domingo, 27 de febrero de 2011

Dustin O'Halloran - Lumiere

Genre: Neo Classical
Label: Fat Cat

Cinematic, you see, is an adjective that lends itself to O'Halloran's mode - even when divorced from the big screen - and it's a manner he's keen to flesh out having acquired the services of an assembly that includes the likes of Adam Wiltzie, mixer Jóhann Jóhannsson and sometime Grizzly Bear, Max Richter and Owen Pallet collaborators ACME Ensemble.
Lumiere, however, is no self-congratulating indulgence: from the very earliest strains of A Great Divide - a six-minute smoulder in which delicate piano flourishes contrast against ethereal drones and the most mournful of strings - there is an air of patience abound, an understanding that high order composition speaks for itself, and that the rich, layered qualities of ensemble neo-classicism are not mutually exclusive with O'Halloran's established less-is-more philosophy.

Opus 44, indeed, takes up the strand in solo fashion; O'Halloran, his touch light on the ivory keys, embarks on a gentle cascade that bears timeless qualities despite its brief stay.

But it is compositions like We Move Lightly that more fully encapsulate Lumiere's beauty. It is, in essence, a rather simple, swift and repeated piano melody, but one that resonates immeasurably further with the presence of the subtlest of string swells; a texture that replaces the measured silence of the soloist.

Similar interplay lends warmth to Quartet No 2, a movement whose minor key might otherwise court detachedness, while Fragile No 4 crescendos elegantly from youthful simplicity to the sound of world-weary grace. Each track seems to yearn to score a scene not as yet willed into existence.

Which is not to suggest that O'Halloran is simply playing John Barry to make-believe movies: there is exquisite technicality beneath the hood, with the album's axis pairing - Opus 43 and Quintette No 1 - indicating a willingness to introduce new patterns and sub-themes well after the establishment of initial melodies strong enough to see out the longest of passages. Such tinkering is tempered - no Gonzales-style missiles from leftfield here - but sufficiently pronounced as to prevent wholesale shifts into ambient mood music.

Still, such gorgeous-if-melancholic chamber music does not lend itself particularly well to out-of-sync listening, and one is not recommended to just dip into Lumiere: bereft of an implicit aural narrative, a number of the album's constituent parts lose identity. Snow And Light, for instance, becomes uneventful background music rather than the serene conclusion to a cohesive whole. Such gripes, though, matter not for O'Halloran, who in Lumiere has surely fashioned a classic of the genre and the finest of testaments to his considerable talents.

sábado, 26 de febrero de 2011

The North Sea - Never Stop It

Genre: Drone, Experimental

Sold Out

Brad Rose's output as The North Sea launches at quite a prolific pace. Whether a cassette of his will contain calm transmissions or piercing walls of feedback, it's somewhat difficult to infer what a release will sound like without the aid of an audio sample. Rest assured, though, that Rose's latest tape on the Georgia imprint Hooker Vision would be of the latter persuasion. Side A's "Destroy Her Blue Eyes" manages to keep a 20-minute manipulation of a single tone engrossing throughout; at times, it peaks at a shrill frequency and at others, it rumbles like a seismic abuse.

On the flip side, "Quiet Underneath," Rose's titles really seem to disconcert the listener, because it resembles death-- not the band, I'm just referring to dying; slowly being crushed by the largest boulder conceivable, and screaming for a hero that will never arrive. Physically, it's an awful experience-- but aurally, the saturation is pure ecstasy. Easily, it stands as Never Stop It's most climactic passage, and piques my interest to the point where I feel puzzled as to why I don't own more of Brad Rose's material. Though not as demanding as your average HNW recording, the uncompromising aura brings just as much unease to the senses.

Balago - Extractes D’un Diari


Genre: Ambient, Experimental

If we look up a concept like “urban melancholy” in the dictionary, we probably won’t find what we are looking for. In reality, there’s no likely definition or category in which to place it, but everyone more or less knows what we’re talking about when we say that. There are artists, groups, composers, and producers who appear to have been born expressly to give voice, image, and sound to this idea.Burial, Fennezs after “Endless Summer”, the more ambient Brian Eno, Stars Of The Lid, and a long list of figures capture this explosion of intimate, interiorised emotion in their creations—almost in slow motion, unfocused—and they manage to integrate in into the context of a big city and all of the sentimental, personal issues characterised there. They have the gift of creating images, sensations, and moments of loneliness, tiredness, uncertainty, and sadness in the context of the immensity of granite and asphalt; they, and some others, are the real creators of the soundtrack of the present day, the ones who best know how to put sound and audio to our time.

The Catalan band Balago belongs, without a shadow of a doubt, to this line of solitary names—curiously all influences recognised by the band’s leader, David Crespo—who strike out on their own and, without even trying to, put music to interminable bus rides down long avenues, tense, uneasy walks down dark streets, sunrises seen through the front window of a taxi, required stops at 24-hour petrol stations or convenience stores, or angry bouts of late-night jogging. Contrary to what logic tells us, for getting powerful, danceable hits to increase your effort and motivation, few experiences this year can equal that of going out to burn shoe rubber on a dark night with “Extractes d’un Diari” on your iPod. Let’s mix bubbling endorphins, cold, knackered pedestrians on their way home from work, an acceptable rhythm per kilometre, and the modest ambient symphony suggested by this group from La Garriga in their comeback, and we will get one of those moments to keep in your musical memory, like the first time that you heard “Untrue” on the way home after an infernal working day, or the first time that you thought to put the soundtrack to “Solaris” by Cliff Martinez on to isolate yourself from the surrounding drunken hubbub of an underground car on any given Friday night.

In “Extractes d’un Diari”, Balago recover the support of some beats, inject more melodic weight into the songs, play more emphatically with synthesisers, and end up transmitting more life, body, and muscle to their discourse. And all of this without leaving that circle of ambient-soundtrack where they are so at home, ever since the best passages of “El Segon Pis”, a second album whose wake is taken up again here, insisting on the idea of establishing a linear plot from flashes and sparks lasting one to two minutes, totally contrary to the long tracks on “D’Aquii”. It doesn’t seek to be one, nor is it in reality, but in a sense the album works as a summary and compendium of the sound personality of David Crespo over the course of a decade. The meticulous mastery of drone and the ambient of “D’Aquii”, the capacity for emotive condensation of “El Segon Pis”, the intelligent use of melodies of “erm”, and the cinematographic, evocative, visual ambition—seemingly satisfied, by the way—of his soundtracks for films and plays. There are also some new things added to the mix: cosmic flirtations in some fragments, without stridency, but with a great deal of intention and a good nose for sound; the surprising rhythmic charge of some songs; or occasional dabbling in psychedelics give his formula colour and new possibilities, inviting one to think very well of the group’s future.

If someone had asked me a few months ago how I thought that Balago would sound in 2010, I couldn’t have come up with a better explanation than this album. And this is something that has happened, personally, with each one of the four albums that make up the band’s career. “Extractes d’un Diari” is ambient that is exciting, alive, moving, and relatively easy, accessible, just what we were asking for or what we needed at this exact moment. The (near) achievement of a sound ideal that continues to stand entirely alone within the context of Spanish music, and which in a fair world would have to have a British, American, or German passport in order to receive the international recognition and applause that it really deserves. A blessed anomaly

domingo, 20 de febrero de 2011

Úrsula - Hasta Que La Soledad Nos Separe

Genre: Ambient
Label: Foehn Records



Úrsula has managed to move finely between neoclassicism, ambient, minimalism and, enclosed, certain contemporary reminiscences. They have made a simple language which only object is to transport the public across a path replete with sensations in which their participation is going to be indispensable, establishing one dialog sutil and accurately between the musician and the listener. As one of their models, Górecki, Úrsula do not walk among complicated harmonys and have managed to absorb the essence of Bártok's Neoclassicism. Echoes are guessed to Terry Riley and Steve Reich, besides a distant inspiration in Cage, and have assumed perfectly Webern's sonorous economy at the time that they approach to the beginnings of Arvo Pärt. From the beginning they appreciate an extremely precise and imaginative use of the tremolo and the delay, among other effects, which are the base of the sound of the guitar, which constructs, without scarcely developments, clear and superposed textures. It´s here where more we perceive the influence of bands as The Sight Below, whose principal member - Rafael Anton Irisarri - has masterized the record.

sábado, 19 de febrero de 2011

Guillaume Gargaud - Lost Chords

Genre: Drone, Experimental
Label: Dead Pilot

French artist Guillaume Gargaud has in recent years been exploring experimental music through improvisation and audio/visual methods. 'Lost Chords' is his first release for Dead Pilot Records, following his first album “Le Lieu” in 2008 on Dirty Demos, and 'She' on Utech Records in 2009.

Here Gargaud acheives visceral noise with an Americana twist; contorted guitar twangs, dust bowl acoustic guitar plucks that might accompany a low budget indie film of travelling over the Mexican desert, rocky horizons in the distance. Similar to James Ferraro's, hazy Old English Spelling Bee release early last year - 'Last American Hero', but harsher in sound and significantly less restrained. These are a rough set of textures, worn sheets of chords, and at the same time beautiful medody.

Opening track Oeil Humide (the watery eye), and indeed the majority of the album flies between walls of noise, and other unheard-of noises from Gargaud's guitar. The density of the sound is almost overwhelming, thick and heavy. Seemingly erratic attacks at the guitar strings, somehow keep a coherency. Tracks 'Sortir' and 'Passerelle' fizz with pure electric energy, heavily treated through effects. Gargaud doesn't neglect any part of the guitar's range, from ground rumbling bass, to glowing single treble notes. Penultimate track 'Cesser' provides a respite for the listener, before ending on 'Rever de courier'; like being caught in a plane slipstream, the sun in our eyes.

Lost Chords is a glisteningly fierce piece, exciting and unpredictable. The thought that Gargaud may well have improvised large parts of this album makes for an all the more absorbing listen. A great kick start to the year for Dead Pilot Records, and a welcome introduction to Guillaume Gargaud if new to his work. I'd urge you to pick up this album now, you won't regret it.

sábado, 12 de febrero de 2011

Svarte Greiner - Twin

Genre: Drone, Ambient, Experimental
Label: Type


The LP version of new Deaf Center album includes a bonus CD of new interpretations of the album from Erik Skodvin's Svarte Greiner project called Twin.

domingo, 6 de febrero de 2011

Benoît Pioulard - Valley

Genre: Ambient, Drone, Folk Gaze
Label: Self Edited



sábado, 5 de febrero de 2011

Gareth Davis And Machinefabriek - Grower

Not the original cover art

Genre: Ambient, Experimental, Electronic
Label: Sonic Pieces




So the story goes that Rutger Zuyderveldt and Gareth Davis met once for 15 seconds and out of that enough music for four albums was spawned. That’s an exaggerated version of events; nonetheless, by now this pairing is the stuff of myths. ‘Grower’ is the result of the same session that brought us last year’s ‘Drape’ release on Home Normal from this pair. Unsurprisingly, ‘Grower’ is surely to be as treasured by all that enjoyed the first round of music.

With ‘Grower’ what we get are two songs clocking in at over 15 minutes apiece. The thing that has made this duo a delight to hear is how well they feed off one another, especially considering the brevity of the sessions that led to this release. These are songs that take their time and are delicately nuanced but also surprising: the stillness is just an illusion as things are always transforming, elements drift in and out of focus, and what seem to be incidental moments actually become motifs within the pieces. Machinefabriek proves himself again and again to be a great collaborator always serving to counterpart the very best attributes of those he works with.

‘Grower Part 1’ begins with a long stretch of Rutger’s droning guitars setting the tone. But once that clarinet enters there is a whole new element added to the setting. When Davis enters there is a sense of foreboding and mystery that becomes clear, almost as if Davis gives the evocative aspects of Machinefabrieks’s works a sort of pinpoint accuracy. Gareth Davis does a lot with a little once again as he seems to be able to reference various world influences in three notes or less a la Demdike Stare. It’s quite unbelievable how many corners of the world this music is able to reference in its 33-minute span.

‘Grower part 2’ is the far more subdued piece at the outset. Davis comes in early on this one and Machinefabriek tends to take a more reserved position in the background. This time the relationship is reversed: it is Rutger who acts to give Davis’s work a sort of platform to build off of. But as it evolves, the piece turns noisier and darker than it’s predecessor. The final minutes seem like some nightmare of dissonance that might serve as part of the score to a Dario Argento film circa 2032.

The two songs that comprise ‘Grower’ are perfectly configured to create a narrative, just as the four compositions that made ‘Drape’ were. It seems odd to label improvised works as ‘perfectly configured’, but really this is a very focused release. Sure, such decisions are made after the fact, but still; we as listeners reap the rewards.

‘Grower’ is an album that often takes its time. These two artists hear each other and hear each other well, never missing a step, never getting ahead of one another. The only way these sorts of musical payoffs exist is when you have two musicians working with a sort of chemistry that is either organic or, well, not-at-all. Needless to say, these are two artists that balance/challenge/coerce the best from each other.