Sunday, January 15, 2012

Blogspot Mirror Shutdown

Dear Readers of Headphone Commute,

After much consideration we have decided to shut down this mirror in 2012.

No, Headphone Commute is not going away - only our Blogspot presence. We just can't find the time to manually update all of the content on here. In fact, we have already been lagging behind by 3-4 months!

Our main site,, has received a minor facelift, allowing for easier navigation and readability. We ask that you visit us there, subscribe to our newsletter, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

If you use this site as your RSS Feed, don't worry! We have updated the source of data to point to our primary feed, which means that you will now receive updates the second they go live! In fact, if you refresh your RSS Reader you should pick up all of our latest in-depth reviews!

The content on this site will not be removed and continue to serve as our archive of past reviews. After all, this is where it all started, exactly four years ago. We thank you, Blogger, and everyone else for your support, and look forward to even more great music in the upcoming years!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

20 Compilations and Mixes of 2011

Read Headphone Commute's 20 Compilations and Mixes of 2011, featuring releases from ROOM40, Planet Mu, Hotflush, Fabric, Deep Medi, Fluid Audio, Hibernate Recordings, Tympanik Audio, Ultimae Records and more...

Click through to our main entry here : 20 Compilations and Mixes of 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sound Bytes : Hibernate Special [part three]

What started out as a Sound Bytes column featuring Hibernate Recordings latest releases, ended up growing into a three week label special. I just couldn't hold back sharing with you the music that has been warming up my speakers and my soul. Here's the last entry in this Sound Bytes installment, and be sure to check out [ part one ]  [ part two ] and a Headphone Commute Mix by the man behind the label, Jonathan Lees.

Offthesky - The Beautiful Nowhere
Jason Corder's moniker, offthesky, needs no introduction. He has previously released albums on labels such as Home Normal, Experimedia, Tokyo Droning, Symbolic Interaction, Somnia and many others. With The Beautiful Nowhere, Corder arrives at Hibernate Recordings. For the album, the label goes the extra mile, and packages the limited edition CD in a hand-cut, textured organic mulberry paper sleeve, which in turn is cradled in a hand sewn hessian bag. Unfolding this beautifully presented physical release offers a hint of nostalgia for the process of carefully peeling open vinyl records, a unique experience destroyed by the unlimited supply of digital reproductions. Unfolding the music through headphones offers a familiar offthesky sound of electro-acoustic exploration, experimental field recordings, and gentle strumming guitar. Throughout the album, ambient swells carry the bowed string vibrations forward into the open fields, where plucked strings and piano chords offer a sense of a rhythm, stretched and contracted with the passage of time. For The Beautiful Nowhere, Corder attempts to avoid much of electronic processing, and instead concentrates on purely acoustic instruments. Thus, besides his favorite guitar, we welcome an appearance by harmonium, cello, toy piano, kalimba, vibraphone, and voice. Recorded in a cabin near Carter Lake, Colorado, the title of the album and its music explore the subjects of isolation, remoteness, and seclusion. Fans of 12k artists (and of course, Hibernate) will find inner beauty in the abstract subjects explored within.

Wil Bolton - Time Lapse
Listening to Wil Bolton's ambient drones, synthetic bleeps, and organic chimes, is like sitting in a crowded public space with a pair of open headphones - the internal guitar loops leak out, while the external plate clanking leaks in. These sounds all mix up and create an atmosphere of their own, a sense of a live performance in an outdoor setting, a feeling of a whole city living in your head. Although Time Lapse is the debut album for Wil Bolton recording under his real name, his past releases on labels such as Unlabel, U-Cover and Kahvi Collective may be familiar to people following his alias, CHEjU. Based out of Liverpool, UK, Bolton has been producing melodic electronica since 2004. Besides the numerous EPs on a handful of netlabels, Bolton has put out a few recordings on Boltfish Recordings, an independent experimental label that he runs together with Murray Fisher (aka Mint). Certain passages on Time Lapse remind me of Celer's Engaged Touches - that eerie feeling of pulsating waves penetrating lo-fi field recordings with saturated frequencies. They do, however, have a more upbeat feel, scattering the dark clouds with a gentle breeze of wind-chimes. Blending electro-acoustic tonalities with processed organic sounds, Bolton creates an atmosphere of subtle environmental soundscapes and vast synthetic oscilations. Time Lapse is a perfect fit for Hibernate's already astounding catalog of music to keep you warm throughout the winter.

Listening Mirror - Outside Heaven
Listening Mirror is the ambient project of English artist, Jeff Stonehouse. Though not formally trained in music, Stonehouse’s grounding in the recording, generation, and manipulation of sound has produced stellar results. With Stonehouse furnishing field recordings and treatments, and Kate Tustain's guest appearance on the delicate piano keys, the two-track EP turns into a textured meditation on soothing atmospheres and sounds. Awake But Still Adrift cracks open this release like dawn’s light poking through my window blinds. Gentle but persistent, it tugs at my senses like a child, breaking through the somnolence to become fully alert. Yet, even as I face the day, I am cocooned and lifted up by gentle washes of frequencies. Multiple layers unfold as the music swirls around me, suffusing joy and peace through my anxious being. Outside Heaven is spacey ambience, punctuated by bird calls and piano motes drifting in and out of the mix as it meanders to its fine conclusion. Be sure to pick up Listening Mirror's recent releases: Spires, Spirals And Stones (Heat Death, 2011), Wet Roads (Audio Gourmet Netlabel, 2011) and ...from dreams... (Entropy Records, 2011). Stay tuned for a full length release on Bathetic Records, titled The Heart of the Sky". All physical releases in the Postcard Series are strictly limited to 100 copies. Although digital versions are available for download (some even for free), I recommend you reserve your physical copies well in advance! Recommended for fans of quiet, ambient drones and contemplative work.

Listening Mirror review prepared by Elizabeth Klisiewicz.
Rest of the text by HC.

Sound Bytes : Hibernate Special [part two]

I just spent my first week with Spotify (since it went live in US), and I'm already reeling from all the music that now I have access to. But being overwhelmed by a nearly unlimited catalog of digital media makes me want to pay even more attention to handcrafted and meticulously produced albums. Labels like Hibernate Recordings strive to remain if not profitable, then at least relevant in this music industry, and it is the focus to detail, both from the label and the signed artists, that continues to retain my faithful following. Support for this type of music is easy to provide - if you like it, buy a limited edition physical copy directly from the label - you will have a piece of history in your hand, holding one out of a hundred limited copies. And if it's already sold out, you can always buy a digital copy from bandcamp, or at least send a 'thank you' to the artist. I may be just rambling here, but the recent exposure of an enormous digital library on Spotify once again reinforced the concept of appreciating music, made with one major ingredient: love...

This Sound Bytes entry is accompanied by an exclusive Hibernate Mix. Make sure you also read [ part one ] and [ part three ]

Field Rotation - And Tomorrow I Will Sleep
There seems to be more than just a collaboration between Daniel Crossley's Fluid Audio and Jonathan Lees' Hibernate Recordings on compilations, such as the Japan benefit release, Kanshin -- some artists appear to migrate, or rather float, between these independent labels. Christoph Berg, recording under his alias Field Rotation is one of those lucky fellows who seems to have a deep well of inspiration, artistic creativity, and genre spanning output. After a few carefully crafted releases, Lich Und Schatten (2009) and Acoustic Tales (2011), Berg emerges on Hibernate with a conceptual album, produced and recorded after many sleepless nights. Designed to serve as Berg's own lullaby, the slow moving drones and peaceful waves of sound swell and recede in the peripheral auditory field of the subconscious mind, settling the thoughts that rewind the remnants of the day. Gentle strings seep through the frequencies, and penetrate the half asleep brain, painting fractal patterns of colorful light behind the closed eyelids. The six tracks on the album are almost designed for a short day-time nap of an agitated patient, cycling through names like A dimly haze (Asleep Pt. 1), Shoreline (Adrift, Dreaming), Slumber, and finally Swayed by the wind (Awakening). Packaged with extreme care and personal touch, each physical copy is wrapped in a hand-cut personalized envelope (mine came with my printed name!), in a hand sewn fabric sleeve. The cover art is by none other than Antonymes with a mastering touch from Rudi Arapahoe. I almost can't wait for my next jet-lag - I will surely remember to put on this wonderful album and enjoy the fantastic atmospheres that it offers right beneath the thin veil of dreams. Good night...

Danny Saul - Kinison - Goldthwait
After his 2009 solo debut Harsh, Final. on his very own White Box label, Danny Saul lands on Hibernate. The cover art, titled Boxers by Rachel Goodyer, is at once mysterious, and perhaps a bit deceiving. With a few photographs of American stand up comedians Sam Kinison and Bobcat Goldthwait, and the reminder of their feud over the origin of their act, the over aura only intensifies the feeling of action, dispute, and fierce confrontation. Yet the music of Kinison - Goldthwait is nothing of that sort. Ambient excursions into incredibly textured sound fill my room with a sense of longing, sadness and nostalgia. Titles of the tracks hint at a deeply rooted conceptual work, but in fact provide an 'ambiguous narrative' as Saul himself admits: "Throughout working on this record, for some reason, I couldn't stop thinking about these three people and this particular incident on the Howard Stern show"  - The argument between the comedians became explosive when Howard Stern added some fuel into the fire on his radio show - "That's not to say the music or album is in any way conceptual - it isn't." The atmospheric pads, deep rumbling drones, and reverb drenched guitar loops, build up towards the second half of the album, exploring minimalism, dynamics, and deconstruction of what should be a recognizable instruments into their blistered, raw, material form. Sine waves oscillate, then go out of phase, fighting for the lead, until they are thrown off by hungry distortion that once again climaxes and dies. Perhaps the concept of the album is there all along, and instead of comedy, Danny Saul is able to convey the duo's tragic rivalry through music. Highly Recommended!

Szymon Kaliski - For Isolated Recollections
Simple keys and sounds of a water stream seem to be the minimal elements comprising the four-track ambient release by Szymon Kaliski, a young musician from a small town near Poznań in Poland. For Isolated Recollections is a sixth installment in Hibernate's Postcard Series. Designed out of delicate loops and field recordings, the recordings are at once basic and complex, like the Buddha's lotus flower sermon, surrounded by complete silence. Hinting at inner insight and personal reflections in isolated surroundings, these miniature recollections offer a meditative soundtrack to a restless mind. With lo-fi crackle, static and organic imperfections, the sounds are left to unfold at their own pace, in their own space, free of structure and suffocation. Kaliski's previous release includes an digital release on David Newman's Audiobulb offshoot, Audiomoves, titled Out Of Forgetting (2010). Easily a candidate of future signing to pioneering electro-acoustic labels like 12k, Kaliski demonstrates a complete restraint and control over the sound, which is a welcome breath of fresh air, in a densely populated bombardment of everyday frequencies. All physical releases in the label's Postcard Series are strictly limited to 100 copies. With many past installments already out of stock, I recommend that you reserve your physical copies. Some digital versions (including this one) are available directly from the artist's bandcamp site, with no set minimum price. File under hauntology.

Sound Bytes : Hibernate Special [part one]

If you haven't yet noticed this wonderful micro-independent label from Hebden Bridge (West Yorkshire, UK), perhaps we can help... Hibernate is only two years old (est. 2009), but so far in its lifetime, it managed to capture our attention with every single release. From miniature 3" CDrs in the Postcard Series to an extremely limited edition of hand-cut tea-aged vintage-string-wrapped fragile envelopes, to textured organic mulberry paper sleeves in hand-sewn hessian bags, each release is cared for with great attention to detail, and most importantly, love... And the music? From Talvihorros to Mark Harris to Clem Leek, the artists from the label keep on surprising our ears, topping our charts, and capturing our hearts! And in this year alone, the label has managed to put out close to a dozen releases already (and it's only July)! So before the end of the year is upon us, let's jump right to it, and discover all that is beautiful about Hibernate Recordings.

This Sound Bytes entry is accompanied by an exclusive Hibernate Mix. Make sure you also read [ part two ] and [ part three ]

Simon Bainton - Sun Settlings
Sun Settlings is a debut solo release for Simon Bainton, who, along with Alex Smalley (aka Olan Mill) has already been introduced to the world as Pausal through their self-titled EP on Highpoint Lowlife in 2009 and first full-length, Lapses on Barge Recordings in 2010. Now, armed with a handful of piano keys, a collection of field recordings from the island of Anglesey (North Wales, UK), ambient atmospherics and light textural drone, Bainton paints a postcard with acoustic colors and warm pastel tones. Released as the fifth entry in Hibernate's Postcard Series, this seven-track/twenty-minute journey across the major key of Irish Sea, countryside land and spiteful wind, Sun Settlings is a drifting meditation on the landscape and its sonic ghosts. The EP opens up with an Arrival, a light piano medley with string background and splashing waves. Things get a little melancholic and incredibly beautiful once the key is dropped into its minor cousin, with the help of a few mournful strings, on a short vignette titled Sun Settlings Pt 2. The journey is resolved with the closing Going Home Drone, a minimal exploration or gated vocals, ~440Hz oscillating tone, and an echoing of a fading light. Sun Settlings (and yes, there's a letter 'L' in there) makes a great contribution towards the eight postcards already released, with entries by Relmic Statute, Ithaca Trio, Listening Mirror, Damian Valles, Szymon Kaliski, Cought In The Wake Forever / Karina ESP / Sheepdog and Yellow6 & David Newlyn. Can you collect them all? The question is how can you not? All physical releases in the Postcard Series are strictly limited to 100 copies, and are already out of stock. Although digital versions are available for download (some even for free), I recommend you reserve your physical copies well in advance!

Bengalfuel - Sprague / Edgemere
Sprague and Edgemere are actually two separate EPs, released by Bengalfuel on Hibernate in 2011. But because each is only 4 tracks, with similar themed cover art, and released only a few months apart, forgive me if I cover them both as one. In fact, Sprague and Edgemere are the first two installments in a four-part series, capturing the recording sessions by Lou DiBenedetto and Joe LiTrenta inspired by "surrounding ghosts and spiritual entities". The music becomes an offering to the souls caught in between two dimensions, inhabiting the world of mortals, occasionally haunting our lives. Ambient synth pads, drenched in an incredible ethereal atmosphere, stretch their outwardly existence towards new heights. All is calm, until a distant, dub-techno beat creeps in, setting the mood for the progression of the record. When the kick drum sets in, I am immediately reminded by my favorite works from Yagya, The Sight Below, and DeepChord Presents Echospace. And then I'm lowered, back into the pool of ambiance and bliss. For this series, each release is accompanied by a music video piece directed by LiTrenta. The duo also has a few full length digital releases: Woglum (self, 2010), Durban (Isolationism, 2010), Laudaten (Lizard Breakfast, 2011), and Chardavoyne (self, 2011). Be sure to also check out Bengalfuel's Feldspar EP on Rural Colours - a subscription-only sub-label of Hibernate releasing experimental folk, ambient, and drone on 3" mini CDrs. Bengalfuel's music has been a soundtrack to many afternoons. Recommended!

VA - Kanshin
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

Interview with Submotion Orchestra

Tell us about Submotion Orchestra. Where does the name come from? How did you guys all meet?
We originally met in Leeds. We all knew each other from various projects, gigs and sessions, since Leeds has a very vibrant music scene going on, but we'd never all played together. Tommy and Ruckspin originally brought the band together after wanting to play some dubstep-influenced material in a live setting, making use of the players' jazz backgrounds as well. We all came in one by one until the size and atmosphere of the players felt right. The name came at the end of one of the usual band-naming sessions that last for ever and throw up a lot of very bad names. Luckily most of these have been forgotten. By experience, as soon as someone says a name that doesn't sound absolutely terrible, it'll work...

In a seven piece band, describe the process of composition. Is each artist responsible for his own instrument? What about the lyrics of each song?
The composition varies. Tommy originally brought a lot of the initial material to the table, while we revisited some of the tunes Ruckspin had originally done on Ranking Records to adapt them to the Submotion sound. Once things were in place, the other members of the band started to bring material in too. Generally, once the main parts or hooks of the tunes had been written, they were brought to the band, where everyone comes in on the arranging and individual parts. Most of the tunes ended up in a pretty different place to how they originally sounded, though a couple stayed quite close. It's always a bit tricky with so many people to get everyone's opinions and thoughts covered, but generally we all know what sound we're aiming towards, and it usually ends up getting there pretty naturally and without much controversy. Tommy however is the main lyricist.

There are definitely dubstep elements in your music, (which I'm sure come from Ruckspin). What about the jazzy components? Who are the influences behind these organic and etherial sounds?
We're all equally responsible for the mix of influences. Fatty's been involved in grime and hip-hop projects, which inform the bass-end of the music pretty heavily, while Tommy, Taz and Bobby all have their backgrounds in jazz-based music, as does Ruby, and we've all drawn upon that. But if you listen closely, each instrument has its own feel - Danny's percussion has a bit of Brazil in there, Taz's keyboards show his early synth and ambient influences, and Tommy's approach to the drums is very jazz-based. We're trying to get a jazz sensibility into a music that doesn't always have it, but works with it very nicely. And the ethereal nature of the sounds has a lot to do with Dom's sound designing.

Talk about your live gigs... How are they different form studio recordings? Do you discover new interactions that make their way back into your studio?
Because of the jazz background of most of us, we're not the sort of band who are happy to play the same tunes the same way every night. Quite a few of the tunes have developed differently through playing live, and there's sections to some songs that you won't find on the album. Solos will often also be quite different. The instrumental tunes are also a lot heavier and more active live, and now as we're developing material for the second album, we're wanting to do it as live as possible to keep that feel there.

What are you working on right now, and what's next for your band?
We're currently getting material together for the second album, and fitting in rehearsals for it whenever we can manage, since the summer's pretty busy with festivals and gigs. There'll be some stuff that will keep fans of the first album happy, but hopefully also a few things that will move the sound on a bit and surprise people. For the rest of the year, we've got a summer full of festivals - Big Chill, WOMAD, GreenMan, Soundwave and Outlook in Croatia - and then in October/November a UK and Europe tour. So not much downtime, but it's good to keep the momentum going.

Be sure to read Headphone Commute's Sound Bytes featuring Submotion Orchestra's Finest Hour. Also, check out our Track of the Week with Submotion Orchestra's All Yours.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sound Bytes : Submotion Orchestra, Bop, Venetian Snares

In this installment of Sound Bytes, I am covering three releases which all bend the genres just a tiny bit, but enough to invent some of their own. Submotion Orchestra cleverly mixes jazz and dubstep to create some of the most amazing bass rumbling electronica, with melodies that get stuck in my head for days! Russian artist, Bop continues to perfect his sonic explorations into micro drum'n'bass with just a little bit of glitch and techno. And the prolific Venetian Snares is back with his mind warping breaks, this time deconstructing reggae from its jittering jigsaw jungle jingles... I hope jew enjoy, and jot me few jolly jives, jes? Jeez!

Submotion Orchestra - Finest Hour (Exceptional)
When the self-titled EP landed on my desk from Submotion Orchestra, I immediately recognized an amazing potential behind this group of seven musicians... well... OK, so I'm a big fan of Dom Howard's productions as Ruckspin on Ranking Records, and his bass-rolling dubstep influenced beats could only polish off this already shiny record. The single, All Yours, was already featured on Headphone Commute as Track of the Week, and since then, I have been patiently awaiting the full length. And here it is! With sublime vocals by the lovely Ruby Wood, trumpet solos by Simon Beddoe, and distant smokey keys by Taz Modi, the group creates a sweet, seductive, and ultimately poisonous concoction of acid jazz, dubstep, and soulful breaks. The melodies instantly find their way into repetitive memory banks of my mind and get stuck there for days. And I just can't stop listening... So why seven people? You see, Submotion Orchestra is a proper seven-piece band, where all participants play acoustic instruments, including bass by Chris Hargreaves and percussion by Danny Templeman and Tommy Evans, fusing an organic, incredibly atmospheric, and skillfully mastered record, which should make everyone on Ninja Tune jealous. Formed in Leeds in 2009, the band is already turning heads across UK's festivals and gigs. Finest Hour is a Submo's debut album on Exceptional Blue, a UK label that has been around for over a decade, releasing 12" in a variety of electronica genres. Fans of The Cinematic Orchestra, The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble and of course, Bonobo will be extremely excited to add Submotion Orchestra to their collection!

Bop - The Amazing Adventures Of One Curious Pixel (Med School)
Releases from Hospital Records's Medschool have repeatedly appeared on my rotations. And although I mostly tend to consume label's compilations, there are definitely a few full-length albums and artists that I faithfully follow. One of them is St. Petersburg (Russia) based Alexander Dmitriev, who produces under his alias Bop. Dmitriev has previously released on a handful of Russian small labels, then moved up to Leipzig based Alphacut Records, and finally was discovered by Medschool in 2009. The label invested in Bop's first full length release, Clear Your Mind, which quickly gained attention with its experimental, minimal, and intelligent drum'n'bass. For his sophomore album, Dmitriev polishes off his glitchy beats with a touch of spacey, 8-bit chiptune vibe, deep dropping bass, and funky groove. Carefully shielding each frequency and individually processed signals from each other, the album traverses from the past of video game sound to the future of interplanetary travel. Appropriately titled The Amazing Adventures Of one Curious Pixel, the album tells a story of one lost digital picture cell, breaking off from the jumbled norm of a rasterized world, and venturing into an array of precision stitched, micro programmed rhythm, where each element has a life of its own. Spanning eleven tracks, the album includes one of my favorite remixes of Subwave's I Need You. With his second release, Bop continues to push the evolution of the genre, creating a unique style of his own. Check out our own Headphone Commute Podcast, to which Bop contributed two Micromixes consisting of tracks from his previous album and EP. The album can be purchased directly from the Hospital Shop.

Venetian Snares - Cubist Reggae (Planet Mu)
Like a tweaking Picasso on acid-laced ganja, Aaron Funk deconstructs the basic elements of reggae, then shuffles them around the straight edges and outlines of his twisted psyche. Foregoing his staple Venetian Snares delicious insanity of drill and breaks, Cubist Reggae is a four-track EP, on which Funk bends and chops basic loops into short studies of the genre. Instead of a smooth head-nodding smoke-filled vibrations, the sounds of Cubist Reggae are snipped, dropped, and then left to reverberate across extensive delays. Cutup, layered, and indeed dubbed over itself, the experimental production of the tracks strips the reggae off its glamor, leaving the naked, flesh-dripping skeleton to stumble over itself into a neurotic blender of Funk's surgical kit. Where You Stopped The Heaviest reminds me a lot of the melancholic Öngyilkos Vasárnap, from Funk's 2005 milestone, Rossz Csillag Allat Született (Planet Mu). Overall, VSnares satisfies the cravings of warped time signatures, triggered samples and low rumbling dub, enough to perhaps hold us over since his last full length, My So-Called Life, was released on his very own label Timesig, sponsored by Planet Mu. Only the lengthy track titles hold some unsolved mystery. Could these be the remains of the original reggae sources? The EP works well within its sixteen minute span (not sure how the concept would stretch out to an hour), and it's definitely nice to see Funk explore another territory. True fans of VSnares will understand...

Be sure to read this Sound Bytes entry directly on Headphone Commute

Hauschka - Salon Des Amateurs (130701) + Live at Joe's Pub

Walking into Joe's Pub at The Public Theater of New York, I have to sneak in past the security guard, past the gathering crowd, past the box office receptionist, in through a carelessly propped open back door, in towards the dark seating room of a restaurant slash bar slash performance, where I am due to meet Volker Bertelmann for a quick Hauschka interview before his show. Through the thin veils of the projector's red lights I see a figure slouched over a grand piano, operating on the innards of the instrument awaiting its transformation for the performance. Like an evil scientist working on his new creation, Volker is busy preparing the piano, inserting foil wrapped cardboard, wooden clips, and fabric dampers between the strings, testing out the newly augmented sound with a few strokes of the keys. On the inside of the piano, next to the hanging pearl-like ornaments there's a bag full of marbles. Finally it hits me: I am watching Hauschka prepare his piano! An act witnessed by only a few prior to the show!

In the green room, Volker attempts to gather last minute information through a flaky wireless connection, and I get to briefly meet his drummer, Samuli Kosminen, a percussionist from múm. It feels like Hauschka was only recently on tour, performing pieces from his last album, Foreign Landscapes, released only a year ago.  All this traveling must really be exhausting. "Yes," Volker confirms, "once I'm finished with a record, I want to present it to the public, and that's why, since 2007, I have been playing every year about a hundred concerts or so. And although, the positives of traveling outweigh the negatives, I still think I need a little break, which will finally happen this summer until the end of the year. There will still be releases in between, but at the same time I will try to concentrate on more music for film, theater and studio work."

On Salon Des Amateurs, Hauschka explores a rhythmic structure of every piece, often within a four/four beat, always centered around his light piano melodies, occasional string accompaniment by Joey Burns on the cello, Bernhard Voelz on the trombone, and the above mentioned Samuli Kosminen on the drums. This is the same good ol' Hauschka we've learned to love, but with an upbeat feel. In fact, Salon Des Amateurs really feels like an extension to Foreign Landscapes. "Well, they were two records that I wrote at the same time. Whenever I wrote a score for Foreign Landscapes, in the evening I would sit down and create these club oriented beats. I really thought that it's something that has been missing for a while. So there was always this back and forth switching between the two worlds. In the end, I composed about 40 songs and had to decide if everything should be on one record or separate. I'm glad that it was separated, because Foreign Landscapes encompasses a very melodic, classical and experimental world, while Salon Des Amateurs seems to affect more of the electronic music crowd." On the perceived departure from his staple prepared piano sound, Volker continues, "It's actually not a departure for me at all. It's been in me all this time. And when you listen to my older records, you should hear an approach to dance music, with electronic sculptural music and texture, and of course, classical music as well."

On the stage, Hauschka plays on the keys, while bells, clips and metal objects resonate along with the vibrations. Ping-pong balls are flying up in the air when the piano hammers connect with the strings. Samuli seems to be dancing with his drum kit, brushing on the snare, and moving in rhythm created with his entire body. A certain energy transfers between the players, moving back and forth among percussion instruments, and finally leaking into the crowd. I put down my drink and start tapping on the table with the infectious beat. Soon, the entire room is bopping their heads up and down along with the rhythm. Here's the true beauty of a live performance - music is actually created right in front of you.  "I feel that a live performance is there for creating new material on the fly, and give people the excitement of experimentation, risk and danger at the same," Volker adds.

Salon Des Amateurs is actually named after a a cafe/bar located in the Kunsthalle museum of Düsseldorf, Germany. Volker explains some more, "It's supposed to be a coffee place for the museum visitors. But the place is a little bit dark, and people don't really want to have their coffee there. So instead, they come there to dance and listen to poetry readings. I'm really glad that Salon Des Amateurs exists, because there's not much in Düsseldorf that has such a wonderful program, free open space, and a buzzing atmosphere." Salon Des Amateurs is released on the wonderful FatCat's offshoot, 130701. This sublabel continues to excite our neurons with the latest signing of Dustin O'Halloran and the latest release from Jóhann Jóhannsson, both of which, I'm sure, will show up on Headphone Commute's pages very soon! Make sure you check out Headphone Commute's reviews of Hauschka's Foreign Landscapes, Ferndrof, as well as our past Interview with Hauschka.

Exclusive photography by Kristopher Wuollett. Text by HC. | |

Sound Bytes : Herd, Kattoo and Haruka Nakamura

I stopped apologizing for my delayed reviews a long time ago. I just can't keep up. But I swear, one day I'll get through all of it, and get the word out about the music that affects me deeply. The music that stays with me after it's gone, the sounds that excite my neurons, and the message that just makes me feel. For this installment of Sound Bytes I revisit a few albums I have left behind, but dusted off again for this occasion...

Herd - Tangents 41-47 (fsoldigital)
What happened to the amazing formula of Future Sound of London? After all, their approach to morphing seemingly unrelated samples into the dreamscapes was the subject of a long and frivolous debate in the late 90s. I remember completely falling in love with Lifeforms (Virgin, 1994) only to read later some blasphemy on Usenet claiming that anyone can stitch random sounds together to create a similar texture. Alas, either no one tried (debatable), or no one could (most probable). And yet with so many followers of FSOL, it is a shame... Until now... Released via the duo's very own digital distribution channel,, this single track 20-minute exploration by Herd, is nothing more than an amazing (and very welcome) flashback to my favorite world of FSOL. I swear, I think I even hear some similar sounds! But to avoid the undeserving cookie cutter stamp of a copy-cat on Jason Thomson, let's examine Tangents 41-47 in more detail. Dark ambient passageways layer the cold corridors of this unnerving descent into the underworld, where the curtains sway with ghostly echoes and the doorways open out to other worlds. Then you're standing on a meadow, where the sound of a banjo slowly creeps into your subconsciousness, and distant abstract shapes slowly float up into focus to assemble broken mirrors and reflect the self. Perhaps words simply fail to describe this psychedelic atmosphere, so why not let the music do the talking? As the title of the EP implies, these seven "tangents" are just the latest in the series. There is also Tangents 1-19 (Future State of Rhythm, 2008), followed by Tangents 32-39 (Entity, 2009), both available as free releases from the netlabels. Really enjoyed this one!

Kattoo - l--ll-ll l-ll ll-ll- l-ll- l--l-ll l--l-ll ll-- ll-- l- l--l- (
About three years ago, Volker Kahl gave up on the music industry. Recording under his alias Kattoo, and earlier in his collaboration with Gabor Schablitzki as Beefcake, Kahl left his home-base of Hymen Records, and started releasing his music (including past albums) to the public on a donation basis, via his very own, where every cent goes directly to the artist. Of course, giving up on the industry also means giving up some of its perks, like the wide distribution channels of a somewhat large independent label, and the necessary promotion that goes with it. Which is why, when the fourth full length album by Kattoo "hit the streets", I totally missed it! And I'm a huge fan! In the last decade, I have absorbed every Kattoo album, from Places (2004), to Megrim (2005), to Hang On to A Dream (2006) and now, this mysteriously Morse-style encoded album, which title translates to Reivoottak, which, in turn, spells out backwards "kattoovier", and just means "Kattoo Four". The eleven similarly encoded track titles translate into basic elements, reminding me of patch names on a synth: "Tape", "Church", "Orchbeat", "Violin", etc. Alas, the titles follow the main theme of each individual track. Thankfully, everything that is hidden from plain sight with complicated visual code, is revealed in all of its glory with sound. Here is the Kattoo staple sound that I've been waiting for. Dark and brooding passageways, a sinister and ruthless approach to tight production, broken beats and old-skool breaks, deep cinematic soundscapes that take me to the other worlds... Although the album looks like it is within a jewel case on, Kahl assures us that it is no available as a physical CD. And that's the only downside - I suppose the lossless files will do. This is modern classical meets IDM at its best! Highly recommended for followers of Hecq, Architect, Subheim, Nebula and Lusine Icl.

Haruka Nakamura - Twilight (Kitchen)
There's something about electronic music coming out of Japan that is exceptionally... "Japanese"... Don't you think? From Kashiwa Daisuke to Fjordne and to Ametsub - these favorite musicians continue to work with a potpourri of styles, plucked out of a lottery bowl of influences, that somehow, when all is settled, makes some of the most beautiful music of the world. With its quiet field recordings, and minimal undertones, Twilight dissects the complex structures of life, into individual moments of relaxation and peace. Gentle piano notes, slow breathing brass instruments, and incredibly light jazzy percussion, make up this delicately rendered sophomore solo release by Haruka Nakamura. Inspired by sunset, Twilight is an album recorded in Nakamura's studio overlooking the ocean, during those hours of the day, when the light changes its presence into music. This moment is captured by Nakamura and is easily recreated wherever his sounds pour out of the speakers - and that's what a great album is supposed to do. With the help of sublime vocals from April Lee (member of aspidistrafly duo with Ricks Ang), wandering saxophone, docile guitar strums, and the subdued crackling of electronics, Twilight wraps all of the worries of the day, into an hour long meditation on the trials of the past. I definitely recommend that you experience this during long evenings, while observing the world wind itself down through the windows of your pad. In addition to Twilight, make sure to pick up Fjordne's similarly influenced The Setting Sun (2009), aspidistrafly's I Hold A Wish For You (2008), and the more recent ironomi's Sketch (2010), all released on the beautiful, Singapore based, Kitchen. Label.

Be sure to read this Sound Bytes entry directly on Headphone Commute

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sound Bytes : 12 Bytes From 12k [part four]

Wrapping up our four-part 12k special with three latest favorite releases, I can't help but point out the label's continuous attention to detail, its intricate aesthetic characteristics, coupled with an additional dimension of conceptual representation, where music really meets art, and art starts to sound like music. Whether the recordings are left to gently purr in the background, or be analyzed through a microscopic lens of a critic's discerning ear, repeated rotations of these albums continue to offer their new delights, slowly revealing their passion for acoustics, analog warmth, and delicate minimalism.

Be sure to read the first three parts : [part one] [part two] [part three]

Marcus Fischer - Monocoastal
Featuring cover art of pinhole photography taken by Marcus Fischer himself, Monocoastal is a document of found objects, a travelogue of a weary nomad across the West Coast of America, a lo-fi collection of field recordings and textures, as if heard through the camera's pinhole itself. Crumbling noises, background tape hiss, screeching wood, and gentle guitar strums make up the majority of Fischer's meditation on the Pacific coast. Throughout the recording, we hear an enormous restraint in the balance between organic sound, minimal electronic processing, and the pause of breathing instruments. Fischer's control of individual sounds within the abstract and physical space, culminates into the warm harmonic waves that fill my morning studio with atonal reverberations and a glowing hum. Based out of Portland, Oregon, Fischer's focus on composition is guided by experimentation with field recordings, self constructed instruments, and sometimes pure chance. Coupled with visual art, Fischer is also responsible for curating vision+hearing - a series of audio/visual events facilitating collaborations between musicians and filmmakers. His recordings under the map~map moniker are self released via his site, where throughout 2009, Fischer documented one creative project per day for an entire year. Monocoastal is a welcome addition to the 12k catalog, fitting the label's unique aesthetic.

Seaworthy + Matt Rösner - Two Lakes
At only thirty eight minutes in length, a collaboration between a member of Sydney based electro-acoustical group Seaworthy, Cameron Webb, and a Western Australia's sound artist Matt Rösner, the album Two Lakes is a sophisticated conceptual piece begging for multiple listens. The duo traveled to the south coast of New South Wales where they have devoted themselves to the detailed field recording study of two lakes - Meroo and Termeil. Armed with a hydrophone, a shotgun and stereo microphones, the artists attempted to capture the sounds of the Australian coastal environment and entwine them with subtle notes of acoustic guitar, a ukelele, and minimal electronics. At the center of the few improvised performances in a cabin by the lake, an abundance of nature celebrates its existence through recorded sounds. Two Lakes captures the environment in all of its exposed nakedness, while filling the missing frequencies with desolation, loneliness, and solitude. But instead of pure desperation, the peacefulness of the album reveals a recognition of pure life. The music often transports the listener to a quiet evening in the forest, where a good friend plays his guitar by the running creek. In addition to the album, Webb and Rösner have setup an Environmental Sounds blog, where more field recordings, photographs and notes continue the unfolding of the project. Be sure to also check out Seaworthy's previous releases on 12k - Map In Hand (2006) and 1897 (2009), as well as Matt Rösner's Room40 debut, Alluvial (2005).

Stephan Mathieu - A Static Place
Stephan Mathieu has been on my radar for a while now. His 2008 release on Die Schachtel titled Radioland had a profound impact on my psyche. Then there was his 2009 collaboration with 12k's own Taylor Deupree for a release on Spekk titled Transcriptions. In 2011, Mathieu managed to release two albums - there's the Remain on Line (now independently operated by Richard Chartier), and, the focus of this Sound Bytes special, A Static Place. To listen to Mathieu's latest marvel, I have to prepare myself. First - I carve out an entire hour to wholly consume the album in one take; second - I put on my favorite pair of headphones for a true sonic bliss; and third - I must close my eyes. "A Static Place is about the journey of sound," says Mathieu about the record. "Between 1928 and 1932 the earliest recordings of historically informed performances of music from the late Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque era were etched into 78RPM records. I used some of these records from my collection, playing them back with two mechanical acoustic HMV Model 102 gramophones. The initial soundwaves produced back then by period instruments like the clavichord, viols, lute, hurdy-gurdy are read from the grooves by a cactus needle to be amplified by the gramophones diaphragm housed in a soundbox. Those vibrations travel through the tonearm which is connected straight to the gramophones horn, which releases the music to my space. Here the sound is again picked up by a pair of customized microphones and send to my computer, to be transformed by spectral analysis and convolution processes." I'm afraid I have nothing more to add... Pure magic...

Sound Bytes : 12 Bytes From 12k [part three]

In this third installment of our four-part 12k special, we examine two live performances and an experimental EP. In all three, the label excels at providing a service of archiving, if you will, of single events, group gatherings, and academical studies. With these releases, 12k once again stands out among today's cutting edge experimental, improvisational and conceptual music.

More from 12k Special : [part one] [part two] [part four]

Although this self-titled EP consists of a single 24+ minute track, the experience captured by this recording begs to be repeated. MOSS is actually an acronym, consisting of four names, four artists and four friends - Molly Berg, Olivia Block, Steve Roden, and Stephen Vitiello. Out of this group, Berg and Vitiello have previously appeared on 12k with their 2009 release, The Gorilla Variations. Block has mostly released experimental works on Massachusetts-based Sedimental. And Los Angeles based Roden, has been contributing to Line, Trente Oiseaux, Interior Sounds and many others. Originally, the performance was only meant to be a collaboration between Berg and Vitiello, at the San Jose's Trinity Cathedral for the 01SJ Biennial festival. But with Block and Roden in the vicinity, an opportunity presented itself that could not be passed on. The newly formed quartet creates a totally improvised sonic space, inhaling the acoustics of the church, and exhaling an immense restraint of sound. Complimented with just a touch of Berg's voice and clarinet, Vitiello's electric guitar, Roden's lap steel fingerboard, and Block's expert live manipulations of tapes, field recordings and electronics, the music on MOSS is an intricate play between the performers, the audience, and most importantly, the space itself. Recorded at midnight, the cathedral hosted a unique moment of an extemporaneous craftsmanship unfolding live within its dark, damp, and wooden belly. Every sound is treasured, including a distant horn of a car. I am only thankful that Vitiello recorded it, and 12k released it, so that this moment can be captured, archived, and replayed.

Various - Tasogare: Live In Tokyo
There's just something about Japan. Don't you think? From its culture, where future meets the past, to its literature, where dream-state meets the present, to its music, where abstract meets the concrete. 12k is among the labels to feature more than a few of our favorite Japanese musicians. Among them, appearing on this compilation, are Minamo, Sawako + Hofli, and Moskitoo. Joined by Australia's Solo Andata and the label's founder, Taylor Deupree, this five track release collects the works recorded live at two temples in Tokyo - Komyuji and  Jiyu Gakuen Myonichi-kan. I'm not sure if the night crickets are part of Sawako's field recordings, or are simply picked up by the microphone, but the overall sonic experience transports me to the hot and humid nights of Japan, where the western traveler awaits his mind to beat the jet-lag. Sawako's lovely voice and Takashi Tsuda's (aka Hofli) soft guitar playing only enhances the overall experience. Sanae Yamasaki, recording under her Moskitoo moniker, twists her abstract pop into live experimental circuit bends. At the center of the compilation is a seventeen minute gem by Paul Fiocco and Kane Ikin, known to the faithful readers of these pages as Solo Andata. Steering clear of most software effects, the duo uses field recordings, found objects, and organic textures to create a deep, droning, drowning, and slightly unsettling environment, worthy of Japan's embedded relationship with spirits in every single object. This piece alone deserves to be a single, but on the compilation you get one more - a live recording from Taylor Deupree. With his lo-fi treatments and gentle organic pads, Deupree eases us into the early morning, wrapping this collective collaboration with a fuzzy sonic kilt. Tasogare: Live In Tokyo is yet another important document in the 12k archives, preserving a live performance that may never be duplicated again.

Giuseppe Ielasi - Tools
Opening a little small black cardboard packet I am greeted with a warning - "please do not use headphones for playback". With this a bit unusual packaging for 12k, I choose to follow the advice - the last time my brain caught a null pointer exception was when I accidentally used headphones for Florian Hecker's Acid In The Style Of David Tudor - not recommended. Meanwhile, Giuseppe Ielasi's 2009 album, Aix was covered on Headphone Commute and featured in Best of 2009 : Music For Sonic Installations In The Cavern Of Your Skull. So, my curiosity is already awake. On Tools, Ielasi takes the study into the physicality of everyday objects even further. Each track is titled after the object from which the sounds were made - "Cooking Pan", "Tin Can", "Polystyrene Box" - each a simple every day object, with a basic material from which it was made. The collection of seven pieces nods to material produced strictly for sampling or live performance by artists and DJs - Tools is kit of items that's meant to achieve a task without being consumed in the process. The process, however, is the result of this experimental 20-minute EP. Synthetically folding cooking pan, like a sheet of metal, Ielasi extracts the objects interaction with air pressure. My favorite, of course, is a Rubber Band - who hasn't played with this amazing instrument in school, and now in many boring meetings? With a little help from his computer, Ielasi manages to create a rhythmic structure, where the band becomes a percussion instrument, taking a musical life of its own. Other tracks resemble a production factory on which machines work with the beat in time with the late night warehouse techno tempo. The release may be a bit tough for a novice listener, but it is surely recommended for an experienced traveler into an array of sounds.

Sound Bytes : 12 Bytes From 12k [part two]

Here's the second installment in our four part 12k Sound Bytes special. In this particular entry, I decided to dig back a few years and cover the albums that I really enjoyed from the label, but didn't have the time to write about before. As with all music, I don't believe in assigning a numerical value to the release date, representing some form of a human calendar system based on the period of our planet around the sun. I also don't believe in the past or the future. There's only now, only this, only words and these sounds.

More from 12k Special: [ part one ]  [ part three ] [ part four ]

Machinefabriek + Stephen Vitiello - Box Music
I am already a fan of pretty much everything that Rotterdam based Rutger Zuydervelt touches. My only problem is that I simply can't keep up! Recording under his famous Machinefabriek moniker, Zuydervelt manages to output on average half a dozen records a year, and that's not counting all of the singles, collaborations, and appearances! Besides his numerous self-released albums and EPs, his works have appeared on labels such as Lampse, Low Point, Dekorder, Fang Bomb, Type Home Normal, Sonic Pieces, and now his first contribution for the celebrated 12k. Collaborating with an equally prolific Virginia based artist, Stephen Vitiello, the duo take turns in composing pieces for this five track, 50-minute long album, Box Music. With each track titled after the used ingredients, one immediately recognizes that there's a deeper concept behind the album. After the duo met online, they started talking about a collaboration centered around an "exchange" of not just ideas, but concepts across space and time. Zuydervelt and Vitiello sent each other a box full of non-musical objects and scrap recordings with the purpose of using those as source materials in their tracks. Thus, on "Broken Record, Cassettes" we hear Vitiello wrestling with clicks, cuts, and unwinding metallic hum, twisting for almost nine minutes, and finally winning, with a complete submission, by placing a loop lock over the perpetrator's heaving gasps. Perhaps there's another life for these deceased components. And on "Field Recordings, Rocks, Speakers" we hear Zuydervelt's extraction of a humming, buzzing,  meditation, squeezing a song out of a rock, and somehow managing to carve out a gem. An excellent collaboration with an equally unique concept and a successful result!

Pillowdiver - Sleeping Pills
Selected as one of the albums for Headphone Commute's Best of 2009 : Music For Bending Light And Stopping Time, René Margraff's first and only (so far) album as Pillowdiver is a perfect off-ramp from the daily grind. Sleeping Pills is the wind-down for the insomniac, a hypnotic treatment for a buzzing mind, a soporific psychoactive surpassing any prescription medication. And that doesn't mean that it sounds boring. Returning to the state of calm, suspended sensory activity, and rejuvenation with Margraff's gentle guitar strumming, warm white noise treatments, and lo-fi recording techniques is a compliment in itself. For his debut album on 12k, the Berlin based musician limited himself to Fender Jazzmaster, a few synths, field recordigs, and a 4-track cassette recorder. But as every musician has already learned during his career - it's not the toys that make the record, but what is ready to reveal itself through the process of creating music. With Sleeping Pills we are once again reminded that sound, as simple, minimal, and purely naked as it is, can easily convey the message, even with a basic toolkit. In fact, the less distractions with the knobs, the better. Listening to nine numerically titled tracks, one can't help but be transported to a dream state where the melancholia lullabies with sorrow, while the encouragement wakes up with hope. Another great find for 12k, for which I am deeply thankful.  Fans of Jasper TX, Celer, Seaworthy and Brian McBride will share my gratitude.

Murralin Lane - Our House Is On The Wall
While the name Murralin Lane may be new to the loyal 12k followers, the members of this duo should be familiar to the collectors of the latest modern classical releases. After all, one half of the group is none other than David Wenngren, known to the world mostly for his Library Tapes moniker with releases on Home Normal, Resonant, Sonic Pieces, Make Mine Music, and most recently collaborating with Danny Norbury as Le Lendemain on their acclaimed Fires (Home Normal, 2009). And the second, completing half, [what I am led to only speculate at] is Wenngren's girlfriend, Ylva Wiklund. The Murralin Lane project was born when Wenngren asked Wiklund to sing for the track that just begged for vocals. After a surprising outcome, they decided to record an entire album, Our House Is On The Wall. Recorded in their Swedish home, the seven tracks of this 30-minute album are full of textured vibrations, jittery drone pads, and lo-fi distant echoes of Wiklund's lovely voice. The nostalgic piano chords of Library Tapes are replaced with atonal resonating layers, akin to a synthetic flute being played by a lost wind in the canyon. Gentle triggers hint at the deconstruction of organic sound, ready to split at the seams, where time-stretching has failed to transmute. Wiklund's ghostly vocals evoke a melancholy of spirits, uneasy in their dwelling, wishing to only be heard. Our House Is On The Wall is a beautiful addition to 12k's already rich catalog of electro-acoustic, vocal-ambient, and pop-minimalist collection.

Sound Bytes : 12 Bytes From 12k [part one]

I've been a long time fan of pretty much everything from Taylor Deupree's Pound-Ridge based label, 12k. Undoubtedly, one of the catalysts of boundary pushing developments in ambient, minimalist, and electro-acoustic frontiers, 12k is at the forefront of today's independent labels. With well over 80 releases since its inception in 1997, the albums dominate the charts on Headphone Commute’s Best of 2010 : Music For Bending Light And Stopping Time and the previous year's Music For Sonic Installations In The Cavern Of Your Skull. Although the output of the label is always in the rotation at HC headquarters, I finally made a point to sit down and catch up to a long overdue, and much-needed, four-part special of this Sound Bytes feature, titled 12 Bytes From 12k. In this installment you will find a selection of recently released albums, as well as a few EPs, compilations and past releases from one of my favorite labels. Enjoy.

More from 12k Special: [ part two ]  [ part three ] [ part four ]

Kenneth Kirschner - Twenty Ten
At first, when a thick mailing envelope arrived at my door, I thought that perhaps Taylor Deupree tripled the output of his label. Alas, the man of the hour was Brooklyn based Kenneth Kirschner, who, along with 12k's help, of course, managed to release a triple CD, collecting four of his long-form (very long form indeed) pieces. With over three hours of music, the selection of abstract, experimental, and conceptual music takes the listener outside of the comfort zone, peeling away layers of audio veils, meticulously placed to allure. The pieces of Twenty Ten remind me of an intoxicated summer breeze, playing its ode on the lazy morning wind chimes. The music is as accidental as it is deliberate; as automatic as it is thought out; as random as it is methodical. Drones and pitches in the higher registers are cut through with distant string drops, sonic vapors and false hints of tinnitus. 142 unique chords in my speaker are closer than they appear, allowing the sound to decay, and then let the silence speak for itself. On Twenty Ten, Kirschner uses acoustic instruments to study the sonic contours, aural space and its micro-tonal outlines. With each piece titled for the date on which it was started, Kirschner pushes preconceived conceptions aside, leaving the aging piano to claw through the artifacts, and occasionally be interrupted. Although Twenty Ten may not be an easily accessible listening experience for the novice, it is indeed an impressive accomplishment outside of all boundaries and dispositions. Fans of Richard Chartier, Janek Schaefer, William Basinski, and of course, John Cage, will agree...

Fourcolor - As Pleat
The latest release from the label veteran, Keiichi Sugimoto, recording under the artist name Fourcolor, comes just in time to soothe the daily grind and blanket the room with spacial textures in As Pleat. Featuring a cover painting and vocal contributions from the lovely Sanae Yamasaki (Moskitoo), Sugimoto's third full length album for 12k (and fifth altogether) finds him further into experimentation with his guitar, slight hints of digital processing and accidental acoustic manipulation. It is indeed a very warm record, swaying in the air with gracious vibes, soft sonic fumes, and light, shimmering haze of harmonies and strummed chords. Sugimoto continues his quest in search of simple sounds in between the rest, urging his listeners to appreciate the beauty in both, simple layering and complex textures. And from ambient swells to glitchy skip-editing, the album manages to achieve just that. "As Pleat is unquestionably Fourcolor, but there is a pillow-like quality to the sound, a softness that plays beautifully off of the more organic edits and sharper plucks that all combine to create the most engaging Fourcolor album to date." Be sure to check out Yamasaki's previous releases on 12k: Air Curtain (2004) and Letter Of Sounds (2006). As well as his work with the electro-acoustic quartet, Minamo: Shining (2005) and Durée (2010), also available on 12k. Recommended if you like Tomasz Bednarczyk, Opitope, Chihei Hatakeyama, Lawrence English and Pillowdiver among the many.

Taylor Deupree - Shoals
I'm always excited when Taylor Deupree releases another album. Even if it's a short, 45-minute, four track release! Deupree's attention to detail, minimalism and subliminal aesthetics seems to seep from everything he touches. And although he appears to be constantly busy with curating the releases on his very own label, 12k, laboriously mastering almost every album that goes out to print, it's nice to know that he can find the time to compose a rare beaut, which is a treasured boon, like a surprise gift from a long-lost relative. Of course, from my perspective, it's difficult to cover the output of the label without talking about the man himself. But so much has been already said on these pages and many others, that I will practice great restraint, and instead concentrate on the music. On Shoals, Deupree finds himself even more ingrained with acoustic instrumentation, strict conceptual control, and at the same time sophisticated sound design and DSP programming. Using an extensive collection of Javanese and Balinese (Indonesian) gamelan instruments, provided by the University of York Music Research Center for the artist residency program, Deupree set out to unravel and reveal the exterior imperfections, by scratching, tapping, or scraping with an eBow at the surfaces and strings. An array of eavesdropping microphones appear on the album, capturing incidental movement and physicality of extracting the resonating sound waves. Developing a powerful audio software in Kyma, Deupree manipulated, layered and looped these meditative elements to create Shoals - "an album referencing the sonic and emotional world that can be discovered by scraping away surfaces to reveal a worn interior of comfort and time." The result is the most captivating, most elaborate, and Deupree's most triumphant statement made to date.

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!