Thursday, April 30, 2009

Robert Logan - Inscape (Slowfoot)

This morning I'm a little bit on edge. In part because of continuous wet and cold weather that makes my bones and muscles ache. In part because of Robert Logan and his new release on Slowfoot titled Inscape. As I commute to music on my way to work, disturbing images flicker behind my eyelids: abandoned places, dark hallways, churning factories of the unknown. The industrial percussion grinds away in a moldy basement of an old asylum, where dreams become reality and nightmares turn to life. Somewhere deep within this dark flashback, a kitten walks up the piano keys, all skin and bone. The instrumentation on Inscape is comprised of sharp metallic needles, poking at the delicate tissue of your brain, reversing, glitching, and dancing in a distorted fury of lust for artificial coupling. The material is raw and synthetic, coming to life with a jolt of electricity and toxic chemical reactions. And that's just the first few tracks... Logan's previous release, Grinder EP (Slowfoot, 2008), has already been previously hailed by yours truly with the following observation: "The sound of the four pieces [on Grinder] is a continuously developing crunchy groove with a touch of big beat, infusion of hip-hop, and a base of dark ambient texture swishing at the bottom of this poisonous cocktail." With Inscape, Logan stayed true to his formula and continued the embrace of digital darkness and sinister soundscapes. As I prepare the write up for this album, I discover that Logan's inspiration behind Inscape was indeed an abandoned factory in Hungary which was being swallowed back by the engulfing forest. Well, now... I guess he did his homework right. As a testament from my comments above, I've witnessed these images through his music with no prior knowledge on the background. There are other notable albums that revolve around the concept of nature taking over man-made structures, like The Refractor's All Colors Run EP (self released, 2008) and Jóhann Jóhannsson's Fordlandia (4AD, 2008), but Logan does it with a much threatening vigor. There is no sadness in Inscape. It is rather a ruthless take back of what was rightfully owned. I should also perhaps mention that Logan is only 21, and has already opened for Grace Jones at Massive Attack's Meltdown. But Logan's music is strong enough to standout on its own. Inscape is Logan's sophomore release, following his debut, Cognessence (Slowfoot, 2007). Recommended if you like Hymen artists such as Hecq, Architect, and Ginormous as well as music from Tympanik Audio by Totakeke, Stendeck, and Autoclav1.1. |

Two and a Half Questions with Robert Logan

Tell us about the abandoned factory in Hungary and the inspiration for the album.
I like to go exploring, and Hungary has some very unconventionally beautiful environments to discover. On one of these exploits I found an old factory in the middle of a forest. It was summer, it was twilight, and I found this sinister, strangely attractive bit of disused industry in the middle of woodland in the blood-red light of evening. I love the natural world and the traditional villages in Hungary; I don’t want these things to disappear. But I also have a fascination, on a purely visual and auditory level, with machines and industry. That site was just an interesting visual reflection of the strange contrasts in sound on the album for me, as well as its use and abuse of organic instruments through digital means. I love striking oppositions. However, it’s just one small piece of inspiration: loads of things inspired the album’s development, from novels, films, paintings and insects, to whatever boring pop track I may have heard on someone’s radio on the day I made whatever track it was I made.

With Inscape you seem to drift a bit further from dubstep into experimental dark IDM domain. Would you agree?
I’ve never really intended to make dubstep, or any specific genre or subgenre of music. This obsession began when I was about seven – I would improvise on the piano for hours, forming strange musical worlds to inhabit–and the process is the same today, only now it’s with electronics and other instruments. I’ve always gone into the studio and followed wherever my imagination leads. I try to create the kind of sounds I would like to hear that I haven’t heard yet – to the best standard I can. Many influences, including dubstep, undoubtedly affect the tracks, and I will sometimes deliberately reference elements of different styles if it works towards making the music more interesting, but generally I don’t consciously consider genre while creating. I originally intended this new album to be more “instant” and melodic than the last, but I ended up becoming obsessed with a murkier, wilder, more frantic, dense musical landscape instead. There are often more details within tracks to follow in this one compared with the last, so I suppose I agree with the question. However, I would hope people find beauty in the album as well as darkness.

Tell us a bit about the ink drawings on the album artwork.
Lianne Victoria Chan did those. She’s a very inspiring artist and she has done many other amazing large-scale ink drawings similar to the ones used for the C.D. She created the artwork while listening to the album in its various stages of development, and I offered a few vague suggestions here and there, but the process was really totally down to her and JJ Wood, who designed the layout of the digipack.

Who are your influences?
A selection could be: 20th/21st century composers (especially Igor Stravinsky, Olivier Messiaen, Arvo Part, Vaughan Williams, John Adams and Steve Reich), lots ambient music (particularly Brian Eno and darker works by Robert Rich and Steve Roach), drones, Hungarian folk (though that’s always buried too deeply in there), Musique concrète, grime, dubstep, detroit techno, dancehall, “I.D.M”, etc. Discovering Autechre, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Plaid and others when I was younger was a huge turning point.

What is your production setup like? What software/hardware do you have in your studio?
I use quite a bit of hardware, including a bunch of synths and some old external effects units and an M-Audio MicroTrack for field recordings. I got a lovely sounding cimbalom from a gypsy family I know, and I’ve got a bizarre collection of acoustic instruments from second hand shops and Ebay. Everything normally ends up on the computer sequencers where I spend ages manipulating things, putting them through various processes, cutting them to pieces and re-assembling them again. I mostly create beats on the MPC, though I have no set way of doing anything. A track could start with me recording myself sneezing, putting that through lots of software processes and plugins, mapping those results across the some pads, bashing something back into the computer again…There are no rules. As long as I can refine the results into something that is quality, I’m happy.

What are your thoughts on the differences between the digital and the organic?
I’m not sure. I may be wrong, but in one sense, I guess the digital world is becoming pretty “organic” itself, what with its parallelism verses sequentiality, its free growth verses hierarchical structures, its non-linearity, its decentered structure...And new technology has allowed the process of music creation to become very fluid and playful – though you can have a tyrannical level of control over very detail, you can also simply set up or design your own system and then let it run. I’d love it if I could get a huge analogue modular system: you can leave those things running for days, and the sounds evolve like an organism over time. |

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ametsub - The Nothings Of The North (Progressive Form)

On some level, I'm a little surprised that no one is talking about Ametsub as much as I am. And I'm not just hyping up this Tokyo-based Japanese artist. Even Ryuchi Sakamoto has allegedly proclaimed, "I love this album. I have become a fan". Meanwhile, I've been listening to Ametsub's music since his debut release three years ago, Linear Cryptics (Progressive Form, 2006). For me, the discovery of this artist was totally accidental, and to this day I don't know the original source that incited me to pick up the album. But here I am, raving about his second solo release on Progressive Form, titled The Nothings Of The North. And here's what I love about it. Ametsub's music masterfully incorporates precision glitch into modern classical and future jazz. An accompaniment of tight bass lines and micro programmed rhythm is dominated by Ametsub's beautiful piano playing. The gorgeous and melancholic melodies have been in turn re-sampled, re-looped, and re-triggered to create frantic digital errors that skip across my dazzled memory. The light grooves incorporate elements from trip-hop, dub and abstract idm. The predominant cuts and clips are also extended to vocals, eventually morphing them from words to instruments to choppy bits of percussion. This should keep your cranium busy. Ametsub has already performed alongside respected artists such as Vladislav Delay, Bichi, Numb, and Takemura Nobukaza. His second release to date was actually a collaboration with Jimanica titled, Surge (Mao, 2007). I recommend you pick that up as well, and seriously, get your hands on Linear Cryptics! I guess the single reason why Ametsub has not been completely recognized is the lack of distribution in North America and Europe. It is difficult to get your hands on a physical copy of the album unless you actually order it to be shipped from Japan [I got Linear Cryptics by contacting Ametsub on myspazz]. Digital copies of both albums could be found on iTunes and Beatport. This album is highly recommended for fans of Arovane, Plaid, Murcof and Lusine. | |

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Harmonic 313 - When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence (Warp)

When Mark Pritchard first released EP1 (Warp, 2008) under his newly refreshed moniker, Harmonic 313, I got extremely excited about his comeback. After all, I'm a huge fan of his output under a number of aliases, the most favorite being Harmonic 33 and Global Communication. The EP stepped up in bass, and dropped down to 8-bit sound, falling somewhere between abstep (abstract dubstep), electro and Detroit-style experimental hip-hop (313 being its area code). And that was just a teaser. His return with When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence (Warp, 2009), picks up right where the EP left off, and slams it back into our faces. It takes a few listens to truly appreciate the genius behind this album. Mostly because your ears are not accustomed to such rubber morphing of the genres. Falling somewhere along the lines of experimental hip-hop by Prefuse 73, Flying Lotus , and J Dilla, the tracks on Machines Exceed Human Intelligence are strangely unique in its own domain. The bass on the tracks is raw, grinding, and wobbly, accompanied by broken syncopated beats, sci-fi chords, and arcade game laser melodies. This flight through a 2D acid flahsback is at the same time an evil and fun experience. Think Nintendo's Spy vs. Spy [hmm, that link was a total Google accident] clashing in the fight between black and white. It is, as if machines not only exceed our intelligence in the future, but actually came back to play with our own favorite toys. The interlude titled, Cyclotron C64 SID, is a testament to Pritchard's tribute to everything retro. After listening to the album half a dozen times, and getting the melodies stuck in my head, I must recognize Pritchard as a continuous pioneer of styles. From ambient, to trip-hop, to experimental hip-hop with elements of dubstep, Pritchard is able to keep up with the trends, adapt to the endless evolution of sound and even invent a few of his own genres along the way - I call it bleep-hop. Glad to see him back on Warp. If you already own the album and the EP, pick up Global Communication's Fabric 26 mix (Fabric, 2005), as well as my all time favorite, Extraordinary People (Alphabet Zoo, 2002) by Harmonic 33. Recommended if you like the above mentioned names, as well as Moderat, Headhunter, 2562, and Lukid. | |

Friday, April 24, 2009

Windy & Carl - Songs For The Broken Hearted (Kranky)

Windy Weber & Carl Hultgren have been releasing minimal ambient and experimental post-rock music since the late 90's. The catalog of this Michigan based husband-and-wife duo spans an eclectic selection of notable labels such as Icon, Ochre, Darla, Brainwashed, and of course, Chicago-based Kranky Records. Songs For The Broken Hearted is Windy & Carl's fourth release on Kranky (being signed to the label for over a decade now), where it perfectly fits among the works by their fellow label-mates, Stars of the Lid, Pan•American, Tim Hecker, and Brian McBride. The tracks on Songs For The Broken Hearted continue to build on the duo's style of beatless shoegaze layers of Carl & Windy's guitar work, using EBow and a variety of time-based delays, with the occasional soft vocals by Windy. Both play equal amounts of guitar on the record, and Windy tells me that "each track (with the exception of Rhodes) was created spontaneously with us both playing guitar, and then carl added a few extra layers after and i added the vocals". The sound of this album is still drony, but a lot more harmonic, as if a heavy pillow was left on the Rhodes, pressing on all the right keys. The cover art of the album pictures a forest with breaking light. A parallel could be drawn between this image and the dense stratum of sonic frequencies evoked by the guitar, with an occasional breakthrough of clearly EQed voice, which almost whispers the songs that lullaby the sad, and indeed the brokenhearted. To understand the depth of feelings behind this work, it helps to bypass my interpretations, and instead quote Windy talking about the album on the band's web site: "this is an album about love. everyone has known love, and everyone has known loss. love is not just about warm fuzzy feelings, although that would be the part people say they like the best. and in any span of time, love changes and means different things to different people. [...] songs for the broken hearted is an album full of honesty, both musically and lyrically. it is for anyone who has felt love - you can hear it in the sounds and the words, both spoken and unspoken. the album i never thought would be is finished." For an extensive selection of Windy & Carl's tracks, check out their triple disk release, Introspection (Blue Flea, 2002). A few other great recommendations from the duo include Depths (Kranky, 1998), Consiousness (Kranky, 2001), and a compilation of two EPs, The Dreamhouse / Dedications to Flea (Kranky, 2005) - the latter being a sad elegy dedicated to their departed dog, Flea. Recommended for the above mentioned Kranky roster. Windy & Carl are currently preparing for their spring tour along with Benoît Pioulard with some special treats from Lambs Laughter (Windy and Thomas Meluch). For tour tour dates and details check their website or myspazz. | |

Two and a Half Questions with Windy & Carl

Can you describe the process of recording this album?
i will only, at this time, give a shorter answer to the midst of a very difficult time in life, carl and i started recording. we were supposed to have gone on vacation, but instead stayed home for 4 days and simply recorded. 2 days were spent on my solo album and 2 days on the broken hearted record. lots of drinking, lots of meandering guitar playing. and then we put the tapes away, and i never thought they would get finished. i worked on my solo record in the fall of 2007 and knew it would be done, but did not think there would be any more work on the windy and carl music (or any w&c music). but that year at christmas time some odd inspiration came into our lives, and we felt it was an achievable thing to get the record finished. so carl gave me mixes to write words for and he added some guitar parts to what we already had, and the record came to fruition.

You mentioned that the recording of this album started around the same time you were working on "I Hate People". You say that "it was a dark time". If it's not too personal and you could speak about it, could you perhaps shed some light on that statement?
in a 20 year relationship, not everything can always be good. and people grow and change and seek new and different things out of life. and if you are both not ready for that change, it can be very hard. i guess right now i don't really want to divulge any more than that - it was a time in life where we really did not get along and wanted things maybe we could not have but wanted anyway.

When was the last time you listened to "Songs For The Broken Hearted", and does the music still make you very sad?
some of it yes. i don't like to revisit that time, or any of the circumstance that made me feel so heavy and sad. but then some of it makes me very happy, because there are 3 really beautiful love songs on the album, that i'm proud of, and i'm happy with where they came from and why they were written. and there is mystery in them, and i'm good with that. not everyone's secrets always need to be revealed.

Tell us about the role of lyrics and your voice as an instrument in you work.
i usually write lyrics that no one knows what to think of - dreamy, non-direct, non-audible. i use my voice more for an instrument than for actual content, but on the new album i wanted people to hear what i was saying, i needed to express the emotions i was feeling and convey them to others. i have in the past been very afraid of my voice, but now i am willing to work with it, make it stand up more on it's own, and use it to express emotions i had thought i would always just hide away from others. i always worry i am out of tune, and i never wanted people to know what i had to say, but that has changed, and while i still worry about sounding "rough" i am happier with my voice now than i was before.

Are you excited about your upcoming tour with Benoît Pioulard?

yes!! it's good to travel with someone who is like minded musically and in the world sense, and i'm very happy to be making music with him. it's great to have a friend on the road, AND i get to hear him sing every night! i feel very spoiled to have this chance - and i know we are going to have fun! | |

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

VA - Intelligent Toys 5 (Sutemos)

The Sutemos collective is a Lithuanian net label which has been releasing free EPs and compilations since January 2004. Intelligent Toys is one of their best series, in which the label collects works from a roster of eclectic electronic musicians across the globe. And this fifth installment is one of my absolute favorites. First of all, even before I go into listing all of the appearances, let me tell you that this selection of tracks spans three logical disks (well, if it was to be printed, it would fit on three physical disks). There are a total of 39 tracks spanning over three hours of music, a nice batch of digital artwork, and an amazing hand-drawn stop-animation video by no_joy covering the track by Sleepy Town Manufacture.

Walkman, the founder of Sutemos, managed to outdo himself this time around with "the biggest number of highly acclaimed artists that aren't collaborating with any of the net labels and who thought that giving their music away for free is stupid. Until now." And now I must finally break down and list all of the appearances. After an opening track by AGF/Delay (Antye Greie-Fuchs and Vladislav Delay) we dive right into Praveen (Praveen Sharma with releases on Merck, Ai Records and Neo Ouija), Gultskra Artikler (Alexey Devyanin, with releases on Autoplate, Other Electricities and Miasmah),  and Deer (yep, this is Martin Hirsch, currently running Neo Ouija records). And I'm only through the first four tracks...

Skip ahead and we fall upon the lovely and delightful tracks by Swod (a.k.a. Dictaphone on City Centre Offices), Miwon (Hendrik Kröz on CCO) and a beautiful glitched out track by a newcomer by the name of NGC 1365 (who is this?). And here comes Yagya (Aðalsteinn Guðmundsson with releases on Force Inc. and Sending Orbs), Maps & Diagrams (Tim Martin on Smallfish and Cactus Island) and... what's this? Ulrich Schnauss is in the house. And if that's not enough, there's more! Few Nodler (Linas Strockis on Planet Mu), IJO (Audrius Vaitiekunas on Plain), and Jvox (Joel Tallent on n5MD and Ad Noiseam).

The Funcken brothers contribute a track by Funckarma (their seven aliases and albums on Sublight, n5MD, Ad Noiseam, and Symbolic Interaction are just too many to cover), RJ Valeo (Type Records), Kero (Sohail Azad on Shitkatapult, Bpitch Control and Neo Ouija), and SubtractiveLAD (Stephen Hummel on n5MD). More! There is Sense (Adam M. Raisbeck with releases on Merck, Monotonik, Neo Ouija, Miasmah and Kahvi), MINT (Murray Fisher on Kahvi, Boltfish and U-Cover), Ruxpin (Jónas Thor Gudmundsson on Mikrolux), and Monoceros (Joan Malé on Expanding).

Irealize that in some ways this writeup is nothing but a three-paragraph-exercise in detailed discography of a tightly coupled selection of talent. But how else am I supposed to convey this much music in one release? Look at the names... ponder at the labels... listen to the music... and you'll be back for more! Be sure to pick up the first four Intelligent Toys volumes from Sutemos, as well as any of their previous twenty-two releases. And yes... all of this is free, so how can you go wrong? |

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hildur Guðnadóttir - Without Sinking (Touch)

It is dark, dense, and brooding. The sky is gray. Winter is refusing to leave. Wind becomes the rhythm; dissonance - the melody. In the delicate hands of the Berlin-based (but Icelandic by birth) Hildur Guðnadóttir, the cello whispers and moans. Perhaps it's grieving for an uncertain future, perhaps accepting a buried past. The voice of sorrow seeps through the trembling fingers and saturates everything around it with something invisible, but wet and salty. Then, a heavy, thick and warm knot builds up inside my chest. And when I sigh, it escapes in a condensed vapor, ascends past the naked tree tops and joins a dark cloud in a stubborn winter sky. Finally the rain falls. And I cringe at all the pain. Hildur Guðnadóttir is not a newcomer to the scene. As a classically trained cellist, she has previously performed with and contributed to works by her Icelandic contemporary artists such as múm, Valgeir Sigurðsson, and Ben Frost, as well as Hafler Trio, Nico Muhly, and even Pan Sonic. For Without Sinking she was able to round up a talented group of friends, like Skúli Sverrisson, the prolific Jóhann Jóhannsson, and her father, Guðni Franzson. Dropping all of the above names should give you a brief idea of the circle that Guðnadóttir revolves in. I guess it's not surprising, since she is an active member in the neu-Iceland collective, Kitchen Motors. This is _the_ Reykjavík music scene think tank, owned and operated by Jóhann Jóhannsson, Kira Kira, and Hilmar Jensson. Without any exaggerations, this is indeed an acoustic modern classical marvel. Absolutely a must for this year! Add Without Sinking and Guðnadóttir's previous works to your collection. The debut album Mount A (12 Tónar, 2006) was originally released under the moniker Lost in the Hildurness. Her recent one-track complimentary release to the album, Iridescence (Touch, 2009), is only available as a digital download, as part of a new series of digital singles launched by Touch on April 1st. On May 16th, 2009, Hildur Guðnadóttir is scheduled to perform for Short Circuit, A Festival of Electronica, during a Touch showcase along with BJ Nilsen, Philip Jeck and the Gavin Bryars Ensemble, and [back on the road!] Biosphere!!! If you're anywhere around The Roundhouse in London, please go... For me... | 

Two and a Half Questions with Hildur Guðnadóttir

What do you mean by "Without Sinking"?
Without Sinking refers to a feeling of going up, but still holds the quality of going down. It also gives a feeling of water, which is a strong influence on my music.

The music on your album is very melancholy. Is there a story behind it?
I understand why somebody would get the feeling of the music being melancholic, but this is not all my aim and there's no melancholic story behind the music. For this album I was thinking a lot about clouds, and their connection to water, how many tiny droplets form different forms all from black thunder clouds to airy string like clouds.

Is your previous alias Lost in the Hildurness retired? If yes, why?
Yes, I have laid "lost in hildurness" to rest, and I strongly doubt the alias will come alive again. It was important for me to distance myself from my music when I released the first solo album, but now I feel I don't have to do that anymore. Therefore I will release under my own name from now on.

Tell us a little about your experience in recording Mount A in Auðunarstofa, which I believe was entirely made out of Norwegian wood.
It was a lovely experience. Firstly the house being completely wooden, it fit the cello sound incredibly well. Also the bishop and people who run the place were really lovely, so all in all it was the perfect situation for me to record my first album. The remote location was also something that I really needed at the time.

Who are you favorite classical composers?
Wow, that's a hard question, I always try to avoid to categorize music and composers... But some of the people I listen to a lot and are an inspiration for me include; Bach, Ligeti, Pauline Oliveros, John Cage, Arvo Part, Morton Feldman, Steve Reich, Moondog, La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Charlemagne Palestine, Arnold Dreyblatt, Arthur Russell, Meredith Monk and the list goes on and on and on and on... Although the biggest musical influence for me is without doubt the people I collaborate with.

Who would you love to collaborate with in the future?
For me collaborations are all about how you connect with people on a personal level. The perfect collaboration is for me, when you hardly need to speak about what you are doing and there is natural flowing energy surrounding the project you are working on. I would love to collaborate with people in the future that I connect to in this way. So basically I would love to continue working with most of the people I have been collaborating with the last years, because I connect in this way to most of them.

What are you working on right now?
At the moment I am working on music for a couple of video installations. I am also writing a church organ piece that will accompanied with a light installation by Elín Hansdóttir. | 

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Refractors - 8 Year Sleep (Dynamophone)

I first discovered The Refractors through their hand packaged and physically painted copy of All Colors Run EP, which they self released in 2008 and were kind enough to send over. I say "discovered" not because I want to take any credit for finding them before they got picked up by San Francisco based Dynamophone Records, but because stumbling upon this duo was a real pleasure, as it is whenever one uncovers a previously unheard artist. My initial reaction to the sound is worth repeating once again, and so I quote my previous review: The Refractors are Joseph and Kayline Martinez of Pacifica, California, who turn running colors, abandoned sounds, and loose threads back into art. The sixteen minute All Colors Run EP is a collection of vignettes and gentle sketches feeding analog instruments and field recordings into cold machines. The sound is described by the artists as "vegetation coming up through the cracks of man-made structures." On this debut full length album, 8 Year Sleep, The Refractors catalog their musical journal entries beginning with the year 2001. Eight years, eight memories, eight movements. Each track represents a collection of dreams, grievances and flashbacks, woven with the accompanied instruments, field recordings, and silence. With a nod towards political events taking place in the last eight years of American history (the first track, for example, is titled A Fall Disguised as a Rise), the duo captures emotions with a surreal juxtaposition of abandoned fragments. The album is made up of dying dusty microphones, acoustic attic guitars, kitchen drawer percussion, splattering water, scratched voices, and lost pieces of home. It is also worthwhile to mention that the tracks Lull and Inherit include contributions from a guitarist Clayton McEvoy, who has been recently signed to another favorite label of mine, Hidden Shoal. Watch for his upcoming release under the alias of Sleeping Me titled Cradlesongs (Hidden Shoal, 2009) in May. This is a great catch for Dynamophone Records, who snatched the Refractors and released this album in their Parcel Series - a limited edition 3" CDr, packaged in a beautiful compact box, with artwork by Eric Lacombe. Previous releases in the Parcel Series include The Lullaby League's Filia Melusine, Fjordne's Last 3 Days of Time, and A Lily's I Dress my Ankles in God's Sweetest Words, among the many others. And one more thing! The Refractors' 8 Year Sleep will be the first release on Dynamophone's new Lilian Series format, which will be released on a tiny 1G USB flash drive held in a slide-top tin with a tiny neodyne magnet. How cool is that? This version will come with six extended tracks, images, lyrics and additional information behind each track, like this little fact about Farewell Sister: "She was assassinated two months after retuning to Pakistan from exile". A great collector's item breathing life into the meaning behind a musical album as a concept. |

Two and a Half Questions with The Refractors

What brought on an idea behind this conceptual album?
History being cyclical and the lessons unlearned.

With the title such as 8 Year Sleep, are you implying that you/we are awake now?
We would refer to a certain proposition that was passed here in California as clear evidence that many are still under a waking sleep.

What are some of the fun sounds we hear on the album, and how did you go about recording them?
You hear the sounds of sea foam, fog touching power lines, water drops on an electrical stovetop, Bolex 8mm film camera, 78 rpm phonograph, rope lines tightening, ocean, shifting rocks, and water lapping underneath a home in Venice. All of the field recordings were captured with shotgun microphones.

What instruments do you play on 8 Year Sleep?
Autoharp, ebow, lap steel, hollow body guitar, kalimba, singing bowl, harmonium, piano, analogue synth, organic seed pod shakers, gourd shakers, and Glockenspiel.

How did you end up getting signed to Dynamophone?
We mailed out our only demo of the album to Dynamophone... |

Thursday, April 16, 2009

VA - Sound of Slow Flow Vol. 1 (Slow Flow)

The shadows recede into their coldness. She shows up this morning. With her light breeze and the blue skies, Spring begins another cycle. The light synthetic chirping in my headphones joins that of the birds. And they all sing. On the train, I read Haruki Murakami's Dance Dance Dance (1994). The atmospheric swells and the ambient drones are the perfect soundtrack to the novel. All the more appropriate, since this disc arrived from Japan. On this compilation, Sounds of Slow Flow Vol 1, ten various artists contribute tracks that express their image of a "slow flow". Each is delicate and unique in its own way, but this conceptual theme joins the album together unlike any other scattered sampler. With this first release for Sapporo, Hakkaido-based Slow Flow Records, the label enters the minimal ambient scene with an eclectic roster of artists. This ethereal movement in between space and stillness is collectively comprised of compositions by Pawn, Celer, Ryonkt, Cloudburst, Elian, Segue, Porzellan, Glenn Ryszko, Entia Non, and Ian Hawgood. One of the familiar names on this bliss saturated collection is Celer, a husband and wife duo, with a deep discography, and the second release for this label, Cursory Asperses (Slow Flow, 2008). Compiled by Ryo Nakata (Ryonkt), the 70+ minute journey will take you through textures and tones designed to complement the impossibly persistent soundtrack of the daily life. Current Slow Flow releases include the above mentioned album by Celer, an album by Misound, Stanze di te, and an upcoming album by Jordan Sauer (Segue), Into the fall. Recommended if you prefer meditative sound over silence during any activity, except useless rambling thoughts. Filed under ambient and experimental releases, along with titles from 12k, Room40, Dragon's Eye, and Spekk. Looking forward to all future releases. |

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Alva Noto - Xerrox Vol.2 (Raster-Noton)

Alva Noto returns with a second installment in his five-part planned Xerrox series. On this follow up to Xerrox Vol. 1 (Raster-Noton, 2007), Carsten Nicolai turns up the volume in static electricity working with the concept of copying sounds. A copy of a copy of a copy in digital format may be flawless, so what does Nicolai do? For this feat, Nicolai along with Christoph Brünggel created a "sample transformer". This software manipulation device downsamples, chops and fragments the original source, until it no longer resembles itself, becoming an error prone original, becoming a copy corrupted with noise, becoming a newly created entity in itself. Here's Nicolai, giving us a little more color on the second volume on the label's website: "xerrox vol. 2 undertakes an intense journey and affords the luxury to take its time. while xerrox vol. 1 (r-n 78) referred to the ‘old world’ with its tradition deeply rooted in classical music, xerrox vol. 2 tries to access a ‘new world’. it works with samples that have been gathered and developed in the usa – the so-called ‘new world’ – where the album also has almost completely been recorded. the dramatic and dynamic approach of xerrox vol. 1 on vol. 2 has been replaced by a structural density. instead of working with individual musical entities the new album rather develops an overall, linear aesthetic that refers to musical strategies of film music. hence there are no implicitly singular pieces, but open musical structures – a journey without a predetermined target." On Xerrox Vol. 2, Nicolai turns to a roster of contemporary musicians, including Michael Nyman, Stephen O'Malley, and Ryuichi Sakamoto. This volume of work is more musical and warmer, while at the same time noisier and metallic. Organic instruments are re-sampled and drenched in scattered white noise, washed out with waves of bitcrushing storms, and pierced through with needles of errors. This is not a sound of a stretched magnetic tape. This is a sound of a laser disk passed through a Hollerith punchcard machine, stamping out valuable bits of binary data, daring your brain to fill in the rest. Strip away the conceptual process, and we are left with beautiful dark ambient and modern classical pieces that are haunting and melancholy in their nature, to the likes of Jóhann Jóhannsson, Max Richter, and Fennesz. Highly recommended if you enjoy the releases from the acclaimed Roster-Noton label. Make sure you pick up the first volume and watch out for the upcoming releases to complete your set. By the way, expect the entire set to spell XERROX through cover art, as the virst volume displays letter 'X', and this one, if you look closely, are letters 'E' and 'R'. While you're shopping around, I recommend you also pick up Alva Noto's Transform and Unitxt. Oh, and one last thing. Make sure to grab Byetone's Death of a Typographer and Kangding Ray's Autumne Fold. | | 

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lulu Rouge - Bless You (Music For Dreams)

When I posted the Headphone Commute's Best of 2008 list, I received a lot of emails that amounted to "You forgot Lulu Rouge!" What? Lulu who? Yes, I'm sure there was an album that I missed in 2008 (I missed hundreds of them). But with enough pokes in the same direction I was tempted to find out. And yes, I will admit: I did miss Lulu Rouge, because certainly this act belongs on HC's Best of 2008 list.  I've been playing this album for months now, and have rated each track at five stars, so it's only fair that I finally give it some proper coverage. How can I describe the dubbed out techno beats that thump their way into my brain and beg to be repeated? How about this: if you loved Trentemøller's The Last Resort (Poker Flat / Rough Trade, 2006), you will certainly fall in love with Lulu Rouge... Especially since Anders Trentemøller co-produced a few tracks on Bless You. Lulu Rouge is actually two friends: Thomas  Bertelsen (aka T.O.M and Tom Von Rosen) and Torsten Bo Jacobsen (aka Buda), who have been part of the Scandinavian electronic music scene for some time now.  Bertelsen, for example, has been Trentemøller's partner since the beginning stages of The Last Resort. So there's that important synergetic connection. If that doesn't pique your interest, here are some pretty adjectives for you. On Bless You, the Denmark-based duo blend a refreshing concoction of Basic Channel sound with playful rumbling bass sweeps, pulsating IDM elements, delayed dub chords, catchy organic instrumentations, and DSP heavy vocals with contributors like Mikael Simpson, Alice Carreri Pardeilhan, Tuco, and Scott Martingell aka MC Jabber. The stylistic classification ends up falling somewhere between deep minimal and dub downtempo, but one thing is for sure - it's a unique album that will keep you cozy throughout all your moments. Maybe it's time you explored the Scandinavian side of electronica? Highly recommended! | | 

Two and a Half Questions with Lulu Rouge

How did you come up with the name Lulu Rouge?
We had a Sunday club which we had to name, and after the usual name brainstorming session, our good friend Trentemøller actually came up with the name Lulu Rouge. When the venue ended after many years of Sunday fun, it seemed very natural to keep the name for our band.

Care to share a memorable moment from one of your past tours?
Playing At Roskilde Festival's Astoria stage in front of 6,000 people (2008)... This was a quite scary experience, because it was our second live job ever! It turned out to be fantastic :)

Tell us a little about the music scene in Denmark.
The music scene in Denmark is absolutely fantastic at the moment! Lots of good indie rock bands like Choir of young believers, Mikael Simpson, Veto, Ravenettes, The Crooked Spoke etc... The electronic music scene is also peaking at the moment with names like Efterklang, Trentemøller, UnderByen, Mikkel Metal, Mike Sheridan, Who Made Who, ElectroJuice, Spleen United, Fagget Fairys, Lulu Rouge :)

What's next for Lulu Rouge?
We are currently working on our next album, which we hope is ready around spring 2010. We already have a bunch of demos, sketches and ideas piled up in our studio, and at this stage it seems like the next album is going to be more edgy, a little bit more uptempo, more melodic, but still with the distinct Lulu Rouge deep and dubbish sound!!! | 

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Yagya - Rigning (Sending Orbs)

It is raining. I drag myself out of bed onto the wet pavement for a daily crawl to work. The raindrops typewrite poems on my umbrella. Time to put on Yagya. After a certain point, I can't tell if the sound of the rain is coming from outside, or strictly from my headphones. And does it matter anyway? The subdued dubbed out bass patterns and swelling pad sweeps shove me towards the lazy train against my will. And I trot on, splashing in the water with the beat. On the train, the sleepy commuters fog up the windows with their indifferent morning breath. I wipe away their misery from the glass and stare at the rotation of the city life outside. The bus picks up its passengers. The lights change from yellow to red. People follow predetermined rules. People don't look at each other. Yagya carries the humanity forward. One beat at a time. Yagya carries me to work.Rigning is the long awaited third full length album from Icelandic producer, Aðalsteinn Guðmundsson. This is the second Yagya release on the Dutch label, Sending Orbs, which has released Guðmundsson's Will I Dream During the Process? in 2006. Sending Orbs is also a label which brought us such amazing artists like Kettel, Secede, Blamstrain and Legiac. So I always keep my eyes on their releases.Rigning, which, of course is "rain" in Icelandic, is one of the most beautiful ambient dub-techno compositions to date. But lets not put the emphasis on "techno", since the background pulsing beat exists purely as the rhythmic glue around the wet structure. From beginning to end, the album is a complete conceptual piece wrapped around variations on the main theme, from simplistic track titles (counting up from one to ten) to careful selection of atmospheric elements, to delayed dub minor chords in maintained perfect harmony. It is an album you must hear in its entirety. Over and over.This is an amazing start for great music in 2009, and I'm looking forward to the year if it will bring more sounds like this. After a three year wait, Yagya does not disappoint! Be sure to add this record to your collection along with Yagya's very first release, Rhythm of Snow (Force Inc., 2002), if you can find it. Highly recommended if you like Gas, Biosphere, Intrusion, Echospace and Basic Channel sound. |

Two and a Half Questions with Yagya

Tell us about your process of recording rain, city sounds, and nature atmospherics.
I didn't record the atmospheres myself. I'm actually rather surprised that some people think that. I think people who have lived in Iceland hear that right away/from the start -it doesn't sound like Icelandic rain.  We have no thunder here, for example.  The idea came up to record Icelandic atmospheres, but I preferred that the sounds came from all over the world. If you listen closely, the languages of the people in the background are not Icelandic, I actually don't know what languages they are speaking.  But it doesn't matter, because it's just people talking, and just like the sound of rain, everybody can relate to it no matter where they are from.  So the fact that the rain isn't Icelandic, but from all over the world, intrigues me.

I would claim that Rigning is very melancholic in nature. Is there a specific story behind the album?
There is no specific story, I just like gloomy things.  Sadness is beautiful.  But I didn't set out to make a sad album, or anything like that, I think I just did it unconsciously.  It's an emotion that moves me, and it's easier to listen to soft, sad music for a long time (when i'm creating it for instance) than soft, happy music.  Happy music is usually not as deep, and I loose interest rather quickly. Angry or hard music isn't very constructive, and I get tired after a while.  It's rather hard to talk about this all because I don't think about my music in words, more like sounds, mental images and feelings.  I find the technical side of music making very interesting and I'm always trying to learn new things, but I've found that you can't really talk about the emotional side without sounding pretentious or just plain weird.

What are your thoughts on a conceptual albums, and would you say that the tracks on Rigning must be played in sequence?
I like conceptual albums for sure. I think albums are just like long tracks, with many parts and should have a certain mood and feeling, perhaps even tell a story. I find epic and complex things fascinating, with many details and layers and different ideas all coming to gather to create one great whole.  I usually listen to albums repeatedly, without skipping tracks, and usually i don't have favorite tracks on specific albums. So when all the tracks are based on the same idea or mood, then I'm usually happy and can listen forever. But you don't have to play the tracks on Rigning in the order I chose. I wouldn't dare trying to tell the listener what to do with my music anyway, it's all out of my hands now.  The vinyl version doesn't have all the tracks on the CD, so there you kind of have a different order.  But it's rather hard to make a new order since the tracks are all mixed together, it would sound strange.

What are your thoughts on evolution of minimal / ambient /dub-techno and that "Basic-Channel sound"?
Well, to tell the truth, I don't follow minimal techno closely.  It doesn't find it's way onto my phone (mp3 player), but I do check out some interesting artists that my friends point out to me.  I can appreciate good dub-techno, and I enjoy listening to it once in a while, but not repeatedly.  I think it's a little bit stuck in the past sometimes, but isn't that true about almost all music styles?   People are always mimicking the good old times (myself included!).  I don't think rock & roll has evolved a lot over the decades, even though it has been the foundation for other styles.  Me and my friends used to joke about that when we were trying to copy some style we liked, and failing to do so, we produced something new and original by accident.  So I think the old timers continue to make what they know best, like minimal techno, and the the teenagers invent new music styles while learning from the old producers.  And then they become old timers and the cycle starts over. 

Friday, April 3, 2009

Lissom - Nest of Iterations (Dragon's Eye)

Descending down a steep slope, I slowly enter a cavern populated with dripping stalactites, swinging wind chimes, and wondering whispers. The dark atmosphere soaks up the humidity of a distant buzzing organism and spews it out through DSP filters and control voltage modulated synths. Through repetitive patterns, nested recursion, and looped iterations, Lissom experiments with data-structure-precise evolving soundscapes, that compile and burst into tiny binary sonic fragments, binding themselves to receptors in the membrane of the synapse. This purely ambient and atmospheric work is built on field recordings, acoustic sources, and synthesized sounds, all pulling me farther, deeper, and away from the perceived reality. In this cave I sit for hours, contemplating the harmony of the spheres and the dissonance of our souls. While the nature lives in agreement, the humanity is polluted by one unconscious thought: "I am not enough". With this exploration of sound, I descend to the most sacred base, where I am everything that I could ever be, one with being. Tana Sprague is an Oakland, CA based sound and video artist, releasing her debut album on Dragon's Eye Recordings under the Lissom moniker. Sprague's intention behind her work is indeed to "manipulate awareness of time, space, place, and scale." Her goal is accomplished through measured tones and hypnotic beatless rhythms. "Inspired by the elegant complexity of organic forms, she utilizes various electronic and digital devices to synthesize a similar enveloping intricacy". On Nest of Iterations, Sprague demonstrates her complete control of sound design, which she no doubt perfected through her studies in Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts at the University of California. Nest of Iterations is an excellent addition to Yann Novak's collection of works on his Dragon's Eye Recordings label. Released as a 250 limited edition 5" CD-R, this work will surely become a sought after collector's item to those marveling in the works of Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto), Taylor Dupree, Richard Chartier, and Evan Bartholomew. While browsing the label's catalog, don't forget to check out the work by Yann Novak, Marc Manning, Steve Peters, and previously reviewed Kamran Sadeghi. | |

Two and a Half Questions with Lissom

Since you're also a video artist, do you have a particular piece which accompanies Nest of Iterations? Is it possible for you to tell us in words a bit about it?
I am currently developing a live cinema performance that will contain pieces from Nest of Iterations. For me it is a natural progression, there are such strong images, emotions, and scenes embedded in my music. These develop as I am in the process of composing, as if I am creating a soundtrack to a film that does not exist yet. I want to see these notions materialize, but it is also really important that there is still room for interpretation on the part of the viewer. I enjoy the challenge of evoking particular sensations with subtlety. I approach my visual work very much in the same way I approach composing music, the challenge is to bring the two together without the visual element overpowering the music. I am conscientiously working to negotiate a balance between the two, while maintaining their interrelatedness.

Although your music is minimal, there are a lot of complexities behind the scenes. Describe your composition process.
My work is definitely influenced by the early school of minimalism, in fact my choice to attend Mills College for graduate study was made in part by the fact that both Terry Riley and Steve Reich were a part of the history there.  The experimental, and electronic tradition at Mills is incredibly rich, and has been formed by many significant 20th century composers, but I digress.  Riley and Reich resonated with me in particular because of their use of tape loops as a compositional tool. Variation within repetition, or sustain is the common thread of the genre. On the surface it appears that there is little change, while the complexity is occurring in the details of elements of tone, texture, rhythm, etc. moving in a shifting relationships with one another.It seems that at some point, that for many people minimal became synonymous with simple. The trick is to take a simple idea, and either through chance, process, or careful sculpting, create a situation where complexities occur. I think this creates a space where the listener can move through the layers by shifting their attention from macro to micro levels, as they choose.  This is the approach that I have extracted from minimalism. But I tend to develop pieces from the micro level up, meaning that it is usually a tone (or combination thereof), timbre, or texture that catches my ear and becomes the foundation on which the piece is built. From there I build the layers by overlapping repetitive phrases, introducing evolving processes to slivers, phrases, sections, and entire tracks. Some of this processing is carefully carved, while others are determined by mapping generative instruments with scaled parameters. I repeat this process until I am content with the movement, feel, and immersive quality of the piece.

What in the world is Interdisciplinary Computing and how do you think you apply that knowledge in your music?
This was a concept I was unfamiliar with until I decided to attend UCSD, where I received my bachelor's degree. To paraphrase the description given by the school, the title of the program, Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts, describes a field of study that bridges ideas from computer science to art and cultural theory. I wont go into details on the curriculum, for that you can check out the website: But in terms of my personal sound practice the program provided me with enough fundamental knowledge to feel comfortable creating my own tools in programs such as Max/MSP/Jitter, or to be able to adapt to and effectively use just about any piece of software or hardware for the purpose of recording, generating, and/or manipulating sound.

At which point do you think the digital structures that we create will eventually evolve into organic forms?
Hmm, this is a tricky question, that can be answered in endless ways depending on how you define an organic form. But at this moment I would say that digital structures have already evolved into organic forms, because humans have constructed, adapted, and integrated digital technology in such a way that they are both an integral and uniquely identifiable component of the living system that is existence. Not to mention that many of these digital technologies have been modeled after natural forms and phenomenon, i.e. emergent structures and systems. I'm probably too uniformed on the topic to make a convincing argument though, I think the question could easily be the topic of a dissertation!

What's it like being one of a few female electronic experimental artists?
Personally, I identify myself as human first, woman second. I am primarily interested in connecting on shared ideas and passion,  so similarities or differences such as gender, race, or religion become secondary. In terms of creative decisions, I think is it a personal choice whether or not to make these things a focal point. For the time being I choose not to. From the perspective of audience or observer, I choose to focus on the integrity of the work, not the specifics of the circumstance, tools, or people who created it. I think gender, and other traits, only become an issue when they are used to weigh the value of someone's work, rather than letting the work speak for itself. |