I love music that doesn’t fit into standard genres, that is hard to pigeon-hole and which has a totally unique artistic fingerprint on it. Teach Myself Again is just such a song. Essentially a spoken word stream of consciousness that blends gentle philosophies with wonderfully soul-searching metaphysical meanderings all pitched over eastern vibes and ambient beats. On paper you may think that you have heard something similar and indeed you may have but Jimmy B still finds new astral pathways to walk with this intoxicatingly psychedelic mysticism.
For all the big and obvious sounds I get to listen to on a daily basis as a music reviewer, it is the more studied, the more ambient and more intricate sounds that I look forward too. I, of course, appreciate a pop hook, a rock riff and a well executed roots manoeuvre but there is something about music that uses space and anticipation to build its drama and atmosphere as readily as it uses instruments and structure that I find appealing. To find Invadable Harmony back before the reviewers pen is therefore a joy.
Space, the final frontier. Yes, we all know the tag line from that famous sci-fi franchise, but it is a phrase which is also relevant to music. Many artists and composters, songwriters and creators are so focused on filling the void in front of them with all manner of sounds and musical substance that they often miss a trick. That trick being that silence itself, when correctly framed, can be a useful tool too. And if such artists are the equivalent of oil painters covering the whole canvas with vibrant musical colours and sonic images, then Christopher Sky is the water-colour artist using the sleekest of lines and the bare minimum washes of paint to turn the white background into the desired design.
A strange title for a strange album. And I mean that in the nicest possible of ways. Strange is good, strange is interesting, strange is the opposite of safe, strange is unpredictable. Strange is often great and there are certainly many great aspects to this album. The first great thing is its approach towards genres…Matthew De Ver isn’t really concerned with such limitations and here he wanders between the ambient and the funky, the spacious and the groovesome, the beat driven and the transient, often within the space of one song.
What is also great about it is the analogous nature of the lyrics, which on the surface seem to be of a man setting himself against the challenges of the natural world, of climbing mountains, of taking on the elements, of being lost in the snow. Listen deeper and you find the real story and understand that these physical battles are metaphors for the loves, longings and losses of his own life.
The Climb is a funky opening salvo but largely the album is happier to deliver cooler and more considered sonics with Blood on The Snow being an intimate spoken word one on one conversation with the listener and Battle Alone a slow jazz infused trip-hop groove. Between these extremes songs such as Secret Keeper come on like Mercury Rev’s angelic soundscapes playing a dance card and Up To The Air is a looping and beguiling, alt-pop ballad.
It’s an album that reveals its greatness slowly, that rewards the listeners regular return, peels back its textures and layers through constant re-examination. If you are looking for a quick musical fix, this isn’t really the place but if you wan’t to make a new musical friend, and the best albums do come to feel like friends, this is certainly the start of a new beautiful musical relationship. How great is that?
Dead Can Dance have announced details of a brand new album entitled ‘Dionysus’,
which is set for release on 2nd November via [PIAS] Recordings.
ACT I : Sea Borne – Liberator of Minds – Dance of the Bacchantes
ACT II : The Mountain – The Invocation – The Forest – Psychopomp
Pre-order the album and find tour dates & tickets here:
Formed in Melbourne in 1981 by Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry, the style of Dead Can Dance over eight previous studio albums can be described as compelling soundscapes of mesmerising grandeur and solemn beauty that has incorporated African polyrhythms, Gaelic folk, Gregorian chant, Middle Eastern mantras and art rock.
Ever since the group’s inception, the duo have also been informed by folk traditions from all over Europe, not solely in musical terms but also by secular, religious and spiritual practises. The idea behind ’Dionysus’ comes from this backdrop and was shaped as Brendan Perry explored the long established spring and harvest festivals that originated from Dionysian religious practices, a journey that brings to the fore rites and rituals that are still practised to the present day.
Following her debut album ‘Penelope One’ for Optimo Music, London based Antipodean vocalist, musician and soundscaper Penelope Trappes presents sophomore longplayer ‘Penelope Two’, for Houndstooth.
“’Penelope Two’ was built around field recordings, mantras and meditations. Emptying my mind of clutter, I explored writing with guitars and synth drones, along with piano and reverb, to create depth and texture”, says Trappes.
Elements from multiple sources are subsumed by Trappes’ sonic presence; one hears Badalamenti and Julee Cruise’s work for ‘Blue Velvet’ and ‘Twin Peaks’, Slowdive’s dreampop, the scorched comedowns of early Primal Scream, Colin Newman’s dark melancholia, plus contemporaries like Tropic Of Cancer and Sky H1.
But to say this sounds like any of the above is a glaring oversimplification. It’s as if she’s sculpted her own pieces using only the reverb tails of other’s music, or has set fire to her record collection to paint audio pictures using just the smoke.
These distilled, rarefied creations take echoes as their starting point, with Trappes summoning swathes of tones, textures and emotions into something ethereal but also powerful, like an evocation of spirits. It’s also deeply melodic, with her intimate, maternally-tender voice floating in the middle of each three dimensional, womb-like sonic space.
Albecq is the collective of prolific London based artists and composers Angus MacRae, James Jones and Thom Robson. Formed in late 2016 through a love of vintage synths, unhurried free-flowing soundscapes and the pioneering ambient expeditions of Basinski and Stars Of The Lid they bring along their debut full length offering ‘A Distant, Guiding Sun.’
Here their efforts are coalesced to form an ethereal, melancholic journey into intricate arcane environments, performed live and uninterrupted on a collection of dusty synths and a striking classic Rhodes piano, with a constantly evolving backdrop of live percussion, heady electric guitar and spiralling analogue tape delays.
Opener ‘Prophet’ is a quarantining, ominous arrival that beckons with alien textures and luscious, elongated wails, reminiscent of Brian Eno’s “generative” ambient experiments and the downtempo bliss of X.Y.R.. ‘Lace’ provides an injection of more rhythmically led contemporary piano work and will be familiar territory for fans of Erased Tapes and 130701 catalogues with immediate, arresting melody taking the reins.
On the strength of Astronomical Twilight’s previous album, Unheard, new music coming from this artist is something I already look forward too and so a new full album of sounds landing on my review pile really made my day. As expected, as an overall vibe, Zoetrope is a continuation of where we left off last time, which is perfectly fine. It isn’t that it is repetitious particularly, it is just that this is music that deals in moods and atmospheres, emotions and meditations and even if it were what is wrong with an artist realising what they are good at and just revelling in the beauty of what they do. And doing it far better than the competition too. Nothing, that’s what.
And this is an album to which the word beauty doesn’t feel in any way hyperbole. Most music stops far short of such terms, it might be fun, functional, energetic, euphoric even but Zoetrope, and Astronomical Twilight in general, creates soundtracks for the universe itself. The creative minimalism of what is being built here is so understated yet so majestic that it feels as if it is either the sound score, or possibly even the sound itself, to all of existence, the natural song of the universe just with all of the man-made white noise filtered out.
A Star in The Sky, for example, is just a drifting moodscape that initially conjures images as big, as distant, as dramatic as the title suggests, Restored is a blend of ambient pulses that trails off into its own world of distant radio noise and A Quiet Search For Joy is the perfect by-line for the music being made here.
Zoetrope is less beat driven than its predecessor, though that was hardly a dance record, but rather it is the drifting and meditative side which is the main concern this time around. If it proves one thing it is this. You can create powerful, elegant and eloquent music from so very little but of course the art is knowing exactly which “very little” to use and how position it on the musical canvas so effectively. Until someone else in the music community works that out, Astronomical Twilight will remain in a field of its own.
A wise man once said that we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. What he failed to add is that some of those stargazers are writing their very own musical suite to describe what they see and feel too.
Despite having only encountered Floating Beauty twice before, via the single Larissa and the album that spawned it, Larva, I already look forward to any of their music which finds its way to my review pile. Why? Because musically it is so different from almost everything else that comes my way, it runs against the usual fads and fashion of pop culture, in short it is always a truly unique experience. Floating Beauty makes music which is slow and purposefully, which builds tension and anticipation, that demands patience and rewards the listener for taking the time to journey with it.
Like a Glare in the Night sees Floating Beauty continue to mix classical grandeur with ambient electronica, but whereas the previous album seems to come more form the former, full of sweeping strings and drawn out elegance, this time out there seems to have been a slight shift to the latter. Not so much that you would say that the sound has significantly changed, rather that the style is less about classical sounds being formed into ambient landscapes but more interested in ambient sounds capturing the blissful grace of those timeless sonics.
Right from opening track Glow, there is a more electronic feel, glitchy and echoing radio noise, and punctuated by industrial sound shocks and pummelling beats yet between these sonic peaks the more expected gossamer-like textures still reign supreme. Halo takes such near emptiness to the extreme, twinkling acoustic guitars and the noise of the natural world forming the translucent body of the song and Gleam returns us to a place of piano led beauty with just enough droning electronica to remind us that this album is a meeting of worlds.
It is a meeting of the formal and the inventive, of the old and the new, of the familiar and the strange. And it is as those parameters get used in differing amounts that the music takes its form. The music seems to reflect the differing night time visuals that you might see looking out over a cityscape… The Glare a pulsing beacon broadcasting at intervals, Glitter the gentle shimmer of effervescent patterns, The Whisper, the slightest of flickers and Dark Storm the crackle of thunderous energy and dancing lightning as a storm approaches.
This is music as light, light as sound, sound describing a visual aspect, vision as a sonic rendering, it’s brave and marvellous and such an intriguing concept. It is almost like the soundtrack to a piece of film that is yet to be created, or perhaps one that only needs to exist in the listeners mind. Or maybe this is the starting point of a new creative process whereby, rather than have musicians and composers create music for existing films, that film makers instead create the visual component to accompany the music. Now that really is a tantalising new idea.
How can you use the least amount of sound to effect the biggest impact? How can empty space be harnessed to work for a musician? How can you guide the listeners emotions rather than dictate to them? What if music could just be a matter of framing the sounds that are found in the natural world, rather than replacing them? These are the sort of questions I can imagine being banded around as the music that became Lost Landscapes was being created. I may be wrong, maybe that wasn’t the thought process at all but if not then it seems more than a coincidence that this album is the perfect answer to all of those questions.
It is difficult to discuss individual tracks with music such as this, as these long, lingering slices of instrumental beauty are less songs and more a collection of dreamscapes drifting roughly in the same direction and to vaguely the same purpose. Anything more solid than that would undermine their transient nature and graceful existence. But within that collective, smoke-like existence you begin to detect interesting motifs, just slight fingerprints and often a portent of what the next track will deliver.
The reverb drenched guitar that builds at the end of Squall and heralds the intensity of what is to follow on Everything is Heavy, the wonderful dying of Fold Space that highlights the juxtaposed blend of delicacy and industrial drone of Nighttime Drive or just the contrast between the gentle album opening of Contents/Weightless with the hypnotic looping echoes that the album exits on.
But by and large it is not an album to concentrate on, it is an album have wash over you, these are not songs but the musical equivalent of shifting hues within the same colour range and for all its strange slow burning dynamic, its beguiling and glacial passing, it is an album of intrigue, patience and grace, one to be absorbed by osmosis rather than to be understood or examined. If you need music which feels the need to justify its existence or explain itself, then this is not for you. There are no answers here but then again, when has real beauty ever felt the need to justify itself?
It’s nice to know that in this fast paced, over-driven, fashion conscious and largely conformist world we find ourselves in, there are still wonderful oases filled with calm and, more importantly brave creativity. Fufanu are custodians of such sheltered places and Typical Critical is a wonderful respite from the charging and single-minded, fast buck world that careers around them.
For a start it’s a song where almost nothing happens, which might seem like a detriment but if you chose just the right slices of nothing to balance the critical emptiness, then you can, rather than fill spaces, merely frame them. In doing so they build atmosphere, anticipation, restraint and a strange futuristic beauty. Their brand of near emptiness is not merely a lack of sonics, rather it is the gentle use of sound to shape the underlying beauty of the natural world, something sensed rather than heard and something more often that not buried under a band’s music in their rush to prove that they can offer something better than the timeless grace of a universe as old as time itself. Music that breathes in time with the world…cool!
Montreal’s Marie-Hélène L. Delorme, aka FOXTROTT, has shared brand new single Better With You – taken from the second in a trilogy of EPs, out on August 10th via One Little Indian Records. The second instalment, Meditations II sees the inimitable producer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist expand on the contrast of an inner peace and the tension felt in response to an outer fast paced, outraged world. While Meditations I explored the inside and the desire to let the world in, Meditations II opens a window and lets a complex and noisy world swarm in. Meditations I saw an abundance of radio support from the likes of Lauren Laverne (BBC6Music – Headphones Moment), Annie Mac (BBCR1) and Phil Taggart (BBCR1).
Each of the three self-produced EPs – which are to be released throughout 2018 culminating in a full album release on October 5th – were developed during a solitary retreat to southwestern Mexico, with Delorme even mixing ambient sounds present while she was writing, into the music. Lead single from the brand-new EP – Better With You – incorporates the sounds of police sirens outside, juxtaposed with deep, pulsing beats and layered vocals, characterising the “inside”.
They say that the largest part of communication is non-verbal, through body language and context. The same can be said about music, if done well, you can convey meaning and emotion through the music itself, talk to the listener in a more primal, basic way, heart to heart, soul to soul with no need for anything as limiting, blunt or direct as mere words. And that is an idea which lies at the heart of Sianna Lyons new collection of songs, Asylum.
Many of the songs lyrical content use more transient and opaque forms of communication, the private language of idioglossia, disembodied spoken word, of vocals used as an instrument, of wordless forms, of feeling, leaving the combination of the music itself and this secret and emotive expression to work its magic. And if that sounds as if this is all some ambient dreamscape, some fey delicacy it is so much more than that. The starting point is Sianna’s dynamic and impressive vocal range, songs such as Illusions showing the extent of it to perfection.
Where The Godless Pray, a song that predicted the dark times we are now finding ourselves in is the only one to feature universal language but it is bathed in such ethereality that the words shimmer and chime rather than converse and also feature 13 year old daughter Kiera Gonzalez Lyons, now heading out to embrace her own musical career. The title track rounds things off in a soaring crescendo, all dark drama and dynamic interplays.
And of course the vocals only land so impressively because of the music which drives them along, a masterclass in scoring and sitting somewhere between a film sound track and a Celtic odyssey, between ancient voices and future sounds, between space and atmosphere, anticipation and musical weight.
It is a stunning record, one that skirts a number of reference points, Enya, Clannad, Vangelis, the much overlooked Celtus, tipping its hat in reverence to all but maintaining enough distance and originality to be allowed to stand alongside those musical greats rather than merely follow them. Majestic, graceful, powerful, unique, it isn’t often that something this wonderful graces my reviewing desk. Day well and truly made.
All music is going to remind you of something that you have heard before, how can it not, there is a finite amount of material to work with and only so many ways that you can combine it. It is a big number, but not a limitless number. Sadly most people are content to put the same building blocks together in pretty much the same ways. So when the opening track of the album drifts towards you like an as-yet-unheard Vangelis soundtrack, you know that you are in rarefied company indeed.
Unheard is one of those albums that, for the most part, shimmers rather than grooves, chimes rather than employs riffs, it moves with ambient grace and sometimes almost glacial pace and the result is stunning. Tracks such as Midnight conjures grand vista’s or dramatic images of deep space, Stratosphere is built of soaring crescendos and Satellite is a collection of wonderfully strange sonics and sweeping majesty. It is music that evokes such power in so few musical moves. It is conciseness personified.
But there are also a few less transient moments when beats are employed to better define structure and clothe a few of the songs in more conventional music trappings. Broken runs on a hypnotic and almost industrial beat and Radar is a wonderful trippy piece of synth-pop, bleeping rather than drifting, pulsing rather than swirling. It’s a strange futuristic minimalist alt-dance moment, where the music seems to often just hang between the beats rather than be served by them, all of which adds to the otherworldliness of the number, a glimpse of dance music to come perhaps? Perhaps.
It is an album of moods and atmosphere, where space is used as much as an instrument as the beats and notes are, where the pauses and anticipations, the non musical components, are used as punctuation, the points of grammar to this beguiling musical language. Glorious, graceful and nothing short of majestic.
People of a certain generation always claim to know where they were when they heard that Kennedy had been assassinated. Others recall the moment that they found out that Elvis had left the building for the last time. Then there are others, like myself, who remember where they were when they first heard 69, the debut album from A.R.Kane. (If you must know I was sat in the corner of a friends bedroom, going through her vinyl collection as its dulcet and beguiling tones oozed into my own DNA; myself and dream-pop, a term that A.R. Kane coined for themselves, have been embraced in a love affair ever since that day.)
It isn’t often that a record confounds me, but Two Things is a strange track to get my head around. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing, after all who wants to be writing about yet another bunch of charisma free guitar slingers trying to be the next Foo Fighters? And why would you want that anyway? But I digress. Cloud Daddy and the Kingston Big Smokes make fascinating music and Two Things is a strange blend of wistful dream-pop, glitchy electronica, spoken word and cannabis infused ambience.
It meanders along on a chilled beat and a blissed out philosophy. This is music made by stoners for stoners, the sound track to the simple things in life, the warm glow of love and a righteous buzz. It comes as a double track release accompanied by Elizabeth, an even more scratchy and warped take on their brand of ambient stoner pop. Both tracks are as brilliant in their originality and non-conformity as they are in their strange in their beguiling addictiveness. If ever there was a hippy music revival you can forget all those nostalgic notions of folk singers and psychedelic wig-outs, Cloud Daddy and the Kington Big Smokes is exactly the musical heart that such a movement would beat with today. Make love not wardrobes…or something.
I’ve always been a sucker for ambient, drifty, dreamy music. I’ve also always loved strange, glitchy electronica. But it isn’t often that you find the two coming together in such a complimentary fashion. Kate Bush led the way and the likes for Bat For Lashes carried the torch, but outside of, say, Mandalay and Lamb it has been a fairly quiet scene, a spacious musical plain marked only with the occasional sonic temple for aficionados to worship at. But maybe that is how it should be, it makes albums like this gorgeous and beguiling eponymous beauty all the more refreshing for its rarity.
The logical starting point is the single Undo which lies at the heart of the album, a song built of the same vocal grace and classic lines as those found on a Dead Can Dance album, a song which explores space and drama through its dynamic shifts and atmospheric conjuring. It’s an approach that runs through the whole collection to varying degrees. Crystalized sitting at the minimal end of things, a slow burning and gentle instrumental, growing increasingly claustrophobic as it nears its musical destination, Phonetics being a robotic and staccato alt-dance groove and Nodus Tollens the pinnacle of the albums disarming and addictive white noise buzz.
It ends with The Sea, another previous single, which acts as a brooding, industrial and cinematically epic swansong to this visionary debut album, an album which plays out like a possible alternate sound track to the recent Blade Runner reboot, capturing the same echoes of 80’s electronica, trippy futurism of the alt-dance fringe, the same dark designs and dying world drama.
As debuts go, its a triumph. A mesmerising weave of mutant EDM and warped pop, hazy ambience and alien dance music; it is forward thinking yet remembers the past, it is clinical, ritualistic and otherworldly. Someone should write the ultimate dystopian movie just so Searmanas can provide the sound track.
I’ve always been drawn to contemplative and ambient music such as that found on Invadable Harmony’s EP Beneath The Surface. I guess it comes from being surrounded with live music for a living that the music I chose to fill my personal space with, the music that gently colours my home once the door to the outside world is shut is very different from what people might expect. Beneath The Surface is exactly the sound I revel in as the sound track to my solitude.
The music found here is the most ambient, the most chilled, mixing classical piano sounds with gentle atmospherics, space with the most transient of structures, gossamer thin musical textures with softly chiming grace. Most of the tracks take the form of wistful and relaxing mood music but Reminiscence trips over into after hours, clubland chill out zone music with its meandering beats and Echoes has an otherworldliness that suggests that Vangelis could have slipped it into the original Blade Runner movie score or indeed Hans Zimmer into the current one.
Trying to be any more probing about the music itself would be like trying to describe why a flower is beautiful, a scent emotive or a sunset therapeutic. This isn’t music to be analysed, this is music to be absorbed. Sit and soak it up, its enough that you do that.
Pop music doesn’t have to be big and boisterous, bombastic and overblown. I mean, it can be if you like that sort of thing, it’s just that for me at least, the more interesting sonic creations are often found when such musical building blocks are spread thinnest, when a song seems built more of texture and nuance than groove and beat. Tracks like Hummingbird illustrate my point perfectly.
It’s a track so opaque, so gossamer light, so transient that it is almost impossible to assign it a genre, though if you pushed me (the most) ambient pop should suffice for now. It infuses together soulful, jazz echoes, whispered vocals, half-heard electronica and sultry musical touches into the most chilled of deliveries. It gently brushes the 90’s trip-hop sound and the global adventures of bands such as Dead Can Dance, flirts with clubland chill outs and the soundtracks to art house movies and blowing like a warm musical wind across many landscapes and many different cultures.
Gloriously understated, wonderfully warm, brilliantly evocative. Job done.
Just as some of the best and most unique experiences happen when you go off grid, as it were, where the generic road runs out and turns to unexplored creativity, when art runs out of rules to follow; so music often only truly comes to life when you run out of labels to easily capture its essence. The music found on Flow might in part be ambient, neo-classical, progressive, chilled cinematic sound score, post-rock, post-jazz, post-everything but no one term can sum up more than a fraction of its beauty, so at that point you might as well stop trying.
Even terms like songs or tracks seems too inappropriate words, for what Flow do is create cinematic scores for films which haven’t even been made yet, but which just, through their sonic grace, conjure a thousand images. Images of wind-swept vistas, dream-like worlds, night time city streets, ancient landscapes and far flung regions of space. It is chamber-pop, of the most delicate sort, and although they describe themselves as “new age” this is also from a very old age, the trumpet which provides many of the haunting melodies linking them back to a modern take on a renaissance sound. Better to call it timeless and accept that like all the best music in such territory it contains elements from the length and breadth of human creativity.
Free Ascent sounds like what perhaps the soundtrack to Blade Runner would have sounded like if Vangelis had taken a more pastoral route, For Rosita and Giovanni takes us to more Mediterranean climes and Waters Gather drips with drama and gentle majesty. It’s a graceful album, a subtle album, a clever album, one concerned with the simple task of creating intricacy and beauty, a task it accomplishes effortlessly and completely.
Musical things I like: Songs that are swept through with epic drama. Chilled electronica. Understated guitar work. Ambient gothic intrigue. Pretty much everything that came out on the 4AD label. Bands who create rather than follow fashion. Rock bands willing to mix and match classic sounds with eclectic potential. Musical things I love: At the moment there isn’t much higher up the list than this new album from The Blood Choir. Why? Because any band who can tick pretty much all of those boxes in the space of a 5 minute opening track is always going to impress the hell out of me.
Its been 6 years since No Windows to the Old World first walked amongst us but Houses of The Sun is well worth the wait, blending, as it does, Floydian soundscapes and mercurial Talk Talk-esque song structures, gentle balladic deliveries and seering guitars washes of keyboards and plaintive pianos and just as crucially space, atmosphere and anticipation.
Tracks such as the wonderfully named Outward Travel Must Not Be in the Past seem to exist as broken musical fragments drifting gently past on the edge of consciousness and at the other extreme The Boat is a full blown celebration of post-punkery made over for a new, less tribal generation. And whilst these two tracks show the extreme points of the scope and depth of the song crafting, it is the fact that rather than take a polarised position on such a sonic scale they are adept at wandering such extreme musical pathways within the same song.
White Bear is a chilled gothic anthem interspersed with jagged riffs and ethereal, fallen angel harmonies, Simon’s Beach is a slow burning, brooding and glitchy journey towards oblivion and the title track and opening salvo itself grows from distant, half heard noise to a cavernous crescendo.
It’s a majestic album, there is no other word for it, one that sweeps and broods, whispers and screams, caresses and frightens, attacks and atones…sometimes all within one song. It’s been a long wait guys but if that is the price we have to pay for such an album, then so be it.
This latest 10 track slice of chilled loveliness from The Kunig comes from a very interesting place, one where psychedelic and progressive experiments of the likes of Tangerine Dream still float in the air above the more modern and mellow electronic dance vibes that form the album’s backbone. And like the mercurial nature of those early electronic pioneers, The Kunig is happy to wilfully genre hop to create its core sounds and sonically side step expectations to break new and unexpected musical ground.
Songs like Cut Up sound especially retro, but only in that same way that those bands of the past were using music to create the future…future-retro music, is that even possible, do the laws of time and physics allow for such a concept. Well, they may not but the laws of music do and that is all that matters here. Loser wanders some cutting edge dance floor territory, Morphine is a strange psychedelic rush which blends wonky guitars with slick world music, part a strange kind of blues, part globe-trotting soundscaping, but that’s drugs for you, and Chantilly sounds like a long lost Steely Dan track, and you can’t get better than that.
If you like music to fall in line with the neat and organised world of pigeon-holes and genres, labels and musical demarcations then this isn’t for you and to be honest you probably need to stick to your Rolling Stones albums. But for anyone with a broad mind and love of musical tangents, then form a queue right here.
Land of Clouds is one of those songs that underlines the power of the digital music revolution. There was a time when synthesisers and samples, music created from non-analogue sources, sounds drawn from the ether rather than for physical dexterity of the player was viewed with suspicion, especially by guitar wielding, narrow-minded, nostalgia freaks. But that was their loss because the studio itself has become an instrument in its own right, one limited only by the imagination of the creator rather than the sonic limitations of the instrument at hand.
Thus we have artists such as Yaman Palak making songs which are wonderfully emotive, seem to be built as much on mood and atmosphere as much as they are on beat and lyric, songs which seem to encompass a strange blend of primal force and futuristic sound. The past and the present existing in one space. Land of Clouds is a mercurial blend of technology and soul, of ambient soundscaping and skittering, slow dance grooves, a glimpse of the future via sounds which resonate with familiarity. Music isn’t always about revolution, that rarely works, but evolution, that is much more effective.
Musical genres are pretty much the equivalent of having a nine to five job. Those who adhere to them follow the strictly dictated rules and follow the logical and practical sequences of their chosen path. They serve a purpose and make the world turn in an orderly fashion. That’s fine, it’s the norm, it is what is expected. But there are those who chose to make their own path, those who learn the rules only so they know which ones they can bend, which ones they can break and which they can ignore altogether. These are the mavericks and the dreamers. These are the people who make music like Blue Bird, an extraordinary piece of music by an artist we have met before in a different but no less mercurial and exploratory guise.
To Otherside music is like the sea, different parts have different characteristics but you are free to travel unrestricted through which ever waters you chose, shallow or deep, tranquil or dramatic. And whilst you do so the waters below you are constantly mixing and changing. As before Blue Bird is the musical form of a poetic statement, “Distant sounds of the blue bird echo in the night” and the result is, as you would expect, ambient, bucholic, hazy and minimal, like the sound waves is describes echoing out into the blackness of night, beyond hearing, beyond detection, existing more as a memory or idea than anything more tangible. The music seems at times as transient, fleeting and lost as the philosophical bird song it is trying to cage.
Just as before the music combines mediative and contemplative sounds and hypnotic repetitions which seem somehow to balance complex and intricate musical motifs into an overall finish which can only be described as complex yet minimalist. This instrumental is inward looking, soul-searching and wistful even as it broadcasts its ideas outward to the universe at large. And whereas lyrics are a form of communication which aim straight for the brain before engaging with the heart, this voiceless soundscape aims straight for the very soul.
There is something interesting about listening to music being preformed in a language that you don’t understand. The lyrics, rather than becoming the point of communication, the story, the message, are instead transformed into a mixture of instrumentation and emotion, still conveying feeling and mood but doing so at a more basic, intuitive level. Hip-hop has always been about the message, the word play and the lyrical dexterity but on occasions such as this it instead works on a more primal level creating atmosphere and instead of talking to the brain in direct terms communicates with the listeners soul via some sort of empathic osmosis.
Le Soleil Ne Brille Plus, which even with my limited French I think means something like The Sun Doesn’t Always Shine, is all you need to pick up the flavor of the song, the video and the lyrical mood will do the rest. But also the music behind the voice is suitably melancholy, a far cry from the usual bombastic nature of music coming from the hip-hop quarter. It plays with restraint and understatement, the beats are sparse, the music a deft mix of electronic washes, brooding bass drones and some lovely fluid jazz guitar wandering around just on the edge of the song.
So Novia may prove to be the master of deconstruction but the main thing that he uses to piece his musical building blocks back together, the musical glue if you like, is space. It is the atmosphere, the gap between the beat, the things which aren’t played, the mid song breakdown and the pause between the lyrics, or in my case the lack of direct communication, which make it all work so well. Many musicians believe the most powerful form of communication is to get up front and in the listeners face… or at least in their ears but Le Soleil Ne Brille Plus shows that less is most definitely more and that absorbing music by empathic osmosis is equally…no, make that so much more effective.
I have had an influx of dreamy, soundscaping tracks of late which fall more into the realms of soundtrack or film score than they readily sit under the title of song, but few have ticked as many boxes for me as this little gem from Emotive Grey. Whereas most seem set in a fairly predictable ambient- electro genre, Victory, from the forthcoming e.p. Destiny, seems to cross genres at will. It is powered by a fairly confident dance floor beat and melodic synth riffs but woven through it are the wonderfully classical piano sounds normally associated with the likes of Ludovico Einaudi, someone, it has to be said, with a similar flagrant disregard for generic demarcations.
It is this mercurial blend of classical interludes, vibrant clubland urges, alt-pop synth riffs and more hazy dream-pop washes which stands Victory apart from the pack. Tulsa based musician and producer Allen Clark, the man behind the this sonic gorgeousness, has had a tumultuous time since starting his music career just before the turn of the century and admits to having given up music five times, but forming Emotive Grey in 2013 marked a new chapter and a new focus for his energies.
I’m still holding out for the modern dream-pop sound, a blend of commercially aware accessibility and late 80’s shoegazing references, pop infectiousness and cult integrity, to become the new, dominant form of mass market pop music. Unlikely I know, but if it ever happens Emotive Grey are going to be right at the front of that wave as it crashes into the modern consciousness and becomes the zeitgeist. As the music industry wanders further into a music by numbers situation, using templates providing more of the same to catch the pop fan dollar, the rise of such brilliant blends of dance vibes and old school integrity, artists who understands the long game and the cyclical nature of music, rather than the knee jerk reaction to this weeks fashion are the only real way forward. Welcome to a glimpse of the future. Hopefully.
The strangely named Forbidden Cheese seems to be the result of what happens when technology and mystique merge, where the cutting edge of music making is used to create something ancient and otherworldly, where man and machine meet but the result is something primal. The song runs along on a pulse like groove, a planetary heart beat which is surrounded by minimalist electronica, beguiling washes of sound and smoke like sonics, as much a soundtrack as a song, hypnotic and coming from the left field.
Other works by this artist range from energetic, dance fuelled scores to pastoral techno-washes and here the emphasis seems to be on the vastness of space, the slow and achingly ponderous nature of the universe and the reminder to us as the watcher from this small planet that we are a fleeting, insignificant event in the grand scheme of things. That’s one interpretation at least, the joy of such music is that it is ambiguous enough that each listener can make of it what they will rather than be guided by the artist.
But it seems to approach such an idea from a philosophical point of view rather than a scientific one, painting poetic pictures rather than factual ones, the physical embodiment of the artists mission to describe “the rising mists of holding grounds unveil around me while I gaze onto the sky.” Enigmatic, reserved and questioning.
You can trust Mr Dog The Bear to take an unusual approach to releasing an album. Normally, as a reviewer, I receive an intangible link to the album’s on line home, if I’m lucky I get a physical version through the post. But Mr Dog The Bear has always been about music built around a visual aspect, cinematic and wide screen in its scope it has always felt more like a film score or a soundtrack than a conventional music release. Which is why, and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, the new album arrived as a series of videos, as visual representations of the sonic emotions being created.
Previous releases have often felt like an ambient band testing deeper waters, gentle, understated and restrained but with glorious crescendos of music threaded through as they occasionally leave the safety of the shallows behind. Ghosts, however, is the sound of full immersion and opening salvo All These Constant Reminders draws a line of intent which is hard to ignore. Growing from familiar slow burning grace it eventually takes the listener to a place where dramatic post-rock walls of sound and exquisite symphonic sweeps are the norm.
And something else that they previously only toyed with but now forms an integral part of the sound is vocals, Wait being a more conventional pop-rock groover with classical undertones, Eleutheria a dark and brooding piece with modern indie vocal deliveries and Fireflies calls back to their earlier Cocteau Twins infused haze. Apostrophe combines the conventional wisdom of song structure with the left field thinking that we have come to expect, commercial enough to be popular, cultish enough to be cool and the title track is a slow, mercurial piano piece, the perfect contrast of space and intensity to wrap the album up.
Watching Mr Dog The Bear grow over the last few years has been a joy. They have been a band..project…collaboration…I still don’t really know what they are, that has subverted expectation at every turn and in their solitary and masked way made music for all the right reasons, that is, for their own sake. The results, of which this album is the perfect summation, show that you don’t have to follow fashion, advice, trend or zeitgeist, that the best and indeed the most original music is that which just naturally flows from the creative soul. A lesson more people could probably do with learning!
Ambient hip-hop? Cosmic rap? Space-groove? Sure, I’m just making things up now but truly original music requires you to do that and Dimension comes from a truly original place. Okay, you can pick at the sonic weaves and find urban threads, trippy electronica, ambient vibes and late night haze but as always it is how these are put together that counts and GoldenB has found a new angle on blending all of these disparate sounds.
So GoldenB may prove to be the master of deconstruction but the main thing that he uses to piece his musical building blocks back together, the musical glue if you like is space. It is the atmosphere, the gap between the beat, the things which aren’t played and the pause between the lyrics which make it all so effective. Many musicians believe the most effective form of communication is to get up front and in the listeners face… or at least in their ears but GoldenB’s Dimension shows that less is most definitely more and that absorbing music by some sort of creative osmosis is equally…no, make that much more, effective.