Thursday, December 31, 2009

Headphone Commute's Best of 2009 [part 3]

Three more lists from Headphone Commute's Best of 2009 have been published on the main site!

Music For Walking And Not Crying In The Autumn Rain

Music For The Frosty Night When I Miss Your Warm Light

Music For Watching The Snow Slowly Fall In The Moonlight

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Headphone Commute's Best of 2009 [part 2]

Three more lists from Headphone Commute's Best of 2009 have been published on the main site!

Music For Crawling Through Abandoned Cities

Music For Withered Leaves And Lonely Fishtanks

Music For Kicking Your Brain Back Into The Groove

I've got 9 more lists to go! Each one is being revealed one day at a time, so stop by often and save all your money! :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Headphone Commute's Best of 2009 [part 1]

Headphone Commute's Best of 2009 lists are being published one per day on our main site. Be sure to visit and check out the currently revealed lists:

Music For The Film Behind Closed Eyelids

Music For Bending Light And Stopping Time

Music For Awakened Spirits And Open Minds

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Reflections on 2009 : Simon Scott

Simon Scott stops by to share his thoughts on music in 2009. It must be a great year for Simon. Late last year he launched his own label, Kesh Recordings, kicking off with a compilation 88 Tapes, featuring some of my favorite ambient and experimental artists. This year, Kesh released albums by Hannu, Saito Koji, Martin Herterich, and Autistici, while Simon himself released his solo debut, Navigare on Erik Skodvin's Miasmah Recordings. Here are Simon's reflections on the year in music, as well as his favorite releases of 2009.


2009 has been an amazing year and definitely my favorite year of the whole decade which I feel started slow and gradually caught up with itself. We have been treated to so many fine albums it has been hard to compile a list of favorite releases. Personally it was great to release Hannu’s second album “Hintergarten” on my Kesh label after working really closely on it for two years with the official Finnish “artist of the year” (he has won his awards not for music but for his visual work). My label of the year is of course Miasmah who I feel honored to have had my debut album “Navigare” released on (vinyl included of course) and they are a great as a record label but superb aesthetics due to Erik Skodvin’s artwork designs.

“Wintermusic” by Nils Frahm was released on a Berlin based label called ‘Sonic Pieces’ who make limited edition homemade covers and create beautiful physical releases housing wonderful music inside. Seasons (pre-din) released a crackling electroacoustic album “Your Eyes the Stars and Your Hands the Sea” featuring location sounds on the wonderful Type label. Mr Seasons also runs his ‘Thy’ micro-label and it is also worth noting that every release (he has many limited edition gems in his back catalogue if you are lucky enough to grab them now) are skillfully created using scalpel and card. I also love the fact that vinyl is making a welcome return to people’s music collections (see Leyland Kirby’s triple vinyl debut) despite unhappy memories of moving heavy boxes of these physical delights during a recent house move.

I feel that the current climate of artists who create expressive and original musical art are part of a movement that will be looked back on as a golden period of growth for sonic art, electroacoustic and electronic experimental music. The packaging of the Raster-Noton has it’s aesthetic together to such an inspiring level and labels such as 12k and Touch are also heavy weights of creative design, photography releasing consistently astonishing music. Many smaller labels are being inspired to find new ways to package and release great music such as Digitalis and Root Strata (USA), Under The Spire (UK) and Home Normal (UK), Flau and Spekk (JP) and Room40 (AU).

Other personal highlights include experiencing live audio and visual collaborations at Plateaux Festival in Poland together including Fennesz and Lillevan, digital artist Josh Ott with his home made SuperDraw software accompany Ezekiel Honig and Morgan Packard (check his SuperCollider software “Ripple”) from the NY based Anticipate label and the stunning Deaf Center with Claudio Sinatti. I have been really lucky to have played live in numerous churches this year and a highlight was my debut gig in Manchester with Machinefabriek and Xela along with a performance at Sonar Festival in Barcelona where I sung and played guitar for The Sight Below.

My place of the year has been Cambridge, which I call home, but Berlin made the biggest impact on me as not only is it a great place with a lot of friendly faces but it has the best analogue studio called Dunton Studio owned by Nils Frahm featuring restored pre-war microphones, tape to tape machines and vintage synths.

New years resolution for 2010 is to begin a second album, stay off the nicotine and put out lots of vinyl on Kesh.

simon scott.

Favorite Releases of 2009
1.Hannu- Hintergarten (kesh Recordings)
2.Nils Frahm-Wintermusik (Sonic pieces)
3.Alva Noto- Xerrox Vol.2 (raster noton)
4.Mark Templeton and Aa.Munson- Acre Loss (Anticipate)
5.Leyland Kirby- Sadly, the future is no longer what is was (History always favours the winners)
6.Concern- Truth & Distance (Digitalis)
7.Svarte Greiner- Kappe (Type)
8.Seasons (Pre-Din)- Your Eyes the Stars and Your Hands the Sea (Type)
9.Taylor Deupree- Sealast (12k)
10.Jasper TX- Singing stones (Fang Bomb)
11.Isnaj Dui- Unstable Equilibrium (Home Normal)
12. Machinefabriek + Gareth Davies- Soundlines (Studio Machinefabriek)
13.William Fowler Collins- Perdition Hill Radio (Type)
14.Lawrence English- A colour for Autumn (12k)
15.Peter Jorgensen-To (Low Point)

Organic Ambient

OK. I screwed up... A year ago, right about this time, I made a set of mixes to showcase my favorite artists and releases of 2008. These were the Intelligent Breakcore and Modern Classical mixes that I already have shared with you on Headphone Commute. But there was one more that I have failed to publish. I can come up with many excuses for this - some of them are valid - hard drive crash has sent me on an agonizing search for backed up files across multiple media. But now the mix is here, and you can finally enjoy, before 2009 rolls over into another decade!

Download free mix, and see full track listing only on Headphone Commute

Friday, December 18, 2009

Reflections on 2009 : Stephan Mathieu, offthesky, Paavoharju, worriedaboutsatan and Klimek

We still have some time until the end of the year, and I'm in no rush to publish my list of favorite releases. Meanwhile, you guys are doing a great job at submitting Your Votes! These will be tabulated and aggregated at the end of the year to present the Reader's selections. Keep them coming! While the list is growing, I decided to reach out to my favorite artists and labels, and ask them to share their thoughts on the music of 2009. These are now presented to you, in the order that they have been submitted, one installment at a time.

This first part includes reflections from Stephan Mathieu, offthesky, Paavoharju, worriedaboutsatan and Klimek. I hope you enjoy!

Read part one of the article only on Headphone Commute.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Monolake - Silence (Imbalance Computer Music)

It goes like this. I wake up in my abandoned shelter made of found brick and metal scraps. It's been raining for over a month now. But the water collecting in the corners is undrinkable. It is full of ash and oily fluid. There is only one way out of here. I step outside into the eternal darkness, and climb the nearby unrecognizable object. Far ahead is a column of rising smoke. The electrical storm rolls in the distance. I start walking towards the echo of a machine made rhythm. I feel sad for our abandoned planet. And I don't have any hope for survival. The liner notes of Monolake's seventh album, Silence, tell a different story. But in my mind, there is my own. Either way - the story is futuristic, full of tension, survival, and hope. The words are reflected in music, composed by Robert Henke during the last year leading up to September 2009. Henke's staple sound has created a whole new branch of style springing off of minimal techno. This metallic, atonal, and rhythm driven mathematical progression captures your nerve endings, and sparks through your cells. The cavernous area of your head that was once possessed by thought is now a plausible site for transmission. On Silence, Henke moves further away from the four-to-the-floor pounding beat towards a dark, and groovy rolling pattern, that must be heavily influenced by dubstep. That's not a surprise, considering that Monolake's new partner in crime, Torsten Pröfrock, has recently bridged the gap between dubstep and techno by remixing Shackleton's Death Is Not Final as T++. The influence is contagious. And in this chain reaction Henke creates his own style. And the production? It's pristine! I fought the following thought for a while, and finally decided to break down and directly quote the first part of production notes: Sound sources include field recordings of airport announcements, hammering on metal plates at the former Kabelwerk Oberspree, Berlin, several sounds captured inside the large radio antenna dome at Teufelsberg, Berlin, dripping water at the Botanical Garden Florence, air condition systems and turbines in Las Vegas, Frankfurt and Tokyo, walking on rocks in Joshua Tree National Park, wind from the Grand Canyon, a friends answering machine, a printer, conversations via mobile phones, typing on an old Macintosh keyboard and recordings from tunnel works in Switzerland. Synthetic sounds created with the software instruments Operator, Tension, Analog and the build in effects inside Ableton Live. Additional sound design and sequencing using MAXMSP / MaxForLive. Additional reverb: various impulse repsonses via Altiverb. Composed, edited and mixed in Live with a pair of Genelec 8040s. Mastering by Rashad Becker at Audioanwendungen September 2009. Field recordings captured with a Sony PCM D-50. I'm not going to waste your time here, and tell you about Henke's contribution towards the evolution of sound on more than one physical plane - you can read all about contributions towards Ableton or his own designed midi-controller Monodeck on Wikipedia. What I want to capture here is how this album made me feel. And that indescribable feeling is pretty close to what I felt for the first time when I heard Plastikman's Sheet One back in 1993. Since then I've been jonesing for more. And Henke has finally hit that spot. His Silence is the answer. Silence is released on Monolake's own label - [ml/i] (Monolake / Imbalance Computer Music), and is available in CD, digital, and 2xLP formats. This release follows Monolake's recent two track EP, Atlas / Titan which was in turn remixed by T++. There is also a 60-minute single track, endlessly permutating atmospheric installation piece released by Robert Henke this summer, titled Indigo_Transform (Imbalance Computer Music, 2009). |

Two and a Half Questions with Robert Henke

The story on the liner notes of Silence - where is that from?
I wrote it by myself. I like to play with my imagination, and fragments of stories help me finding a topic or a common color for an album. Sometimes when making music these stories just arrive and if I am in the right mood I dive into them and let them grow and write them down. I think very much in film scenes.

In your mind, who is the protagonist of the story told by Silence.
There are many possible options. One story could start like this: The protagonist is a biologist. He is in his thirties, very bright as pretty much everyone at the station. He used to work for a pharmaceutical company in Switzerland, but he is from another country. Whilst working for the company he felt more and more unhappy. He is an idealistic person, and wanted to move things, change the world etc... Instead he got stuck in administrativa. In his spare time ( and sometimes during working hours too...) he was following his special topic, research on some bacteria which usually is found next to super hot spots on the ground of the ocean. He got in contact with a researcher from Australia, Carl Miller. Miller at some point told the protagonist that he got a very interesting job offer for him: Joining an international team of high profile researchers who are supposed to work in a newly built laboratory high up in the mountains of Patagonia. The lab is privately financed by a group of entrepreneurs who are confident that they can find out some very interesting immunologic mechanism of a particular plant which might have a dramatic impact on the creation of new pharmaceutical products. The protagonists relationship in Basel is not really working out anymore, he is bored by his job, and he likes the adventure. So, he takes a plane to Melbourne to meet with Miller.

That was two years ago.

At the beginning it all went very well, Miller had a good hand with finding the right people, everyone liked the idea of living in this kind of film like scenario and they indeed found out amazing things. However, living up there in total isolation became more and more an issue. The project had to be secret, and the security was tight. For the outside world everyone working there pretty much vanished from the planet. And then that stupid accident happened .......

Besides composing ambient works, is this the first time you broke the 4/4 techno rhythm? If so, what prompted the transformation?
I checked my older releases and figured out that the 4/4 was never the most common beat for Monolake. When I were using a straight bassdrum in the past, I often augmented it with additional elements to move the focus away from that metrical imperative. The most important change for me is the fact that Silence is the first release with which I feel completely fine as far as the rhythmical side is concerned. And I am very much looking forward to follow this momentum further and see where I'll land next.

In your production notes, you speak out against compression and the "loudness war". Tell us a bit more about production and mastering for this specific album.
My intention was to create an album with lots of space in between the sounds, create an environment more informed by a cinematic perspective, and less from a musical one. I wanted to expose every detail of the sounds and allow the listener to really dive into it. The sounds in Silence are meant to be 'sound objects', placed in a virtual sonic space. This is a very different approach from how music production works normally. The ideal here is often to blend the sounds as much as possible and to get them all right in front. I decided against that, I went for a sound which is very different. And sometimes being different simply implies doing things _not_.

To my great surprise some people in a very nerdy web forum took it really personal and argued against my 'dogmatism' and that compression is a useful thing to do and that there is a reason why all good studies have tons of compressors and so on. But I never stated I dislike compressors as tools. I just found them wrong in the context of what I wanted to achieve. It took me also quite some time to convince Rashad, my mastering guy, to work without compression, but at the end we were both very satisfied with the result.

Due to the range in dynamics, this album sounds to me a lot more complex and deeper when played in my studio, then in my headphones. You're an experienced sound-engineer - what are your comments on my sonic observation?
Your observation makes sense to me. One reason why compression is such a powerful tool in the studio is the fact that compressed signals sound better on smaller systems. The more 'mainstream' you want a production to be, the more you should follow that rule. For Silence I made the decision that the album is enjoyed best with good speakers. With pop productions I often experience the opposite; music which sounds great on small shitty systems and totally flat on really good speakers. Since I am not competing with those anyway I do not see this as such a problem....

There are plenty of field recordings and organic sources used in Silence. Tell us about recording your favorite one.
I like hidden connections. The walking on stones in the desert on the track "Infinite Snow" I recorded with my former Monolake partner Gerhard Behles, while we were on holiday together in the USA in 1994. A lot of sounds on the very last track "Observatory" were recorded in the dome of the former US / British army obersevation center in Berlin Teufelsberg, while I explored the space with Torsten 'T++' Pröfrock. The answering machine on the track "Reconnect" is from my friend Lillevan, a renewed video artist. Another track features a totally distorted mobile phone connection during a discussion about the cover of the CD with my graphics designer. It is very important to me that each single sound has its own history and meaning. I could have access to tons of sounds from archives but I never use them. Instead I make my own recordings, which ensures that the sounds are connected to me. Music has to be personal. If it is not, it stays generic.

Any sound installations or ambient albums in the works?
I am playing around with several ideas. Not sure if the next release will be a Monolake 12" or a Robert Henke work... |

Monday, December 14, 2009

Clint Mansell - Moon (Black Records)

There is something peculiar about soundtracks. This is music composed specifically for the moving images on the screen. But why should it be limited to film, and not accompany the daily scenes of life or stunning visuals behind my eyelids. I close the door behind me and set towards my commute to work. The music somehow follows every turn and step I make. It swells in crescendo and dies out in silence in all the right places. Or maybe it's the other way around. It is the music that drives my thought patterns. The drums marching me towards determination, the soft piano guiding me forth to acceptance. This is Clint Mansell's yet another film score that goes onto my permanent rotations. Starting off his career as a lead singer and a guitarist for Pop Will Eat Itself, Mansell ventured into creating his first films soundtrack for Darren Aronofsky's debut film, π. Placing his compositions among the works by Autechre, Orbital and Aphex Twin (among many others), Mansell set off on a new path in writing cinematic music. Two years later, in 2000, Mansell became a star composer among the cult followers, with his soundtrack release for Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream performed by the Kronos Quartet. The rest is history. Among my favorite works by Mansell are his soundtracks for films like The Fountain, Smokin' Aces, The Wrestler, and now, Moon. The music conveys the feelings of ambient longing, rhythmic anxiousness, and atmospheric nostalgia. A minimal piano melody is at the center stage of each piece. Propelled forwards by this unifying theme, each variation on the main melody evokes a new emotion. Being absorbed within this repeating cinematic pattern over 55 minutes of music, puts me in a mild trance. Hard as I try, some tracks move into the background of my consciousness, as my thoughts trail away, only to be awakened into this gloomy reality with a familiar pattern, as if on a queue by a hypnotist. I am writing this review without having seen the film yet. And that's just as well. I am bonding with the music on a whole different level. And when I finally see the movie, it will be as if a good old friend is playing in the background. I think that it's more than a metaphor. It is exactly the case.

Two and a Half Questions with Clint Mansell

Describe your process of composing a soundtrack.

I am becoming more discerning with my choice of project.Initially,I worked on any job I was offered-primarily for experience and knowledge about film and its music requirements from a composers view...I've kissed a lot of frogs along the way but its been necessary to discover,not only how the job is done,but what it is that I CAN do and what I WANT to do.

My preference is for a project that stimulates me intellectually and artistically.Something that I know will bring music out of me that I will be excited about.I have no 'poker face',if I'm not 'into' a project I can't fake it and that benefits no one!

I need to immerse myself in a project.I like to be involved from as early as possible,not necessarily to write but to be aware of the project,its background,its needs...I need to absorb it,to know it..this way,when I start writing I have a connection...for me,its about more than the story,the performances...theres an undercurrent of tone and feeling that the music can help,or hinder,and if I don't connect with that tone the music will be at odds with the film,and we don't want that!

How did your production change since the times of Pop Will Eat Itself?

Technology advancements have opened up many new doors since those days-its been nearly 15 years since I left PWEI.However,its fundamentally the same idea,but,for me as a computer-based 'musician' CPU power and software development gives more options and easier(in theory!)execution.

Also,you can never under-estimate the power of experience.Having been writing music for nearly 30 years has allowed me a certain confidence and discipline in not fighting the process too much.I had the worst case of writers block just before I scored ?€and the problems were enthusiasm,desire and inspiration-I learned that if its not happening,do something else,try something else-if that doesn't work,do something else...

At some point I stopped trying to make music like other people.Let me explain-I would write a piece of music/song and then analyze why it wasn't as good as Artist A/Group B/Composer C/whoever...I was trying to shape my music to what was going on a round me.At some point,I let it all go and started to make the music i felt/heard inside me-regardless of whether it was substandard to anything/anyone else.I had to find what was truly in me.

Tell us about your upcoming appearance at the Ghent International Film Festival. How do you prepare your music for a live performance?

I have wanted to perform my film music live from the very beginning and being offered the chance to perform in Belgium gave me the push to see how it would work.

Originally,I was asked to prepare my music for a full orchestra and perhaps conduct.I didn't feel this was how I perceieved my work and decided I wanted to blend the contemporary side of my sound with the classical by forming a neo-classical rock band,as such,with piano,string quartet,guitars,bass,drums and keyboards.This gives me the most flexible approach to performing my scores.

I re-arranged pieces into palatable arrangements that i felt retained the essence of the music as it exists in the related film but also was suited to the live environment.Its a further extension ofhow I have been arranging my score releases recently-taking the core idea of the film and the score but re-arranging the music into a more traditional(for want of a better word)arrangement that gives an overall listening experience-as opposed to just taking the music out of the film and sticking on a CD.essentially,what I have tried to do with the music is take it on further from the recorded work to another level in the live performance.

Who are your contemporary musical inspirations?


Suicide,Stooges,Joy Division,Godspeed You Black Emperor,John Carpenter,Zbigniew Priesner,The Adverts,Tangerine Dream,Soap & Skin,Glenn name a few.

We last spoke back in 2008 and I asked you about your thoughts on releasing a solo album. How is that going?

The general concept of a solo record doesn't really appeal to me.I need context and the inner workings of myself are just not interesting enough to me to excite me...however,I write constantly so there is always the possibility.

Writing for a film always presents new challenges and ideas that force me to respond in ways I,perhaps,wouldn't have considered,left to my own devices.Until I jump that hurdle a solo record will remain undelivered....

If it's not a secret, what are you working on right now?

Black Swan!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

50 (MORE!) Albums, EPs and Compilations of 2008

Hold up, hold up. Rewind selector! Before I attempt to sit down and put together my list of favorite albums of 2009, I must pay homage to the music that slipped past me in the year before. I have said this time and again - there is simply way too much music! Every year, I reflect on the year prior and attempt to catch up on all of the releases. And I refuse to let them go! So here is a list of albums that has not made it to my list of Headphone Commute's Best of 2008, but have been in my rotation since the publication, and deserve to be recognized in this flashback to 2008.

See the entire list only on Headphone Commute.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

20 Compilations and Mixes of 2009 [part 2]

Here are ten more entries to complete Headphone Commute's 20 Compilations and Mixes of 2009. I've been trying to get these off of my chest for a whole year! Now that I'm finally sharing these recommendations with you, I feel much better. There is an amazing selection of music below, spanning across a variety of genres such as downtempo, psybient, modern classical, experimental, ambient, dark and crunchy IDM, dubstep, and everything in between!

Read part one of the article only on Headphone Commute.

Rena Jones - Indra's Web (Cartesian Binary)

It's not so uncommon to see classically trained pianists turn to electronic music production. After all, it's not a huge stretch from the piano to a midi controller keyboard. It's considerably rarer to find producers who are actually cellists and violinists by training. But Rena Jones is certainly not your garden variety producer. She's a multi-instrumentalist and sound engineer with more than 20 years of classical violin study and 12 years of the cello behind her. That background is reflected in Indra's Web, her fourth solo album and the first on her newly established label, Cartesian Binary Recordings. Indra's Web weaves together weighty downtempo electronica with swooning modern classical, with Jones backed up on more than half of the album by three string players from the New Millennium Orchestra. Jones is also credited with vocals, mixing, programming and Rhodes, and the album also features a live drummer, a clarinetist and a vocalist. In addition to the graceful strings, the album is marked by a hefty bottom end and gently skittering percussion as well as the intricate and spellbinding compositions, which do full justice to the album's name. Indra's Web is a metaphor found in Buddhism and Hinduism for "the structure of reality, representing the interconnectedness and interdependency of all things, describing a rich and diverse universe where infinitely repeated mutual relations exist between all of its elements and entities." That's as good of a way as any to describe the music. It immediately grabs hold of you and sucks you in but the songs are not so easily digested on the first listen. They're subtle and, like elaborate labyrinths, they take time to reveal themselves. You need to explore the nooks and crannies before you can find your way out. But they're beautiful, enchanted labyrinths, green and flowery, and time moves in hazy slow motion inside of them. I will resist the urge to discuss individual songs (except to say that the one-two punch of On the Drift and Point of Existence is a knockout). Suffice it to say that Indra's Web is an extremely rewarding album and unique in the way it combines beat-driven electronic music with classical moods. It's seamlessly done, completely blurring the lines between genres. It's as good of an illustration as any of the inevitable futility of categorizing art. This is simply beautiful music that will endure.

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Review by Tigon |

Two and a Half Questions with Rena Jones

With all that classical cello and violin training, how did you get into synths and producing?
I think it all really began when I was about 14 and started playing with four tracks. I believe I had a little casio keyboard and a 4 track and just slowly worked my way up to digital audio workstations, soft-synths, consoles and outboard gear. For as long as I can remember, I was always looking at ways that I could compose and produce music on my own and to me it has always felt like a natural progression in my search to expand my sonic palette. I have always been as equally fascinated by the technology and development of music as well as studying the craft of perfecting a live instrument so for me studying how to build circuits and mix on a 72 channel console or program a synth in Reaktor or mastering a style on the cello were all working towards the same goal.

The way classical and electronic traditions come together in your music is really like a meeting of equals. It truly blurs the line between genres. Is that a conscious decision? What does each tradition have to offer, in your mind?
I do really enjoy blurring the line of genres and have spent many years trying to prefect that equality or balance in the songs. I think blending electronic and organic is actually a very difficult thing to pull off well and the more the lines are blurred the better. Plus I never really understood the madness with genres to be honest. Half of the genres are the same beat just slowed down or speed up a few BPM. I'd rather look at a track in the mindset of, does that song make me feel, does it tell the story and paint a picture or does it just make me nod my head etc..

Indra's Web is a Buddhist concept about the interconnectedness of all things. Is your choice of this metaphor for your album a reflection of your own beliefs?
The philosophy I think is a beautiful metaphor just as most philosophies are. There is a lot to be said however, for how intricately our world is interconnected. There are many philosophies based on this idea including grand Mother Spider which is a Native American philosophy. New advances in quantum physics and science are showing us a similar concept as well including the holographic universe, fractal theory and the butterfly effect. So to answer your question, on some level yes this is a part of my belief structure but I equally believe that getting attached to any one idea is bad and that the moment humans get attached to any dogma or religion we have missed the point entirely. Plus, I think the concept just really lends itself towards great art...

The album is released on your own label, Cartesian Binary Recordings. First of all, what does that intriguing name represent? And why did you decide to start your own label?
I started the label for many reasons, most importantly to have fewer people between me and my fans gobbling up the funds as well as complete artistic freedom but also to develop stronger relations in the licensing world for games and film. The music business is changing every second and it's important these days if an artist wants to survive that they must have a very strong business mindset as well as an artistic one as well. Long gone are the days of getting "signed" and making it. However, if you have a smart business model and really go for it as an individual, you can actually make it work. As for the name of the label, it really has two meanings. Cartesian as in cartesian coordinate system which is basically an x/y grid. This idea was playing on the concept that math and music are interchangeable and that music is math and vice versa. Then the other play on Cartesian is the Cartesian Philosophy or dualism The word "Cartesius" is the latin form of the name Descartes. Cartesian dualism is simply Descartes concept of dualism "cogito ergo sum" "I think therefore I am". In this philosophy he reasons the body can be divided into parts but that the mind and soul are indivisible.

Any projects in the works? What can we expect from you in the future?
At the moment, I am working on a new EP for Spring 2010 as well as some new releases for the label including a remix CD and a compilation and hopefully will also be releasing other artists on my label in the future. There's also a few random quest appearances on strings I am working on right now with a handful of producers and a small tour in the works.

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Two and a Half Questions written by Tigon. |

Sunday, December 6, 2009

20 Compilations and Mixes of 2009 [part 1]

Compilations are notoriously difficult to cover. Usually, when I write an article on a collection of tracks, I spend some time capturing a specific theme or concept that the volume is made up of, and then feverishly rattle off the contributors. It’s tough to encapsulate the theme otherwise. That doesn’t mean that I don’t listen to them, of course. There are plenty of mixes and compilations that make it to the top of my rotations.

Read part one of the article only on Headphone Commute.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Best of 2009 – Your Votes

December is here. Can you believe it? A year of music already gone. A DECADE of music, if you will, is behind us. And something barely audible is already stretching its tentacles into 2010 to begin another trend. But before we leap into the new year, I think it’s time we celebrate 2009 the only way that I know. So help me out with your votes for Best of 2009! Here’s what I need from you. I’ll make it easy, but please stick to the format in order to help me compile all of this at the end.

Submit your for best of 2009

Thank you!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Richard Anthony Jay - This Is What I Live For (Burning Petals)

This beautiful release may be Richard Anthony Jay's debut album but he is not some fresh, precocious new talent that's popped up out of nowhere. Richard has been working in the music industry for 20 of his 37 years. He's worked as a studio engineer in London, arranged pop songs for a variety of artists, and written music for advertising and TV. After a lifelong love-hate relationship with the business, he finally decided to strike out on his own. Richard tends to get lumped together with people like Max Richter and Ólafur Arnalds under the "neo-classical" label and he is obviously trying quite consciously to position himself in that camp. But the fact is that he stands quite apart from them. Although he cites Dead Can Dance, the Cocteau Twins and Michael Nyman as major influences, Richard's music is unabashedly classical. I mean straight-ahead, old-school classical. Like they used to write in Vienna 300 years ago. OK, maybe not quite, but almost. You could mistake some of the music here for chamber music pieces by one of the grand masters of the romantic era. Many of the recent crop of modern classical composers, including Richter and Arnalds, have successfully mixed genres, i.e. crossed classical with electronic or ambient music. And their music tends to be relatively minimal compared to the old classics. If that's what you're expecting when you put this album on, you might initially be put off. There's not a single glitch, synth pad, stab of white noise or field recording to be found. Just warm, clear and untreated strings and piano, and beautiful romantic music. About as far as Richard goes outside these bounds is to add a splash of reverb here and there to provide a bit of ambiance. But even this is done with great discretion. I saw a tweet from Ólafur Arnalds the other day saying that he was about to record some Rhodes parts for his new album. That's just something that seems so alien to the world of This Is What I Live For. In the Beginning sets the tone for the album with a full and emotive string section laying the foundation for a passionate solo violin passage, with the piano joining in to bolster the bottom end. Members of the Hallé, Britain's longest-established professional orchestra, are featured on almost every track, bringing the compositions to life. While the romantic style may initially put you on the defensive, if you put aside your preconceptions and give this music a second chance, it'll draw you into its warm embrace. You have to just decide to let go and enjoy the feast that's set before you. Pieces like 25th March 1996 and Fragile are simply gorgeous and you have to be a Grinch not to be touched by them. Frankly, it's a surprise that Richard Anthony Jay waited this long to let the rest of us in on his secret. But This Is What I Live For is notable for its maturity and grace so maybe he picked just the right time.

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This Is What I Live For is released by Burning Petals Records. This is the label's initial release, promising to deliver more sounds that "live in the space between downtempo electronica and ambient classical". The above text is written and contributed by Tigon. | |

Two and a Half Questions with Richard Anthony Jay

After 20 years in the music industry, working mostly behind the scenes, Richard Anthony Jay recently decided to step forward into the spotlight with his wonderful debut album of warm and stirring neo-classical music, This Is What I Live For. Here, Richard reflects on his ups and downs in the business and what inspired him to finally strike out on his own. He tells us about his love of melody and why he's a "lazy minimalist".

Richard, what took you so long?
Well, that's a long story but I'll give you the short version! I started writing music at the age of 14 and left school at 16 to train as a sound engineer at a local recording studio. After moving to London a few years later, I effectively became freelance, working as an arranger/programmer, for unsigned bands, to earn some money and then concentrating on my own music in my spare time. And there was a lot of spare time in those days. I guess that I wanted to be a film composer then, like every other guy who writes instrumental music in his bedroom, and I never at any point thought that I could be an "artist" releasing records under my own name. I guess there were two reasons why: firstly, I was - and indeed still am - very shy so I've never sought attention, but secondly, in those days, early 1990s, there was no obvious market for my music, at least not that I could see. The big chill-out movement hadn't happened and contemporary composers like Philip Glass and Michael Nyman were not big names. So, after a chance meeting with a talented young singer who was looking for a writing partner, I guess it's no surprise that I ended up on a 10-year detour in "pop" music and put my own passion for classical fusion, to one side.

What made you finally take the leap from behind the scenes into the spotlight?
I got hugely burnt out after 10 years in pop, and it took me a few years to figure out why. It was a pretty bad time actually. I was happy in my personal life but my passion for music had completely gone. I didn't listen to music anymore and didn't even own a stereo. The only music I heard was on the car radio as an alternative to listening to the engine. And the cause of all this, I believe, is that over the years I'd become more and more focused on writing music to earn money, or at least be commercially successful, and the only way to be successful - or so I believed - was to concentrate on commercial music and not write the kind of music that I really wanted to. Throughout those earlier years, people in the music industry - A&R, producers, etc. - had often commented on the classical influences in the songs I was writing and believe me it wasn't always meant as a compliment. So after a few years away from music, I very slowly felt the urge to write again. And I started to notice that there were other guys out there, like me: thirty-something, ordinary-looking men who were writing minor-key, classically influenced music, a million miles from what you hear on commercial radio, and seemingly having success with it. Some of them were classically trained and some, like me, were not - it didn't seem to matter. It was a very slow realisation process, to where I finally thought: if they can do it, why can't I?

Your music seems to be more steeped in the classical tradition than the works of the modern composers you are sometimes compared to, like Max Richter and Olafur Arnalds. How do you place yourself? And how do you see the whole issue of “genre”?
It would be almost impossible to find new music that we'd like if there was no such things as genres, or "pigeon-holing": we wouldn't know where to begin looking. So overall I have no problem with being categorised but it really depends on the point of reference of those doing the categorisation. For example, I see artists referred to as contemporary classical who are nowhere near classical as far as I'm concerned. Likewise, I'm sure many people in the classical establishment would say that I'm nowhere near classical! So, it can sometimes be a bit misleading and, given that the genre of "classical" covers at least 500 years of music, it's probably impossible to say exactly what constitutes "classical" anyway. I'm probably a lazy minimalist: I start of with a minimalist idea but then get bored quickly, and expand it to the point where it's not really minimal anymore :) Also, I love melody so that's very important to me. Some writers prefer texture over melody, but not me. I like people to remember my work. Have you ever tried humming a texture? It's not easy. Actually, my music is probably a reflection of how I communicate with others in day-to-day life. For example, if I had to phone you up about something, the conversation would be over in two minutes, because I usually get straight to the point and cut out all the boring, unnecessary bits. So when I write a piece of music, I pretty much do the same.

Tell us a little bit about the album. Is there a unifying theme? Are the pieces all written specifically for this album or have you been collecting them over a longer period of time?
The album covers almost 20 years of writing. The first track ("In The Beginning") was written when I was 17, the second track ("Milan") was the month before the album was finished, when I was 36. "Washington Subway" was 2008, whereas "25th March 1996" was started on that date, but then revisited in 2008. So, from one track to the next it's jumping from teenager to thirty-something. I think future albums will be different, simply because they will cover a much shorter period of my life. At least, I hope the next one doesn't take 20 years again!

What are you listening to these days?
Loads of different things, as is always the case. I like a lot of world music, especially Celtic & Klezmer, and crossover artists such as Cesaria Evora and Yann Tiersen. Film music pioneers like John Barry, Henry Mancini and Ennio Morricone have played a big part in my musical upbringing. I'm listening to Trespassers William a lot at the moment as well as Keran Ann, Nick Drake & Yael Naim. From the classical side, Michael Nyman, Philip Glass & Max Richter are my favourite living composers. Bach, Ravel & Rachmaninov from the past.

What’s ahead for Richard Anthony Jay?
I have a side-project, called Marble Hill, and its first album 'Imperfect Beauty' will be released in 2010. It features drums, bass, guitars and synths, alongside my regular piano and strings. Early in 2010 I'll start work on the follow-up to 'This Is What I Live For'. I also hope to work on a film and maybe a ballet as well. Finally, I'm thinking about putting together a string quartet to play some live shows - I haven't played live in almost 15 years, and that was only to accompany a singer, so it's quite a big deal to me!

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Two and a Half Questions with Richard Anthony Jay written by Tigon. |

Friday, November 27, 2009

20 EPs of 2009 [part 2]

Finally published part 2 of this writeup! Sorry for the delay.
Read entire article only on Headphone Commute.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

20 EPs of 2009 [part 1]

As the year draws to a close, and I start thinking about the upcoming Best of 2009 list, I realize that I haven’t properly covered some 12" singles, EPs and mini albums. These tend to fall off my reviewing queue, mostly because in some cases it’s difficult to do a proper writeup for only a few tracks. However, they tend to haunt me, refusing to go away until I share with you these words. So here they are, in alphabetical order by artist, some of my favorite singles of 2009 (so far).

Read entire article only on Headphone Commute.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hecq Mixtape One

Oi oi oi! Do I have a treat for you! I'm about to set off for a two week vacation, but before I go, I want to present you with an amazing mix from none other than Ben Lukas Boysen, aka Hecq! As you could have already guessed from these pages, I am a big fan of Hecq's dark and crunchy IDM and his amazing modern classical compositions. I usually end up including at least one of his tracks in most of my mixes. In the beginning of this year I sang praise to his latest album, Steeltongued (Hymen, 2009), following up with Two and a Half Questions With Hecq. In 2008, his Night Falls (Hymen, 2008) album arrived at the tier 1 of our Absolute Musts, in Headphone Commute's Best of 2008. And when I revisited the Top 50 of 2007, his album, 0000 (Hymean, 2007) showed up on the list once again. Even the owner of Tympanik Audio, Paul Nielsen, has revealed that he would be honored to have a release by Hecq on his label, in our Tympanik Audio Label Profile. Enough said?

Download free mix, and see full track listing only on Headphone Commute

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Vladislav Delay - Tummaa (Leaf)

Listening to Tummaa requires preparation. At least, it requires knowledge of the intent behind this album. Let me set the stage. The intent is 'darkness'. And this is its music. Tummaa reflects the mood recreated by Sasu Ripatti, composing under the moniker Vladislav Delay, while living on a remote island in the Baltic Sea during the time of year known as 'kaamos' (polar night). This is precisely the time from December to February, where there is only a few hours of light per day. This overall feeling of darkness made an enormous impression on Ripatti. The track titles alone construct the following message: Kuula (Kiitos) means Bullet (Thank You); Mustelmia means Bruises; Musta Planeetta - Black Planet; Toive - Wish; and finally Tunnelivisio (ok, can you guess that one?) - Tunnel Vision. Ripatti last made a sizable impression on me with his previous album, Whistleblower, released on his own label, Huume, in 2007. Now, back in Finland after seven years of living in Berlin, Ripatti returns with a few elements from his roots as a percussionist. The album may take more than a few listens for the followers of Vladislav Delay's to get into the groove. There is no dub on here. Instead, gentle piano riffs and Rhodes licks are interrupted with clicks, chirps and musique concrète snippets of sounds snatched from a variety of metallic and industrial sources. Even a deep rumbling sigh becomes a bass here. This is Ripatti's return to the source of acoustic and organic. “I wanted to take a new direction with Vladislav Delay, with more acoustic sound sources,” he explains. “I avoided as much electronics as possible, wanting to bring myself closer to my background as a drummer and percussionist. [...] I just love hitting things... making sounds physically without needing a power plug.” The album incorporates some abstract and jazzy improvisation featuring a live trio – Lucio Capece on saxophone and clarinet, Craig Armstrong on the keys, and Ripatti on percussion. After intensive sample manipulation, some modulations remind me of descending spaceships from the 70s. Some sound a lot like circuit bending emissions. Some sounds are like nothing I've ever heard before (from an organic source). All of this is blended with the swirls of abstract effects, sporadic glitches and scattered ambiance, floating in a three dimensional stereo field. Through this dark and somber concoction, full of dread and isolation, we descend into Tummaa. I can imagine the overall recording to be a flashback to a bad psychedelic trip. At times groovy, hypnotic, and rough around the edges. The entire experience will keep your ears prickled up, and your eyes wide open. A serious juxtaposition of sounds even for a seasoned listener. Be sure to check out Ripatti's percussion work as a member of Moritz Von Oswald Trio (with Max Loderbauer and of course, Morritz von Oswald) on their latest release, Vertical Ascent (Honest Jon's Records, 2009), as well as his other works under aliases like Conoco, Luomo, Sistol, and Uusitalo. Oh, and don't forget his collaboration with Antye Greie as AGF/Delay and their 2009 release, Symptoms out on BPitch Control. | |

Two and a Half Questions with Vladislav Delay

Tell us a bit more about the winter that you spent on a remote island. What were you doing there? How did it shape your mind as an artist?
i think location as a direct influence to music is overrated. it's not so important as the end result is almost the same, but at least for me the influence is shaping me as a person, and only then second hand the effect touches my work and art. as long as i feel good as a person i don't have that bothering or influencing my music, but if it does interfere it's not really possible to be creative and productive. but anyway dark winter time (as opposed to late winter when it's very clear and sunny) it's good to go out and be active. i got totally hooked on cross country skiing so that's what i did as much as i could. i also just totally immersed in the winter while doing regular stuff like going to shop or bring my daughter to kindergarten and so on. what i really loved was driving car on ice, as we live on the island which is about 8 km from the mainland. early spring with tons of sun and clear sky and only snow white and clear blue colors, driving on an ocean is something very inspiring.

Was there a specific event that prompted you to take Vladislav Delay in a new direction? Was it your involvement in Mortz Von Oswald Trio?
i had been thinking about doing Delay stuff with acoustic and/or different sources for actually quite a while but i took my time to develop the idea and see it more clearly. i guess also MVOT had something to do with it but not much, just slowly things reached necessary levels to go ahead with it.

What are some of your sources for percussion? Do you record it all yourself?
all percussion stuff is done by myself, recorded with just 1-2 microphones. the instruments range from "known" percussion instruments to abstract metal sculptures and handmade stuff and obscure particles that make sound when hit. all over the place.

What was the collaboration with Lucio Capece and Craig Armstrong like? Did you all get together to work on a piece or was it an ongoing bouncing of ideas?
with Craig i only sent him rough basic ideas and he played what he felt like at his studio in Glasgow. Lucio came to my then-studio in Berlin to record and we'd play together, him in the recording booth with headphones and myself in the studio feeding him sounds and processing his sound very heavily. he'd hear this treat sometimes, sometimes not. but also for him the backing tracks were very bare, actually they were only very minimal drum loops i had recorded with my set. i think nothing that was there then made it to the album.

How much on the album is attributed due to improvisation?
quite a bit, i can't make a calculation that would make sense but anyway the whole basic sound, the sound sources and the vibe there is from improvisation, and also while producing and mixing the album i as always rely a lot on random elements and improvisational techniques. it's definitely most improvised album i have done so far.

There are some strange effects that almost bend the sound. Can you shed some light behind your techniques on this production?
well basically i just force the sound through whatever i have around, usually it's quite complex effects chains, to a point where i can't recall or remember what has been done. but also i try to be aware of what i have been doing before and not repeating that either so it becomes more and more difficult to find techniques, gear, etc i haven't used before. then again when i manage that it usually sounds quite interesting.

Tell us about the Vladislav Delay Quartet.
actually i'm on a plane packed with my cymbals and all, on my way to do some shows with Quartet and then go to studio in Belgrade to record stuff for the first album. the group is for me the first time a chance to play really a drum set since more than 10 years, very exciting for sure. musically it's to be seen still where we go because it's improvised, we haven't played much together yet and also we all have been writing some stuff and ideas and we'll meet now in Berlin first to figure stuff out. line up is besides myself Mika Vainio who processes all the live stuff and does some real-time sampling etc, then there's Derek Shirley in double-bass and Lucio in bass clarinet and sax. |

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ben Frost - By The Throat (Bedroom Community)

I first listened to Ben Frost when he released his sophomore full length album, Theory Of Machines on Bedroom Community back in 2007. I described his music as ambient hardcore - psychologically raw, punishing, and overdriven guitars, with reverberated pads and rhythms that mutate into white noise and back, sending chills that originate deep from within your ear canal and slide down to your toenails. That album left a lasting impression on me. Enough to select it as one of the best albums of the year. I didn't think that Theory Of Machines could be outdone... That is... until I put on By The Throat. While listening to Theory Of Machines, I compared Frost's sound to that of an angry furry armadillo, creeping up the inside of my legs with a cold long needle, leaving me drenched in sweat. And with this latest installment, the chills rise up my spine and hold me, in perpetual, electric shock. The cover art alone puts into my mind the images of my final moments, lying naked on the snow, steam rising from the breath of a hungry wolf, his teeth sunk into my throat. And the track titles do not let up. Through The Glass Of The Roof, Through The Roof Of Your Mouth, Through The Mouth Of Your Eye. And the music? Dark grinding metallic strings scratched through distorted pads, deep breaths, growls, and choking melodies. The intensity of the bass and guitar riffs create instant goose bumps, tickling the inside of my ears, and clawing at my chest. White knuckled at the seat, I think I accidentally scratched a healing scab off of my back and now I'm bleeding through this white collar shirt, the tie restricting my cries. Let me out! I've heard some dark and terrifying ambiance in my lifetime, but Frost's onslaught is incredible. I stand applauding. And the production? We've got top notch mastering going on here, with perfectly sampled strings played with dry bows over thumping kick, and rising voices. With contributions from Jeremy Gara of The Arcade Fire, Icelandic quartet Amiina, Swedish grindcore band Crowpath, and of course, the classical touch of Nico Muhly the roster of artists is exciting alone. Oh, and did I mention that it was co-produced by Valgeir Sigurðsson? It was created under the cloak of nocturnal snow in the far northern reaches of financial-fantasy island, a concept borne of Frost and weapons manufacturer, war monger and evil genius Sruli Recht, captured by the all-seeing-eye of Bjarni Gríms and forged in the fires of hell by Rebeca Mendéz Frost's music is all about contrast - merging beautiful classical minimalism with the dirty grind of metal and drone core. This combination is unsettling to the mind, refusing to split in half and choose between the genres. Born in Australia, Frost is now living in Reykjavik, Iceland - home of the above mentioned artists, and of course Sigurðsson’s acclaimed Bedroom Community label. His debut solo album, titled Steel Wound, was released on Room40 in 2003. There's also a two-track digital EP, released together with Lawrence English, titled Anyone Can Play... Anyone Can Sing (Dreamland, 2004). In 2007, Frost released Theory Of Machines on Bedroom Community, and spent the next two years cooped up to dream up this nightmare. Let me restate my earlier conviction: By The Throat is even better than Theory Of Machines - a feat I thought impossible to bear. This is the music of suspense. The terror of the unknown. The ethereal melody at the end of the tunnel that gets cemented off a few inches away from your desperate crawl. The piano keys expand and shrink with pressure, and the white and black chip off and vanish. The tension ends with the last track, and although you can exhale, you want to feel the angst again. You want to feel. You want to feel... |

Two and a Half Questions With Ben Frost

How long did it take you to actually compose this album?
2 years more or less. This is true of most of my work, I would have liked it to be less, as after 1 year it could easily become 3, or 4 and then you start getting into Geoff Barrow/Kevin Shields territory, its a slippery slope.

Tell us a bit about collaborating with Valgeir Sigurðsson on the album?
I saw a blind person waiting at the crossing with his guide dog yesterday and I watched the way the man reacted as he heard the steps of everyone around him begin to walk. I watched his body twitch with the near certainty that he was safe to walk, and yet he waited that extra couple of seconds for the beast to react accordingly- he waited for the specialist; solidifying and supporting that instinctual visceral reaction with the trusted, watchful eye

Can you shed some light on some of your production techniques?
-Set up 2 unmatched microphones on an instrument, one ribbon, one valve condenser at odd, totally unequal distances from the sound source.
-Record for some time.
- Take the material mute one channel, place it mono and then play along to it, recording a "duplicate" with the same setup again
- Splice the left channel from the first recording with the left channel of the second, and vice versa
- Drop one of the new mutant stereo pairs down an octave, remove all the bottom end from it so you are only left with the very high frequencies and then blend it with the other stereo pair
-Repeat the process with similar instruments, all performing the same material, splicing, repeating, shifting octaves up and down, blending further
- Shape the summed image using a combination of an SPL transient designer and the Apple audio units graphic eq- the one that you get with garageband
-Render out a mixed recording of the whole piece through a Manley pultec and then delete all the original material from existence

What is the balance between acoustic and electronic in your work?
I dont think about that, I have never thought about that, I really dont know how to answer that question- all instruments, acoustic electronic or other wise are simply means to an end which is beyond any calculable sum of its parts.

Who is the protagonist in this dark soundtrack, and what is his story?
What this record means to me is not what it should mean to anyone else.

The wolves seem to play an important role. Can you elaborate on their appearance in the music? Did you sample the growling yourself?
They are the children of the night right? Simply I am just drawn to anything that operates in life at a purely primal level; animal, mineral or vegetable. I didn't want to hear their presence on this record as an oppressive, threatening sound. It is not intended that way. Wolf song is the most magnificent natural summation of unity and harmony in darkness I could conjour- I could listen to it forever.

What is it about Ben Frost that makes him create this kind of music?
I am not trying to be evasive but I just simply dont know how to answer that question. I am a musician, I am a composer, an artist, a creator, or whatever fucking label anyone cares to put on what I do, but ultimately I would be doing this whether it was loved, hated, socially acceptable, reprehensible or irrelevant. I would not know how to not do this- it is no more complicated than that. |

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Solo Andata - Solo Andata (12k)

Close the doors and turn up the sound. This is ambiance that needs to be really heard. Quietly chirping submerged engines are silenced by waves of bowed cello. The sound of rippling water seeps through the drones of strings. This is the organic world of Solo Andata - an Australian duo comprised of Paul Fiocco and Kane Ikin. Having previously released their debut, Fyris Swan (Hefty, 2006), the duo got picked up by 12k, and contributed a recording to Live In Melbourne (12k, 2008), appearing among tracks by Seaworthy, and label owner, Taylor Deupree. Solo Andata is their highly anticipated release for the New York minimal and ambient label. The album is mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi and is accompanied by a mini booklet of 8-piece photography by Deupree himself. This is a warm album, covering you with a blanket of organic materials, natural field recordings, and swells of ambient soundscapes. The restraint and delicate touch within this production stops time, thought, and all of the pain. Solo Andata is the sensual reflexology for the mind. The concept behind the album, reveals "a theme of travel from cold to warm, water to earth, fluidity to stasis, conceptually representing a thread between water and land." The meditative nature of these pieces focuses the inner ear on within, while the outer contemplates without. At the epicenter lies the focus of the album, Look For Me Here. This is the place that you reach after descending through the laid out paths of an early morning forest, quiet nights, and misty caves. This beautiful track is also available from the label as a single, with remixes by the above mentioned Giuseppe Ielasi and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Make sure to grab that one. And by the time Loom comes out with a crying cello by Louise McKay, you're truly in love. Fans of Hildur Guðnadóttir will melt within. The duo uses barely any electronic instruments. Most of the heard sounds are resonating from strings, voices, guitar and a piano. The sourced material has been painstakingly captured, post-processed, and folded back into the pieces, often reflecting the origin within the titles. For example, “Woods Flesh Bone” actually records wood, flesh (from a dead chicken) and bones. “Canal Rocks” contains a recording of wind through the rocks in a small alcove in southwestern Australia called Canal Rocks. “Hydraulic Fluctuations” is a recording of the fluid fluctuations inside a large pump, “Ablation” is ice and wind. Highly recommended for all wonders of 12k, above mentioned artists, plus Richard Skelton, Lawrence English, and Christopher Bissonnette. Bravo, 12k! Well done! This is a great catch, hold onto this one. And I'll be more than eager to follow this group along its intricately formed path, even if their way is only one way, the solo andata. | |

Two and a Half Questions with Solo Andata

Tell us about Solo Andata and what the name means to you.
SA (Paul): Solo Andata is a duo from Australia. One-half (Kane Ikin) lives in the East (Melbourne), and the other (Paul Fiocco) in the West (Perth). I discovered the name ‘Solo Andata‘ whilst traveling by train from Rome to Sicily in 2004. It means ‘one-way’ in Italian.

Tell us a bit about your recording process. How do you capture "flesh and bones"?
SA (Paul): To record, we mainly use a field recorder with various condenser mics (hydrophones and contacts for example) as well as a few more traditional studio mics. Our recording process is more concerned with finding incredible sounds that are already around us, rather than processing or synthesizing to get the result we want. Except for pitch and some reverb, most of the sounds are very raw. I recorded “flesh and bones” by placing both a contact mic and a field recorder on a chicken carcass and then, using my hands and various knives, tore it apart.

How did you guys meet? And how did you bring in Louise McKay into the project?
SA (Paul):
We met in Perth. That’s where Kane is originally from. We met at an experimental music night we both regularly attended. For Louise, I have a friend who’s father is in the Perth Symphony Orchestra, he recommended that I use her when I was looking for a cellist.

What is the story being told in in your music?
SA (Paul): Tracks, for us, are images and sensations. The story is for the listener.

How do you balance the organic and electronic instrumentation in your work?
SA (Kane): It's never a pre set out course when we're writing, The songs kind of evolve and find a balance on their own, though saying that, for our latest record virtually all the sounds are organic with the exception of some electric guitar.

What about Taylor Deupree? Tell us about getting signed to his 12k label.
SA (Kane): I met Taylor when I was asked to support him at a show in Melbourne, we exchanged emails and cd's and subsequently he released the live recording of that night on 12k. Later that year we travelled to New York to work on music together and also meet up with Taylor. We went to his house, took a long walk through the woods and showed him some sketches of what would later become our self titled record. |

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Scanner - Rockets, Unto The Edges Of Edges (BineMusic)

Robin Rimbaud spent his life listening to others. In his early works, Rimbaud tuned into the airwaves to pluck out pieces of radio, mobile phone conversations and police broadcasts. These were intricately edited and folded back into his compositions, producing an experimental genre of his own, often gathering international admiration from the likes of Aphex Twin and even Stockhausen. This is yet another one of Rimbaud's albums as Scanner, adding to his e-n-d-l-e-s-s discography (seriously huge), spawning collaborations with DJ Spooky, Alva Noto, Kim Cascone, and Vitiello among many others. And Rockets, Unto The Edges Of Edges does not disappoint. The album starts off with vocal samples, strums of guitar and Rimbaud's own gentle singing. That is until the kick drops and bounces away. The distorted bits and pieces of voices continue to dominate the background of Scanner's recordings. We are, after all, eavesdropping. This mixture of acoustic instrumentation and electronic treatments evolves, introducing a full on string ensemble conducted in the rhythm of solid beat and bitcrushed percussion. And by the time I arrive at track three, titled Anna Livia Plurabelle, which is full of classical operetta vocals by the acclaimed soprano Patricia Rozario, crying in angst, I realize the grandiose accomplishment of Scanner's work, painting a cinematic masterpiece from lost and found fragments. The rest is just as beautiful. Speckles of found voices, radar transmissions, and environmental recordings are hardly intrusive in this purely musical piece. "The ghostly presence of William Burroughs and philosopher Bertrand Russell weave their way through some of the pieces, opening into the dark heart of "Yellow Plains Under White Hot Blue Sky", an epic, almost menacing work, with corrosive voices, noises and abstract shapes over a primordial electronic beat, that continues to build and ignite with bowed strings into a picturesque precise explosion." Although I can't say that I've heard every album by Rimbaud, I can definitely agree with the critics that this is his most mature and personal album to date. A soundtrack to a voyeur's life finally turned inwards. This is organic, this is digital, this is modern classical at its best. Completely unexpected and highly recommended for fans of Max Richter and Jóhann Jóhannsson. Pick up your copy from the Essen (Germany) based BineMusic, while I scratch this winner onto my upcoming Best of 09. Need I say more? See more of Rimbaud's current and upcoming work in my Two and a Half Questions with Scanner. | |

Two and a Half Questions with Scanner

This is the first time we're hearing your voice. What prompted this revelation?
I've always been keen to humanise digital music and technology and have always used voices in my work since the earliest scanned phonecall recordings of the 1990s, but felt that I wanted to offer more of a personal connection. I wanted the voice to sound as if someone is simply humming along to the music in an intimate way, casual and gently.

Tell us a bit about your sample of William Burroughs. What is the message that you're conveying with his words?
Burroughs is a figure who has inevitably influenced my ideas and creative approaches over the years since I was a teenager and at the legendary Final Academy performances in London. His notion of cut-ups developed with Brion Gysin was inspiring in terms of finding something new in convention and using his voice in another form here inside the music, cutting and pasting lines from different readings and presentations, was a way to offer a human presence again within an electronic field. The meaning is less important here, more a deconstruction of language.

What about your collaboration with Patricia Rozario? What prompted you to bring her into this work, and what was the production experience like?
Patricia and I had previously worked on the soundtrack to the contemporary dance piece Faultline and we performed several live shows together. She has frequently worked with composers such as Arvo Part and John Taverner so felt a strong affinity with her. I composed this piece for her to sing over and in fact she improvised all of the vocal lines here to the music in the studio to spine-chilling effect. She's an amazing Indian singer.

What's next and what are you working on right now?
That's always the exhausting question :-) I'm Visiting Professor at Le Fresnoy art school in France at this very moment, whilst continuing to travel the world constantly for performance, installation, composition. In addition...

I have a new album, a theatre soundtrack coming out in Italy in November, 'Consegnaci, bambina, i tuoi occhi', released on SMS contemporanea_Siena
I just completed the soundtrack for the global campaign for the new Samsung Corby telephone
I am composing a new film soundtrack for Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde to be premiered in Vienna this year and then to tour around the world in 2010-2011
Kirkou & Karaba, the children's musical I composed, recently came out on DVD in France and is touring again throughout France
I just completed the soundtrack to a film Oops Wrong Planet, directed by Anouk de Clercq
I just completed the soundtrack to a film Evaders, directed by Ori Gersht
My work can be heard in the amazing new Darwin extension built in the London Natural History Museum, where I soundtracked the DNA sequence of mosquitoes
I just completed a new album with American composer David Rothenberg to be released in 2010
and so on :-) |

Saturday, October 10, 2009

KiloWatts - Undercurrent (Somnia)

In terms of technique, Jamie Watts, the man behind KiloWatts, is an extremely accomplished producer; he knows how to make music that sounds great. His last full-length album, Ground State, released on Evan Bartholomew's Native State Records, stood out for its fresh and chunky sound. It featured a rolling mid-tempo groove, using mostly an acoustic drum sample set, to go with dynamic and full-bodied synths that displayed Watt's taste for thick, growling lead sounds in the lower register. At times, the bass took center stage and propelled the music forward, like on the excellent track Dub Serious. Watts has tried his hand at a variety of genres. His last few releases have ranged from the mid-tempo IDM grooves of Ground State to the tech house of the Snakewinds and Love on Saturn EPs, both released on Noah Pred's minimal techno and house offshoot of Native State, Thoughtless Music. Now, with Undercurrent, he's followed Evan over to his new Somnia label for a stab at downtempo/ambient. “With this album, I wanted to focus on the essence of melody and expose it in a raw form through the electronic medium," says Watts. "The source of the main melodies came from repetitive hooks I found myself sporadically singing or humming during day to day business. Think of the joyful tunes whistled during a walk. These melodic mantras seem to pop up out of nowhere and go on repeating forever... From a larger perspective, I felt that the search for these melodies was similar to unearthing subconscious archetypes that drive reality. the process was like discovering an ever-flowing undercurrent of reality that can be translated directly into melody." The funny thing is that taken as a whole, the album is not defined by the strength of the melodies. There are a couple of standouts - Rode Falls and Ayandan - that are blessed with the kind of riffs that seem to have been around forever. They're like old friends you haven't seen for a while. The Undercurrent Is Love is also hummable if not as memorable. But more often than not the album is defined by the mood it evokes. Most of the tracks are based on short repeated motifs that ebb and flow with the undulating tide or the movement of the current. Opener Cascade Serenade flows by effortlessly, but most of the album is tinged with a darker hue. As if gray clouds are gathering and the waves are beginning to swell. There's an ominous undercurrent to Couette and Seed is vaguely sinister, like a snake slithering along just underneath the water's surface. On Nightshade, the crickets and other creatures of the night come out to play. The album culminates in the 12-minute The Moment Just Before Dawn, with a single phrase repeated over and over again like a persistent mantra, slowly building toward a majestic crescendo. The sonic landscape of Undercurrent is compact, with clearly defined boundaries. The sounds mostly seem to originate from the same source, as if Watts decided to stick with one trusted synth and one electric piano throughout the making of the album. Most significantly, he has largely - though thankfully not completely - done away with the beats that have been such a defining feature of his music until now. It has to be said that while there are moments of beauty on Undercurrent and the album as a whole grows on you, the tracks that make the biggest impression are the ones that have a pulse. Watts is most in his element when he's working with a beat, or at least a strong rhythmic element, such as on Rode Falls, Seed and Nightshade. The percussion, although further in the background than is usual for him, gives the songs a much more vivid presence and sense of development. Nevertheless, it's clear that Undercurrent has served to expand KiloWatts' horizons, even if the addition of one more genre to his discography risks confusing some of his audience. Be sure to check out Watt's digital releases on Thoughtless Music, Harmonious Discord, as well as his own outlet, KiloWatts Music (see Six Silicates EP). Also, looks like Jamie finally re-released his collaboration with Peter Van Ewijk as KiloWatts & Vanek titled Focus and Flow (Dependent, 2009).

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Original interview posted by Tigon on Tigon World.
Republished with permission of the author. |

Two and a Half Questions with KiloWatts

You've talked about the search for timeless melodies being an inspiration for the making of the album. It sounds like you believe that deep within the human subconsciousness there exists something akin to a reservoir of music that we can all tap into. Can you elaborate on that?
This might only be applicable to anyone who has spent a good period of time in their lives singing, but it's often that I find myself humming random looped musical phrases that accompany whatever I happen to be doing at the time. The idea of repeating phrases over and over is also well practiced in Buddhist theory as a means of obtaining enlightenment. The songs sung during ayahuasca ceremonies, called icaros, might have some relevance here as well since they're used as tools for guidance within the ayahuasca realm, which I believe is similar to a trip through the subconscious. Sound is vibration, and vibration can move matter. I'd venture to say that man has experimented with using the human voice for thousands of years to generate vibrations that can influence reality. Language itself is an offshoot of this primal discovery, as it is our words that are primarily responsible for creating our world in its current complexity. But if we zoom back a few thousand years to man's first mutterings, there just might have been an inkling of melody within them. Traditional musical theory came much, much later, but the idea of holding a steady tone was likely a pretty powerful achievement. Nowadays in the Western hemisphere, our 12-tone scale is ingrained into our heads from a pretty early age, so I think we can tap into our early discoveries of melody and apply them to the present moment. It's no doubt we have all sung our little hearts out as children. I believe we were doing something with sound that was greater than we truly understood at the time.

Undercurrent represents quite a change in gears for you, into more ambient/downtempo territory. Why did you choose to go this route?
I was growing a bit tired of aggressive music, and finding that it was only serving to create aggressive situations. I also felt a little that I had disconnected from a major part of my roots and I wanted to get back to that. I'm a student of melody and musical structure, so I wanted to return to that source and create something pure that was based on that alone.

There seems to be a particular synth sound standing out among various tracks, would you mind sharing with us what it is, and why dd you specifically choose to concentrate on that sound?
Well, the main synths in here are modified Reaktor ensembles: 2-Osc, and Carbon 2. I've made a number of tweaks under the hood, but the core sound comes from those. I think I stuck with them because they have a really clear pure tone, and they can be modified with ease from a sine wave into something otherworldly. 2-Osc has some interesting core-module stuff going on, so it has a unique analog sound to it. There are some unpredictable pitch and harmonic qualities to it, subtle and transparent enough that it's difficult to pinpoint. The filters on both are strong as well, and allowed for some deep expression. When transcribing melodies, it's not just the tones that are important, but also the inflections and ebb and flow of timbre and volume.

You haven't been bound to one particular genre with you music. Is this a sign of restlessness? Or just evidence of your broad musical tastes?
It's probably a sign of both, but it's all coming from the same place. I'm not attempting to exist solely in any particular genre, or even create any. I just love a whole lot of music. There's a line of continuity within what I make. Undercurrent looks into that, and if you look back it should be easy to see that all I'm really doing is making music. It's not only that, but what are my friends doing with music? What are my mentors doing with music? What do people want to hear? What do I need to hear for myself? This is all rather influential.

What does the future hold for KiloWatts?
Who knows? Spicy, sweet, savory, bland? All of the above?

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Interview by Tigon for Headphone Commute |

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Plastik Joy - 3:03 (n5MD)

Plastik Joy is an intriguing duo, if only for the fact that one of them, Cristiano Nicolini, is from Italy and the other, Fannar Ásgrímsson, is Icelandic. You can’t get any closer to “fire and ice” than that. The two met while studying audio engineering in Barcelona and began working together on a couple of songs at the end of 2007. Little did they know what a fortuitous decision it would be when they decided to establish a Myspace page shortly thereafter, in January 2008. First, Myspace led them to Swedish singer Sarah K. Hellström, who ended up writing the lyrics and melody and recording the vocals for their first tune, Hands. She didn’t actually meet Cristiano and Fannar in person until months after the song was completed. But more amazingly, in June 2008, they received a message on Myspace from Mike Cadoo, owner of renowned electronic music label n5MD, who had heard their songs on the site and wanted to discuss a record deal! One short month later, Plastik Joy had signed with the label. And now, 3:03, the debut album from the Myspace poster boys is here for all to hear. At first, if you're not in the right frame of mind, the dreamy, downtempo vibe of 3:03 may strike you as a bit too laid back - like the heat from the fire has melted the ice. But the simple, unassuming melodies grow on you. It’s an album that rewards – in fact, demands – repeated listening and immersion. You’ll come to love the undeniably warm, feel-good glow of Sleepy Quest for Coffee and Hands, the opening tracks of the album, which also happen to be the first two songs that the pair wrote together. From there, the rest of the album opens up like a budding flower. The subtle electronics and acoustic instrumentation, with mellow guitar in a prominent role, make for an addictive concoction. Although Plastik Joy employ several singers on the album, it comes across very much as an instrumental album. Rather than leading the way, the vocals more often than not serve like any other instrument, adding one more color to the bittersweet vibe. On Hands, for example, Hellström’s breathy vocals, which hint slightly at Nina Persson of The Cardigans, blend completely into the sonic landscape. There are one or two brief moments on 3:03 where the surface calm is broken by an outburst of noise, like an involuntary release of pent up energy, but in general, subtlety is the name of the game. It takes a great deal of skill and sensitivity to sustain an atmosphere of such refined delicacy throughout a whole album but Fannar and Cristiano carry it off with aplomb. Considering that this is just their first album, it whets the appetite for what's to come. 3:03 gets its name from the time of morning at which recording sessions usually ended and n5MD touts the album's "nocturnal vibe". There's definitely something to that. 63 (she was trying to sleep, I was trying to breathe), for example, is a pure lullaby. But the first half of the album conjures up images of late afternoons lounging on the beach with a cool drink in hand. If you're looking for something to relax to poolside, it'll most certainly do the trick. Just watch out you don't fall asleep in the sun.

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Original interview posted by Tigon on Tigon World.
Republished with permission of the author. | |