Saturday, April 30, 2011

Two and a Half Questions with Asura

You have been producing music for well over a decade now. How has your sound evolved over the years?
I think my music has always been a mixture of numerous influences, styles. I love electronic music, space and trance, but too, world music, classical, even pop rock. I guess that, since 1996, when  Asura was created, the evolution was natural, cause it's not commercial music, so it has no boundaries, no limits. I too tried many synths and gears, and for something like 5 or 6 years, many virtual ones. So my sound changed with my various experiments.

360 is an album in two parts. What do the chapters "Before" and "After" signify?
It's a very personal reason in fact. This album is a tribute to my father who passed away in 2009. He taught me love of music, and I share what I know in part thank to him with my listeners. You are  born, you live, and you die. But you give a message. It's like a loop. A circle. Life in 360. "Before" is when he was there, and "after" is... you guess what!

And what about the name itself - are you referring to a full cycle, return to the origin, as well as the unity of beginning and an end?
I don't want to keep my music enclosed in a formatted style. "Code Eternity", for example, belongs to the past, with its almost exclusive 4/4 beats, acid and loud basslines. We are in 2010 now, no more in the 2000's. I changed and my music with me. I will keep making this kind of music of course, cause I love it, but essentially for compilations, live acts, for the dance floor too. So now I want to go deeper in a mix of World Music, Trance Ambient, Trip Hop, Classical, Glitch, everything that I think can fit with my soul. I would like it to be a panoramic vision of music, at 360 degrees. That's why my 2011 album will be very different too, a spacey one. I will come back to a rhythmic album, as it's the case in "360", in 2013.

Talk a little about your collaboration with Ayten on El-Hai.
It was a virtual meeting at first, cause we met via Myspace. I send here some drones and she sang (divinely) on it. So we decided to make a track together, and it gave "El Hai", which means "Living God" in hebrew. And it won't be the last time. She has a heavenly voice, polymorphic I would say, and i am eager to collaborate on several other tracks, and maybe to released an album with her in the future.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Be sure to read Headphone Commute review of Asura's 360

Interview with Boy Is Fiction

What have been the greatest musical influences on your music?
For as long as I can remember I've been really easily distracted. My attention span is average at the best of times but music was always different. When I was growing up my folks had a huge collection of vinyl and discs that I'd disappear into and I guess because of that I've developed a fairly eclectic taste. I've never really given a shit who wrote the music or where it came from as long as it made me feel something. As a kid I remember listening to tracks over and over in an old pair of headphones for that reason alone.

I think the biggest shift for me was in my teens when I started to listen to bands like ministry. I was a die-hard metal fan so when I heard the mix of samples, synths and textures I was gone. I'd started playing guitar a few years earlier but from that point on I wanted to be able to do it all. My drumming sucked so I bought a drum machine / sampler and over time taught myself to play piano. As a guitarist I've gone downhill but spreading myself thinly over multiple instruments was the only way I could do what I wanted to do. These days I listen to everything from Godspeed to Leonard Cohen. There's so much good stuff out there, it's just a matter of filtering your way through it.

You seem to be a one man shop, doing all the writing, playing, and production yourself. Did anyone join you on Broadcasts in Colour? I hear a cello on "In" and a different voice on "Until Morning Comes." Is that all you? How many different instruments were employed to create the cinematic sweep of Broadcasts in Colour?
Boy is Fiction is just me. I've toyed with the idea of bringing in other musicians but it's such a personal project and so much of it comes from what I've seen and done. There are definitely people I'd love to work with and I wouldn't rule it out - but it's hard to do when you're in your own little world. In saying that I've spent some pretty late and messy nights with the people close to me picking their brains. It's a great way to sound out ideas but ultimately I'm stubborn and I tend to run with my heart.

To date the strings have been digital but that's definitely something I'd look at given the chance. Having started as a guitarist I still get a lot of textures from electrics, my keys are synth based and percussion is a mix of digital and acoustic. Over the years I've recorded a few kits and I still use them a lot when I'm after an open or live kit sound. The glitchy and broken beats come from a special place after a lot of hard liquor and shit talking.

Is your work drawn from your own life, or are they externally influenced?
Absolutely my own life, but music is a funny thing. I'm never really sure how a track will make someone feel so I just lay it all down emotionally. Why not? Once a piece is out there, people will interpret differently and I guess that's the beauty of music. Obviously adding vocals makes it easier to tell a story or whatever but I think if they're minimal enough the focus remains on the track as a whole. Everyone has moments and experiences they'll never forget. I have memories that I wish I could relive over and over, just as I have memories I wish I could outrun.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Interview prepared by Elizabeth Klisiewicz for Headphone Commute.

Check out Headphone Commute's review of Broadcasts In Colour

Sound Bytes : Asura, Boxharp, Arc of Doves and Boy Is Fiction

Here, at Headphone Commute offices, our bins are overflowing with promos, our mailboxes are screaming with "listen to meeee!" subjects, and our hard-drives are constantly churning, fragmenting and archiving. We have given up a long time ago on listening to _ALL_ of the music out there, and complaining about its abundance is also a sin... Thankfully, Elizabeth Klisiewicz comes to the rescue once more, dusting off a few of the albums that truly deserve recognition among these pages. With this first Sound Bytes entry of the year, we tip our hats off to our favorites by Asura, Boxharp, Arc of Doves and Boy Is Fiction.

Asura - 360 (Ultimae)
In my tiny corner of the world, snow is falling and winter has settled around me. Cold penetrates my very essence, and it is times such as these when I need emotional sustenance. 360 is a fourth album from Asura, which neatly fills that void. It is a musical cloak of many colors that opens with the stunning El Hau, featuring vocalist Ayten, who easily surfs the waters of Lisa Gerrard's Whale Rider period, finished with a Middle Eastern twist. Asura is the vision of one man, Lyon (France) based musician Charles Farewell, who guides listeners through beautiful vistas studded with psychedelic morning trance, IDM, and world beats. There is something for everyone, from the lush ambient strains of Halley Road to the global reach of Altered State, whose punchy back beats are gilded with Celtic airs. Atlantis Child's lazy, sun-dazed beats entangle these glad ears before yanking the rug from under me and catching me unawares with the uneasy, psybient strains of Longing for Silence. Robot tones usher in the final third of this piece, which veers from paranoia to melancholia. 360 tickles the pleasure center before it slides the stiletto silently through your emotional heart. Wonderful, woeful, and in constant rotation on my personal playlist. Stop by Ultimae to explore Asura's previous releases for the label. This album has been featured on Headphone Commute's Best of 2010 : Music For Awakened Spirits And Open Minds.

Check out our Two and a Half Questions with Asura

Boxharp - The Green (Hidden Shoal Recordings)
Boxharp is singer/songwriter Wendy Allen and producer/engineer Scott Solter. It is also a dulcimer style harp that frequently appears in the band's intriguing mix of modern beats, Celtic/Appalachian folk, and antique musical renderings. Like other artists that have married unusual musical genres, such as Afro Celt Sound System's West African-Celtic melange, Boxharp deftly mixes ghostly vocals with warm, ambient tones. Wendy and Scott meander through Burl Ives, poet Vachel Lindsay, and dive back to 1733 for the Leatherwing Bat (also known as The Bird's Courting Song). The ghost of Sandy Denny also seems to flit in and out of this antique ditty, which would slot nicely onto Fairport Convention's brilliant Liege and Lief (Island, 1969) album. Allen's personal ghosts also inform some of her lyrics, and surround music box tones with a mystical air. All these elements fit together into a logical whole and make for an uneasy but always engaging listen. With no less a dignitary than David Bowie lauding them, Boxharp seems poised for a bright future in the ambient, folktronic, and experimental music space. Pick up your copy directly from Hidden Shoal's online store, where you can also download five label sampler albums completely for free!

Arc of Doves - Impressions (Quietus Recordings)
Frequent moments of unimaginable beauty populate this debut album from producer Tetsuya Nakamura's Arc of Doves project. Released in 2009 on Brock Van Wey's (bvdub) Quietus Recordings imprint, it's a fitting companion piece to bvdub's own work (White Clouds Drift On And On). Ranging from piano scapes a la Goldmund to cinematic noir dub, this is a recording that settles around you like a velvet cloak, enfolding you with warm, organic swells of sound. The stark piano of "Introducing" slides into "Word of Mouth" with watery ease, treating listeners to an eclectic melange of modern classical, minimalist dub, and IDM. Impressions is the perfect soundtrack for a massage, or a soul-cleansing walk in the wilderness. Hints of Brian Eno and Harold Budd come into play, but Impressions is an original work populated with fluid tone poems and impressionistic soundscapes. Highly recommended if you like Christopher Hipgrave, Danny Norbury, Rudi Arapahoe and Rafael Anton Irisarri. See if you can track down a limited edition Arc of Doves release, Mille Plateaux (ROH²S!, 2009) as well as the latest, The Lights (AY, 2010), selected as one of the entries in Headphone Commute's Best of 2010 : Music For The Frosty Night When I Miss Your Warm Light.

Boy Is Fiction - Broadcasts In Colour (Sun Sea Sky Productions)
Broadcasts in Color is the second release from Melbourne-based musician/producer Alex Gillett, recording under the moniker Boy Is Fiction. Warm, organic tones mesh with frosty synth sounds and shift seamlessly between blissful beats and darker undercurrents. I have listened to this release numerous times over the past month, and am surprised and pleased by its staying power. That such lovely and accessible music has gone unnoticed by many is a mystery. "Feeling Lazy" is reminiscent of Brian Eno, and its message and affable melody will stick with you long after the last notes have faded away. Lovely piano, ghostly vocals, and a swath of strings augment this fragile centerpiece. Piano and synthesizer are the common elements in most tracks, underpinning everything from the airiness of "Pinprick" to the gritty, industrial sheen of "Rat". Bright and dark passages swarm your senses like migrating butterflies, and you are not released until the final strains of "For My Friend" set you down. Musical touchstones include Helios, Proem, Subheim, Pleq and Ginormous, but all fans of lush, ethereal electronic music will find something to relish here. The album is released by Illinois based Sun Sea Sky Productions, which has previously released Lights Out Asia's Garmonia (2003), and has recently announced an upcoming release by Melorman.  Check out Gillett's debut on the same label, Boy Is Fiction (2007). Broadcasts In Colour is featured on Headphone Commute's Best of 2010 : Music For Withered Leaves And Lonely Fishtanks.

Read also Elizabeth's Interview with Boy Is Fiction

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

Cepia - Cepia (Cepia Music)

Huntley Miller's 2007 debut, Natura Morta, on Ghostly International as Cepia ends with Untitled II. His sophomore release on his own Cepia Music, self-titled Cepia, begins with Untitled III. Perhaps it is meant to tie the three years together, perhaps it's nothing more than a lack of words for the titles, or maybe there is no coincidence at all, and I'm reading into something that is not actually there. Afterall, Miller doesn't seem to be lost when it comes to naming tracks - there is the exclaiming "You Don't Know What It Means To Win", "Incurvatus in se", and "Me And My Gin" (sounds delicious). So let's pretend we didn't have this conversation and skip right to the music. Cepia is an album that grows on you with every listen. The only logical comparison I can make is to that one single event in your life - the first time you ever heard Autechre. Do you remember? Were you, like, huh, you know? But then grew up a bit and realized the beauty hidden in the layers? Miller's evolved sound relies on meticulously engineered sounds, micro programmed synthetic percussion, and patiently designed acoustic spaces. The sound is incredibly abstract, and indeed experimental in nature, showcasing ever molding branches of electronic music. Yes, I hear a bit of Autechre influence in there, as well as maybe some melodic flavors of Arovane, the synth folding lines of Wisp, and a little glitch hop from Lusine. But these comparisons only draw parallels of an invisible web of auditory nodes, colliding at the hub of Cepia's sound. Here's a blurb from a previous press release, courtesy of Ghostly: Cepia (pronounced “SEP-ee-uh”) is the sound of industry meeting with the vague memories that rest somewhere in the back of everyone’s mind. Processed bells lilt and chime at their whim, while kick drums skitter and scramble to catch up. Infinite layers of clicks and drones provide the glue that holds it all together perfectly. Miller's discography consists mainly of the above mentioned Notura Morta, a few EPs on Ghostly Inernational, and a remix compilation, Atlantic Blood, on The Flashbulb's Sublight Records from 2006. The latter collects Cepia's reworks of tracks by Mr. Projectile, Tiki Obmar, Tim Koch, and others, while being mastered by Richard Devine - it feels like a gathering of good ol' friends from the era of Merck. Cepia's 30-minute tightly packed 10-track release is a little puff of fresh air into the community of IDM explorers, a bit fatigued from following a beaten path. Just what the doctor ordered.

Read Two and a Half Questions with Cepia

Two and a Half Questions with Cepia

What is the main theme behind the album, and why did you choose to go with a self-titled approach?
There isn't a main theme behind the album, but to me, it's an album in the classic sense where all the pieces are related and it's designed to be listened to all the way through. It's self-titled because it's very close to the core or essence of this music that I want to hear. Somewhere between the density of my first release and the minimalism of the last album.

Can you talk a bit about sound design? What software / hardware do you employ in your studio?
Everything is synthesized and sequenced in Max/MSP, bussed out to analog preamps, compressors and EQs, and then back in the computer for a more traditional mixing process with Logic. The album was not mastered for maximum level and because of that it retains a lot of punch, you want to turn it up when it comes on.

Describe your composition process. What are the inspirations? What is the approach at attacking a specific idea?
The harmonic stuff is written on a keyboard and the percussion in Max. Sometimes it's really hashing out a chord progression over a couple weeks, other times it's getting up in the middle of the night with something stuck in my head. The inspiration is all over the place from The Meters to Phillip Glass to The Band.

Besides Gin, what is your other choice of poison? :)

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Be sure to read Headphone Commute's review of Cepia.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Syndicated Posts

I just wanted to drop a quick line and apologize for not updating this mirror in a while. It's not exactly an automated process, so it takes a couple of hours to manually update individual posts. Since it fell off my radar, the reviews and interviews on here are lagging behind by about four months. I know many of you use this site to as your RSS source, so I'll do my best and attempt to catch up as soon as I can! Meanwhile, perhaps you'd consider adding our main site: to your portable RSS reader, so that you can stay up to date with the latest publications!

Tipper - Broken Soul Jamboree (Tippermusic)

Load up that rubber band gun with a stretched-out bass and snap the trigger on the dropping rhythm - the wobble bubble hip-bop is in the house! The 10th studio album from Dave Tipper, Broken Soul Jamboree, is about to slap you across the face, with its top notch production, acoustically rich other world themes, and of course, those staple (dare I say) glitch-hop downtempo beats, that have made Tipper a household name among the trip hop and nuskool breaks junkies alike. From acoustic instruments to CPU-intensive DSP rendering, the music prepares the listener for yet another mind trip, with captain Tipper behind the knobs and gas pedals. What could be said about this UK producer that hasn't been said before? How careful must I be with my words, in order not to reclassify the descriptions of the past? Should I attempt to write this review composed entirely of questions? You think? While Tipper follows his self-imposed rule of producing and releasing whatever he feels like on his own Tippermusic, I follow mine, and write about the music that simply makes me feel. The product of it all is just an auxiliary function. There is no other hidden agenda. It was through this self guided journey that I have discovered Surrounded back in 2003, and immediately fell in love with Tipper's music (I can still hear Forty Winks just by thinking about it). Since then, he released five more albums - the latest recommendations being Tertiary Noise and Wobble Factor (both released as digital only downloads in 2008). But it is with Broken Soul Jamboree that Tipper returns with his sound, and I feel like I am back running through the morning forest, looking for my sleeping friend's dew covered tent. Since Surrounded, Tipper has perfected his production techniques, paying a little more attention to the low-frequency space where the bass wobbles, and a little less attention to the direction of the rest of the world. Where others are concerned with following the latest trend (if you haven't noticed, dubstep managed to creep its dirty tail into every genre), Tipper is mostly concerned with making music that he loves. And that's where his perseverance prevails. On Broken Soul Jamboree, Tipper appears a bit more wise, mature, and even more confident in his sound than before. And through this confidence, Tipper is not afraid to show a little emotion, be it nostalgia or melancholia, while exploring the farthest corners of his mind (and ours).

Be sure to read our Two and a Half Questions with Tipper

Two and a Half Questions with Tipper

Last night I had a dream that I was checked into rehab for overdosing on music. I think you were there as well. What were you in for?
I'm the janitor there.

What would be a perfect musical performance for your funeral, and who should we book to perform?
I don't give a fuck 'cos i'll be dead, but for the purpose of your own entertainment, you may want to book this talent : manualist plays the bee gees

Seriously now, how Big is the Question, and how small is the head?
The question is about the size of a small wood pigeon and the head is about the size of a frustrated raisin.

On Broken Soul Jamboree I hear a few neat-sounding metallic percussion instruments. Who was your favorite Ninja Turtle and why?
Never watched it, but after some extensive research, probably Raphael, as he is purported to be both sullen and pissed off… these emotional traits stemming from an existential crisis that came about as a result of being one of only four anthropomorphic turtles in existence. Fair game.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview with Headphone Commute

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Read Headphone Commute's review of Broken Soul Jamboree

Eskmo - Eskmo (Ninja Tune)

Brendan Angelides may be a new artist to Ninja Tune's roster, but he's certainly not a new name to me. I met Brendan in Portland in the summer of 2007, back when I was already a fan of his music released as Welder on Cyberset and Native State Records (see Vines And Streams and Bamboo Snow EP respectively). His San Francisco sound already had all of the bass-driven punch, perfectly mixed with a base of beautiful and haunting melodies. There is no way of pigeonholing this musician into any sub-style of electronica. He has the glitch; he has the beats; he has the sound my body needs. Breeding a whole new child from the lineage of dubstep, IDM, and west-coast instrumental hip-hop, Angelides cuts through the layers of deep bass with his own ethereal vocals. His unique style opens up your ears, and unlocks the withered bones, ready to pop into a mannequin stance at the drop of the beat. Somewhere between the spacecrunk funkadelia and ghostep dreamhoptronica, there's the world of sound that steers clear from dance floor anthems and instead floats into a sonic space of frequency-rich headphone listening experience. "The album was written over a six month stretch, in the middle of a whole bunch of personal relationship-type stuff, a lot of deep life-experience type stuff happening that helped the music just bleed out of me. I just poured all those feelings into the music, it’s very cathartic. I allowed myself to let go of DJ structure – it’s not a ‘dance club’ album, because that kind of stuff hasn’t inspired me in years. This is the first full body of work where I’m singing all over it, and allowing myself to get over that furlough of expression has been really liberating." Ninja Tune raced to lock in this amazing talent after a split with Eprom on Warp and a 12" Let Them Sing EP on Planet Mu. We may also attribute the label signage to Amon Tobin, after he collaborated with Eskmo as ESKAMON (see Fine Objects released by Brendan's own Ancestor), and a Colorbrain Mix that Brendan made for Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder Sessions. "Before Warp and Planet Mu I kind of fell into the game of making tracks to get released on smaller dance labels, having to cater to ‘dance’ formulas. Over this past couple of years, I feel I’ve let go of that, and am just writing the songs I want to write. I got back to what excited me about making electronic music when I started out, creating these little universes with sound and writing songs." Let's talk about those Ninja choons for a second. The London-based independent label, run and operated by Matt Black and Jonathan More (aka Coldcut), had a dry spell in the last couple of years. In 2008 we were teased with You Don't Know: Ninja Cuts compilation promising many great albums to come. There was The Bug's London Zoo, Daedelus' Love To Make Music To, and The Qemists' Join The Q. In 2009 there were Blockhead's The Music Scene, Fink's Sort Of Revolution, and Yppah's They Know What Ghosts Know. But I guess what the label was really preparing for is their 20 year birthday celebration with Ninja Tune XX (I am a proud collector of the entire boxset). Not that any of the above albums are not noteworthy. It just didn't feel like the good 'ol Ninja Tune output until, perhaps, Bonobo's Black Sands in 2010. It seems that with Eskmo, the label that introduced the world to so many great new artists is back on track! Let's hope for a prosperous 2011! I'm already looking forward to Matilda by Stateless and Toomorrow by Wagon Christ!!!

See also Headphone Commute's Interview with Eskmo. |

Interview with Eskmo

I noticed that you're using vocals on the album (your own voice, right?). How has the Eskmo sound evolved over the years?
Yep I'm singing. I've had tracks along the way since the beginning where I put my vocal in there as a hook, but this recent album was the first full on diving in to take it to another place. I know the sound right now in the electronic world (for the most part) is all on the r'n'b tip with vocals, but that's not what inspires me. The idea of 'characters' inspires me no matter what the sound, so I took that and ran with it. Ultimately the music has always stayed true to being a reflection and metaphor of an inner process that has been happening within me over 10 years. The ways in which it has changed would be, the most obvious, in terms of production levels / concepts. But more deep than that would be the way I approach the tracks. Whether from a place of 2005 or 2008 and trying to write something that sounded 'heavy' and could make the dance floor go wild, to the more recent material which explores some more emotional terrain. Lately I've really allowed the idea of storytelling and memes to come through no matter if that places the track into a gentle area or the opposite, an uncomfortable or challenging one. Either way, I feel more is being said than me still going down the route of dj oriented tracks. (Not like I would ever get that big in that world anyways cause my stuff was always a bit 'odd' for most of dj crowd).

The latest music video by Cyriak Harris for "We Got More" kicks Inception's butt... Tell us more about videos that are now featured with your album. How have these complimented your music?
The first was "Cloudlight" which was directed by my friend Dugan Oneal. The 2nd was the video you mention. I've been real blessed to have been able to work with these two directors. Each song definitely comes from its own little world and different intention was put into each. We (Ninja and I) wanted to show 2 very different sides to the Eskmo character. Cloudlight comes from a very personal subtle sorta place. There is lots of story behind that one. I knew before the album was even done Cloudlight needed a video, but Pete at Ninja convinced me to do one for We Got More. They knew Cyriak (I hadn't heard of him before), and I trusted his judgment that it would be a good fit. And luckily it definitely was. I feel he nailed the exact quirky vibe I was hoping to achieve in tune.

Your signing on to Ninja Tune has definitely brought more attention to your music. Talk about the new opportunities that have presented themselves since the signing.
Signing with them has been a great experience. Their presence is so well established already and the fact that they are putting in a whole new level of focus into the brand and label these past couple years is just exciting. Through this I've been able to travel to new spots in Europe and Japan as well as meet a whole new crew of musicians I may have not encountered otherwise. It has also has brought its own set of challenges, which I also try to see as opportunities to grow. Releasing the music to such a large audience and with this much force behind the release brings a lot of leering eyes. Your work just gets examined in a different way. Especially if you don't give critics what they were expecting. I look at all this as chances to expand my sound and view of what this all means to me and how I might grow from it.

Do you think we'll see more material from your other project, Welder? Also, how would you classify the separation of sound between Welder and Eskmo?
I'm currently diving into another full length Welder release right now. Welder is the gentle, inward, very organic sound in me. No attention paid (for the most part) to bass lines or anything that feels the need to make a track 'hit' on the dance floor, where sonically or to make people bug out. Once you enter than sort of territory, the whole game changes. Eskmo, is the more open, outward, big sound. He understands the dance world and intentionally messes with it, where as Welder doesn't even acknowledge a need for playing with the rules, cause there aren't any. At one point I thought to make them extreme opposites from each other, but I could never bring Eskmo to be an annoying dance anthem character and still be ok with myself. I'm curious to see the direction of this next Welder album.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
See also Headphone Commute's review of Eskmo |

Hauschka - Foreign Landscapes (130701)

I remember the very fist time I heard Hauschka. Strange bells, cardboard clicks, and metallic slaps accompanied each note. At first, I was not aware that this was a prepared piano - an altered instrument with placed objects between the strings and hammers. Upon learning of Volker Bertelmann's exploration of possibilities through instrument modifications, I became entranced in the newly created sound of [what piano is actually classified as] a tuned percussion instrument. But it was not until I've seen Volker play live on a prepared piano, that I fell completely in love with his beautiful sound. Foreign Landscapes is Volker's third full length album for FatCat's 130701 imprint (he has also released two albums on Karaoke Kalk). His 2008 Ferndorf has made it on my Best of 2008 lists, and received critical acclaim among the followers and critics alike. On Ferndorf, exploring his childhood memories, Hauschka experimented with the addition of two cellists, a violinist and even a trombone player. On Foreign Landscapes, Volker reflects on his recent travels during an extensive world tour. And this time he's got an entire orchestra! In fact, some pieces don't even feature prepared piano, and instead showcase Volker's skill at arranging an expansive and ambitious orchestral score. "Nine of the album’s twelve tracks feature a 12-piece string and wind ensemble from San Francisco’s Magik*Magik Orchestra, alongside Volker Bertelmann’s own prepared piano. Dynamic, brimming with character and colour, ‘Foreign Landscapes’ retains its author’s distinctive musical voice and leads the listener through a beautifully balanced collection, moving from delicate solo piano lyricism to a propulsive, robust minimalism." On the album, Düsseldorf (Germany) based Volker Bertelmann continues to delight our ears with his compositions. At times somber, at times playful, Bertelmann's chord progression explores major and minor tonalities that calm restlessness and lift up the spirits. The twelve pieces sound very intimate, appealing to the listener's perception, as if the orchestra was setup in your own living room, for a private performance. The lack of organic (or synthetic for that matter) reverb, creates a very personal atmosphere, with skillfully balanced stereo field, centering the listener. It's worth mentioning that the album was recorded at San Francisco's Tiny Telephone (used by 4AD, Nonesuch, Temporary Residence Limited, Matador, and other labels among the many) and mastered by Bo Kondren of Calyx, in Berlin. 130701 has only put out two records this year - Foreign Landscapes and Max Richter's Infra. And although the quantity of the label's output was low, I assure you that the quality of these modern classical records is top notch. Oh, and in case you didn't know and always wondered, 130701 is indeed named after the date on which FatCat has brought it to life - July 13th, 2001. Be sure to check out a set of these excellent videos, published as NPR interview with Hauschka, featuring Volker playing a piano with document clamps, a seashell necklace, marbles, and tennis balls... Be sure to also check out Hauschka's 2009 EP, Snowflakes And Carwrecks, as well as his debut on FatCat, Room To Expand. |

Interview with Hauschka

Hey Volker. We last spoke after your release of Ferndorf, where you introduced a few stringed instruments into your music. On Foreign Landscapes you took on an entire orchestra! Tell us how this collaboration has evolved.
Oh i think with twelve people it is a small orchestra, and i am really happy that i could work on my ability to compose something out of my head. I always had the idea after doing so many improvised concerts and recordings, to work more on the parts that i don't know so well and arranging and composing for a big ensemble was something i never experienced. it is also a matter of having trust in yourself that you can transfer ideas into a group where it is out of your control when it is played... but it isn't as soon as you work with them. i was fortunate to be able record with the wonderful Magik*Magik Orchestra from San Francisco who helped me to get the best result in a very relaxed atmosphere.

Talk a bit about the process of composing for this orchestra. How different is your approach from working on solo piano compositions? How long did it take to put together this ambitious score?
It is different, as you must have everything ready when you go into the studio and the composition must be already perfect, once you press the record button. with my solo pieces i trust my intuition, which i think is a wonderful strength but different. my solo piano pieces are mainly based on improvisation and spontaneous output. with a composition, you have to shape it beforehand. i started in the spring of 2009 with the first piece and when i had all the drafts together, it took me about 6 weeks to finish the arrangements. the recording was done in 5 days.

Foreign Landscapes is influenced by the places you have visited during your past extensive touring, and I see that you're on tour once again. Talk a little about this aspect of your life, and how it affects your direction as a composer (as opposed to a bedroom musician with little interaction with audience).
I think traveling in general makes you wider in terms of your perspective on people, culture and a variety of thoughts. it creates an atmosphere that is hard to achieve in your bedroom and gives you an enormous amount of input through impressions, which doesn't mean that the bedroom is a worse place, quality wise. in my home, i can really focus on the essence because everything is sorted and familiar. so in my case i can say the nicest thing is the mixture of both.

How have your live shows changed, now that you're performing with an orchestra?
I am playing mainly with a smaller group then i recorded with out of cost reasons but my concerts are more planned as the running order is clear beforehand. during my solo concerts i can always spontaneously decide what i want to play.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview with Hauschka on Headphone Commute

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – |

Also on Headphone Commute

bvdub - The Art Of Dying Alone (Glacial Movements)

Here's a true story. One morning I woke up between the two worlds - the one created by my mind, and the one perceived by it. With the remaining bits of dreams still lingering in my peripheral consciousness, I set off to the start of a new day. But the dreams kept coming back. In particular, an image of a needle playing on a dusty record, evoking two words spoken by that 60s radio jockey, repeated over and over in one continuous loop. The same two words appeared on the DJ's t-shirt - one on the front, the other on the back. Those two words were "dying" and "alone". That dream stayed with me for weeks, sending chills down my spine upon every recollection. Unable to interpret its meaning, I shelved it for another time. A month later, I have discovered bvdub's latest album. Have I seen this title somewhere else before? Perhaps. That doesn't change a thing... There's something about Brock Van Wey's music that makes me connect to nature, to consciousness, to being, through sound alone... Brock serves the highest sermon to all the listening gods in my church of music. The repetitive passages of sound create a blissful mantra, imploring you to erase all thought, forget about the past or future, and just stay in the present. The titles of the tracks, give me even more reason to believe that Brock's message is indeed reflective on the nature of our short stay in this world: "Descent to the End", "To Finally Forget It All", and "No One Will Ever Find You Here". The release includes the following message: "We all die alone, but some make it their last work of art." Released on an Italian ambient label, Glacial Movements Records, the album was written and produced by Brock in Shaoxing, China, where he currently resides. On his last album, White Clouds Drift On And On (echospace [detroit], 2009) released under his real name, Brock Van Wey paired with Stephen Hitchell to release a double disk full of deepest dub and emotionally absorbing music. On The Art Of Dying Alone, Brock returns with ethereal atmospheric pads, seamless loops over frequency saturated sonic soundscapes, with distant and delicate voices, gentle piano, and acoustic guitar. At the center of the album is a theme of contemplation on life, isolation, detachment, and inevitably, death. Be sure to pick up bvdub's We Were The Sun releases on his own, Quietus Recordings. I also recommend you grab the single track release, To Live, released by Smallfish in 2009. Additionally, I am looking forward to bvdub's upcoming release on Home Normal, titled Tribes at the Temple of Silence, scheduled to hit the streets in January 2011. The album features a track titled "These Walls Will Always Remember (for Dani)", which I'm sure is dedicated in memory of Danielle Baquet-Long (Celer / Chubby Wolf), who passed away in the summer of 2009 at the young age of 26. With all of this reflection on death, I must end this review, and set about my day, attempting to accomplish even the smallest tasks with full devotion, hoping that my presence would leave a tiny trace of my existence behind, when I'm ready to go...

Be sure to read Interview with bvdub |

Interview with bvdub

That topic of death and passing away is something that you have admittedly been obsessed with. Is it a fascination, phobia, acceptance or something else? Can you please shed more light on this?

What was once a nearly crippling fear turned to acceptance, and then to fascination.
It’s been something I’ve been obsessed with for a long time, nearly as long as I can remember. As a result, I tend to see things in a very retrospective way, like trying to imagine how people I know would maybe remember me or something I did after I’m gone. I’ve never been able to live in the now, I’m always stuck in the past, which is maybe why I gravitate naturally toward thinking about the end – because at that point, there’s only the past.

It used to be a phobia, a really bad one. The obsession I now have with the concept of death was once a nearly uncontrollable phobia and fear – that was until one day, probably about 15 years ago now, one of my best friends handed me a copy of The Stranger by Albert Camus, which then started me down the road to the full-fledged Existentialist I am now (yes I know Camus labeled himself a Humanist, but we’ll save that discussion for another time). Many people mistakenly think that Existentialists are these suicidal, miserable people, mostly due to misrepresentation and erroneous information in popular media, when in actuality the fact that you’ve accepted that you’re going to die someday and that it could be any minute makes you appreciate the small and beautiful things in this life that so many overlook when they’re only thinking about the next one. Anyway, let’s save all that for another day…

Honestly I have no idea where my obsession with death comes from. When I was young I wasn’t exposed to some traumatic encounter with it or anything, it’s just always been something I gravitated toward (much to the distress of my parents when I was young haha). Even when I was young, I spent all of my time stuck in the past, thinking about things that had happened, regrets, and things that might have been – so even from a young age, I began to look all the way to the end, and think back from there, imagining how others may reminisce about their lives someday, and how my own existence would, if at all, intersect in their thoughts. Needless to say, I was a hit at parties.

The concept very recently and horribly came to life when I suddenly and without warning lost my father, who though he would freely admit couldn’t for the life of him understand what was going on in my head, supported every step I’ve ever taken, including all the times everyone else said I was throwing my life away on music. Without him, I would never have made a single note of music that you hear today. I owe everything I am to him, and to suddenly wake up and have him disappear without being able to say goodbye is something words can never describe, though I am by no means unique in the experience – people all over the world have to face it every day.

Though the emptiness I felt was and still is heavier than ten oceans, I think my lifelong obsession with the concept of loss, and my ability to accept and even be fascinated by it in the later half of my life to date helped me to deal with it in a drastically different way than I would have when I was younger. When I would have ran in the face of it at one point, I was now able to stare it straight in the eye, and accept it for what it was. I don’t believe in souls, spirits, afterlife, or anybody looking down on anybody, but he will forever be a part of everything I do, because he was always the reason I was able to do it in the first place. And so I guess this is the definition of my obsession with death. I think that’s the most you can ask of life, to have that effect on someone, and to become part of the very fabric that makes up their being. I don’t think I’ll ever accomplish that, because I’m simply too cold and distant and frankly fucked up to love as he did, but here’s to hoping.

Can talk about the quote on your album, "We all die alone, but some make it their last work of art". What is its source and effect on your inspiration for this album?

Its source is actually me. I would say it very much relates to this idea of how after you’re gone, others’ memory of you in their lives will intertwine with the story of their own lives, no matter to what extent. For me personally, the most beautiful way this can be achieved, at least in my ideal, is to somehow know the end is near, and to silently disappear to spend those last moments completely alone, thinking back on the life you lived, and then just vanish as easily and suddenly as you appeared.

This has always been an obsession of mine, but it had lay dormant for a while until one day about a year ago I asked someone what their ideal way to die was, and they answered very matter-of-factly, showing they had thought about it many times, that they wanted to die alone in a place no one had ever been. I thought that was such a beautiful answer (coupled with the fact it came from the mouth of someone around 19 years old, which was extremely unexpected) I honestly shed a tear, and every time I even think of it, including now, I do the same. Quite frankly, to me, even the thought of such a concept is truly a work of art.

No matter how many friends you make, how much your family loves you, or anything else that we arbitrarily attach to the meaning of life, we were intrinsically born into this world alone, and we will leave it alone. So to me, embracing that fact, and seeking to make that a time of beauty, makes much more sense than this absurd idea of being surrounded by loved ones etc. What possible good does that do? To me it’s just another attempt to distract ourselves from the inevitable, even when it’s weeks, days, or minutes away. I’d rather spend that time finishing the last few sentences of my own story on my own, rather than making others fumble through them on my behalf.

Basically the idea for the album, its title, and that quote all came about during an extremely low point for me, during a pretty much crippling depression I experienced when first moving back to China, when I was experiencing a loneliness that was really beyond all description. My mind being the tortuous Moebius that it is, I began to obsess on the thought of not only how truly alone I was, but the fact that I could easily disappear or meet my end and no one around me would truly care – it was the closest I had ever come to that point of being alone I had previously dreamed of as the perfect way for it all to end. And the lowness I felt, quite honestly, made me care less by the day as to whether the next day was the last. In fact, I reached one day where I literally didn’t care at all.

I don’t know what happened, but I all of a sudden decided to take that crushing weight and put it into music. I think quite honestly, it was a sort of last-ditch effort to see if I could feel something again. It wasn’t even depression anymore. I had gone numb. So thought the only thing I could do was attempt to put the experience to music, to see if I could come out of the tailspin by talking about it then only way I know how – with myself. It was the first time I had touched music since moving across the Pacific, but it seemed like the perfect time to start, to try to make something constructive happen from what I was fairly certain was a depression that might consume me.

Though from the title of the album to those of the tracks themselves, I think it’s fairly obvious how I was feeling at the time, but what I wasn’t expecting was the beauty that ended up coming through in the tracks (at least I feel it, I can only hope others do too). I think it’s the most overtly sad album I’ve ever made, but as I progressed through it, it began to take on more and more beauty along with the sadness, and before I knew it, it became as much a statement about the beauty of life as much as its futility. And really, I think it’s embracing both that futility and beauty, irrevocably intertwined, that can bring about that one last work of art – one’s ability to make that last stroke on the canvas of their life, alone, just as they were when they made the first.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview in two parts, only on Headphone Commute:
Part One | Part Two

- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Read also Headphone Commute's review of The Art Of Dying Alone