Monday, December 13, 2010

Podcast : DJ Walkman - Varpa

You know DJ Walkman, don't you? He is one half of the Lithuanian netlabel team, Sutemos, that brought us some of our favorite artists through the critically acclaimed Intelligent Toys series! Today, DJ Walkman takes off his managing hat, and puts on a pair of DJ headphones to bring you one of the finest mixes featuring all of our favorite releases from Warp Records!

This is a wonderful listen, spanning some of our favorite Warp releases in just over an hour. The transitions are flawless, mashing up the beats and sounds from all of your favorites! I hope you enjoy! If you like this, be sure to grab DJ Walkman's first mix for Sutemos, Milk Und Herring, which we have profiled back in 2008! Be sure to also check out our past review of Intelligent Toys 5.

See full track listing, plus stream or download the mix on Headphone Commute

Sound Bytes : riverrun, The Boats, Asher, and Fabrizio Paterlini

It's early on a Sunday morning and I sit down in my studio to go over the latest promos I have received. Sometimes I look around my desk, piled with unopened packages and press releases, scratch my head, and wonder how I'm going to get through all of this, let alone pick out the gems that I want to share. The truth is, I listen to each album at least three or four times before I write about it, and I want to fall in love with each one! And with over a hundred in the queue, I don't know if I'll ever catch up! Oh well, not a bad problem to have, I suppose! Thankfully, I've got this Sound Bytes section, where I can share a few mini-reviews of the music that has recently graced my rotations. Today I'm also helped by Elizabeth Klisiewicz who covers the latest from riverrun, while I dust off submissions from The Boats, Asher, and Fabrizio Paterlini.

riverrun - Pentimento (Saint Cecilia)
Listening to the latest album from Pentimento from riverrun is an ambient project from Daniel Land (Modern Painters, Engineers) that was stitched together over a decade, revealing itself slowly in dense layers of sound. The project takes its name from the famous opening line of James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. In artistic terms, pentimento is the reappearance in a painting of an underlying image that has been painted over. Pentimento drenches you in a profound sense of place. Furtive animal and machine noises waft in and out, but they fade away as you continue to move through this release. From small Somerset villages to the Irish seaside, Land has captured snippets and woven them into an impenetrable tapestry, twining places from his childhood with abandoned song fragments. Warm but visceral tones paint images of sailboats, buoys, and empty stretches of sand. Fragile melodies occasionally pierce through the haze and uplift your spirit before diving deep into the musical depths. Fans of Brian Eno, Tim Hecker, and Fennesz will definitely appreciate the exquisite care taken with this painstaking work. Highly recommended. Available as a CD from Big Cartel or digital download from Bandcamp.

The Boats - Sleepy Insect Music (Home Normal / flau)
Come on in, but please watch your step. The Boats take you on a journey through their version of the Modern Classics compilation entitled Sleepy Insect Music. With sixteen tracks recorded "at various times and places between 2003-2010", the music fluctuates between purely instrumental modern classical composition to folktronica to lo-fi downtempo pieces to songs with vocals by Chris Stewart and Elaine Reynolds. Sleepy Insect Music is a collaborative release between Ian Hawgood's Home Normal label (read our Label Profile) and Yasuhiko Fukuzono's Tokyo-based flau. Oh, and this time, The Boats duo, originally comprised of Craig Tattersall (aka The Archivist and The Remote Viewer) and Andrew Hargreaves (co-owner of Lacies with his partner Alice), have been joined by the talented Danny Norbury (also a member of Le Lendemain with David Wenngren [aka Library Tapes])! Whew! A lot of name dropping! So we've got quite an artistic gathering here, which cultivates into a wonderful album, as expected. Originally conceived as a companion release to The Boats' tour of Japan, this little gem collects some of the group's past off-shoots, B-sides, and unreleased tracks. As usual, lo-fi electronics, tiny glitchy percussion, and fuzzy samples dominate the minimal compositions, except this time they are complimented by Norbury's singing cello. Recommended for the followers of all of the above mentioned artists. I'm looking forward to more output from this newly revitalized trio!

Asher - Miniatures (Sourdine)
Asher Thar-Nil weaves barely familiar melancholic piano pieces into phrased loops and repetitive passages, spread over a blanket of white fuzzy noise, digital imperfection and analog hiss. Out of an abandoned, distorted and dusty radio, a once forgotten favorite melody slowly drifts and revolves on the peripheral boundaries of hearing, evoking a nostalgic feeling over memories that we never had. Weaving piano loops that fade in and out of silence in twenty six Untitled tracks, split across two volumes of this double-disk album, Asher's limited edition release is an exploration of modern and contemporary classical composition through an entirely different spectrum. Miniatures reminds me a lot of The Caretaker's Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia (V/Vm Test, 2005), in which Jim Kirby explores faded memories and ghostly sounds of our long forgotten songs. Previously collaborating with a variety of artists, Asher has released numerous albums across a roster of experimental and sound art labels, such as Room40, and/OAR, Homophoni, and Leerraum []. Asher's album is excellent as background head cleaner, or a fuzzy silence filler, on buzzing days and rainy nights... Pick this up directly from Sourdine. Fans of William Basinski will surely appreciate!

Fabrizio Paterlini - Fragments Found (self)
Sometimes the simplest melodies awaken the most evocative of emotions... Listening to neo-classical piano compositions by Fabrizio Paterlini is like being cradled in the depths of nostalgia, holding back the eyes from tearing. It all depends on the current state of mind. And if you are already vulnerable, Paterlini will take you just a bit further. His ten piano pieces, originally recorded and left undisturbed for years, tell a story with a soundtrack to your life. Born in Manuta, Italy, Fabrizio has been playing piano since the age of 6. "When I sit in front of my piano and start playing, melodies come to find me and I immediately record them..." And it feels like some of these pieces are fragments of familiar melodies, heard in movies of your childhood, or perhaps in lullabies of your past. It is not until the second or third rotation of this album, that you realize that the beauty within, is not to be without. Pick up this disk directly from Paterlini or download a digital edition. While you're there, don't forget to grab his 2009 Viandanze, available as a download along with sheet music [something I've been begging other musicians to do!]. Fans of Library Tapes, Max Richter, Hauschka, Peter Broderick and Nils Frahm will absolutely enjoy! Really liked this, and I'm sure that you will too!

Be sure to read this entry directly on Headphone Commute for audio track samples.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thomas Fehlmann - Gute Luft (Kompakt)

Thomas Fehlmann has long been a towering figure in electronic music. He was producer on The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld and executive producer for Sun Electric. He and Palais Schaumburg bandmate Moritz von Oswald (of Basic Channel fame) famously collaborated with Juan Atkins in the early nineties as 3MB. More recently he’s been producing solo work for Plug Research and Kompakt. Gute Luft is Fehlmann's original soundtrack from "24H BERLIN" - a 24 hour television event, billed as the world’s longest documentary. Eighty camera teams filmed Berliners over the course of a day. Fehlmann provided a portion of the score, which he reworked here into album format. The title translates to “Good Air”. My favorite tracks are the most rhythmic. Some of the more cinematic pieces strike me as too museum-y. To that end, I enjoy the deep bass and cascading textures of “Alles, Immer”. In fact, it reminds me of Moritz von Oswald Trio. “Wasser im Fluss” falls into a nice, breezy groove. Crisp chord changes contrast reverberating string notes. “Schwerelos” is similarly lively, with bouncy bass and the occasional airy harp glissando. On “Speeding”, Fehlmann’s music takes on a darker tone with muted, tapped percussion and long, droning chords. “In the Wind II” has a bassline that is almost electro, while flutes play what seem like traces of “Londonderry Air”. It’s better than my description would have you believe. “Soft Park” is funkier, but woefully short. Dubby chords splatter over deep bass and percussion snaps. “Permanent Touch”, “Von Oben,” and “Cityscape” are all upbeat, but they sink into the background for me. For a soundtrack, that’s probably not a bad thing. “Fluss im Wasser”, on the other hand, is one of my favorite tracks on the album. The bass is lush and dynamic. A guitar slides, beats pound, and the sun shines. “Berliner Luftikus” follows with a deep dub techno vibe, the sounds of falling rain, and a pretty four-note pattern played on bells. “Darkspark” is an immediate attention-grabber, with an orchestral palette of strings and horns. Two-note chords pulse and change. I wish Fehlmann had extended this over a full ten minutes or so. “Im Überblick” is another tune that is over way too soon. It morphs from dub techno to bass-heavy minimalism to ambiance. The album ends with panning white noise and decaying piano tones on “Scheiben”. Gute Luft is released by the Köln (Germany) based Kompakt, run and operated to Wolfgang Voigt. The label's recent output includes the 11th installment in the Total series featuring an excellent roster of artists, such as DJ Koze, The Field, Gus Gus, and of course Voigt and Fehlmann. There's also a 12" Gute Luft Remixe edition, with three tracks reworked by Soulphiction (Michel Baumann) and Move D.

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Original review posted by Jacob Arnold on Gridface.
Republished with permission of the author. | |

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Label Profile : Temporary Residence Limited

Interview with Jeremy deVine

Hey Jeremy, how are you? What did you do this past weekend?
I’m fine, thank you. This weekend I worked, as usual. I don’t spend much time doing otherwise these days, it seems, but it hardly feels like work compared to every other job I’ve ever had.

Temporary Residence Limited has been in existence since 1996, but let's go back to the beginning. Growing up, how did you get involved in music?
I grew up listening to stuff like Simon & Garfunkel, Traveling Wilburys, Tom Petty, Bon Jovi, AC/DC and Poison. Then around age 13 I got into Nirvana and almost immediately into local Louisville punk bands. As with most teenagers, the timetable of events in my life moved much faster back then, so the leap from classic and modern rock radio to Endpoint, Slint and Seam was maybe 6-8 months. From there I just became more and more embedded in underground and experimental music.

At what point did you decide that you wanted to run your own label?
There was a Louisville label called Slamdek that worked almost exclusively with local artists. Along with Touch and Go Records they were a big beacon for getting our town’s music heard by the outside world. Discovering that record companies could be made up of only a handful of friends – or merely one person, as in Slamdek’s case – introduced an alternate reality to me
for sure.

How was the label first formed?
I had the idea to start a label while still living in Louisville, but I didn’t want to be a “local label,” and also didn’t want to compete with or be considered an alternative or competitor to Slamdek. So I waited until I moved to Baltimore to really begin. It was officially started it in late 1995 with my college roommate at the time. He and I parted ways soon after, and I ran solo from my bedroom.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire label profile on Headphone Commute

Sound Bytes : Temporary Residence Limited

We've been loyal followers of Brooklyn based Temporary Residence Limited for a while now... It seems that every year, the label manages to push our listening boundaries and introduce us to new music, that inevitably makes it on to our "best of the year" lists. In 2006, we were devastated (in a good way) by a collaboration between MONO and World's End Girlfriend,  In 2007, we fell in love with releases from Explosions In The Sky, Tarentel, and Eluvium. The next year brought us more gems from The Drift and Grails. And last year, the label made it on our Best of 2009, Music For Walking And Not Crying In The Autumn Rain, with another instant classic from MONO. We're into November of 2010 now, and it seems that there are more than a few contenders from the label once again... Hope you enjoy this installment of Sound Bytes, in which we highlight some of our favorite releases from Temporary Residence Limited.

The Books - The Way Out
Listening to the latest album from The Books is like absorbing a dose of lysergic acid diethylamide, while Ram Dass reads excerpts from a book he never had the time to write. Full of inner depth on the reflection of oneself, and kaleidoscopic hysterical psychedelia, The Way Out is a musical trip through genres, time and space between the microscopic atoms that make up your eyes. Nick Zammuto and Paul De Jong have been producing since their debut, Thought For Food (Tomlab, 2002). After two more albums on Tomlab, a split EP and a collaboration with Prefuse 73, Prefuse 73 reads the Books EP (Warp, 2005), the duo lands a release on none other than Temporary Residence Limited. At times playful, funky, and contemplative, The Books create a collage of found sound, abandoned recordings, and unclassified pieces that retain my listening attention for many consecutive listens. Like an instructional album on becoming awakened in this world of random rules and borrowed ideas, the music by The Books forces the listener to reflect on everything that is absurd around them... and then let one choose his own way out... Can't stop listening to this one. Be sure to also pickup their self released Music for a French Elevator.

MONO - Holy Ground: NYC Live With The Wordless Music Orchestra
Not many live sets are covered on here... But then again, not many artists we cover release their music as live sets. Thanks to Temporary Residence Limited for organizing a concert in New York City for MONO, celebrating their 10th anniversary as a band. Here is a collection of some of our favorite MONO tracks, as well as selections from their latest album, Hymn to the Immortal Wind, performed live with a 24-piece orchestra, featuring excellent recording and quality mixing by Matt Bayles (Mastadon, ISIS, Minus The Bear). The Tokyo based instrumental post-rock group, in collaboration with the esteemed Wordless Music Orchestra, captured all of my favorite moments, compiling a "best of MONO" album, if you will, into a stunning performance, with all of its soaring, moody, and dramatic quality. The only thing that's missing from this album is the sound of my own applause. I really wish I was there! To make up for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the label has published this release with a bonus DVD, documenting the entire 90-minute performance. In addition, you may obtain this album as a limited 3xLP release (DVD included as well). This is an absolute must for all MONO fans.

Systems Officer - Underslept
To loyal readers of these pages it should be no surprise that I am a bit partial towards instrumental music. I tend to steer clear of male driven vocals, pop rock accompaniment, and a template structure of the song. So why is it that I keep returning to the album by Systems Officer? Could I possibly be hypnotized by the melody or the lyrics? It is only when I find myself playing the album full blast in the car, singing along with every word, wondering in which memory bank of my mind the lyrics are stored, that I accept that the answer to that earlier question is 'yes'. Every track has been worked out to turn the pop concept inside out, and present the listener with a song with incredibly high replay value. Five years in the making, Underslept is the solo creation of Armistead Burwell Smith IV (aka Zach),who is a multi-instrumentalist, a song writer, and a founding member of Pinback and Three Mile Pilot. I don't claim to be knowledgeable when it comes to progressive or indie-rock, but I do know a good track when I hear it. I hope that you'll agree. Thanks to Temporary Residence Limited once again, for pushing my comfort listening boundaries.

The Black Heart Procession - Blood Bunny / Black Rabbit
The Black Heart Procession is another new band to me. Although in existence since their self titled 1999 debut, this indie rock band from San Diego is introduced to me, once again, through Temporary Residence Limited. Having recently released their latest, Six (2009), this mini-album collects three new tracks, and five remixes of previously released, by Mr. Tube, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Jamuel Saxon and Eluvium. With two of members of the band, Pall Jenkins and Tobias Nathaniel also making up Three Mile Pilot, this collection of tracks and remixes truly feels like "one continuous composition, sounding every bit like an LSD-influenced DJ set in the kind of terrifying but strangely alluring vampire sex den commonly seen in True Blood." Being a true remix album, the music traverses more than a few genres, climaxing somewhere around psychedelic beats, and down into the beautiful piano abyss of Eluvium, treating us to a ten minute modern classical interpretation of BHP's "Drugs". Although on my first listen I attributed the stylistic departures to the experimentation of the band, I am not disappointed to learn that this is a remix project, and will pick up their previous full length releases as well. If you haven't heard of this band, I recommend you do the same!

Eluvium - Similes
In this last entry on this Sound Bytes label special featuring Temporary Residence Limited we cover an album from Eluvium. Matthew Cooper has been on our playlist since his 2003 debut, Lambent Material, and remained a top artist among the modern classical composers with An Accidental Memory In The Case Of Death (2004), Talk Amongs The Trees (2005), Copia (2007) and his 7xLP box set, collecting all of the above plus a few more EPs, Life Through Bombardment (2009), all released by the beloved Temporary Residence Limited. On this long awaited return since Copia, Cooper introduces the Eluvium followers to something completely new: his voice. "Written, performed and recorded as always by Matthew Cooper in his own Watership Sounds studio, Similes marries Eluvium's trademark dream-like aura with Cooper's unique, laconic vocals, akin to an especially contemplative Ian Curtis with trace reflections of Magnetic Fields and Brian Eno." Not all the tracks include this song structure, and a few all instrumental pieces are sprinkled around the album. The execution reminds me a bit of a similar attempt by Keith Kenniff, who introduced the voice of Helios (and I suppose Goldmund) on Ayres (Type, 2007). The reception of such brave departure could be mixed. You either love it, or you don't... Let's hope the fans will follow through!

Be sure to read this entry directly on Headphone Commute for audio track samples.

Make sure you also read our Temporary Residence Limited Label Profile

Two and a Half Questions with Eluvium

I guess the first obvious question is, what prompted you to take this brave leap forward and put your own vocals on the record?
- it's really as simple as feeling a need to, or an interest - it can be quite easy to get caught up doing the same thing over and over again- but i still consider music, and "albums" to be about being artistic, and following your heart wherever it may lead you - sometimes this means making statements that other people may not like, or even be able to relate to, or want to relate to - but creating isn't always about that - it can also be about trying to better oneself or exorcising ghosts - some would consider the move brave - but i really just did what i felt like doing at the time - and it was a wonderful relief

Are you responsible for all the instrument playing, including the drums, on the album?
- yes -

What is the main theme behind Similies?
- sorry to firstly correct you - but the spelling is actually similes - i know it sounds like it should be the other way
-but to answer your question - it's sort of a lot to talk about - but a simplified way to explain it might be "emptiness" -

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Be sure to read Headphone Commute's review of Similes from our Sound Bytes Label Special coverage of Temporary Residence Limited.

Her Name is Calla - The Quiet Lamb (Denovali)

Her Name is Calla hail from Leicester, Leeds and York in England, and create a splendid mix of quiet, loud, and expansive music that is rarely heard anymore. They describe themselves as a post-rock band striving to make music that reaches the listener's emotional core. With The Quiet Lamb, they have far exceeded those expectations. The opener, "Moss Giant", unfolds like a flower slowly unfurling itself to dawn warmth. It draws you in with eerie sounds that fly past you with stealthy intent, morphing into spare piano notes that strike at your heart with a plaintive air. As you move through this forest of sound webbing your senses, a far distant call of monks twists and turns you until the track's end. By the time "A Blood Promise" starts up, you are treated to a slightly more conventional tune laced with perfectly twining vocals, trumpet, and electric guitar brought high into the mix. The song just as quickly drops to a slumber-like pace and sets you back down gently. "Pour More Oil" is a folky, reflective piece whose musical structure starts with beautifully harmonized vocals and softly strummed guitar. The hushed singing serves the deeply recessed music well. Sophie Green's mournful violin appears and pushes the guitar and trumpet to center stage. What starts as a soundtrack for a gray autumn day transforms into a deeply felt emotional piece that wouldn't be out of place on a Frames album. In the lengthy "Condor and River", you sense the power building up behind the quiet opening progression. The music ascends before receding to a single piano and voice. Trumpet and violin are added to the mix, and another wave of sound washes over you. "Long Grass" is a simple framework of guitar, banjo, and Tom Morris's voice. Further layers of chiming keyboards, organ, and strings appear before subsiding back to stillness. "Homecoming" follows up with slightly warbled vocals and plunks of banjo, marrying bits of Shearwater and Grizzly Bear with a completely original spin on a well-worn genre. "Thief" is utter gorgeousness with its lovely washes of violin, unusual percussion, and organ. Try to imagine Asian chamber folk and you'll be in the ball park. "The Union: I Worship a Golden Sun" is part of the album's final trio of songs. The organic scree of keyboards distinctly resembles a squeaky fan belt, and it tumbles into "The Union: Recidivist", a furious swirl of violin dueling with a maelstrom of feedback. "The Union: Into the West" is the album's coda, an unusual instrumental blend that mashes mariachi styled trumpet with loping guitar that gallops off into the sunset of a Spaghetti western. From quiet spaces to dark places, The Quiet Lamb is cinematic in scope, and veers from storm-crashing guitar down to sparse, dusty piano motes. It is a challenging yet uplifting journey from a seasoned group of talented musicians, and will reward listeners with its multifaceted sonic hues.

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Review prepared by Elizabeth Klisiewicz for Headphone Commute. | |

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Max Richter - Infra (130701 / FatCat)

Falling in love with Max Richter's music is easy. Lovers of electronica, modern classical, and simple piano music alike, follow Richter's releases, and gobble them up with their ears. The music of endless dreams and cinematic wakefulness, sprinkled with electric pulses of shortwave radio transmissions and somber tones, rises above the ground like a waterfall of fog, falling into the abyss of subconsciousness and repressed memories. Beautiful and simple melodies soar through the air with orchestral precision, neo-classical progression and heartbreaking execution. Infra is actually a soundtrack. Commissioned by the Royal Ballet, Infra is a score for the same titled ballet as choreographed by Wayne McGregor, which originally premiered at The Royal Opera House in London in November 2008. Being more than a studio album, the work on Infra is comprised of recurring themes and a central concept. The latter is inspired by T.S. Elliot's "The Wasteland", building on a travelogue of desolate lands, populated by the sounds of piano, electronics and a string quartet. Here's a quote from Richter: "I started thinking about making a piece on the theme of journeys. Like a road movie. Or a traveler’s notebook. Or like the second unit in a film - when the scene has been played, and the image cuts away to the landscape going by. This started me thinking about Schubert's devastating and haunting "Winterreise" (Winter Journey), so I used some melodic material from Schubert as a found object in parts of my new piece." I must be honest - I wouldn't recommend this album to the heart broken. The sweeping melodies will pull your soul apart and squeeze the last remaining tears from your withered heart. Saturated in sadness to the point of total and complete desperation, some of the tracks become contenders for Music for my Funeral - a collection of tracks I have been preparing for... well... that one final farewell. This is not the first score for Max Richter. In 2009, he composed soundtracks for La Prima Linea (Cam Original) and Henry May Long (Mute). His 2008 score for Valse Avec Bachir (Delabel) also included a few tracks from The Blue Notebooks (130701). All of the above, along with Memoryhouse and Songs From Before are highly recommended. Be sure to also check out Headphone Commute's review of Richter's 24 Postcards In Full Colour (130701) and our previous Two and a Half Questions with Max Richter. | |

Two and a Half Questions with Max Richter

How did you get involved in the production for Infra?
Wayne called me up. Its usually like that - a bolt from the blue and suddenly something new is happening - actually i wouldn't have it any other way - planning is overrated.

Your music was previously used in film - tell us about the experience of composing a score for ballet.
Wayne's entire brief to me was "Its 25 minutes long, max..." So I just wrote lots of material and we started a sort of conversation between what we all doing (including the images by Julian Opie too). After a while a sort of organic structure started to happen and the thing took on its own momentum. I made a few initial recordings for the dancers to rehearse with and things just evolved in the usual random sort of a way...

How does it feel to have your music interpreted through dance (and I suppose, vice versa)?
I love to collaborate - it has almost always been a fun and interesting experience and im always fascinated to see how other people view what im doing, because my own perspective on what im up to is completely null and void - im just too close to it to make any sensible judgements

What is the central theme in Infra, and where did you draw your inspiration from to capture it?
infra means 'below' so the piece is all about hidden, buried, maybe forgotten or overlooked things - of course since im a bass head it also allowed me to use some of my favourite low end machinery...

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Read Headphone Commute's review of Infra.

See also our previous Two and a Half Questions with Max Richter

Byetone - Death Of A Typographer (Raster-Noton)

Chemnitz (Germany) based artist Olaf Bender has musically been in the shadow, as one of the co-founders of the Raster-Noton label, together with Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto) and Frank Bretschneider (Komet). Mostly focusing on the visual presentation of the label’s catalogue, he had only produced two solo outings before offering to the world Death of a Typographer. Where his earlier projects presented us with a very abstract experience, filled with static and rhythmic clicks typical to the Raster-Noton sound, the sound of his new album shifts to a more approachable terrain. The first track quickly exemplifies this change of character. An almost danceable bass line takes hold when “Plastic Star (session)” starts, and only slows down four tracks later, when the first segment of “Capture This” sets in. Distorted tones and short stabbing percussion can not hide the melodies that encompass the songs as we move through the album. As Bender balances the distant and cold background, that has typified the label with a sound that scuffs against the techno-genre, the album really unfolds when "Rocky Soft" starts. You can quickly discern the Bretschneiderian jabs to your earlobes, accompanied by an almost funky bass that makes you want to move. “Black is Black” is probably the most accessible track of the album, with its almost threatening build up that finally melts in to the dark dystopic feel that both installments of “Capture This” convey. Rounding up with an almost Alva Noto-esque “Grand Style” and “Heart” filled with rhythmic yet dark percussion this album is something special. Created in the Berlin winter, it is very well suited for those cold days when you are still coming to grips with the fact that the summer is really gone. Play this record when you feel that there is no way you’re getting out of bed. Its energy, even though it is cold and distant, is infectious, and will have you master the cold temperatures of autumn and the upcoming winter in no time. Suited for listeners that are into the Raster-Noton aesthetics, but also listeners of Sleeparchive, SND and Pan Sonic.

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Review prepared by Caspar Menkman for Headphone Commute. |

Interview with Subheim

Hello Kostas, two years have passed since the release of your debut album, Approach. Probably a lot has changed in your life. How have these changes reflected on your new record?
There have been changes for sure, however most of them had to do with following my own dreams at a faster and more focused pace. While always trying to put as much of myself as possible into music, this being my favorite way of expressing deeper feelings and thoughts, it is very reasonable for all those influences to appear in my music work. It would be impossible for me to write a new album that would sound exactly like 'Approach'. I'm changing and so does my music.

"No Land Called Home" turned out to be very epic and ambitious. Tell us what inspired you to create it.
An innocent child was shot dead by a policeman in December of 2008 [in Athens, Greece]. An entire country was mourning, a country that had (and has) suffered a lot. Back then, it was impossible to organize my thoughts, the feelings of agony, grief and anger were too strong to handle. Only a few months later, I was able to see and revisit things from a calmer and more distant point of view. It was then when I could finally grasp these moments and arrange them into melodies. The track 'December' is the first that was composed for this album and probably the most intense. As for the record in its entirety, although all the tracks are quite different to each other, there is a main concept behind the title 'No Land Called Home': that we belong nowhere and that there is no land in which man can be free. We are part of this world, like small ants in the ravaged and aged tree of life. While there is no obvious political concept behind the album, there is a strong relation to worldwide terrorism, secret international deals, economic warfare and human rights infringement in every horrible and devastating way. Those thoughts are continuously on rotation in my head and therefore have significantly influenced my way of composing for this album. Every track has a different story to tell, a sad one in each case.

Why did you use tribal drums and ethereal vocals?
I'd say that most of the vocals have an ethnic/world music touch, following my focus on blending electronic music with traditional instruments of the world. 'The Veil' is obviously an exception in that, featuring the charming voice of Timothy Gregory and narrating a different kind of story, however without moving away from the overall aesthetic portrayed in this record. As a follow-up to my previous answer, the main reason why elements so different to each other were mixed together was to create a mixture of sources of different origin and timbre. Instruments like the Gu-Zheng, the doumbek or the middle eastern string sections along with the use of trumpets, cellos, violins and orchestral ensembles were all used with caution in an attempt to combine all the soundscapes I have a particular interest in, regardless of their historical descent and traditional use.

What prompted you to release the album on Ad Noiseam. Why not Tympanik?
I never really saw myself as an artist that belongs somewhere. Paul is an amazing person, a good friend and runs his label extremely well. I couldn't be happier for what he's done in order to promote my first record and I'm glad that Tympanik is constantly gaining new fans. My main concern was that Tympanik is based in the US and it's true that most of the sales for 'Approach' took place overseas rather than within EU grounds. I wanted to see how releasing music on European ground would lead to even more listeners and, possibly, more live shows. Ad Noiseam has always been one of my personal favorites and happens to have a great history, having released outstanding albums throughout the years, so I'm happy with this decision.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Be sure to check out Subheim's amazing Headphone Commute Mix!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Podcast : Subheim – Headphone Commute Mix

Welcome to another exclusive mix from Headphone Commute... On this first day of November we bring you a gorgeous journey into the subconscious mind of Subheim. Both, uplifting and dark, this musical exploration, will take you into other worlds, real and imagined. It's always nearly impossible to describe the music featured by our podcast contributors - and it is especially difficult to capture all of the beauty conveyed through the sounds of Subheim. Marriage of solid beats, and soaring melodies will keep you on the edge of your seat, until you get up and move with the rhythm...

Compiled mostly from his own compositions, and a few of his contemporaries, such as Bersarin Quartett, Ben Lukas Boysen, Access to Arasaka and even Max Richter, this exclusive mix traverses a dark and isolated land of despair, sprinkled with promise and hope. Teasing us with tracks from his upcoming album, No Land Called Home, released by the beloved Ad Noiseam in just a week (November 9th!), Subheim unveils his most mature composition to date! With jazzy acoustic percussion, field recordings, and organic textures, Kostas K weaves evocative feelings from his mind to yours.

See also our Track of the Week featuring Subheim's Streets, and a short video teaser. Read Headphone Commute review of Approach (Tympanik, 2008)

See full track listing, plus stream or download the mix on Headphone Commute

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tracks of the Week : Máistrí, FRKTL, En and Oceania

Every week, we scan the invisible air waves of the intarwebs to find that one tune that will change the day… Check out our weekly picks, with full tracks streaming from SoundCloud. You must go directly to our main site to hear each selection…

Máistrí - Ode To Ego
This week's selection magically ties into our Sound Postcards project. At the beginning of October, I opened this project up for your submissions via Headphone Commute's Sound Postcard Group and have received numerous fantastic entries! Among them was a track by Máistrí that totally took me by surprise. Here was a modern classical miniature composition that captured my favorite elements of cinematic and ambient music flawlessly! I am obliged to share: listen to the entire track...

FRKTL - Spöken
This week we feature a track by one of our old time friends and contributors, Sarah Badr. Sarah has previously written a review of Telefon Tel Aviv's Immolate Yourself.  I knew that Sarah was a designer, artist, and a writer... but I had no idea that she was also a musician, composing pieces under the moniker FRKTL. So you can imagine my surprise when I listened to her latest contribution on Sound Cloud, titled Spöken, and even bigger excitement when I totally fell in love with the track!!! Check out FRKTL!

En - The Absent Coast
In the spirit of featuring snippets from upcoming releases, here's another album sampler from our friends at Experimedia. On this 7-minute preview of their latest work, the San Francisco based duo, Maxwell August Croy and James Devane, releasing under the name En explore ambient swells and textured atmospheres, in their debut collection of recordings, The Absent Coast. "The pair utilize a wide range of instrumentation - koto, guitar, vocals, rhodes, melodica, and piano, among other devices - which is processed and refined into rich walls of reverberant bliss . With its hazy atmospherics, microtonal drones and plaintive tones, the album evokes the type of unplaceable nostalgia that accompanies the imaginary landscapes of past memory." Listen to the track...

Oceania - Grow Wild
The intarwebs are full of wonders. Thanks to the interlinked musical genius of Soundcloud, I can browse the latest unknown releases, and bathe in the sound of the underground. Here's a deep rolling bass release from Savory Audio a digital dubstep label out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, running a few local events and steadily releasing some inspirational tunes, breaking through the genre bounding rules of dubstep. This track comes from a Russian producer going by the name Oceania. I can't find anything else on this artist at the moment, but the music speaks for itself... Check out this track...

Sound Bytes : From Edinburgh to Reykjavik

Welcome to another episode in our musical travels... I started off this journey with a promo I have received in the mail from Peter Gregson. His beautiful cello sounds revived in my mind the memories of listening to Hildur Guðnadóttir, and I decided to revisit her earlier digital release, Iridescence. That, in turn, prompted me to drift towards Ólafur Arnalds, and during the process I realized that I completely forgot to cover his very latest release! Finally, in search of the latest entries from my favorite modern classical composers, I stumbled upon The Explorer's Club subscription service from Loaf, featuring musicians from around the world. Join me in this entry of Sound Bytes, as I travel from Edinburgh to Reykjavik, in search of beauty hidden within...

Peter Gregson - Terminal (Mute Song)
Packaged in a brown cardboard digipack, I come upon a release from Peter Gregson. Born in Edinburgh in 1987, Gregson has been performing his contemporary classical pieces all over the world. Using his cello and electronics, Gregson creates compositions that cradle, bleep and bend the sound of our favorite stringed instrument. The organic recordings seamlessly blends with that of synthetic processing, swirling in a timed delay of empty spaces during traveler's impatient waiting for the departure. The collection of 6 tracks, running in total just under half an hour, was commissioned by Bowers & Wilkins to compose contemporary cello music. Written in airport terminals during Gregson's touring, and appropriately titled Terminal, the album is a collaboration between Gregson and Milton Mermikides, released by a London-based publisher, Mute Song. Fans of modern classical compositions by Hildur Guðnadóttir, Max Richter, Nico Muhly, Ólafur Arnalds, Dakota Suite and Jóhann Jóhannsson will be delighted! And if you love the cello as much as I do - the track "Flight Path" will surely hit the spot... You can also pick up a digital copy of Terminal via Gregson's Bandcamp.

Hildur Guðnadóttir - Iridescence (Touch)
This single track release by the contemporary Icelandic cellist and modern classical composer Hildur Guðnadóttir is not for the light hearted. Full of crying strings, pulling at the soul in just the right places, the music swells and moans for a little over eleven minutes. But during this time, something drops within your spirits with the bounce of the bass, and the funeral procession to all things past is at last gone. Featuring Jóhann Jóhannsson and Skúli Sverrisson, this digital-only release from Touch is a companion download to Guðnadóttir's Without Sinking (2009) which immediately landed a spot on Headphone Commute's Best of 2009 : Music For Watching The Snow Slowly Fall In The Moonlight. Nevermind that this piece is over a year old now - it's perfect to carry us over until Hildur's another release. In addition to great production on this piece, the sound was mastered by BJNilsen, so you can be sure to find all of your tiny ear canal hairs trembling. Don't forget to check out a recent remastered reissue pf 2006, Mount A, available from Touch Shop and your favorite outlets. Alos, read Headphone Commute's Two and a Half Questions with Hildur Guðnadóttir. Recommended if you love soul wrenching melancholic music...

Ólafur Arnalds - ...and they have escaped the weight of darkness (Erased Tapes)
As I sit down to write these words I can't help but wonder if there was a time lapse in my memory - haven't I covered this before? I could have sworn I shared my excitement for this album in the past - after all, I hungrily consume everything by Ólafur Arnalds since his 2007 debut on Erased Tapes, Eulogy For Evolution. Well, if I haven't shared my enthusiasm for this release, I apologize... Profusely... Incredibly lovely, sad and beautiful, music from Arnalds will melt the toughest hearts. If melancholy could be wrapped in sadness drenched in longing, then Arnalds captures it all. This is precisely when words loose their meaning, and the music sings... ...and they have escaped the weight of darkness is a second full-length album from this prolific Icelandic modern classical composer. In places uplifting, and always gorgeous, the contemplative passages escaping Arnalds' fingers on the piano, and the crying stringed instruments, leave the listener reflecting on all that is present in this moment, even if its veiled by the past. You absolutely have to pick up Arnalds' masterpiece, Variations of Static, (Erased Tapes, 2008), as well as his 2009 EP on the same label, Found Songs. It is also worth mentioning that Ólafur's 2009 album, Dyad 1909 was selected in Headphone Commute's Best of 2009 : Music For The Film behind Closed Eyelids. Recommended!!!

Explorer's Club: 7. Belfast - Reykjavik (Loaf)
We polish off this entry of Sound Bytes with a mini compilation from the wonderful Loaf label. This seventh volume of one-off singles, released each month to showcase the artists from all over the world, immediately captures my attention with an amazing roster of artists! "Our intrepid adventurers travel without maps into the hinterland to bring you back audio treasures capable of transporting your mind to another plane." As the title suggests, Belfast - Rejkjavik is another country-spanning entry, featuring three tracks from some of our all time favorite artists: Hauschka & Stefan Schneider, Nils Frahm, and Jóhann Jóhannsson! What can I say here? Absolutely gorgeous pieces combining piano and electronics - just the way I like it! If you are a fan of either of the above artists, this is a must for your collection... and then you'll want more! As I'm finishing off this installment, my music library is slowly growing with the rest of the volumes in this series with contributions from Peter Broderick, Ryan Teague, Janek Schaefer and many other new discoveries (I was able to back-fill via emusic). This amazing find is available as a subscription service via The Explorer's Club. Join in the fun and become part of the experience as this journey slowly unfolds!

Be sure to read this entry directly on Headphone Commute for audio track samples.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Podcast : :papercutz – Dream Scores

Today we are proud to present you with another exclusive mix from one of our favorite artists - :papercutz. Bruno Miguel has appeared on these pages before, first with the Ultraviolet Rmx's (Apegenine, 2008), his debut album, Lylac (Apegenine, 2008) and Two and a Half Questions with Bruno Miguel; then with his own Reflections on 2009 and an amazing Remix project, Do Outro Lado Do Espelho as featured in our Audiobulb Special. And now, Miguel has put together something incredibly special, exclusively for Headphone Commute readers and listeners - a journey across his favorite film scores that has been immaculately selected, arranged and mixed. This is a very exciting one - a lot of love went into this production, and you will hear it from the very first note...

See full track listing, plus stream or download the mix on Headphone Commute

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sound Postcards

Since we started our Sound Postcards feature earlier this year, we've had a lot of fun in sharing with you our Field Recordings, Auditory Portraits and Creative Phonography. Recently we have invited a group of your favorite artists to contribute to the project, and submit their own creation. Here are some of the entries from Stephan Mathieu, Lawrence English, Autistici, Marcus Fjellström, Richard Chartier, Yann Novak, Clem Leek, Scanner, Loscil, Simon Scott and many more to come!

Check out all Guest Sound Postcards only on Headphone Commute

Marcus Fjellström – Schattenspieler (Miasmah)

Dark and moody, sad and beautiful, organic and ghostly, the latest album by Marcus Fjellström, Schattenspieler, is an incredible achievement, that grows on you with every listen. This morning, when I was hoping to be a little upbeat, the rainy weather changed my mood, and I gravitated towards yet another listen of the album, which translates from German as the "Shadowplayer"... Weaving an environment full of scratchy and dusty elements, orchestral arrangements reminiscent of Biosphere's Shenzhou, and sad cinematic passages of forgotten films, Fjellström creates a tense atmosphere for the psychological thriller inside your head. And the references to film-making are not an accident here. At least four tracks on the album were originally commissioned for the film House Without A Door by Bernd Behr. Marcus Fjellström is a Swedish composer and a multimedia artist, appearing on one of our favorite labels, Miasmah, for the first time. His two previous releases, Exercises In Estrangement (2005) and Gebrauchsmusik (2006), were both released by the Manchester based Lampse, which may already be known to the listeners through its Machinefabriek releases. Being a Miasmah release, the album gets treated with cover illustration by Erik Skodvin (Svarte Greiner) and is mastered by Andreas Tilliander (Mokira). Fjellström has also worked with the Swedish Royal Ballet, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, as well as various ensembles and soloists. "Haunting synth and orchestral instrument-based audio constructions, flowing from one moment to the next – the fleeting ghosts of Fjellström’s melodies rise, only to be buried under a claustrophobic clutter of percussion and creaking background noise. These pieces do indeed feel like you’re listening to something more implied than obviously stated, as if Fjellström wants only to expose us to the shadow of the music – the implication being perhaps a more terrifying experience than to be confronted outright… listen to ‘Schattenspieler’ and you may find your mind starts to play tricks on you…" Listening to Schattenspieler, you are placed in a haunted house, where the gray clouds slowly gather over the roof. Finally, after a few intense and electrifying moments, the music begins to drip, and then pour on top of your body, slowly saturating first the stale clothing, then the aching bones. Somewhere in the background a needle is left on a record, skipping on the very last groove. And as you approach a corner, the flickering light of a candle is stretching the shadows beyond their physical size, leaping between the wooden boards and yellow stained ceilings... Something just ran around the corner! Was that a giant cockroach or a starving cat? Do you dare to enter Fjellström's world, descend into the basement and find out? I keep returning to the album, and the repeating melodies begin to unravel themselves, implanting into my mind with every recognizable stab or progression. Perfectly fitting on Miasmah, Schattenspieler is a great addition to the catalog of our favorite releases on the label from Kreng, Jacaszek, Rafael Anton Irisarri, Elegi, and Jasper TX. Highly recommended!

Read also Two and a Half Questions with Marcus Fjellström | |

Two and a Half Questions with Marcus Fjellström

Tell us a bit about the process of composing for Schattenspieler.
Well, I guess there are two facets to it; half of the album -- the House Without a Door suite -- was composed in 2006, just around when Gebrauchsmusik came out. For that I tried to fuse avant garde classical composition with a 'Fritz Lang' kind of sensibility, and relied quite heavily on recording acoustic instruments and processing them. The rest of the album was composed much later, using a very different approach; over the last three years I've built and organized a huge personal sound library out of sampling old, forgotten films and vinyl recordings of avant garde classical music. These sounds are later constructed into virtual instruments on which I apply my conventional compositional methods. I think these tracks differ from my previous works in that they are decidedly lo-fi/'vintage' sounding, and also that they are -- in my opinion at least! -- more musically conventional and accessible than the music on my two previous albums on Lampse.

And what about scoring House Without A Door - how did that come about?
Bernd Behr liked my debut album 'Exercises in Estrangement' (2005) and contacted me about the possibility of commissioning original music for his film project. The film makes numerous references to 1920s German expressionist cinema, which I'm personally very interested in, so I was happy to accept the offer. The music for the film was composed, recorded and mixed all in under one month, and I later reworked the material into the suite on the album, so that it could stand on its own legs.

The album has an eerie tone with dark undercurrents - how would you describe your music?
I wouldn't! :) It's very hard for me to describe my music so I generally try no to. But I certainly agree with your description of the album, although naturally it also goes beyond just trying to be eerie and dark. To me, it's almost always important to create a sense of 'what is it?' in my works, to strike a balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar. This album is more directly cinematic than my previous efforts, as well as more deliberately referencing noirish and dark sensibilities and traditions.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Read also Headphone Commute review of of Schattenspieler |

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Library Tapes - Like Green Grass Against A Blue Sky (Auetic)

It feels like David Wenngren doesn't need an introduction. But in case you have missed his previous releases as Library Tapes, I'd recommend you pick up a few of my favorites: Feelings for Something Lost (Resonant, 2006), A Summer Beneath The Trees (Make Mine Music, 2007), and Fragment (Kning Disk, 2008). There's also his 2009 release under his real name, Sleepless Nights on his own label, Auetic, as well as collaboration with Danny Norbury for the Le Lendemain project's Fires (Home Normal, 2009) and his very latest, Our House Is On The Wall recorded for the project Murralin Lane and released by the mighty 12k this year. Whew! If you go through the above, I guess that would serve as a pretty good introduction. If not - here are my words for Like Green Grass Against A Blue Sky. From fuzzy little noises over soft piano chords, to humming ambient pads, and field recordings sprinkled with nostalgic lullabies, David delivers a personal album of nine miniature compositions that should keep you cozy through the Autumn's chilly evenings. Running in length just under 30 minutes, the album is full of familiar melodies, harmonic progressions, and beautiful polished keys. With yet another appearance by Danny Norbury on the cello, the music swirls in neutral harmony, between the major and the minor, sometimes in deliberate silence, sometimes in accidental themes. Like Green Grass Against A Blue Sky is released once again on Wenngren's own label, Auetic, running in a limited edition of 1000 copies. This album also has a great story behind it... In April of this year, David lost 1200 euro in London, that was set aside for production of this release. He reached out to his fans in hope to raise enough money to cover the pressing, promising in return to credit each donor in the 'thank you' list. Of course, I have donated, and it wasn't just for the gratitude from this wonderful composer. I have been a fan of his modern classical pieces for years now, so giving back more than just these words, allowed me to get this music faster from his mind into your years. I hope you enjoy! You can also pick up digital versions of a few albums directly from Library Tapes' Bandcamp page. These are available in return for your donation of only 5 Euros or more. Recommended if you like Peter Broderick, Max Richter, Sylvain Chauveau, Eluvium and Nils Frahm. Be sure to also check out Headphone Commute's review of A Summer Beneath the Trees and our previous Two and a Half Questions with Library Tapes.

Make sure to read our latest Two and a Half Questions with Library Tapes |

Two and a Half Questions with Library Tapes

Where does the title of the album, "Like Green Grass Against A Blue Sky" come from?
i've been having the title for a few years now. i can't really remember exactly when but i saw a great photo somewhere of a field of green grass against a blue sky and yeah, there you go. nothing more exciting than that i'm afraid.

Tell us a bit about your label, Auetic... What does that name mean?
like most of the songs i make, auetic can mean anything you want. i like to leave most things open for interpretation.

How is the sound of Library Tapes different from the work you release under your real name and Murralin Lane?
most of the times it's not really the sound of the album that decides what moniker it should be released under. when making a library tapes album i make sure i have the last say in what goes on the album even if there's other people contributing to it. with my own name i make everything on my own and with other collaborative projects the one i work with have just as much right to make decisions about what makes it on to the album and stuff like that.

How did you became acquainted with Danny Norbury and what prompted yet another contribution of his to this album?
i know it was through myspace but i can't remember who actually made the add. i think it was me that wrote the first message saying i really liked his music and that i was looking for some strings for a few tracks on "sketches" or something like that.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Check out our previous Two and a Half Questions with Library Tapes

Read Headphone Commute's Review of Like Green Grass Against A Blue Sky |

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sound Bytes : Lawrence English, Tomasz Bednarczyk, Stephan Mathieu & Taylor Deupree

With a stressful week behind me, feeling a bit in a reflective mood, I sit down to revisit some of my favorite ambient pieces, as featured in Headphone Commute's Best of 2009 : Music For Bending Light And Stopping Time. A few of my selections have not been previously reviewed on these pages - and, truly believing in the timelessness of music, I reflect on each release in this installment of Sound Bytes... Besides my flashback to these albums this morning, I have also re-listened to them back in March, while I was away on my vacation. Back then I wrote these words: "I sit on the beach and melt into the horizon, the sound of this water mixing with the sound of that in my headphones, creating an environment my mind strives to record, to be played back at a later time along with this music. If only I could package away this air to fill my lungs, the way the sound fills my ears." Perhaps I was able to succeed in capturing the feeling after all... As the music plays, I can feel the warm salty breath of waves on my skin... I hope you enjoy this entry...

Lawrence English - A Colour For Autumn (12k)
In my first revisit to the best ambiance of 2009, I turn to Lawrence English and his last masterpiece, A Colour For Autumn. More than a year has gone by since this 12k release, and yet another fall is here, just as gray as the last one, begging for some touch of color, even if it's in the mid-range frequencies. Australian sound artist, Lawrence English has already released many amazing of albums on his very own, Room40 label, as well as our favorite Touch and of course, Taylor Deupree's 12k. A Colour For Autumn seems to follow in the footsteps of his previous release, For Varying Degrees Of Winter (Baskaru, 2007), thematically tailored for seasonal transit, cycles, and weather. "Like all environmental phenomena, seasonal variation is highly localized, and expressed not only visually through vegetation etc, but also sonically as insect life, leaves under foot and fauna all change in response to the climatic shifts." Bathed in field recordings and micro-tonal ambient pads, the sound at times swells towards harsher edges, then retreats with acoustic textures. Synthetic blends with organic, as the continuous beeping of the telephone's tone, blends on top of guitar strums and synth sweeps. Recorded during two years (2007-09), each piece serves as an "auditory portrait" (a produced version of our Sound Postcards), capturing a unique experience of Autumn from the southern hemisphere. With a few contributions from Dean Roberts and Christian Fennesz, this album shall soothe and warm the weary bones in the windy days to come. Check out the recent releases by Lawrence English on Touch - Incongruous Harmonies as well as his latest collaboration with Minamo on A Path Less Travelled (Room40, 2010).

Stephan Mathieu & Taylor Deupree - Transcriptions (Spekk)
In this amazing collaboration, German based Stephan Mathieu and American proprietor of the lovely 12k label, Taylor Deupree, join forces to create a meditation on transcendence, passing time, decay and history. "Delving deeply into the history of the earliest recording methods through mechanical phonographs, Stephan Mathieu created a method using wax-cylinders, the predecessor of records, as well as 78s, which have a larger frequency range, to create his music through playback of these pieces of musical history. [...] From this result, Taylor Deupree worked with the recordings, adding acoustic instruments and vintage synthesizer; adding-to, while still maintaining the physicality of the 78s, opening the range of the tracks through unalloyed analog contributions." Listening to the first track, "Nocturne", is like eavesdropping on a distant carnival only to be muffled by the constant drone inside my head. As if I'm peering into the outside world from the confinements of a prison cell of sound, occasionally bombarded by audio hallucinations. Multiple layers are fighting to dominate their individual frequency space. One is undeniably organic, while the other is synthetic. A bit atonal in nature, the music is soothing, as if the wind is blowing through digital flutes, singing bowls, and wind chimes. "The result of the century-apart sources combined with the methodology and talent of these two leading experimentalists creates an immutable, impressing magnetism, while still balancing so gently on the vibrations of the decayed, and the frail humanity of the past." Released by the Japanese Spekk, the album lands on my list of Best of 2009 records. Be sure to also pick up Mathieu's Radioland (Die Schachtel, 2008) and Deupree's latest Shoals (12k, 2010). Highly recommended!

Tomasz Bednarczyk - Let's Make Better Mistakes Tomorrow (12k)
Over the thick textures of organic pads, low rumbling of a record player, and conscious tended piano notes, Thomasz Bednarczyk builds ten pieces of ambient fragments, all as elusive as they are persistent. Field recordings of uncommon spaces and public places occasionally poke through the background, only to recede again. The miniature compositions on the album are meticulously sculpted and then repeated to let you fully bathe and soak in the sound. The track, "Autumn", comes in with a driving bass at its base of constant harmonic soundscapes, while "The Sketch", incorporates processed piano chords, gently glitching through the crumbled vinyl clicks, until a few intricate phrases sweep over the field recordings (provided by Sawako), and then fade away. Let's Make Better Mistakes Tomorrow is Bednarczyk's third full-length album.  His previous two releases, Summer Feelings (2008) and Painting Sky Together (2009) were both released on Lawrence English's Room40 label. The album is split into two sections: "The first half of the album floats like a pellucid veil: higher frequency whispers, surface noise and glassy textures create light, calm drones, and noticeable bass tones aren’t heard for nearly 20 minutes... The listener is then presented with the final four pieces, which descend into deeper territory. Darkness and murky frequencies prevail, and the surfaces become more distressed and stormy, finally submerging to 'Night', which closes the album with its languid, sleepy bass loop that lulls away to silence." Once again, a winner for 12k!

Be sure to read this entry directly on Headphone Commute for audio track samples.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Nils Frahm & Anne Müller - 7fingers (Hush)

What's great about this album, is that there was more than a few times when I had that "aaaah..." moment. Perhaps what drove me to write this raving review about 7fingers is that there were those moments one too many. On every single track. I first found out about this album when the new release from Nils Frahm popped up on my radar. But as many anticipated moments in life, that July came and went, and another two months went by before I realized that I have missed this Hush Records release. And here I was, listening to Nils Frahms's latest EP on Erased Tapes, Unter | Über, wondering, whatever happened to that collaboration with Anne Müller? And what's this genre that it's listed under - modern classical and glitch. Modern classical and glitch? What what? As soon as the second track on the album, similarly titled, 7fingers, came on, I knew that I was in for a trip down my favorite lane of clicky electronica, glitchy elements and most importantly, elegantly produced musical pieces. Here, in Müller's hands the cello cries, then hiccups, skipping through Frahm's piano notes, and dropping on the floor in tiny granulated frequencies, then re-arranging back and flying up in the reverse, into the wood from whence it came, all obsessively constrained with micro programmed beats and rhythms. The clicks and cuts are composed of chopped up seasoning, gently sprinkled over a smooth, and creamy melody, oozing with melancholy out of every pore. The album's tracks flip between the glitchy tracks that I keep rating with 5 stars, and strictly modern classical pieces, composed of experimental swirling cello work, some field recordings, and of course, Frahm's piano keys. Besides the obvious string arrangements by Müller, and contemporary classical progressions by Frahm, it's tough to tell where the collaboration comes together - where one begins and another ends - it is a single unit. Yet, for a better picture, I'd love to quote this section from the press release: Two heads, four hands, 7 fingers that want to and are able to, that search and that find. Their company are raging and resting machines, algorithms, oscillations and scratches at the window. They create the broken orchestra, the smooth club drive, the acoustic reflections, fireworks, tiny gramophones. „7fingers“ dissolves into sound, combines into rhythm, becomes pulse and motion and sleep and acceleration. Nils Frahm and Anne Müller, cello and piano and all that is good and music. And what is this Hush label? I am embarrassed to admit, but the only artist I seem to recognize from the roster besides Nils Frahm is Peter Broderick. In fact, there's a "free gift" from the two artists titled, Two Tracks, available as a free download directly from the Hush shop. But with over 60 releases, this Portland based label, seems to keep on pumping beauty out of its heart into ours with a great tagline: "Not so much a business as an unstoppable force of nature, not so much a label as a shield, not so much a publisher as a conduit, not so much an enterprise as an uprise, not so much commerce as community, HUSH is here to BRING IT." I've listened over half a dozen times since I got 7fingers, and I can't stop listening!!! I can't recommend it more for followers of glitchy goodness, like Lusine, Ametsub, Arovane, and the beautiful Yasume. Intoxicating and delicious!!! And while you're dropping this into your shopping cart, be sure to grab the latest from Peter Broderick - How They Are released by Hush as well!

See also our Two and a Half Questions with Nils Frahm |

Two and a Half Questions with Nils Frahm

Tell us a bit about the Unter | Über pieces...
James, a good promoter friend of mine, who also runs the Brian Records imprint in Bath, got in touch with me last winter and proposed to produce a handmade lathe 5-inch vinyl. I first thought it was kind of a ridiculous idea, because each side only fits 2 minutes of music max. But I thought about it and just went for it. I knew that you can’t express much in 2 minutes, but I found it very challenging and interesting to try to express at least as much as possible. So I condensed a few ideas and actually rehearsed my pieces (!). This is kind of unusual and new for me, since all the other recordings were more or less improvised takes. So I played the tunes to James and also to Robert at Erased Tapes and they both liked them quite a lot. So we decided to release it digitally at the same time to make it available for more than just 75 people. This release helped me to find a new direction for my next album. I am working on the record right now and I think it will be akin to Unter l Über, but I don’t want to say too much about it yet :)

Talk a little about the piano that you play these pieces on. What is its history?
I have a Kawai CS40 piano at home. It is a big upright, which I got from the parents of my ex-girlfriend. They didn’t use it anymore, so I bought it off them. It traveled from Hamburg to Berlin and lives in my living room ever since. It has a nice view into my backyard and when I open my window it talks to my neighbors. They don’t seem to dislike each other so far. No complaints. I keep it in excellent shape and it gets all the love it deserves. I’ve heard from many friends and musicians that this is one of the best sounding pianos they have ever played. I agree. I never played a more beautiful upright piano. I am a lucky chap. It has a lot of bass and it’s really fun to play with it.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Read also our Review of 7fingers and Unter | Über

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sound Bytes : Machinefabriek / Ithaca Trio, Solo Andata and Nils Frahm

I put on my jacket for my headphone commute to work and feel the morning breeze brush my cheeks with the tips of Autumn's fingers. I guess that summer is over, and to celebrate its departure, I turn to a few latest releases from my favorite composers. Yet with these tunes, I do not bid farewell to hazy weather. Instead I welcome the somber days of what's to come, where, although sad at times, I feel at home with music. Here's another installment of Sound Bytes with a handful of recent releases that I highly recommend...

Machinefabriek / Ithaca Trio - Par Avion (Coma Architects)
Here, to uncover a few missed gems that have been quietly slipped into our hungry ears, is a beautifully packaged split EP between Rotterdam (The Netherlands) based zealous electronica ambient and acoustic sound artist, Rutger Zuydervelt (aka Machinefabriek), and a Leeds (UK) based ambient/drone collective, Ithaca Trio, which, on this release, is composed of Oliver Thurley and Stefan Wharton. The 30+ minute release, begins with four tracks of experimental jazzy, scratchy, shuffling-noisy explorations, with a distant voice by Mila Dores and a saxophone riff by Oliver Dover. The seemingly random rasps and coughs across this dusty palette create an atmosphere of distant smoky lounges, abandoned studios, and newly discovered instrumental kitchens, where the sound slowly boils to a simmer, and then quickly rises up in steam. The last two tracks on the split are by the man who is an appropriately self-proclaimed "machine factory". His music is more of a sound sculpture then an abstract composition - the field recordings, clicks, and low rumbling noises, keep your ear pressed against the wall, trying to decipher the images evoked by dripping water, closing doors, plucked metal objects, and drony pads. With tracks that have titles like "Archaeologists And Double Bass", "Architecture And Quantum Physics", and "The Desolate Delay", this mini-album is like a tiny little sound box, left to rust in a forgotten rehearsal space, only to be discovered by these musicians and released into the atmosphere, one vibrating surface at a time... The cover art of Par Avion includes a hand-written letter from the Trio to Machinefabriek, inviting him to collaborate on the split. This is a limited release, so be sure to grab your copy if you can find one! Recommended if you also follow experimental works by Sylvain Chauveau, Svarte Greiner, Stephan Mathieu and Lawrence English.

Be sure to read Two and a Half Questions with Ithaca Trio

Solo Andata - Ritual (Desire Path)
The new album by Solo Andata begins with a field recording of a seemingly hot, insect buzzing, mysterious place, saturated with organic sounds, slowly welling up to create a hum of micro-organisms chirping in unison the song of the living. This four track LP is the third full-length release by this Australian duo. We last heard from Paul Fiocco and Kane Ikin, when they released their self titled album on Taylor Deupree's 12k. Continuing their exploration of 'sonic topographies', Ritual implores sounds of "primitive gongs, bells and bowls, wildlife and environmental recordings, sacred chants, the vibration of human cancerous cells, cleavers, and prepared piano" in this very first release for the new Buffalo based label, Desire Path Recordings. The tracks take the listener's hand (or is it ear?), and slowly walk him down the eerie path, where the highest priest, the shaman, and the magician, transform the physical into spiritual and back, from the sound alone. In this ritual, the shaman is the majestic touch of Solo Andata. The last track on the album, the 20-minute piece, Incantare, (translating as 'to chant'), is a deeper spiral passage into the unknown, where deserted vocals swirl in a concoction of gentle pops, ringing bells, and bowed metallic strings. The lo-fi production adds a touch of the authentic recording, as if it was captured during a set of symbolic performances (and perhaps at the end it was), retaining its audible part, leaving the visual and the transcendental to the listener alone. Be sure to grab this along with their previous works, and read up on our Two and a Half Questions with Solo Andata. Highly recommended if you enjoy minimal ambient works by Pillowdiver, Lawrence English, Simon Scott and of course, Richard Skelton. Even better than the last! Sublime...

Read our earlier Two and a Half Questions with Solo Andata

Nils Frahm - Unter | Über (Erased Tapes)
Here's another tiny gift, dropped for us from our friends at Erased Tapes Records - home of Ólafur Arnalds, Peter Broderick and now, Nils Frahm. Last year, the label didn't waste any time and picked up Frahm's three-track Wintermusik EP as well as The Bells, which was immediately selected for our Best of 2009 lists in Music For The Film Behind Closed Eyelids. This summer we also saw a collaboration with Anne Müller – 7fingers, released by Hush Records. This new EP, Unter | Über, is only two tracks in length (and a remix) with a total running time of almost six minutes. These short piano vignettes bring us closer to this amazing composer, exploring the beauty of every note escaping his fingers and the keys. The pieces at times remind me of my own Sound Postcards, where on occasion I sit down, and simply let the music guide my hands - which is why I can interpret this record as a very personal composition to Nils, where I can hear his breathing, pedal work, and the mechanics of each hammer. Nils is already considered a prodigy among the circles of contemporary and modern classical followers. Born in 1982, he was taught to play piano by Nahum Brodski - a student of the last scholar of Tchaikovsky. The force is strong with that one. Unter | Über is actually a sneak preview into an upcoming new album by Frahm on Erased Tapes. The last track on this teaser is a remix by none other than Machinefabriek. The release also includes a short video shot by a German filmmaker, Ralph Etter (embedded below). A few lucky followers can snatch this digital release on a strictly limited 5" vinyl, with only 75 pressings!

See also our Two and a Half Questions with Nils Frahm


Wrapping up this entry of Sound Bytes, I can't help but reflect on the very first installment of this new section on Headphone Commute which I initially published back in February, when it was dry and cold... Read that entry and see how it all ties together...

Be sure to read this entry directly on Headphone Commute for audio track samples.