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Clarice Jensen * Joana Gama & Lúis Fernandes * Pitch & Splitter Orchestra

Clarice Jensen

Clarice Jensen

CLARICE JENSEN – FOR THIS FROM THAT WILL BE FILLED  Also on Spotify

Clarice Jensen is not the first and certainly not the only person that “expands and confuses the familiar sound of solo cello through the use of effect pedals, multi-tracking, and tape loops recorded at variable speed”. But when the artistic director of the  American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) releases her debut album on the Miasmah label, extra attention is required. Especially when that album opens with a piece composed in collaboration with Jóhann Jóhannsson, with whom she collaborated and toured from 2009 until his death in 2018.

Her music is not about displaying virtuosity, but about restraint – “to fill the void with what [the listeners] find in their center of stillness” – which of course is a different kind of virtuosity in itself.

bc (the track composed with Jóhansson) is a relatively ‘simple’ piece displaying “the startling effect subtle changes have on conventional elements across many repetitions, employing the simple devices of a two-octave c-major scale and a three-chord loop.” It is followed by Cello Constellations, written for Jensen by Michael Harrison, scored for solo cello and 25 multi-tracked cellos and sine tones.

The second half of the album contains the two-part title track For This From That Will Be Filled, composed by Clarice Jensen herself, soliciting ‘both meditation and disorientation’ in using drones, long loops and the sounds of New York’s Grand Central Terminal accompanying the processed cello.


The music on this album is originally written for an audio-visual live performance with Jonathan Turner, stills of which are included in the album artwork. Excerpts of Jonathan Turner‘s videos for these performances can be found on his VIMEO page.


Gama - Fernandes

JOANA GAMA & LUÍS FERNANDES – AT THE STILL POINT OF THE TURNING WORLD  Also on Spotify

It starts with a knock. A kind of ‘Poltergeist’ knock, with increasing reverb. Immediately the atmosphere is as eerie as the track title “Neither Flesh Nor Fleshless”. From there, ‘the music swells and breaths’ , with ‘atmospheric layers of strings, percussion and horns’.
It is the striking start of At The Still Point Of The Turning World, the album that got its title from T.S. Eliot’s poem Burnt Norton. The opening track seamlessly flows into Perpetual Possibility, which introduces the dialogue between piano and electronics. the atmosphere slightly changes but won’t loosen its grip on the listener.

“It is a record of restless motion, lilting and pulsing with a sense of gentle determination. Born out of a period of mutual loss, the works carry a bittersweet sentiment. Bitter in the
sense of loss; sweet in the sense of lingering memory and influences recognised of those departed.”

Joana Gama, Portuguese classically trained pianist and researcher, and Luís Fernandes,  electronic music artist also known as Astroboy, met in 2012, and have released work as Quest in 2014. They have also made the soundtracks for a number of prize-winning short films. At The Still Point Of The Turning World was commissioned for the Westway Lab Festival 2017.

Exploring “the timbral connections between piano and electronics”, combined with José Alberto Gomes’ orchestral arrangements performed by Orquestra de Guimarães, results in a captivating spectrum of contemporary classical music. Or New Music. Or Post-classical electronics.
Oh well, words seem to fail me here.
Never mind, just listen to the way the atmosphere slowly evolves from the eerie opening chords to the completely different atmosphere of Lucid Stillness and Shaft Of Sunlight. 
You’ll be amazed.


THE PITCH & SPLITTER ORCHESTRA – FROZEN ORCHESTRA (SPLITTER)

Drones are often performed by single or just a few instruments, electronic or acoustic. It’s not often a drone piece is performed by a full orchestra (unless, perhaps in the moments before a performance starts, when the orchestra tunes their instruments).
The Pitch quartet teams up with the 19-person Splitter Orchestra to perform the 60 minute Frozen Orchestra (Splitter) on a variety of acoustic instruments combined with electronics, turntables, oscillators and reel to reel tape machines.

Splitter Orchester

The title for this piece could hardly have been chosen better. The frozen piece feels like the musical equivalent of a movie still. But this does nót mean that nothing changes for 60 minutes, it changes in the same way the the ice caps on the earth’s North and Sound pole change: slowly. Very slowly.
” ‘Frozen’ indicates a very slowly moving field of harmonic relationships consisting of so-called pitch sets, which are augmented by noise sets, that is, nonperiodic sounds organized in equivalent relationships. The score guides the group through various defined states of frozen surfaces where each player makes individual choices from a set of intervals or noises and thus constantly shifts harmonic weight and textural quality.”

Around 25 minutes into the piece, the orchestra retreats and environmental recordings and electronic sounds take the stage. The sound spectrum is somehow turned inside out – without realising it the listener has been transferred to a different universe. When the orchestra returns, it is hard to tell the difference between the acoustic and the electronic sounds.

A performance like this may not be to everyone’s liking. But once you’re in the right – frozen – state of mind the effect is incredible. When the music stops, it’s hard to tell if it lasted 60 seconds, 60 minutes or maybe even 60 years.



THE PITCH & SPLITTER ORCHESTRA – FROZEN ORCHESTRA (SPLITTER)
[ambientblog edit]

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Christina Vantzou * Gray Acres

Vantzou No.4

Vantzou No.4CHRISTINA VANTZOU – NO. 4   Also on Spotify

No. 4 continues Christina Vantzou‘s exploration of ‘ambient classical minimalism’ that started in 2011. Three years have passed since the release of No. 3, taking her time to determine the direction she wanted to take with this album: ‘focusing particular attention on the effects of the recordings on the body, and of “directing sound perception into an inner space”‘.
Working with artists like Steve Hauschildt, John Also Bennett, Clarice Jensen (among others), Vantzou does not simply act as the center-stage composer and performer, but channels her ideas into a process of ‘prepared sponteneity’: “having plenty of ideas ready to explore going into the session, but with enough time to depart from those ideas and see what happens.”
It definitely must take self-assurance to be able to loosen control and let other musicians (and technicians) add or delete elements in the end result, which becomes more of a collaborative effort than a personal solo album.

Still, No. 4 bears all the marks of Christina Vantzou‘s signature: ‘a fragile synthesis of contemplative drift, heady silences, and muted dissonance.’ At the same time it is not simply a continuation of the previous No. 1, 2 and 3. It’s as if the music drifts deeper and deeper into the subconscious, slowly becoming more and more ‘immersive and immaterial’, gradually ‘loosening time’ until nothing else exists but ‘hushed drones and delicate gestures eliding in the periphery of the mix’.

Like with her previous releases, there will probably be a No. 4 Remixes in the (near) future. Definitely a pleasure to look forward to, but no need to anticipate this too much: for now we can simply enjoy what is here and what is now.
For now, No. 4 deserves our undivided attention.


Gray Acres

GRAY ACRES – GRAY ACRES  Also on Spotify

Gray Acres is the self-titled debut album of the new musical project of Andrew and Michael Tasselmeyeralso known as core members of Hotel Neon and The Sound Of Rescue. With this new project, they seek “beauty and stillness”, which results in a sound that is even softer and more dreamlike than their work as Hotel Neon.

Layering “emotional textures of immersive drones, walls of effected guitar swells, subtle piano and field recordings”, their album is a textbook example of ‘contemporary’ ambient music: it’s a pleasure to drift away in its beautiful landscapes, while at the same time there’s enough happening for dedicated listening.
Or, to quote the Godfather of Ambient music Brian Eno: “as ignorable as it is interesting”.

The CD-version comes in two different editions: the deluxe edition includes three extra tracks that are not on the standard CD edition and in the digital download.

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Olan Mill – Paths

Ambientblog


Paths

Paths” is the follow-up to Olan Mill‘s debut release Pine” (released in 2010 on the Serein label). 
Their second release (now on Facture) continues to explore their “unashamedly romantic music”, with a well-merged blend of violin, pipe organ and processed guitar.

Olan Mill‘s sound is somewhat comparable to the sound of the Stars of the Lid and A Winged Victory for the Sullen and will definitely appeal to the same audience.

It is hard to believe that this is not the sound of a full orchestra, but of just two people (Alex Smalley and Svitlana Samoylenko), “reconciling the ambition of an orchestra with the limitations of a duo”.

The basic tracks for these six tracks were recorded at two live performances in 2010. 
“Direct and melodic without the obsession of minimalism, Paths is an honest and engaging account of both melancholy and euphoria.” 

The full package of this release (which is limited to 300 and will probably be released within two weeks) consists of a hand-numbered/stamped/sealed (and scented!) package containing 180gr vinyl as well as CD, a booklet, limited edition print and A2 poster.
 


Olan Mill – On Leaving

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Bersarin Quartett – II

II

In 2008, no-one knew what to expect from this “Bersarin Quartett” and, although it received unmatched critical acclaim,  it has always been somewhat below the radar – a “cult” release that still deserves to find a much larger audience.
(Don’t worry: it is still available as CD or digital download. A special limited 2 x 12″ vinyl picture disc edition can also be pre-ordered!)

Four years later, suddenly there’s the follow up, the ‘difficult second album’ – simply named II“.
The big difference: this time we’re prepared!  

Usually, it is exactly that what makes a second album so ‘difficult’. Expectations are high – and in this case even sky-high!

But Bersarin Quartett “II” does not disappoint:  it lives up to the expectations, easily: the album is as beautiful and captivating as its predecessor.

Essentially, the Bersarin Quartett is just one man: Thomas Bücker (although he has performed live with two guest musicians in 2011).
Thomas has created a cinematic kind of music with a distinct personal trademark: “imaginary film scores” with references to Stars of the Lid, Max Richter, Johann Johannsson, as well as to the Cinematic Orchestra and the soundtrack music of Cliff Martinez. 

There’s no doubt that this album will be on many’s favourite lists. Including mine!

The kind of soundtrack that needs no movie.


Bersarin Quartett – Zum Greifen Nah

 

Spotify– (Also on Spotify)

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Acrifolia – Lament

Ambientblog


Acrifolia Cover

Lament is the first full CD release by Acrifolia: a duo formed by Martin Corral and Duncan Meadows (the latter also joined Marconi Union in 2010)

There’s not very much information about this duo, apart from the fact that both are using “acoustic and electronic recording techniques to produce an ambient sound world in which traditional instrumentation combines with contemporary soundscapes.”

In fact that sums up Lament perfectly well, too.

Sometimes, the acoustic instruments set the main theme, like the piano and guitar on “Cyclic”.
In other tracks, the stretched string sounds somewhat resemble the sounds of the of the Stars of the Lid (“Caldera”).
With its slowly descending string chords, the title track sounds like an stretched electronic re-interpretation of Arvo Pärt’s classic“Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten” – until it fades into a slow single piano theme concluding the album.  

Though the music on this album is very slow and unhurried, it is not exactly very ‘quiet’.
In the background there is a constant environmental, hissing noise vaguely indicating far away cities or industries.

I wondered if some of the compositions on Lament would have profited from a more restrained, open, quiet sound. But this ‘noise’ is also the Acrifolia trademark, comparable to the intended sound of tape hiss on the Rod Modell Deepchord recordings. 
In fact, the use of these sounds also is a perfect tool to ‘mask’ outside environmental sounds and include it in the music, which in fact is what good ‘ambient’ music, as in the classic definition, should do.

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