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Monty Adkins * Eliane Radigue




It is easy to listen to this piece of music without considering its background: just sit back, relax and enjoy. Empire may remind you of some of the best of Brian Eno’s generative music works.
And that’s quite enough for a recommendation in itself, isn’t it?

But then – consider the cover.
If you see a black square, zoom in – notice the subtle shading at the sides. It seems to tell us that there’s more to this than you may initially think. And indeed there is.

In fact, this composition is everything BUT generative. It is carefully structured, using a bell ringing pattern from NY Littleport Caters. The bell ringing sequence (and I’ll simply quote the liner notes here) ‘is an example of change-ringing technique – in which the nine bells are permuted continuously for several hours. From this Adkins created a nine-chord harmonic sequence each with nine layers of sonic material including old instruments and other ambient sounds recorded in large architectural structures.”

It’s even getting more complex knowing that this piece is created as an alternate soundtrack for Andy Warhol’s movie Empire‘ (1964) – an 8 hour long seemingly static (and originally silent) movie of the Empire State Building, showing the building during sunset into the night – the last part of this movie showing only complete darkness.

Being from 1964, this film is stored on 10 film-reels of 48 minutes each. In Adkin’s piece, nine permutations of the bell-patterns occur every 48 minutes, ‘the combination of layers being unique in each occurence. The final reel, of the Empire State Building in almost total darkness, is accompanied by extended filtered materials from previous sections.’
However, this album is not the full 8 hour alternative  soundtrack. The 51 minute version ‘presents the prime sequence of materials with the nine harmonic sections in their original order (1 to 9) and concluding with a section of the sound for the tenth reel.”
It is near this dark end sequence where the sounds start to drift off somewhat and some layers of distortion are added to the bright sounds – emphasizing the increasing sense of being lost in total darkness.

It’s fascinating to realise that there’s such a complex, thought-out pattern behind music that sounds so ‘natural’. I never really realised that there could be a deliberately chosen complex sequence in the ringing of bells. Things can obviously more complex than they seem to be. But when this underlying concept seems a bit too hard to grasp, you can of course still simply sit back, relax and intensely enjoy the beautiful, mindful, immersive sounds of Empire

By way of a bonus:
Three gorgeous Monty Adkins tracks, Still Juniper Snow 1-3 are included on a 2CD-set called Bozzini+ on Huddersfield Contemporary RecordsThese pieces are reworkings of original acoustic pieces performed by Sarah-Jane Summer and the Bozzini Quartet. With their 21 minute playing time, Adkins‘ reconstructions are only a minor part of this CD-set; the rest of the album presents new music pieces for string quartet and piano quite different in style. So be sure to check out the full album first, or just enjoy Monty Adkins’ contribution to this album on Spotify  Also on Spotify

Eliane Radigue - Oeuvre Electronique


To anyone even remotely interested in drone music I usually recommend to check out ‘s Trilogie De La Mort. Inspired by the root text of the Bardo Thödol (the Tibetan Book Of The Dead), this work (for me) symbolises the abscence of time and the infinity of space better than any other composition I know. For me, this 3CD (3+ hour) album (Also on Spotify) almost makes all other drone recordings seem superfluous. If you’d have to choose one single album of drone music, choose this one!

The ‘mother of this mother’ is Eliane Radique, a French electronic music composer, born in 1932, who singlehandedly set the standard for time-defying electronic music.
She chose her path when she first heard musique concrête, and studied and worked with Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry in the late 60’s.

In the early 70’s, she developed her electronic music using the legendary ARP 2500 which she bought in New York and shipped to Paris.
“It arrived without a keyboard. Eliane had deliberately left it with the New York seller, as she had already sensed the machine needed to be taken over per sé, in what it could produce without resorting to the classic play of keys, which easily changes the sounds and whose attraction would be to immediate, too obvious.”  

From then, her attention focuses on creating electronic music.
“Once the frequency of the oscillators which produce the sound are set, Eliane’s play consists in gradually modifying anything in the machine that can modulate its ‘voice’. She does so with such a degree of subtlety and slowness that her pieces often wrongly appear as static. Then they move and evolve like an ocean, whose motions are slow, quasi-imperceptible when looked at from a distance. To feel it’s flow, one must be right beside it.”

She continues to create electronic music, all of her work created in her Paris apartment until 2002, when she moved on to create acoustic works, often to be performed by a single performer who understands her work and what she aims to achieve.

INA-GRM (Groupe De Recherches Musicales) now honours her work by releasing a box set containing 14 CD’s (!!!) and a 80 page booklet. The box set is a 15+ hour trip into sonic eternity. It is not intended as the definitive overview of all of Radigue’s work: there is no early musique concrête and no acoustic compositions from after 2002 either. This set is dedicated to her electronic works. And since these works are so very consistent, it can almost be enjoyed as one continuous of work of 15+ hours! That, of course, was not the original intention, so luckily the works are presented in their original form so they can also be enjoyed in shorter sessions.

Included are Chry-ptus (in 2 versions), Geelriandre, Biogenesis, Arthesis, ψ 847, Adnos I-III, Les Chants de Milarepa (featuring the voice of Robert Ashley and chanting by Lama Kunga Rinpoche), Jetsun Mila (2 parts), Trilogie De La Mort (Kyema, Kailasha and Koumé) and finally L’Ile Re-sonante. 

The best news, especially for those who may be hesitating to buy such a massive body of work, is the pricing of this box set. INA-GRM offers this massive set for  a friendly price of 60 euro (without shipping that is), obtainable via Metamkine. That is €4.29 per CD, actually – almost free for this glimpse into sonic eternity.

Wait… you’re still here reading this???

Understandably, Metamkine does not offer any preview options for this set.
It’s no use either to publish a short excerpt from her work.
So – by way of as an exception – here’s a link to a Youtube post of Kyema (from Trilogie Des Morts)

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Monty Adkins * Halftribe



MONTY ADKINS – MOEROR  Also on Spotify

With its 21’27” length this is not a full Monty Adkins album, but we will not complain about that – especially since Atkins and Crónica offer this single track EP as a free download (as they call it themselves, but I prefer Name Your Price and suggest to leave a donation to the artist and the label).

Moeror is Latin for ‘sorrow’ or  ‘grief’, and is dedicated to the memory of Jóhann Jóhansson. There’s a nostalgic, contemplative piano theme looping over a slightly distorted noise background, but it’s not a repeating loop. At times, the loop changes, starts repeating a part of the theme. The material repeats, “sometimes exactly, at other times with additional processing or temporally shortened.”

Adkins is examining and re-examining every single detail of the loop, over and over again, wondering why “repetition is so psychoemotionally enticing even in melancholic works.”
The answer to that question is hidden in these timeless 22 minutes.



I accidentally misread the title as For The Summer, Or Whatever  – which may not be too strange since I think this music fits every season and not only Summer. But there are definitely associations with the warmer seasons here, such as the birdsong in the title track and the soft wind in The Simple Things.
In this way the album is about the opposite of many other ‘arctic ambient’ releases.

Halftribe is Ryan Bissett, from Northern Ireland but living in Manchester, producer of “deep ambient and down tempo styled music”.
I’m not (yet) familiar with his back-catalogue so I cannot compare, but on For The Summer, Or Forever the rhythms are kept to a minimum, in favour of lush dreamy ambient, perfect for completing a warm summer evening.
Another memorable release on the Dronarivm label!

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Monty Adkins – Shadows & Reflections / Usher’s Hill

With his impressive back catalogue, Monty Adkins has become one of my favourite artists (if you’re not familiar with his work, don’t forget checking out Four Shibusa,  Rift Patterns, Borderlands and Unfurling Streams).
So it’s great news when two new albums are released almost simultaneously:

Monty Adkins - Shadows and Reflections


The first of these two is Shadows And Reflections, released on the Crónica label in a cassette and download version.
(No CD version to my regret, since I think this album deserves a ‘proper’ release with a better sound quality than the cassette tapes can offer. But, judging on their latest releases, tape is the medium of choice currently for Crónica.. Of course ordering the tape also includes a high-quality download too).

The album presents two 20 minute tracks (Sounds of the Shadow and Sounds of the Sun), built from organ samples performed and recorded by Monty Adkins. On first listen this could be classified as drone music, but in fact a lot is happening in the layering of the organ sounds, and the pieces build up to a climax in a way that defies the strict definition of ‘drone’. (Not that this matters in any way, though)

“In the two parts of the work Adkins wanted to induce a sense of mediation, contemplation and reflection. He wanted the sound to be constantly, though in some instances imperceptibly, changing so that one remained mindful of the music rather than allowing it to drift in to the periphery of one’s consciousness. For Adkins, the focusing on a single organ timbre over an extended duration encourages a more attentive perception as the ear is drawn in to the micro-fluctuations within each of the extended phrases. One’s sense of time is dilated and there is a sense of envelopment within the soundworld.”

There’s no mention of what organ is used for the recordings, but there’s a strong association with the timbres of a church organ. Which would be appropriate, because these pieces were created for a multimedia exhibition at the Bradford Cathedral to interact with fourteen paintings by Andy Fullalove (as well as with the light from the stained glass windows in the Cathedral). An example of Fullalove’s work can be seen on the album cover.

Listening to this music (with the acoustics of the large cathedral it was played in) while enjoying the interaction of the paintings with the ever changing light must’ve been a moving experience.  When listening to it in your private surroundings, the visual part is missing of course. But it’s still a moving experience anyway.


Monty Adkins‘ sixth solo album (since 2009, not counting the earlier releases as Mathew Adkins) is somewhat different from most of his earlier works. It is as quiet and introspective and is created with the same thoughtful sound design, but it feels a bit like it is a selection from two different albums. One part featuring ‘modern classical’ piano compositions, performed by Jonathan Best, the alternating tracks presenting the twinkling electronic soundscapes  (here created using celesta, organ and electronics) we came to know Adkins’ previous albums: the “slow shifting organic textures derived from processed instrumental sounds.” 

At first listen, it seems as if you’re listening to two different albums in a random sequence. But listen carefully and you’ll start to hear the details that connect the tracks: subtle acousmatic backgrounds coloring the piano compositions, or soft piano notes enhancing the charismatic electronic textures.

A Year At Usher’s Hill  is the third part of a trilogy, together with Rift Patterns and Residual FormsThree albums that, according to Adkins, are based on “psychogeography and psychosonology”.
“The album is highly autobiographical, charting events, places, and most importantly the people associated with these experiences… a re-discovery of memories and the connections between them across time.”

Like all Eilean Records releases, the album refers to a map point – a number between 0 and 100 pointing to a map of an imaginary land. This is map point 28. You won’t find Usher’s Hill anywhere except from this location of the Eilean map, or in your own imagination.
But you can be sure it is a very beautiful place to visit.

For those that can play piano and read scores: there are three scores available from Monty Adkins‘ website:  Shifting Ground, In Memoriam Jacques Hamel, Under A Lunar Sky.

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Monty Adkins – Unfurling Streams

If you check the back catalogue of Monty Adkins (which I definitely think you should), you’ll find that he often chooses a single instrument to work with and then starts exploring its possibilities and manipulating its sounds. And while the starting point and sounds are very different to begin with, he manages to create a ‘sound-field’ that is immediately recognisable. Check, for examples, the cello sounds of Borderlands“, or the clarinet playing on Four Shibusa“.

Unfurling Streams, his recent release on Crónica, is based on recordings of percussion instruments made by Jonny Axelsson (a much praised percussionist with impressive experience in playing contemporary music by composers like Stockhausen, Ligeti and Kevin Volans) and Monty Adkins himself.

The inspiration for Unfurling Streams” comes from the last two lines of maggie and milly and molly  and may” by E.E. Cummings – who (according to the notes on“abandoned traditional techniques and structures to create a new, highly idioyncratic means of poetic expression”:

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea


“In Unfurling Streams, the ‘stream’ reflects life—something continually flowing, evolving, and changing.
Eddies, currents, pools and spray also are suggestive of ways in which the stream makes its way through the landscape and are clearly reflected in the images and sounds created for this project.”

It’s fascinating to hear how the variety of sounds from the percussion instruments – from sub-low rumble to high-pitched metallic – resemble a stream of water finding its way.

With the way he post-processes this material, Monty Adkins creates his characteristic “slow shifting organic textures”. However different the original sound sources are, it is this delicate texture that links the album to its predecessors “Borderlands” and “Four Shibusa” – like a sonic trilogy.

Also on Spotify

For those living in Holland:
Monty Adkins 
will perform live in Utrecht, Holland at Tivoli De Helling on Sunday, May 17, 2015.
The afternoon live set (3 PM!) is part of a double bill with Anne Müller (cello player known for her work with Agnes Obel, Nils Frahm and Ólafur Arnalds, but of course also for her solo work).

For this occasion, Monty Adkins will perform a special set with cello player Seth Parker Woods.
A rare occasion that shouldn’t be missed!!

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Monty Adkins – Borderlands


After “Fragile.Flicker.Fragment” (2011), Four Shibusa” (2012) and Rift Patterns” (2014) (all of which I heartily recommend listening), Borderlands” is Monty Adkins‘ fourth consecutive album on the Audiobulb label.
Before that, there were three earlier releases  – on Crónica, Radio France and Empreïntes Digitales  (as Mathew Adkins on the latter).
And from his website discography we learn that another digital release is to be released in March this year!

Quite an impressive catalogue that is, especially given the exceptional quality of all these recordings. Each has its own style, instrumentation and context and yet all have the distinctive ‘Monty Adkins sound’ – music “characterized by slowly shifting organic instrumental and concrete soundscapes”.
An unparallelled match between electronic and acoustic sounds, between the ‘natural’ and the ‘synthetic’.

Borderlands” presents a single 37 minute piece, commisioned for Totum One“: a 360° audio visual laboratory installation, “exploring virtual worlds using 3D headsets and new ways of hearing sounds.”  The installation is based on a text by Deborah Templeton “that explored liminal states of consciousness”, but this text is not present in this instrumental recording.

IOU - Totum One

The sound that visitors experienced at the installation will probably have been quite different from what you hear here, because  visitors had “tablet computers so that they could send a graphical satellite on a journey between 3-D “planets”, each of which emitted a soundscape – for example, the sound of streams and running water.”
These added sounds and effects are not included in the basic recording presented on this album.

While the music of Borderlands” was created to embark on a sonic space trip, the music has absolutely nothing to do with the usual kind of space music associated!
The heart of the piece is the sensuous multitracked cello playing by William Mace, subtly supported by unobtrusive electronic details and accents that slowly move (somewhat) to the foreground while the piece evolves.

The composition ‘comprises of six interludes and six extended panels, each comprising twenty-eight short melodic fragments. Each panel uses the same fragments to form new melodies and harmonies.” – but for the listener it feels – and can be enjoyed – as one single uninterrupted piece.
A piece in which every single detail has its place, a piece that conveys that everything is as it should be.
A very, very comforting piece.

MONTY ADKINS – BORDERLANDS (fragment: first panel)

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