Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sound Bytes : Samadhisound

With this installment of Sound Bytes we are accomplishing two things at once: introducing your ears to the music of Samadhisound, a label setup by David Sylvian and Steve Jansen; and welcoming on board a new contributor to Headphone Commute - Peter van Cooten, the man behind the wonderful AmbientBlog, featuring mixes, podcasts, and reviews of some of our favorite sounds. We hope to publish many more reviews from Peter, as well as feature his mixes on Headphone Commute's Podcast.

Jan Bang - ... And Poppies From Kandahar
Any album including contributions of Jon Hassell, Arve Henriksen and Nils Petter Molvaer would get my immediate and unreserved attention! It's no real surprise that Jan Bang can bring these names together: he has worked with them on their respective albums, as 'samplist' and/or as producer. There are a few more impressive contributors here (such as Sidsel Endresen, Peter Freeman, Eivind Aarset and Lars Danielsson), as well as a range of credited samples, including Kammerflimmer Kollektief , Richard Wagner and Robert Schumann. Jan Bang has a distinct, very personal way of using these samples in his music. He is not afraid to stop/start them (in such a way that even the background hiss drops out for a second), and to combine them with alienating found sounds ('exhaust fan') or cut-up vocal fragments (Sidsel Endresen). The result is remarkably coherent, unearthly and alienated, but also warm and personal. Bang seems to draw from thousands of sources, though all sources are hard to identify. But all fragments perfectly fit together and sound as if they were meant to fit this samplist's puzzle. ...And Poppies from Kandahar (David Sylvian is credited for the titles) is one of the more impressive albums I have heard in a long time. It proves that there are always new roads to travel, that there is still a lot of new music to explore.

Toshimaru Nakamura - Egrets
Next to David Sylvian, it's Arve Henriksen linking Toshimaru Nakamura's album to that of Jan Bang. However, Henriksen's trumpet handling is quite different here: it includes the sound of the instrument itself (like the clicking of the valves), as well as the breathing of the player. This perfectly fits the music of Toshimaru Nakamura - who is a household name in the Japanese onkyo (noise) and improv scene. Apart from playing guitar, Nakamura's main instrument is the 'No Input Mixing Board': a mixing board without external input: the output directly connected to the input - the player manipulating the resulting feedback. Nakamura has released quite an impressive array of albums experimenting with this technique, which explains that that "NIMB" (No Input Mixing Board tracks that are numbered 42 to 45). He is able to control the feedback from the board very subtly. On 'Semi', he improvises to the seemingly generative guitar playing of Tetuzi Akiyama. The tracks with Arve Henriksen sound like a dialogue of two musicians communicatie 'from the gut of one instrument to the other'. To me, improv music often feels like 'musician's music' - it does not really seem to include me as a listener. Not on this album, however: Nakamuru is able to create a musical environment I can connect to and get involved with. But again: this does not mean this is 'easy listening' music...

Akira Rabelais - Caduceus
If I would compile a list of all time favourite albums, Akira Rabelais' Spellewauerynsherde (also released on Samadhisound) would definitely end up in the highest regions. Thus, expectations were mile-high when Samadhisound announced the release of a new Rabelais album called Caduceus. But Rabelais is not someone to repeat a successful formula twice. Though the process of creating the music may be similar (using the Argeïphontes Lyre software he created himself), the resulting sounds on Caduceus is remarkably different from Spelle... On first listen, judging Caduceus in relation to Spellewauerynsherde, I found it hard to grasp what Akira Rabelais was trying to achieve here. The liner notes did not really help: "Time occupied by the same nature in mind, symbolism or a thing, a radiance of observation, synthesis succeed one thing and makes them of the soul, a dark room also occupied by thinking itself". As Rabelais says: "As with just about everything I do it's mostly a matter of listening and waiting for the tracks to reveal their intentions." So I guess that this album will not work for you if you're not receptive to what the music transcends. Feeding guitar (and AM/FM sounds) through his AI software, some of the tracks have the same quality as the music on Spellewauerynsherde: hardly graspable, ethereal sounds, like spirits circling all around you and tempting to lure you into regions unknown. But on Caduceus, accumulating spirits can also become a legion of demons, with the unnerving sounds of thousands of nails scratching a blackboard. Caduceus has two faces: it incorporates harsh loud noises as well as ethereal heavenly sounds. "Outside of the full-on audio assault, there's unsettling disquiet in its quietude" (liner notes). It won't be a surprise that I personally prefer the "pieces of quietude" - but fans of noise music will probably prefer the screeching loudness of the other tracks. From this Samadhisound batch, Caduceus may be the most 'difficult' album to get into. It also requires to be judged unrelated to earlier releases. But once again Akira Rabelais delivers some very fascinating sounds!

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

Hummingbird - Our Fearful Symmetry (Fluid Audio)

Spending three quarters of an hour with Hummingbird is like sinking in a couch in a company of an old friend. All ego driven thoughts, all roles, and all façades just disappears. And all you're left with is just yourself, and the soothing sounds of the Hummingbird. Distant bells, lightly touched piano keys, and reverb drenched pads swirl around the room, like a scent of a cinnamon candle blending with the hot apple cider in my hands. And suddenly all becomes one... as the Seeds of Deception are prepared once more to be sowed in your Garden Of Secrets... It is difficult to obtain factual information on the mysterious artist hiding behind the moniker of Humminbird (although we gather that it's an alias of someone we know very well). And it's even more difficult to recommended this album to a new listener, since it was limited to only one hundred physical copies, each packaged in a handmade, letter-pressed sleeve, with an original photographic Polaroid slide from the 40s. And since this release will not be available digitally (unless we convince the folks of Fluid Audio otherwise), it's almost impossible to promote one of the most beloved albums up to date. But yet, here we are, sharing with you the words on one of our favorites of the year! Hummingbird treads carefully on the line of fact and fiction, creating a solace of sound by both live instrumentation and automated means. “Our Fearful Symmetry” reveals beautiful and thought-provoking music, dizzying and imaginative in detail which will impart a self-conscious resonance into any listener. Listeners drawn to the mysterious nature of the project will soon find themselves rewarded with a cohesive journey through 11 tracks that reward repeated visits, with rich reverbed soundscapes that are both familiar and distant. With measured melodies, precise phrasing, and carefully selected choice of modern classical instrumentation, such as cello, field recordings, and ghostly sounds, the artist behind Hummingbird may hide, but his sounds will not distract my ear... Could it be Rudi Arapahoe, who in 2008 completely took us by surprise with his gorgeous Echoes From One To Another? Perhaps after reaching critical acclaim through his release on a Japanese Symbolic Interaction, the elusive Arapahoe found a new home. Or is it Emmanuel Errante who last released Humus (Somnia, 2008) followed by Gouache (Laverna, 2010)? I don't think it's Clem Leek, whose recent album Holly Lane (Hibernate, 2010) deserves a separate review on these pages. I suppose that your guess is as good as mine. But why focus on the name, when the music is all that we need to share here? After all, the best things are left to mystery... Instead, I recommend that you pick up similar releases on Fluid Audio from Field Rotation, The Moving Dawn Orchestra, Maps And Diagrams and the latest from Hessien. And make sure to keep your eye on the label, as the newest limited releases sell out fast! Recommended for the likes of Max Richter, Library Tapes, Peter Broderick, Machinefabriek, and Danny Norbury.

Read also our Two and a Half Questions with Hummingbird


Two and a Half Questions with Hummingbird

Talk a little about your decision of remaining anonymous.
This decision was made for no other reason than to put out music under a different name, or in this case, a hidden identity - I personally wanted to release something that would be considered and valued for the musical content and not for the artists name. This was also echoed by Fluid Audio and we agreed that due to the fact that this was a more concept-based project and didn't sound like any of my other musical output it would be interesting to take this route of remaining anonymous for this album.

What does your moniker, Hummingbird, represent?
The artist name Hummingbird was chosen after several visits to a local nature reserve in the spring of 2010. After spending time observing and taking pictures of the Hummingbirds that were located there I was taken aback with the movement, behaviour and the amazing colours of these birds. I'd already had the musical direction in my head at this stage so all I needed was to choose a name that would best reflect the concept and work in tandem with the music. I'd like to think in some form the music represents the artist name and subsequently replicates an audible representation of the Hummingbirds' behaviour, colour and the visible wavelengths created by the movement. In a figurative sense, this is probably most noticeable in the song "Eemina" where there's a hovering-like feel to the song.

Where do the field recordings come from, and who performs the live instrumentation on the album?
The field recordings were created, sampled and collated from various sources, mostly I recorded sounds myself, in public places, outside in the dead of night and in various locations whether on holiday or visiting various places locally. The live instrumentation was mostly recorded by myself in the studio and also on various locations whilst I was traveling. I also worked alongside a musician who is classically trained who I'd asked to contribute to give a particular, defined feel to one or two of the songs.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

See also Headphone Commute review of Our Fearful Symmetry