Sunday, August 14, 2011

Two and a Half Questions with Markus Mehr

Describe the process of capturing, processing and recording your multi-layered textures.
Most of the time it's about „following a sound“. A sound that's already there and leads you somewhere. It can be a piano-chord, a sample from a record or a crashed transient. Well, for me, composing is always like searching for something that's already there. The rest is a mixture of fantasy, hard work and luck. Still, there is no typical way i'm working, apart from working everyday!

What is your live setup like, and how much of your performance is based on pure improvisation?
It depends on the performance we (Live with Stefanie Sixt – Visuals) play. Performing stuff from LAVA is based on a MacBook plus guitar driven sounds. Basically i'm using two different delays, two fuzzboxes, a looper and some filters to process my guitar sound. The loops and soundscapes i'm creating live are the initial sound running through the whole song. So i have to deal with them till the end of it. For me that's kind of an improvisation in a structured way.

Talk about incorporating ventilators, electric shavers, and tooth brushes into your recordings. Where are some of the field recordings from?
I'm not that much interested in playing guitar in a usual way. I use it as a sound- and noise-generator. And an electric shaver, for example, positioned over a pick-up, can make a lot of noise. That's fun. But you have to have a clue and there must be a kind of following up, otherwise it's pointless and has already been done like a thousand times before. I have also experimented with field recordings on LAVA but they are completely knocked down. But I fell in love with field recordings and i will integrate them more obviously in my upcoming work.

I've already mentioned Tim Hecker and Fennesz as some of your influences, and you're also a fan of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze. Who are some of your less-known inspirations?
At the moment i listen a lot to guys like Claus van Bebber, Janek Schaefer or Philip Jeck. I like their approach on sound-art. But for the last months I've been influenced by a germane guy called Ottmar Jenner. He wrote a book about the crossing from live to death, which inspired me for a 49 minute long piece. We will hopefully release it next year.

What was the overall reaction to your debut, Lava, and now that it's out there, what are you working on next?
I'm very pleased with the feedback on LAVA. The critics were all in all very good. The album even appeared on some „Best of 2010“ polls, which is great. At the moment i'm working a lot on new music and that's what i like the most. It's a bit early but we have some nice ideas for forthcoming releases. Regarding live shows, there is a big focus on the performance of the piece i mentioned above. I hope we can manage to present it first in a huge gas-tank here in Germany.

Check out Headphone Commute review of Lava in our Hidden Shoal Special

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Sound Bytes : Hidden Shoal Special

Through the years, Australian label, Hidden Shoal Recordings has been quietly putting out little gems of experimental ambiance, gentle electronica, shoegazing post-rock and everything in between. From Sankt Otten to Wes Willenbring to Slow Dancing Society to Sleeping Me and Boxharp, the label based in Perth has been introducing the world to a wide spectrum of aural wonder. We have been following the output since the early days of 2006, featuring selected releases in our end of year lists - our Best of 2010, subtitled, Music For Withered Leaves And Lonely Fishtanks, featured the below reviewed Lava by Markus Mehr. Welcome to the world of Hidden Shoal...

Markus Mehr - Lava
Markus Mehr is one of the new artists that captured our ears and hearts. With its thick layers of frequency-heavy guitars and synth pads, Lava floats into our studios, first swallowing the floors, then suffocating the lungs. Rising fumes of sonic vapors come up to the neck, then the ears, restricting the flow of air pressure beyond its delicious onslaught. Using his guitars, synths and a computer, Augsburg-based (south Germany) Mehr twists, processes, and distorts the sound, until it moves like a solid wall, like a heavy tank, like molten lava. Inspired by the masters of experimental ambient and textured drones, such as David Sylvian, Tim Hecker and Christian Fennesz, Mehr finds his own voice, among the drowned out theme, noise generating household appliances, an intricate attention to acoustic detail. And beneath the smudge of sound that vibrates every crevice of my dwelling (and disturbs the sediment at the bottom of my favorite bottle of port), individual notes of melody peak through, like the single rays of sunlight on a hot and thunderous late summer dusk. Recommended for fans of meditative ambiance and stone cold drone alike.

Read Two and a Half Questions with Markus Mehr

Slow Dancing Society - Under The Sodium Lights
Slow Dancing Society is a solo project of Washington based producer and musician, Drew Sullivan. His contemplative, ambient explorations fling you into the heavens, where you remain suspended by his cerebral skein of shimmering notes. Under The Sodium Lights is Sullivan's fourth full length album for Hidden Shoal, and is a perfect follow up for his 2008 release, Priest Lake Circa '88 (see Headphone Commute Review and Interview with Drew Sullivan). As I listen, snow falls gently and surrounds me with its quiet aspect as SDS works its way into my cranium, soothing my frayed nerves and restoring the balance. A long silence demarcates the transition between tracks, and just when you long for the musical dream to continue, it floats back. "The delicate interplay between focused melodic details and blurred washes of sound draws the listener into a hypnotised state, where the waking world and the world of sleep cascade in and out of balance." This slightly somber but always lovely set of compositions continues to sustain me on these cold, wintry days, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys the peace of quiet and ambient music. Make sure you check out the upcoming re-issues of the first three Slow Dancing Society albums on Hidden Shoal...

Jumpel - Europa
On his third full length album for Hidden Shoal, Jumpel curates gentle whispers, lonely glances and tired sighs, in his carefully produced environmental snapshots of the world. Europa is Jo Dürbeck's continuation of sound exploration as Jumpel, inspired by his travels around the continent, transforming his memories into eleven tracks titled after the visited cities. From Stockholm to Madrid to Vienna and Lisbon, Dürbeck’s album is more than an audio travelogue, it is an "abstracted sonic diary, painting the intangibility and romanticism of memory and travel using sparse yet resonant sound." There's no trickery here to ploy the listener and bend his ear, instead the familiar fragments of harmony and effected progression shine through with their exquisite moments, and comfortably settle on their best. Although at times such a description may sound undesirable, I assure you that in this context it is meant as a compliment. Indeed, these tracks are perfect for my morning, rainy and drowsy commute, each telling a story of another city, ticking away with the clink-clank of the train. Perhaps somebody out there, perhaps Dürbeck, perhaps even you, is listening to the story of my city, on their own morning, rainy, and drowsy commute.

Antonymes - The Licence To Interpret Dreams
From the very first drops of sonic mist surrounding the mysterious arrangement of this cinematic journey, I already know, that this album will remain on my rotation for the years to come. The Licence To Interpret Dreams is a sophomore release by Ian M Hazeldine (although the first for Hidden Shoal), hailing from North Wales. I enter the world of Antonymes in complete darkness, with the lights shut and my lids closed. This way I can truly listen. Listen with my full attention focused on each sound and breath. As the string dynamics in the first dream rise, I am swept into a whirlpool of emotions drawn from memories and future past. Music like this is simply haunting... It embodies a soundtrack to our busy lives, to neurotic thoughts, and to the lonely naked trees moving fast beyond the vision. Melancholic piano chords come and go, as the ambient synth pads stretch their fingers through the white noise of the crashing waves in the distance. Words become speechless; sights turn blurry, then blind; mind tries to make sense of it all, in a sensory overload of the world... dreams set in... and Antonymes hands you the license... And when the music finally subsides, all that's left is the sound of the whistling wind, inexplicably and undeniably cold. Highly recommended!!! I'll be sure to grab Antonymes' 2009 debut, Beauty Becomes The Enemy Of The Future, released on Cathedral Transmissions.

VA - Crushed and Reminded
To polish off this Sound Bytes special featuring the latest releases from Hidden Shoal, we've saved a special treat for you for dessert! To get a bigger taste of the label's roster you absolutely must download the fifth installment in the Hidden Shoal's sampler compilations. And what's more exciting is that it's entirely FREE!!! You can't go wrong with that! Add to that the first four free volumes, and you have almost an entire day of music to dig through! This is a perfect way to get acquainted with some of the label's finest, such as The Caribbean, HC-B, Sankt Otten, Hotels, Down Review, Tangled Star, Apricot Rail, Tarcutta, Sleeping Me, Elisa Luu and Jumpel. "Moving from bitcrushed remixes through cinematic instrumental rock to deliciously mellow ambient electronica, Crushed and Reminded shines a new light across the breadth and depth of the Hidden Shoal landscape." Get your free download here. Stay tuned for the sixth sampler compilation, due out any day now, just in time for the label's 5th anniversary, celebrating on May 2nd!!!

Slow Dancing Society review prepared by Elizabeth Klisiewicz for Headphone Commute. Rest of the text by HC.

Sound Bytes : Talvihorros, The Ideal Setback and Hammock

It's been some time now since I've sat down and deeply listened to music. More than anything, I'm back in the imaginary world of daily tasks, the consumption of all that's to be consumed, and the importance of being important. As I ride the early train to work, it seems that my past self has prepared for the present with the music for headphone commute. The dreadful hours on the uncomfortable seats and off the minds of self absorbed passengers can be only offset by the opportunity to bask in sound for an entire album from beginning to its end. It is during these moments that these words attempt to encapsulate this music and come alive on this page. But I may bore you with this somber preface. Enjoy the music...

Talvihorros - Music in Four Movements (Hibernate)
After listening to Ben Chatwin's third full length album as Talvihorros a few times in different surroundings, and in preparation for this review, I decide to put my headphones on, for a more intimate experience. For Music in Four Movements, released by hibernate in 2010, this London-based experimental musician explores the soundscaping possibilities of his guitar, the output of which is fed through various effect pedals and recorded using untried techniques on vintage equipment. "Both acoustic and electric guitars are layered with organ, synthesizer, mandolin, radio frequencies and various percussion instruments to create dense collages of sound, sometimes melodic, sometimes challenging but always captivating." During the four atmospheric tracks, Chatwin explores longer time frames, allowing for each sound to evolve and unfold, creating his "most ambient" work to date. At the center of the album, with titles like "A Continual Echo of the Sound of Loss", "Thoughts of Violence", and finally "And Then They Walked Into the Sea" is a dark theme of suicide. Yet it is not Chatwin's personal thoughts that we should be concerned with here, but rather the reasons why anyone would choose to end their own life. Chatwin became particularly interested in "reading stories about people who drowned themselves in rivers or the sea", and this visual image became a strong influence on the music behind the album. And if this message suggests a somber affair, the music speaks the same without the words... Pick up this album, along with a free track, Solo Guitar Improvisation II on Talvihorros Bandcamp.

The Ideal Setback - The Ideal Setback (Self)
Window Seat (self, 2008), and our selection of his last album, How We Spend Our Days Is How We Spend Our Lives (self, 2009) for our Best of 2009 : Music For Walking And Not Crying In The Autumn Rain. And although this Memphis, Tennessee solo artist continues to release music all on his own (personally, I think Kranky should sign him), we are happy that we get to hear his music and share his sounds with you. With his third fourth self-released album as The Ideal Setback, Chappell comfortably settles into the plush cushion of guitar driven ambient swells and loop based organic textures that lullaby and comfort the mind. At the core of this recording is a much more mature album then his previous, contemplating the time and space allowed for the development of each passage, carefully molded to create a gentle atmosphere of slowly evolving soundscapes. My previous observations on the musical progression of Chappelle's sound found him experimenting with both, the minor and the major tonalities. On his latest self-titled album, The Ideal Setback, the music has found the the balance between the two, creating a perfect harmony and an ideal advance. Foregoing crafty album titles, Chappell chooses the self-titled route as an introduction to the listener of his perfected skill. For those who are not familiar with The Ideal Setback, I highly recommend you check out his new album, if you like Stars of The Lid, Belong, Eluvium, Windy & Carl, and Hammock.

Read our Two and a Half Questions with Todd Chappell from 2008...

Hammock - Longest Year (Hammock Music)
What can be said about the beautiful music of Hammock that I haven't said before? Perhaps with the Longest Year EP, the duo, comprising of Andrew Thompson and Marc Byrd, have pushed themselves even further into the territory of evolving ambient sound. Add to that the fact that 12k's label boss, Taylor Deupree mastered the release, and you've got a five track elegant mini-album drenched in ravishing cello by Matt Slocum (of Sixpence None The Richer) and ethereal bliss of reverbed guitars. This 33-minute little gem melts away the last pieces of ice, formed around the trunks of trees and crusty edges of a withered soul. Commemorating the end of one tough year (Byrd's house was partially destroyed by the Nashville flood), and celebrating the beginning of another, Longest Year is a "soundtrack for winter, a gorgeous wall of sound imbued with the introspection, melancholy and mystery of the season." For this release on the groups own Hammock Music, percussion is completely absent, and the ambient soundscapes stretch beyond all boundaries and imaginations, creating a peaceful meditation on all that has been, and all that's to come. Along with the previously lauded album, Chasing After Shadows... Living With The Ghosts, Hammock has been quiet busy in 2010: there is the four track digital Outtakes EP for the latter mentioned album, as well as a little limited four track EP that comes with a photobook package, North West East South, and finally, a three track digital only single, Like New Year's Day a collaboration between Hammock and Matthew Ryan with individual remixes. I'm also glad to report that the duo is already working on their next Hammock album, hopefully to be released this year!

Read Headphone Commute's Two and a Half Questions with Hammock.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Interview with Rafael Anton Irisarri

From your modern classical to ambient techno compositions, you seem to always push yourself further into challenging territories, and somehow master their domain. Was there a specific sonic aesthetic you tried to capture on The North Bend?
Yes, as a matter of fact. To me, The North Bend is an audio representation of the Pacific Northwest region, and not just with the fairly obvious ‘rainy, gloomy skies’ clichés, but more in the folk, cultural traditions and pop-culture references (think of David Lynch and his television-defining narrative Twin Peaks). They sort of influenced the creative process and helped draft a (sort of ) audio postcard of this beautiful area of the United States.

There is a lot of lo-fi, repeating, swelling waves of sound on the album, that I unforgivably must compare to the works of William Basinski. Was he one of the inspirations behind this work? Were there other musicians that have influenced this particular recording?
With all due respect, I don't see it or view it that way. As I said, this work was inspired by the Pacific NW region and musically speaking, the same set of influences as any of my previous works. Nothing's changed except the evolving sound, a result of self-discovery and experience, not of influences. I play my guitar thru loop pedals, so I applied the same criteria to classical samples and field recordings. I can see why you (or anybody for that matter) would draw some similarities, in the sense that there is heavy use of looping devices and thus repetition techniques. To me that's just coincidental. It would be like comparing Harold Budd's music to Erik Satie's since they both use a piano.

While I understand is almost inevitable to draw comparisons to frame a reference and give the public a general idea of the sound, one has to be quite careful when doing so. You are never certain of the process behind the artist or its intentions and, furthermore, it kind of devalues the work of both artists. I think this is the most important point: in this age of completely devalued music, where people don't even want to buy music or the industry treats it as a cheap commodity, it really contributes to the problem. It creates the false perception that anybody can just listen to “X” artist and make “X-sounding” record. It could also give the wrong impression on the actual processes behind an artist's work. And furthermore, where do you draw the line for comparisons? Why Basinski (in this case) and not Stars of The Lid or Tim Hecker or even bossman Lawrence English? Hence my point...

With releases on Miasmah and Ghostly International, did you by any chance create this album knowing that it was destined for Lawrence English's Room40?
Yes, it was a very focused and specific release. Long story short: I had met LPE online a while back. We finally met in person in Poland in 2009, as we were both playing a festival in Torun. We talked about perhaps doing a release on Room40. When I got back to Seattle, I sent him an album with 45 minutes of new music. He wrote back, liked it, wanted to release it. I replied: “please delete.” I wasn't happy with it (I tend to reject a lot of my own work, probably my worst critic). I told him, I'd write something new. Went for a hike that weekend, field recorded a bunch of new things. Inspiration. Made a new album (The North Bend) and sent to LPE with a note: “this is it.”

What is the relationship between the geographical landscape and the sonic layers portrayed on The North Bend?
For me it's not a conscious process. I guess you could correlate the peaks and valleys in the sound to the topographical region, but I think that process was more of a  subconscious one than me actually trying to replicate the sounds of the region in a sort of “map.”

You just finished a piece with Keith Kenniff performing under his Goldmund alias. Tell us about that specific collaboration. Is there an album in the future?
We've been talking for ages about working together. I like his Goldmund releases very much, and he enjoys my production work, so it seems like a good match. Keith is an amazing musician/composer and one of the kindest, nicest, and descent quality human beings I've ever met. We worked in 2009 on a Satie piece (I just put it up on my Bandcamp store) that I had re-arranged for a museum performance earlier, so we recorded it for a French compilation. We later talked about doing an EP or something, so now we are working on it. Keith also contributed piano to Orcas (project with Benoit Pioulard and other Cascadians) and we've done a split mixtape together for a podcast.

Tell us about your Demo Vault and Live releases.
With the Demo Vault I wanted to release some exclusive material thru my store and give true listeners an idea of the processes behind my works. Like I mentioned earlier, I tend to reject a lot of my own work, but it doesn't necessary means it's bad, it's just I'm very particular. I want to give my listeners an insight on how I work, hence for instance uploading a long-distance collab with Danny Norbury, so people can see how it was done, etc. The Live release was a gift to my listeners, whom has bought my music and supported me during 2010. I selected an assortment of different concerts, hoping to give people who've never seen me perform live and idea of what it is like. As you may know, all my concerts are improvised, so no two sound the same. I also view each concert as important as my recorded works, so I want to create something specific for each engagement and change the perception that yes, while I perform using a laptop, it is ALL live, not prearranged in any way, shape or form. The Live album is a documentation of this process. I plan to release a second version, as a follow-up, with my concerts in Australia, Israel and Italy, and a special I3O recording (that's my trio version with a drummer and a pianist). It will also be a pay-what-you-deem worth – I've been really blessed with amazing listeners. I remember this really sweet lady sent me almost $65. I wrote her back (thinking it was an error). She replied, “your music means this much to me.” It was very kind and sweet of her and I'm forever grateful to have people like her in my life.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Sonmi451, M. Ostermeier, Rafael Anton Irisarri, Minamo + Lawrence English

As I may have previously mentioned, I have been a little bit busy these last couple of weeks, wrapping up a few personal errands. Unfortunately my musical listening patterns have suffered, and so has the output of Headphone Commute. But have no fear - this little silence on my part will turn around once again! Luckily for me, I have obtained a permission to dig into the wonderful archives of Peter van Cooten's AmbientBlog, and share with you some of the gems that he recommends for your ears. And remember, there's no such thing as "old music" - music just is.

Sonmi451 - Ruis (Slaapwel)
The Slaapwel label, specialized in music to fall asleep to, is becoming more collectible with every release. The previous (six) releases were all very beautiful (package and music-wise) and perfectly fitted the purpose they were created for: dozing away quietly, listening to music that is 'interesting and boring at the same time'. Among the previous performers were Peter Broderick, Greg Haines, Machinefabriek + Soccer Committee and Jasper TX. This seventh release in this remarkable series is this one, called "Ruis" by Sonmi451. 'Ruis' literally means 'Noise' which suggests about the total opposite of the music it contains: 32 calm minutes, slowly building, but without climax. The basic piano layers resemble the sound of Brian Eno's Neroli, though the composition here is more repetitive than generative. "Ruis" is like a comfortable bed: the lower region drones and chords carry you like a comfortable soft mattress, while the higher note sequences fold around your head like a pillow. When playing music like this, you'd almost wish for insomnia... Somni451 is the alias of Bernard Zwijzen from Hasselt, Belgium. He has been releasing electronic music under this name since 2005, mostly on the U-Cover label. Like all previous Slaapwel releases, Ruis is beautifully packed in a hand-stamped cardboard cover including a print designed by Louis Reith. Though printed in a larger edition (500 copies this time), the physical release will probably sell out quickly (leaving only the digital download). So, like label owner Wim Maesschalk said: "don't sleep over it for too long..."

M. Ostermeier - Chance Reconstruction (Tench)
The very first release on the brand new Tench label comes in a digipack with beautiful landscape photography by James Luckett. These sober, black & white, pictures perfectly fit the music of Marc Ostermeier on his new album: Chance Reconstruction. Though it's the first release on Tench, it's not the first work of Ostermeier, who has released earlier work, Percolate (parvoart, 2010) and Lakefront (hibernate, 2010). Combining acoustic piano and guitar with electronic textures, his work can be catalogued next to that of Rafael Anton Irisarri, Goldmund, Peter Broderick, Library Tapes and Labradford. Quiet, reflective and melancholic piano/guitar melodies, sometimes even only hints of melodies, are the heart of the 10 tracks on this album. In parts, the music on Chance Reconstruction is more abstract, but (quote the website notes): "there is no doubt that the operating word is still 'melancholy'. The hesitant piano melodies take on an almost conversational form, but from someone repeating and rephrasing his thoughts as he talks to himself, imagining different outcomes of something he cannot change." While melancholy is the perfect word, it's the fascinating electronic decoration of the acoustic sounds that prevents this album to become too 'easy' to listen to. If the reference artists mentioned above mean anything to you, you should not hesitate to check out Chance Reconstruction. Tench has set itself a high standard with this beautiful first release!!!

Rafael Anton Irisarri - The North Bend (Room40)
If this album had been presented to me 'blind', without knowing anything about it, I doubt that I would have guessed that I was listening to the new Rafael Anton Irisarri album The North Bend. I would probably have mistaken these rather dark repeating loops for a new William Basinski recording. Rafael Anton Irisarri (also main member of The Sight Below) obviously isn't afraid to leave expectations for what they are and explore different worlds. The music on The North Bend is quite different from the piano-focused music of his earlier releases Daydreaming (Miasmah, 2007), Hopes and Past Desires (Immune, 2009) and Reverie (Immune, 2010). For that reason, it may take a few extra turns to get used to, but finally the five tracks slowly reveal their secrets and beauty: " [...] a sound of uncertain source and unknown origin; wind, far away, but with a depth like a rumbling of the earth." The drones, loops and rumbles are somehow related to natural landscapes (the pacific northwest of the United States to be more precise). But this music is not about birds, crickets and refreshing brooks. It's about nature on a much larger scale: about vast impressive landscapes that make you feel small and insignificant. About "Valleys, Mountains, the nearly endless Sea of Trees"... and filled with hidden mysteries. Like the music on The North Bend itself. Pick up this release, from the always wonderful Room40, Australian label run and operated by Lawrence English.

Be sure to check out our Interview with Rafael Anton Irisarri

Minamo + Lawrence English - A Path Less Travelled (Room40)
Together with the release of Rafael Anton Irisarri another recent Room40 release came to my attention: A Path Less Travelled by Minamo and Lawrence English. Minamo is a 4-person group from Japan recording since 1999. For this record they are working together with Lawrence English adding bass, harmonium, field recordings and electronics to their guitars, keyboards, electronics and object sounds. The electro-acoustic music on A Path Less Travelled is not 'ambient music', but the field recordings and the way the musicians explore their 'sound fields' have a lot of 'ambience'. For most parts, the compositions have a nice lively, improvisational feeling. "Rather than setting out with prescriptive or didactic ideals for their meeting, the musicians looked further afield for influences to shape their interactions". But in fact the musical results proves to be much less 'improvised' than one might imagine: "Drawing on Minamo’s sense of pace and sonic spatiality, English devised a number of arrangement strategies to compress, accentuate and expand Minamo’s initial sketches. Carefully editing and adding to the refined and measured contributions, the record took shape over two years of gradual process led production." The result is a pleasure to listen to. The music defies categorization, it is as much 'experimental' as it refers to classic 'rock' music. But one thing is sure: you probably won't hear much of it on your local radio station - because most of these stations don't really like 'paths less travelled'.

Francesco Tristano - Idiosynkrasia (Infiné)

So, where did this marvel come from? OK, I have heard a single track from Francesco Tristano here and there. Once on a Point Music compilation, titled XVI Reflections On Classical Music with appearances from Hauschka, Alva Noto, Gas, Murcof, Max Richter, and more... Tristano performed a magnificent piano cover of Autechre's Andover. So perhaps that should have been enough of a hint for me to check out the works by Tristano! And even one of my favorite producers, Ben Lukas Boysen, included Tristano's track in his exclusive podcast for Headphone Commute (see Hecq – Mixtape One). I've even had friends recommend me this music! And I still failed to give this artist my undivided attention. Well, fear not - everything comes in due time - and today I put aside all of my daily chores to spend an hour with Tristano, and his amazing Idiosynkrasia album. How do I describe his music? Not since the deep rolling bass within some of Max Richter earlier tracks, or glitchy triggers of Murcof's orchestration, was I so excited to hear a beautiful marriage between my all time favorite elements - piano and electronica. Well, there was, of course, Ametsub and Nils Frahm & Anne Müller, which I adore just as much! But Tristano is not only a master behind his collection of DSP tools, but also a fantastic piano player! His compositions not only convey an avalanche of emotions, and excite my neurons with micro processed beats, but also captures his passion for the music and my beloved instrument with his outstanding performance - and you can hear it in the recording. From four-four beats to glitchy percussion and beyond-your-imagination wrapping and folding of the sound, this Luxembourgian pianist and composer entertains and fascinates with his third full length on Infiné. In fact, the latter mentioned label appears to start off its catalog with its very first release with Francisco Tristano's Not For Piano (2007), as well as his follow up, Auricle / Bio / On (2008). While we're talking about this international label based in Paris, Lyon and Berlin, it's worth mentioning that its catalog features a repressing of Apparat's Walls (2007) and Things To Be Frickled (2008), as well as Aufgang's self-titled, Aufgang (2009), which, by the way, Tristano is a member of, along with Aymeric Westrich and Rami Khalifé. So it's definitely worth digging deeper within Infiné. So where does this talented young musician come from? Graduating from the renowned New York Juillard School, Francesco Tristano is a pupil of contemporary classical and baroque music alike. At only 25 years of age, he has already performed in New York's Carnegie Hall, Berlin's Philharmonie and Paris' Cité de la Musique. While in New York City, Francesco became fascinated with its dynamic electronic music scene, and even participated in organizing his own club nights. In Europe, Tristano worked with Agoria and eventually with the above mentioned Fernando Corona (aka Murcof), before setting out on a tour across Europe. In 2008 Francesco teamed up with Carl Craig, and appeared alongside Moritz von Oswald on the stage for the Versus project. Carl Craig makes an appearance on Idiosynkrasia as an Executive Producer, along with the label's co-founder, Alexandre Cazac. Recording in Craig's Planet E studio, the sound becomes influenced by the Detroit's techno scene, and folds elements of Tristano's eccentric take on musique concrète, abstraction and minimalism, into a format of modern beat and structured rhythm. Here's Francesco with some words about the album: "This record is the fruit of a quest for an idiosyncratic language that is somewhere between acoustic and electronic, a quest that spans time and space, and I want to bring the piano into the 21st century. My ambition is to provide the piano with a new identity, because it is often associated with classical music and viewed as an instrument of the past, while I genuinely see it as an instrument of the future.” Francesco Tristano is currently on tour, continuing to perform with Moritz von Oswald (catch him in Hamburg this spring). He also managed to land a record on the prestigious staple of classical music, Deutche Grammophon with his upcoming release in March of 2011, bachCage, celebrating the contrast between you guessed it, Johann Sebastian Bach and John Cage. Definitely looking forward to that one. Meanwhile, Idiosynkrasi is highly recommended for the followers of the above mentioned artists, and purveyors of intelligent electronica and advanced modern classical genres! | |

Interview with The Hole Punch Generation

Your band has a pretty neat name. How did you come up with it and what does it mean?
The Hole Punch Generation name reflects mass-production processes and how these processes have affected art, culture, and identity.

The Hole Punch Generation has been playing together for five years now. How did you guys meet? What have you been working on all this time? And why do you think it took about five years to release your first album?
Patrick walked by Adam Sturtevant playing a show in Boston where he was covering Squarepusher songs on an acoustic drum set. He approached him after the show, asked him to collaborate. The Hole Punch Generation always wanted to work with a drummer who was influenced by computer-based music. Patrick and Caleb met making video games together. Five years is a long time. We wanted to come out strong as a band, with our sound fleshed out entirely. A lot of iteration took place: writing and throwing out songs that weren't good enough, producing a song and then scrapping all of it to re-produce it. Each iteration got us a bit closer to the sound we wanted.

I always wanted to know this - why do bands decide to release self-titled albums?
We think self-titled albums have the connotation of an introduction (or in some cases a re-introduction). The beginning of a relationship.

Tell us about working on your music video, "They're On To Me".
We met Avi through a music collective called Oxytocin. Avi plays guitar for a chiptune band, Cathode Rays, but is also an amazing visual artist. He had done a really impressive video for the band Spirit Kid, and we reached out to him about working together. He seemed to immediately understand the aesthetic of the band and even his earliest comps immediately reflected the lyrical content of the song. We think of him as a friend and a great collaborator.

How did you connect with David Newman and get signed on Audiobulb Records?
We've been fans of Audiobulb for quite some time. Love Austici, He Can Jog, Milinal, Build, Calika, Ultre: all these artists inspire. We worked on the album for years. When we were done, Patrick sent 5 songs to Audiobulb, with a note disclaiming that we understood our sound was different from the rest of the catalog. David listened to them over and over, and offered us a release the same day he listened to it.

I have to pry on this one - how do you think your album fits with the rest of Audiobulb's catalog?
Our album marks something a little different for Audiobulb. But I think to say "every Audiobulb release prior to THPG is the same as the next" would be incorrect. David works with musicians who come from very different cultural backgrounds and aesthetic perspectives. Without putting words in his mouth, what ties the Audiobulb catalog together is the importance of innovating. We definitely share that ethos as a cornerstone of the band's process and identity.

Your site reveals and shares some of your original Max/MSP patches. How do you go about designing these sounds? What role does Digital Signal Processing have in your music? And how do you balance the medium between acoustic and electronic?
Custom DSP is truly integral to our sound. When designing patches, inspiration comes in myriad forms. It could be a "wouldn't it be cool if?" kind of moment, where we create the software we don't have access to. It could be an improvement or tweak to something more widely available that isn't quite doing what we'd like, or it could just be a happy accident! Caleb works mainly in Max/MSP/Jitter. Patrick works in Reaktor and Supercollider. Every song on our Audiobulb release employs the use of custom DSP.

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Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Sound Bytes : Tupolev, Robert Miles and The Hole Punch Generation

So I’ve had a few busy weeks, running around, trying to arrange the fragments of my life into a puzzle that makes sense (at least from afar). I haven’t had much time for music lately, and I know that soon that will change again. Thankfully I’ve queued up a few mini-reviews that I meant to publish earlier. Here’s a selection of albums that I enjoyed, which are a bit more on the rockier, jazzier, experimental riff… There’s always good music for every time and space – hopefully you will make find these on your rotations.

Tupolev – Towers of Sparks (Valeot)
These seemingly abstract and jazzy improvisations of the Viennese instrumental quartet, Tupolev, penetrate the walls of my kitchen mixing in with the sounds of falling snow and slowly stewing dinner.  With Peter Holy on the vibrant grand piano, Alexandr Vatagin on the upright bass and cello, Lukas Scholler behind the electronics, and David Schweighart on the drums, Tower of Sparks rises in the air with the vapors of warm Sunday mornings, walking the melodic scale of keys, strings and lively beats. Recorded without metronomes, the groups create music relying solely on each other, breathing in unison the rubber band of rhythms and notes. This is the second full length release from Tupolev, following Memories Of Björn Bolssen released in 2008 by Valeot as well. Celebrating the label's 10th release, Alexandr Vatagin continues to deliver exceptional music to discerning ears and minds. The 28 minutes across eight tracks present a truly refreshing and rare treat.  The album cover art is also worth mentioning here: it depicts an old photograph of people swimming near the waterfalls, with that 70's, rusty, window pane filter. Also check out the debut Tupolev EP released by 12rec in April of 2005. You can download the latter for free from

Robert Miles - Th1rt3en (S:alt Records)
When a promo from Robert Miles landed on my desk, I took a double take. Why does that name sound so familiar? And when I glanced at a press release, the photo of a chiseled, dark and rusty man sent me falling through the dark well, lined with dreams and memories. I have seen this man before - yet I couldn't put together the context. And after reading the first paragraph of Miles' bio, I was finally able to connect the dots. This is the same Robert Miles that had me dancing back in 1996 to his hit, Children (from the album Dreamland), which was made popular by clubs and radio stations across the globe. But those were the days of uplifting and progressive trance, and although Robert Miles (whose real name is Roberto Concina) had two more albums behind his belt - 23am (2007) and Organik (2001) - I didn't know what to expect from his recent output on his own S:alt Records, mysteriously titled Th1rt3en. Well let me try - acoustic percussion is mixed with experimental, alternative, and classic rock guitar riffs, bass thumps, psychedelic electronica, a little bit of jazz, cowbell and all! Truly an ambitious album, taking a giant leap in redefining his own sound, to the likes of Squarepusher's previous attempts, Th1rt3en is a culmination of struggles with fame, reflections on the past, and a continuous evolution of self. With guest appearances by Robert Fripp, The Invisible and Lamb, the latest output from this relentless artist will please the fans of Bill Laswell, Pink Floyd, and Miles Davis alike.

The Hole Punch Generation - The Hole Punch Generation (Audiobulb)
Looks like David Newman's (aka Autistici) label, Audiobulb Records, is taking a stab at breaking through musical genre boundaries, that so often constrain other catalogs by bias and expectations. By signing a Boston based three-member band, The Hole Punch Generation (consisting of Patrick Balthrop on guitar and vocals, Caleb Epps on bass and synth, and Adam Sturtevant on drums), Audiobulb leaps from micro-tonal, minimal, and experimental sounds to song-based electronica, post-rock and thick shoegaze, for the likes of Lights Out Asia, Port-Royal with a mix of Blueneck and maybe even Thom Yorke. And if genre-classification is such a silly thing to do, Audiobulb's pursuit of music that evokes an emotional response should not be concerned with labels. Setting out to compose an album that should be as easily reproducible live as it is in the studio, The Hole Punch Generation is a raw, emotional, sky soaring, musical flight, exploring the existential themes of life, love, loss and decay through twelve, DSP manipulated, guitar riff driven, and Balthrop's falsetto soaked tracks. Recall the days when you first discovered Stateless, Arcade Fire, and Phoenix, and you may get excited again about hearing this new band for the first time, and becoming a loyal fan so early in their career! A very surprising and enjoyable release from a favorite label!

Be sure to read our Interview with The Hole Punch Generation