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Ian Hawgood/Danny Norbury * Aaron Martin

Faintly Recollected

Faintly Recollected

IAN HAWGOOD, DANNY NORBURY –FAINTLY RECOLLECTED

Ian Hawgood, owner/curator of the Home Normal label, starts off 2018 with a collaborative release with Danny Norbury. Hawgood is providing the ‘decayed tones’ to accompany Norbury’s ‘swirling cello’. It is not the first time the played together, but it is the first ‘official’ full length collaborative album.

Faintly Recollected should be heard as one single uninterrupted 33 minute track, even if on the album it is divided in seven parts. It is a very calm and subdued piece, with the soft processed Hokema Sansula kalimba tones and ambient loops colouring the background for the melancholic cello themes. Even with this relatively short length, the album creates a feeling of timelessness, a moment of introspection.

“This is the music for everyone who wants to enjoy the quietness and calm of hidden moments.”


Aaron Martin Room Now Empty

AARON MARTIN – A ROOM NOW EMPTY

Ian Hawgood also did the mastering for Aaron Martin‘s new solo album on the Preserved Sound label. A ‘memory-based’ recording, where Martin “tried to layer meanings in the music and titles, so that a single clear-cut reading of the music isn’t possible.”

There are definitely some effects used on this recording but still the album sounds like it’s completely acoustic.
The cello is the main instrument in most tracks, giving the album its characteristic melancholic atmosphere. But apart from cello, Martin also plays electric and acoustic guitar, bass, roll up piano, concertina, ukulele, singing bowls, lap steel and voice.
The (eleven) tracks are recorded in a detailed yet unpolished way which gives the feeling that they are performed right next to you, in your own room, just for you yourself alone.

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Dictaphone * OMRR * Ghost and Tape

Ghost and Tape - Var

Dictaphone April 70

DICTAPHONE – APR 70  Also on Spotify

Five years after Poems From A Rooftop (on Sonic Pieces) and even 15/11 years after their initial releases on City Centre Offices, suddenly there’s an unexpected new release by Dictaphone (not to be confused with the Dictaphones from the Dale Cooper Quartet).
APR 70 is released by Denovali – who (as the often do) celebrate the new release by also re-releasing the previous titles.

The trio (Oliver Doerell electronics, bass, guitar, Roger Döring – sax, clarinet and Alex Stolze violin) have been working three years on this album. Their unique and unclassifiable sound is immediately recognisable: it is the combination of instruments that perfectly matches the genre-defying arrangements. There’s a clear jazz-feel, but it is not jazz. And it’s the same for ‘ambient’, or ‘experimental’, or ‘improv’. It is all of that and none of that at the same time: ‘Dictaphone always want to create something that was missing before.’

‘It feels as if each of the uncountable layers of which the intricate arrangements are made has just the right amount of contrast to be visible, but there are only very few moments where one of the elements noticeably dominates the others. The cool jazz bits, analogue flourishes, hypnotic rhythms and refined electronics feed a dark serpent-like creature meandering in ever-changing morphologies through shapeless landscapes.’

Remarkable sonic poetry – and definitely one of this year’s most interesting releases!


OMRR

OMRR – DEVILS FOR MY DARLING  Also on Spotify

The colourful cover image – by Francisca Pageo – is a promising statement: expect something else, something different from the usual. This is not your average ambient soundscape.
The adventurous Dronarivm label broadens its territories with this release by omrr – the somewhat strange stage name of Omar El Abd from Caïro, Egypt.
Not much is known about omrrapart from the fact that Eilean Rec released his previous album Music for the Anxious in 2016. Before that there were a few self-released titles in 2014 and 2016.

Combining many different genres into such a bright, light-hearted, mix-up ‘based on glitch, noise, micro-sounds, sampling and field-recording’ is quite an achievement. Not often is ‘experimental’ music so ‘accessible’ at the same time without losing its fresh weirdness.
I’m not familiar with the experimental music scene in Egypt at all, but if omrr‘s music is representative it’s a great start to to dig deeper into that local scene.


Ghost and Tape - Var

GHOST AND TAPE – VÁR  Also on Spotify

In the old ‘Norse’ language, the word Vár means Spring. Releasing an album with a title like that (and a cover like that) at the end of October accentuates the coldness of the current months but also help us know that we can look forward to another spring coming soon!

Heine Christensen (Ghost And Tapereleased his fourth full album (since 2010) on the Home Normal label – a fitting place for his intricate and detailed work.

“Inspired by and a tribute to Nature, in all its wonderful chaos, pure and forceful with mystifying, beautiful patterns”.

The description of Nature also neatly fits the music on Vár: as fresh as a new spring. Fragile, but strong at the same time – optimistic about the new start and the promises it hides.

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Andrew Heath * Sonmi451 * Sven Laux

Soundings

Soundings

ANDREW HEATH – SOUNDINGS  Also on Spotify

Soundings is released almost simultaneously with Lichtzinhis collaboration with Anne Chris Bakker, who also makes his appearance on a few tracks (Winter on Noorderhaven and Happenstance).
So it is no coincidence these two albums are alike in their contemplative atmosphere.

Soundings is a remarkably long album (9 tracks, 95 minutes – the last two tracks are bonus tracks that not on the CD-version but are included in the download that comes with it) for which Andrew Heath is inspired by ‘the quiet sounds of people within interior spaces – footsteps, talking, even whispering – the sound of voices that are often rendered so faint and that are buried so deep that they become unintelligible, simply leaving a trace of speech.’
The found sounds and field recordings are embedded in soothing musical textures, ‘set against quiet piano phrases and shimmering electronic treatments.’

The soft piano sounds and patterns on some tracks (Speedwell Blue, Happenstance) more than once reminded me of those on Brian Eno’s 1-1 (on Music for Airports). Quiet, contemplative, generative motifs that perfectly fit the surroundings.
But, unlike Eno’s generative projects, Heath‘s music is not intended to be ‘ignorable’ (‘… as well as interesting’). Each track has a different instrumentation, and solo instruments (like the cello played by Stéphane Marlot, and the clarinet played by Bill Howgego) are clearly placed in the foreground. Some details are presented much louder than the accompanying sounds, giving extra dynamics to the soundscapes.

Together with Lichtzin, this album is definitely one of this year’s personal favorites. Sometimes described as lower-case music, but I clearly prefer to use capitals for releases like this!


Panta Rei

SONMI451 – PANTA REI

The prestigious Eilean Rec label’s releases are referring to a map with 100 points – ‘each point is associated to a number. Each number to a release. Each release will fill an area on the map around one point, giving it colors, relief & details. Once 100 releases are done, the map will be full, the label will end.’
Eilean have released a continuous string of great releases, so seeing that this Sonmi451 release was numbered #99 scared me a bit. Are we close to completeness?
But fortunately the release numbers are not sequential; they refer to a specific point on the map. If I’m correct this is the 63rd release so we can expect some more before it’s over… phew!

The Eilean map is an imaginary one, but Bernard ‘Sonmi451‘ Zwijzen’s (tenth) album is also dedicated to  ‘the rivers and streams, crossing the exquisite mountain-landscape of the Alps and Dolomites in the beautiful region of Southern Tirol.’
Like these rivers and streams, Zwijzen’s music is refreshing and bright – ‘exploring the inner aspects of sound and stillness, the cracks and loopholes that exist between sounds.’
His unique choice of instruments and sounds (like the harp and the whispered vocals) have become his trademark sound, a sound unrivalled.

Another pearl in the collection of the label as well as in Sonmi451‘s discography!

Sonmi451 – Brenta
 

(Oh… and to avoid disappointment: with this particular concept the label has become very popular among collectors, so the sad news is that the physical editions sell out in no-time. As did this one: sold out even before the release date. But the digital download remains).

 


Sven Laux

SVEN LAUX – PAPER STREETS  Also on Spotify

Berlin-based Sven Laux is an ‘artist, composer, sound designer, musician, DJ and film addict’ and all of this  skills can be heard on his latest Dronarivm release Paper Streets.

The ‘organic, neo-classical journey heard through a cinematic lens’ presents a large-scale symphonic sound that, on close listening, seems to be performed by an artificial orchestra. Which is no surprise of course, since Laux has created electronic music since 1998 ‘after discovering a talent for meticulously sampling and looping audio.’
The string arrangements seem to reach you from within a dream – that alienated feeling even strengthened by the subtle sound details in which the virtual orchestra is embedded.

‘The artist’s work bares a sense of detachment & reflection that usually occurs with the passing of time.’
In this I feel this music is related to that of Field Rotation, Bersarin Quartett and maybe A Winged Victory For The Sullen. It’ll definitely appeal to the same audience. But in fact Sven Laux does not need comparisons like that at all: he claims his very own spot – one that will become a reference point for others probably soon.

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GVSU New Music Ensemble * Stefan Wesolowski * Dziadosz/Mrenca

Wesolowski

GVSU_NME

GRAND VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY NEW MUSIC ENSEMBLE – RETURN

If their name as well as their ensemble setting frames your expectations, you’ll be in for a surprise when playing this album. The New Music Ensemble of the Grand Valley State University received critical acclaim for their recordings of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians and Terry Riley’s In C, but they explore some different territories on this new album.

Return presents a stunning set of compositions that can be described as ‘electronic chamber music’. It’s not exactly the first time a classical ensemble setting is merged with electronic music, but I must say that I have hardly ever heard examples where the two different counterparts merge together so very well.
This is not ‘acoustic’ plus ‘electronic’ – it is both together forming a new, unified, sound.

However, I don’t think the GVSTUNME will be able to perform these pieces live. Or, if they did, you probably wouldn’t recognize them from these recordings.
The 15 tracks (80 minutes) were composed by three composers: program graduates Adam Cuthbert, Matt Finch and Daniel Rhode (all three part of the Slashsound experimental collective). They reconstructed the tracks on this album using the recorded performances of their compositions: ‘While rooted in the initial notation provided by the composers to the ensemble, recordings of this material were then used by the composers as the raw material (or “samples”) for the album.’

Record, deconstruct, reassemble, recompose – of course that is no unusual concept in current electronic experimental music. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Most of the times the result is also a remix of an earlier work that is also known, so both can be compared. But not here: it’s part of the compositional process which leads to a first-generation piece.
A fusion of two worlds coming together in an exceptional way.



GVSTU New Music Ensemble – Glass Surface


Wesolowski

STEFAN WESOLOWSKI – RITE OF THE END  Also on Spotify

It’s an ominous title, and its darkness is immediately confirmed in the opening Prelude – combining scary dissonant strings with a gripping horn arrangement.
Polish composer Stefan Wesołowski (my west-european computer does not seem to like characters like ł so I simply use instead without knowing the impact of this) uses a small setting to create maximum impact. He’s playing violin, viola, piano and synth himself, with the additional help of Anna Śmiszek-Wesołowska (cello). Ánd of course with Bogdan Kwiatek (trombone) and Michał Szczerba (french horn) performing the horn section on Prelude.
But when listening to this album, which was recorded ‘at home in Gdańsk, on the train and in Ólafur Arnalds studio in Reykjavik’, one can hardly believe this is only performed by two musicians.

Stefan Wesołowski‘s ambition is to create ‘a panoramic ‘wide screen’ music which sounds like the missing link between the grandeur of Richard Wagner and the orchestral work of someone like Nick Cave’.
He clearly succeeded in this – in fact I could think of some more references – such as ‘power-ambient version of The Stars Of The Lid’

But what’s the use of these comparisions? Wesołowski‘s music is powerful enough to establish him as an artist that others will refer to as a source of inspiration, not the other way around.
(However, references may help getting attention. So here’s another one to raise your interest: Rite Of The End was recorded by (Michał) Jacaszek).

A stunning album, and one of the best current examples of merging post-classical arrangements with electronics that I know of.
It may be a ‘Rite of the End’, but for me it also marks a new beginning: I can’t wait to check out Wesołowski‘s previous albums!

 


 

Mirage

BARTOSZ DZIADOSZ & TOMASZ MRENCA – MIRAGE

You will probably know Bartosz Dziadosz (aka Pleqfrom his generous output of electronic/experimental/ambient music, and/or as one of the curators of the Dronarivm label.

This collaboration with violinist Tomasz Mrenca  (the two have worked together before on various tracks and as the Frozen Vaultsventures into somewhat different territories: merging the sound of the violin with subtle electronics.

The 18 minute composition starts out relatively quiet, with Mrenca laying a solo violin foundation that gradually evolves into an ocean of sounds.
It slowly builds up to an almost terrifying climax, só tense that it’ll make your blood pressure rise and subconsciously prepare for escape. An intense piece, of which the impact would lessen if it was presented with other music on an album – so it’s a good decision to present it as a 3″ CDr EP release.

Mirage is released by the Belgian Taâlem label, and is available as a 3″ CD-R as well as a digital download.

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Resina * Tamar Halperin * Murcof/Wagner

Murcof Vanessa Wagner

Resina

RESINA – RESINA

The New Blood compilation offered a sneak preview of Resina, one of the 130701 label’s new artists. Resina, referring to the Latin Resin – ‘the blood of the tree’, is the alias of Karolina Rec from Warsaw. She’s a cello player that has been active in the Polish independent music scene since the late ’00’s, featured on many albums and soundtracks (that are probably unknown to the non-Polish audience). She also played in the Polisch Chamber Choir, familiarizing herself with the works of Penderecki, Górecki and Lutoslawski. After finally sending in a demo, 130701 eagerly invited her to release her debut album.

There are a lot of cello-centered artists and albums in the experimental/improv/modern classical scene, but Resina definitely adds her own personal style, referring to ‘the landscape-rooted drone of English composer Richard Skelton’ as well as ‘Werner Herzog’s musician of choice, Ernst Reijsiger’.
Her music is the result of experimenting with the instruments and electronic tools, and often conveys ‘a simultaneous feeling of beauty and enxiety (at nature’s power and unpredictability)’:

“I try to take people to some places – but where particularly depends on them, their needs and experiences”

Resina‘s purpose was to ‘cross beyond comfort zones, break free from academic instructions and challenge herself to find other ways of expression in the instrument’.  She clearly succeeded!


Also on Spotify


Tamar Halperin

TAMAR HALPERIN – SATIE

Most of the music by Erik Satie, and especially his piano works, have become a part of our collective consciousness. So, if one wants to release an album with his music, one faces the challenge of finding a different angle in the performance, or present a new vision on his work.
As Tamar HalperinIsraeli pianist and harpsichordist, explains:

“In 1925, after Satie’s death, his friends entered his apartment and were amazed to find there, in addition to a large number of umbrellas ans an astounding scene of chaos, two grand pianos, stacked one on top of the other. The musical equivalent of this image, it seemed to me, would be the overdubbing of one piano recording over another. Many of the pieces in this album were recorded this way: first the bass part, then the melody, and often – on top of the “two pianos” – I added harpsichord or glockenspiel, a Hammond organ or a Wurlitzer, and of course a computer. Imagine the mess in old Satie’s apartment had he been living today!”

A humoristic approach that Satie probably would have approved, I guess. But it’s not just ‘funny’, because it works very well and perfectly fits the music. After all, Satie himself was one of the first to blur the lines between ‘classical, art music’ and non-classical, popular styles.
Apart from that, the added layers are well-dosed: sometimes exuberant, at other moments (like in Gymnopedie 1) more restrained.

The (respectfully packed) CD-version of the album contains a booklet with Halperin’ annotations for every track.

Also on Spotify

TAMAR HALPERIN – PETITS CHORALS (12), FOR PIANO: CHORAL #1


Murcof Vanessa Wagner

MURCOF & VANESSA WAGNER – STATEA

And while we are on the subject of classical music in different contexts, we definitely need to mention this release. A surprising duo: (MurcofFernando Corona teaming up with award winning classical pianist Vanessa Wagner to present an impressive playlist of contemporary classical compositions, each reworked in a jaw-dropping instrumental dialogue of piano and electronics.
Maybe the duo’s not as surprising as they seem: both have classically trained musical background so they know exactly what they’re doing here.

The selection features works by  Arvo Pärt, György Ligeti, Erik Satie, Morton Feldman, Valentyn Silvestrov, John Adams, Philip Glass, and -somewhat surprising- Aphex Twin. 
There definitely will be classical music purists that shudder when they hear the instrumentation, but even they will have to admit that all of these compositions are treated with the greatest respect. And ‘treated’ they are: Murcof paints the surrounding environment with all kinds of electronic textures, while Wagner‘s subtle piano remains the main link to the originals, and prevents the album from drifting of too far into the unknown. They do not aim to shock, the original beauty remains preserved, yet in a certain way, these are very radical interpretations.

At some moments (especially the vocoder section in Silvestrov’s ‘Farewell, O World, O Earth’) I was warped back to 1968 when Walter Carlosrevolutionary album ‘Switched on Bach‘ album went straight up to #1 in the classical charts. Times were different then: no-one had heard those strange synthetic sounds of the Moog synthesizer before. It was a ‘gotspe‘ and a revolution at the same time.
Almost 50 years later, Statea cannot hit thát hard any more, because today everyone is familiar with the sounds of synthesizers and a lot of music and experiments have passed since 1968.
But still, this album takes classical reinterpretations to a whole different level because of its daring instrumentation, its selection of works, and the careful balance of ‘electronic’ music with acoustic piano.

Also on Spotify

MURCOF & VANESSA WAGNER – VARIATIONS FOR THE HEALING OF ARINUSHKA (ARVO PÄRT)

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Tuxedomoon & CWNN; Goldmund; Library Tapes; Frans Friederich

Calendarium

Blue Velvet Revisited

TUXEDOMOON & CULT WITH NO NAME – BLUE VELVET REVISITED
In 1985, filmmaker Peter Braatz had three months of unrestricted behind-the-scenes access on the set for David Lynch‘s Blue VelvetThe resulting film, No Frank in Lumberton,  was released in 1988 but there were only very limited screenings. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the movie release, and because of the fact that 70% of the footage that was collected on the set was ever used, it got a complete reworking into Blue Velvet Revisited. 

This alone is interesting enough for fans of David Lynch. But the soundtrack for this new edition deserves some special attention, too.
It contains all new work created by ‘post-punk chamber music pioneers’ Tuxedomoon together with ‘electronic balladeers’ Cult With No Name – with a guest performance by John Foxx on the track Lincoln Street.
A very atmospheric set that crosses many genres but remains true to the ‘Lynchian’ atmosphere.

“Fusing elements of contemporary classical to jazz to ambient electronica to krautrock, but never fully surrendering to any, Tuxedomoon and Cult With No Name have produced a suite that is as unique as it is representative of both artists.”


Also on Spotify

Tuxedomoon & Cult With No Name – Lumberton
 


Goldmund - Sometimes

GOLDMUND – SOMETIMES
Composer Keith Kenniff‘s  music can be found under quite some different aliases, each with a different musical style. Not only under his own name, or with his wife Holly as Mint Julep, but also as Helios (ambient/electronic music blended with acoustical instruments),  or as Goldmund.
Goldmund is the name he uses for his post-classical music with the piano as the main instrument: “quiet dynamics consisting of mostly short, minimal compositions”.

Usually recorded very close to the interior of the instrument, so that all sounds of the mechanism become part of the music. A beautiful natural piano sound, but often also embedded in further treatments  of the piano sound, combined with electronic effects and perfect production.
Sometimes is the sixth Goldmund album since 2005, and it’s another pearl in the collection.

Nowadays, there are quite a lot of artists presenting melancholic, romantic, quiet piano music, but Keith ‘Goldmund’ Kenniff is one of the originators of the genre, and it’s easy to hear why.


Also on Spotify


 

Library Tapes

LIBRARY TAPES – ESCAPISM 
Library Tapes  is David Wenngren solo, but often recording with other artists such as Nils Frahm, Danny Norbury, Sarah Kemp and Julia Kent.
On this new album, Julia Kent is prominently featured, her cello playing perfectly matching Wenngren‘s subtle piano/celeste arrangements.
Quiet, ‘post-classical’ chamber music, often with a somewhat sad melancholic touch – the cello is a melancholic instrument. But there are happier moments too – and sometimes both are combined in a single track such as “Tristesse/Escapism”.
Some tracks return in slightly different variations (Introduction,  A Summer By The Sea, Tristesse), enhancing the impression this music could have been the soundtrack of a contemplative romantic movie. 
(release date: february 26)



Library Tapes – Silhouettes


Calendarium

FRANS FRIEDERICH – AMBIENT #3 – CALENDARIUM
The Bandcamp collection of music of Frans ‘Recyclopedia’ Friederich keeps growing rapidly: an amazing collection of all kinds of unexpected styles (and all available as a free download – not even pay-what-you-like, but completely free!).
Friederich submitted his great track ‘St. Franciscus’  to the Ambientblog Anniversary Collectionand that inspired him to create this full album in the same vein.
‘Ambient’ should not be taken too literally here, since Friederich is a musician that always chooses his own path regardless of what contemporary artists do or what is ‘current or happening’. Which means that this is a different kind of ‘ambient’, indicating a quiet ‘musical’ collection gathered from a lot of musical influences. Some fragments borrowed from new-age, other parts from jazz, world or even mediaeval music – all blended in a unique and personal style – to amazing effect!
In the second half of the title track ‘Calendarium – Visions of Hildegard’, for example, you can almost envision Hildegard (von Bingen) rise up to heaven, and it’s hard to resist following her.

As said, Friederich’s collection is a fascinating box of surprises crossing almost every experimental genre thinkable.
(And it’s growing fast: at the time of writing Ambient #4 was already released too)
If you’re interested to hear something different (not ambient), I also advise checking out Sample Years #3 – Paris 2015” to hear what can be done with a sampler and a free, creative spirit.

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Max Richter – (From) Sleep

Max Richter - Sleep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Sleep

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


Also on Spotify


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

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Monochromie; Visionary Hours; Peter Grech; Northumbria; Mogano

Sycomore

Behind Black Clouds

MONOCHROMIE – BEHIND BLACK CLOUDS
The word Monochromie refers to one single colour, but Behind Black Clouds is in fact a very colourful album: an album with lots of different sounds and atmospheres. “Dark or luminous, hor or cold, wind or earth – attentive ear will detect them all.”
Wilson Trouvé 
(from France) is also a virtual artist: “This also reflects on the way my music tells specific stories. It is no different than clay, dust, paper, colors, paint or inks.”
Behind Black Clouds is his fourth full album as Monochromie, and his third for the Fluttery Records label.
Different kind of pianos play the main part on the album, in melodic, romantic, as well as more abstract arrangements. But sometimes the piano makes place for other instruments like metallophone or melodica, bright synths, drum synths or samples from street recordings. Or even sheer noise, like in Noise.



MONOCHROMIE – HEARTBEAT


Footfalls Echo

VISIONARY HOURS – FOOTFALLS ECHO
The opening track Stillness of the Violin sets the mood: it shows exactly what the title implies.
But right after that the instrumentation changes completely, although the mood on this album stays very gentle. The diverse acoustic instruments (strings, guitars, flute and clarinet) are mixed using ambient reel-to-reel tape delay effect and also using slowed down or reversed recordings.
Together with producer Richard Formby (Spectrum, Mogwai, Dakota Suite, Jazz Butcher), Hayden Berry (Visionary Hours) has created a unique blend of analog sounds on this third album that is released on Hibernate Recordings in this handmade edition of 100 (which, as usual, is quickly selling out).


Sung of the Black CanyonPETER GRECH – SUNG OF THE BLACK CANYON
Peter Grech is an artist without a label, considering himself “the audio equivalent of a small local farm, hopefully supplying tasty sonic carrots”.
Judged by the tasty carrots he serves on this self-released album, he shouldn’t be without a label for long … but if he does, we’re lucky to have Bandcamp access his music.
Sung of the Black Canyon is a 50 minute descriptive soundtrack inspired by a wilderness hiking journey he made in the United States, each of the seven parts ‘intended as stages reminiscent of the journey’. It may be a personal notebook this way, but for other listeners it’s an inspiring soundtrack for their own imaginary fieldtrip.


Helluland

NORTHUMBRIA – HELLULAND
From Canada comes this duo called NorthumbriaJim Field and Dorian Williamson, creating ambient drones with guitar and bass as the main instruments, largely improvised and often recorded live. Helluland is their third full length album, “much more conceptual and introspective but still unmistakeably Northumbria in scope and sound”.
With the guitar creating the main layers it sounds as if Robert Fripp is  always near: Fripp and Eno are mentioned as one of their main influences. But the guitar is not looped like in most Frippertronics – the themes are played improvised on the spot. There is a close relation to the Canadian landscape, the Baffin Island (to the left of Greenland) more specifically, which was discovered by he Norse Vikins over a thousand years ago.
“(The Canadian Arctic) must’ve seemed like Jötunheimr to them, the mythical lands of the giants in Norse mythology. The landscape of Baffin Island i so unbelievably primordial and massive …. we really wanted to try and evoke the feelings, feats and wonder these adventurers must have felt.”


Sycomore

MOGANO – SYCOMORE
Second release from the brand new Berlin-based Arboretum  label is aptly named after a tree and dedicated to the Tree of Life from ancient civilizations. It’s a balanced set of brooding rhythms, electronics and ritualistic references to Eastern mythology by using instruments such as the dilruba.
Mogano (Marco Berardi) is obviously deeply fascinated by ancient cultures and musical practices, but at the same time manages to create a futuristic dubby beat – inescapable and atmospheric.
Sycomore is released as a four-track vinyl 12″ also including a remix of “Annunaki” by (Samuel) Kerride. Included is a download code that also includes the digital bonus track Dukkah. 



MOGANO – SYCOMORE

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