July’s Top 10
Posted In: Annelies Monseré/Richard Youngs - Split Series Volume 3, Bee Mask - Elegy for Beach Friday, Daniel Thomas Freeman - The Beauty Of Doubting Yourself, Daniel W J Mackenzie - Teeth Sleep Under Winking Black Eyelid, Donato Wharton - A White Rainbow Spanning The Dark, Jannick Schou - Act of Shimmering, July's Top 10, Myrmyr - Fire Star, Offthesky - Subtle Trees, Petrels - Haeligewielle, The A. Lords - S/T
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July’s Top 10 selection brings together a diverse selection of music from artists such as The A.Lords, Annelies Monseré and Jannick Schou to name but a few…
The A.Lords – S/T
What does it mean to use the sounds of birds and of weather as part of nearly every track of an album of music? In the case of The A.Lords’ new self-titled release, it would seem to be an attempt to bring the music closer to nature, to locate its source and its inspiration in the natural environment…
The choice of acoustic instruments, gentle major-key harmonies, and relaxed tempi would also seem a call to return to a simpler way of life, a state of being more in touch with the world that hums and sings all around us. Guitar, piano and glockenspiel meander and jig through the album’s ten tracks, joined now and then by voices human and avian. The press release lists gardens, churches, a summerhouse and a barn as recording locations, and the occasional pattering of rain and the creaking of barn doors are allowed to bleed into the record. The result is the perfect soundtrack to an English summertime. – More info
Offthesky – Subtle Trees
As a sort of pantheist, or at least an artist who finds great stories hiding in the vast visual subtleties of nature –“ Subtle Trees” is a classical music collage as much as it is an homage to classical music. Its core is created through sounds gathered in the owl hours by sampling ancient instruments whose cores were derived from the trees of nature. – NKR
Subtle Trees offers up more organic fare, engaging a broad range of field textures, instrumental tones, electronic layering, and percussive motifs, with a crisp static and clatter in amongst these elements. There’s a strong dynamic variation in this release, with distinct colours visible from one track to the next.
Standout track ‘Tight Phase of Pollen Inertia’ seems to best embody the ethos of the record, with wooden chimes swaying through the forest-like spectrum, placing you centrally in a Japanese wood at night. ‘Slow Pulse of Epocal Light’ places you in the same wood, closer to the dawn. – More info
Daniel W J Mackenzie – Teeth Sleep Under Winking Black Eyelid
Daniel W J Mackenzie eschews the filmic freedom and concentrated consistency that is usually associated with the output of his alter ego, Ekca Liena, in order to create an extraordinary proposal that is titled Teeth Sleep Under Winking Black Eyelid…
This recording intends to challenge the listener with its use of contrived footage from two pianos that are abstractly arranged, performed and engineered to create intriguing instances of instrumentational incomprehension. Recognisable resonances are juxtaposed with primed piano proclamations and other mutated musical methodologies. This enigmatic investigation reveals an avant-garde gamut of prevailing acoustic possibilities that are produced when pianos are physically manipulated with tangible entities, hardware effects and post-production processing. – More info
Myrmyr – Fire Star
Fire Star was recorded at Shasta Mountain in the Spring of last year and the album’s six tracks contain elements which hint at Jakobsons’ and Szelag’s shared Baltic ancestry, while still retaining a firmly West Coast flavour. The album articulates many moods, often within one particular piece and the exploration found in opening three tracks Hot Snow 1, 2 and 3 continues throughout the latter half of Fire Star, mixing ambience, subtle synths and acoustic instruments. At turns melancholic, playful, complex and for some brief moments even almost childishly simple, Jakobsons and Szelag’s songwriting strengths seem to bounce off each other, driving the album onward as each artist provides a counterpoint to the other, giving the necessary spark to inspire music of a rare calibre. Granted, eclectic may be a word overused to cliche, but it does indeed define Myrmyr better than any other.
The fine musicianship of Jakobsons and Szelag is apparent throughout Fire Star, both in what they play and what they do not; At no point does the album lose cohesion, nor does it repeat itself and the pair show a keen talent for arrangement, such as on Fire Serpent’s Tail – the piece beginning with plaintive strings, slow and deliberate, with an accompanying silence. Rather than fill in this silence however, Myrmyr turn the void into an instrument of its own and as the track builds to a moving climax, its inherent frailty is that much more pronounced. – More info
Annelies Monseré/Richard Youngs – Split Series Volume 3
If one were to look for a single word that best summarises this latest entry into the three:four split series, variation would be a worthy winner. For the record, which is shared between two highly revered musicians of the experimental sound sphere is one that embodies multiple characteristics of the word’s very definition.
On the one hand are a series of tracks composed by multi-instrumentalist Annelies Monseré. Here, the artist produces five takes on the same formula, offering varied compositions of the same song, with each take built through different instrumentation and tone. The song, which is entitled ‘Sand’ is consistent with other Annelies Monseré works, offering eerie and melancholic notes throughout. On three versions of the song, Monseré makes sure her enchanted voice is entwined with the unusual instrumentation that forms the backdrop to her melodies. These songs are built around guitar, piano and organ and with each version one feels an overriding sense of beauty and sorrow. The two other takes are much shorter, instrumental constructions. Using melodica and cello respectively, Monseré ensures there is a deviation from her lyrical numbers, whilst maintaining a consistency in her attention to sound creation. – More info
Donato Wharton – A White Rainbow Spanning The Dark
A limber tone begins an incredible work by Donato Wharton, flittering and flaying in an obsequious manner, fading out slowly with a gentle throb, before a more powerful tone takes over. The invasive overlap charges up the, otherwise, ominous beginning, and precedes a work that slowly seeps into your consciousness.
Reading ‘A Book of Memories’ by Peter Nadas, I came across this quote that perfectly encapsulates my experience with this album: “What is beauty if not the involuntary giving away of what is hidden even from ourselves?” There seems to be a hidden world pervading Wharton’s work, and only after spending a couple weeks with it was I able to escape my self-imposed seclusion with the record and try to put words to the effect it had on me.
Presenting a work that evokes the sense of being in transit, Wharton begins in stasis, examining “A Vast White Solitude” in the midst of a hurried world. I imagine the busyness and noise constantly revolving around us, people hurrying from one place to another, so that life becomes a series a destinations that we are always speeding to get to. The act of slowing down and projecting our solitude onto the world around us, inviting others to share in the space, allows for an examination or focus on the hidden, the unlikely, the in-between. In effect, I find solitude as a respite to the noise and clatter of the world around me, and to imagine this solitude helps to alleviate being a participant in our sped-up world. Whether or not these are Wharton’s sentiments, I don’t know, but I find solitude to be an enlightening prospect, especially in the face of a claustrophobic world. – More info
Petrels – Haeligewielle
The one sheet for Petrels – Haeligewielle says the album is comprised of ‘songs of water, songs of stone’. It sounds vague, but in truth that’s all you need to know. To say that Petrels is the solo project of Oliver Barrett of Bleeding Heart Narrative is already saying too much. This, his first solo album, offers up a seriously detailed narrative hinted at with the song titles. Combining post-rock, drone and Americana elements; Haeligewielle pits an all-consuming darkness against the frailest slivers of light to create one of the most immersive listening experiences of 2011 thus far.
In many ways Haeligewielle is an ode to tales of water and stone, but also specifically William Walker, who is mentioned in the title of the albums final song. William Walker (1869-1818) was a British scuba diver famous for shoring up Winchester Cathedral, a task that involved him re-building the foundation of the cathedral while being submerged underwater in total darkness for six hours a day for five years. Also of note: Haeligewielle is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning ‘holy well’.
In a way Walker’s story is an odd one for an electronic musician to take the task of telling, his story is so much about the tension between mankind and nature. Psychically though, the story of a man who works away in total darkness to make some small shred of an impact in the larger world is everybody’s. And maybe that’s what drew Barrett to it. Either way, it was Barrett that picked up the torch and told Walker’s story, and probably it would terrify Walker to hear the sonic equivalent of those claustrophobic hours and years played out so well. The good news for the listener is that Petrels has provided us with what has to be the strongest solo debut from a musician so far in 2011. It’s as if Barrett has launched his solo career as Petrels by giving us his own Sisyphus narrative, and somehow it sounds dreadfully authentic – no small feat. Haeligewielle is an album so dense and immersive you sometimes feel as though you are drowning or being smothered, but that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to feel. – More info
Daniel Thomas Freeman – The Beauty Of Doubting Yourself
The relationships between depression and art are countless and diverse. Instances of poets, novelists, and musicians quickly spring to mind who have vividly portrayed depression, usually from personal experience of it. Recent research by health experts indicates that artists and musicians are the fifth most likely professionals to suffer with depressive illness. That’s a chart that definitely isn’t ‘top of the pops’ for performers.
Many people are drawn to the arts in order to fulfil a desire for acceptance and affection from their audience; they need that confirmation in order to feel good about themselves. But having a love affair with thousands of people you don’t know is bound to lead to discontent, despair and distress – often as soon as you exit the stage, or go home to an empty mansion.
Alcohol and narcotics have featured in the lifestyles of so many musicians for so long that sometimes it’s difficult to tell if depression is the symptom or the source. The phrase ‘rock and roll lifestyle’ is an all too familiar one in the obituary column when a famous musician dies, usually in tragic circumstances too. Some artists have a ‘swig’ or a ‘sniff’ to steady their nerves before performances; others have a ‘sip’ or a ‘smoke’ to come down from the high of the performance.
So does depression attract them to the arts? Or does making ‘art’ make them depressed? Does true creativity come from a place of suffering? Are the greatest writers, composers and artists the most tortured of souls? None of these questions are easily answered but we do know that Daniel Thomas Freeman (Rameses III) has certainly suffered for his art.
The Beauty of Doubting Yourself, written over six long years, is Freeman’s own personal and at times painful account of depression. The album is laid down into three distinct movements: – More info
Jannick Schou – Act of Shimmering
The Berserkers were Norse warriors who terrified into submission those unlucky enough to clash with them. The exact details of their lives have been lost in the passage of time, but it is often believed that they dressed in animal skins and worked themselves into a frenzy before battle. Perhaps partaking in the hallucinogenic mushroom known as fly agaric, the warriors would quite literally ‘go berserk’, turning the fierce noise of pre-battle into an awesome cacophony. Danish composer Jannick Schou follows in the footsteps of these ancient Scandinavian combatants, but replaces physical power with a sonic force equally unrelenting…
Appearing under his own name and as Cyclon, Schou has already proven his worth with a slew of releases appearing on Dead Pilot Records, Under The Spire, Rural Colours, Heat Death Records, and the label which Schou co-runs, dotContemporary. Available here on Experimedia, Schou’s uncompromising vision is accentuated by the assertion that The Act Of Shimmering shall only be sold on 12” Vinyl.
Each side of the album contains three pieces cohesive in tone and timbre; do not look for a quiet/loud/quiet sound here, everything is simply at high volume and it is invigorating. The album opens with Enormity Of An Empty Sky, beginning slowly but soon building up its power and by second number Sky We Are Silent, The Act Of Shimmering will floor the listener with a strength which echos the most abrasive noise-pioneers. – More info
Bee Mask – Elegy for Beach Friday
Mysterious American musician and director of the cassette label Deception Island, Chris Madak aka Bee Mask, mines his own substantial back catalogue of limited edition tapes and CD-Rs that were released between 2003 and 2010…
‘Elegy for Beach Friday’ is an accomplished anthology that contains eleven tracks of capably blended synthesisers, percussion, piano, guitar, tape, electronics, and Max MSP. These imaginatively re-visualised, revised and reprocessed recordings will delight audiences both old and new.
Deducted from Your Share in Paradise balances a light astral atmosphere of increasing intensity and dark pulses of reverberated drone to form divine gyrations. It pronounces how polar opposites or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn. Conceptually the piece is a counter-image of the miseries of human civilization.
Fallen Tree Thursday and the Half-Crushed Arc of the Sky Taking Tea in the Pastoral Index is a convoluted compositional articulation of spiritual acuity. A compound palette of cyclical chimes, organic orientations and oppressive industrial impressions intermingle to give an accelerated sense of time and space that may allude to the apprehension and anxiety incurred when the human mind comprehends the vastness and complexity of the cosmos.
Causes and Cures uses an introspective constant of alien ambience presented in the form of an intense flow of encrypted data, as interstellar interference echoes and explodes deep in hyper space.
…so that We Each Wander through a True Elysium has a field of intense percussive energies and synthesised spirits to represent the ancestral susurration of the underworld, the final resting places of the souls of the heroic and the virtuous. – More info
The above listing is in no particular order of preference.