miércoles, 30 de marzo de 2011

Mark Templeton - Inland

Genre: Experimental, Drone, Neo Classical
Label: Anticipate

The allure of Inland begins right away, as a twangy, reverb-ed electric guitar melody is bathed in cascading delays, creating a hypnotic pulse and textured sonic vistas. From there, this latest album by Canadian experimental artist Mark Templeton continues to document an insular yet inviting journey, the composer’s hands-on, collage-like methods producing enigmatic mood shifts and plenty of textural surprise.

Templeton’s approach seems obliquely rooted in both folk song and film soundtrack music: there’s often a wide -open -spaces, lonely camp-fire vibe to his layered acoustic and electric guitars, his casually plunked-out banjo melodies. But these humble beginnings lead to complex sonic manipulations: cavernous reverbs; pulsing echoes and regenerations; fuzz and distortion; broken-sounding electronics; severe jump-cut edits.

Within these transiting events, other sounds are sometimes heard: static and hiss, accordion chords, gongs and deep-toned drums. All of this seems to occur organically, within tracks that preserve the relatively short duration and, somehow, the familiar narrative-like arc of folk or pop song structure. And while each piece seems to create its own voiceprint, there’s also a seamless and mysteriously unified sense to to the way the record unfolds as a whole. This is decidedly not trance or drone music: moods and timbres shift and juxtapose quite quickly, sometimes cinematically.

Templeton’s wordless, often gently falsetto vocals appear suddenly in quite a few places, and the effect of this is powerfully intimate and anchoring. Within all that sonic ebb and flow, all those arching views, we come upon the sound of someone singing to himself; helping us to experience, perhaps, the strangely comforting sense of sharing in another’s engagingly hermetic creative world.

Review from Dusted Magazine

viernes, 11 de marzo de 2011

Federico Durand - El Extasis de Las Flores Pequeñas

Genre: Ambient, Neo Classical

After the superb La Siesta Del Ciprés released last year on Spekk, Buenos Aires-based Federico Durand returns with El éxtasis de las flores pequeñas, a 35-minutes subdued and beautiful evocation of time spent as a child with his grandparents to the woods in the Argentinean South. Using a reduced and evocative sound palette made of piano and acoustic guitar, augmented with field recordings collected in the gardens of Buenos Aires, Durand conjures memories of his lost grandparents’ home, in a delicate and poetic study of nostalgia and childhood.

As the rain pours outside, the gently reverberating piano notes of opener El pequeño huésped sigue dormidoslowly unfurl and are soon accompanied by a quiet acoustic guitar, suggesting a lonely day spent at home, flicking through a worn out photo-album of sepia-tinged pictures. Nothing mournful or sad, just vignettes of long-gone moments, resurfacing and transporting the listener to their own childhood. Subsequent numbers are somehow more oneirical – the melodic motifs being quite distant, suggesting fragments of memories that fold into each other, as in a super-8 film of past holidays. At other times like in Elin for example, the same piano phrase keeps looping, its meaning becoming all the clearer as the piece progresses, as if one could see at last why this particular memory had stuck for so long in our head, giving a sudden new insight into our own story.

Durand has taken great care when recording his instruments, conjuring a necessary distance that perfectly matches his intentions. The piano in La Casa De Los Abuelos is presented through a sonic veil that achingly underlines the nostalgic mood of the piece. In the title track, the guitar is processed through echo and delay-pedals in such a way it suggests faded-out memories, as seen in a shadowbox. Sounds of hands gliding between chord shapes on the guitar’s neck are isolated and amplified, and seems to remove themselves from the interwoven melodies.

Each track tells its story ever so slowly, like a poem being read out loud, progressing at its own unhurried pace. InAtardecer en las montañas, piano and guitar congeal into a droning mass of majestic beauty that drift ecstatically on the surface of a sunlit pond. The delicate touches of xylophone-like instruments add a very interesting contrast to the track that clearly stands out as the most blissful piece on the album. In the closing Kim, Durand’s reverberated guitar comes back in a simple and very evocative chord progression that loops atop processed field recording and gently saturated undulating drones, as a way of letting go of those long-gone memories of childhood, grateful that such moments ever existed.

El éxtasis de las flores pequeñas is a work of extreme sensibility that avoids unnecessary sentimentality or cliched evocations – Federico Durand unveiling its narrative through delicate strokes of unassuming beauty.

Review from Fluid-Radio.

martes, 8 de marzo de 2011

Julia Kent - Green And Gray

Genre: Ambient, Neo Classical, Experimental

The solo work of cellist Julia Kent deals in different ways with concepts of borders and of spaces which are neither one thing nor the other. Her first solo record, Delay, was based on that most modern (and Eno-esque) of limbos, the airport. Having crossed the globe in a number of different ensembles, most famously as a member of Antony and the Johnsons, but also with a range of more leftfield acts such as Rasputina, Burnt Sugar, Angels Of Light and Stars Of The Lid, she found she was spending rather a lot of time trapped in those places, and elected to use them to her advantage. She made recordings in airports, and used them as the foundation for Delay, naming the resulting tracks after the airports in which they were recorded. The title of her second album for Important suggests she has found the way out, but only to another place betwixt and between: the place where the grey of the city meets the green of the countryside. And exactly how much of an escape that turns out to be is open to question.

Green And Grey opens and closes with cicadas, stridulating in the evening air, with Kent’s looped cello building upon the samples to create the compositions. In between, there are tracks named after trees (“Ailanthus”), water (“Acquario”), landscape features (“Overlook”) and constellations (“Pleiades”), but also in one case, a building (“Spire”). It seems at first listen that Kent is outside, recording the sounds of the natural world, in order to inspire her work. The natural rhythms of those insects, the gurgle of water, the patter of raindrops, all find a musical echo in the tracks which follow them. So in a number of ways, the modus operandi hasn’t changed from Delay, it is just the location (or rather the locations) which is different. What is most telling here, however, is just how unobtrusive the recordings are. They are but brief snatches of very quiet sounds, the merest hints of the ambience of the outside world.

Leaving aside Eno (whether she draws from him intentionally or not), you have an album which takes similar cues as the likes of Johann Johannsson and Max Richter, or perhaps Hildur Gudnadottir with her more diaphonous cello work Without Sinking: modern, melancholic, minimalist, classical. However, in a sense trying to pigeonhole her records goes against their very essence: they seem to be born of a desire to break out, to escape. The short, churning rhythmic loops which underpin so many of these pieces act like an anchor, these ostinati counteracting the melody line’s desire to take the piece into different landscapes.

The more you listen, the more it begins to feel like, despite first impressions, this is less a record about the physical border between the city and the country, and more one about a mental border. The sound of echoing footsteps in “Ailanthus” suggest we haven’t even left the building, while the water heard in “Acquario” may even be the sound of a fishtank, rather than a stream. The cicadas are just as likely to be heard through an open window; let’s face it, you aren’t going to be plugging in a looping pedal in the park. As the surge of those song-like melodies is once more halted in its tracks, you feel that on Green And Grey Kent is as trapped in the city as she ever was in the airport. With the urge to escape to nature being defeated time and time again by more mundane concerns, sometimes all a city dweller can do is dream of leaving.

Review taken from The Liminal.

domingo, 6 de marzo de 2011

Emanuele Errante - Time Elapsing Handheld

Genre: Ambient, Electronic
Label: Karaoke Kalk

A new offering from Italian artist Emanuele Errante sees him continuing his characteristic approach to musical texture – the pairing of electronics and acoustic instruments to achieve a consolidated whole. As simple on the surface this is, often the discrepancy in timbre, or perhaps the clashing connotations the instruments conjure up can make for an awkward or irritating listening experience. Fortunately for Errante, his release history displays ause of this technique that has shaped a largely successful outing this time around.

Errante’s music, first introduced to me through Apegenine‘s Migrations (2007), and then Somnia‘s Humus (2008), stands to be in its own sub-category of minimal ambient and experimental modern classical compositions. Lo-fi noises, scratching on the strings of a gently weeping guitar, clicking field recordings, and cascading ambient atmospheres, penetrate through the walls and carpet, raising dust and killing mites (perhaps I should lower the volume a bit). Whether consumed as a sonic installation or an abstract piece of sound art, Time Elapsing Handheld captures the moment with its seven titles, creating a path which is “Leaving The Nowhere”through the “Memoirs”, a bit “Counterclockwise”, sometimes “Later, Earlier”, and always “Inner”.

Lush soundscapes loop and breathe through organic piano tones, guitar strums, and harp plucks, drowning in a generous sweep of synthetic strings, sampled noise, and dripping effects. Centered around the theme of passing time (as the album’s title suggests), the music hypnotizes the listener, bringing him a little closer into the notion of now, and then subsides, letting him simply float among the sounds of rewinding moments. Be still… and feel that… that’s right… 

The digital version of this release contains two more tracks, “Egostatsy” and“Hidden Sun”. Oh, and in case this review was not sufficient in piquing your interest, it is worth mentioning that Simon Scott appears on the album, collaborating with Errante on a track, “Made To Give”. Highly recommended for fans of Marsen Jules, Deaf Center, Rudi Arapahoe, and Rafael Anton Irisarri.