Friday, December 26, 2008

BEST OF 2008

It is finally here... It took an incredible effort to actually compile this final list. In some cases it was even more difficult than last years', as I've listened to even more music in 2008. Feels like my mission has been accomplished and 2009 can be started off fresh. But not before I catch up to all the music that I missed myself! Anyway, here it is, just a click away!

Headphone Commute's Best of 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jóhann Jóhannsson - Fordlandia (4AD)

A few years ago, when I was regularly creating mixes for a podcast, an idea came across to compile music for my funeral. One thing I am sure about - I will die. And when I pass on, music will be filling in the void that was once my presence. How touching. Why shouldn't I be the one to select the pieces that would make others weep? Yes, I'll admit, I can be self centered like that. For my opening track, I turned to Jóhann Jóhannsson, and his Odi Et Amo from Englabörn (4AD, 2007). Now, with the release of Fordlandia, I may need to compile a second volume. On second thought, just play the whole album! But don't get me wrong. I don't want to come across saying that Jóhannsson's compositions are full of funeral sound [perhaps that should be a genre in itself?]. Yet, this Icelandic-born modern classical musician composes some of the most beautiful and soul drenching works that I have ever heard. The saturation of emotion approaches even my limits, and my eyes swell up with tears, as the concrete humanity gets cleansed in the rain, out in the windows of my crawling train. This is Jóhannsson's sixth full length album. Besides these contemporary classical conceptual pieces, Jóhannsson produced about a dozen of soundtracks for [mostly] Icelandic films, shorts and documentaries. There are also his theatrical works, arrangements for many artists, and music for installations. It would be an understatement to say that Jóhann Jóhannsson is a prominent figure in Icelandic contemporary artistic community. After all, he's one of the co-founders (along with Kira Kira and Hilmar Jensson) behind Kitchen Motors, "a think tank, a record label, and an art collective specializing in instigating collaborations and putting on concerts, exhibitions, performances, chamber operas, producing films, books and radio shows based on the ideals of experimentation, collaboration, the search for new art forms and the breaking down of barriers between forms, genres and disciplines." Thematically, Fordlandia continues the exploration of technology where Jóhannsson's last conceptual album, IBM 1401, a User's Manual (4AD, 2006) left off. Jóhannsson elaborates: "one of the two main threads running through [Fordlandia] is this idea of failed utopia, as represented by the [its] title - the story of the rubber plantation Henry Ford established in the Amazon in the 1920's, and his dreams of creating an idealized American town in the middle of the jungle complete with white picket fences, hamburgers and alcohol prohibition." For a detailed insight into creation of the album, including a commentary on each individual track (!!!), you absolutely must visit Jóhannsson's web site. Fordlandia thus becomes a second installment in a series of works documenting human hunger for ideals, technological progress, doomed failures, and the beauty of nature reclaiming itself. Such it is still, music for the born and the departed. Highly recommended! Undoubtedly one of the best albums of 2008. | |

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Plastikman - Closer (M_nus / NovaMute)

This flashback is supposed to be another installmanet of my Random Vinyl of the Week series. But I'm already cheating... A little bit... I did indeed pull out this triple twelve-incher from my vast record library (the correct term is discothèque, right?). But it is still shrink wrapped! You can't expect me to break the seal on this collector's item, can you? And, of course, I have a CD version of this 2003 album right here. Plus the disk release contains four extra tracks! So back it goes, whence it came from, to age and marinate some more. Meanwhile, Richie Hawtin is already thumping, laying out some mean bass over reverberated strings. I turn up the volume. I always turn up the volume for Plastikman. Hawtin's control over dynamic range of cranium vibrating bass, and tiny little white noises in the background always creates a hypnotic experience. The pitched down, evil, and creepy Hawtin's voice is reciting some dark lyrics: "I don't know what's left to gain / All the guilt and now the blame / I don't want to stop this game / I'm starting to enjoy the pain." The rolling lower frequencies are penetrating every nook of my studio. The light bulbs are shaking in their sockets. Something just fell in the deep cavern of my closet. Closer is an intense experience, with little release, like an involuntary muscle spasm induced by an alternating current. The themes of paranoia, schizophrenia, and claustrophobia saturate the music. Is this what we get when we get closer to Hawtin? The album tends to continue the discomforting ground work laid out in Plastikman's previous minimal release, Consumed (M_nus, 1998). Moving further away from staple sound of 909 repetitive techno beats, 303 acid sweeps, never ending delays and mind warping arpeggios, Ontario based Hawtin continues his exploration into the deep, the dark and the minimal. A lot of people have dismissed Plastikman as just another speck in the Detroit techno scene of the early 90s, being in the right place at the right time. And at times I wonder if his sound is only exciting because I've been listening to his earlier albums, Sheet One (1993), Musik (1994), and Recycled Plastik (1994) nonstop back in the 90s. But as I mature, revisit, and analyze the sound [which continues to be imitated by many up and comers], I think Richie is here to stay. Even if we haven't heard from him in over five years! Hawtin's owned Canadian labels, Plus 8 and M_nus continue to thrive and output some solid material. For a quick taste of 2008 releases check out Heartthrob's Dear Painter, Paint Me and Gaiser's Blank Fade. | |

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Top 50 of 2007

That's right - it's not a typo. I'm taking a few moments to revisit the Best of 2007 before we wrap up this year. As many of you know, it is nearly impossible to listen and cover all the great music out there. There simply can't be a definitive list for the "best of the best". And once such lists are released, many discover great albums that somehow have slipped passed their radar. It is the case for me as well... Every year... I still stumble upon amazing albums from previous years that sound fresh to me. So I'd like to take this opportunity and bring back the gems that have since moved to the top of my rotations. How many of these have you heard? How many of these have you totally missed? Hold on to your undies, boys and girls, cause it's a doozy!

Headphone Commute's Top 50 of 2007
(listed in alphabetical order)
Aaron Spectre - Lost Tracks (Ad Noiseam)
Amon Tobin - Foley Room (Ninja Tune)
Apparat - Walls (Shitkatapult)
Architect - Lower Lip Interface (Hymen)
Balmorhea - Balmorhea (self)
Ben Frost - Theory Of Machines (Bedroom Community)
Boxcutter - Glyphic (Planet Mu)
Burial - Untrue (Hyperdub)
DJ Hidden - The Later After (Ad Noiseam)
DJ Kentaro - Enter (Ninja Tune)
DeepChord presents Echospace - The Coldest Season (Modern Love)
Elegi - Sistereis (Miasmah)
Eluvium - Copia (Temporary Residence)
Evan Bartholomew - Caverns of Time (Somnia)
Fennesz * Sakamoto - Cendre (Touch / Commons)
Goldmund - Two Point Discrimination (Western Vinyl)
Grails - Burning Off Impurities (Temporary Residence Limited)
Hauschka - Room To Expand (130701)
Hecq - 0000 (Hymen)
Kashiwa Daisuke - Program Music I (MIDI Creative / Noble)
Keef Baker - Redeye (Hymen)
Kettel - Whisper Me Wishes (Djak-Up-Bitch)
KiloWatts - Ground State (Native State)
Krill.Minima - Nautica (Native State)
Lights Out Asia - Tanks And Recognizers (n5MD)
Lusine ICL - Language Barrier (Hymen)
Manual - Lost Days, Open Skies And Streaming Tides (Darla)
Modeselektor - Happy Birthday! (BPitch Control)
Morning Recordings - The Welcome Kinetic (Loose Thread)
Mr. 76ix - 3 (Minority Of 1) (Skam)
Murcof - Cosmos (Leaf)
Near The Parenthesis - Of Soft Construction (n5MD)
Ólafur Arnalds - Eulogy For Evolution (Erased Tapes)
Onra - Chinoiseries (Label Rouge Prod / Favorite)
Pan Sonic - Katodivaihe / Cathodephase (Blast First Petite)
Porn Sword Tobacco - New Exclusive Olympic Heights (City Centre Offices)
Port-Royal - Afraid To Dance (Resonant)
Rafael Anton Irisarri - Daydreaming (Miasmah)
Sankt Otten - Wir Koennen Ja Freunde Bleiben (Hidden Shoal)
Stars Of The Lid - And Their Refinement Of The Decline (Kranky)
Stateless - Stateless (Studio !K7)
Swod - Sekunden (City Centre Offices)
The Cinematic Orchestra - Ma Fleur (Ninja Tune / Domino)
The Field - From Here We Go Sublime (Kompakt)
The Flashbulb - That Missing Week (Alphabasic)
The World on Higher Downs - Land Patterns (Plop)
Valgeir Sigurðsson - Ekvílíbrium (Bedroom Community)
Venetian Snares - My Downfall (Planet Mu)
Vladislav Delay - Whistleblower (Huume)
World's End Girlfriend - Hurtbreak Wonderland (Human Highway)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Stephan Mathieu - Radioland (Die Schachtel)

I was sitting in the waiting room. Waiting. The only external factors affecting my senses were the parallel lines of the desks and the chairs, the subdued colors of the withered walls, and the music of Stephan Mathieu in my headphones. I looked over to the clock, and the hand stood still. I turned my head sideways, squinted, and waited. Finally the hand moved. One second has passed. Then the parallel lines began to move, the chairs rippled against the desks, and the colors of the walls bled onto the carpet. My presence smiled, exited the waiting room, and slammed shut the door. I snapped out of my trip, as the clock has jumped ahead one meager second. The music on Radioland has a tendency to spread through reality its invisible tentacles of sound and invade every frequency with its incredibly thick palette, turning inaudible noise into sound, into music, into white noise again. Radioland is Mathieu's fifth full length release. And here's the kicker - it has been 'exclusively based on real-time processed shortwave radio signals', down-casting the higher frequency wavelengths to an audible spectrum of the human ear. Radioland is a limited release on a Milan (Italy) based Die Schachtel label. It is shipped on a transparent disk, Plexiglas body, with a clear acetate multi-fold cover, and appears to be already sold out on Boomkat. German born Stephan Mathieu, has been working with digital and analog processing techniques for more than a decade. His work is well known with an extensive discography concentrating on experimentation with sound, audio installations, and unique live performances. Mathieu's previous full length studio release was The Sad Mac (Vectors, 2004), followed by a collaboration with Janek Schaefer on Hidden Name (Crónica, 2006), and a single half-hour long recording of Radioland which was released by TouchRadio mp3 podcast series (Touch, 2006). The album is a highly recommended headphone experience, available as a digital FLAC download, if you can not get your hands on a limited hard copy. One thing for sure - this isn't drone music. It's macroscopic sounds fusing together into a grandiose orchestra. Another favorite of 2008. |

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Boards of Canada - Geogaddi (Warp / Music70)

In 2002, the Scottish electronic music duo, Boards of Canada released their second commercial full length album on Warp Records, titled Geogaddi. I say, "commercial", because prior to being signed to Warp, brothers [yes, they _are_ brothers] Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin Sandison have released several obscure EPs and albums on their own, Music70 imprint. These were mostly self-made cassette tapes, recorded for their friends and family, and are very rare and pretty much unavailable, with the exception of a few, which were later re-released. In 1995, Twoism attracted the attention of Sean Booth (Autechre) through a demo released on [that famous] IDM mailing list, and soon thereafter Hi Scores EP was released on Skam Records. In 1998, Warp picked the duo up with Music Has The Right To Children, and the rest, as we say, is history. On Geogaddi, BoC continues to play around with warped effects of stretched magnetic tape, light sprinkled beats, ghostly melodies and echoes of distant voices. The mood of Geogaddi is dark, melancholic, and at times nostalgic for the childhood, perhaps as a continuation of BoC's previous themes on Music Has the Right to Children. The sound of this electronic recording is very organic and warm, no doubt benefiting from BoC's use of analog equipment, acoustic instruments, and samples sourced from nature documentary films produced by the Canadian government agency, NFB - National Film Board of Canada. Sandison was quoted to say that Gogaddi is "a record for some sort of trial-by-fire, a claustrophobic, twisting journey that takes you into some pretty dark experiences before you reach the open air again." The 22 tracks on the album are a result of 400 different song fragments and 64 complete other songs, which were all trimmed, re-sampled and selected to be featured on a beautiful triple 12". The last record's side F (considered to be the 23rd track of pure silence), contains an etching in the vinyl of an image of a man, woman and two children. The artwork on the album consists of kaleidoscopic images of photographs of children created by the brothers themselves. We last heard from Board of Canada through their 6 track Trans Canada Highway EP, released on Warp in 2006. Today, the brothers continue to stay out of the spotlight, working away on more tunes featuring their original staple sound. Or at least we can hope that they are ;) | | |

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fennesz - Black Sea (Touch)

Here comes Fennesz, with his highly anticipated fourth studio album on Touch. Christian Fennesz is a prolific Vienna based composer who has been crafting electronic multi-layered laptop compositions with an aid of his guitar since the late 90s. Or is it the other way around? His guitar driven pieces with a heavy dose of DSP? Either way, Fennesz has developed that instantly recognizable and many times imitated sound. His vast discography extends through numerous EPs, remixes, soundtracks and collaborations, most notable of which is his work with Ryuichi Sakamoto on Cendre (Touch, 2007); as well as Cloud (Erstwhile, 2005) on which he worked with Keith Rowe, Toshimaru Nakamura and Oren Ambarchi. With a collection of works approaching the count of 30, Fennesz's last solo studio release was four years ago, Venice (Touch, 2004). So it should be no surprise that the fans jumped in anticipation to grab this 2008 release, Black Sea. And I hope the fans are not disappointed. Fennesz picks up where he left off with Venice, building on his trademark of processed and filtered guitar sound. Faint melodies cut with their pale beauty through a sharp fuzzy white haze. Sure, it may sound like over-driven, bit-crushing, pixel-offsetting, standing noise you have heard before on another album. But let me remind you once more, that Fennesz has been pioneering this sound well before the advancement of software and saturation of costly plugins on the market. On a nine-and-a-half minute track called Glide, for example, Fennesz is joined by Rosy Parlane [check out his albums Iris (Touch, 2004) and Jessamine (Touch, 2006)], to build up an incredible swell of sound, that buzzes to an orchestral crescendo, until it breaks into a tidal wave of near silence, which washes off the coast of a Black Sea. Experience Fennesz if artists like Alva Noto, Philip Jeck, Jan Jelinek, and Oren Ambarchi are on your radar. 

Also... Check out my previous review of Cendre and Two and a Half Questions with Christian Fennesz | |

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Von Magnet - Ni Prédateur Ni Proie (Ant-Zen / Jarring Effects)

Ni Prédateur Ni Proie is a complete theatrical performance packaged into twelve sketches on a disk. Strings tune up. A gong rings. A voice pleads with a shadow. Tension builds up. Industrial percussion kicks in. What follows is a combination of experimental neo-classical and avant-garde rhythmic technoid, curated with ethnic organic beats and acoustic orchestral instrumentation. Along the dark curtain of apocalyptic soundscapes, people confide in their woes. What is this place? With scalpel sharp precise execution, the French collective Von Magnet, tells a story of a human conflict. Regardless of the geographical location, we, the people, tend to find reasons to create interpersonal struggles that reflect externally through rage, tears, and war. The field recordings and the produced performances in different tongues speak for the voice of the human condition and the reality of today's brutal world. The cover art depicts two hands, of different skin color, smothered in oil, attempting to hold on to each other, but slipping away. The music conveys a similar theme. Von Magnet has been around since the late 80s, saturating the airwaves with post-industrial sound through more than a dozen albums. Their live shows are usually accompanied by performance art which transform the stage into a fascinating experimental musical. A quote from their bio: "Based successively in Barcelona, Rennes, Amsterdam, Lille, Berlin & Paris, for each project gathering different creative teams and mixed peculiar tribes of performers, visual artists, dancers, musicians, designers or sculptors, Von Magnet is indeed one of the cybergypsy pioneers of euroculture." It would be an absolute treat to see them live. Meanwhile, this excellent addition to an already powerful catalog of Ant-Zen will have to satisfy your cravings. The album is released in parallel on a French Jarring Effects label. Refusing to be divided, refusing to be boxed in, and refusing to accept the two extreme choices, with their music Von Magnet proclaims that it will be... neither predator, nor prey. | |

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sylvain Chauveau - The Black Book Of Capitalism (Type)

This dusty selection of modern classical compositions originally released by Sylvain Chauveau in 2000 [and re-issued in 2002] is once again available on Type Records! This was Chauveau's debut album, originally titled in French as Le Livre Noir Du Capitalisme, and released on a Dijon (France) based experimental and ambient label, Noise Museum [which is now defunct]. This album has been long out of print, and I'll admit - since it never reached US, it totally fell off my radar. But thanks to Type, this remastered version [although still limited to only 400 copies] can be heard again! Throughout the years, Chauveau has experimented with sound applying self-imposed principles that amount to just these three: "to stay as close as possible to the abstract beauty of 'silence'; to make sure that each sound committed is absolutely necessary; to find [my] own roots within [my] cultural and personal history." Chauveau's collection of albums range from solo piano pieces to minimal experimental drones. For an interesting minimal exploration of fragmented sound check out the last five-track album, simply titled S. [Type, 2007]. Chauveau also has composed soundtracks for films by Sébastien Betbeder. The latest release, Nuage [Type, 2007] compiles music for two films, Les Mains D'Andréa, and of course, Nuage. But back to The Black Book Of Capitalism, which, incidentally, shares its title with a French book published in 1998, which is a collection of essays covering everything from African slave trade to the era of financial globalization. This original album is very much different from Chauveau's current experimental pieces. It is quiet the opposite, and one might say "full of sound". And immediately, one track after another, start to receive five star rating on my player, falling along the roster of my favorite works by Peter Broderick, Goldmund and Max Richter. Through the crackling grooves of a record the images of early European films flood the airwaves with ghost-like beautiful melodies that have only matured since their original birth. Music like his doesn't age. It is classic. Highly recommended! | |

Monday, December 1, 2008

Biosphere - Shenzhou (Touch)

Prior to doing a proper writeup on Geir Jenssen, I listened to all of his grandiose works. Twice. OK, maybe not all. Jenssen's discography does not only span albums under his most famous moniker, Biosphere. There is his debut album, The North Pole By Submarine (SSR, 1989) as Bleep; two volumes of The Fires of Ork in collaboration with Pete Namlook (Fax, 1993 & 2000); two releases with The Higher Intelligence Agency, Polar Sequences (Beyond, 1996) and Birmingham Frequencies (Headphone 2000); an album, Nordheim Transformed (Rune Grammofon, 1998), with Deathprod; and finally a collection of field recordings from Tibet, Cho Oyu (Ash International, 2006), under his real name. And that's just scratching the surface. However, after spending an entire week (!) revisiting Jenssen's contributions towards the evolution of ambient sound as we know it today, I settled picking Shenzhou for this writeup. That one, my friends, is a masterpiece. Shenzhou explores more than just dark atmospheres and loop based hypnotic soundscapes. Here Jenssen does something many musicians have tried to accomplish - use classical music as the main ingredient, but without being too overbearing, obvious, or just for its mere sake. In Shenzhou, Jenssen constructs haunting environmental passages based on orchestral works by Claude Debussy, La Mer (The Sea) and Jeux. During the beatless layers of lush pads, deep sonic bass, and dusty vinyl samples of strings and woodwinds, Jenssen builds on meditative templates inflicting a trance-like state for the mind relying on its pattern recognition capabilities. The subliminal waves of euphoria wash over the timeless expansion of sound throughout the universe of the void. The subtle contributions of Jenssen's own sound design only enhance Debussy's already melancholic impressionist approach. Purely genius. This work solidifies Biosphere's impact on ambient movement. Previously, Jennsen has been known to pioneer his own personal style - arctic ambient. The latter is thematically named for Jenssen's geographical and minimalist attributes. Born in Tromsø, a city in the Arctic Circle of Norway, Jenssen evoked the sense of isolation and arctic calm, more prominent in his earlier albums like Substrata (All Saints Records, 1997) and above mentioned Polar Sequences. But in Shenzhou the ice melts away into the ocean of sound. And with it we drift... and we drift... For a sensory deprived in-vacuum experience, pick up Biosphere's Autour de la Lune (Touch, 2004) [headphones with deep bass response recommended], as well as his latest, Dropsonde (Touch 2006). In 2007, Norwegian Beatservice Records, re-released the first three of Biosphere's albums - Microgravity, Patashnik, and Insomnia. Highly recommended for the likes of Gas, PanAmerican, Steve Roach, Robert Henke, Deaf Center and Murcof. |

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ten Favorite Mixes

Besides listening to albums and compilations, I do tend to consume a lot of mixes released around the net on various blogs, podcasts, and labels. Although this selection is pretty enormous, I'd like to take the time and document some of the mixes that have appeared in my rotations more than a few times, and will most likely remain on the list. The other, most important reason for this post, is so that I could share this music with you. And best of all, these are all FREE for you to grab right now!

Bop - Autumn Studio Mix (Sonorous Music)
This one was recommended to me very recently, and I have already listened to it a bunch of times. Bop compiles a mix of intelligent drum'n'bass with a hint of bass heavy IDM elements. This one is exclusive to Sonorous Music. A big portion of tracks are produced by St. Petersburg (Russia) based Bop himself, which is very impressive. The tracks are minimal, glitchy, and deep. Highly recommended. I'm definitely keeping my eye on Bop.

Anders Ilar - Love Fields (
Anders sent me a copy of this mix himself, but it appears to be featured on Italian electronic music magazine and podcast, Ilar arranges an experimental glitchy mix layered with ambient and modern classical pieces, featuring Murcof, Alvo Noto, Deru, Kettel, krill.minima, Morgan Packard, and even Shadow Huntaz. An excellent selection and very fluid flow.

Luke Hess - mnml ssgs mx05 (mnml ssgs)
Here's a mix featured on a blog I frequent, mnml ssgs, covering everything minimal. On this exclusive mix, Detroit based Luke Hess compiles up some tech house, minimal techno, and dub-tech, featuring tracks by himself, Sistema, Luciano, Efdemin, Urban Force and others. This mix has kept me upbeat, even during the most stressful situations. I especially remember bopping my head to the groove in the airport security line. Hope it does the same for you.

Jasper TX - mnml ssgs mx08 (mnml ssgs)
OK, while I'm still covering the mnml ssgs blog, here's a treat from Dag Rosenqvist, aka Jasper TX. On this exclusive mix, Dag features some ambient, modern classical and minimal tracks from Eluvium, Tsukimono, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Machinefabriek, and himself with a beautifully crafted flow of sound. Don't forget to add mnml ssgs your RSS feed and keep up with their nice writeups and a nice selection of exclusive mixes.

Surgeon - For Dog Faces Only (Spannered)
If you feel like hitting something a bit more harder, you can always count on the Surgeon. Put this in your pipe and smoke it. An excellent grind through Jeff Mills, Monolake, Joey Beltram, Basic Channel, The Surgeon himself and many of his other favorites. This mix comes from Spannered radio where it is still one of the most popular on their list. If you poke around on the site, there are a few more nice ones by Neil Landstrumm and Aaron Spectre that I recommend grabbing

Ambivalent & JPLS - M_nus 10-Year Anniversary Mix (XLR8R)
This mix, celebrating M_nus Records' 10 year anniversary, appeared in XLR8R Podcast. I'll be honest, that most of the magazine's podcast episodes are blotchy, but this excellent mix features tracks from False, Heartthrob, Gaiser, Ambivalent, and of course, the label owner, Richie Hawtin and his famous Plastikman moniker. Pretty solid coverage of all the label's favorites.

The Glitch Mob Mix (XLR8R)
Since I already mentioned the XLR8R podcast above, I might as well bring your attention to this compilation of the Los Angeles based collective, Glitch Mob, featuring some of the west-coast electro-infused instrumental hip-hop, chopped-up glitch and head-bopping beats. The names to watch for on this one are edIT, Ooah, Boreta & Eprom, and Clipse. Definitely a great party flavor there...

Pinch - EE.ORG 1st Anniversary Mix (Electronic Explorations)
It's no secret by now, that for all of my dubstep needs, I regularly tune into Electronic Explorations podcast. Last week, EE celebrated its one-year anniversary, and Pinch contributed an exclusive mix featuring a handful of his own tracks, plus a few from Distance, 30Hz, Peverelist and Deleted Scenes. Apart from the continuous mix appearing in the middle of the podcast, Rob features a few of forthcoming releases from Planas, Mount Kimbie, and a favorite of mine, Reso. Just add this to your subscription list, grab previous episodes (all, if you ask me), and forget about searching for the latest tracks - Rob's got it covered for you!

Amon Tobin - Solipsistic Nation No 82 (Solipsistic Nation)
Solipsistic Nation is yet another podcast that is regularly on my rotations list. This year, Bazooka Joe, covered a variety of the best styles in electronic music. My favorite episode happens to be his interview with Amon Tobin featuring some of his earlier tracks released under Cujo moniker. Besides the music, the interview itself is very informative, and although this is not really a continuous mix by Amon Tobin himself, I still felt compelled listing it here as one of the best for this year.

Emanuele Errante - Live Set (Somnia Podcast)
Somnia Records had only four episodes in its podcast this year, yet one of the labels artists, Emanuele Errante, happened to secure a spot with his exclusive Live Set. Grab this one to dive into some gorgeous ambient and modern classical. I really hope that Somnia will resume its podcast, perhaps featuring a live set by the label's owner, Evan Bartholomew, who recently released another LP, "Phoenix Rising" under his famous Bluetech alias.

I'm going to leave off this post here, inviting you to submit some of your own favorite mixes of the year. Please chime in and drop off links to free and legal downloads. I'd be sure to check them out!!!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Silent Land Time Machine - &hope still (Time-Lag / Indian Queen)

At times mysterious, at times complex, but always relaxing, even during its climaxing moments, Silent Land Time Machine is an instrumental rock project that reminds me a lot of A Silver Mt Zion. Except that... Jon is just one man... But upon your first listen you wouldn't know it... Hailing out of Austin, Texas, Jon is a multi-instrumentalist, and is equally comfortable behind the guitar, piano, accordion, and a wide range of stringed instruments. His motivation to master the musical medium and inspirations are credited to Anni Rossi (recently signed to 4AD) and Sophie Trudeau (member of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and a co-founder of Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band), as well as much other output from Constellation and FatCat labels. Jon mangles instrumentals, DSP filtering, and field recordings which create a feeling of a small folksy community gathering, improvising over familiar melodies. The mood of &hope still, is less apocalyptic and political then the above mentioned influences, leaving a lot more room for imagination of the listener. Although some of the sounds appear to be looped, the patterns are not obsessively repetitive and are very organic. Jon takes great care in overdubbing layers and layers of live instrumentation to create his unique blend of post-americana-psyminimal-desktop-folktronica. Yes. I like that for a genre. The debut album has been released this past October, 2008, as a collaborative effort between Time-Lag Records and Jon's very own Indian Queen Records. Recommended if you like experimental pieces from M83, Mogwai, Benoît Pioulard, and Múm. | |

Monday, November 24, 2008

Paavoharju - Laulu Laakson Kukista (Fonal)

I'll admit - it took me more than a few listens to get into Paavoharju. I almost dismissed the album completely, but my readers kept insisting that I give it another whirl. And here it is, Laulu Laakson Kukista, opening its intricate secrets after careful observation. The crackles, the noises, the lo-fi magnetic tape manipulations dispel, and the inner beauty of modern classical marriage to neo-folk emerges. So how do I begin describing something that is indescribable. An assembly of illusions scratching at deep rooted memories of childhood, a collection of conflicting elements settling into a unique pattern of a snowflake, a kaleidoscope of loose material patched together into a summer dress that is being hung up to dry in a sunlight by a humming villager. Between the digital artifacts and purely organic ambient hymns you find something... spiritual... revived through simplicity of a pure song. And after a few listens it is that song that draws you closer towards Paavoharju's mystical sound. Laulu Laakson Kukista is the second LP from a collective of Finnish born-again Christians (!) initially organized by brothers Lauri and Olli Ainala. Their first LP, titled, Yhä Hämärää, came out on the same label, Fonal Records, in 2005. The group is not a stranger to the scene, and since their debut, Paavoharju landed an EP on Miasmah as well as a 7" on Type Records. It's nearly impossible to draw a comparison between Paavoharju and any other artist, but if I was pressed, I'd perhaps point towards the abstract experimental and psych-folk work from Boards of Canada. | |

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wurlitztraction - The Star Lit Numbers On Her Fingers (Enough)

Like a buzzing concoction of plaster molded jigsaw, the sound of this abstract and experimental album descends on a creaky base board of musique concrète and gets nailed with percussive staples. The man behind this sound effect rich "soundtrack for late nights/early mornings" is Chris Reid, who goes by the name of Wurlitztraction. Reid compiled his collection of field recordings and unused studio manipulations from the soundtrack pieces he was producing for short films and animations, and wrapped this into an composition, The Star Lit Numbers On Her Fingers. It soon began taking a shape of its own, complemented with rich sound design, glitching electro-acoustic beats and a gentle push towards a darker sonic side of rhythmic noise and experimental electronica. It seems that the patterns never repeat, the melodies never blossom, and the haphazard ticks reappear here and there in a schizophrenic mania of a constantly twitching mass of a dying brain. And Reid doesn't stop there. Here comes in a bass guitar, acoustic drums, and industrial hits with an occasional vibraphone, trip-hop beat and a jittery feedback. Overall it's pretty difficult to pinpoint the style behind Reid's music [and that's a good thing], which is why I hold on to describing tiny mementos throughout the album. The Star Lit Numbers On Her Fingers is Reid's second release on Portuguese net-label, Enough Records, and is available for download for free from the site and scene dot org (catalog number enrmp138). Reid has also previously released an album titled, Lucidity Cue, on the same label. |

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gescom - ISS:SA (Skam)

So we'll never know who's behind Gestalt Communications (Gescom), so what? It's pretty obvious that Sean Booth and Rob Brown of Autechre have a hand at this. This 2003 EP only reveals the well respected label, Skam and its title, ISS:SA, and even the latter is slapped as a braille sticker. The release did however follow on the heels of Autechre's DRAFT 7.30 (released only a week later) so many fans pick up the glitchy destroyed patterns, doomed abstract chords, and unrecognized splattered percussion to be as an extension of the album. Unlike any other collective, Gescom continues to lead us into the dark alley of nightmarish pleasures. All the while you're protecting your valuables and trying to scratch your head and place that sound that you've heard before. C'mon brain! Reconstruct this puzzle into a four second jingle! There!!! No, gone again. Smack! The last track, titled Slow Acid is a favorite of mine. This needs to be turned up much louder to hear all the tiny little white noise melodies in the background, while the AE kick progresses forward in a steady beat, and the common acid-house chords are choked up beyond comprehension. Sub woofer required. The artwork contained in the sleeve of the record is a special bonus. Another testimony to why records can offer just a little bit MORE. The insert is a two sided glossy print featuring a digitally modified image of trumpet, or perhaps a polished motorcycle exhaust pipe, creating an astonishingly bizarre brass instrument, the likes of which could only belong to Booth and Brown. The CD version of the record has a bonus track, titled Megamix. This is a 15 minute Gescom concoction which was originally featured on BBC Radio One's show when they did a Skam Records label profile. Here, the metallic rhythms and bit-crushed patterns are continuously looped into tiny fragments. I can only speculate if all the pieces are from previous Gescom releases and if it was performed live by sliding the loop window over an area of some track(s). Only like Autechre. |

Friday, November 21, 2008

VA - Diaspora: Cottage Industries 5 (Neo Ouija)

Neo Ouija is BACK! That's right kiddies. After closing its doors in 2005, the Devon (England) based label originally started by Lee Norris (Metamatics), has re-opened its doors, and is now managed by Martin Hirsch (aka Deer and Random Noise Productions). Propelling many electronic musicians to fame, Neo Ouija is responsible for much output from Geiom, Bauri, Accelera Deck, Kettel, Funckarma, Apparat, Xela, Secede and many others! With this first double disk compilation, Hirsch is introducing us to a brand new roster of musicians. Additional contributions towards the comp include a few notables like Move D, Maps & Diagrams, and Kangding Ray. As with many other collections showcasing the upcoming works, it is difficult to pinpoint a specific genre, especially across a large radius umbrella like Neo Ouija. This fifth installment of Cottage Industries series, titled Diaspora, traverses the styles across its thirty (30!) tracks. Starting off with an excellent IDM track by MXM (an artist I'm planning on watching closely from now on), the selection of tracks on the first disk progresses into tech house, dub techno, and deep house. The second disk is a favorite of mine, and features more experimental, glitchy downtempo and IDM. At number twelve, another favorite of mine, Seven Ark, returns with familiar twisted loops, melodic pads and few remains of bouncing marbles with a track titled Version 2. The compilation signs off with a short ambient interlude from Nacht Plank And Shintaro Aoki that wets my appetite for the things to come. I'm really happy that Neo Ouija is back and I congratulate Martin Hirsch on resurecting the label that will continue contributing towards evolution of sound. |

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Benn Jordan - Pale Blue Dot (Alphabasic)

I guess the reason that I keep listening to Benn Jordan is the fact that he simply makes beautiful music. Period. In fact, I catch myself restraining from listening to Benn Jordan too much. His short, full of witty ideas tracks, produced under The Flashbulb moniker, have already conquered all of my charts. And the debut album under his real name is quickly gaining ground. Pale Blue Dot is Jordan's entry into building ambient soundscapes, released on his very own Chicago based label, Alphabasic. Composed as a tribute to an astronomer, Carl Sagan, Jordan explores the insignificance of our daily conflicts in comparison to our chance habitat on a tiny planet in the midst of an infinite space. From 6.4 billion kilometers away, Earth is nothing but a tiny pale blue dot. In his book, Sagan invites us to contemplate this miracle. "Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every 'superstar', every 'supreme leader', every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there - on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam." The tracks on Pale Blue Dot are titled around an interplanetary voyage. From Ascent, to Infinity Alone, Floating Vacuum, A Distant Earthrise, and finally Safe Landing, the pieces flow fluidly from one to another, capturing a story told without time. And Pale Blue Dot is more than a thematic album. It is an ambient journey through hypnotic sound, quietly drifting you away into space. The transformations are flawless, and many at times I seamlessly reach that sacred place of presence, by the middle of the album. If you are expecting Jordan's playful breaks and acid lines, turn away now. But if you are a patient, pondering listener, then you'll be repeating the album over and over, as I get to do now, for its fourth time this morning. A rewarding experience for a discerning ear. Recommended if you enjoy music from Evan Bartholomew, Biosphere, Christopher Bissonnette, Hammock, Eluvium, Manual and The World on Higher Downs. | |

Two and a Half Questions with Benn Jordan

This is your first ambient work - what was the most challenging aspect at composing an entire album in this genre? 
This definitely isn't my first ambient work, but just the first I've released on a large scale (if you would even call it that). The biggest road block for me with ambient music is my nagging desire to make it sound more interesting. I have trouble justifying making a jazz piece last more than 3 minutes, much less something simpler. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm serving a different purpose by writing it. It isn't for entertainment or musical thrills.

How did you come about the idea of writing a thematic album dedicated to Carl Sagan and our little planet?
I've always been into astronomy and astrophysics, and I'm always in some stage of reading something on the topic. At some point after Soundtrack To A Vacant Life came out, I started writing what I was calling "space music". I had no intention of making an album at the time, but for some reason I just kept making more and more of it in my free time. If anything I thought that I'd just add it to my licensing pool or use it as a foundation for an actual score should I get offered one in the near future. Then at some point I realized that I had over a CD's length of music. I thought about what it would be like to just leave the planet into the darkness. I went back into the sessions, made it blend chronologically to the story in my head, shaved it down to CD length, and there you have it. A funny coincidence: The day Pale Blue Dot was released, BBC Horizon aired an episode titled "Are We Alone In The Universe" that had licensed a bunch of my previous music (some released in albums and some from my film libraries). So I guess some people thought my music was extraterrestrial sounding before I ever meant it to be.

Overall, your work seems to have continuity from one album to the other. In Soundtrack To A Vacant Life, you allude to your upcoming work on Pale Blue Dot with a Carl Sagan sample in track, Suspended In a Sunbeam. Was this intentional on your part?
I wouldn't say it was a coincidence because, to me, those words are quite possibly the truest and most important words ever spoken. I do like the idea of continuity with my albums, but this one wasn't part of that.

You obviously have admiration for Carl Sagan. How has Sagan's life and work influenced you and your music? 
When I was an 10 years old, while my other peers were studying multiplication tables and Christopher Columbus trivia, I understood relativity and how time travel worked. This wasn't because I was a smart kid, it was because of Cosmos: A Personal Voyage on PBS. I would lay awake in bed thinking about my own existence and how it wrapped into time and space. I became fascinated with science and figured out how to learn at my own pace. This was a turning point for me where I started getting horrible grades in sacrifice for learning what I wanted to, when I wanted to. There are plenty of astronomers and astrophysicists in the world, but none of them had the philosophical and poetic genius that Carl Sagan had. Sagan wasn't a genius because he could tell you what a neutron star was, he was a genius because he could somehow map things out in a way that would relate your existence to it. He wasn't scared to admit that he didn't have the answers, but he would pass his doubts and questions on to other curious minds. He wasn't afraid to admit that atheism is no better than dogmatic religion because it requires you to ignore the biggest and most important questions in the universe. Now that, my friend, is a man who deserves an album.

Needless to say that Pale Blue Dot was very different from your previous work, and very much cherished and appreciated. Will we see more of this work from Benn Jordan?
I plan to make more ambient in the future. In fact, lately I have a hard time imagining making an album that isn't conceptual in some way. I kind of like the idea of splitting themes up into different albums. We'll see how long this vacation from ADD continues though. :-) |

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Future Sound Of London - Dead Cities (Virgin)

This is obviously an amazing record to start off my Random Vinyl of the Week adventure, as I dig through my dusty archives. Released in 1996, Dead Cities was Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans' fourth full length album as The Future Sound of London. Dead Cities was that very last record and then there was a torturing silence for six years. Even when the duo returned in 2002 with The Isness, it was ... not the same... How can one describe the layered dark samples with memorable vocal lines that are implanted in my brain? "I have killed a man. A man who looked like me." The album is an absolute classic, and its complex ambient and cinematic fragments continue to offer new insight into the minds of FSOL. Dead Cities was not received with as much success as my absolute favorite, earlier 1994 release Lifeforms [the latter climbed to 6 position on the UK Album Charts, while Dead Cities got up to 22]. The music of Dead Cities features more sampled beats carefully blending in big-beat and bringing trip-hop into the mix. We Have Explosive (which also came out as a single) features several samples from Run DMC's album Tougher Than Leather. The rest of the sounds [all very dear and familiar to my mind at this point] all convey the atmosphere of urban decay. An album from the future that rusted in the past. Like a empty feeling after watching a rerun of Blade Runner [and the sample off Mary Hopkin's vocals from the movie's soundtrack], the eerie nostalgia of revisiting a dirty old friend crackles in the hindsight. Oh, and how's this for a shocker for you. On one of the tracks guess who's playing piano? I'll give you a hint. The title of the track is Max and the pianist's last name is Richter. In addition to restructured MIDI files, Max Richter has also contributed  other recordings and "environments". The album cover (and the two inserts that house the double vinyl) feature 3D graphics and digitally processed photography by Buggy G. Riphead. This is one of the albums to hold in your hands and marvel at its grandiose and epic stand in time. Since 2007, FSOL has opened up their vault and released a collection of forgotten tracks from their library, titled From The Archives (it is now up to its 5th volume). I hope I have excited you enough to revisit Dead Cities through my first adventure of Random Vinyl of the Week. I know that I have worked myself up enough to seek out the limited box set release [complete with a booklet!!!], and am now waiting for it to arrive in the mail! |

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Random Vinyl of the Week

First, a little preface... I have been very much obsessed about the quality of the sound lately, settling only on lossless files on my iPod. And with the collecting daily statistics, I have been compulsively feeding everything through its scrobbler. An OCD/ADHD audiophile collector. Sounds familiar? That being said, my humongous vinyl collection (pictured in this post) has greatly suffered from my lack of attention. And if I started to listen to my records now, at a rate of a dozen a day, it would take me... let's see... oh yes, only a year to finish! Oh good! So today I decided to pull out a random record and give it another spin. Of course, it brought back the good old memories. From the weight of vinyl, to the touch of needle, and the crackles in my speakers. And of course that warmer sound... Ah... I should do this more often. And I will. I spend too much time listening to digital representations on my headphone commute. And so I will attempt to dedicate the weekends to my archived vinyl. This process shall be simple. I will pull out a random record and listen to it. Then, if I like it, I will write about it. Sounds easy enough. Let's see if I can keep this going. You already should know, that I don't care about the date the music has been released. It's all music to me. And through this process I hope to dig up some gems that undoubtedly have been waiting for me all these years. To you, these writeups will appear along regular reviews. But they will appropriately be tagged with vinyl label. What do you think?

Integral - Rise (Tympanik)

Another excellent surprise coming out of Tympanik. And that's twice in one year. First I was completely blown away by Subheim's Approach. And now another brand new group, Integral, hitting me hard out of nowhere with their debut, Rise. The duo behind Integral are Germany based David Rotter and Rafael Milatz. Their sound is dark, cinematic, and simply gorgeous IDM. It feels like these guys are going to be creating soundtracks for melancholic films of other-worldly voyages in no time. Hold on... Someone's knocking on my door. Oh... Never mind. That was in the track. Where was I? Ah, back on the spaceship. Alien insects are crawling upside down on a glass ceiling as we approach a sun rise of a distant galaxy. And when we land on the first favorable foreign planet, its beauty sings in soft sound waves after the electric storm. All the little sounds and patterns on Rise excite my neurons, as my brain races to keep track of all the psychedelic changes and the complicated unfolding layers of sound, even though the rhythm is of a slower downtempo nature. That happens to be my favorite stylistic aspect of this genre: slow spreading ambient melodic soundscapes on one layer and rapid micro precision programmed elementary auditory particles on the other. That is something my mind can never tire of, as there are numerous puzzles to be solved within this cryptic message. And when you're done, you can flip it upside down. Big thanks to Tympanik, once again, for bringing this music to our ears. Seems that the Chicago based label is tirelessly searching in all corners of this planet for the sounds emanating from another. Another great find. Beautiful artwork. Recommended for the likes of Hecq, Kattoo, Ginormous, Nebulo and Lusine Icl. | |

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Goldmund - The Malady Of Elegance (Type)

Keith Kenniff is back on Type Records with his second full length album under Goldmund alias, titled The Malady Of Elegance. A previous EP, Two Point Discrimination (Western Vinyl, 2007), hit the streets on the heels of Kenniff's much anticipated Helios release, Ayres (Type, 2007). Whether Kenniff flips between his more ambient and acoustic electronica works under Helios or modern and contemporary classical pieces under Goldmund, he seems to shine at everything he touches. Especially when it comes to piano keys. The Malady Of Elegance is very cozy, intimate and personal. It is, as if Keith was playing in your own living room and you had your ear against the sound board, picking up each stroke of a hammer, a creek of the pedal, and a soft brush of the finger tips. The melancholic lullabies gently sway the listener into a meditative state of contemplation. It is especially important to recognize how a simple single instrument, like piano, can capture enough emotion to be gently wrapped in an album. The story behind The Malady Of Elegance is a bit of a mystery. But the aged photograph on the cover, the track titles and the music itself, hint at a voyage into the past, suggesting "that the ghosts of old America [still] haunt the keys." And even if this cinematic fantasy creates a world a bit out of reach, it's still comforting to know, that on The Malady Of Elegance Keith Kenniff plays for you. Your own private performance. Incidentally... The album layout and design of The Malady Of Elegance was designed by Erik Skodvin, who is none other than Svarte Greiner and one half of Deaf Center. They must be friends ;). The cover photograph on the album, however, was taken by Linus Lohoff. Meanwhile... It seems that Mr. Kenniff has been a bit busy with yet another release on John Twells' (Xela) Type Records, this time under Helios moniker, titled Caesura. You can be sure I'll grab that one as well. Recommended for the likes of Hauschka, Sylvain Chauveau, Erik Satie, Peter Broderick and Max Richter. | |

Two and a Half Questions with Keith Kenniff

Do you have a clear (or imaginary) line for deciding which compositions belong to Goldmund and which to Helios?
It's a pretty clear line for me; the Goldmund material is basically just solo piano, and even though I use some piano in Helios, there it's more centered around traditional song structure and electronics/guitars and beats. The Goldmund material is written and recorded very quickly, and there is a lot of improvisation involved; but the Helios material is really detail orientated, and usually is pretty measured, compositionally.

You seem to be releasing under both aliases around the same time. Does that mean you're working on completely different albums in parallel?
Pretty much, I wrote a bulk of the albums at the same time, and it just happened that they both got finished just around the same time, so myself and Type records decided to put them out pretty close together.

What piano were you playing on The Malady Of Elegance? Is it the same one you have at home?
Yes, that was all done on my parent's piano at my old house in Pennsylvania. Every time I visit, I get the opportunity to record some; I've never owned my own piano, unfortunately.

Tell us a bit about the process of setting up a piano for a recording.
My main goal for the sound of the recording is to capture it as it sounds when I'm sitting behind it, so I hear all the squeaks and the fingers hitting the keys and I wanted to try and replicate that as much as possible. I really wanted it to be very natural sounding, so even though there is some very light ambient bits in some of the background, the piano wasn't processed, or prepared, except for some eq. I just generally throw two AT 4047A's (the quietest mics on earth) up at either end of hammers and try and get them as close as I can inside the body of the piano.

Who are your favorite classical and modern/contemporary classical composers?
I've been really enjoying William Schumann and Roy Harris a lot lately, also I'm constantly drooling over anything by John Adams that I can get my hands on. And Nico Mulhy's score to the film "Joshua" is amazing.

Tell us about your upcoming release for Helios.
The album is called Caesura, which basically means a break or pause/silence (in poems and such). It's more similar to Eingya, than the Ayres EP that I did in 2007; it doesn't have any singing except for my wife, Hollie's lovely voice on a few of the tracks. It's less traditionally ambient, in that all of the tracks are primarily beat-driven, with pretty similar song-based structures. It'll be out in November (probably by the time you're seeing this interview) on Type Records again, which I'm honored to be on, it's a lovely label. |

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Library Tapes - A Summer Beneath the Trees (Make Mine Music)

All the recent sounds from Hauschka, Max Richter, Peter Broderick, and Eluvium literally guide me towards the latest album from David Wenngren, who is now the single member of Library Tapes (previously joined by Per Jardsell). Well, that's not actually true. On the latest album titled, A Summer Beneath the Trees, released on Make Mine Music (more on this great label later), Wenngren is joined by above mentioned Peter Broderick, who contributed a multitude of instrumentation: guitar, banjo, trumpet, accordion, viola, and others. [Broderick, by the way, I hear has moved to Copenhagen to join Efterklang. So among the many latest releases from this young man (Home being the latest on Type Records), and his collaboration with Library Tapes, I'm sure we'll be seeing his name pop up here and there for years to come]. On A Summer Beneath the Trees, the subtle melodies are woven in between Wenngren's soft piano and Broderick's singing violin, and upon numerous listens begin to implant themselves among the nostalgic memories. The music has a slight contemplative breeze to it - definitely not too happy, yet not too sad - mostly neutral in just being, as is the rest of our perceived reality. These sounds accompany the silhouettes moving in the office windows across the street, the rising white clouds from an industrial factory across the lake, and the slowly falling autumn leaves. Listening to the music gracefully moving my meager existence I am reminded once again that there is no such thing as bad weather. The weather just... is... A Summer Beneath the Trees is a great addition to Make Mine Music catalog, with already an excellent roster of artists like Yellow6, Epic45, July Skies, and Portal. Meanwhile, the latest from Wenngren was his 2008 release on his very own label, Auetic, under Forestflies alias, titled Structure/Chaos - so be sure to grab that as well. Another interesting release from Wenngren is his 2007 Litotes album on Symbolic Interaction, under yet another collaboration alias with Erica, Xeltrei. A Summer Beneath the Trees gets better and better with every single listen. Highly recommended if you like the above mentioned artists plus Goldmund, Deaf Center, Swod and Balmorhea. | |

Two and a Half Questions with Library Tapes

There is a melancholic tone in your music. Do you think there is a specific reason why you identify with sadness?
i think it's easier to make music when feeling a bit sad or melancholic and to make good music when expressing those feelings. i think there's been some happier songs on the two latest albums and on the fragment ep though. i wouldn't say i identify with sadness. i just try to express whatever i feel at the moment of making music, and when i'm feeling really happy i usually do other things then making music i guess.

What instruments do you play, and which one is your favorite?
i only play the piano. i do love the sounds of strings as well and i wish i could play that.

What are some of your memorable moments from working with Peter Broderick on the album?
the songs i've worked with peter on where results of sending piano bits for him to add instruments too so we didn't actually meet in person when making those songs. peter is so easy to work with though. you get the song back very quick and you feel so happy with what he's done to it. the album wouldn't sound as good with out him. the same thing can be said about danny norbury who played cello on the latest album and also was a part of the short album called sketches.

Do you think if emptiness had a sound, it would be better conveyed in multiple parts?
i'd like to think it has a sound. however emptiness could sound very different to you than it does to me. :) |

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Juxta Phona & Offthesky - !Escape Kit! (Somnia)

With its fifth limited release, Somnia is introducing Juxta Phona & Offthesky to the rest of the world. Starting off with some ambient and modern classical sounds, Somnia delivered a little surprise with their last release by Evan Marc and Steve Hillage. In Dreamtime Submersible the duo has married dub techno and hypnotic ambient sound into a critically acclaimed composition that speaks for itself - the 777 limited copies are completely sold out. With the signing of Juxta Phona and Offthesky onto the label, the dub journey continues, this time with a jazzy swing. On !Escape Kit! the artist experiments with dubbed out, hazy, and definitely groovy beats, lightly sprinkled with tiny glitches and IDM treatments, but nevertheless purely organic sound. Instruments like vibraphone, sax, and jazz guitar quickly find themselves in a surreal atmosphere surrounded by acoustic drums, synth bleeps, clocks and paper rips. As if the local jazz band from the 60s has been secretly miked during one of their nonchalant improvisational coffee house performances, with the cables running through the walls into upstairs laboratory, where Juxta Phona and Offthesky feed the signal into their vacuum tubes, magnetic tapes, and digital machines, to twist, to bend, and warp the time, the sound, and reality. Inconceivably somnific, somniferous, somnolent. Here I want to applaud the art of Ray Massini, who has been printing the recycled paper covers with soy ink for every Somnia release. The illustration depicts an urban city rising above the skies, overgrown with evergreens, all floating on a piece of earth uprooted from its core. I need to get out. I need to withdraw. I need to return to my essential center of being. Where is my escape kit? Pick up your copy of this limited release while it hasn't run out. Clearly, by this point, Somnia is a collectible label, where each release shines on its own. Highly recommended. You will absolutely love this if you enjoy Dictaphone, Swod, Julien Neto, and Porn Sword Tobacco. |

Two and a Half Questions with Juxta Phona and offthesky

Who is Juxta Phona & offthesky, and where did [they] come from?
Well Juxta Phona and offthesky are two separate entities with one common denominator - my brain.  But other than my vision/ideas there are a whole set of different rules/players for each band.  Of course offthesky is mostly my solo project working to sample random artists / musicians sparcely along the way.  Juxta Phona is more of a band with several other members involved - we get together and play music like a band; jam out allot; think of weird ideas for new songs - allot of beat driven, esoteric jazz type stuff.  It was interesting to try and meld the two styles together but I guess that was my vision incarnate in the end.

Do you source any of your material?
Not sure exactly what you mean but if you're referring to citing influential sources, Juxta Phona certainly comes from a background of idm, free jazz, experimental exploration.  Offthesky is of course a pretty open pallete mostly flirting in ambiece, less beat oriented concepts.  I guess the records speak for themselves though we try and do something different each and every time - there's no point in wallowing in our own filth, right? ;)

What do you think about music classification, and how would you categorize yours if you had to?
Music classification is a necessary evil in that it tends to cheapen the art in many ways yet we have to have it to be able to communicate with the masses in order get them interested enough to want to explore it and try it on for themselves.  However when I say experimental ambient the next average listener may or may not have the same mental sonic back-catalog to be able to get on the same page as I - so this is the rub of genre/language in general I guess. I think the use of generic terms such as ambient/jazz/techno/experimental coupled with metaphors to help another visualize the sonic direction of a record or project is about the only way to get others into the interest of spending their time exploring something unfamiliar - allot of people I run into are, by design, not always ready to take the time to get into something new and off base from what they are used to.  But ultimately we (Juxta Phona) try and make music that is geared towards the more adventurous listener - offthesky I feel is a little more universal and easy to swallow on the average whole.  That combo helped our Somnia release to be pretty palatable.

Any special stories behind the album?
Well in the process of recording many of the sounds, we would always want to try and find a new strange place to set up our field recorders, instruments, etc.  One night we broke into a large ballet studio because the reverb/piano in that space sounded brilliant!  It was true in the moment phonograffiti.  Another time we recorded in a large freight elevator; also a woman's dressing room one evening.  Visual surrounding is a huge aspect of creativity so we would make an effort to immerse ourselves in weird new environments to see what kinds of alternative ideas might come out of that.

Who are some of your inspirations?
I can't speak for the rest of Juxta Phona but this is a constant flux for myself.  It changes from one month to the next.  Right now I'm inspired by sonic artists such as Morgan Packard, Pierre Bastien, & Rewind Wonderland.  They have lovely concepts behind their work and the subtle rhythms or ebb/flow of their sound really gets my juices going.  Visually, the painter Zidzislaw Beksinski has been quite visually inspiring and as always the writer Edgar Allen Poe is amazing! |

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Remote Viewer - I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better (Mobeer)

Getting back to melodic electronica, I turn my attention to Andrew Johnson and Craig Tattersall, who go by the name of The Remote Viewer. Their previous releases include two albums on 555 Recordings and three LPs on one of my favorite labels, City Centre Offices. This time, the duo releases their latest album, I Can't Believe It's Not Better, on their very own label, Moteer, that has previously graced our eardrums with Clickits, The Boats, and Part Timer. Well... It's actually released on a sublabel of Moteer, called Mobeer, which [with a pun on a name] they claim to be Moteer's micro brewery. This has been an anticipated release, with the last output from The Remote Viewer being over three years ago. The sound of the album quickly brings back the memories. The clicky ambiance and looping pads are complimented by soft breathy vocals by Nicola Hodgkinson and Andrew Johnson himself. The atmosphere of subliminal sounds and fragile percussion is at one point cut through with folksy banjo strumming. Fragments of piano, broken toys, field recordings and other found sounds recreate an experience of unwrapping dusty memories from within an old suitcase. And here's a collector's dream come true: the copies are limited to only 375 worldwide and happen to be out of stock already on boomkat. The lucky ones received two 3" mini CDrs in a hand made brown envelope and a printed beer mat with a peculiar message : "i went and picked up my complimentary corporate wear today. it came in a big cardboard suitcase. when i got home i unpacked six identical shirts, two suit jackets and two ties. no trousers though. the woman i rang said that trousers were out of stock (as popular now as ever). this could provide everyone with a big problem on my first day. i did however get two belts. one to wear and the other presumably, to hang myself with." That perhaps shines some light on the state of mind behind the ten untitled tracks. Usually I'd compare other artists to The Remote Viewer. But for those just waking up to their sound, I place them in a cloud among Jacaszek, Jasper TX, Peter Broderick, Porn Sword Tobacco, and Machinefabriek. | |