Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hans-Joachim Roedelius & Tim Story - Inlandish

Label: Grönland Records
Released: 2008
Style: Modern Classical

"Describing the dream-inducing wash of sounds that is 'Inlandish', it is, at first listen, perhaps easy to call it ambient. Roedelius suggests that we should try a bit harder though: 'Ambient doesn't really express 'Inlandish''s complexity and beauty. 'Inlandish' is not easy to put in the category of what ambient music normally appears as in the listeners ears. Perhaps it's 'ambient at its best', but I would think it's a sort of new or contemporary classical music.'

They began the album by spending 10 days together in Story's Toledo studio laying down Roedelius's piano parts ('I'm just the piano-keyboard man,' says Roedelius somewhat disingenuously). After that, Story spent five months working on the tone of the record, adding the haunting twists and languid yet euphoric whooshes. Of the two, Roedelius is usually considered the groundbreaking electronicist but on 'Indlandish' it was Story who added the electronic parts and all the arrangements (Oboe, cello...). The result is an amalgam of pulsing, tinkling, voice-of-the-future sounds that touch on the dreamy and beautiful but also something darker, more melancholy and deeply existential. Says Story: 'Happy music always seems kind of dull and shallow to me, so I'm always drawn back to something with a bit more mystery, darkness or sadness. I'll take Bartok over Shostakovich, Boards Of Canada over Franz Ferdinand.'

This also being the reason for Story 'electronically subverting acoustic instruments like the cello,' or making electronic sounds feel organic, challenging the listener to ask what's what and how it makes them feel. It's something that Story takes from his love of Steve Reich and the great man's use of 'repetition and shifting perspectives.' But however much 'Inlandish' might sound like the soundtrack to a trip through the cosmos, this album is immersive rather than passive, both unsettling and comforting. For Roedelius, though, 'Inlandish' is simply a beautiful album that expresses how much fun the two have had together: 'We took breaks to eat nice food and to drink wine. We were also cooking together. I cooked my special French fish soup, which I learned running an art bar with friends at a beach in Corsica in the '60s. Everything really was as easy and beautiful as 'Inlandish' sounds.'" - Label


1 As It Were (5:05)
2 Inlandish (4:25)
3 Trouvé (5:56)
4 Downrivers (4:28)
5 Ripple And Fade (3:17)
6 Rooftree (1:56)
7 Serpentining (5:20)
8 House Of Glances (6:03)
9 The Orchardist (3:07)
10 Riddled (4:29)
11 Beforst (4:14)
12 Intermittent Haiku (1:39)

Solo Andata - Fyris Swan

Label: Hefty Records
Released: 2006
Style: Free Improvisation, Experimental, Minimal

"A very welcome contribution to Hefty's catalogue from this Australian duo, Fyris Swan is a distinctly cinematic affair. The pair conjure the most delicate and wistful of acoustic-electronic landscapes. At times there's only the most spartan of sonic elements at work and the whole album seems to be held together by the slightest of gestures and the lightest of touches, but all this understatement makes for an incredibly atmospheric, memorable album. 'Coastal Road Thoughts' is an especially blissful drift through gentle drones, incidental chimes and buried voices, whilst 'A Ballet Of Hands' is reminiscent in feel to the unearthly haze of Arve Henriksen's Chiaroscuro album. Recommended." - Boomkat


1 Her Face Soft As Sleep (5:17)
2 Old City Crowd (7:36)
3 The Echo's Left Behind (5:48)
4 A Ballet Of Hands (5:57)
5 Among The Olive Trees (5:55)
6 Beneath This Stone Wall (5:16)
7 Coastal Road Thoughts (6:54)
8 Dawn Chorus (7:08)
9 Together Apart (5:31)
10 Midnight (6:50)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Steve Reich - Music For 18 Musicians

Label: ECM Records
Released: 1978
Style: Post-Modern, Minimal

"How is it possible to write a 'review' of this record? It seems futile as Reich's influence, especially from this record, sent shockwaves across the music scene and seeped into genres far and wide. Without Reich would post rock sound the same? Would New York's experimental rock scene have developed so fully? Would experimental music have flourished so importantly in the 80s and 90s? Reich's influence is still felt today, with younger producers falling upon 'Music for 18 Musicians' and being shocked all over again; Ryan Teague, Max Richter, Colleen, Murcof, Soundhack, Cliff Martinez these artists have all been touched by Reich's epic vision. What is quite magnificent too is that the record hasn't dated at all, it is truly timeless, maybe due to the fact that it was so ahead of its time on release. Maybe 'Music for 18 Musicians' should be better classified as out of time, because it doesn't really feel like it should sit anywhere in particular in music history, unlike many classical pieces it is futile to place it in a period or culture. If you have yet to hear this stunning work then I suggest you remedy that pretty quickly with this amazing reissue, seminal in the very real sense." - Boomkat


1 Pulses (5:26)
2 Section I (3:58)
3 Section II (5:13)
4 Section IIIA (3:55)
5 Section IIIB (3:46)
6 Section IV (6:37)
7 Section V (6:49)
8 Section VI (4:54)
9 Section VII (4:19)
10 Section VIII (3:35)
11 Section IX (5:24)
12 Section X (1:51)
13 Section XI (5:44)
14 Pulses (6:11)


Drexciya - Neptune's Lair

Label: Tresor
Released: 1999
Style: Electro, Techno

"Though a quick glance at the track titles -- "Organic Hydropoly Spores," "Polymono Plexusgel," "Triangular Hydrogen Strain," "Oxyplasmic Gyration Beam" -- lends the impression that this is yet another Drexciyan work wherein the music, though stellar enough, isn't quite as important as the sub-aquatic science-fiction themes, Neptune's Lair proves as solid a piece of musicianship as the act has ever recorded. The album mostly disdains the froglike neo-retro vocal samples that often shifted emphasis away from the music on the Drexciya EPs, and simply pushes through with a set of midtempo, paranoid electro gems. The production is still reminiscent of the classic electro era, but never feels as tied to the vintage synth as before. Admittedly, there's a bit much to digest on the 20 tracks, but Neptune's Lair is yet another bright spot in the Detroit electro-techno revival. " - Allmusic


1 Intro: Temple Of Dos De Agua (1:00)
2 Species Of The Pod (3:53)
3 Andreaen Sand Dunes (6:15)
4 Running Out Of Space (1:54)
5 Habitat 'O' Negative (5:16)
6 Universal Element (1:55)
7 Drifting Into A Time Of No Future (3:33)
8 Polymono Plexusgel (3:08)
9 Surface Terrestrial Colonization (6:56)
10 Funk Release Valve (3:06)
11 Organic Hydropoly Spores (2:07)
12 Draining Of The Tanks (2:43)
13 Devil Ray Cove (2:49)
14 Fusion Flats (1:24)
15 Triangular Hydrogen Strain (3:55)
16 Oxyplasmic Gyration Beam (4:17)
17 Quantum Hydrodynamics (1:16)
18 Lost Vessel (5:52)
19 Bottom Feeders (3:25)
20 Jazzy Fluids (3:21)
21 C To The Power Of X + C To The Power Of X = MM = Unknown (2:35)


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Signaldrift - Set Design

Label: The Consumers Research & Development Label
Released: 2005
Style: Leftfield, House, Ambient

"Though Set Design is ten tracks long, six of those are brief, seemingly improvisational ambient interludes in between the four longer and more constructed -- though still pretty spacy -- pieces. Mastermind Franz Buchholtz plays almost all the instruments save for a bit of guitar, and although most of the album is going for the sort of Eno-inspired stillness suggested by his choice of an artist name, each piece has at least one inspired arrangement choice, such as the vinyl clicks and pops that add an undercurrent of tension to the otherwise placid "Children of the '70s" and the woody, marimba-like keyboard riff that twinkles through the long, droning pulses of "Long Goodbyes." The only fully developed song on the album, in the sense that it ends someplace other than where it began, is the percolating neo-motorik of "128," a 13-and-a-half-minute epic that remains compelling throughout, but the individual pieces of Set Design fit together nicely, making it a much more interesting listen than one might initially expect. " - Allmusic


1 And Yet... (1:39)
2 Yellow Leaves (6:25)
3 Undecided (1:47)
4 Dutch Assassin (6:02)
5 Children Of The 70's (1:56)
6 De De (5:36)
7 Purple (2:17)
8 Long Goodbyes (1:59)
9 128 (13:31)
10 Dripping Angels (1:59)


Friday, November 6, 2009

Markus Guentner - 1981

Label: Kompakt
Released: 2005
Style: House, Minimal, Ambient

"Just prior to 1981's release, Markus Guentner's Kompakt labelmate Justus Köhncke produced an album titled Doppelleben (German for "Double Life"). Köhncke's title was appropriate, signifying his constant fluctuations between dance tracks and pop songs, but Guentner's own recording career is more deserving of the tab, since his two working modes -- introverted ambient compositions and extroverted house singles -- are far more extreme. Titled after the producer's year of birth, 1981 is a continuation of Guentner's strictly ambient output for Kompakt, including 2001's In Moll and regular appearances on the label's Pop Ambient compilations. With a couple exceptions, the albums deals in transporting background music, indebted as ever to Brian Eno and Wolfgang Voigt, yet capable of leaving its own impression. Melodies either shift deliberately at a snail's pace or burrow into the subconscious with pensive repetition, carried by deceptively rhythmic atmospheric beds. Compared to In Moll, it's lighter on the chimes and bristles, heavier on the billows, and just as stimulating in its ability to spike ecstasy with a little paranoia. The most memorable moment of all is closer "Hotel Shanghai," a track that creates its own spellbinding world as efficiently as other ambient Kompakt charms like Jimmi Moon's "Lovelane" (off Total 2), Donnacha Costello's "Dry Retch" (off Pop Ambient 2002), and just about everything by Triola. "Jellyfish" is the good curveball, a low-key shuffler with a pronounced thump that could eat up another ten minutes without losing steam. "Hi-Jacked," the appropriately titled bad curveball, is built on an unpleasant jacking rhythm that only hijacks the mood and otherwise continuous excellence of the album." - Allmusic


1 Wanderung (8:30)
2 Wenn Musik Der Liebe Nahrung Ist (9:19)
3 Jellyfish (8:29)
4 Hi-Jacked (8:34)
5 Sommergewitter (8:56)
6 Umgebung (7:01)
7 Der Wüstenplanet (8:20)
8 Hotel Shanghai (6:27)


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