Posts Tagged ‘Atmospheric’

Lamour Records / Purlieu Recordings

Christopher Nosnibor

Spending most evenings immersing myself in an array of weird and wonderful and sometimes not so wonderful noise, this album came as a real surprise. The accompanying text does little to prepare the listener for such a gentle and exquisite collection of cinematic neoclassical compositions.

And yet the liner notes are precisely why Transformation is surprising, because all is not as it seems, explaining that ‘The album Transformation challenges the boundaries of human and machine, the physical and the artificial, the feasible and the impossible. The result is a thoughtful and true emotional storm where the piano forms the basis for an opposite pole between sound and playing technique. When the sound is real, it is played with inhuman technology. When played by hand, the sound moves outside the spectrum of the physical piano. What role does "lying" play for the listener?’ And what exactly are we listening to here?

It’s impossible to distinguish organs and organic sounds from synthesised or sampled approximations, and while the human / inhuman / orchestral /electronic sounds are impossible to distinguish – is that piano, performed by a musician with a real passion and a deep sense of drama, creating rippling waves of notes, or is it all so much programming? Listening to ‘Skeppsrå’, it sounds real. It feels real. I want it to be real. Can I therefore simply not believe that it’s real and accept it?

It’s not quite as straightforward as that. Once you’re aware of something, it’s impossible to erase that awareness. You want to feel as though you’re tapping into something real, otherwise it’s just muzak, film music made to fill a space and manipulate an emotional response to what may otherwise be a blandly-shot scene.

‘Tradition’ sounds like the product of synthesised sounds, while the brooding sonorous atmospherics of ‘Mekanik’ are simply other-worldly, while ‘Skogsrå’ is another magnificently supple slice of post-rock flavoured ambience that swirls and soars towards the stratosphere.

There’s no questioning that the elegiac solo piano piece, ‘Artikulation’ a beautifully poised piece, understated yet rich and immersive, and likewise ‘Klinga’ which follows. But are those ‘wrong’ notes simply artifice? Are they programmed in to create ‘imperfections’ in order to create a sense of humanity and therefore a greater ‘trust’ in the machine? Or is this an example of an openness about human error? I’m not convinced: why would any musician play to highlight their flaws? But this is the challenge and the dilemma: what and who do you trust?

Trust nothing and trust no-one: but do trust me when I say that Transformation is a fascinating and most listenable work.

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Anna von Hausswolff presents an immersive new video for "Dolore di Orsini." The track appears on the latest album All Thoughts Fly, out now on Southern Lord. 

The breathtaking new video for "Dolore di Orsini" was directed by Ludvig Holtenäs and Gustaf Holtenäs, with animation effects by Mathias Söderberg.

Anna von Hausswolff writes, "’Dolore di Orsini’ is a song about profound sadness and finding freedom in grief. It’s inspired by the idea that Pier Orsini, a wealthy patron of arts, created the garden Sacro Bosco as a way to cope with grief and loss after losing his wife, Giulia Farnese. I look at the park as a symbol for love where love is an incitement for chaos and harmony. The video depicts Mr. Orsini burying his wife, the passing of time in nature, and sculptures taking shape and being set up by the help of a spirit. A movement forwards whilst looking backwards."

Watch the video here:

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Photo credit: Gianluca Grasselli

Panurus Productions – 4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Although August is the peak of the British summer, its end often seems to mark a sharp shift into Autumn; less a transition than a rapid cut. It’s a trick of the mind and a distortion of memory, of course, but summers always seemed longer and hotter in childhood; the realisation that what once felt like an infinite expanse of time which was free to fill or squander at will is, in fact, but a heartbeat in a life is a source of deep anguish. There is never enough time. No-one ever lay on their death-bed lamenting that they wished they’d spent more time watching repeats of Bargain Hunt or Homes Under the Hammer or whatever, no-one complains that they read to many books or spent too much time living their life, do they? The torment of a constant awareness of the passage of time is self-sabotaging, as the paralysis of panic grips hard. And pitched as ‘a screaming elegy for lost moments and isolation’, this is precisely what Centuries of August, which takes its title from a line from a poem by the solitary and reclusive Emily Dickinson, articulates.

If everything seems to be dominated by themes of isolation and derangement in 2020, then perhaps that’s because the magnitude of the events – or non-events – we’re living though exit on a scale that is truly all-consuming. Even the most introverted and reclusive are finding the isolation difficult to deal with: there’s a world of difference from choosing not to go out and see people, and not having the choice, especially as for many, music events provide a safe space where it’s possible to feel included and among people without the need for the kind of forced interaction that’s part and parcel of the workplace, and where it’s possible to experience a sense of community and collectivism without conforming to the less comfortable social conventions.

2020 has revealed new shades of darkness, and Centuries of August expresses anxiety, panic, rage, fear, isolation, in every one of those shades – as long as it’s black.

It’s a low, ominous synth drone that brings fear chords like creeping mist in a graveyard that marks the stealthy arrival of ‘Ripe for Solitude, Exhausted by Life’ – before all hues of murky black metal hell break loose. It’s a thunderous tempest of the darkest, densest noise, pounding hard and fast, before eventually dissipating once more into to quiet clouds of synth.

‘The Breezes Bought by Dejected Lutes’ is by no means the Elizabethan romantic piece the title suggests, but a savage blast of bleak and brutal mid-range sludge. There are drums, guitars, and vocals in the mix somewhere, but everything is a grimy blur and it’s impossible to identify anything distinctly.

Quavering dark ambience cast shadowy shades of gloom over the opening moments of ‘This Lamentable Autumn’; a picked lead guitar line adds a rich, brooding atmosphere, and then there’s everything else, coughed up from the very bowels of hell, a swirling sonic fog that goes beyond pea soup to the consistency of treacle, and wading through the barren soundscape for sic and a half minutes almost precisely recreates the experience of the last eight months in sound, before eight-minute closer ‘Under the Lowering Sky’ bulldozes in with cranium-crushing density.

That Centuries of August takes the lo-fi production values of the genre to its more extreme limits is integral to its appeal: the fact it’s so murky as to border on the frustrating is a source of power here, accentuating the oppressive density of the compositions to a level of intensity that hurts. But it’s the kind of pain that’s the perfect mirror, reflecting the conflicting nature of time, amplified by the anguish of living in the now.

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Wardruna today share the title track, and pinnacle moment of their upcoming album, Kvitravn (meaning White Raven). A music video produced by Ragnarok Films reveals a powerful narrative centred around this sacred, elusive creature, and namesake of the album.

Dramatic scenery unfolds from a bird’s eye perspective, and enchanting images of this rare animal are captured, as we follow Wardruna founder Einar Selvik and vocalist Lindy Fay-Hella through the wilderness. As the video unfolds, a question arises, is this sighting only good fortune, or is it destiny?

About the song "Kvitravn", Wardruna founder Einar Selvik states, “I am very excited to finally share this song with you. “Kvitravn” is a song that explores traditions of animal-guides and the symbolism and legends of sacred white animals found in Nordic- and other cultures all over the world. These highly regarded ghostly creatures, whether a raven, snake, bear, moose, reindeer, elephant or lion – are in animist traditions seen as prophetic, divine messengers, and guardians representing renewal, purity and a bridge between worlds.”

Einar Selvik continues, “Being fully aware of how rare it is to come across white ravens, we knew from the start that this would be an ambitious and challenging task to pull off. However, fate seemed to be on our side in this and the “impossible” piece of the puzzle fell into place as if gifted from the divine.“

Watch the spectacular video here:

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Emma Ruth Rundle (appearing courtesy of Sargent House) and Thou’s groundbreaking collaborative album, May Our Chambers Be Full sees its release October 30th via Sacred Bones. While their solo material seems on its face to be quite disparate, both prolific groups have spent their lauded careers lurking at the outer boundaries of heavy scenes, each having more in common with DIY punk and its spiritual successor, grunge.

The debut straddles a similar, very fine line both musically and thematically. While Emma’s standard fare is a blend of post-rock-infused folk music, and Thou is typically known for its downtuned, doomy sludge, the conjoining of the two artists has created a record more in the vein of the early ’90s Seattle sound and later ’90s episodes of Alternative Nation, while still retaining much of the artists’ core identities.

The visual art accompanying this work was created in collaboration with preeminent New Orleans photographer Craig Mulcahy. The faceless, genderless models are meant to emphasize this pervasive state of ambiguity and emotional vacillation, the images falling somewhere between modern high fashion and classical Renaissance.

Check the single here:

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Album Artwork | Photo By Craig Mulcahy

Santa Rosa-based alternative pop artist Darwin presents his new single ‘Unkind Lover’, which features David J (Love and Rockets, Bauhaus) on harmonica, Dustin Heald on guitar noise and ambience, and producer/collaborator Julian Shah-Tayler (a.k.a. The Singularity). 

Darwin (full name Darwin Meiners) makes alternative pop with a dark, electronic feel. While rooted in the 80s, his music straddles several genres simultaneously, assimilating new ideas, processes and instrumentation into his work.

A beautifully eerie tune, this was inspired by the writing of Dani Burlison (particularly ‘Shark Week’, which is included in her book of short stories ‘Some Places Worth Leaving’).  
‘I was asked to make the music for a spoken word video written by my friend, Dani Burlison.  She had recently released a book of short stories called ‘Some Places Worth Leaving’.  I love adding music to film and was especially moved given Dani’s talent.  The short story is called ‘Shark Week’ and features a character known only as the Unkind Lover.  When I saw the final video, it struck me that it would be exciting to develop the music into a song," says Darwin. 

After getting Dani’s permission, the first person I contacted was Julian Shah-Tayler and told him the plan.  It was an inspiring song to work on sonically, but also writing in character – which I’ve grown to love.  My friend Dustin Heald is a master at getting his guitar to make wonderful noise.  He was enlisted to do just that.  The final piece was the addition of David J (Bauhaus, Love & Rockets) on harmonica.  Having been in a band with him for many years (David J & The Gentleman Thieves), I had gotten used to the sound of that instrument and I knew he would be perfect to put that final touch on it."
This new offering follows Darwin’s latest single ‘Dance Alone’, a synthtastic explosion of energy attesting to the strength of human spirit with a fun self-isolation-inspired video directed by Linda Strawberry, featuring dance clips sent in by people sheltering in place. 

Watch the video here:

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Darwin - Unkind Lover (cover artwork)

17th August 2020 – Submarine Broadcasting Co

Christopher Nosnibor

According to the blurbage (I can’t claim to spend all that much time on research when my primary objective is to report a critical and sometimes emotional response to a release, and band and PR invest a lot of time in their explications, so why not?) ‘Hozro’, is a native American Dineh word that means living being conscious about the beauty, the magic and the mystery of the universe to which we belong.

I’ve been struggling to find much hozro myself in recent months, confined to a diminished space, rarely seeing or speaking to anyone outside my immediate household and inundated with reports of the shitshow that is western governments, so ,maybe I need this album right now.

Iyari describes it as post-rock, but threatens elements of folk and traditional music, avant garde and electronica, as performed by him and a while slew of guest musician, who all contribute

‘Eloher’, the first composition, is but an introduction, a path that leads the listener toward the body of sound that lies ahead, and it’s a wide-ranging and eclectic set, of which the title rack is representative. There’s a certain restraint in the echo-soaked lead guitar line that rings out over a low-key but insistent sting-damped strum.

Is it just me that instantly connects reverb and atmosphere? Is it the musical equivalent of an autosuggestive word association? Maybe, but Hozro brings all the atmosphere with its sparse arrangements.

There’s a magnificently moving vocal on ‘The Great Spirit’, and while it soars and quavers most movingly, there are undercurrents that intimate ancient folk traditions, and one suspects its this that taps into a deeper level of the psyche than the surface of the singing or the tune itself. ‘Islay’ may or may not be a musical homage to the Scottish island which is home to distillers of the finest single malts going, because Hozro is a pancultural melting-pot, and moreover, one which actually infuses the elements effortlessly. ‘Land of the Silver Shadows’ stands out, not by virtue of its difference, but the fact it encapsulates every magnificently understated aspect of the album within a softly-ripping six minutes.

Iyari clearly grasps the idea that less is more, and in bringing the volume and the detail and the level of demand on the listener down, Hozro brings more – much more, making it one to explore.

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Sige 071 – 31st July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Nordra is the vehicle by which Monika Khot, of Zen Mother, and a touring member of Daughters delivers ‘apocalyptic dirges combining modern classical explorations of electronic ambience with hardware-fueled industrial barrages’.

The press release explains the transition and difference between Pylon III and its predecessor, Pylon II: ‘Nordra’s second outing, the commissioned score for PYLON II, was a hard-edged martial exercise—fitting for the dystopian nature of the series’ second installment. But for PYLON III, Pester was looking for the light at the end of the tunnel and requested that Khot instill her work with hope and calm in order to serve the utopian aims of the performance’.

Hope and calm aren’t the initial senses I draw from listening to the ten compositions that comprise Pylon III. In fact, I find myself adrift, and also buffeted from one emotional moodspace to another. Lugubrious, haunting, and often eerie, unsettling, Pylon III is no relaxation tape by which to practise meditational breathing.

Stuttering beats, murky and muffled and rapid like machinegun fire bather hard against dense, slow-turning, ethereal drones, juxtaposing tension and tranquillity. The seven-minute ‘Monologue on the Beach’ is very much representative of the album as whole: piano notes ring out, sparse and lonely against eddying, undulating notes, particularly as it’s followed immediately by the booming drones of ‘Un-Hopeful’, the sonorous parp of a cruise liner’s horn sounding into a thick fog.

‘Reconciliation’ marches hard, a short, stabbing loop thumping insistently while dark serrated drones loom unexpectedly and seemingly at random, like sharks emerging from the depths. ‘Transcendence 1’ hints at something approximating conventional dance tropes, with its regular, pulsating beat that booms into a ocean of reverb as the bass builds. ‘Transcendence 2’ could well be off another album altogether as Nordra goes ‘rock’ – a chugging guitar plugs away at a couple of chords while drum twitches away nervously, and strong seep in with additional tension. It has hints of Swans about it in its density and its mesmeric insistence, and it makes for a compelling and hypnotic conclusion to an intriguing album.

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For nearly twenty years, Gazpacho have reigned as the kings of atmospheric and affective art rock. That’s certainly no small feat, as the subgenre is full of wonderfully moody, ornate, and emotional artists; yet, none of them manage to achieve the same level of exquisite baroque resonance and hypnotically introspective weight as the Norwegian sextet. As a result, they never fail to provide awe-inspiring examinations of the human condition, and their latest observation, Fireworker, is no exception. It is undoubtedly among their greatest achievements, as well as one of the most profound pieces of music you’ll hear in 2020.

Listen to ‘Fireworker’ here:

 

Conceptually, the album follows the band’s tradition of blending grand philosophical quandaries, stimulating literary leanings, and haunting personal turmoil. In a way, it acts as the culmination of the themes and techniques that’ve decorated earlier collections, combining the fatalistic isolation of Night and Missa Atropos; the ill-fated narrative drama of Tick Tock and Soyuz; and the hefty theological/scientific contemplations of Demon and Molok. Beyond that, its central premise (that humanity has always been controlled by an infallible and omniscient creature determined to propagate at any cost) means that Fireworker comes across like the overarching umbrella under which all of its predecessors occur.

Keyboardist Thomas Andersen elucidates: “There’s an instinctual part of you that lives inside your mind, separate from your consciousness. I call it the ‘Fireworker’ or the ‘Lizard’ or the ‘Space Cowboy.’ It’s an eternal and unbroken lifeforce that’s survived every generation, with a new version in each of us. It’s evolved alongside our consciousness, and it can override us and control all of our actions.” In order to get us to do what it wants, he clarifies, the “Fireworker” will silence the parts of our mind that feel disgust or remorse so that we’re unable to stop it. The conscious part of our mind, Andersen notes, will actually “rationalize and legitimize” those thoughts and actions so that we never discover the beast behind-the-scenes. No matter how we feel about ourselves in terms of identity, accomplishments, and value, we’re all just vessels—or “Sapiens”—that the creature uses until it no longer needs us. “If you play along,” Andersen explains, “It’ll reward you like a puppy and let you feel fantastic; if you don’t, it’ll punish you severely.”

Love Love Records

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s no secret I’m quite a fan of Matt Cargill and Co’s oddball, off-kilter approach to freeform experimental weird noisy shit that stubbornly defies genre categorisation – largely on account of the fact that it is weird noisy shit that stubbornly defies genre categorisation (although the blurbage that accompanies Walk it Dry, the follow-up to 2019’s Gentle Persuaders describes them as ‘London’s neo-jazz wrecking crew’.

Sly have trod themselves a unique path, and find themselves in the curious position of being one of the most obtuse bands beloved by almost everyone I know in underground musical circles. I’d like to think it’s a combination of their uniqueness and the fact that they are unequivocally

On this outing, they promise ‘the familiar sound palette of skronked electronics, bulging noise blasts, wailing sax & Kalashnikov drums that was found on ‘Gentle Persuaders’’ but at the same time say that this ‘is a very different beast. The tracks here are shorter and punchier as the band digs deeper than ever to find increasingly potent sonic pockets.’

Mad horns and a crushing, slow-paced jazz beat explode from the speakers the second the ‘play’ button his hit, and with ‘A Black Uniformed Strutting Animal’ they plunge into a collision of heavy rhythms and divergent notes that counteract one another in a battle between order and chaos, where there is no clear winner.

‘Dead Cat Chaos Magician’ is frivolous, glooping electronics, with a fast-paced jitter of tension and some ragged blasts of drums that are nothing to do with rhythm and everything to do with dramatic punctuation, sudden explosions that disrupt any semblance of an emerging flow.

The compositions on Walk it Dry are difficult, dissonant, and while they are indeed more succinct than the bult of the pieces on previous outings, they condense those dank, disrupted soundscapes into dense chunks of ‘Bulgarian Steel’ brings the kind of swampy mess of nose that’s quintessentially Sly, dominated as it is by booming beats and murky mid-range, before ‘Shrieking Grief’ steps the torturous din up a notch, with more thunderous rhythms bashing frantically into a void of grinding greyness while horns flash and flail

The lack of pun-based titles is compensated to an extent by ‘Sunken Disorderly’, while ‘My Torso is a Shotgun’ is a cranium-crushing morass of tension, a bludgeoning battery of hammering and noise.

This all stacks up to an album that’s classic Sly: the same dark industrial clanking, doomy undercurrent and warped jazz overtones, but in much shorter segments. It’s still dark, dingy, difficult, jazzy, otherly, and there’s no other band who quit straddle so many boundaries. Walk it Dry may mark a certain evolution, but more than anything, it’s the work of a band who simply don’t do compromise. And that’s why we love them.

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