Posts Tagged ‘instrumental’

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

Human Worth – 6th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Evan Gildersleeve’s debut solo single, ‘Mortal’ is an absolute masterclass in suspenseful, atmospheric instrumental music. While incorporating ambient elements, the mellifluous piano work is clearly structured, albeit subtly as it drifts, the notes reverberating in the rarefied air. It’s deeply evocative, resonating on a level that’s at the innermost point and therefore beyond specific articulation.

That ‘Mortal’ emerged from a very personal space, with Evan’s creative process in its formation being a journey through challenges with mental health and the impact of lockdown renders it all the more poignant. While turbulence and trauma are completely removed from this soundtrack, it’s perhaps telling in itself, serving as it does as a refuge from all of that.

It may be a mere six-and-a-half minutes long, but ‘Mortal’ captures something special and moreover, has the capacity to slow time, drawing the listener into a slow suspension, with the most soothing effect.

This is music that requires you to put down the phone, step away from the keyboard, disconnect social media, the TV, all streaming news, dim the lights and breathe slowly. The video features some remarkable visuals likely to assist in soothing a crowded mind – and with proceeds going to MIND, it’s pretty much one of the essentials of 2020.

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Anna von Hausswolff shares the title track from her forthcoming new album, All Thoughts Fly, to be released via Southern Lord on 25th September. Here in solo instrumental mode, the entire record consists of just one instrument, the pipe organ, and represents absolute liberation of the imagination. Anna offers further insight into the title track below. 

"I wanted to play with dissonance and polyrhythms to create a harmonic landscape that is constantly changing and expanding into something else. Everything you hear in this track, every little overtone and all ambience is entirely made through the organ. We used EQ but that’s it.  The overall idea was to create an illusion of flying thoughts, intertwining and entangling into each other. Different words and worlds happening at the same time, affecting each other and changing each other’s directions and courses."

Listen to ‘All Thoughts Fly’ here:

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Jam Records/343Records

Christopher Nosnibor

Misophonia is the third solo outing for Third Of Never guitarist/founder Jon Dawson, and it’s certainly quite a departure from his main musical vehicle. Instead of mining a seem of driving rock with clear ‘classic’ roots in the vintage greats, Misophonia is an exercise in dreamy floaty, droney electronica, punctuated with some magnificently mellow, understated guitar work.

Everything is drenched in infinite reverb, and has an aura of ethereal otherness and distance. On ‘Lighter Fluid’, a child’s voice cries out amidst crunches and crackles of static, while ‘Coffee From a Stranger’ is a sliver of whimsical country slide that chimes and tinkles and fades in and out of focus. There are dark undertones and dank rumblings to be found on ‘David Lynch Owes Me Money’ as well as distant instrumentation and a rising tension.

Birdsong, glitches and extranea feature heavily across the album’s fifteen short segments which segue into one another to form a near-continuous abstract drift, and the story behind the album’s development during the recording of Third of Never’s last album, Austerity, as told by Dawson himself, is interesting and useful in proving some context:

“I started the Misophonia project during the sessions for the Third Of Never album Austerity, which turned out to be a real bruiser,” Dawson said. “As a way to cleanse the palette between sessions, I started scoring the events of the day using drones, soundscapes, and piano. Listening back to it now, it seems as if the proceedings had taken a tense tone.”

It resonates: while taking isolated walks, like many, I have noticed birdsong more. Perhaps not because there are more birds or more songs, but because the roar of traffic and planes and general noise is diminished. Then, against the backdrop of such quiet, distant engines and other sounds stand out more. I’ve heard fewer sirens, but suspect that’s because ambulances and other emergency vehicles have no traffic to clear, not because of a lack of emergencies. Context counts, and it makes sense to clear the mind with something completely unstructured and soft while bashing out hefty riffs by way of a dayjob.

‘Someone is Walking Toward the House’ is filmic, but also captivatingly haunting, as a picked guitar motif drifts across a low-end grumble, while the final piece, ‘The Age of Anxiety’ pins a rarefied atmosphere to a sad, lonely piano that echoes into emptiness. And it hits home: we are all there, surrounded by nothing, just sound in space and we cling to whatever we can. This is indeed not only the age of anxiety, but the specific point where life threatens to overwhelm us.

What Misophonia offers is the opportunity to step back, reflect, and create much-needed mental space.

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30th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Having begun May with a new release in the form of Beyond Life, an exploratory ambient work in the form of a single twenty-six minute track, Ashley Sagar ends the month with a follow-up, and counterpart of similar scope and scale.

If the title suggests something a bit new-age, a bit hippy, trippy cosmic, and a bit pretentious, the music is contains isn’t anything of the sort, although there is a certain haze of mysticism and perhaps a sniff of incense about the album’s slow-drifting atmospherics.

There’s a faint scratching pulsation, like a metal object scraping against scratched glass, that grabs my attention early on: the arrival of slow, sedate, rolling percussion– possibly conga or similar hand drums – provides a new focus for the attention, and changes the tone considerably. With a rhythmic structure providing a framework and solidity, the piece becomes less overtly ambient and abstract. Shifting further over time towards cyclical, non-percussive rhythms transports the listener into a softer pace, before an unexpectedly weighty segment around the eleven-minute mark where the beats crash in and dominate, however briefly.

Thereafter the looming shadows are longer and darker, with rumbling low notes and heavy drones underlying Ian Mitchell’s delicate picked guitar notes and the returning percussion, along with one of Sagar’s distinctively strolling basslines. It may be subtle and muted, but its presence builds depth beneath the numerous shimmering layers which ebb and flow.

The segments are short and the transitions relatively swift, which gives The Temple… a strong sense of movement, movements that’s effortless and natural, since the parts flow seamlessly into one another like a stream flowing through a varied landscape, cascading from a spring-line, down a hillside and through a woodland. This may not be the most fitting metaphor, but you get the idea, and it’s perhaps telling that my mind is drawn to the natural rather than the spiritual, and I’m drawn to the distant horizon as the final notes throb and ripple to the fade.

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Nahal Recordings – 10th April 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Because detail is important, let’s begin with the parenthesis. The label’s press release announces ‘We teamed up with the extraordinary French ondist Christine Ott to create an unprecedented album entirely made with Ondes Martenot, one of the very first monophonic and experimental synthesizers in history’, resulting in ‘a cosmic journey of layered waves of sound’.

Maurice Martenot’s invention may not have acquired the popular status of the theremin, but Christine Ott’s instrument of choice is nevertheless significant in the evolution of sound generation as one of the very first monophonic and experimental synthesizers in history back in 1920.

Chimères begins with a pause, at least metaphorically: ‘Comma’ is six minutes of instrumental hauntology, as the notes trail, taper and quaver into still air and silence. As the album’s title suggests, this is a curious hybrid work, and while perhaps less monstrous than all that, the Ondes Martenot conjures strange, otherworldly sounds that are, at times, quite unsettling as they yawn, quiver, and squelch into seas of reverb. At times resembling analogue synth sounds, and at others approximating strings and even woodwind, the

‘Todeslied’ is the sound of disembodied spirits flittering around in the physical world, a phantasmagorical freakshow of sonic ectoplasm which gradually bubbles its way through a succession of bursts and plumes via something semi-industrial into a tranquil sunlit meadow of sound. Meanwhile ‘Sirius’ brings some deep ambience, while the eight-minute ‘Eclipse’ brings swirl of darkness that’s more of a sucking black hole than a fleeting dimming of light, building to a whupping rotary sound and blizzard of bleeps in the final minute.

It’s a lot to take in, and closer ‘Burning’ is a magnificent if slightly disorientating combination of slow-glooping electronica and orchestral chamber music. It isn’t easy to assimilate, but it is wonderfully executed, and once you can overcome the unfamiliarity of the form, there are some magical moments to be discovered.

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3rd May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Ashley Sagar is a man with his finger in manifold musical pies, spanning the semi-ambient droning improv of Orlando Ferguson to the thumping Krautrock grooves of The Wharf Street Galaxy Band. It’s Sagar’s willingness to experiment, and to try anything once that’s a significant factor in his interest as a musician. What’s important for anyone engaging in experimentalism is the acceptance that degrees of success and failure may vary along the way, and it’s with no embarrassment that I recall sharing a stage with him and Namke Communications’ John Tuffen for a hastily-assembled improv set built around a sort of sequence and structure that was actually ok, but not what any of us had really anticipated.

Anyway, under lockdown and unable to play his distinctive wandering basslines live with any of the eighteen or so bands he performs with, Sagar has delivered his second solo album of the year, in the form of the soft ambient work that is Beyond Life, which comprises a single track with a twenty-six minute running time.

It begins with slowly rhythmic vibraphone tones that reverberate softly into a warm atmosphere. Immediately I begin to question this: is it a vibraphone? I’m not strong when it comes to mallet percussion instruments, or synthesised emulations thereof. Equally, I can’t trust that my perception of a ‘warm atmosphere’ isn’t coloured strongly by the unseasonably warm and sunny weather paired with the unusual quietness outside on such a balmy evening, where I’d ordinarily likely be at a gig and the street and back gardens would be chocka with people between pubs and stoking early bank holiday barbecues.

As my thoughts drift, so does the music, and although it doesn’t grab my full focus, is does very much permeate my reflections as I go inside myself, recalling a life before all of this, a life when life was actually life, when, however much going out and being among people may have been a cause of anxiety, it was an option, and live shows provided the opportunity to be among likeminded individuals coming together to escape into sonic domains.

And so here we are, all isolated together, supposedly, in a state beyond life. Sagar provides a subtly-structured soundscape to ease these contemplations along, quietly shifting from one tone and texture to another, from light and airy to low and sombre, piano notes ringing out into the emptiness.

The streets are empty. The pubs, hotels, gyms, shops are empty. The sky is empty. The world is empty. We are all empty. And Beyond Life is beautiful.

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10 to 1 records

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been three years since The Doomed Bird of Providence graced us with Burrowed into the Soft Sky, an album containing two richly atmospheric longform instrumental tracks. With the Rumbling Clouds of War Hover Over Us, which bears a characteristically cumbersome title, Mark Kluzek continues to pursue an instrumental direction, while moving away from Australian colonial history in favour of and exploration the escape of his grandfather Władysław Kluzek from Poland after the German invasion in WWII

The EP, containing four pieces, is demarked at four parts, indicative of a continuous but segmented sequence. Being instrumental, however, any narrative bent is very much implicit, and with a combined running time of approximately twenty minutes, Rumbling Clouds of War Hover Over Us returns to the more succinct style of previous releases.

The title makes sense in context, but carries a universality in reminding us that we are never more than a few short steps from war, and these delicately-poised compositions are heavy with sentiment, dense with instrumentation that articulates it while leaving room for interpretation.

Part 1, the title track, begins with a sombre piano and trudging drum, augmented with strings and woodwind to forge a dense, lugubrious atmosphere. There’s a slow, sashaying gallic-slash-silent movie feel to ‘You Never Became Used to Death’, and the rolling piano rolls into ‘Constant Moving Stream’ which builds the theatrics and drama with bold chords swelling over another insistent beat that marches on while a crescendo swells and then fades, its peak unrealised, the tension unresolved. The final piece, ‘But Something to Aim For’ keeps things taut, and is filmic and threatens a climax that never quite breaks, and that tension remains unresolved even with the soaring violin work and gradual layering that brings the album it its conclusion.

Being instrumental, there’s no overt narrative to be played back or unravelled here: Rumbling Clouds of War Hover Over Us relies on an element of input from the listener. True to form, The Doomed Bird of Providence conjure some stirring passages that resonate internally, subconsciously, and echo deep within.

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This is it Forever – 14th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Since whittling down to just Gavin Miller, worriedaboutsatan’s outut has positively exploded, with the latest offering, which Miller describes as ‘quite an experimental little thing’ sees him share a tape – a side each – with Capac.

‘Orion’ is indeed quite experimental, and marks something of a departure for Miller, transitioning through a sequence of passages that rupture forth unexpectedly. At its heart, the piece is appropriately spacey, with squelchy quirts of analogue phase illuminating the smooth, slow-moving expanse of soft drones. It’s dense and atmospheric, and distant rumbles of thunder register like planets colliding way off in other solar systems before heraldic horns and full galactic marching band parades it way through. Gunned down in a blitzkrieg of lasers and noise, leaving an expanse of desolation, a near-emptiness.

Capac’s ‘A Well-Turned Suite’ is altogether darker, an eerie discord creating an ominous atmosphere. The four-piece describe themselves as creators of ‘sonic explorations of the murkier spaces in and between “new music”, and there’s certainly an exploratory quality to this fourteen-minute aural ambulation. At first there is calm, sustained notes that hover and hum for an age, stretching time itself. Gradually, cracks and fissures begin to appear in the smooth surface, and wheezing organ notes begin to twist and disconnect, and over time, the tension rises as atonality takes over. Muffled beats stutter and thump anxiously, and the sloe fade leaves only the whisper of the breeze.

It’s an intriguing release, and the two pieces are unusual and more than contrasting enough to sustain the interest for the duration.

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