Prayer, Volume 1 (Volume 2 is scheduled for release in 2017) is an epic 2-CD set introducing Roden’s compositional work.
Two hours an twenty minutes of introspective and meditative music: for solo piano on the first CD, and for string ensemble on the second.

It is dangerous, unfair (and probably too early) to compare Roden‘s work to that of contemporary giants like Arvo Pärt.
But, as Tobias Fischer notes in the liner notes, there are remarkable similarities:
“Just like Pärt, Jeffrey had enjoyed success early on in his career. Just like Pärt, he didn’t follow up on it but instead went to look for his own path. And just like Pärt, this path led, first, towards monody and then a music of great outer simplicity, intricate detail and emotional complexity.”

Sandro Ivo Bartoli performs the solo piano compositions on the first CD.
12 Prayers (dedicated to Arvo Pärt and Carmen Montez), 10 Untitled Pieces, and The Passing Of A King all have one thing in common: the silence between the notes, the ultimate quietude. In this unhurried meditative focus, the link to the work of Arvo Pärt and possibly Erik Satie, Morton Feldman and, to lesser extent, John Cage is obvious.

The second CD presents the seven part The Many Latitudes of Grief, two Untitled pieces for quintet, and the 35 minute Leaves (which came “from a lifetime of watching leaves fall and marvelling at both the beauty and inevitability of the falling.”)
The works on this second CD are performed by the Bennewitz QuartetSzymon Marciniak (double bass), Wolfgang Fischer (timpani) and Johannes Kronfeld (trombone).
Because of the difference in instrumentation, the two CD’s in this album are slightly different in sound, but they share the same quietude, completely shutting out the hectic world outside.

It’s Jeffrey Roden‘s sole purpose to take the listener to “the other place: a place within oneself where there is a deeper awareness of many things both emotional and spiritual.”

“I rely upon the work and the listener to find their own relationship and meanings. The work allows the listener to decide what course of mind and spirit to take, whether the time be spent in active or passive listening. Essentially the music serves to elevate the listener to a place unknown and filled with beauty.”

Sandro Ivo Bartoli, piano

Bennewitz Quartet,
Johannes Kronfeld, trombone


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Roger Goula * Green Kingdom * Dead Light

Overview Effect

Overview Effect


Cognitive Shift Recordings is a brand new label, focussing on contemporary classical music “that has influences and instrumentation within the genre and beyond, bridging the gap between modern classical and electronic music”. Their promising first release is Roger Goula‘s Overview Effect

Roger Goula is a London-based composer and multi-instrumentalist working across many different platforms including film, tv, dance, theatre and art installation.
Overview Effect is his debut album release, which not only is the first album on this new label but also gave it its name.
The title refers to “a psychological phenomenon experienced by astronauts when viewing Earth from a distance, allowing them to see the entire planet surrounded by the endless black void of space. This can cause a cognitive shift (!) within the mind of the astronauts, giving them a completely new perspective of life, Earth and humanity”.


Goula’s compositions are performed by Thomas Gould, Peter Gregson, Lucy Railton and Stephen Upshaw, covering many musical styles – in fact, judging by tracks like Cognitive Shift and Overview Effect, refusing to limit itself to what is generally considered ‘contemporary classical’ music.

If this first release is a style statement for the new Cognitive Shift Recordings label, take note and keep an eye on their future releases!

Vinyl trivia:
Goula engraved a marriage proposal in Italian to his partner on the inner groove of the vinyl edition, so it can be seen on every copy. The answer to that proposal is still undisclosed.

Also on Spotify


The Green Kingdom - Harbor


Michael Cottone (alias The Green Kingdom“wanted this album to provide the feeling of floating on gentle and welcoming waters rather than being a refuge to hide away in. […] The reverberant guitar chords and occasional lulling rhythms are meant to contribute to the sense of calmly drifting away”.

He clearly succeeded: listening to Harbor feels like taking a warm bath and is a welcome antidote to the sad state of current times.

The album is released on the Dronarivm label, and stylistically it is different from most other releases on this  label. It certainly isn’t ‘drone’ music, and it isn’t ‘ambient’ either, although there’s a lot of ‘ambience’.
Cottone himself describes his music as “compositions which blur the lines between soundscapes and structure while keeping a sharp focus on melody, crafted using a variety of instruments, electronic sources, samples textures and field recordings”. 

The title, by the way, is an homage to the Cocteau Twins’ Echoes in a Shallow Bay (1985).

Also on Spotify

Dead Light


Dead Light is the name of the duo the Anna Rose Carter and Ed Hamilton formed when they moved out of ‘the sprawling metropolis’ that was London to their new ‘rural refuge’: a quiet, remote space in the countryside.
Their new peaceful surroundings are reflected in this music, but there’s also a sense of dislocation underneath the beauty – which can especially be heard in the out-of-tune resonances of Carter‘s old (prepared?) piano. Or in the ghostly samples accompanying the singing voice in Sleeper.

Dead Light is an album about “two conflicting sentiments that co-exist in a somehow beautiful, bitter-sweet relationship: the reality of this new setting an apposition between the serene nature of their new life, and the dislocation from the lives, people and places that they left behind.
Their sound is characterised by d
istant and reflective, yet intimate and emotive piano motifs coupled with a plethora of analogue artefacts ranging from loops constructed on cheap old tape machines, tape delays (via daisy chained reel-to-reel machines), homemade synthesisers, contact mics and hydrophones.”

Also on Spotify


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DreamScenes 2016 – 12

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DreamScenes usually only features new releases, but this month I want to start with an exception in memory of Pauline Oliveros.
She introduced the concept of Deep Listening – which is only one of the many things she left behind and will be remembered for.

Watertank Software was the very first track I ever heard of her music. Needless to say it left a deep impression.
It was released in 1985 on the amazing Vor Der Flut collection, recorded in an empty watertank with a 45 second reverberation.

Pauline Oliveros- Watertank Software
(From “Vor Der Flut”, 1985)

This december edition is concluded with a track by Mario Batkoviç, who is also exploring the possibilities and limits of the accordeon.
This particular track – Desiderii Patriae, from his forthcoming album Solo – feels like a (probably unintended) tribute to Oliveros’ Deep Listening concept.

Well, so much for the beginning and the end of this edition.
Apart from that: in-between, there’s many other things (… and also many strings).


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Loscil * Library Tapes * Aaron Martin/Leonardo Rosado

In the Dead Of Night

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


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


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. 
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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DreamScenes 2016-09/10

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I have enjoyed a holiday in September, so I had to skip last month’s DreamScenes edition.
To compensate for the immeasurable grief this must have caused, ánd to celebrate the start of autumn, this edition is a twice as long as usual.

So I hope you’ll enjoy these two hours of new (and relatively new) music to make you float away into your daydream…


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Jóhann Jóhannsson * Sven Helbig




Ever since his debut release Englabörn in 2002, Jóhann Jóhannsson has grown into one of the biggest names in contemporary classical music. In recent years he was especially sought-after to compose movie soundtracks – a natural progression, because from the start his arrangements and compositions had that ‘cinematic’ feeling.
He was awarded a Golden Globe, Bafta ánd Oscar for the score for The Theory of Everything, and similar honors for the Sicario soundtrack.
And it is Jóhann Jóhannsson that will be composing the score for the highly anticipated Blade Runner sequel (it will be a challenging task to match the original Vangelis score)!

Orphée is his first ‘full studio album’ (meaning: not a movie or stage production soundtrack) release in six years – since 2010’s And in the Endless Pause There Came The Sound Of Bees.
Compared to his latest soundtrack (Sicario, a dark and brooding atmospheric soundtrack) it’s a remarkable return to his original form. The use of electronics and ‘number station’ samples is somewhat reminiscent of one of his most impressive albums: IBM1401, A User’s Manual. 

The fifteen pieces on Orphée are relatively short, but are supposed to be listened as a cycle that “traces a path from darkness into light, inspired by the various re-tellings of the old story of the poet Orpheus – a many-layered story about death, rebirth, change and the ephemeral nature of memory.”

“The album is a reflection on change, memory, beauty and art, and ultimately celebrates the latter’s power of renewal, while acknowledging the dark paths along which it can lead the artist.”


Orphée is performed by Jóhannsson on piano, electronics, pipe – and electric organ, accompanying Hildur Gudnadottir (cello), the American Contemporary Music Ensemble and AIR Lyndhurst String Orchestra.

The album’s closing track Orphic Hymn is a composition for choir using text from Ovid’s Metamorphosesperformed by none other and no less than Paul Hillier’s Theatre of Voices. A bit of a surprise, since this epilogue is quite different from all the tracks before. But, depending on taste, it may very well be the most impressive and beautiful piece of the album – ánd it’s a nice transition to continue with Sven Helbig’s album discussed below!

Jóhann Jóhannsson – Good Morning, Midnight

Sven Helbig - Eat the Sun


Promo introductions can be misleading. that’s why I usually listen to an album and only read the info afterwards. But this time, I got the introduction before I could listen to the music.
The name Sven Helbig didn’t ring a bell with me… and introducing him as Pet Shop Boys producer didn’t help (never understood them) – and so I almost stopped reading. Some of the other artists he worked for – Rammstein, Snoop Dogg among them – proved he was a very versatile producer, but made me doubt this release would be an ‘ambientblog’ thing (whatever that may be).

But there was something in the description that cought my interest too: a neo-classical/electronica album, performed by Vocalconsort Berlin conducted by Kristjan Järvi, “blending delicate choral passages above pulsating synthesizers”?

I found out that Helbig not only had a lot of experience in popular music, but has firm roots in classical music too: a joint founder of the Dresdner Sinfoniker, the first European orchestra strictly performing contemporary classical music.
In 2013, Deutsche Grammophon released his Pocket Symphonies (which, by the way, is followed up with Pocket Symphonies Electronica this year).

First and foremost, I Eat The Sun And I Drink The Rain is a choral album. There are ten relatively short pieces, flawlessly performed by Vocalconsort Berlin.
There are no other instruments apart from accompaniment of synthesizer, adding some subtle ‘dubby’ production effects. Upon reading ‘pulsating synthesizers’ you might expect the synths playing a leading role but in fact it is not: the choir is definitely the main performer here! The electronics serve to support the choir and draw the connection between ‘classical’ and ‘contemporary’.  But it dóes make a difference, especially in the first tracks on the album and in the closing track Ich Geh Dir Nach. 

The compositions are different from other ‘contemporary classical’ music because they are more rooted in the classical choral tradition than in the usual melancholic neo-romantic style. For most listeners this will feel like a ‘real’ classical music album (apart from the occasional electronic enhancements).
But that, of course, is just labelling.
Play Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Orphée (which ends with the choral Orphic Hymn) first, and then add Helbig‘s album to the same playlist. The transition will be hardly noticeable… but will lead you into new and (perhaps) hitherto uncovered territories!

Sven Helbig – Kyrie

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