Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sound Bytes : Clem Leek, Rafael Anton Irisarri and Simon Scott

OK. I give up. There is just no way that I can cover all of the wonderful music out there. There's just not enough time! But I still want to tell you about all of the amazing releases that come across my desk. So I'm introducing a new feature on Headphone Commute. It's simple and straight to the point. I'll call it Sound Bytes. A few quick thematic vignettes and mini-reviews of some of my favorite releases. So let me kick off this feature with three recently enjoyed EPs.

Clem Leek - Snow Tales (Experimedia)
First up is a five track EP from Clem Leek. Consisting of four numbered Snow Tales and a remix, this collection of modern classical and ambient pieces is a sublime journey into the mind of this up-and-coming musician. Each piece has been composed in just two days, while Leek was observing the snow falling outside of his house. The release is accompanied by six beautiful photos, that Leek took with his Polaroid camera as soon as it started snowing. I close my eyes and listen to the tales. Somewhere in the background there is a roll of thunder. Ambient soundscapes, stringed instruments and endless pads swirl beneath the gentle piano keys and drifting vocals to evoke the feelings of stillness, falling, and contemplation. Oh, and did I mention that the EP is available as a FREE digital download from the one and only Experimedia? What else can one ask for? Don't forget to also grab Clem Leek's debut EP, Through The Annular, which is available from his own label, Schedios, and his bandcamp page. Also, looks like Clem Leek will be performing alongside Simon Scott and Machinefabriek on May 19th, 2010 (more info). Fans of Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Nils Frahm and Keith Kennif will surely enjoy.

Rafael Anton Irisarri - Reverie (Immune)
This is the second EP by Rafael Anton Irisarri on the Thrill Jockey distributed label, Immune, and I'm already all over it. His last EP on the same label was a beautifully packaged two-track 7" vinyl, titled Hopes and Past Desires. With only three tracks, Irisarri crafts one of his best releases. Seductively constrained musical phrases, barely audible scratches, and incredibly tender piano notes encompass sorrow, longing, and nostalgia. Although three years apart, Reverie seems almost an echo of Irisarri's similarly titled debut full length, Daydreaming released on Miasmah. "Für Alina", the third 13+ minute track on the EP, makes me feel like I'm eavesdropping on a piano confession, sharing intimate moments of deep solitude through a lens of a vast ambient distance. This piece is a rework of Arvo Pärt's likewise titled "Für Alina" - I'm pretty sure that Irisarri must be a fan of the Estonian's tintinnabuli style. And... now that it's not a secret anymore (since even Wikipedia quotes it), I'll be happy to reveal that Irisarri's side project is none other than The Sight Below, for which you must have read many praises already on these and other pages. Speaking of which, be sure to also pick up an upcoming TSB release in collaboration with Simon Scott, titled It All Falls Apart out on Ghostly International in April, 2010.

Simon Scott - Nivalis (Secret Furry Hole)
And that last sentence was a perfect segue into a new release by Simon Scott - a 16-minute single-track piece, released on a 3" mini CDr by Secret Furry Hole. This is the second release by Scott after his critically acclaimed Navigare (Miasmah, 2009). As interesting as it is, the EP was also written during a heavy snowfall late last December in Cambridge. Nivalis is Scott's "tribute to the winter, the snow and the beauty of how the seasons change here in England". Swells of strings are drowned in low-fi field recordings of Scott removing ice and snow from his doorstep, repetitive hypnotic patterns of organic soundscapes, and the distant, barely audible, subtle vocals. I mean, if you have to go out and shovel some snow, you might as well have Nivalis on, as a soundtrack. If not, go out and stare at the reflection of the moon, and slowly drift between the spaces. This is all there is - between the now and always - the isness. The EP is available directly from the label, but hurry - it is limited to only 200 copies! Be sure to also pick up other goodies from the label. Open your wallet and grab some limited releases by Buzz Aldrin, Hauschka, Glenn Johnson, Peter Broderick, His Clancyness, and the debut label release with collaboration by Library Tapes / Machinefabriek / Fabio Orsi / Die Stadt Der Romantische Punk - with compositions based on a sampled symphony by Henryk Gorecki.

I pause and think about this for a moment. This morning we had a heavy snow storm. I woke up, and the first thing I did was put on Clem Leek's "Snow Tales" not realizing how appropriate it was with the weather - it was just something that was perfect. Commuting to work, the music inspired me to start this new section, Sound Bytes. My office was desolate, with many people snowed in, so I kept on listening to the music, migrating over to Rafael Anton Irisarri. I then remembered about Simon Scott's release, which I also meant to write about, not realizing that it too, was about snowfall. It was written during the snow fall. The three recordings have a definitive theme, and I, not realizing it until this very moment, was in the same world for the entire day. So... I pause and think about this for a moment. Coincidence? I don't believe it. ~HC

Friday, February 26, 2010

VA - Pop Ambient 2010 (Kompakt)

Kompakt Records kicks off the new year with the tenth installment of its annual Pop Ambient series — a decade of densely layered drones, tones, and sounds, showcasing the best artists making music in modern classical and ambient genres. The compilations are curated each year by label head and music legend, Wolfgang Voigt (aka Gas), and have basically been a staple in my morning and late evening playlists for an entire decade. The musical discoveries I have made because of this yearly release are unparalleled — over the years the series has acted as a who’s who in forward thinking electronic compositions that aren’t concerned with beats, bass, or the dancefloor. Artists like Marsen Jules, Klimek, Andrew Thomas, Markus Guentner, Donnacha Costello, Triola, and Thomas Fehlmann have all been mainstays throughout the decade long series, and all artists I respect and adore. A quote from press release: Newcomers may ask - so what is POP AMBIENT? A genre? Possibly. A statement of musical mindset? Absolutely! [...] Throughout POP AMBIENT's editions, the music has evolved ever so naturally - almost characterizing the blossoming of the floral arrangements that have graced the series covers year after year. [...] We say this every year but POP AMBIENT 2010 is a defining moment for the series - a change in pace but a familiar face for those that have been yearning for our annual remedy. The opening track for the 2010 edition starts with quite possibly the best Marsen Jules track I have ever heard. The aptly titled “The Sound of One Lip Kissing” sweeps from right to left channel and builds around a single dark and reverberating chord that is accompanied by the hesitant tinkle of piano to amazing effect. Brock Van Whey is welcomed into the Pop Ambient family this year and lulls listeners with two beautiful tracks under his bvdub moniker. “Lest You Forget” follows the opening track and offers a sense of air and light, after Marsen Jules’ somewhat ominous beginning. Van Whey also closes the album with the sprawling “Will You Know Where to Find Me” that features haunting vocals and rich delay that peacefully dissipates as the 17-minute track comes to an end, leaving you calmed and happily brooding. Kompakt’s own Dettinger, returns with “Therefore” his first new song in nearly a decade – a smooth and droney track, that features a slight hi-hat shuffle buried in the mix. Label head, Wolfgang Voigt also shows up with the excellent “Zither und Horn”, which sounds like nothing I’ve heard from him before. It’s a pastoral and string-based track that feels more traditionally “song-like” in its composition, and much different than his work as Gas. Offerings from DJ Koze, The Orb, and Jürgen Paape are equally as strong, and overall, this is another sterling edition to an already fantastic oeuvre of ambient music. Check it.

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Review by Matt Leslie (Inaudible). Edited by HC. Republished with permission.

See also Two and a Half Questions with Wolfgang Voigt | |

Two and a Half Questions with Wolfgang Voigt

When you founded Kompakt Records in 1998, did you have any idea that the “Cologne sound” would become such an inspirational and driving force in the world of electronic music?
The so called “Cologne Minimal Techno" has been founded in 1991 and had it's first international peak of success already in 1996. When we founded KOMPAKT in 1998 we just renamed our several activities ( labels like PROFAN, STUDIO 1, NTA,... our recordshop DELIRIUM...., distribution..) under one name: KOMPAKT.
That so many people all over the world, since then like our style of music, makes us still very happy and proud.

The Pop Ambient releases stand in stark contrast to Kompakt’s other annual compilation, the Total series. Was there a conscious decision at the time to promote this more stripped down genre and show people that electronic music doesn’t have to be strictly for the dance floor?
Apart from our main musical goals (Techno...) we have always been fascinated by very elegiac, soft and artful soundscapes. With Pop Ambient we founded a platform for our own idea of Ambient Music as an alternative to music like Chill Out, Lounge or Easy Listening. For us Pop Ambient is stripped down Pop Music under the microscope.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Frank Riggio – Anamorphose (Spectraliquid)

Like a hungry spider, returning to its nest of venomous eggs, the effect-rich sound of Frank Riggio crawls up your skin, and sinks its fangs in to open up a healed scab beneath your scalp. This album is dark, cinematic, enormous and elaborate. It is absolutely impossible not to compare Riggio to Amon Tobin - so let me just get the similarities out of the way. Saturated with samples, dense percussion, and intense micro-programmed twists and turns through the intricate passages, Riggio seems to have taken the path where Tobin veered off to persuade a more experimental sound. So let us leave Tobin in the studio, composing another video game soundtrack, and turn our ears towards Riggio, who sprung up from the underground last year, like a fresh poisonous mushroom after an acid rain. Hailing out of Epinal (France), Riggio has been producing music since the age of 18. His influences include the above mentioned Amon Tobin, DJ Shadow, and Bonobo. In 2007, Riggio released his debut LP, Visible in Darkness. Soon after, his second digital LP, Symmetric Human Door, appeared on Australian net label, Omelette (available for free). He followed it up with another free digital 7-track release, Noise Thinking (Omelette, 2009), and in December, the Greek label, Spectraliquid, gave us the best Christmas present one would want - the third album from Frank Riggio, Anamorphose, available completely for FREE! What? I would have gladly paid money for this! I guess the motivation here is to fall in love with Riggio's sound - since he's got a fourth album on the way on Spectraliquid out in late Spring of 2010. And falling in love with this trip is easy! Full of orchestral stabs, agitated strings, and an arsenal of acoustic and digital percussion, Anamorphose is the lost score to my newly found nightmares. With nostalgic passages, scratching at my memory of abandoned dusty films, the beat treads on, like a rusty tank, smothering your neighbor's obscene American Girl doll into the cold oily mud of reality with its metal claws of freedom, fake lipstick and all... Apple orchards wither, as seen through the sepia filtered lens of an aged camera, then sink into the putrid ground to reveal the lonely scarecrow, its empty mouth dangling by a thread, in which the spider made its nest. The sound is so raw, I can draw these images all day. And the production is superb! The album is so good, it's tough to pick a favorite track! I mean, if I didn't tell you that this isn't Amon Tobin, I bet you wouldn't even know. Even the cover art for this and other albums along with the font, resembles the artwork of Supermodified (Ninja Tune 2000) and Foley Room (Ninja Tune, 2007). And I point that out with the greatest respect. While some may turn up their nose with accusations of a copycat, I happily proclaim - bring it on! More imitations of Amon Tobin, Aphex Twin, and Autechre (just to start with 'A's). These are the roots of evolution of music as it splinters into a million little pieces of sound. Permutations, anyone?

See also Two and a Half Questions with Frank Riggio

And don't forget, you can preview tracks from the album directly on Headphone Commute! | |

Two and a Half Questions with Frank Riggio

What are your reactions when your music is compared to Amon Tobin? How do you feel about being called a copycat?
It's flattering in a way, because Amon Tobin is a legend. But sometimes it's a bit boring too. I think some people always try to compare me to Amon Tobin, even if it's not comparable. My latest music is not that similar in my opinion. I can understand why some people call me a "copycat", but to be honest, I don't really care about people who are not open-minded. He influenced my music a lot, for sure, and that's not a secret at all. Tobin is a sort of master Jedi to me - a role model. You can treat me as his padawan. We have similar tastes too, I guess. He somehow opened up a new way of creation, and I'm just following in his footsteps. Some follow the dubstep movement, and I follow Tobin's. But I always try to make my music more personal. And it's just a matter of time... I'm 29 and still a rookie. There are so many things to learn. I just want to point out that everybody is influenced by everybody on this planet, we do all things together - we are a kind of unity. Even Tobin has his musical influences. Just the fact that Tobin used a lot of samples on his songs can mean that he's kind of a copycat too. Even if the samples are manipulated in a new way. The main idea is somehow 'borrowed'.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Monday, February 22, 2010

Headphone Commute Podcast

Since I started publishing free mixes on Headphone Commute, I guess it was only a matter of time before they got turned into a podcast. So what's the difference? Not much really. A podcast is an enhanced delivery method of our music directly into your digital players. Throw the URL listed below into your iTunes, and every time another mix is published, it will just show up in your library! Pretty neat, eh?
[ for iTunes - Menu : Advanced : Subscribe to Podcast...]

Headphone Commute Podcast

So act now, and don't delay! Click, copy, and paste, and we'll deliver our favorite selections right into your headphones! Maybe if you guys dig this new feature, our Podcasts will include occasional audio interviews, live shows, and special reviews. The "Mixes" section will continue to stay as is, with free mixes created by and exclusively for Headphone Commute, available for streaming and downloading. You'll still need to visit the site if you want to get the full track listing ;)

Over and out.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

FREE MIX : Mr. Tom – Polar

It's a chilly early morning, and my feet sink into the hard shell of a snow that built up over the night. The sun warms my face, but the air is crispy and dry. I hurry towards my destination, in time with the beat, on my headphone commute. The music compiled in this mix by Mr. Tom features some of my favorite ambient dub and ambient techno artists, like Vladislav Delay, Lulu Rouge, Yagya, Trentemøller, and Gas, so I couldn't resist from sharing it with you. Appropriately titled Polar, the music wraps cold and empty white noise, into deep thumps of the bass and endless delays, so characteristic of the genre.

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

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Reflections on 2009 : Spekk, Hammock, Ólafur Arnalds, and Konntinent

Here comes the final installment from the Reflections series. There may be more to come, but this is indeed the last set of words from the initial batch. In this edition, we feature Nao Sugimoto of Spekk, a list of favorites from Marc Byrd of Hammock, some thoughts from Ólafur Arnalds, and the thoughts on music of 2009 from Konntinent.

Read this installment on Headphone Commute

Check out the rest of Reflections

Friday, February 19, 2010

B.J. Nilsen - The Invisible City (Touch)

I have to admit that I'm mildly surprised by where my musical preferences are taking me these days. Until recently, I didn't really have much patience for drone and noise music. I found it intriguing but I couldn't really wrap my head around it. Now I find myself increasingly gravitating toward these more abstract forms of music, especially if they incorporate field recordings. There's something primordial about this music, as if it allows you to engage with some elementary force deep within. The sharp edges that I used to find grating are now so deeply satisfying. Am I hearing it differently? I don’t know. But I do know that for me, listening to music like B.J. Nilsen's seems to slow the passage of time. Gradually, the sounds combine to build a scene that remains constant over an extended period of time, giving you the time to peel away the surface and submerge yourself in the substance beneath. It really focuses the mind. It's what I imagine meditation must be like. B.J. Nilsen is one of the shining lights of the treasured Touch label roster and a luminary of electronic drones and field recordings. I just recently discovered his stunning last album, The Short Night (Touch, 2006), and his latest, The Invisible City, is another high water mark. Nilsen has traveled as far afield as Japan and Portugal for the source material for his field recordings and the track notes provide fascinating insight into the building blocks of Nilsen's compositions. Along with the electronics, acoustic instruments (Hildur Gudnaudottir makes another appearance on [pitch-regulated] viola) and processors he uses, Nilsen lists the recorded sound sources. And so, “amplified chair dragged across floor”, “window shutters”, “steel whistle coffeepot” and “birdsong” place their indelible mark on the opening track Gravity Station. A few minutes in, underneath a steady thick metallic drone and the hum of vibrating electrical lines, you can just barely make out what sounds like the weaving tones of a Middle Eastern flute – something you might hear off in the distance in a busy sun-drenched Arabian market. Or is it my imagination? Then, halfway through the almost 17 minute track, the chair and shutters lurch loudly and rudely across the sound field, heralding a rather menacing and doom-laden finale. A frantic chorus of birdsong whips things into a frenzy before the end comes with desperate bursts of twisted noise. What does it all mean? I don’t know. But on the whole, Nilsen's sound sculptures – which seems to me a more fitting description than “music” – are ominous. If they are indeed a representation of some aspect of city life, then it must be of an urban underbelly. Of dark things that lurk underneath the surface, like the high-pitched static squeals in Scientia that recall rats scurrying around the sewers beneath our cities. But more than anything, the music evokes industry and technology, from churning motors and machinery grinding to a halt in Phase and Amplitude to a burst of a fax transmission at the beginning of Virtual Resistance. Digital data snaking its way through the invisible passageways that lie behind the walls of our constructions. The ironic thing is that many of the field recordings originate in nature. Bumblebees, wasps, birdsong, flapping wings, crows, rain, footsteps on snow, “dead trees leaning against each other”. But they are usually manipulated and processed to such an extent that they are unrecognizable. Nevertheless, they bring life, depth and movement to a cold and hard backdrop constructed of wires and steel. And together these elements form remarkable sound sculptures that will undoubtedly stand the test of time.

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Review prepared by Tigon for Headphone Commute.

See also Two and a Half Questions with B.J. Nilsen |

Two and a Half Questions with B.J. Nilsen

So, where is the invisible city?
The Invisible City grew out of material I had been working on for a period of three years. I think this city can be anywhere really, even in the middle of the woods or in the desert. Wherever you want to place it.

The atmosphere on the albums is dark and hard. Is that a reflection of a pessimistic view of the world?
It’s very much linked to the modern city – a busy, abstract, tempting, dangerous and hard but beautiful place where animals and trees have as hard a time in getting by as we do. I don’t want it to be seen as dystopian! Not at all… Life’s too short!

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Broken Note - Terminal Static (Ad Noiseam)

For those of us who have been forced to stem our vinyl intake, it's nice when a label like Ad Noiseam swoops in and neatly collects a slew of great dubstep 12"s from multiple sources. Terminal Static, featuring tracks released on Ruff, Damage as well as Ad Noiseam, is such a collection -- a near-comprehensive taste of London producers Eddie (aka Kidnappa and one half of 16 bit) and Tommy, together known as Broken Note. Imagine dubstep strung up and gutted by space marine rastas, with tense atmospheres, roaring bass lines and raging tempos that can go neck-and-neck with the likes of Excision, Rotator and DJ Hidden, and you come somewhat close to nailing the sound. Pigeonholing it as "darkstep" does a disservice to its unhinged nature. Each track is its own mechanized beast. A rogue unit. Halfway through "Meltdown" the gears noisily shift from a tribal deathmarch to frenetic drum'n'bass warfare. "Pyrotek" machineguns its way into breakcore/gabber territory. The grime of "Dubversion" (which Hecq later re-calibrates in a chop-shop fashion) is caked on so thick, it's a wonder its tank treads still move. Everywhere is the reek of corpses and napalm. This isn't a stealth mission. This is an all-out, take-no-prisoners invasion, chainguns and flame throwers blazing. Were you to send "Zealot" back in time, Terminator style, to anyone listening to Bloody Fist Records or Digital Hardcore Recordings, they'd immediately surrender... after soiling themselves. The future is frighteningly advanced. Broken Note has seen to it. Stop crying and get up, soldier. Terminal Static is the debut release by the duo on Ad Noiseam. In addition to the above mentioned Hecq remix, the CD contains a rework by Enduser appearing on the album as I Am The Sun. Check out Broken Note's previous 12", Let 'Em Hang / Meltdown (Ad Noiseam, 2009), War In the Making / No Struggle (Ruff, 2008), and  Fueling The Fire EP (Damage, 2008). In addition to the above mentioned names, this release is recommended for the likes of Reso, Innasekt, King Cannibal, and Hektagon.

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Review prepared by Autodestruct exclusively for Headphone Commute

See also Two and a Half Questions with Broken Note |

Two and a Half Questions with Broken Note

Your music is perfect for the virtual battlefield. I want to blast it in my giant mech suit while mowing down civilians. Can you see yourselves lending your cinematic riot sounds to film or game soundtracks?
Maybe, its been suggested to us enough times by various people. I think it would be fun thing to try but i wouldn't want it to compromise the amount of time we have to work on music too much. Don’t want to compromise my dignity either- wouldn’t want to sell my soul to the devil (hence- I would consider it for independent media.)

What goes through your minds when you make your music?
A lot of things go through my mind when I write music. I know I am completely engaged with a tune when If im working on a part that is built for a dance floor i might get an image of really large sound system, maybe at a Teknival or something. Once i get that image it helps me to be very objective about what needs to be done to the tune. If im writing something a little more cinematic, i'll get more epic landscape type images - be it a view over a smogged out city or view in the mountains. Every crowd reacts differently which is one of the best parts of performance - theres no set rules of what is going to go down and what is not. So i just play what i like!! haha

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Jega - Variance (Planet Mu)

It took almost nine years for Dylan Nathan to return to the scene with his intelligent breaks and glitchy melodies, slapping it across the entire IDM spectrum under his Jega moniker. There were some hiccups in this release - the album leaked back in 2003, and Nathan chose to pull back the tracks, refile the scraps, and rearrange the bits into his third full length, double disk release, Variance. Here and now, Nathan brings back the vigor with which he left us with Geometry, once again selecting Planet Mu as the label of choice for his experimental beats. It's tough to approach the review of this album, especially since it spans across two discs and 18 tracks! I'll get right down to it, and skip the first volume altogether, which is melodic electronica and light IDM. The only reason I am jumping over the first disc, is because with the amount of great music on this double volume, I want to get straight to the goodness. Apologies for that, but I do not mean to send a wrong signal. So with your permission I'm moving on to the darker side of Jega, because the second disc is where he truly shines. Here, the random palette of synth melodies is replaced by the darker strand of electro, that breaks its jagged tooth against the broken beats. Atmospheric pads still linger in the background, while the front-lines are dominated by impeccable rhythm structures and a heavily processed dose of virtual effects. Synthesis geeks will be proud to hear their brains being tweaked through the naughty twists of Jega's ridiculously time-consuming production. I have a feeling that it took Nathan nine years to release this album simply because he chose to tweak every possible VST plug-in out there and throw each and every one of them into the mix. Variance is like a detox manual for DSP junkies on a thousand ways to mess up the beat. Listening to Latinhypercube I find myself cringing my nose and going "What in the world was that?" Drilling rhythms decompose into voices, into flashbacks of a bad trip, into sick mental sound too crippled to dance. A few tracks (like Aerodynamic and Kyoto) remind me of Chris Cunningham's short film, Rubber Johnny, where an erratic and delusional mutant child is dancing in his wheelchair to a spasmodic beat of Aphex Twin's "afx237 v7" track taken off of his album drukqs (2001, Warp). Looks like Cunningham may have a new challenge! For the full background on Nathan's history, see my Headphone Commute flashback to Geometry where you will learn of his releases on Skam and Matador, as well as his influence on Mike Paradinas (µ-Ziq) and the beginnings of Planet Mu. This album is a must have for fans of Autechre, AFX, Wisp, Squarepusher, Clark and all things juicy erratic. Come and get your fix. | |


As my mood shifts from one plane to another, and the music bombards my ears with various styles, tones and rhythms, it's hard to stay grounded to just one genre. Today, I feel like glitching along with IDM. Tomorrow, I bop my head to hard pounding techno. In anger, evil drum'n'bass takes over my soul, then collapses in half-time to the vibrations of dubstep. How do I capture all of these swings in one swooping hour?

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

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lusine - A Certain Distance (Ghostly International)

Has Lusine turned almost pop? Well, not quite. If so, then pop music has never sounded so good! But peel back the vocals from the foreground, appearing on a few tracks by Vilja Larjosto and Caitlin Sherman, and we are left with the good old electronic sound of Lusine, known for his lush ambient soundscapes, organic catchy melodies, and solid punchy beats. With his 9th full length album, A Certain Distance, Jeff McIlwain continues to evolve his production skills, articulate composition, and unique staple sound, creating a downtempo album, with a lighter upbeat feel. Jeff has been releasing music on a variety of prominent labels, entering the spotlight since his 1999 debut, L'usine. When his music reaches InterContinentaL barriers, he appends an ICL suffix to his alias. Hence, all of his releases on the German Hymen label are under Lusine ICL, including my absolute favorite ambient marvel, and a top favorite of Headphone Commute's from 2007, Language Barrier (Hymen, 2007). The Lusine moniker appears mostly on all domestic labels, such as Ghostly International. Over the contemplating chord progression and occasional vocoder phrases, familiar elements introduced in the above mentioned Language Barrier, appear in a subliminal field of sound. These are the ambient pads, accented with microscopic percussion bits, creased into crumbled lo-fi beats, and smoothed out on a sonic surface. Just as the vocoder maps the frequencies of sampled voice over synthesized chords, Lusine succeeds in "mapping human emotions via technology". The Two Dots EP released by Ghostly prior to the album, has set expectations for Certain Distance, with its memorable hook completely consuming my auditory memory until I admitted my defeat on Headphone Commute's 20 EPs of 2009. The rest of the tracks on the album, deserve a 12" EP each on their own. Each is a unique exploration of the marriage between organic and laptop, downtempo and dancefloor, tech house and pop. Highly recommended.

Read also Two and a Half Questions with Lusine | |

Two and a Half Questions with Lusine

The twenty dollar question: would you call your latest release "pop"?
Well, I was focused more on verse/chorus song structures on a few of the tracks, so in that sense yes. That's mostly how I conceive of "pop" in a musical sense, as opposed to the typical build/break-down song structures in electronic music. But, "pop" means radio friendly to most people, so I guess it depends on who you ask there.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Sunday, February 7, 2010

10 Questions From Headphone Commute

I know how most of you hate these surveys, but I promise you that this one is not for gathering and selling any of your information. I'm just trying to fine tune Headphone Commute and concentrate on areas that may require improvement. There's no need to waste my time and energy publishing on myspace if no one reads it there, right? So if you can spare a few seconds and just click through these questions, you would help me take Headphone Commute to the next level...

Take the 10 Questions

Mr. Projectile - To The West (Semisexual)

Mr. Projectile... He's back! After a five year silence, Matthew Arnold returns with his fourth full length album, To The West, and thrusts it right back up in our $%@#ing faces. The last time I marveled at Arnold's intricate IDM production skills was back in 2004, on the beloved Merck label with his release, Sinking. Following that, there was a two-track 12", Momentary Lapse Of Sensitivity (Semisexual, 2005). In 2007, Merck closed its doors, and for years I mourned the loss of the artists left stranded amidst the disintegrating landscape of dying labels. Until finally, out of nowhere, Arnold drops another bomb on his very own Semisexual imprint, for all the hungry ears. The sound will always find the way. Laced with a few short ambient pieces, To The West plays like a trip through a slinky, wobbling down the psychedelic stairs. Using a few of familiar sounds that my ear got accustomed to from Sinking, Arnold teases us with a few intelligent progressions and then slams a dark electro beat, full of 303-esque acid bass and dazzling arpeggios. Expert knob twiddlers will pick up on the analog sounds of Nord Modular and the unmistakable flavor of x0xb0x (pronounced "zocks box" by the way). Although I can't name the sounds of a drum machine (I'm not that good), the percussion is solid, tight, and very satisfying, ranging from the above mentioned electro patterns to the unrestricted domains of IDM. Arnold's beatless pieces are just as satisfying. Leaving Burning Man uses an accented bass line to set the progressing melody beneath the swirling ambient sweeps. And the mind bending twists of glitching and stuttering rhythms of Information Doubling nod to the sound of Autechre with that hidden gem that only reveals itself upon repetitive listens. And then there is my nostalgic love for all the scents of 303, that gets satisfied with an occasional prairie dogging of sound hiding just beneath the surface. And while the beat carries the movement forward, hazy melodies break through electrified cobwebs of sound to leave their unforgettable imprint. Delicious. Although, as of this writing, the Semisexual label's page is reduced to a sparsely updated blog with past touring schedules, the album can be picked up from a handful of digital outlets, like Addictech. And seriously, while shopping, don't forget to add Sinking (Merck, 2004) to your cart - you will not be disappointed - the album is still in my rotations after all these years.

See also Two and a Half Questions with Mr. Projectile |

Two and a Half Questions with Mr. Projectile

So what have you been up to all these years?
Long story... in short: moved to montana, moved to california, toured europe twice and the U.S. twice, helped found the production crew/burning man camp/family Nexus, threw a party at NASA, fell in love, fell down, moved into a blue castle in the redwoods, developed superpowers, and directly experienced timelessness.

How is the post-Merck world treating you?
It's been interesting to watch what survives and what doesn't, who sticks around and who doesn't, and how people and the music evolve.

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Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Richard Skelton - Landings (Type)

Richard Skelton's songs don't tell a story. They describe a place, a landscape. No... that's not quite right. They're more like a part of the landscape. On Landings, his remarkable new album, the rugged and earthy texture of the strings, gentle guitars and densely layered assorted acoustic instruments, all played by Richard himself, meld with field recordings of babbling brooks, the breeze and bird song. It all feels like it emanates from the same source. The songs on Landings don't contain much in the way of development. No build-up, no climax, no resolution. Instead each song is a portal into a particular setting... or state of mind. You step in, breath in the fresh air, the breeze ruffles your hair and all you can do is marvel at Mother Nature's handiwork. Landings is the product of four years of recordings that Skelton did in Lancashire's West Pennine Moors in Northern England, close to where he grew up. When originally released on his own Sustain-Release imprint, the CD was accompanied by a book with the same title that collected Skelton's writings, including diary entries, word lists, poetry and prose fragments from 2004 to 2008. Together, the writing and the music were his way of trying to engage with the landscape. Unfortunately, the book appears to be sold out but Type has thankfully rereleased the music. There's an undeniably mournful undertow to the album, a reflection of the rugged nature of the Moors no doubt, but it probably also has a lot to do with the fact that the album is dedicated to his late wife, Louise. In a recent interview with Title Magazine, Skelton explained that to him his music is an intensely private thing. In addition to being a way to connect with a place, it's a vehicle through which he deals with his loss and memories. There's a strong sense of ritual about the way he approaches this endeavor. He buries his strings deep in the soil, he takes stones from the ground in a particular place and knocks them against the body of his violin. This may not make a very tangible contribution to the recordings but the ritual is an important part of the act of making the music. There's something so solemn and beautiful about this process, and it displays an incredible dedication and commitment. Skelton has released music under a number of guises in recent years - A Broken Consort, Carousell and Clouwbeck. Landings is the second album in a row that he releases under his given name. A sign that he has well and truly come into his own.

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Review prepared by Tigon for Headphone Commute.

See also Two and a Half Questions with Richard Skelton | |

Two and a Half Questions with Richard Skelton

How did you develop your deep attachment to nature? Is it also a way of connecting to your past, your childhood?

Like many people, I started out with a deep attachment to nature. As a child, I wanted to be an ornithologist or a cartographer. But for some reason studying biological science at school left me completely cold, and I lost interest, and there certainly wasn't any academic outlet for my obsession with maps. So these things gradually dwindled and soon adulthood came with that way it has of driving a wedge between us and our passions. Modern culture. Television. Careers. The built environment. These things conspire to make us forget. It was only recently, when I spent five years in relative seclusion in rural Lancashire, that I had a kind of epiphany. A return to what mattered. Moreover, I discovered that the natural landscape isn't merely pretty, or scenic, or picturesque. My experiences out there in the woods and fields can really only be described as a spiritual reawakening - but one which had no reference to God or any specific religion.

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Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rameses III - I Could Not Love You More (Type Records)

After a string of releases and collaborations on various labels over the last few years, London based trio Rameses III released I Could Not Love You More on the always intriguing Type imprint in the fall of last year. It is a soothing and pastoral album full of lush drones and ambient soundscapes. Combining acoustic guitar, lap steel, loops, voice, synths, and field recordings of idyllic summer days, Daniel Freeman, Spencer Grady and Stephen Lewis, have composed a relaxing and intimate album reminiscent of Brian Eno, Helios, Mountains, and Klimek. Like all good ambient and modern classical, there’s a sense of weightlessness to Rameses III’s music, yet there’s still an inherent feeling that a band is playing this music — it’s not overly produced, it’s soft and very organic. Tracks like “All Shall Be Well” and “Cloud Kings” play up the trio’s love for sprawling drone, while tracks “Across The Lake Is Where My Heart Shines” and “No Water, No Moon” are more song-like in composition, where the instruments maintain their sonic shape, rather than morphing into a whir of sound. The album conjures up a sense of nostalgia that I cannot quite put my finger on. Listening to it makes me feel a closeness to the past, a nearness, a uniformity even, to a forgotten yearning from years before. The beach side samples in “No Water, No Moon” reminding me of summers come and gone — the soft strum of guitar creating a wall of white nostalgia, visceral feedback reverberating in my ears — as the band’s use of haunting vocals brings me back to the surface of my present, and I realize I’ve just totally zoned out on the streetcar and missed my stop completely. Such is the beauty of music, and such is the aural allure of Rameses III’s I Could Not Love You More, which ranks as one of the best ambient, modern classical albums of 2009. Check it.

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Review prepared by Matt Leslie (Inaudible) exclusively for Headphone Commute.

See also Two and a Half Questions with Rameses III | |

Two and a Half Questions with Rameses III

On your website you noted that “I Could Not Love You More” was very hard work, but that you considered it your best album yet, to which I would definitely agree. Can you tell us a little about the recording process?
We generated a lot of material whilst working on this album and it was only on the 20th version that we were all finally happy. Element of some tracks - such as 'We Shall Never Sing Of Sorrow' - were actually started several years ago and it was only with this album that we found a way to finish the tracks to our satisfaction. We spent a lot of time just listening to the results before ruthlessly editing out anything that we felt did not work or did not fit the spirit of the album.

There’s a strong sense of nostalgia that’s created with “I Could Not Love You More”. I felt this with your earlier work as well, but it seems particularly strong here. Is this album a more personal work for you guys or am I looking too deep into it?
There has always been an element of nostalgia to our work. Several tracks have been named after or have been about loved ones lost: for example 'For Elsie (Cheery Blossom Falls)' off 2004's 'Jozepha' was for my then recently desceased grandmother. However we did make a conscious decision to make the artwork for the new album more personal so it includes photos of Spen's grandmother Jozepha who passed away last year.

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Stop by Headphone Commute to read the entire Two and a Half Questions with Rameses III