Filed under: This Month's Favs | Tags: Circular, Clickits, Con_Cetta, Fennesz, Fluid Audio, Hope, Length and Brecht, Origamibiro, Part Timer, Substans, Top 10, William Basinski
Clickits – Express Gifts
‘Express Gifts’ is the debut album from Clickits, amblicated and friably impressive, distilling the essence of melancholic reflection down into a suprising, uplifting album. Opening with what at first appears to be the most ethereal of rhythms, ‘Aramaic’ slowly reveals it’s internal glory as sodden beats cast a glistening web around snatched guitar melodies and faraway strings: a composition so beautiful it’ll make your teeth ache.
Continuing somewhat dewy-eyed, ‘Wheneveryouready’ assumes a refreshing minimally-frayed stance, through a graffiti-influenced rhythm and choral vocals, whilst ‘Lilophone’ begins with what sounds like unrelated background noise, rhythm tracks made from wooden things and tumbling keys, which subsequently coalesce into utterly beguiling, ramshackle but resolute tunes. ‘in my field of view’ inches past like a deep dale meeting with early kraftwerk – sublime stuff, and coming to the centre of the album ‘lament for the north’ troubles ghosts of early Art of Noise, ‘Brttle’ Sakamoto style innocence to travel through the Clickits sandy hi-fi speakers and animate their 21st century attention spans. Clickits borrow the Murcof schematic – the closer ‘Was Until Today’ slowly allows disparate elements – disassociated voices, xylophones, benign twinkles and reduced deepfolk bodypops to accrue into a wonderful, cohesive summation to a genuinely remarkable record. As intense and beautiful, as involved with the questions of light and dark, as a candle seen in moonlight. – Boomkat
Various Artists – Hope
‘Hope’ is a project consisting of eleven artists: James Murray, Iambic, Ishq, Ben Beiny, Halogen, Hol Baumann, Digitonal, Snakestyle, Bersarin Quartett, Field Rotation and Playb. Each artist has been asked to compose a piece that represents the following:
‘Although we are living in a world of injustice – where the rich get richer, while those in need get left behind – there is often an inherent hope in those who suffer the most. Where people have the least they value more, the simple things that others take for granted. While some are disconnected from the true meaning of life, there are others who appreciate the beauty and awe of the world and what is has to offer. In these souls is a spark of light that no corrupt power can extinguish. Despite the negativity that we are all faced with in life, the human spirit can always overcome. Whether this is in the innocent laughter of a child, the compassion shown from one suffering human being to another, or through the creative translation of emotion into sound, the joy of life is communicated all around us – we need only be willing to open our hearts to it.’
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Fennesz – Black Sea
At last, the wait is over. Christian Fennesz’s follow up to 2004’s Venice is upon us, and it’s truly one of the most breathtaking albums you’ll hear this year. The ten-minute title track gets the album underway, opening tentatively with flickers of noise and digital debris crackling like fireworks in the distance. Soon a flood of symphonic guitar and electronics overwhelms the mix and we’re reintroduced to the signature sound world that’s unique to this man’s music – he’s one of the most imitated electronic artists out there, and yet you can always pick out the real thing from a line-up of clones. Not resting on his laurels, before ‘Black Sea’ is even three minutes in, the magnitude shrinks down to a simple duet between oscillating tones and brittle acoustic guitar plucks. It’s from here that the piece begins to swell up with majestic, incredibly warm sustains and scratchy textural details – the whole composition feels like a reintroduction to the various facets of the Fennesz sound. Next comes the first of two collaborative pieces (although it should be pointed out that this one isn’t available on the vinyl edition – and while we’re on the subject, nor is the ambient miniature ‘Vacuum’ encountered towards the end of the CD and digital tracklists): ‘The Colour Of Three’ features Anthony Pateras (a veteran of Editions Mego and Sirr), who supplies some nicely clanking prepared piano tones, placing emphasis on the instrument as a percussive device rather than a string instrument. Despite this augmented instrumental range we’re still in familiar territory thanks to Fennesz’s transcendent digital eruptions and gloriously rich sound designs. ‘Perfume For Winter’ is a more restrained affair, filled with contemplative acoustic figures and abrupt organ-driven chord changes. We get our first real taste of explicit melody here, reminiscent of Endless Summer’s most approachable tracks. Importantly though, there are no overt attempts to retrace footsteps back to that classic album, and Black Sea sounds vehemently like a step forwards for Fennesz. This sense of progression is underlined by the spine-tinglingly wonderful ‘Glide’, a duet with Rosy Parlane which takes Fennesz’s wall of sound into the stratosphere, sounding like an unearthly orchestra. The music itself matches the increased magnitude: if Endless Summer was a digitisation and abstraction of The Beach Boys, ‘Glide’ could be said to apply the same transformative techniques to more classically-geared sounds – there’s an undercurrent of elegiac romanticism that might reasonably be compared to fellow notable Austrian, Gustav Mahler, specifically the well-known fourth movement of his 5th Symphony (once famously plundered by Robert Lippok for his Open/Close/Open release on Raster Noton). After the quietly glistening, chime-like tones of ‘Glass Ceiling’ comes previous single and album finale ‘Saffron Revolution’, which is a suitably grand closing gesture, stretching out a single, euphoric multi-layered chord across much of its duration before dissipating away into a pattern of delayed string plucks. Black Sea is far and away one of the year’s most beautiful records, both in terms of the music itself and the sheer iridescence of the electronic sound harnessed within. Very highly recommended indeed. – Boomkat
Part Timer – Blue
Trust these immaculate Japanese imprints to bring us some of the most beautiful homespun music we’ve heard this year, and even though Part Timer is the work of Moteer’s John McCaffrey, everything about this gorgeous cd evokes the spirit and wide-eyed mystery of Japan, presumably why Tokyo’s Flau label has given it a home. Treading that sublime line between lonesome acoustic composition and delicate electronic tampering, the sound of Part Timer will be familiar to those of you enamoured with the music made by the likes of Helios, The Remote Viewer and Tunng, covered in that misty-eyed sheen that cant help but tug at the heartstrings without ever coming across as overly emotional. Album opener “theme from Part Timer” is just sublime, some old recordings of a long forgotten day out at the beach shimmer away in the background while a resonant acoustic guitar provides the emotional backbone around which delicate strings and timeless chord progressions suck you into a world of blissful nostalgia. “Hide All You Like” is the first of a couple of tracks featuring the instantly recognisable vocals of Nicola Hodgkinson (of Empress fame), and with a detached melancholy her voice drags this material into another dimension, away from the more familiar confines of instrumental music and into the same kind of musical domain inhabited by the likes of the aforementioned Tunng. “Sudden Loss” is another standout piece, a lonely violin and prepared acoustic guitar nervously igniting the track into a blissful musical arrangement not unlike something out of Bruce Langhorne’s gorgeous soundtrack for “The Hired Hand”, with only the odd digital Malfunction betraying the music’s 21st century origins. “Blue” is just a gorgeous album, produced with a singular musical vision that’s impossible not to adore, layered with a plethora of homespun musical signatures that transcend any kind of laptop music you could think of, and housed in the kind of typically lavish Japanese packaging that makes it utterly irresistible. – Boomkat
Halogen – Length and Brecht (Remixed)
IDMf004 – Length and Brecht (Remixed) transcends the definition of remix album by sounding more like a four movement orchestral piece with a recurring theme: the leitmotif of a woman’s voice singing out in a layering of beautiful, ambient tones. Download here
Reworking Halogen’s blissful track into three alternatively distinct atmospheres; this latest release is a balance of consistency and change that enlightens the listener’s earlobes.
01: Halogen – Length & Brecht (Original Mix)
02: Halogen – Length & Brecht (Synaecide Remix)
03: Halogen – Length & Brecht (Field Rotation Remix)
04: Halogen – Length & Brecht (Woodnote Remix)
Title track produced by: Halogen
Mastering: Matt Lange
Album produced by: Nathan Schwartz
CIRCULAR – Substans
With previous releases on Origo Sound and Beatservice Records, Norwegian duo Circular signs here a strong and highly anticipated fourth album.
‘Substans’ unfolds as a collection of micro ambient tales, journeys into intricate and multi-layered soundscapes.
The band thought this album as a sonic line tangent to realms as opposite as floating atmospherica and industrial clunks; a deep kaleidoscopic glide through reverberated guitar riffs, uplifting grooves and environmental ambient.
Ardent ISDN enthusiasts will notice the impression Future Sound Of London’s avant-garde electronica left on Bjarte Andreassen and Jostein Dahl Gjelsvik.
Indeed the band claims influences as diverse as Biosphere, Boards of Canada, Sun Electric and saw this album as one opportunity to acknowledge landmarks in their history of music encyclopaedia.
Moreover, [ Substans ] reveals the work of a collective of photographers and designers. The artists joined by Christin Vaag, Torje Bjellås, Øyvind Veberg and Christoffer Furnes reflected on the album echoes in the vast Scandinavian territories.
Origamibiro – Cracked Mirrors & Stopped Clocks
Nottingham-based Tom Hill shifts course from his beat-driven electronica releases on Wichita Records to sculpt an eccentric album of classical guitar and organic environmental samples for the Expanding Records label. Cracked Mirrors and Stopped Clocks opens with impending doom, as cinematic strings and spidery guitars emerge from a tunnel of noise, fading into estranged solo acoustic guitar refrains.
The following Noshi is just beautiful, as Hill plays out a delicate guitar track, with the microscopic creaking of chairs and strings deliberately heightened in the mix – it has a wonderfully natural, melancholy feel and the chords are gorgeously arranged. The album fluctuates between these states, classical guitar merged with spotlessly organic creaks and clicks, all intermittently manipulated, although it’s hard to always pinpoint where the line is drawn. There are some very bizarre tracks here too, like Dissect Ephemeral, where the components mentioned above are bewildering diced and spliced, then joined by strangely filtered computerised vocal mutterings. Bizarre but definitely good. Meanwhile, perhaps a career in soundtrack beckons for Hill, The Last of Its Leaves succeeds in building a climax of foreboding strings and plucked/picked guitars, and elsewhere the track Remnants demonstrates Hill’s qualities as a sound designer – a much slower combination of wooden instruments and electronics, where every key tone, guitar string and studio technique is available for intricate inspection. If there is a negative, it’s that too many tracks are similar in their characteristic; much of Cracked Mirrors and Stopped Clocks wanders gracefully but retains a heavily fractured uniformity that can leave the listener a little detached – it’s also a little too slow in places. Still, there’s just about enough diversity here, the eerie Unknown In The Walls is a true ghost story of an effort, its spindly guitars wriggling like evil worms over a threatening, slow building cascade of sound – if they remake The Shining this should be first in the soundtrack queue. One thing’s for sure, if you fancy something a bit different then the Expanding label has come up trumps yet again.
Part Timer – Part Timer
The latest release from The Remote Viewer’s Moteer label sees John McCaffrey (a constituent part of Clickits) going it alone for his debut record under his autonomous moniker of Part Timer. Sounding like a lost English Folk classic, the eponymous LP is a dusty coalition of tender melodies and faded compositions that reveal their vibrant history through subtle flourishes – with McCaffrey instinctively knowing when to leave something out as much as put something in. Opening through ‘Unwritten Letter To No. 9′, some tape treated guitar is teased into life atop a skipping stone of electronics and warm melodies, with an intimate atmosphere crafted from the hearth-like ingredients. Taking this tender atmosphere and giving it a vocal axis courtesy of the Empress’ Nicola Hodgkinson, ‘We Made A Big Mistake’ is up next and provides a definite highlight – as a water-clogged batch of instrumentation is sent swirling by the poignant lyrics and subtle production flourishes that are best seen from the corner of your eye. Sharing an evident heritage with the likes of Mum and The Boats, ‘We Made A Big Mistake’ also gives a nod to the aural lint of Jan Jelinek et al. – a situation made all the more pronounced by the next track ‘Daytona’. Easing you in through a flutter of mealy crackles, a delicate guitar is soon given room to blossom – never quite peaking as you expect and as such instilling proceedings with a fabulously piquant sense of something being not quite right. Elsewhere, ‘Thinking, Unthinking’ is another vocal cut that sees the lyrics being spun backwards and forwards to satisfying effect, ‘Hear… To Something’ is an energetic coming together of EFX, acoustics and ribald beats (think Four Tet’s ‘Tangle’), whilst ‘It Only Means’ slips in some old-skool female vocals amongst it’s thicket of thrumming instrumentation. – Boomkat
William Basinski – 92982
Once again unveiling hidden treasures from his archive of tape loops, William Basinski releases three pieces made at his Brooklyn apartment during one night in 1982, adding a fourth composition (based on the same source material) made earlier this year. You can’t help but wonder why this music, recorded so long ago, is only just surfacing. Was the world not ready for WIlliam Basinski in 1982, or was WIlliam Basinski simply not ready to hand himself over to an audience at that point? Whatever the reasoning, we’re certainly reaping the benefits of the influential ambient composer’s stockpile, and 92982 proves to be a real highlight in his output of recent years. Despite the minimalist essence of Basinski’s oeuvre there’s a pronounced sense of variety, diversity and depth at work in these four tracks, with each taking on its own specific persona. ‘92982.1’ is outstanding, featuring lilting, gritty strings through the left of the stereo field while crumbling piano sonorities rule to the right. Far from exhibiting any signs of automation or impersonal repetition you can always hear a human hand shaping the music. The faded, rattling chord movements of ‘92982.2’ take on an altogether more ghostly, dissolved quality, with echo-flecked machine jolts peppering the mixdown, underlining how fragile this whole process is. The third track, meanwhile, is an extended version of a piano-based piece that appeared in its original incarnation on the Variations: A Movement In Chrome Primitive album (surely one of the standout albums in Basinski’s entire catalogue), here stretched and developed over the course of twenty minutes. It’s a beautiful study in the interplay between an instrumental performance and the medium onto which it’s recorded, full of ruptures and low frequency rumble as the tape itself interferes with the flow and consistency of the music. Finally, Basinski takes a fresh angle on his source loops with a composition recorded in February of this year. There’s a markedly different character to this final entry; an unexpected cleanliness that somehow feels just right as a coda to the archival dust and dereliction of all that’s come before. Its tacit stateliness serves as confirmation that all these years on, Basinski has lost none of his form, and that despite the richness of his work in the early eighties he’s still a very active, utterly compelling creative force.
Con_Cetta – Micro
New Moteer acquisition Con Cetta hails from Sicily, expanding upon the label’s established sound with an album of beautiful, evocative processed sounds, exploring the properties of the looping and layering techniques available in the post-glitch era. While much of this album might be seen to approximate the classic clicks+cuts sounds of late period Mille Plateaux, there’s a sublime late night aesthetic here that’s effortless and hugely involving, perhaps more closely resembling the more melodically accommodating sounds of Mokira or even 12k’s shuttle358 on ‘Connecting Forming Averaging Positive’. More shuffling ambient strategies follow on ‘Ken’, which takes some emphasis off beat-like rhythms and instead immerses the listener in the granular judder of Con Cetta’s lively circuitry, something perhaps best exemplified by the Tim Hecker-like piano and field recording blur of album closer ‘Mentis’. “Micro” establishes a wonderful harmony between the familiarly warm, melodic compositions of the Moteer sound and a more experimental, ambient approach to electronic music, making for another exceptional transmission from this always-great label.
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