Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tim Hecker - An Imaginary Country (Kranky)

Released exactly a year ago, An Imaginary Country by Tim Hecker continues to satisfy my aural cravings. From persistent nonchalant two note passages dispersing in reverb, to pulsating bass undertones accented with frequency thick chromatic chords, and concrete layers of sonic treatment placed in all strategic places, designed to hold this fragile structure erect, the architectural plans behind this album are as solid as that of a monumental building, rising skywards past all of the clouds, remaining one of the attractions, long after its creator is gone. An Imaginary Country is the sixth full length album by this Canadian based musician and sound artist. His discography stretches back a decade (back in 2000, Hecker was recording under the alias Jetone), with numerous releases on Kranky, Room40, Mille Plateaux, Alien8, Staalplaat, Fat Cat, and Force Inc. Hecker is focused on "exploring the intersection of noise, dissonance and melody, fostering an approach to songcraft which is both physical and emotive." Performing at many international festivals (including Sónar and Mutek), creating sound installations and commissions for contemporary dance pieces, Hecker has sculpted a staple sound of provocative ambient, too intelligent to fall in the background. In a shadowy corner of the construction of this imaginary region, a distorted guitar attempts to break free of its chain-hold, only to be restrained with silenced and muffled with noise. The walls of this dwelling are thick and fuzzy, sometimes letting multiple tracks blend into each other seamlessly, until you arrive in a different place. "Borderland" rips through the constraints, like the shattered memory of a long loved melody, released in a solitary cell to bounce between the walls in a perpetual echo, crying on the final path of its demise. On "Utropics" a distant singing of haunting voices mesmerizes the mind until it is cut with another onslaught of wailing guitars and drifting mid-range saturations of "Paragon Point". From the label's press release we gather a few interesting notes: The title comes from a quote, "The imaginary country... one that cannot be found on a map," uttered by Debussy in regards to the sad state of musical affairs at the time, arguing that music was in dire need for alternate worlds of possibility. In some ways this is a utopian work, in the sense of the term meaning that of 'no-place'. All the tracks are landmarks in a dream cartography. Released on Chicago based Kranky, An Imaginary Country has already been hailed to critical acclaim, including a spot on Headphone Commute's Best of 2009 : Music For Bending Light And Stopping Time. Be sure to check out his previous release, Harmony In Ultraviolet (Kranky, 2006), as well as his collaboration with Aidan Baker, Fantasma Parastasie (Alien8, 2008). His 20-minute EP, Norberg (Room40, 2007) is also a worthy addition to anyone's collection. Recommended if you like Fennesz, Belong, Stars of The Lid, Loscil and Lawrence English.

See also Two and a Half Questions with Tim Hecker | |

Two and a Half Questions with Tim Hecker

Where is The Imaginary Country, and is there a deeper story behind this album?
Nowhere! The second part of that question is a sort of yes and no. Putting ornamentation around a record, like artwork, titles and narrative-stuff, is a sort of appendage that really only takes shape and the end of working on a record, when that side of things becomes more clear. Its a poetic interlude but doesn't really, at least in my case, usually drive the record as a sort of 'concept' work. Bare sound mostly comes first.

How did you come about the quote from Debussy, and what particularly about his comments inspired you to title the album that way?
It was a cited in a recent history of classical music in modernity. I just liked how the comments rang of a sort of outsider melancholy because of how his work rubbed up against dominant institutional norms in music at the time.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

See also Headphone Commute's Review of An Imaginary Country

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sound Bytes : Kuedo, Eskmo, and VibeSquaD

I sat down to cover the latest release from Planet Mu by Kuedo, and my mind migrated over to the bass sounds from Eskmo which then reminded me of an album by VibeSquaD. This is a perfect example of why Sound Bytes makes sense in that nonsensical kind of way. Three releases tied together by nothing more than my mood, yet thematically intertwined through more than just an evolution of sound. There's only two degrees of separation here, kids! It's almost as if I'm forming a certain path, and then dragging you along by your ears... Enjoy.

Kuedo - Dream Sequence EP (Planet Mu)
Have you met Kuedo? Yes, you have... It's Jamie Teasdale, also known as Jamie Vexd, who along with Roly Porter have already dropped a few dubstep bombs on Planet Mu, together known as Vex'd. With Dream Sequence EP, Jamie stumbles across lazy and almost drunken two-step beats, with 8-bit arcade game chords, twisted bit-crushed synths and degenerated vocoder. This four track EP features deep rumbling bass, almost bubbling to its own suffocation, and sluggish percussion, ideal for those nightmares when you're struggling through the swamp as the ghostly vocals pull you back in reverse delay. The winner on this release is the track titled Starfox, which the EP was originally named after. Another highlight, Shutter Light Girl, is a minute long vignette of a beatless sound exploration to the likes of Burial. A little birdie has also told me that there is another upcoming full length, titled Cloud Seed, coming out soon. Pick up this, and previous Vex'd releases, such as Degenerate (Planet Mu, 2005), directly from the label's site. This is bleepy, this is wonky, this is Planet Mu.

Eskmo - Hypercolor EP (Ancestor)
I've had my eye on the West Coast sound of San Francisco, Portland and LA, for a while now. The Glitch Mob, in particular, featuring Justin Boreta (aka Slidecamp), Edward Ma (edIT) and Josh Mayer (Ooah), have been producing some glitchy, breaky, and instrumental hip-hop. I'll bet my money that Brendan Angelides, who has two monikers, Welder and Eskmo, has been hanging out with them. Releasing the Hypercolor EP as a digital download on his very own label, Ancestor Media, Angelides mixes up the sound dubstep with deep rumbles of hip-hop, where the crowd sways with the rhythm, clapping their hands with the beat. And his sound has already caught the eye of some heavy hitters. See, for example, his remix of Bibio's Dwrcan on Warp, and his 12", Let Them Sing released by Planet Mu in 2009. What a great roster of labels to have in his biography! Although this EP is almost a year old, I still return to it, for its solid, polished sound. Be sure to pick up his latest split single with Eprom, Hendt / Lands and Bones (Warp, 2010), and, even more exciting, his collaboration with Amon Tobin, calling themselves ESKAMON, Fine Objects (Ancestor, 2010), which comes with a free WAV samples and Ableton pack along with the release! Sounds like a remix invitation to me! Recommended for the likes of the above, as well as Prefuse 73, Daedelus, Richard Devine, Nosaj Thing and all the usual West Coast suspects.

VibeSquaD - Joyful Noise (Vibesquad)
Well, since I'm in the mood for crunky bass, it's only appropriate that I bring up this gem by Aaron Holstein, who goes by the name of VibeSquaD. Welcome to the world of crunkadelic basstraveler! I first came across Holstein's sound with his debut, Return of the Pudding People on Bluetech's Native State. Since then, Holstein scored a release for Proboscis (that's KiloWatts' digital label), a remix on Addictech and an appearance on Interchill. Oh, and Holstein is very good friends with the above mentioned members of The Glitch Mob - playing at many venues with them. So, we're all in the family here. Joyful Noise is a collection of thirteen tracks, self-released in digital format. In terms of sound, VibeSquaD is raw, loud, and rumbling. Open up your ears to square-wave bass, solid punchy beats, and mind-twisting melodies that make you cringe your nose. Classification is pointless, unless you prepare yourself to skip over glitch-hop, dope-step, and and funk-bass. Production is crunchy, tight and top notch. This is a serious treat for fans of dubstep and IDM alike. Recommended to be listened to alongside Eskmo, Bassnectar, Heyoka, and the rest of the mob..

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

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Podcast : Aldous – Winter’s Worth

Another week, another mix, another special treat! The last entry of April features a pristine selection by Aldous, who shares the same taste in music with Headphone Commute and you!

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

Podcast : Ruckspin – Ranking Studio Mix

About two years ago, Rob Booth of Electronic Explorations has introduced me to the new sound of dubstep. I've heard the wobbly sound of the London underground before. But this was something else. Cinematic, ethereal, and incredibly organic, with a rumbling bass and a syncopated beat. I was immediately in love with the output of Ranking Records. Artists like Ruckspin, Quark, and Planas have immediately grabbed my attention, and I've been a fan ever since. I am especially excited about this installment of our podcast featuring a special showcase mixed by Ruckspin of the label's latest forthcoming and unreleased tracks. Your neurons are about to get very excited.

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

Sound Bytes : Limaçon, Luke Hess and Hobo

With this another installment of Sound Bytes, I share with you my latest favorite selections in minimal-dub-tech-house and funky polished beats. First up is a brand new release from Thoughtless which should keep your heads bopping, rolling into the latest from Echocord, and when you're all warmed up, confidently stepping into the darker territory of M-nus output. By now it's no secret that I enjoy the mind cleansing minimal beat - I have always been hypnotized by the kick-click-tick-tocks. I hope you enjoy this mini itinerary for your upcoming trip.

Limaçon - Tarry Not (Thoughtless)
Deriving from the Latin limax ("snail"), a limaçon is a geometric circular pattern, similar to that of a cardioid. Santa Cruz based Christopher Lee, adopted the name Limaçon in 1997, to create a solid, minimal, and driving sound of tech-house, that cleans out the crevices of my mind, previously occupied by all noisy thought. Yes, this extremely hypnotic, four-to-the-floor beat, is relaxing for me. Once your focus latches onto the repetitive patterns, it leaves no room for worries, anxieties or concerns. There is just this sound, rolling forward with the clean, polished, granular synthetic sounds. In his bio, Lee talks about his production : "I try to keep a balance between something for your mind and something for your body, between experimenting with new sounds and giving people something they can grab onto." With a few digital releases and 12-inchers behind his belt, Tarry Not is Lee's debut album, on Canadian digital label, Thoughtless Music. The latter, by the way, is part of the extended Native State family, with a few excellent releases by Noah Pred, Evan Marc and KiloWatts. Recommended for the minimalists and followers of Steve Bug, Claro Intelecto, and Surgeon. Be sure to pick up your digital copy directly from Beatport [preferred], also available on Bleep, Juno, and of course, iTunes.

Luke Hess - Light In The Dark (Echocord)
Following a half a dozen of 12" EPs, Detroit raised Luke Hess lands his debut full length on Echocord. The Copenhagen based label is famous for its minimal, deep, and dubby output with releases from Rod Modell (aka Deepchord), Quantec, and Mikkel Metal among the many. Embedded deeply in the names of the nine tracks, and the title of the album itself, Light In The Dark, Hess projects a few spiritual connotations behind his music and the central theme. If the search for enlightenment is not your cup of tea, then perhaps the sound of light rolling tech-house beat, deep bass, and echoed minor chords will show you the way. Full of Detroit minimalist elements, the album trots on through lush textures and spacious atmospheres, measured by a tight and punchy kick. Light In The Dark is a steady, meditative, cleansing, and an eye/ear opening experience. Great for the headphones and dance-floors alike. Be sure to also check out Ignite The Dark Remixes EP with reworks from cv313, Marko Fürstenberg and Mikkel Metal.

Hobo - Trackz (M-nus)
Since I'm in a minimal kind of mood, it only makes sense that I turn next to Richie Hawtin's Canadian label, M_nus. By the way, Hawtin has recently announced the return of Plastikman with a new album in the pipeline. One can only hope that it will live up to our expectations. But back to Hobo, whose real name is Joel Boychuk. Along with Adam Young, Boychuk has already released as Tactile, see Silent Movie (M_nus, 2007). For his solo project, Boychuk collects four tracks on a 12" (and eight on a digital release), showcasing extremely clean and minimal techno, with polished production skills and an ear tuned to perfection. Look, this is mind cleansing, shamelessly stripped, pounding techno, and I'm not at all embarrassed to be in love with it. Boychuk's bio on the label's page begins with "Sometimes you have to lose yourself in order to find a better way. It’s not a conscious decision, it can’t be forced – it’s just the way of the wanderer…" And that is precisely how I feel when listening to this music. Recommended for the likes of Geiser, JPLS, Heartthrob, Ben Klock and Redshape.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sam Amidon - I See The Sign (Bedroom Community)

In 2007, I had the luxury of traveling to Cuba for a vacation. I arrived with no real plan other than to try and fit in as much as possible and in order to do that I needed a car. Fully expecting to ride the 1950s Chevy that is synonymous with Cuba, I of course ended up with a brand new, bright red, 2007 model Volkswagen. Now, what on earth has this to do with the excellent new record from Sam Amidon, I hear you cry? Well, whenever I reminisce over those journeys through broken roads and dense vegetation I’m always reminded of the track “Head Over Heels” which Sam so beautifully covered on his LP, But this Chicken Proved Falsehearted (Birdwar, 2007), which had been released at the time and was on repeat in the car stereo. It also seems appropriate to mention this brief insight into my Cuban adventure as, reflecting on this now, the image of a shiny new motorcar juxtaposed with the crumbling backdrop of Cuban villages does to some degree allude to the sound Sam has mastered so perfectly. His ability to mesh the old with new, to breathe freshness into trusted and forgotten folk tales is taken to new heights on this latest record, I See The Sign. Staying true to the formula found in Sam’s aforementioned 2007 LP and also in 2008’s All Is Well (Bedroom Comunity), this new record largely comprises of old-time melodies and lyrics, with children’s singing games common throughout. Where “All Is Well” built upon his sound, adding horns and string arrangements to bring a greater sense of depth to the instrumental constructions of his work, “I See The Sign” evolves this sound significantly. Calling on a host of collaborators including multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily, the prolific composer Nico Muhly, and the charming support vocals of Beth Orton, on “I See The Sign”, Sam groups this talent together and outputs a collection of songs bound together by a passion for musicianship. Whether it be the joyous harmonies between Sam and Beth, the spine tingling string, brass and woodwind arrangements that Nico lends to the tracks or Shahzads’s expansive contributions there is a sense of total unison here between all contributors including of course producer Valgeir Sigurðsson. In fact, never has the name of a record label been so apt at summarizing the sense of togetherness that this album provides for it is a real feel of community that one experiences when listening to this Bedroom Community release! So what of the songs themselves? I was initially taken back by “Way Go Lily” when I first heard it performed live in January. To hear it again in fully produced form is fantastic. This is one of the examples of the children’s singing songs originally popularized by Georgia Sea Islands songstress Bessie Jones. For Sam’s reimagining his delicate guitar strumming is supported some truly remarkable work by Nico Muhly on strings and horns, while Beth Orton’s echoed harmonies are just delightful. Similarly on “Johanna The Row-di” Beth lends continued support to the vocals, with contributions here also from Shahzad Ismaily. It is worth mentioning that amongst all these joyful songs, there are still a host of melancholy numbers that lend themselves so well to the Sam Amidon sound. Songs like “Kedron” and “Rain and Snow” are poignant reminders that indeed not all is well. However the stand out track for me has to be “Relief.” Covering a song by R. Kelly is risky not just in transferring it to a completely different genre, but there is also a danger of it appearing as a gimmick. Fortunately Sam and his pool of talented contributors successfully recreate this number so much so that one would have no idea of its source. In summary it really is hard to fully convey the success of this album. Over the brief time I’ve had with it, I’ve wanted to grab the person nearest me and give them a massive hug. It’s not only uplifting, but the songs here are ones that feel like they need to be shared. We live in an age where the retro craze seems to be an ongoing fad, one that doesn’t want to leave. Whether it is fashion, films or music there is a consistent yearning for the repurposing of nostalgia. Fortunately, Sam Amidon’s music is bigger and better than any retrospective reworkings. For this is contemporary music, providing an outlet for forgotten sounds and breathing oxygen into new creations.

See also Two and a Half Questions with Sam Amidon |

Two and a Half Questions with Sam Amidon

If there was one instrument in the world that Sam Amidon could embody what would it be and why?
a little hummingbird. they are like instruments of humming!

Which old American folk song that you haven't recreated would you like to see resurrected by a Hip Hop artist? And who would that be?
it has already been done - nas, "new york state of mind." it is structural re-working of the old folksong "edward"

What are you currently reading?
I just finished Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, now I'm reading Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language by Saul Kripke.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

See also review of I See The Sign |

Saturday, April 17, 2010

William Basinski - 92982 (2062)

Late in 2009, William Basinski had released his eighteenth album, Vivian & Ondine, on his own imprint, 2062 Records. But my mind still holds on to the haunting melodies of his release prior, simply named after a single day, more precisely September 29th, 1982, culminating in the numerical representation of 92982. This is a document of a single night of work, which would eventually spawn a direction that Basinski would explore further. Deep from the archives, we hear Basinski's experimentation with loops that would eventually earn him critical acclaim with the four volumes of The Disintegration Loops, recorded the same year, only to be released twenty years later. Basinski's music is characterized by repeating loops of magnetic tape, playing endlessly on his reel-to-reel, saturated with reverb and short lived time delays. About a year ago, in April 2008, I met Billy at the Resonant Forms festival in Los Angeles. There, I witnessed his impressive live performance. That moment is still alive in my memory, and is recalled with his music. On a table there are two Norelco reel-to-reels, one tin box full of tape loops with a "Tootsie Rolls" logo, and various cylindrical objects. Basinski fishes out long and winding snakes of tape, and feeds them through the magnetic heads, stretching out the remainder of the loop between cups, cones, upside down water bottles and vases. These proceed to play, endlessly, through effects and faders on the mixing board. Only the hiss of the tape reminds me of this dying technology, which is still very much mechanically alive, in Basinski's hands. About the revival of 92982, Basinski writes: Something from a long time ago... in Brooklyn, 351 jay street... A fruitful evening in the studio... Home at last after a day of work at the answering service... answering phones for calvin klein, bianca jagger, steve rubell, and all the other somebody people... in our space station: home in my studio experimenting live. James is in the adjacent studio painting masterpieces. Roger is in the front, gluing old shoes on canvas and painting them orange... I'm clicking the old norelcos back and forth between channels... all the windows are open. The sound is spreading all over downtown brooklyn mixing with the helicopters, sirens, pot smoke and fireworks... Indeed, as if recorded from his apartment window, along with the sounds of a passing helicopter, Basinski reconstructs the moment in these countless organic repetitions of captured time in brief glimpses of aural mementos. These bounce back and forth within my headphones, within the walls of my apartment, or a glass jar of memory, intended to be preserved for another winter, when one feels cold and tired. On Disintegration Loops, the music slowly crumbles until the magnetic signals dissolve, erased through their repetitive playing, leaving a permanent snapshot of their demise. On 92982 the music lives on, with the purpose, one would imagine, of being imprinted in our minds forever. In Musicophilia, a book by Oliver Sacks, a chapter titled Brainworms, Sticky Music, and Catch Tunes explores the cognitive science behind the music that plays in our heads, over and over. "This endless repetition [...] suggests a coercive process, that the music has entered and subverted a part of the brain, forcing it to fire repetitively and autonomously." Somewhere fifteen minutes into 92982.4, I get stuck in that place, and can't tell when the song ends. The moment captured by Basinski back in 1982 continues to live in my mind. And that is the best compliment I can furnish.

See also Two and a Half Questions with William Basinski |

Two and a Half Questions with William Basinski

92982 is indeed a blast from the past. How much post-production work, if any, have you done on this archived recording?
a bit... it's hard to remember now, but i'm sure i agonized over it. there was some minor editing and possibly a little eqing. my recording technique in those days was atrocious, so it's always frustrating now to try to work with some of these old recordings, but I've become more forgiving about certain things I can't change that are just part of the texture and life of the piece... other things like certain mistakes that I hated then and now usually get edited out. but... the mistakes back then taught me a lot and led to some great discoveries... some of them though are just mistakes. so i try to be thoughtful about the editing and really true to the session.

How much do you remember of that day that would spawn your new direction? And how much of that memory is preserved and triggered by this music?
i can picture the space and the evening and the windows open... everything comes back when i hear this. it was a very happy productive time. we were broke, and working most of the time, but couldn't wait to get home to our space station to continue with the real work of discovery!

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

See also Headphone Commute review of William Basinski's 92982 |

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Label Profile : LINE

Interview with Richard Chartier

Hey Richard, thank you for joining us. What did you do this past weekend?
this past weekend i bought a huge mid century executive desk designed by Jens Risom for my studio/office. and my partner Robert and i went to see the new ColorForms exhibit and Joseph Albers Retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. We also celebrated the great news that i had been awarded the Smithsonian Institution Artist Research Fellowship to explore/record the Museum of Natural History’s collection of 19th Century acoustic apparatus for scientific demonstration.

Let's start at the beginning. How did you first get into music?
one of the first records i remember playing (which belonged to my parents) was Kraftwerk's Autobahn. i am not sure how it got there as it was so different from al the other records they owned.

What about the first time when you started producing? What did you use?
i think my first synthesizer was a Yamaha DX100 this was probably in 1985? i did not formally start making "serious" electronic music until 1989

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire label profile on Headphone Commute

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Podcast : HC – Our Shelter, Our Tomb

I am very excited to share this special mix with you! I originally put it together back in February, after I was finished with Headphone Commute's Best of 2009. It was intended as a follow up to my popular Modern Classical Mix, featuring my favorite selections from 2009. The mix quickly became dark, nostalgic, and bleak. Originally featured on the truly wonderful Fluid Radio back in March, here it is, finally, for your enjoyment!

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

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sound Bytes : Bonobo, Bibio and Kelpe

I've been a regular contributor to The Music Lobby since the site's inception back in 2007. I first met Casey Winters on and was captivated and inspired by his taste in music. And you know that feeling. Instantly you want to pick up and listen to every recommendation, and when each keeps on being better than the last, you become connected with music. Headphone Commute reviews have been syndicated on TML, and it's about time that I brought you a taste of Onecaseman's flavor. I cherry picked the below three entries from Casey's latest reviews, to bring you the latest in hip-hop meets jazz meets electronica meets folk sound. All three are definitely my favorite albums, and I hope that with the embedded tracks you'd be inspired to pick them up as well... Enjoy these Sound Bytes!

Bonobo - Black Sands (Ninja Tune)
Simon Green returns with his fourth album as Bonobo, and it's more incredibly solid, future jazz material. With Days To Come (Ninja Tune, 2006), Green was bit by the vocal bug, and the vocals were the showpiece of that album. With Black Sands, he still has some vocals, but not as many, and they're more reeled in to be in balance with the beats (he's also using Andreya Triana as his muse, instead of Bajka). Speaking of the beats, you can tell Simon's been listening to some of the wonky instrumental hip-hop that's been coming out, as things get more hyper-active than ever on tracks like "Kiara", which feature chiptunes and cut-up vocal samples playing off each other. But this is not a wonky album. Green layers these sounds with Eastern influences and the ever-present jazz sounds to make this a work firmly entrenched in his style, just amplified a bit by current events in hip-hop. The basslines on this album are some of Bonobo's best. "Kong" and "The Keeper" rival anything on Animal Magic (Tru Thoughts, 2000). A good mix of old and new from Bonobo, and another wonderful album.

Bibio - The Apple And The Tooth (Warp)
Stephen Wilkinson, aka Bibio, continues to churn out quality, in what has become his breakout year. Two albums and now two EP's - this one with 4 new tracks and 8 remixes, it's basically another full length. The new tracks start the show, and are fantastic. The title track perfects the folk-hop template while maintaining an energy most releases in this style can't compete with. It bleeds directly into "Rotten Rudd", which slows things down before becoming an anthemic sing-a-long. "Steal The Lamp" retreats from a Jaga Jazzist style opening into a Squarepusher style d'n'b freakout at the end, showing that Bibio still has more sounds he's willing to tackle. On the remixes side, highlights are Lone's effort, which throws the original sounds into a blender to create a smoothed out hip-hop groove. Leatherette's cut-up, pitchshifted version of "Lover's Carvings" takes some getting used to, but its lounge feel is too cool to be denied. Another highlight is Bibio's own rework of "Palm Of Your Wave", which takes the original tune to new heights. Another excellent release. Pick up your copy directly from Warp.

Kelpe - Cambio Wechsel (DC)
Kel McKeown returns with his third album after Ex-Aquarium (DC, 2008). I first became aware of Kelpe with his debut album Sea Inside Body (DC, 2004). His aquatic themes and pure electronic sound were very captivating. When he returned four years later with Ex-Aquarium, the aquatic obsession was still there, but an influence by actual instruments totally transformed his sound (in a good way) in that it almost sounded like two different artists. Cambio Wechsel seems to have merged the sounds of those two albums. He also pulls some retro funk samples into the mix in a very compelling way. It seems to blend perfectly into his sound's aesthetic. Squelchy bass is the backbone of Cambio Wechsel, which gives the album a much more hip-hop vibe than Ex-Aquarium (which came across as more folktronic to me) but Kel takes it away from the normal dirty hip-hop setting as much as is possible, converging it with the aforementioned funk, as well as folk, jazz, psychedelia, and kraut-rock. The overall effect is funky without being clubby. It's a totally new sound, and that's what Kelpe has been missing before, its own sound. With Sea Inside Body, it sounded like a lot of other IDM at the time. With Ex-Aquarium, it sounded like Four Tet. With Cambio Wechsel, it sounds like Kelpe. Available from D. C. Recordings.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Yann Novak - The Breeze Blowing Over Us (Infrequency)

Infrequency Editions is a sub-label of Dragon's Eye, the latter owned and operated by Yann Novak himself. The label was originally founded by Jamie Drouin and Lance Olsen, but after a brief hiatus, and introduction to Novak, it merged with Dragon's Eye. Originally concerned with documenting live performances and sound installations presented through public concerts at a local gallery in Victoria (British Columbia), Infrequency also releases ambient and minimal studio compositions, as is the case with this recording. The Breeze Blowing Over Us is based on a simple recording of a fan, during one of the hottest days in Seattle. This recording is transformed into a 38+ minute composition that layers organic and synthetic sounds into a thick, brooding, drenched with tropical haze, and tense composition, with a slow movement of mechanically distributed air, worthy of its original title. The piece begins with a moving onslaught of dense textures, inching its way into the foreground at a crawling pace. Muffled sound waves, resembling a pitched down ocean, or the rumbling of a gigantic vehicle passing through an underground tunnel, are offset by distant, high frequency robotic screeches of an alien species. I proceed with caution in the darkness, and feel ahead what must be the door handle. I guess this is where I enter. Suddenly, I'm fighting through the thick vegetation of sound. Soon I come out upon an opening, where the chords crawl up a mountain in a melting drone of lava. This expedition with sound enters a sacred circle of open mouths and stretched out hands, to lift the trapped spirit into the cloud of white noise, only to be spilled again in a form of frequency rain, at the foot of the mountain. The atmosphere of this recording is tightly wound, condensed, drenched in suspenseful emotions, with a slight tingling of uneasiness. Some may even find this unsettling - but not I. I love dark and spooky. Descending deep into abandoned caverns of sound is my part time sport. For the same reasons that one replays those eerie horror movies, I return to Novak's world, time and time again. Check out Novak's extensive discography, with many limited and archival recordings of live performances on Dragon's Eye. His attention to detail with the work on a label, and persistence at reinventing his sound has finally been rewarded - Novak has been noticed by Richard Chartier and is scheduled to release an album on Line in September of 2010.

See also Two and a Half Questions with Yann Novak | |

Two and a Half Questions with Yann Novak

The Breeze Blowing Over was recorded during one of the hottest days in Seattle. Tell us about that day.
Well that day is kind of a blur, the piece ended up being about that weekend and what led up to it. That day was the hottest day that summer, that summer became my last summer living in Seattle and it was the first weekend I spent with my Partner. The story that led to that weekend's importance started when I saw my partner for the first time in Montreal when I was there to perform at Mutek. He was attending the festival and being the shy person that I am, I was fixated on him through the festival, but never got up the nerve to talk to him. I repeated my modus operandi later that year at the Decibel Festival in Seattle, again seeing and never interacting. We finally met in San Francisco at a performance he has organized which sparked a long distance dialog which would inevitably lead to this weekend in Seattle when we would spend some time together for the first time and inevitably be one of the catalysts for my relocation to Los Angeles.

So you sampled the sound of the fan, and then what?
With all my work I am interested in starting from a simple, often autobiographical point and intend to transform it into an experience for the audience that conveys my emotional state at the time the source was conceived. So I started with a 45 minute recording of my boxfan in the window, and altered it in every way imaginable, making variation after variation. Then when the recording could not bend anymore, I start to listen to all this material and see what sounds will become pieces that will help in accurately portraying this emotional state. Then the actual composition is built from improvisations with these sound in my studio, fitting things together until it sounds like an accurate portrait of how this experience felt to me.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

See also Headphone Commute review of The Breeze Blowing Over Us

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sound Postcard

Have you been keeping up with the updates on the actual site at If not, no worries, I'll give you the skinny on here... You see, I started publishing these Sound Postcards... You know how some people take pictures? Well... I take sounds... Inspired by Taylor Deupree's One Sound Each Day project, I set off on my own journey of aural documentation of my life. Except, there are no rules for this one. No scheduled daily search of sound, and no particular beginning or end. These are just my Sound Postcards... From me to you...

See all the Sound Postcards...

Podcast : Overcast Sound – April Ambient Mix

Canadian deep-techno duo, Michael Pettit and Jamie Drouin, producing under the moniker Overcast Sound, create "introspective compositions built from fragments of field recordings, oblique references to dub rhythms, and sweeping cinematic textures..." They have recently released a 3-track EP, Untitled 12 on Untitled & After label, which is highly recommended for fans of DeepChord, Quantec, bvdub, and anything on echospace [detroit] label. Mmm... did I get your taste buds wet? Then you will enjoy this showcase!

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

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Alva Noto - For 2 (Line)

Following a triumphant 2009 and two of the most notable releases of the year (Xerrox Vol. 2 and Utp_ with Ryuichi Sakamoto) Carsten Nicolai, aka Alva Noto, returns with a second installment of compositions devoted to creative personalities from a number of different fields. Coming four years after the first one, For 2 features compositions dating as far back as 2003, although most are from around 2007. For 2 confirms that Nicolai’s music has become more and more orchestral in recent years, for lack of a better word, and not as heavily anchored in the glitchy beats of Transform and the Transall series. Although the micro beats, squelches and static continue to be among the defining characters of Noto’s music, there’s more going on all around them than there used to be. Of course, Nicolai has been rubbing up against modern classical music in his collaborations with Ryuichi Sakamoto going back as far as 2002 so this is no sudden revelation. But it feels like there’s more weight to his recent solo output as well. His two Xerrox volumes are a case in point. So is opening track "Garment (for a garment)". The sonic identity is intimately familiar - sonar beeps, white noise and minimal glitch. But halfway through, the cellos enter, providing the emotional depth that has often been absent from Nicolai's sterile soundscapes. It's a terrific track and simply put, the blend of the electric and organic just sounds great. Understandably, since For 2 is a compilation of material composed for many different occasions, there's a lot of variety on offer. There's the field recording-based "Villa Aurora (for Marta Feuchtwanger)", with birdsong and airplanes flying overhead. The dark and oppressive "Stalker (for Andrei Tarkovsky)" features Russian dialogue, presumably from the film of the same name, and is reminiscent of Kreng's L’Autopsie Phénoménale De Dieu. On the other end of the spectum, there's the bright and luminescent "Sonolumi (for Camera Lucida)" and the rhythmic beeps of "T3 (for Dieter Rams)". But on the whole, the tone of For 2 is contemplative and atmospheric. This is a fascinating and rewarding collection and it makes you want to dive in and explore the connection with the people to whom the music is dedicated. I must admit that most of the names are unfamiliar to me, although I know Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky and have heard of Phil Niblock. But the others drew a blank. So I thought it would be worthwhile to flesh out the context a bit. As Carsten Nicolai said when I interviewed him last your for Headphone Commute (see Two and a Half Questions with Carsten Nicolai): "I think, personally, that it’s not really necessary for the listener to know the full background of the concept... The listener can just enjoy and listen without any preconception... If you want to know more, if you want to have a really detailed view, you can go deeper and you can explore several levels of the piece. It can be enjoyable to be able to see the background of the piece..." So while it's certainly not essential to know the stories to enjoy the music, it does add an extra dimension. And those familiar with Carsten Nicolai's music know that "concept" is virtually his middle name. I have therefore added some info on the devotees here below, which may be of interest to those wishing to "go deeper". It's well worth the journey.

See also Two and a Half Questions with Carsten Nicolai

For detailed exploration of the album, samples, and background of the artists featured in this review, read directly on Headphone Commute |