Modern Classical Selection


Below is a round up of some recent modern classical releases that have caught our eye and are doing the rounds on the Fluid playlist…


Craig Tattersall has made regular and notable appearances on these pages over the years, as a member of Hood, The Remote Viewer and The Boats, as well as under his more recent Humble Bee moniker and work with his own Moteer and Mobeer imprints. This second release on bijou imprint Lacies Records features carefully compiled gems from his extensive archive of unreleased material, assembling vintage recordings unearthed from dusty tapes and hard drives for what amounts to a 45 minute journey through wondrous, heartbreaking music. If you’ve followed Tattersall’s work over the years you’ll have an idea of what to expect here, but it’s just material of the highest possible calibre, all microscopic, percolating rhythms and fragile instruments dancing around eachother with an effortless beauty that never fails to reach deep inside your soul and leave you with that bittersweet aftertaste that’s just impossible to describe. Achingly beautiful music!


Aversions is an album born from the calamity of a hard drive crash, a technological failure that managed to destroy the entirety of Gareth Hardwick’s new album. Having suffered what for most electronic musicians would constitute a killer blow, the Nottingham-based artist set about an alternate course of action from a daunting complete restart. Instead Hardwick handed over his back catalogue (much of which has been culled from various limited editions, tapes and CD-Rs) to a host of fellow artists for reinterpretations, remixes and supplementations of the source materials (its also worth drawing your attention to a couple of short, very accomplished miniatures from Hardwick himself). The roster of contributors to this project is an impressive one, including Machinefabriek, Xela, Steinbruchel, Library Tapes and Strategy, each one offering their own distinct take on Hardwick’s music – the Library Tapes piece, ‘Last Heights’ instantly takes its place within David Wenngren’s established oeuvre, dissolving downbeat piano figures into a blurred soundscape of echo and sustain, while Xela draws on the tape-saturated grit and grime of his recent solo emissions, looping vocals and rich, airy synth tones over the gently uplifting six minutes of ‘High Tension’. Supplying one of the disc’s lengthiest and most fully developed cuts, Apalusa reinterprets ‘David’ with a grand piece of electronic orchestration. It’s a similar story for the Chris Herbert remix of ‘Dissolve’: the track is stretched over a grand duration, barely giving change from twelve minutes, knitting together a spacious swell of airborne chords. The final entry goes to Rutger Zuydervelt, and the Machinefabriek man addresses ‘Lost In The Memory’ with no small amount of aplomb. Combining crisp digital distortion, high frequency drones and satisfying elastic twangs, the various sonic elements are finely assembled and precisely what you’d want to hear from Zuydervelt.


Utterly classic album – finally available again. The Third album from Kentucky collective Rachel’s, this (unsurprisingly) goes for a nautical theme, and few artists have ever managed to represent the unsettling mystery of the sea quite so magically. Effortlessly combining post-classical structures with dense masses of drone and startlingly ghostly field recordings, the opening track is a classic example of this; ‘Rhine and Courtesan’ begins simply enough with the kind of jaunty blend of strings, guitar and percussion we would expect from the band, but suddenly and without warning the track drowns in a soup of creaks and groans before emerging triumphant some minutes later in a new and surprising form. This kind of risk-taking carries on throughout the disc and tracks are almost impossible to predict, chopping and changing like waves crashing against the rocks. This unpredictability adds to the deeply narrative nature of the album, and simply serves to enhance the theme. ‘The Sea and Bells’ might not be touted as a concept album, but for all intents and purposes it might as well be. It isn’t often when an instrumental record has so much power in conjuring up rich imagery like this, but the Rachel’s have had this since their debut ‘Handwriting’ and they certainly aren’t afraid to take their sound to it’s logical conclusion. This is without a doubt one of the finest records from a band who would serve as a huge influence to the Constellation family of acts (GYBE, Silver Mount Zion etc) as well as modern post-classical acts such as Clogs and The Books. Totally essential music – just buy it!’s


Liondialer is the enigmatic collaborative project from Danny Saul and Miasmah artist Greg Haines. This live album captures the duo’s various performances around Manchester during the summer and autumn of 2007, with titles like ‘Saki’, Green Room 1&2′, ‘Bay Horse’ and ‘Music Box’ all pointing towards the specific venues they assailed with their odd and hypnotic configuration of experimental sounds. The phrase ‘laptop pub-ambient’ is coined on the press sheet, but the glistening electronics, crinkled guitar tones and ghostly cello strokes far transcend the humble environments in which they were given life. Throughout these recordings you can hear the audience fidgeting around restlessly (the Bay Horse is an especially difficult venue for any quieter acts to play – there’s a pool table about four feet away from the ‘stage’…). In addition to these location recordings there’s one piece, ‘Rarefish’, recorded at Radio Centraal in Antwerp that finds the two artists without interference from the restless crowds of Manchester, offering a pensive, sedate duet between acoustic guitar and whispered cello. Very good indeed.


James Kirby’s work as The Caretaker has always dealt with the suggestion of haunted memory and the obscuring of temporal motion, and this latest album makes that more explicit than ever, with titles that reference amnesia, Alzheimer’s, past life regression and other such memory misfires and short circuits. Musically, this album might be compared to Philip Jeck’s manipulated vinyl tracts, featuring similarly oceanic swells of crackle and dust, with faded pianos or big band sounds wafting wraith-like across the mix. After conjuring the sinister atmospherics of The Shining with his debut album Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom, The Caretaker has been chasing this idea of sound leaving its indelible mark on a space and time, so consequently these creepy, semi-dissolved musical passages sound no more tangible than shadows, and the album for the most part comes across as some sort of séance held via wax cylinder. Arguably the most accomplished and rewarding Caretaker album to date, Persistent Repetition Of Phrases is an album you’ll want to snap up fast – there’s only 500 of these in circulation…


By now, the promise of a new Tim Hecker album has become something of an ‘event’ as far as electronic music goes. The Canadian composer has well and truly established himself as one of the foremost computer musicians around, having released post-clicks’n’cuts classics like Radio Amor and Harmony In Ultraviolet under his own name whilst busying himself with his Jetone side project and a recently founded collaborative venture with Aidan Baker (check out the excellent Fantasma Parastasie album from a few months back). An Imaginary Country is another marvellous playlist of swirling textures and elusive auditory otherness. The key to Hecker’s unique sound is his uncanny knack for pushing sound mixes to breaking point without ever quite launching into all out distortion. Instead there’s an uneasy equilibrium established on the divide between chaos and serenity – part noise album, part ambient exercise. Even in the most ferocious moments of An Imaginary Country (‘Where Shadows Make Shadows’ and ‘200 Years Ago would be prime candidates for that accolade) there’s always an underlying beauty and emotional pull guiding your ears through the typhoon of overtones and feedback signals. Pieces like ‘Borderlands’ offer a subdued clarity, permitting a certain amount of melodically-engaged calm between the more effervescent compositions:’A Stop At The Chord Cascades’ is majestic and imposing, while elsewhere’The Inner Shore’ and ‘Paragon Point’ overspill with harmonically entangled activity. A fine way to start the new year, An Imaginary Country finds Hecker building on the momentum established by prior releases, continuing to forge a path that’s all his own.


Now remastered and beautifully repackaged with snowscape photography, on promising new label Home Normal* Sketches finds David Wenngren hooking up with cellist Danny Norbury, whose releases have previously graced labels as diverse as Static Caravan and Ono. After the ambiguous, droning intro ‘Snowleaf’, the two musicians gel together brilliantly on ‘The First Day Of Spring’, which over the course of ninety seconds finds Norbury’s bow strokes swelling in an ambient pattern, while Wenngren’s elegiac piano crumbles elegantly into the backdrop. From here on, it shows quite some skill that these two are able to find so many different ways of configuring an otherwise controlled palette. But for some subtle electronic modulation and occasional field recordings woven into the backdrop, the content is restricted to that combination of piano and cello, but thanks to the clever production and presentation, there’s always an implication that there’s more going on here than meets the ear. ‘View From A Train 2’ is composed from what is essentially the alternation between two very similar chords being keyed softly and slowly over two minutes, yet within these small gestures you’ll hear a tangibly emotive power. This effect is only amplified further when Norbuy takes the lead, as on ‘Fields’, whose incredibly restrained, understated melodies never have to shout about how beautiful and instantly cinematic they are. Taking in eleven different sketches over twenty-five minutes, this release just flies by, but it also feels like it’s covered an awful lot of ground by the time you arrive at the closing track ‘First Day Of Winter’, and this is most certainly one of those occasions when the phrase ‘more than the sum of its parts’ is applicable: Wenngren and Norbury have made something quietly expansive and deftly constructed from what essentially amounts to just two instruments. Lovely.


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