Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tom Opdahl - Black Smoker

Label: Biophon Records
Released: 2001
Style: Techno, Ambient

"Only the second release so far on Biosphere's Biophon label. Tom Opdahl of Bergen - a picturesque town nestled among seven hills on the west coast of Norway, where it always, always rains - is a hitherto unheard name among the plethora of excellent ambient and electronica coming out of that country. But his debut 'Black Smoker' should place him firmly on the map.

To call this music "chilly" would be to fall prey to the cliche about "Arctic ambient". It does however somehow jibe aesthetically with that sound which seems so specific to Norwegian ambient - that low, low pulse that seems almost endemic to the music, the predilection for monochrome tones.

There are unabashedly "Biospherean" moments on 'Black Smoker', but ultimately the work as a whole does not come off as the product of an epigone. Opdahl's compositions are as wonderfully gloomy as the artwork adorning the slipcover, proffering a sense of turning a grand, wild landscape into something claustrophobic, shrouded in mystic mist." -


1 Anthropomorphism (7:04)
2 Epispedural Soup (4:31)
3 Pinepulse (2:55)
4 Hybrid (5:38)
5 Black Smoker (4:04)
6 Mellow Limbo (1:56)
7 Skog (2:18)
8 Naut-O-Pilot (4:50)
9 Lake Vostok (3:15)
10 Pinepulse (Part 2) (1:41)
11 Sundrop (4:48)
12 Mental Xchange (0:57)
13 Dark Little Something (4:28)
14 Pecudesque Locutae (2:44)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sickoakes - Seawards

Label: Type Records
Released: 2006
Style: Post-Rock

"Based in Stockholm, Sweden; Sickoakes are a six piece instrumental rock band and Seawards is their long awaited debut release. Since the release of an early recording of ‘Wedding Rings & Bullets in the Same Golden Shrine’ on the Pleasedosomething net-label some years ago there has been a bubbling interest in their next move, so it is an absolute pleasure for us to present their full album, and what an album it is. Taking the finest fragments of the ailing post-rock genre, and infusing this with vibrant orchestral flourishes, Seawards is a slow burning triumph.

Unsurprisingly for such an epic work, the band have based it around some kind of basic narrative. With their travels of the Eastern Bloc firmly in mind, they have realized the album as a kind of telegram; a message to themselves or a series of lonely photos. As non-participating viewers into something isolated and detached they can watch as the world slowly comes to an end, and then tries to pick itself up again. These sentiments are perfectly represented throughout Seawards, which reads from beginning to end flawlessly. Much more than merely seven anonymous tracks, it is a voyeur’s journey into an unconscious world.

The album opens with ‘Driftwood’, a majestic and wistful maritime letter to a long gone lover. This acts as the perfect prologue, short and very sweet before the swooping majesty of ‘Taking the Stairs Instead of the Elevator’ continues the story with cascading guitars, glockenspiels and militant drumming. Before long we reach the album’s clear highlight, ‘Oceans on Hold’ which hits like a freight train without brakes. Although we could go on about more of the epic beauty of this album – the most important thing here is that it rocks, it really rocks. ‘Oceans on Hold’ is simply huge, and the album’s longest work ‘Wedding Rings and Bullets’ which takes up almost half the record in its two parts is simply earth shaking.

This is a very special record for Type Recordings, with a band we have been working with for a very long time now so we urge you to explore the beautiful and peculiar land of Sickoakes." - Label


1 Driftwood (4:05)
2 Taking The Stairs Instead Of The Elevator (10:23)
3 Oceans On Hold (10:06)
4 Missiles And Mammals (2:57)
5 Wedding Rings & Bullets In The Same Golden Shrine (Part I) (4:41)
6 Wedding Rings & Bullets In The Same Golden Shrine (Part II) (22:47)
7 Leonine (4:12)

Food - Quiet Inlet

Label: ECM Records
Released: 2010
Style: Jazz

"Food has defined a new kind of lyrical electro-acoustic improvisation in the course of its twelve year existence. Founded as a quartet in 1998, since 2006 the group has been a core duo of UK saxophonist Iain Ballamy and Norwegian drummer Thomas Strønen joined by guests for diverse projects. At the Molde Jazz Festival and the Oslo Blå club in 2007/8 their guests were trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer, well known to ECM followers, and Austrian improvising guitarist Christian Fennesz, making his label debut. The resultant music, with melodic improvising, trancelike pulses, and shifting clouds of sound is highly attractive." - Label


1 Tobiko (7:08)
2 Chimaera (5:00)
3 Mictyris (5:41)
4 Becalmed (7:51)
5 Cirrina (6:16)
6 Dweller (6:20)
7 Fathom (8:39)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ryan Teague - Six Preludes

Label: Type Records
Released: 2005
Style: Modern Classical

"Residing in Cambridge, UK Ryan Teague has grown up with classical music. Learning classical guitar from an early age, and also becoming proficient in clarinet and a number of other obscure instruments, it was not long before Teague tried his hand at composing. However the trappings of standard classical composition were not of any interest to him, and he had already discovered the wide world of electronic music and experimental rock. Taking hold of Arvo Part with one hand and Biosphere with the other, Teague has gone on to create a record that crosses boundaries without ever resorting to genre stereotypes. He has managed to forge a record which sounds both timeless and startlingly fresh.

The opening track ‘Prelude I’ begins with strings enswathed in digital noise and drifting bells, before a haunting choral vocal is introduced into the mix. Bringing together the operatic with electronics in such a way has almost never been achieved successfully, yet Teague manages effortly to blend the genres and emerge with something beautiful and uncluttered. It at once becomes cinematic but never resorts to being over sentimental. As the strings crash and percussion drives our emotion, never once does it feel tiresome and it always keeps the imagination active. On the final track ‘Prelude VI’ it is hard not to bring to mind the finer works of Cliff Martinez as bass bubbles underneath an echoing piano and electronic distortions: a stunning widescreen finale to this captivating story.

It would be right to compare ‘Six Preludes’ to the work of Steve Reich or John Adams, as there are clearly similarities, yet Teague takes his sound to another place entirely. Sitting more closely with the more contemporary ecm catalogue and with artists such as Arve Henriksen or Marsen Jules, this is a marriage of classical and electronic rather than a mere experiment. Ryan Teague has begun a deep excavation into an exciting sound, and it is our hope that he continues to do so." - Label


1 Prelude I (5:39)
2 Prelude II (4:16)
3 Prelude III (5:11)
4 Prelude IV (5:12)
5 Prelude V (4:42)
6 Prelude VI (7:19)

Pendle Coven - Self Assessment

Label: Modern Love
Released: 2009
Style: Techno, Dub Techno

"Since their 2003 debut ‘Trouble At Mill’, Pendle Coven have produced seven exceptional, restless twelves for the Modern Love label, not including work undertaken by one half of the recording duo under the MLZ moniker and a handful of projects produced and delivered under the radar. Typified by an inability to rest on their laurels, Pendle have explored areas of Techno and electronic music as diverse as their interests, taking in early-90’s style ‘ardkore, drone, Basic-Channelisms, Drexciyan electro and warehouse minimalism along the way. This debut album features 7 exclusive and previously unreleased tracks as well as 5 killers from the ’£100 a metre’, ‘marriage of convenience’, ‘hex’ and ‘Iamnoman’ EP’s, spanning the last 5 years. The sound of ‘Self Assessment’ opens with the disembodied guitar treatment of ‘Aged Drone’, paving the way for the stripped menace of ‘Iamnoman’ – the title track of their most recent vinyl-only release. From there we drop in on the staggered proto-dubstep of ‘Unit 6’, an alternate string-driven version of the airy stepper ‘Uncivil Engineering’, the immense stripped reverberance of ’Optimal, pure bass pressure of “MVO Chamber” and, finally, the towering chord crescendos of the Berlin-inspired Exigen. All the tracks here have been lovingly honed and mastered at the hands of Dubplates and Mastering in Berlin, for added bass depth and space." - Label


1 Aged Drone (1:37)
2 IAMNOMAN (7:39)
3 Unit 6 (4:29)
4 Uncivil Engineering (Calm Mix) (6:28)
5 Optimal (7:45)
6 Modern Mode (5:40)
7 Chord Calculus (7:17)
8 Nice Moves (5:17)
9 MVO Chamber (8:11)
10 Golden Hadron (5:04)
11 Exigen (7:19)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Information - Biomekano

Label: Rune Grammofon
Released: 2002
Style: Glitch, Dub Techno, Minimal, Ambient

"Third and easily the best album from these veterans of arctic ambient electronica. A beautiful and razorsharp production with plenty of depth and detail, this is an album that should most definitely appeal to Biosphere fans. Information is Per Henrik Svalastog and Jørgen Knudsen." - Label


1 Plot Ratio (Replug) (5:04)
2 Tropical Investigation (Leisure Recycled) (5:08)
3 Every Possible Artificial Condition (2:56)
4 Higher Densities / Maximum Choice (7:07)
5 Stacking Of Different Natures (7:20)
6 Sufficient Sunlight (3:45)
7 A Radical Co-ordination (2:45)
8 This Low-rise City (7:11)
9 Center By Celebrating The Loop (6:01)
10 Biomechanics By Accident (3:08)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mark Van Hoen - Playing With Time

Label: Apollo
Released: 1998
Style: Abstract, Downtempo, Experimental, Ambient

"Fifth and best album of elegant electronica from the ex-Seefeel man.
From the breathy and mysterious opener Real Love to the marathon finale Love Is All, Playing With Time displays an impressive range of instrumentation and clever application of technology. Its 10 tracks draw on techno, trance and ambient influences without ever making you reach for the fast-forward button. There's even an extended Bobby Konders-style funky organ workout on Once When I Was Fourteen to stop the whole caboodle getting too airy and rootless. OK, Van Hoen occasionally gets a bit literal with the temporal allusions - music-box noises on Surrounder, clockwork cogs grinding away on Gifts And Prizes - but the results are so damn beautiful they take your breath away. Nine pieces of exquisitely crafted electronica set the scene and then Love Is All glides gracefully by and keeps the old-school ambient heads happy for 36 minutes. There's life in the old circuitry yet. Rob Chapman" - Mojo


1 Real Love (7:57)
2 Surrounder (3:15)
3 First Steps (4:18)
4 Closer Than We All Thought (3:42)
5 A More Light Past (2:58)
6 Once When I Was Fourteen (4:36)
7 Gifts And Prizes (4:13)
8 You And Me Inside (4:30)
9 When Tomorrow Comes (5:54)
10 Love Is All (4:45)

Arve Henriksen - Chiaroscuro

Label: Rune Grammofon
Released: 2004
Style: Future Jazz, Experimental, Ambient

"To get straight to the point, "Chiarsocuro" is probably the most startling and moving album I've heard this year. Arve Henriksen is a founding member of freestyle jazz experimentalists Supersilent, his inimitable trumpet playing and indescribable wordless vocalising has gained him a feverishly dedicated following, sparked off by the release of his debut album "Sakuteiki" back in 2001 and by several live performances that have left his captive audience gasping for breath. "Chiaroscuro" (taken from the Italian for "light and shade") is quite an unbeleiveable listen - cinematic in a way that words cannot describe, a vast panoramic ocean of sound reduced to the most silent, heart-wrenching string arrangements, delicate live sampling (courtesy of Jan Bang) and a whispered sweep of barely audible percussion (from Audun Kleive), hovering around Henriksen unique, mesmerising trumpet playing and broken voice. This is by far and away the most inspiring album I've heard this year, a completely wondrous listen that seems to defy categorisation or description. Sometimes you happen across a record by chance and it ends up changing your musical vocabularly forever - "Chiaroscuro" is one of those rare records. We implore all music lovers to check it out without delay. Incredible." - Boomkat


1 Opening Image (4:16)
2 Bird's-Eye-Vie (4:07)
3 Chiaro (3:28)
4 Holography (3:02)
5 Blue Silk (6:30)
6 Parallel Actio (4:38)
7 Circled Take (3:25)
8 Scuro (5:08)
9 Time Lapse (5:07)
10 Ending Image (2:27)

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