lunes, 30 de enero de 2012

Windy & Carl - We Will Always Be

Genre: Ambient, Drone
Label: Kranky

The first new recordings from Windy & Carl in more than three years. Cited as "A leading light of the Michigan space-rock scene" by Allmusic, the minimalist group formed in 1993 around the core husband-and-wife duo of guitarist Carl Hultgren and bassist/singer Windy Weber. (Most of the band's pieces feature no vocals, however.) The band was prolific from the outset up to 2001, whereupon they took a hiatus of a few years. The music of Windy & Carl borrows heavily from the sounds of 1980s era bands on 4AD Records, specifically that of Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins and various other dream pop and shoegazer acts. Unlike noteworthy prior drone/ambient artists (such as Cluster, Brian Eno, Popol Vuh, et al.), Windy & Carl's drones are primarily derived from guitar, particularly via usage of delay effects, reverb effects, and E-Bow, rather than synthesizers.

domingo, 22 de enero de 2012

From the Mouth of the Sun - Woven Tide

Link removed by request. 

Genre: Ambient, Drone, Electronic, Neo Classical

News came recently of Dag Rosenqvist's intention to release his last album as Jasper TX early this year, and move on, in his own words, to 'new beginnings'. His project From the Mouth of the Sun with friend and fellow noise experimenter Aaron Martin is the first of these, with another to follow with Matt Collings and hopefully more. Whilst Woven Tide, released by Jeremy Bible's Experimedia label, may show glimmers of both artists recognised sounds - the album endeavours to achieve something altogether different. The result is immediately compelling; full of moments of painful melancholy, disarming emotion and intense bittersweet beauty.

Difficult to ignore is the stark juxtaposition of reverberated sound, and striped back instrumentation, delivered by guitar, violin, interjections of voice/choir, chimes and more. As an entry point to the album and sound, the one minuter The Crossing introduces this aesthetic perfectly, setting out the intent for the rest of the tracks. From here on in we are treated to a set of stories retold with a romanticised tenderness, full of rich imagery, and textures.

Color Loss left me speechless on first listen and continues to affect on subsequent sittings. Working around a relatively simple melody, Martin and Rosenqvist manage an aching mournfulness through repeated choral voices. In the second half, the voices give way to allow violins to continue the motif, establishing an even greater heart breaking melancholia. The same depth of sound is found in the violin notes of modern classical figure-head Richard Skelton, who works every vibration emanating from his strings into gloriously rich sculptural textures. The duo develop this surrounding noise, without ever losing the stark emptiness.

Shimmering cymbals, and a metallic reverberation of dust particles appear to penetrate via osmosis on My Skin Drinks Light That Has Passed Through Leaves - a fine mist of coloured light slowly changing, broken only by gently plucked guitar. Pinned piano leads the dramatical swell of strings and effected noise on Sitting In A Roofless Room, perhaps the albums most visceral and discordant moment, before fading into the distance.

The long introduction of A Season in Water holds us in suspense, as if drifting through murky water, before echoing strings emerge from out of the depths. The surge of sonics that develop is powerful and exciting. Throbbing electronics, synth cascades, washes of violins in heavy reverb, and at its height, and ending, music box chimes. At the end of this epic journey the emergent Snow Burial (While Blue Skies Gather) evaporates all heavy weights and sheds light on dark corners, climbing to its end.

These are tales of loss, cathartic euphoria, and hope from out of pain and despair. Rendered with such masterful artistry that I predict many will fall in love with Woven Tide. Mastered by Taylor Deupree and cover artwork by the always brilliant Chris Koelle completes the package and makes this a must have release.
Review from Futuresequence

martes, 17 de enero de 2012

The Caretaker - Patience (After Sebald)

Genre: Ambient, Drone, Electronic

James Leyland Kirby returns with a long-in-the-making soundtrack to acclaimed filmmaker Grant Gee's documentary about German writer WG Sebald. 'Patience (After Sebald)' is a multi-layered film essay on landscape, art, history, life and loss - an exploration of the work and influence of German writer WG Sebald (1944-2001), told via a long walk through coastal East Anglia tracking his most famous book 'The Rings Of Saturn'. Much like The Caretaker's oeuvre, Sebald's works are particularly focused on themes of memory, both personal and collective, making Kirby the ideal candidate for this score. Grant tasked him with soundtracking responsibilities, but rather than thrift shop shellac, the source material for 'Patience' was sourced from Franz Schubert's 1927 piece 'Winterreise' and subjected to his perplexing processes, smudging and rubbing isolated fragments into a dust-caked haze of plangent keys, strangely resolved loops and de-pitched vocals which recede from view as eerily as they appear.

miércoles, 4 de enero de 2012

Willamette - Echo Park

Genre: Ambient, Neo Classical.

Now this is going to look like lazy reviewing. I’m going to start with a comparison that will have all ambient heads groaning in sheer disbelief at the fact that yet another act/album is being compared to Stars of the Lid…but yes, it’s true. This album uses all the tropes associated with the widely acknowledged masters of the genre and it does so to such an extent that it practically screams ‘compare me to stars of the lid’. We’re all familiar with this comparison and it has become such a cliche that it’s essentially shorthand for ‘this is an ambient album’. Large numbers of flaccid, go-nowhere, uninspired albums have been allowed off the hook by this lazy comparison. Not only does this allow a large volume of shit to flood the market, but it also detracts from the genuine majesty that SOTL display and for which they are rightly acknowledged.

So with that aside, I am pleased to say that Willamette have managed to produce an album that is truly worthy of the comparison. ‘Echo Park’ is an album of diffuse splendour, plaintive sketches, and beautiful, wistful melancholia…all delivered with an acute sense of restraint and precision.

The 10 tracks are, on the whole, relatively brief for the genre (maximum of five and a half minutes) and, to my mind at least, this should be taken as a significant strength…ideas are not allowed to overstay their welcome but certainly never feel underdeveloped. Moods are swiftly evoked, allowed full expression and then softly dissipate. It would have been very easy to extend a few tracks here and there, drag out a sequence past it’s utility, and strive for a pseudo-epic scale for the album. The fact that the composer/s resisted temptation in this regard speaks volumes for their ability to prioritise artistry over posturing. This ‘just enough to do the job’ sensibility also informs the album’s melodic core. As with all essentially minimal music, it’s the parts that are left out that carry the greatest weight and here, each piece manages to convey a deep emotional resonance with the merest hint of ethereal melody.

The majority of the album is carried by gentle swelling pulses of hazy chords – and as such ‘Echo Park’ is clearly an ‘ambient’ album; easily listened to in the background – but when clear instrumentation comes to the fore (such as on the gorgeous ‘New York Heat’) it has a piercing effect that seizes the listeners attention and brings the music into sharp focus.

Albums of this calibre are, indeed, rare. So if there is to be any criticism levelled at ‘Echo Park’, it is probably that it wears its influences too clearly on its sleeve. Frankly though, if that’s the worst thing I can say about this album the message you should be taking away from this review is that Willamette have produced, with ‘Echo Park’, an album that could easily stand as one of the contenders for ambient album of the year.

Review from Fluid Radio