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Silent Vigils * Ian Hawgood

Silent Vigils

Silent Vigils


I admit I had to look up the meaning of the word ‘vigil’, to find out it refers to a ‘period of keeping awake during the time usually spent asleep, especially to keep watch or pray’.
Add ‘silent’ to that moment and the name of this duo perfectly describes the atmosphere of their music. Perfect for listening while awake in moments usually spent asleep.

Silent Vigils is James Murray (UK) and Stijn Hüwels (B). Both are prolific musicians, producers as well as label owners: Slowcraft and Slaapwel, respectively. But Fieldem is not released on any of their own labels, but on Home Normal.
The album presents four long pieces with titles that seem to refer to locations that could be in the UK as well as in Belgium: Molenbrook, Mossigwell, Zwartewall, Fieldem.
“Places neither here nor there; half in the world, half in the mind.”

45 Minutes of peaceful, unhurried music – a “dialogue motivated by mutual respect and revolving around our shared love of the minimal, the graceful and the understated.”

Ian Hawgood 光IAN HAWGOOD – 光 (HIKARI)   Also on Spotify

Ian Hawgood does not need any further introduction I suppose. Even if you’re remotely interested in the ‘ambient’ and ‘experimental’ genre, you’ll have met his name on many occasions, be it as the curator of the Home Normal label, or as a multidisciplinary artist, educator, instrument builder or sound engineer.
He has lived a great part of his life in Japan but currently resides in Warsaw, Poland. The two different cultures are reflected in the titles of the tracks on this album: the first five are in Japanese, the last four are in plain English. Which, by the way, does not mean the music in these two parts are completely different: after all Ian Hawgood is the same person, wherever he lives.

(Hikari) translates as “Light” or “Shine”. Judging by the titles alone, there’s a difference in atmosphere that seems to tell a personal story: while the Japanese titles refer to concepts as Preface, Waves, Refraction, Journey and Extinction, the English titles sound sadder than that: Every Ending Is A Little Sadder Now You’re Gone, Hurt Whispers On. Gladly, the closing track of the album is titles A Light That Never Dims.

The first thing you’ll notice is the deliberate lo-fi sound quality of the recordings, which is perhaps not what you’d expect from a seasoned sound engineer. The music is performed on his childhood piano, using old disused reel to reel recorders and an array of vintage synths.
The result is that these pieces are very intimate: it’s as if this album was specifically recorded personally for you.

is not released on Home Normal, by the way: it is number 14 in the Eilean Records release series.
“color: blue. season: summer”

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Swoop And Cross * Overshift * Ed Carlsen

Elusive Frames

Swoop and Cross


Stories of Disintegration ‘s carefully handcrafted special edition on Time Released Sound (TRS) is one of those releases that you probably read about but were always too late to order… But TRS are kind enough to always add a standard vinyl edition too, as well as a digital download version. (But unfortunately nó standard CD-version!)

Swoop And Cross is London based Portuguese composer/musician/multi-instrumentalist Ruben Vale, and as far as I know this is his very first release. And right from the opening track, the Nils Frahm-like structured thirteen-minute  St.No, you know that this is a release to cherish. It’s a bit early in the year, I know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this one popped up in many end-of-year-lists. Because of its bright sound, its beautiful arrangements, and possibly also because of its shameless romanticism.

‘Modern-classical’ piano music may be an overcrowded genre that could collapse from its own abundance. But still it feels as if Ruben ‘Swoop and Cross’ Vale  opens up the windows to enjoy the bright light and let in some fresh air.



With 30 releases in two years of its existence, Whitelabrecs  is constantly expanding its already impressive track record. This 30th release is a four-track (30 minute) album by Overshift (further details unknown), a DJ/Producer who has released various productions on different labels. None of which I am familiar with, but I assume they were more aimed to the dance floor than this album, which focuses on exploring ambient textures with an occasional hint of rhythm .

“Controlled randomness”,  according to the liner notes:
“Subtle background textures are carved from tape and vinyl noise. Random modular sequences and patches are prepared to compose a general melody and in some cases, percussive and rhythmic elements are developed. Once the basic building blocks are in place, slight variations are applied over a four to eight bar loop. From here, dozens and dozens of layers can be added from items such as field recordings, old vinyl records, textures, rhythms, but it is also not uncommon for there to be considerably less.”

Elusive Frames


Inspired by live shows of Steven Wilson and Nils Frahm in 2015, Ed Carlsen decided “music was the way to go”.  Playing music wasn’t new to him: he has been playing guitar from when he was 6 years old, but playing the piano was:
“Instead of learning through the study of other artists, I decided to follow a different approach that led me to acquire the instrument technique by composing my own songs.”
He’s a quick learner, obviously, because his debut release The Journey Tapes was released in 2016 on Moderna Records – as is this second album Elusive Frames.

Carlsen plays piano, guitars and synth and is accompanied by a string trio (violin, viola, cello) on some tracks. The quartet presents romantic/melancholic compositions where the acoustic instruments are subtly merged with unobtrusive electronic effects.
It’s a beautiful set of ‘sunday morning music’ compositions, albeit maybe a bit too short for a full CD-release: the seven tracks count up to only 24 minutes running time.
But, as they say: less is more…. It’s better to have a short EP set with beautiful work, than to fill it up to the max with less interesting work.

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Robert Haigh * Bruno Sanfilippo

Lost & Found

Robert Haigh


A muti-faceted career spanning more than 35 years: Robert Haigh has released experimental ambient as Robert Haigh and Sema in the early 80’s (apart from collaborating with Nurse With Wound), ‘ambient drum ‘n’ bass’ as Omni Trio in the 90’s, and modern classical and minimal music under his own name since 2005.

On his latest album Creatures Of The Deepthe piano (again) is the main instrument, but it is not a solo piano album: there are some  tracks where the (sometimes processed) sound of piano merges with ambient electronics – ‘an underground vantage of a meeting with Harold Budd and Erik Satie’.
One exception to the rule, I remember Phaedra: a full-synth track that is slightly different from the rest of the album and feels a little bit out of place here.

Haigh‘s music indeed merges both sound worlds in the way Harold Budd does, and his piano pieces remind of Satie’s work – but of course he has enough musical experience to leave out the comparisons.
Occupying ‘a space between music and mystery’, Creatures Of The Deep is an enchanting  and subtle album.
‘The closer we examine, the more is revealed, and the less is defined.’

Lost & Found


OK – I’m biased of course – have to admit that first. How can I nót be, with the opening track called Peter (this track was also a part of the Ambientblog Anniversary collection – it was called For Ambientblog then).

Pianist/Composer Bruno Sanfilippo‘s new album is a collection of five tracks ‘that were once buried and lost in other collections’.
Four previously released tracks that get a new life and meaning in the new context of a single album.
The fifth track is a previously unreleased ‘bonus track’  that was rescued from the studio hard drive recorder.

Born in Argentina, living in Barcelona since 2000, the classically trained composer has created a personal style – in sound as well in his compositions.
‘Alternating between the exploration of minimalist piano concepts and electro-acoustic music’, the piano is always interacting with an electronic environment. But its sound (analog mastering by Ian Hawgood) is very natural, a sound like a dreamy warm bath. Or expressing the melancholy of feeling alone, like in the 12 minute Solitario, a piece like a soft Harold Budd improvisation.

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Bruno Sanfilippo * Daniel W J MacKenzie * José Silva

Modulated Tones

Bruno Sanfilippo - Piano Textures 4


On this fourth edition of his Piano Textures series, Bruno Sanfilippo continues his exploration of ‘minimalist piano concepts’, combining the sounds of the piano (and sometimes prepared piano) with electro-acoustic backgrounds.

In his own words: “Sometimes they ask me if I am a piano player who ventures into electronic music, or an electronic musician who ventures into the piano. […] I do love the sound of the piano just as much as I love electronic-based music. I know some times I can get some listeners confused by this, if I do, I’m so sorry. But, at the moment I will passionately explore both fields.”

Minimalist and modern classical piano music is a crowded genre nowadays, it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. But for his restrained but emotionally engaging compositions, his perfect sound quality and combining the sound of the piano with more experimental electro-acoustics, Bruno Sanfilippo can stand the comparison with fellow contemporary classical composers like Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson and Harold Budd.

Also on Spotify

Daniel WJ MacKenzie - Every Time Feels Like The Last Time


Eilean Rec.’s first release for 2017 is Daniel W.J. Mackenzie‘s Every Time Feels Like The Last Time. The title promises dense, atmospheric melancholy and that is exactly what you get.
The album opens with modern classical piano compositions, but as it progresses the music crosses a bridge to more abstract experimental and ambient territories. (This may not be a complete surprise if you know that Mackenzie  has also released quite a few albums as Ekca Liena since 2008). By doing this, the album ignores some ‘traditional’ genre definitions and claims a unique position.

Mackenzie is accompanied by Ecka Rose Mordecai’s cello playing and many location recordings from Tromsø and various locations in England and South Africa.

The physical edition of this album is almost sold out already, apart from a few last copies available from Daniel Mackenzie‘s Bandcamp site.
So don’t hesitate if you’re interested in a CD-copy. The digital edition will of course remain available.

Modulated Tones


Debut album of South American artist José Silva, born in Venezuela but now based in Ecuador.
Multi-layered ambient soundscapes – created with guitar pedals, field recordings and a compressor – are the cinematic foundation for the soft, slow, often Harold Budd-like piano themes.

The music on this album  is inspired by Silva‘s interest in photography. It provides “a soundtrack for surveying a photographic collection to provide space for a slow introspective processing of the shots, as thoughts or memories flicker in your mind.”

So: randomise your photo collection, pick 10 of them, start playing the music, and then take your time to link what you see to what you hear!

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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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Porya Hatami & Arovane * Offthesky

Phone to Logoa



Porya Hatami (Iran) teamed up with Uwe Zahn (Arovane) (Germany)  sharing their love for the piano in its various forms. But Kaziwa is not a solo piano album. It is the main instrument for these 15 mysteriously titled tracks, but considerable thought has gone in creating the background atmosphere.

“By stripping down the elements surrounding the main instrument, they have recorded an album that subtly resonates within a framework of restraint. Ghostly shimmers follow plaintive piano melodies, as reverberations haunt the spaces between notes.”

Kaziwa is a Kurdish word for dawn… or dusk. Which may also be the best moments to play this album. Soft as a Harold Budd album, but at the same time with an atmosphere so mysterious that it “could serve as a soundtrack for a Twin Peaks episode that never happened.”

As usual with the Time Released Sound releases, there are three editions: a download version, the standard CD release and a deluxe edition of 75.  

[Edit march 2018: this album will be re-released on n5MD records on may 4, 2018]

Phone to Logoa


Only a few months after the Kaziwa release with Arovane, Audiobulb releases another Porya Hatami album worth checking out. Especially when you’re new to Hatami‘s work, because this album is a hand-picked selection of tracks (including unreleased work) that illustrates his musical evolution over the five years since his debut release in 2012.
Phone To Logos retraces my creative process to date. Each track illustrates distinct sound palettes and aesthetics at play during different periods of writing.”

Most of the thirteen tracks are solo pieces, but there are some collaboration pieces too: such as Dawn (with Tomogotsu Nakamura), two tracks with Arovane (not included on Kaziwa), and a sneak peek into the future release with Artificial Memory Trace.

Phone To Logos is a download-only release.

OfftheSky - Transit


Originally released as a bonus download for those that bought a physical copy of Jason Corder‘s 50th release Silent Went the Seabut made available as a download after that edition sold out – which obviously didn’t take very long.
Silent Went the Sea was a combined CD + DVD release, matching each track with an accompanying video.
So is this Study: two of the Jean Piché videos (Hémisphères and Australes) are included in the download.
These videos originally contained a different soundtrack, created by Piché himself (that is why I don’t embed these videos here). But in these download version they are dubbed with the OfftheSky tracks -remixed and remastered from the original 2011 recordings. The music fits the images like a glove – showing exactly what the title promises: a Study of Light Form in Transit.

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Tetherdown; Cyril Secq/Orla Wren; Gamardah Fungus; Luke Howard;

Gamardah Fungus

Tetherdown - First Flight

Tetherdown is a new trio formed by Anne Garner, James Murray and Mark Beazley (Rothko), and this is their … ehhh … First Flight.

Anne and James created one of my favourite albums from 2015, so I was somewhat surprised to hear them taking quite a different direction with Tetherdown. Not very different, though: it’s just that First Flight contains no ‘vocal songs’ like Be Life, but there’s the same subtle, dreamy treatment of sounds… Four pieces – each around the 10 minute mark – of unprepared improvisations that “emerged unforcedly in a single setting and is presented here exactly as played without edits of overdubs.”

In a way, the interplay of Mark (electric bass), James (processed guitars) and Anne (Flute, Keyboards and vocals) remind me of the very early ‘Cosmic’ improvisations of Tangerine Dream (Zeit and Atem era) – though that comparision clearly fails when you listen to them both. (I don’t really know why – I guess it’s the use of the flute and some of the guitar sounds that triggered my memories).

It’s a true Flight indeed… and if this is what this trio is capable of producing without preparations or expectations, I really hope that more of these flights will follow!

Also on Spotify


Strikingly bright recordings of acoustic strings played by Cyril Secq (member of Astrïd), backed by subtle electro-acoustic processings by Orla Wren (Tui). That is the setting of this unique setting: “a duet between acoustic strings and processing, field recordings, edits and organic arrangements. The tunes woven together and untwine again as branches shaken by the wind”.

Cyril Secq‘s guitar parts were recorded earlier, for a solo project that was never released. Orla Wren took them as a starting point for his processed electronics which remain modest and calm, strictly serving the purpose of the bright atmosphere of the guitar pieces.
Although they never played together in real life, the music sounds as if they are really interacting with each other.
Refreshingly different!

Also on Spotify

Gamardah Fungus

Artemisia, Bryophyta, Beladonna, Mandragora, Hypericum“each track is named for a herb which can both heal and harm”.

Ukrainian duo Gamardah Fungus (sound designer Igor Yalivec and guitarist Segey Yagoda) delve deep into their grandparents’ folkore and wisdom of herbal healing practices to find the inspiration for this soothing (I almost wrote ‘healing’, but I guess that’s a word better avoided) album:

“Using herbal concoctions our grandfathers were able to treat any disease and even bring up a dying man on its feet. Also, they were able to do the opposite – bring anyone to dementia, injury or another disease.”
Listening to the peaceful improvisations, there’s no need to fear for the latter. After all, the duo’s name Gamardah Fungus “refers to a substance made according to ancient recipes of natural herbs and minerals to help you open your mind to the universe. Not a drug, but an elixir of wisdom.”

Maybe because they’re from Ukraïne (with, in Igor’s own words, “an experimental music scene that is still poorly understoond and remains something unusual for the most listeners over the world”), or maybe it’s the setting of the guitar improvisations with the field recordings background, but their music sure has a unusal pleasing atmosphere.

Luke Howard - Forgotten Postcards

Luke Howard is a composer/pianist from Melbourne, Australia, whose debut solo album ‘Sun, Cloud’ was nominated for the 2013 Australian Music Prize that year.
Forgotten Postcards is his fifth solo album.
The opening track, Homeless,  and the closing title Shift are noteworthy for the way he transposes short repetitive themes using the full range of the keyboard. From the lower register to the upper, and back again, and before you realise it the slightly melancholic theme has anchored itself in your subconscious.
It is the perfect soundtrack for shifting through a box of forgotten postcards, which will bring back forgotten memories.
I guess it will also do so even if you do not have a box of forgotten postcards yourself.

Also on Spotify

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1631 Recordings Selection

Endless Melancholy

1631 Recordings is a new label run by David Wenngren (Library Tapes) and Mattias Nilsson (Kning Disk).
The label focuses on contemporary classical music mostly.
In the first months of 2016, they’ve unleashed an incredible amount of releases featuring new material as well as a bunch of re-releases. And there’s no sign this will stop soon.
On the occasion of ‘Piano Day 2016’, here’s a selection from their recent releases:

Cave in the Sky

When Cye Wood visited Iceland, he became lost looking for the Snæfellsjökull Glacier. When he finally found it, he also found the ‘Singing Cave’ that gave this album its name: Sönghellir.
Cye Wood  (who previously released an album with Lisa Gerrard in 2010: The Trail of Genghis Khan) plays guitar, violin, bass viola, Rhodes bass and piano. He is assisted by various musicians playing acoustic instruments, so – apart from a sporadic field recording – this is all but ‘electronic’ music.
The ensemble setting somewhat reminded me of the sound of a ‘matured’ (in terms of the compositions) Penguin Cafe Orchestra:  pleasing and unclassifiable compositions: it’s neither folk music nor jazz, it’s not ‘pop’, it’s not ‘contemporary classical’, but it’s not ‘experimental’ either – it’s a great combinations of impressionistic compositions with influences from all over the world.
Ánd it has a great sound too: the mastering was done by Valgeir Sigurdsson (Björk, Feist, Sigur Ros) and the album was mixed by Paul Corley (Ben Frost, Tim Hecker, Daniel ‘OPN’ Lopatin).
Also on Spotify

Le Lendemain

Re-release of the album that was originally released on Home Normal in 2009. Le Lendemain is David Wenngren (piano, field recordings) and Danny Norbury (cello, dulcitone). A delicate, intimate dialogue between instruments, with sparsely added environmental recordings or electronic effects.
“The music from this album is a journey of two instruments and the outside world, what it adds up to is a soundtrack to the moments of unconsciousness, of times when one is dreaming, or the beautiful in between state.” 

Also on Spotify

Endless Melancholy
With a name like Endless Melancholy there is no need to try to describe the kind of music. This is not a new album from Oleksiy Sakevych (Kiev, Ukraine), but a recollection of the albums he made from 2012 (when his debut Music for Quiet Mornings was released) until now.
His work slowly evolved from minimal piano pieces to modern composition, a bit of post rock and to ambient electronic soundscapes.
This release is a great way to start exploring Endless Melancholy‘s music. The first seven tracks on this release focus on his piano-centered works  (with one new composition: Unsaid), while the second half features more ambient electronic  tracks

Also on Spotify

Luke Howard - Forgotten Postcards
The opening track, Homeless,  and the closing title Shift are noteworthy for the way Luke Howard uses the full range of the keyboard repeating the theme from the lower register to the upper, and back again. And, before you realise it, the slightly melancholic theme has anchored itself in your subconscious.
Luke Howard is a composer/pianist from Melbourne, Australia, whose debut solo album ‘Sun, Cloud’ was nominated for the 2013 Australian Music Prize that year.
Forgotten Postcards is his fifth solo album. It is the perfect soundtrack for shifting through a box of forgotten postcards, which will bring back forgotten memories. I guess it will also do so even if you do not have a box of forgotten postcards yourself.

Also on Spotify

Alex Kozobolis

Like the Endless Melancholy Recollection, this is not a re-release but a ‘best of’ compilation selected from the previously released work of Alex Kozoboliswho is not only a composer but also photographer and filmmaker – so it’s not surprising his music would perfectly fit a movie soundtrack.

Also on Spotify

Piano Cloud

Much of the contemporary classical music releases use the piano as the main instrument, so it’s fitting that 1631 Recordings releases a compilation album of piano music from their artists (and friends).
Piano Cloud, Volume 1 presents 20 relatively short compositions for solo piano (1 hour total) . It is a collection of ‘light’ neo-classical music, romantic in style mostly, never ‘experimental’ or ‘difficult’.

The collection opens with one the genres’ most important pioneers (I almost wrote pianeer): Nils Frahm. But there are many more familiar names: Library Tapes, Peter Broderick, Fabrizio Paterlini, Anna Rose Carter, Stray Ghost, Lucy Claire, Hior Chronik, Endless Melancholy, Akira Kosemura.
And that is only half of the bunch: the other half are names somewhat less familiar but that definitely does not mean their work is inferior!
A great overview of the popular genre. A kind of mission statement for 1631 Recordings too (although their releases are not limited to solo piano music only).

Also on Spotify


A second piano-centered compilation, subtitled “A Comprehensive Collection of Contemporary Piano Compositions”. A celebration for Piano Day (March 28), featuring exclusive contributions from Rafael Anton Irisarri, Peter Broderick, Nils Frahm, Richard A. Ingram, Library Tapes, Machinefabriek, Gabriela Parra, Sommer and Krater. A great overview of how different (acoustic) pianos can sound from each other, depending on the use, the recording technique, and on the post-processing of course: from bright to muffled, from clean to creaky. And everything in-between.

Also on Spotify

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Jason van Wyk; Stefano Guzzetti; Iggy Pop-Tarwater-Alva Noto; Inside the Baxter Building; Alex Lucas-Olan Mill



From Cape Town, South Africa, comes Jason van WykThis is his second solo album, and Eilean Records first venture in the modern classical scene.
Van Wyk‘s main instrument is the piano, but not exclusively: he also adds synth and electronics on beautiful floating ambient in the second half of the album, in tracks like Found, Evanesce and Outset.

“An immersion in the deepness of the elements, near from the oceans and the breath of the air, a fragile and delicate release with some strong ambient colors.”

It’s a very intimate recording, partly because of the compositions but also because of the way it was recorded: including the tiniest details and vibrations from the inside of the piano. Mastered by Ian Hawgood. 

Stefano Guzetti - Leaf

…who also did the mastering job for Leaf, the new album from Stefano Guzzetti on Home Normal.
Thirteen compositions for piano and different ensembles (violin, viola, cello, double bass, clarinet, with piano, glockenspiel, field recordings and sine waves performed by Stefano Guzzetti) dedicated to ‘one of the most common things we can find in everyday’s life”:  a leaf.

Like a leaf in the various seasons, these pieces each have different moods: from lively and joyful to melancholic and sad.

Also on Spotify

Leaves of Grass

If you immediately associate the name Iggy Pop with I wanna Be Your Dog or the explosive Lust for Life period, you may have to re-group after listening to this  22 minute mini-album. On each of the spoken word tracks Iggy Pop recites a poem by American wordsmith Walt Whitman (1819-1892), and James ‘Iggy’ Osterberg has the perfect voice for the declamations of Walt Whitman’s poetry.

“I think (Walt Whitman) had something like Elvis. Like Elvis ahead of his time, one of the first manic American populists. His poetry is always about motion and rushing ahead, and crazy love and blood pushing through the body. He would have been the perfect gangster rapper. “

The background score for the recitals is created by none less than Alva Noto (Carsten Nicolai) and Tarwater (Bernd Jestram and Ronald Lippok), to stunning effect. However, it is not easy to distinct who did what exactly musically. Do they play together, collaborating on the tracks, or do they separately perform on different tracks? I don’t know… But in fact it doesn’t matter, since the overall result is organic and fits together perfectly.

This is a vinyl-only release, with no digital counterpart planned. So: when it’s gone it’s gone.


Seldom Somber

A gloomy atmosphere, unearthly jazzy horn arrangements over electronic soundscapes. Inside the Baxter Building is clearly not your average jazzclub outfit – although they would perfectly fit a Twin Peaks setting.
Their Seldom Somber debut is a stunning release of ‘real-time electronic music’: improvised music that was recorded live in the studio.
Simon Petermann (trombone, electronics), Samuel Würgler (trumpet, electronics) and Fabian Gutscher (electronics) manipulate the sounds of their instruments  ‘to create a rich palette of sounds with which they lead the listener into unexpected soundscapes’.
The title track also includes a spoken word poem, directly linking their music to the Krautrock tradition.
Inside the Baxter Building manages to break through stereotypes of the electro-acoustic genre…“and to keep their music lively and mobile, which in electronic music is a rarity”.

And – in case you didn’t know: The Baxter Building is a fictitious 35-story office building appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics.


Olan Mill (Alex Smalley) has released a steady flow of albums since 2010 on labels like Serein, Preservation, Facture and Hibernate. Alex Lucas is a less familiar name to me, and there is not much information about him (?) on the internet. 
Both have worked together on this album in 2012, when the tracks for this album were recorded by Bruno Sanfilippo.
It’s not clear who does what exactly, but I assume Alex Lucas provided most of the piano playing, while Alex Smalley provided the electronic embedding. But of course they could also each have done both. Stylistically the compositions are somewhere between Nils Frahm and Philip Glass, but with more emphasis on the electronics, that is as prominent as the piano, so not just there for its enhancement.

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Akira Rabelais – The Little Glass (+Spelle… reissue)

The Little Glass

And suddenly, without any warning, there’s good news from the ever-enigmatic Akira Rabelais:
His entire back-catalogue is now available on Bandcamp – which is good news because most of these title were unavailable for a long time now.
And at the same time a new album is released: The Little Glass (available in digital as well as in physical format).

More news on the re-issues below, but let’s start with the new release first.

The Little Glass is a 5-part (2CD) album presenting collaborative pieces created with Harold Budd It’s not the first time they worked together: Rabelais’ 70 minutes remix of As Long As I Can Hold My Breath was included on Budd’s Avalon Sutra cd (2004).
The first 4 pieces on CD1 all focus on the sound of the grand piano and Budd’s distinctive playing – with lots (lots!) of room for the spaces in between. Opening with a very short (19 seconds) fragment, the second part immediately alters your perception of time stretching up to 42 minutes. The remaining two pieces are relatively short with their 7 and 10 minutes.
The entire second CD is filled with the Part V (70 minutes), which presents a mirrorred sound palette: no longer the piano is up front, it is hidden somewhere in the background, triggering light, bell-like synth sounds that create a peaceful atmosphere of generative eternity.
(Christmas seems to be the perfect time for this release, but this doesn’t mean you can’t play it at other times of the year)

As usual, there’s not much information about the creative process involved, apart that both Rabelais and Budd play the piano.
The sections sound as if they were (partly) improvised, with parts and fragments later edited edited and re-shuffled, sometimes using random algorithms, and adding extra breathing space between the notes. In Part II  especially, you can hear (if you listen closely) the software choosing fragments and thus generating cuts in the prolonged background reverb.
This is intentional, of course – I assume that Rabelais‘ self-developed Argeïphontes Lyre software is the third artists here (if you like a challenge: just try to find some background information on this A.L. software on his website).

“I just let it take me along to wherever it needs to go. It’s really is like having a garden growing…letting the weeds take over and do what they want.. ”
(Akira Rabelais about his Argeïphontes Lyre software)

The result is a strange, ethereal kind of music that is neither 100% human nor strictly artificial. It is both, at the same time.
You won’t be able to hum along, because there’s no recognisable melody – and yet it feels remotely familiar.
The kind of music you can ‘set and forget’ and play in the background for a very long time.


SPELLEWAUERYNSHERDE (Re-release + radio show)
Ever since I first heard this release from 2004 (on David Sylvian‘s Samadhisound Label) it has been on my all-time favourite list. (It was, in fact, one of the earliest favourites mentioned on this blog).

Akira Rabelais’ re-workings of 1960/70 Ampex tapes with found voices from Icelandic a capella lament songs may be somewhat too haunting for some: it’s ‘as if a voice coming from the middles ages haunts you in your deepest sleep’.

This album became somewhat of a cult classic but remained unknown to many.
That is why I am very pleased that Rabelais decided to make it available as a digital download: if you missed it before, here’s your chance to catch up!

In 2005, Trans>Parent Radiation (a sublabel of Bremsstrahlung) released a compilation called Spellewauerynsherde, Interpretations Various & Sundry  with Spelle-remixes by artists like Christian Fennesz, Kit Clayton, Taylor Deupree, Stephan Mathieu and more.

Some of these tracks were included in the Spelle radiobroadcast I compiled for a dutch radio program (Supplement, NPS/VPRO, 4FM) in 2006.
This radioshow also included some (still unreleased!!) fragments submitted by Akira Rabelais especially for this occasion.
This is the tracklist:

  • 1559 W. Cunningham Cosmogr. Glasse 125, Within which drawn another Circle, a finger breadth distant (*)
  • 1390 Glower Conf. II 20, I can nought thanne unethes spelle that I wende altherbest have rad (*)
  • 1440 Promp. Parv. 518/20, Wawyn, or waueryn, yn a myry totyr, oscillo (*)
  • 1559 W. Cunningham Cosmogr. Glasse 125, Within which drawn another Circle, a finger breadth distant (*)
  • I8U – 1570-1 in Willis & Clark Cambridge (1886) III. 594, For vppyng ye Swannes and wynteryng them..xxiijs. (**)
  • Steve Roden – 1480 Robt. Devyll 32, Hys mother gave hym to the feende of hell In the houre of hys fyrst contemplacyon (**)
  • Kit Clayton – 1250 Owl & Night. 314, Ich singe..Mid fulle dreme and lude stefne (**)
  • 1483 Caxton Golden Leg. 208b/2, He put not away the wodeness of his fleshwith a shrede or shelle (*)
  • 1671 Milton Samson 1122, Add thy spear, a weaveers beam, and seven-times-folded-shield (*)
  • 1559 W. Cunningham Cosmogr. Glasse 125, Within which drawn another Circle, a finger breadth distant (*)
  • (throughout:) Intermission Tracks 12,50,27,76,70, 21,14,34,6 (***)

(*) – from Spellewauerynsherde, Samadhisound, 2004
(**) – from Spellewauerynsherde, Interpretations Various & Sundry, Trans>Parent Radiation, 2005
(***) – unreleased fragments, from Akira Rabelais private collection

On occasion of the renewed availability of Spellewauerynsherde (and with special permission by Akira), you can play this radio show below.
(The program has a short introduction in dutch, presented by Hans Mantel, and also contains short interview fragments. Note: the links mentioned are no longer active).

Akira Rabelais a.o. – Spellewauerynsherde 4FM Radio Special, 2006

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