Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sound Postcard : Machinefabriek - Greetings From Seeljocht

It's about time that I have received a real Sound Postcard. Out of nowhere there was a message in my mailbox from none other than Rutger Zuydervelt, recording under the name Machinefabriek:

This audio postcard might reach you when I'm in Rotterdam again. This collage consist of recordings made on the island Vlieland (the Netherlands), where I'm doing a residency for the Seeljocht project, with Piiptsjilling (a quartet I'm in), Greg Haines and a few video artists. It's windy most of the time, and the bike-ride I did earlier was pretty exhausting. We're in the middle of nowhere here, surrounded by dunes, heath land, salt marsh and sand. It's beautiful, except for the moments when jet fighters use a part of the beach (very close to our residency) as shooting ground. It's strange to sleep in the middle of nature and being woken up by the sound of jet engines and gunfire.

As always, Piiptsjilling was ridiculously productive. On the first three days we recorded about 9 tracks. While normally I play the guitar, I tried a different approach this time. I used field recordings instead, to emphasize the connection with the island. So I'm walking around with my portable recorder a lot, capturing audio that I find inspiring. In the Piiptsjilling sessions, I process these field recordings, looping and pitching them, but for this postcard they're mostly untreated. You will also hear a voice. That's of course the usual suspect (and Piiptjilling colleague) Mariska Baars.

Anyways, this has been a very special week, and I'll miss it when I'm back home.
Enjoy. Rutger

Listen to this Sound Postcard on Headphone Commute

Two and a Half Questions with A Dancing Beggar

What is the story behind your alias?
It was taken from the original name of my Dad's house, Dancing Beggars.

Talk a bit about capturing the seasons of London, UK, with your music.
I wrote both albums on the South Coast so I'm not sure I've yet to capture anything from London yet. It's a very busy place which I think works better with more electronic music such as Franz Kirmann - I think he's a perfect example of how a city like London can impact on the sound of an artist. You hear music like that and you can easily imagine street lights and cars rushing by. However, I like to keep my songs as minimal as possible so they're more rooted in the countryside and the sea but maybe it will change the way I write in future.

The title of the album and the individual tracks convey a certain darkness, yet the music feels light and, dare I even say, uplifting. How does this intricate play with the contrast center around the main theme of the album?
Some of the tracks are quite downbeat but others are pretty hopeful at times. I guess it's about trying to put all emotions on display over the course of the record rather than sticking to just one theme. Contrast helps to highlight the different moods, I wanted people to really notice the difference between the light and the dark and how the two can intertwine.

Although some fit your album into a post-rock genre, I feel that it gravitates closer to shoegaze. What are your thoughts on this particular classification, and for that matter, categorization at all?
It's good to have a general classification so that people who listen to similar artists and genres can easily get an idea of your music but I think all music is worth more than just a couple of words tagged onto it. I do listen to shoegaze a bit but not loads, bands like Ride, Amusement Parks on Fire but I'd say they influence the way I play with sounds rather than how I write songs.

After a few self releases you finally got signed to a label. How did you land on Audiobulb Records?
I wanted someone to release it who was passionate about the record and someone who understood what I wanted to achieve, Jeff and myself knew David was the best person to do that. Audiobulb have some great artists, I like their attention to detail and artwork and how they understood that a release is much more than just a record.

Read Headphone Commute's Review of Follow The Dark As If It Were Light

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

A Dancing Beggar - Follow The Dark As If It Were Light (Audiobulb)

For my first official review in Headphone Commute's new headquarters, I set up my gear, treated the room with some books and some rugs, closed all doors, tunnels and mouths, and slipped into my meditative listening place of pressure levels, frequencies, and vibrations. I used to believe in pure luck, in coincidence and in serendipity. Now I just flow... I pick up my next album to review not because of this or that, but because I just simply pick it up. In this spirit of unfolding events I arrive at a new album by A Dancing Beggar. Or so the story goes... Follow The Dark As If It Were Light is the sophomore release from James Simmons. Previously self-releasing What We Left Behind (2009), the seven track followup lands on David Newman's Audiobulb Records. Words like "lush", "ethereal", and "atmospheric" bubble on the surface of my cranium, but instead they are subdued and let to rest beyond these structures known as words. Genres like "ambient", "shoegaze", and "post-rock" want to suffocate the listener's perceptions, slot the album in a bin, and file under a plastic label, but instead they melt away, and let the music simply stream, from Simmons' consciousness to yours. But if I had to classify the album, or rather add it to the playlist of my favorites, it would certainly play nicely along with Hammock, Slow Dancing Society, The Ideal Setback, and Bitcrush. The tracks on the album (as does the output from the artists mentioned above) approach each passage with a soft palette of acoustic loops, field recordings and harmony rich soundscapes, often executed with the aid of a guitar, a few effects pedals, and perhaps distant soaring vocal couplet. Crashing waves, epic synths and reverberated strings - each evoke a feeling of euphoric bliss, a sun ray's kiss, a late night summer breeze. Musical poetry in the making, unfolding on the stage of life. And through these notes a deep and profound connection is made between a messenger and a receiver. That is the power of music.

Read Two and a Half Questions with A Dancing Beggar

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Eraldo Bernocchi / Blackfilm – Along The Corridors (Vital)

Here's another great album that I've been meaning to tell you about for awhile. I suppose it's been a whole year since I originally heard Along The Corridors, and then, the release made it to Headphone Commute's Best of 2010 : Music For Synergizing The Synapse Of Ideas, so it's only appropriate that appears on these pages in a full review. From its heavy stone dropping bass to cinematic orchestration, beautiful piano melodies, and progressive dowtempo electronic beats, the latest collaboration between Eraldo Bernocchi and Blackfilm is an amazing find and addition to the Danish dark electronic label, Vital. Designed as a soundtrack for those lonely nights, walking through abandoned streets and skeleton buildings, Along The Corridors will keep you on the edge of your seat, with your imagination as the only projector for the cinema of your mind. Italy's heavy dub producer Eraldo Bernocchi is not a new face to the scene. Starting out his career in the 90s, Bernocchi produced under many aliases: Ashes, Interceptor, SIMM and Surrealistick Master. He's also collaborated with many artists recording under group names such as Apocalypse Fanfare, Charged, Equations Of Eternity and Black Engine among the few. But it is the works under his real name that deserve the most attention. In 1999 he released Charged recording with Tashinori Kondo and Bill Laswell. In 2005 he appeared alongside Harold Budd in Music For 'Fragments From The Inside' on Sub Rosa. And in 2007 he recorded Manual together with Thomas Fehlmann for 21st Records. There are also numerous EPs with Bill Laswell under Apollo's Re-charged series. I guess I'll stop listing his long discography here... Blackfilm, who continues to remain anonymous, is a Hungarian artist that was first introduced to us through his self-titled debut on the now defunct Spectraliquid Records. Since then, the album has been picked up by Denovali Records and repressed in 2010 on compact disc and vinyl. His dark atmospheric soundscapes and a bricolage of modern classical samples and instrumental hip-hop beats reminded me of my favorite works by Amon Tobin and Future Sound of London, for a brooding soundtrack enveloping your mind with heavy fog of penetrating sound. Since the release, Blackfilm has relocated to London where he has embedded himself with the heavyweights of dub and even darker journeys in the underground... Well, I've done enough name-dropping for a single review. And if any of the above does not excite you enough to pick up this fantastic album, perhaps you may not be a fan of film noir, illbient, and dark stepper's delights. A great headphone and high-quality studio monitor experience, to take you into the imaginary urban environments where one becomes lost and inevitably found. Highly recommended to fans of Subheim, Kattoo, Architect, Nebulo, Access To Arasaka, Undermathic and thirsty collectors of every release from Hymen, Ad Noiseam and Tympanik. | |

Sound Bytes : Poordream, Frank Riggio, Access To Arasaka, Kaneel & Lackluster

Here's a set of great mini-albums and EPs that should get any IDM-head twitching... What's more exciting is that two of these releases are available 100% for FREE for your listening pleasure! And you know you can't go wrong with that! So grab your restraining jacket, 12-pack of Red Bull, and a vial of smelling salts, then sit back and ... er... enjoy... I'll be back with more later!

Poordream - Living Now (33 Recordings)
Following his debut single, Immaterial Monarch, released by Spectraliquid back in 2009, John Valasis, recording under the pseudonym Poordream, returns with his first full length album, Living Now. With Spectraliquid now defunct (as unfortunate as it is), Valasis found an outlet in another Greek label, Athens based 33 Recordings [which also co-released the single]. The assembly of ten tracks on Living Now is a culmination of numerous live performances around the country, which later received studio treatment and glossy production to achieve a glitchy IDM trip through experimental soundscapes and melodic electronica. Featuring his own voice on a few tracks, as well as a few remixes of his own, the album traverses a continuous journey reminiscent of Trentemøller's downtempo meets Subheim's cinematica meets Shpongle's psychedelia. It's easy to lose yourself in the bass dropping, synth sweeping, rhythm pulsating beat. A delicious blend of smoky flavors in a bubbling cocktail of spicy scents. Released in a beautiful limited handmade "expressor" box with 2 CDrs, sticker, and a poster, the album is available directly from It's also available as a FREE download from 33 Recordings. Did you get that last bit? It's FREE!

Frank Riggio - Texturtion EP + Distosolista EP (DeepVast)
Well, well, well... Frank Riggio managed to release not one, but two EPs, both clocking in a bit under half an hour, with eight tracks each, conceptually planned to be released on a single CD, on his very own label, DeepVast. On my last review of  Frank Riggio's album, Anamorphose (which, was also released by the earlier mentioned Spectraliquid), I drew direct parallels between him and Amon Tobin. And it seems that with this double EP, Riggio was able to perfect that formula, and, more importantly, find his very own sound. Elements of electronic instrumental hip-hop (think Brainfeeder's dirty lo-fi sound mixed with Glitch Mob's head bopping beats) permeate through IDM distorted, textured bricolage, with just a pinch of dub roaring flavah, and DSP-rich crisp production. Riggio drips with creativity. It oozes from every bit-crushed filter, leaving no knob unturned, no [brain/prison] cell unhinged. From Texturtion (a morph between "texture" and "distortion") to Distosolista (a morph of "distortion" and "solista" ['solo' in Italian]) and back, in whichever order you prefer, the duo of EPs is a special treat for all the members of the triple-A: an Anarchist's hymn, an Audiophile's delight, and an Addict fix. Grab your digital copy directly from Frank Riggio's bandcamp. Don't forget to read Two and a Half Questions with Frank Riggio.

Access To Arasaka - Orbitus (Tympanik)
Enter the futurescapes of Access To Arasaka. His endless capacity for synthetic engineering of sound, mixed with a deep tool-chest of effects and aural bending techniques brings a smile to any audio-geek, and especially this one. I'll plug my adapter into the interface for direct memory access, and let AtA manipulate the bits in lock-free circular array. As long as I keep chasing his input, we shouldn't have to catch a buffer under-run exception. The new Orbitus EP, released on the beloved Tympanik as a FREE download, is based on the themes from Richard K. Morgan's science fiction novels featuring Takeshi Lev Kovacs: "‘Orbitus‘ references Martian orbitals that shoot down anything that flies over a specific height, save for one gap near the planet’s equator, and how the characters try to figure out how to bring them down; symbolic of the limitations we place on ourselves and our attempts to overcome them." Here's everything you can expect from top-notch IDM production. Endless elements of jittery percussion, and full saturation of DSP. Amazing spectral stereo field, and beautifully revealing atmospherics, perfectly occupying large studio spaces, as well as a quality pair of headphones. With Orbitus, Access To Arasaka may have birthed a child from a hurried affair between dark ambient and synthetic glitch. Another frontier for future music has been broken. What's next? Be sure to check out Headphone Commute's review of Oppidan and of course, Two and a Half Questions with Access To Arasaka.

Kaneel / Lackluster - Split EP (Awkward Silence)
And finally, before I sign off from this installment of Sound Bytes full of amazing music for your enjoyment (I hope you agree), here's a short but sweet, 4-track split EP from Kaneel and LacklusterAwkward Silence Recordings is a small independent label based in Kent (south-east of England), releasing mostly on 3" CDs, short-run vinyl, and now digitally via bandcamp and bleep. The label has put out splits from many makers and breakers of the IDM genre, including Arovane, Accelera Deck, ISAN, Christian Kleine, Lilienthal, Lowfish, Lusine ICL, Maps and Diagrams, Skanfrom, Yellow6 and many others. For their 33rd release, Awkward Silence compiles two tracks from Guillaume "Kaneel" Richard (see his album I've Sketched It A While Ago on Apegenine) and Esa Juhani Ruoho, also known as Lackluster (see his many releases on Monotonik, Psychonavigation, Kahvi Collective, U-Cover and of course, Merck). The 3" split continues to evolve on the favorite formula behind so many early IDM releases from the beloved Merck, that cranium pleasuring brain dance that since has settled down a bit and turned into a cerebral mind meditation. There's still plenty of elements to tickle your ear drum, and hopefully get your clicker over to the bandcamp to purchase the split. I really miss music like this... and I want MORE!

Overcast Sound - Beneath The Grain (Entropy)

You don't have to descend into a deep cavernous space inhabited by the hollow reverberations of the Overcast Sound - you're already there. You don't have to close your eyes to embrace the darkness and inhale the dampness - the candles are already gone. You don't have to travel back in time to enjoy the memories of the early minimal, dark, atmospheric and dub techno days - the duo brings the sweating warehouse walls and vibrating concrete hallways into your home. In fact, no strain is necessary on your part today - sit back, relax, and enjoy the passage. Here's how it works. Deep vibrations bounce off the ceiling, drop on the floor, and jitter the air condensed with thick humidity of sound, thick enough to suffocate the breathless, until the fluttering of the closed hi-hat cuts through the layers and sets the rhythm of the groove. Atmospheric pads hide behind the old school claps, while a mysterious and musky voice recites some syllables in German. Hypnotic beats pulsate over never ending loops, metallic minor chords, and the darker side of dub techno. This may not be a familiar place, but nevertheless a place you'll call home. Beneath The Grain is the debut full length release by the Canadian duo, Overcast Sound. Although Michael Pettit and Jamie Drouin have already released a handful of digital EPs on their own similarly titled label, as well as on Silent Season, basic_sounds and Rohs!, the album marks their first cohesive output, spanning an hour of a mind bending trip. Overcast Sound is no stranger to top notch quality production - created for a huge sound system and headphones alike, the album oozes with the low fidelity crackling of  vinyl and at the same time rich reverberation of a powerful DSP. The pristine qualities of the sound design behind the album do not come as a surprise. Jamie Drouin is a sound installation artist, exploring silence, noise, and "auditory phenomena of environments". He has previously released albums on Yann Novak's Dragon's Eye (check out A Three Month Warm Up [2009]), and his very own, Infrequency Editions (see his latest collaboration with the co-founder of the label, Lance Olsen, on Absence & Forgiveness [2011]. I can only speculate that Michael Pettit is the man behind the analogue sounding percussion and the driving beats of the sound on Beneath The Grain. The album, drenched with German influence, is the result of the duo's three-month residence in Berlin. "Each track investigates a particular place or theme discovered during their residency, drawing from the textures and sounds unique to those experiences. The ethereal vocals in Devil's Mountain make reference to the crumbling Cold War listening station on the outskirts of the city, while Lackadaisical bubbles and meanders with the reflected sounds of inner city parks and neighborhoods." So it's no sacrilege if I throw out label names like Force Inc., Perlon, and of course, Basic Channel. Released on the French Entropy Records, the album marks a welcome entry intro the arena of the masters such as DeepChord, Quantec, Thomas Fehlmann and Monolake. Check out Overcast Sound's EPs - The Changeling, Green Space, Losing You.  There's also a free Holding Patterns Remixes release out on Basic Sounds. And be sure to grab a free mix put together by the duo for Headphone Commute's podcast, titled April Ambient Mix.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sound Bytes : Flying Lotus, Gaslamp Killer and Gonjasufi

Here are a few mini reviews that I have prepared a few months ago but never got a chance to publish... As with all music - there's no such thing as time - so, if you haven't uncovered these gems yet, I'll be glad to be the one to introduce!

Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma (Warp)
Listening to the music of Steven Ellison is a head trip. Period. Although we may have heard the sounds of Flying Lotus on Adult Swim's interludes (aka 'bumps') between the shows, he was first introduced to the followers of abstract, experimental, and instrumental hip-hop with his debut, 1983 on Warp Records' offshoot, Plug Research. Then, FlyLo showed off his skills with the Reset EP (2007) on Warp, and by 2008 the label was confident enough to backup this California producer of avant-garde beats and free-form jazzy rhythms for his sophomore LP, Los Angeles. By 2009 everyone knew his name, and although there were a few copy-cats in the alleys, no one could cut it as deep and smooth as Flying Lotus. Ellison's stumbling beats and rubbery bass lines defy metronomes and clock synced drum machines. Truly in the spirit of jazz music, Cosmogramma is an improvisational production. The synth lines sprinkle through the confetti of percussion, falling like a dandelion's florets into the dirt beneath a rolling tank of rhythms. Defying your expectations and any genre classification, Ellison's deranged psychedelia is a beautiful child playing with a kaleidoscope of plucked sound. If anything, Ellison's third full length is a lot more "jazzier" than its predecessor. With 17 tracks running a little over 45 minutes, Cosmogramma is an album with a lot of material to digest in one sitting, and begs for multiple returns. And these are definitely rewarded!

The Gaslamp Killer - My Troubled Mind (Brainfeeder)
Personally, before I ease into the troubled mind of Willie Bensussen, I like to queue up his incredible mix, Hell And The Lake Of Fire Are Waiting For You! released as a limited edition of 1000 copies by Hit+Run in 2009. And what a mix that is, ladies and gentlemen! One can not describe the skill with which The Gaslamp Killer traverses dubstep, hip-hop, jazzy riffs, and experimental psychedelic rock! Although The Gaslamp Killer has produced a few tracks here and there before, My Troubled Mind is the first official release, available as a digital download with 7 tracks plus a booklet or a two track 10" vinyl (with a different tracklist). Although its total run time is only about sixteen minutes, Bensussen manages to sweep you off your feet with his incredible instrumental beats and abstract experimental sounds, dragging you to hell and back through dub, hip-hop, kraut, and electronics! Full of vinyl clicks and hisses, the release is more than a mash-up of genres, B-side record digging, sampledelica and Frankenstein precision stitching - it's a true masterpiece celebrating love for music, culture, tranquility and psychedelia.

The Gaslamp Killer - Deathgate (Brainfeeder)
Rolling through my weekend with The Gaslamp Killer, I come upon his latest EP, Death Gate. Right from the start, the bass kicks in with a tighter production, sharper effected synth lines, and a lot more solid song structure. The EP is a bit over sixteen minutes, and the collection of five tracks still feel like a set of vignettes (if anything - that's the only downside - I can listen to Willy all day long). Gonjasufi makes an appearance on "When I'm In Awe", as does Mophono and Computer Jay. Here come the cut-up hip-hop influenced beats, distorted space trips, and intricate manipulations. Full of jazz riffing, lounge smoking, head bopping, dub rolling, and rhythm chopping ideas, Death Gate is a space ship ready to take you on a head spinning trip. Don't say I didn't warn you. This is an exceptional record that only gets better with repeated listening. You must check out the following mixes from The Gaslamp Killer: Gaslamp Killers (2007), All Killer: Finders Keepers Records 1-20 (2009), and the very latest, A Decade Of Flying Lotus (2010). There's also, of course, his production work for the ever elusive Gonjasufi, which we will cover here next...

Gonjasufi - A Sufi And A Killer (Warp)
What becomes apparent right away is Sumach Ecks' nonchalant execution and approach to music. His falsetto distorted vocals filtered through 60s psychedelia and lo-fi dub smoke, are at the heart of every song structure of each confident track. Mix into that the exquisite production by the one and only [mother-flippin] Gaslamp Killer, and you have a hit, that even with its peculiar sound, a label such as Warp is willing to back. First hearing Gonjasufi on Flying Lotus' Los Angeles (who described this sufi's voice as "timeless, incredible filfth"), I was almost sure that it was a sampled track from one of those dusty records found in a random garage sale somewhere between San Diego and Las Vegas. Imagine my surprise when I finally connected the dots! On this record, the duo (with a little help from FlyLo on "Ancestors" and Jon Ancheta as Mainframe on four tracks) clearly demonstrates that a great record can stand out all on its own, independent from the year, style, or the overly-produced sound one hears these days. In fact, I challenge you to attempt and replicate the sound of A Sufi And A Killer! From acid infused rock to influences from the pre-hip-hop era, the album strokes your inner mental child into a trippy daydream where the lyrics are as haunting as the ghost of Woodstock beats. Mind penetrating "She Gone", "Kowboyz And Indians", and an absolutely wonderful "Sheep", stay in your head long after the record has stopped playing. Really dug this debut, and I am looking forward to more output from the duo. Check out a remix album, The Caliph's Tea Party (Warp, 20010) featuring reworks of the tracks by the likes of Mark Pritchard, Bibio, Broadcast, and many other Warp favorites...

Sound Bytes : Enig'matik, Med School, and Thoughtless

On my true Headphone Commute between New York and Philadelphia, Spring rushes past the windows of a high-speed tilting train. With two hours of music, a laptop, and spotty Wi-Fi service, I can catch up to the latest compilations that have truly excited me about the latest evolution of sound. Here are three of my favorites, showcasing the unknown, yet amazing sounds, in glitch, IDM, drum'n'bass, tech-house and experimental beats. I hope that these words will inspire you enough to pick up these sounds. Enjoy...

Painting Pictures On Silence V1 (Enig'matik)
It's a new day. It's a new dawn. And the new world welcomes a new kid on its doorsteps. The demented stork got lost in the electric storm, its mind is a mush from the strobe filled sky, and its broken beak stutters in time with the glitching beat, as it tip-toes off the cliff and falls, head first, into the abyss. Sorry - the headspace of Painting Pictures On Silence V1 has distracted me from my main point. What was I saying? Oh yes, the world welcomes a new record label based in Byron Bay hinterland of Australia. Run and operated by Jake Rose, also known as Sun In Aquarius, the label hopes to focus on the experimental side of electronica, glitch and abstract IDM, splattering digital sound all over the sonic canvas for your pleasure and delight. As is the latest custom with new labels, an entry into the scene is marked with a compilation showcasing the upcoming roster of artists. In this instance, Enig'matik collects seventeen tracks from up-and-coming, forward-thinking laboratory scientists of audio fidelity and razor sharp production, showcasing the current output from Australia, New Zealand and UK. Painting Pictures On Silence V1 promises to be the first installment, in what we hope to be, a series of digital releases from Enig'matik, pushing the boundaries of electronic music production. The label pulls out all stops and delivers a punchy, crunchy, and at times raunchy, genre defying compilation, constructed somewhere by some robots on some planet e. At times technoid, at times bass heavy, at times musically melancholic, the droplets of sound land on my favorite slip mat and splatter in a kaleidoscopic frenzy. A DSP-rich tasty treat for all nostalgics and addicts to drukqs. The demented stork would be proud.

New Blood 011 (Med School)
Last year, Headphone Commute lauded Med School's New Blood compilation showcasing the new sound of liquid drum'n'bass from around the world. It seems that there's plenty to add to this series, and the tracks reach out to a new height. New Blood 011, subtitled as a "bass filled tonic for mind and body" puts the left-field offshoot of Hospital Records back on the charts and our playlists. More fresh faces sprinkle the twelve-track play-list, cutting into the deep and low grooves with a scalpel precision of the med school's graduates - "it's a whole new blood group, fresh from dialysis". Ranging from bass driven fluid breaks, to broken half-time beats, to complex rhythms of a new millennia, and dubstep inspired rumbling monsters, each track on the compilation demonstrates the artist's ability to build up on a well known formula, and then tip its accepted stability off balance by introducing a heavy weight of their own. Once again, the continental span of Eastern Europe (Russia in particular) seems to shine with bright rays of music through its dark clouds of history. Perhaps suffering and misery culminate into something beautiful after all... Whatever the reason is behind this newly developed parasitic deconstruction, we welcome its evolution with an open ear. It is truly unique and incredibly beautiful, like an ugly doll in the hands of a sleeping child. Setting the bar pretty high with the 010's installment, Med Schools satisfies our expectations and returns with a slamming followup. What Warp did to electronica with the Artificial Intelligence in the early nineties, Med School is doing to d'n'b with the New Blood today. Well done, boys.

Era One (Thoughtless)
Toronto based Thoughtless Music, celebrates its 50th release over four years with the end of the first era, in this 73-minute mix, titled Era One. Collected and mixed by the label owner and curator, Noah Pred, the journey traverses over 50 tracks, marking the selection as the first "inaugural installment [in] the culmination [...] of thoughtlessness". Pred lays down a continuous mix full of highs and lows, abstract sounds and beats, pounding away at your mind with a quality controlled production. Minimal and tech-house rhythms are neatly folded and unwrapped to reveal a sonic landscape capable to separate the frequency space even among the muddiest of the noises. Every little sound feels EQd to live in its own head space, propelling the label into a category of production houses concerned with quality over quantity. When the price of a good or service is marked by a simple supply vs. demand curve, and when the supply in this digital age of such output may seem unlimited, Thoughtless Music skids on the limits of this formula, where the result just doesn't make sense, and you still want to pay for the music. "Showcasing a wide variety of sounds within the parameters of modern techno and house music, the mix builds from deep excursions to peak-time jams and back again, weaving a fluid tale that stands as both a testament to the Thoughtless sound and a statement of things to come…" Weaving in 50 tracks, overlaying on top of each other in three channels, is no easy task, showcasing the label's three year output of over 300 individual tracks is another. Faced with one of the most difficult dilemmas of distilling your catalog to a fraction of your favorites, Pred appears to seamlessly roll over the task with this gorgeous, mind bending mix.

Sound Bytes : Music To Lift The Spirits

In our daily lives full of routines, tasks, and errands, we forget the simplest things. Our lives are filled with self created rules, constraints and expectations. And when these are not aligned, we simply get distraught. This pain and suffering is an unnecessary misery. In my mind it's just the natural outcome when the events do not align with our expectations. We try to change events, but can't. Instead, we must learn from the observable unfold. Luck may simply be a card that we are dealt. Or it can be the acceptance of our inability to measure the predetermined outcome. In the midst of this cycle there is nature. It too, has its own path. Unfortunately, in some cases, it is unstoppable by man. This moment of silence, between the music that is about to come, is dedicated to all that have suffered on March 11, 2011, during the Great East Japan Earthquake. May all beings be safe and protected from harm. May all beings be free from suffering. May all beings be happy.

For Nihon (Unseen)
After learning about the tragic events of the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake, Keith Kenniff (aka Helios and Goldmund), and his wife Hollie Kenniff (together known as Mint Julep) decided to reach out to their friends and ask to contribute towards a compilation to raise funds to help those in need. They were surprised by the overwhelming amount of response they have received for this project. Every artist from every corner of the world wanted to be a part of this amazing compilation! This quickly almost grew out of control, but some of the most celebrated names in ambient, modern classical, and experimental music made it to the comp. For Nihon (Japanese name for Japan) features 38 fantastic tracks from every single artist that makes up the catalog of Headphone Commute's library! And although I try to restrain myself from listing every single one of them, I simply can't! For your $20 (USD) contribution, 100% of which will be donated towards the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund, you can enjoy the wonderful works by Alva Noto, The American Dollar, Ametsub, Balmorhea, Biosphere, Clem Leek, Deru, Dustin O'Halloran, Goldmund, Hammock, Helios, Jon Hopkins, Last Days, Max Richter, Near The Parenthesis, Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds, (hold on, taking a breather), Peter Broderick, Rafael Anton Irisarri, Rhian Sheehan, Ryan Teague, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Sawako, Taylor Deupree, Ulrich Schnauss and many many more! The MP3 and FLAC versions of the compilation are currently available directly from, while (as of this writing), the physical 2xCD can be pre-ordered today!

SMM: Context (Ghostly International)
Ghostly's mysterious SMM series can be traced to its first volume, released in November of 2003 on vinyl, featuring five tracks by the then unknown experimental ambient musicians hailing from Midwest. A year later, the label followed up with a second volume of ethereal and ambient works, this time inviting Christopher Willits, Cepia and Lusine to curate the showcase in experimental sound. Although the meaning behind the SMM acronym remains unknown, the music in this lush, cinematic, and evocative composition speaks for itself. The genre can simply be described by the list of appearances curated specifically for this relaunched yearly series. The compilations features eleven tracks by all of our favorites: Goldmund, Leyland Kirby, Svarte Greiner, Christina Vantzou, Jacaszek, The Fun Years, Manual, Aidan Baker, Rafael Anton Irisarri, Kyle Bobby Dunn and Peter Broderick. The artwork by Mike Cina depicts a smoldering cover, a piece of the process in destruction, a burning document fulfilling its destiny within the context of the artist's mind. Make sure you also check out Ghostly's 2009 compilation: SMM One, featuring a selection of artists such as Richard Devine, Kiln, Loscil, Tycho and The Sight Below. On April 24th, 2011, I attended a special Ghostly event in New York City's Le Poisson Rouge featuring performances by Rafael Anton Irisarri, Kyle Bobby Dunn, Noveller, and Goldmund - more on that event later... Meanwhile, let's hope that there's more in the future of this Ann Arbor based label, as they continue to surprise, woo, and cradle our ears in the gentle waves of sound, process, and context.

Kanshin (Hibernate)
The news of the tragic events of the Tōhoku Earthquake in Japan may have slipped from the front pages of your local paper, but the people who experienced the ordeal have been touched forever. And the musicians try to help in the only way that they know how - with music. Kanshin is a double CD compilation jointly curated by Daniel Crossley (Fluid Audio) and Jonathan Lees (Hibernate) to raise money for Japan's recovery. All of the profits will be contributed via Ian Hawgood towards ongoing relief efforts: "Ian lives in Japan and his wife is currently working with both the Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support organisation (JEARS) in Sendai and surrounding areas, as well as the Direct Help for Victims and Animals Rejected from Shelters in Japan group who are going up to areas which are not receiving government support for food, water, basic supplies, as well as rebuilding and cleaning up." And with 30 tracks, spanning almost three hours, any fan of electronic, ambient, and modern classical music should be happy, honored, and proud to own a copy of this release! Let me take a moment and rattle off a roster of appearances: Clem Leek, Hummingbird, P Jørgensen & Ian Hawgood, Wil Bolton, Field Rotation, Library Tapes, Yellow6, Maps & Diagrams with Ylid, Yann Novak, offthesky, The Moving Dawn Orchestra, Aaron Martin & Machinefabriek, Jeremy Bible & Jason Henry, Bengalfuel, Talvihorros, Alex Durlak, Antonymes, Kyle Bobby Dunn and many, many others that I can't fit into this short writeup! As of this writing, the compilation is already out of stock, and although there are no plans in reprinting the physical copy, a digital version is available for directly from

10 (Room40)
To wrap up this saturated Sound Bytes entry, peppered with a ridiculous amount of amazing artist names, we celebrate Room40's 10 year anniversary, with an incredible, massive, 40 track compilation, curated by the one and only,  Lawrence English. And what's even more delicious, is that this three hour journey can be yours completely for FREE - just trade it in for your email address to join the mailing list on this page. Over the last decade, Room40 has brought many wonderful artists to the scene and our ears, showcasing their works in this label sampler, simply titled 10. If this is your first acquaintance with the label, now is the time to familiarize yourself with some of its staple sound through Room40's friends and extended family: Asher, Ben Frost, DJ Olive, Richard Chartier, David Toop, David Grubbs, Andrea Belfi, Koen Holtkamp, Minamo, Pimmon, Grouper, Janek Schaefer, Scanner, Xiu Xiu, Chihei Hatakeyama, Glim, IO3, and of course, Lawrence English, and many many more! An amazing array of sounds (I'm starting to run out of celebratory words)! Hopefully this free compilation will wet your whistle and open up your wallet, if you haven't already done so. As part of the 10 year anniversary celebration, the label has slashed its catalog prices on many great releases - check out these store special offers. Here's to ten more years from Room40!

Two and a Half Questions with Antonymes

First, I must ask, where did the name 'Antonymes' come from and what does it mean?
I took the name from the mid 19th century French word antonyme. It originates from the Greek words anti - 'against' and onuma - 'a name'. The idea of recording without a name appealed to me. I'd also written a piece galled Grotesquely Beautiful. Grotesque is an antonym of beautiful. A pattern seemed to be forming. Antonymes also sounds similar to anonymous, and I like the idea of anonymity.

What is the central story behind 'The Licence to Interpret Dreams' and who is the main protagonist in it?
The main protagonist is the rural landscape. Primarily, but not exclusively the landscape of North Wales. The story occurs over a series of dreams, each revealing a secret from the landscape. The only exceptions to the pastoral are On Approaching The Strange Museum, which takes place in Copenhagen, for obvious reasons, and Oradur-Sur-Glane which takes place in France. The album an invitation to the listener to interpret these dreams. Clues are given along the way. More clues will be given at throughout the year.

What was your approach at recording this album, and who plays all of the instruments?
I approached the album with caution, and a lot of very short pieces/ideas, probably about 30 or 40. I never start playing at home without a track in record, so I capture everything that I play, good or bad. From there I'll spend a lot of time listening through to see if any ideas fit together. Sometimes a piece will come together in a matter of hours, sometimes months. I had a lot of helpful advice from Christoph Berg while I was putting the record together. As well as being a great composer and musician, he has a great ear. Christoph's contributions to the album extend way beyond his violin playing. He really helped me to push the boundaries of my ability. James Banbury played some lovely cello parts, some of it in London, some 20 floors up in an apartment in Hong Kong! Jan Van Den Broek spoke. Paul Morley wrote words. Everything else was played and/or reconstructed with by me.

Who and/or what were the inspirations for this album?
When I'm recording I don't really listen to a lot of other music, so influences tend to be fairly broad. I wouldn't really know where to start with that. As to what, my surroundings always have an effect. We stayed in a small cottage in Llanthony, near Brecon last winter. Although I wrote very little there, just The Gospel Pass, I brought a lot of field recordings back with me, which triggered ideas. Inspiration can also come from writing things down, things I've seen or heard, or simply finding the right reverb to go with a piano sound.

How, would you say, your music has evolved since 'Beauty Becomes The Enemy Of The Future"?
I think it's become more realised. I think I have a better understanding of when a piece is finished now, and i can play a little bit better. By my normal standards I think Beauty Becomes The Enemy Of The Future was slightly rushed. There are a couple of tracks that are unfinished. I was in a bit of a rush to get it released, as I wasn't sure that I'd get another opportunity. As much as I don't like going back to old material, I may revisit some of it in the future.

I know that you've been waiting to release an album on Hidden Shoal until you felt that it was ready for the label. How has been the reception so far?
Warm, and very much worth the wait.

Read Headphone Commute's review of The Licence To Interpret Dreams. Also, check out a special Sound Postcard from Antonymes

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Emancipator - Safe In The Steep Cliffs (self)

Occasionally, a newcomer comes around and hits your ears with a sonic bouquet of roses, first ripping your soul with the thorns, then gently kissing the wounds with the petals. An unsigned artist that can evoke that feeling is truly a rare occurrence, an unpolished gem, a diamond in the rough. What's interesting about Emancipator, is that I first heard his music back in 2006 with his self released debut, Soon It Will Be Cold Enough. By then, I was already convinced that he would be immediately snatched up, signed and distributed far and wide by a handful of bidding labels. With support from 1320 Records (STS9's label), and Japan's Hydeout Productions, Emancipator's sophomore full length, Safe In The Steep Cliffs is mainly self-released once again. Doug Appling first released his debut when he was only 19 years old. And four years later, his work is even more polished. Solid hip-hop flavored beats mingle with jazzy riffs, acoustic instrumentation and layered vocals. The original appearing violin is back to cry out in angst among the dancing rhythms with an ethnic flavor: there is something Asian in the undertones, and then there is something Brazilian, and it works! Listening to the tracks it's difficult to figure out if it's all sample-based, or if Appling gathered an immense ensemble of instrumentalists to execute the immaculate score for the film inside his head. What attracts me to this music the most, is the heart and soul that is put into each and every track. It is something that is definitely heard in every jazzy riff, every percussion break, and every silky smooth progression of melody. Whether it's the guitar sounds of Taurin Barrera or violin by Thacher Schmid, Appling manages to fold each sound over immaculately produced beats, so that each track becomes a unique journey. The above mentioned guitars, as well as banjo and mandolin are definitely original recordings with guest appearances by Japanese jazz musician Uyama Hiroto. I feel that labels should be watching Emancipator. In the Summer of 2009, Appling opened for Bonobo at the Roseland Theater, toured with Bassnectar and Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9), and even managed to get his track played at the Beijing Olympics (although, admittedly, he's not even sure how it happened himself). His organic trip hop sound would be perfect for the likes of Ninja Tune, Ghostly International and n5MD. Yet [as of this writing] he remains unsigned. That being said, at least Appling gets some exposure through live performances at music festivals across the globe. A beautiful, chilled out, dowtempo album for empty days and lonely nights, when memories well up inside and burst into this world through tears.