Tuesday, March 30, 2010

TU M’ - Monochromes Vol. 1 (Line)

Monochromes Vol. 1 is the first volume of archival installations by the Italian multimedia duo, Rossano Polidoro and Emiliano Romanelli, performing under the moniker TU M'. The name, taken from Marcel Duchamp's same titled painting, is a French expression in which the verb is missing (tu m’…). This literally translates to "you [...] me", where the missing verb must be provided by the viewer (of the painting), or, in this case, the listener. The album, released on Richard Chartier's LINE Records, features the first four (out of nine) audio compositions, created for "two laptops, two mixing boards, two loudspeakers, one video projector, [and] one room." These pieces were recorded live at Vico Santa Chiara Studio, Città Sant’Angelo, Italy in the summer of 2008. For the installation, the duo create an atmosphere where "sound and light vibrations reverberate inside the room, blending together in an enveloping monochrome, that creates an atmosphere to be contemplated." The visuals, available as excerpts on the TU M's website, are composed of drawn out monochrome landscapes, resembling distant mountain silhouettes and sluggish geometric figures, visible in change and movement only through sporadic skipping through the captures. Attempting careful observation, or trying to make out patterns that are not there, is futile. It's like watching yourself age in the mirror. It's like watching the clouds... The audio compositions paint the same picture. Over a slight white noise hiss and endless loops, the melody swells in ambient waves of sound, sparkling in the light of distant piano notes. Like the waves of an ocean that have been crashing against this beach for thousands of years, and many years to come, this music is new and ancient - it exists _all_ the time, somewhere completely on its own, only to be summoned into this moment with the press of a button. The sounds fade in and out with the rhythm of my breathing. Inhale soft pads. Exhale minor chords. Let this pattern wash away all worries. And when the [almost] 30 minute track ends, the melody is still there, in the background of my mind. To round off this exploration of space, sound, and light, intertwined together to create this minimal composition, the duo includes a quote by Jean Cocteau: A poet always has too many words in his vocabulary, a painter too many colors on his palette, a musician too many notes on his keyboard. Check out previous numerous releases by TU M' by rummaging through their sound and visual works, carefully catalogued on their website. Their project under the name of Steno, for example, describing themselves as "a world made up of second-hand music", is released on their own, Mr. Mutt label, which, not coincidentally, is the name Marcel Duchamp signed on the upside down urinal, and named his found art as Fountain.

See also Two and a Half Questions with TU M'

12k.com/line/ | tu-m.com

Two and a Half Questions with TU M'

First of all, I have to ask about your moniker, TU M', which is named after a Duchamp's painting. What is the association, if not fascination, with Marcel Duchamp?
Tu m' is a painting whose complexity and mystery has always fascinated us. In 1998 we were struck by that grouping of real and symbolic elements, the idea of the realization “of a painting of cast shadows”, in an ambiguity of shapes and contents. Like that apostrophe in the end of the name, for example, which was put there to indicate an incompleteness which only the spectator/listener can fill up. A silent collaboration between author and spectator where, in the best of cases, the roles are swapped.

Describe the process of the live audio performance and its connection to the video. What software/hardware do you use to sync up the two?
We are not interested in the synchronization of two or more types of media, for example, an immediate reaction between cause and effect; but, rather, the juxtapositions of two elements and their possible resonances. In TU M' we have this idea of the duo/double which has accompanied us for years: the two identities, the two laptops, the horizon line, the analogue and the digital, audio and video etc. Elements that when brought together, project a third shape, a vibrant shadow.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Also, see review, along with a sound sample and video excerpt of Monochromes Vol. 1

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Podcast : Cole Pierce - Later

This week we bring you a wonderful selection of modern classical and experimental pieces as compiled by Cole Pierce. Later was originally produced in a unique edition of 60 CDs, featuring a poem by Tyler Carter and packaged with the playlist printed on found paper and were distributed to Cole Pierce's mix CD mailing list in January of 2010. The ongoing multiples project (since 2004) consists of mixed CDs produced and mailed about twice a year. Cole Pierce is a Chicago based artist making paintings and video installations, holds an MFA in Art Theory & Practice from Northwestern (2007).

See full track listing, read the story behind the selection, plus stream or download the mix on Headphone Commute

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cell - Hanging Masses (Ultimae)

Frenchman Alex Scheffer, aka Cell, is an Ultimae regular, having contributed tracks to many of the label's compilation albums, including the excellent Fahrenheit series. Yet, Hanging Masses is his first album for the label and only his second overall, not counting a couple of notable live releases. I've always honed in on Cell's tracks; he usually manages to hit a really sweet spot, mixing a deep slowly developing ambient/downtempo vibe with catchy hooks and wet, shimmering synths on top. Yet, his prior full-length, Phonic Peace, released by Indica in 2005, was not my cup of tea. Too much of the sort of pseudo Indian mysticism that just rubs me the wrong way. Like a lot of other people, I was energized by the music coming out of Britain's Asian underground scene in the mid to late '90s - Talvin's Singh's Anokha album in '97, State of Bengal, Joi, Cornershop and the like. But for some reason I then developed a real aversion to the fusion of traditional Indian and electronic music. Don't know why. Thankfully, Hanging Masses is more in line with his live releases - Live at Glade Festival 2005 (Sofa Manifesto, 2007) and Live at Kumharas - Ibiza (Ultimae, 2007) - only even more mellow and low key. According to Ultimae's press release, the album "constitutes in the artist's heart a homage to Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream and Steve Reich." The connection with Reich is not obvious but Eno and TD are definitely in attendance. Cell is not a man in a hurry. He's content to slowly fill in the sonic landscape, sprinkling it with gently euphoric glimpses of light. Even when the 4/4 kick drum makes an appearance, typically about half way through a song, the pace never exceeds a leisurely stroll. The experience is akin to lying in a field, gazing at the cloud formations for hours and then suddenly deciding to get up to take a walk through the enchanted forest nearby. The restrained but propulsive groove, such as on the mesmerizing title track, ensures that it's a captivating experience. Recommended for all followers of Ultimae's roster, including Aes Dana, H.U.V.A. Network, Solar Fields, and Hol Baumann.

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Review prepared by Tigon for Headphone Commute.

See also Two and a Half Questions with Cell

myspace.com/alexscheffer | ultimae.com/cell

Two and a Half Questions with Cell

You say that the album is an homage to Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream and Steve Reich. How have they influenced you?
Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, Steve Reich – I also think of David Behrmann, Alvin Lucier, and many more – are really great composers and very important to me. So, yes, you can consider Hanging Masses to be a sort of homage to them. I think they have explored every area of electronic music. Today, we are only repeating their work with faster and more modern tools than they had. I don’t think we’re creating anything new. We’re just the new generation, following our mentors.

If anything, your music has become more mellow and reflective since your last studio album five years ago. How would you say that your music has changed in that time?
It‘s not more mellow, it‘s more personal, I guess. Hanging Masses is a very personal album. I mean, my first album, Phonic Peace, is interesting for people who want to have an easy ‘starter’ in Ethno-Chillout. It was a very ‘polite’ album. Too many samples, I guess… But many people didn’t understand Phonic Peace when they compared it to the tracks I released in that same period, 2004-2005, which were more downtempo/ambient. For example, “Audio Deepest Night”, “Blue Embers”, “Hawaï Transit” and “Asian Morning”. And I clearly understand that today. But I have no regrets about Phonic Peace. I was so proud of it! Hanging Masses is so different, you’re right. I didn’t use any samples, except for a few spoken word here and there. And I used many different types of synths. It’s a real winter album. Some of the tracks were made in the mountains. The climate is so different that you can almost feel the snow very near to you.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview by Tigon on Headphone Commute

See also Tigon's review of Hanging Masses

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sound Bytes : Tortoise, Mountains and Sleeping Me

The following installment of Sound Bytes comes to us courtesy of Matt Leslie and his selections for Best of 2009. It only makes sense for us to revisit these gems before they get archived on the shelves of past releases. Don't forget to preview the tracks, which I have embedded for your convenience. Listen and read, is my new motto ;) Enjoy!

Tortoise – Beacons of Ancestorship (Thrill Jockey)
Post-rock darlings Tortoise release their first album of new material in 5 years and it’s a complete return to form. Sounding like the proper follow-up to 2001’s Standards (Thrill Jockey / Warp / Spunk), Beacons of Ancestorship truly is a prog album. It is dirty and crisp, sounding like it was recorded underwater and in an air-tight studio at the same time. And as always, their sound is undefinable – dub, post-rock, lo-fi, electronica, dance, spaghetti western, jazz, classic rock, punk, it’s all here in a tight 45-minute set. What more can I really say? Tortoise’s musical influence really knows no bounds. They are one of the best bands in the biz and one of my all time faves. Catch them on their belated North American “Beacons” tour in early 2010. Love it. Beacons of Ancestorship is out on Chicago's Thrill Jockey label.

Mountains – Choral (Thrill Jockey)
Brooklyn duo Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp have released my favourite ambient/modern classical album of the year. Mountains are up there with Marsen Jules and Loscil for me, because with Choral they have crafted a beautiful album that expertly blends the organic with the digital – seamlessly meshing acoustics with electronics to fantastic effect. I have been lulled to sleep by this album more than any other this year, but have also enjoyed it in the early mornings, and while reading and writing. Their live show at The Music Gallery in Toronto was one of my favourite live shows of the year. Using guitars, synths, accordion, melodica, voice, two Powerbooks, and lots of other toys, they created a whitewash of introspective and hypnotizing ambience. Choral is also out on above mentioned Thrill Jockey. They also have self-released their Tour CD as well as another limited edition CDr, Etching, which has been repressed by Thrill Jockey on vinyl.

Sleeping Me – Lamenter (Phantom Channel)
Sleeping Me is the moniker of guitarist Clayton McEvoy who makes sweeping ambient compositions that are reminiscent of Stars of the Lid, Harold Budd, and Brian Eno. McEvoy uses only guitars and an array of pedals to create his droned out sound. The result is a relaxing and dulcet lull that is perfect for morning coffees or an absorbing book before bed. McEvoy also put out an album entitled Cradlesongs (Hidden Shoal) earlier this year, but it is hard to find, so I have not heard it in its entirety. However, if Lamenter is any indication, it too is sure to be ideal listening for shoegazers, just in the horizontal position. Lamenter is available as a free digital release directly from Phantom Channel (see web releases on the label site). While you're there, be sure to grab a few goodies by Konntinent, Language of Landscape, Inverz, and Ian Hawgood.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Slugabed - Ultra Heat Treated EP (Planet Mu)

Listening to Slugabed for the first time brings back the memories of hearing the complexity of Squarepusher or the insanity of Venetian Snares who, incidentally, released his sweet venom on Planet Mu as well. But the music of this 19 year old, Bath (UK) based producer, Greg Feldwick, is not the broken rhythms of breakcore or drill'n'bass. It is a slow-paced wobble through the square edged 8-bit world of two-dimensional cardboard trees and bass-growling monsters. At times comical and playful, at times nasty and evil, the sound of Slugabed doesn't commit to classification - instead it begs for a genre of its own. Going back to my mentioning of the complexity of sound with which I was struck upon the first listening of Feldwick's six-track EP, the thick layers of sound and fractured beats take the listeners' time to fully unwrap and appreciate. The sluggish rhythm trolls through an alley of bit-crushed chords, often changing direction of the syncopated step. Closer to the sound of Harmonic 313 then any other dub-step producer, the raw production re-wires the bleeps and lasers of arcade-boxes and turns them into dance tracks that skipped the 80s to time travel to 2010. And if you listen closely, you will hear that behind the sharp and distorted hard-panned sounds, hide the beautiful melodies, as sung from the land of The Uglydolls. Slugabed's debut 12", Gritsalt, appeared in May of 2009 on Ramp Recordings. That summer, he followed it with a split with Coco Bryce, titled MYOR 02 on a brand new Dutch MYOR label. Another 12", Superphreak, appeared on Stuffrecords. And finally, Slugabed got picked up by the beloved Planet Mu. Welcome. This is your new home. Now get comfortable and bring us a full-length.

See also Two and a Half Questions with Slugabed

myspace.com/slugabedmusic | planet.mu

Two and a Half Questions with Slugabed

How would you describe your sound to my 90 year old uncle?
you have a 90 year old uncle? wow. thats old. i would tell him its electronic and loud and he probably wouldnt like it. sorry if ive underestimated him.

What does 'wonky' mean to you?
like, a little bit lop-sided.. asymmetrical. i.e. not a very good description of music.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

See also Headphone Commute review of Ultra Heated EP

Sunday, March 21, 2010

FREE MIX : HC - At Home With Home Normal

In the first few months of 2010, Ian Hawgood, the owner of Home Normal, bombarded my mailbox with envelopes full of promos, and my ears with sublime ambient bliss. In 2009, Hawgood managed to publish eight releases, and this year he's already on the way with another five! I spent a whole weekend enveloped in drones, early morning soundscapes, and experimental ambient music. And then I came up with a way to thank Ian. The following is a one hour mix composed entirely out of my favorite selections from Home Normal releases. It's a perfect label sampler, if you will, showcasing the artist roster from one of the important, up and coming labels.

See full track listing, read the story behind the selection, plus stream or download the mix on Headphone Commute

To compliment this mix, check out Headphone Commute's
Label Profile : Home Normal

Also, don't forget to add our podcast to your iTunes. Just click the below link!
Headphone Commute Podcast

Label Profile : Home Normal

Interview with Ian Hawgood, owner of Home Normal by Headphone Commute

Hey Ian… How are you today, and what did you do this past weekend?
Hi. Yeah, really great thanks. This past weekend I finished mastering some work by some Japanese artists plus the latest Jasper TX work, sent out some shop orders, listened to about 7 demos, bought a bunch of used stuff for my new apartment with my girlfriend, we then walked across north Tokyo twice with shelving in light snow. Sunday we were exhausted so lay in until 2pm, had sushi, bought a coffee table, had an izakaya dinner and drank too much sake, went home, compiled some photography and did a little bit of design work. It was a pretty great weekend.

Tell us how you got involved in music.
Not sure really. I mean, my family is a musical one. I grew up with a guitar, organ, piano, violin, saw and lovely radios and an old record player so I guess that’s how. I was sort of forced into playing piano aged 4 but hated it as I had some hearing problems… but something stuck for sure. I guess that’s how initially at least.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Nest - Retold (Serein)

As the snow blankets the ground, and the earth hibernates in preparation for a new cycle of life, gentle sonic frequencies vibrate our outer shells, to keep us warm throughout the season. The sound of Nest is simple, contemplative, intelligent and incredibly gorgeous. Kicking off 2010, and in a sense a brand new decade, Retold is sure to capture your heart and set the bar for all the modern classical compositions to come. The album strikes your soul with its beauty from the very first track, and you are immediately immersed in the soothing sounds of piano, strings, and tender electronics. Crafted cinematic soundscapes are at the center of the production, setting up the mood and feelings to become the soundtrack to your daily life. Boomkat properly places Retold into its Home Listening category, and I say we should have a Work Listening genre as well – the music of Nest is the only thing that carries me through the insanity of this empty day at work, molding the wasted time into a positive ripple, one note at a time. Retold is the first physical output by a British netlabel, Serein, which has been releasing digitally since 2005. Nest is a collaborative project of the label owner, Huw Roberts, and Otto Totland, who along with Erik Skodvin (Svarte Greiner) releases as the beloved Deaf Center on Type. And it seems that the first release will set the stage for all of the label's future output. Serein, following in the footsteps of another netlabel, Miasmah [which, not coincidentally, is run by the above named Skodvin], is hoping to take up some real estate among our shelves of preciously collected masterpieces. And with Retold, I think it has convinced me to shove a few aside. The album itself could be divided into two parts. Its first half compiling the previously released six tracks on Nest EP (Serein, 2007) in a newly re-mastered form. And the second is made up of new compositions. Musically, however, the story flows, inseparable by medium and time. Between the sound of rain and soft piano keys, the music seeps with melancholy, slowly rolling down my cheek, in a tear of solitude and acceptance. This is how things must play out, I guess, in an intricate web of patterns and cycles, with one action setting off the next, including thought and motion. And since this is the first physical release, a quick nod to the packaging. A six-panel digipack with design by Roberts contains a solid red disc, with no etching or writing of any kind. The spine of the cover has an echo of the same color in a small square next to the catalog number. I'm going to go completely on a whim here and guess that the subsequent releases will have a similar pattern. That would be neat. Fans of Biosphere, Deathropod and of course Deaf Center will enjoy this release immensely, as well as followers of everything touched by Peter Broderick, Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Helios, Jacaszek and Ólafur Arnalds. Need I say more?

See also Two and a Half Questions with Nest


Two and a Half Questions with Nest

First of all, what prompted the first physical release from Serein?
Although the music 'industry' and how people interact with music is changing a lot, it still felt like the label could only go so far operating as a non-profit venture. Not only is it very difficult to get noticed by press without physical albums, it's also difficult to attract artists who've already made a name for themselves through more mainstream avenues. In making this change I hope to make the label known to a wider audience.

How did you first come about collaborating with Otto Totland?
The project grew quite organically over a long period of time. We became friends as former members of the Miasmah label maybe ten years or so ago. We started swapping music via the internet around that time. Musically we share very similar backgrounds, we both play the piano and we listened to very similar music during our formative years.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Reflections : 100 Interviews on Headphone Commute

Two years ago, in February of 2008, I interviewed Benn Jordan. It felt like a huge undertaking on my part. I was about to interview one of my favorite artists face to face in a casual environment. I didn’t bring a voice recorder and did not take any notes. It was simply a conversation over dinner that I documented later, working on an article for over two weeks. It was a challenging task, full of doubt, procrastination and endless edits. Numerous adjectives swirled in my mind and kept me up at night until I replaced the dull and the adequate. At the end, I produced an article that I’m still proud of till this day.

Full article...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Out On Vacation

I know that this is a silly note, but I'd rather let you know that I'll be out for two weeks, then have you wonder about the lack of updates on the site. One thing for sure - I'll be listening to plenty of music. Especially some super relaxing pieces that will go nicely with the sun and the sand...

Meanwhile, stop by Headphone Commute to read a few earlier articles and reviews.