Posts Tagged ‘Neoclassical’

Bearsuit Records – 23rd September 2017

James Wells

Multi-instrumentalist Hayato Takeuchi hails from Japan. Beyond that, I know nothing in terms of biography. No that it matters. It’s all about the music, and the music on this EP is… different. Different from what? Pretty much everything. Yes, it’s a typical Bearsuit Records release.

The five tracks on offer here are dizzying, bewildering, multitonal works which play with time signatures and textures at the same time. There are all shades of oddness here, from the whistling loop over wonky synths and a sparse beat on the piano-led ‘Usan Kosao No Usoushiki’, and the playful theatrical noodles of ‘Mr Henderson No Ai To Replica’ is a fairground waltz that skips lightly through a space that revels in experimentalism. Weird and woozy, dramatic and quirky are Takeuchi’s key themes here. The final track, ‘Anata To Watashi No Kyoukaisen’ sides gracefully into crystalline, cloudlike ambience which tapers and turns subtly in a space of its own creation.

There’s no way of putting a tag on this that’s in any way informative, and to pick it apart is to destroy its intrigue. Weird and special, and special in its weirdness.

AAA

Hayato Takeuchi

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24th August 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Although he’s released two solo albums under the guise of Wiekie, Adam Weikert is perhaps best known as the drummer of Her Name is Calla. This first release under his own name marks something of a departure, and given its inspiration and evolution, it’s perhaps not unreasonable to say that Weikert’s decision to release an album as ‘himself’ represents a stripping away of the layers of artistry to reveal a work which is more directly personal.

The blurbage contextualises the release as follows: ‘Born years ago as response to cope with a traumatic event of his youth, and revived years later after ill health forced Adam to temporarily stop singing – USIDOH showcases the scattered fragments of poems alongside happenstantial Neoclassically themed works, creating a unique and personal experience.’

Attempts to unravel the meaning of the album’s title, which I take to be more of an initialism than an acronym, during the writing of this review bore little fruit of use. The poems – which are contained in an 80-pagebook which accompany the physical release – are considerably more instructive as to the true meaning of the project. That isn’t to say they’re in alignment with the album’s eleven (instrumental) tracks, because the poems – plural – essentially blur into a single, drifting longform work which has its own shape and tempo, as well as illustrations which augment rather than impinge on the experience. That is to say, the two elements of the project are complimentary rather than directly parallel. Nevertheless, the poems are absolutely integral to the overall experience, rendering USIDOH more of a multimedia work than simply a musical piece.

The words are weighty and the presentation is not only highly visual but intrinsic to the execution. Just as the music on USIDOH draws on aspects of the postmodern and the avant-garde within its broadly neoclassical framework – Wiekert conjures a vast array of atmospheres and emotions through the use of abstraction and semi-ambient field recordings and found snippets in conjunction with mewling saw, sweeping strings, brooding piano and nagging banjo – so the poems pull on high modernism, postmodernism and concrete poetry to further accentuate the lines, disparate and abstract yet unified by virtue of emanating from the same mind, over a period spanning the six years from 2005 to 2011.

‘Die Puppe’ weaves in and out of experimental atmospherics, before ‘Vardøhus Festning’ forges an imposing, imperious mood. ‘Sloth’ is a simply beautiful piano composition, which rolls and drifts mellifluously. There’s almost a playfulness about ‘A Constant Repose’, which first aired via YouTube aired a couple of months ago, the nimble piano work affecting a lightness of mood. But beneath it lies a subtle undercurrent of nostalgic melancholy. And if anything, it’s this emotional layering and the depth of nuance and detail which makes USIDOH such an appealing and compelling work, musically.

As a complete package, there’s a lot to unravel. USIDOH is very much art: Wiekert has poured everything into this, and it shows. There are times when it’s not easy to penetrate, but that in itself is reason to set aside some time to explore a work that multifaceted, deep and resonant, and achieves this without slipping into pretentiousness. There’s no question that USIDOH is ambitious, but Wiekert succeeds in delivering something which conveys the vision.

USIDOH

Hubro – HUBROCD2582 – 25th November 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Gathering pieces composed over the span of some thirteen years, Sound of Horse provides an insight into the compositional methodology of Laurence Crane, with each of the pieces performed by the shifting lineups of the Norwegian Asamimasa ensemble.

It begins with ‘John White in Berlin’ (2003), a long, low, ominous rumbling drone-based composition for electric guitar, cello, percussion and piano. The piano is sparse and way off in the distance. The strains of guitar feedback scrape at the senses in contrast to the low, almost subsonic rippling bass hum: it builds tension, but eventually this plateaus. There’s a daring fragility to the composition, but there’s little by way of movement or progression and little to really get a grip on. ‘Riis’ (1996), for clarinet, cello and electric organ manifests first as a cloud of ambience, from which elongated organ notes pipe a slow, majestic sound, a sort of semi-ambient church muzak. It’s an imposing work, as much by virtue of the instrumentation as the composition, although Crane does cast an immersive atmosphere.

The three ‘Events’ pieces for voice, three clarinets and a vibraphone move further into the realms of the spiritual, the wordless vocals are hushed, reverent, brushed with a celestial hue radiating upwards as they entwine with the sparse, soft-edged instrumentation. It’s the sound of a dark corner, illuminated by flickering candlelight. These pieces may be short, but they’re quietly powerful, moving.

The title track consists of seven parts spanning a full twenty minutes. It sounds nothing like any horse. With clarinet, bass clarinet, acoustic and electric guitar, as well as percussion and cello, the pieces offer a greater range of texture and tone than the other pieces, and at times offer more conventional melodic passages. Chords are strummed in slow repetition while the wind instruments make minor chord progressions underscoring an atmosphere of brooding melancholy and, in places, trepidatious uncertainty. Choppy electric guitars and thumping drums on the fourth section mark the biggest divergence from the overall form of not just the suite, but the album as a whole, and hint almost toward an assimilation of the elements of rock music, albeit in its most deconstructed and experimental form.

Precisely how to summarise what this album ‘does’ is immensely challenging, and equally, it’s not particularly clear what its purpose is to convey. It isn’t that the compositions lack finesse, but they do, all too often, lack focus. While Sound of Horse is a collection, there seems to be little connection, stylistically, between the pieces, giving it something of a scrapbook feel. But what to make of it? I dunno. Maybe it needs time. Maybe it need different ears. Maybe I need a different headspace. But at the time of writing, I’ve got little more than a shrug.

Laurnce Crane - Sound of Horse

Metropolis Records – 12th August 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a full thirty years since Sam Rosenthal began operating as Black Tape for a Blue Girl. Over that time, there have been ten albums showcasing ethereal, gothic (in the theatrical, brooding sense, rather than goth-rock sense) and dark ambient sounds which established them as pioneers of American darkwave. Perhaps it’s because of their vanguard position that they’ve maintained a relatively modest cult status in the shade of various associated acts and artists they’ve influenced.

These Fleeting Moments, their first album in seven years and released to coincide with their thirtieth anniversary, sees the return of original vocalist Oscar Herrera, after a seventeen-year hiatus from music. It’s perhaps fitting, then, that the album represents something of a return to the roots of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, a name which conjures uncomfortable images while simultaneously evoking doomed romance and the extremities of twisted devotion.

Opening the album with a seventeen-minute behemoth is a pretty bold move. ‘The Vastness of Life’ encapsulates its own essence within its title: a track that builds from a brooding neofolk strum and drifts through a succession of transitions through weeping string and passages and segments of wispy, ethereal ambience, it’s an epic journey which is practically an album in its own right. The twin vocalists emote achingly and pour every last drop of soul into these rarefied moments. Where could any album go from there? With the exception of ‘Meditation on the Skeleton’, with its ten-minute running time, the remaining twelve tracks are relatively concise, with ‘Limitless’ a quintessential example of the 90s goth darkwave sound as exemplified by the likes of Every New Dead Ghost and Suspiria: fractal Cure-esque guitars reverberate around cold synths by way of a backdrop to a melodramatic baritone vocal delivery. But neither track individually represents These Fleeting Moments as a whole. In fact, no one track does, and the album’s diversity is quite something, spanning shoegaze and folk and neoclassical, often simultaneously.

Much of the instrumentation is organic and natural-sounding, with piano and strings at the heart of many of the compositions. These are used to diverse effect, from the sparse, haunting moorlands of ‘Please Don’t Go’ to the insistent throb of ‘Six Thirteen’. But for all the range, all of the grace and elegance, a darkness hangs over every piece: ‘Bike Shop’ is no whimsical indie pop ditty, and elsewhere, ‘You’re Inside Me’ invites comparisons to both Scott Walker and Marc Almond, and ‘Zug Ko-In’ is a slow-turning hypnotic track which calls to mind both The Doors and more recent Swans and features a soaring guitar solo.

It’s an album which is more exploratory and expressive than linear: the track flow together to form a much greater whole, forging a work that’s immersive and meditative. Yes, it’s an album one listens to, and it’s not one to dip in and out of or select highlight tracks from: rather, it’s an album to make time stand still and to get lost in.

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