Friday, March 11, 2016

036 - "Feedback" by Derek Webb



Upfront I'd like to say that I've tried to avoid "Feedback" by Derek Webb since its release in 2011. The reason being I was worried that it just wouldn't cut it for me ... billed, as it was, an instrumental, electronic music recording, classically composed into three movements, based strictly on the structure and content of the Lord's Prayer from the Gospel of St Matthew.

I love instrumental electronic music, it's part of my life with weareallghosts and all, and I knew there was a real possibility that I would be disappointed with something a musician, whose regular haunts were more folky rock, had tried to make.

On Saturday (27th February) I picked up "Feedback" for next-to-nothing in a sale, I figured this would soften the blow AND inspire me to listen - I was, afterall, invested.

I am pleased to say I was not disappointed!

"Feedback" is a wonderfully deep recording, an utterly engaging wall of indietronic sound that captivates me. It isn't perfect, by no means, but it certainly exceeds my expectations in a way that justifies my ownership. I will come back to this album for repeated listens, mainly due to the cinematic nature of the recording. In fact, I've listened to it three times today (Wednesday, 3rd March) already.

Whilst I don't immediately see the direct connection between the Lord's Prayer and the work presented, it does feel like a soundtrack. It has that kind of vibe and, like a great soundtrack, the more I listen to it, the more I get from it. That said, the field recordings don't add anything & actually take you out of the album.

It has challenged my prejudice against Christian music. "Feedback" doesn't sound like anything else, it's uniquely it's own thing ... which is remarkable considering the focus given to "sounds like" when describing Christian music. I want authentically original music and "Feedback" is one such album.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

035 - "Dark Sky Island" by Enya



"Dark Sky Island" by Enya was a pleasant addition to my collection when it was released recently, one that features the delightfully soothing combination of vocals and instrumentation that Enya is famous for.

Now ... this isn't for everyone ... but, then again, it's probably "for" more people than they will readily admit: everyone needs a lullaby to help them relax and I consider Enya's work on "Dark Sky Island" to be fit for this purpose. You won't be caught dancing like a loon in your kitchen with this in your ears but will, quite easily, be found sprawled on the sofa coming down after a hard day to Enya's particular style of atmospheric ambience.

"Dark Sky Island" isn't wildly different from Enya's previous music, there is no "Kid A" experimentation here ... what you have, instead, is consistency: Enya has her sound and she is, as she should be, adept.

I do believe if Enya were to have released her music on 4AD and was more minor key then major ... she'd be better thought of than she is. But she makes what she makes and I, for one, dig it.

Monday, March 7, 2016

034 - "Teleó" by Tundra Vole



"Teleó" by Tundra Vole came out of the blue and blew me away. I never quite know what to expect from the multi-instrumentalist Chris de Souza who records under the name of Tundra Vole but would be willing to put "Teleó" up there with his best.

Now ... I have to say I'm not a big fan of processed vocoder vocals ... they are a novelty to me. However, they do work on this album, at times they add to the feeling of otherworldliness that is conveyed by the synths, deep bass, progressive rhythms & movement within the album.

That said ... I am a huge fan of ethereal vocals and "Teleó" features a couple of tracks with the most heavenly of soloists getting their Enya on. Laura Howald's vocals on "aischuné" are divine, accompanied as they are by solo piano, atmospheric ambience ... and eventually bass and drums. There is so much feeling concentrated in this track, it is gorgeous.

My only criticism of "Teleó" is the sequencing of the tracks: we are taken on a journey that moves between uptempo electronica to soulful ambience to vocoder-driven pop and back. It is a delightful journey but one than can jar ... the soulful uptempo mastery of "Tetelestai" that comes after the rather uneventful "brother's keeper (ghost town)" demonstrates this journey.

All in. "Teleó" is well worth your attention.

http://tundravole.com/album/tele

Saturday, March 5, 2016

033 - "What Went Down" by Foals



Foals are a band I enjoy when I'm looking for a kick ... their particular version of dancefloor-friendly form of indie rock is loud, upbeat and articulate; and it gets me moving.

Their latest album - "What Went Down" - was released in 2015 and ticks all my boxes, it is wonderfully expressive and decidedly outgoing ... with my favourite lyric featuring in the opener and title track:

"I fell for a girl with a Port Wine stain ... I knew her initials but not her name."

Not all the tracks are as ferociously upbeat and outgoing as the title track: "London Thunder" is a deliciously downbeat track, slow and atmospheric with the best interplay between the keys and guitar ... it builds into a broad wall-of-sound and is one of the highlights on "What Went Down" ... thoughtful & engaging, it is a delight.

"What Went Down" is a compelling album, one that rewards the listener when completed and repeated. If I were to list my favourites from 2015 it would feature.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

032 - "Evil Twin" by The Movie Theater





I'm not sure where I came across "Evil Twin" by The Movie Theater ... I may have picked it up on NoiseTrade or Bandcamp, I can't recall. It lay untouched on my iPhone for a couple of weeks until, intrigued by the cover art, I gave it a listen ... and was blown away with the instrumental rock sounds presented.

"Evil Twin" is a compelling listen: each track is wonderfully uptempo and brimming with life ... guitar, percussion, synths all work together to create the kind of wall-of-sound that I rave about. They are all different, each having an uniquely individual sound or vibe, but they work together so well ... in a delightfully cohesive manner.

Monday, February 22, 2016

031 - "Yume" by Helios



"Yume" by Helios (aka Keith Kenniff aka Goldmund) is quickly becoming a fast favourite for the times when I need something bright and breezy to soundtrack my day. It is wonderfully layered with delightfully uptempo, easily accessible sounds and rhythms; nothing too taxing or obtuse, rather it features a bright sense of joyfulness that I find intoxicating.

Kenniff's ability to craft sound is something to marvel: the way he can bring disparate found-sounds to create a deep rhythm track as he has with "sonora lac" is simply beautiful; to then layer acoustic guitar and synths over this soundbed is inspired.

"Yume" by Helios is a beautiful piece of music, one I highly recommend.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

030 - "The Last Dawn" and "Rays of Darkness" by Mono





In 2014 MONO released two albums: "The Last Dawn" and "Rays of Darkness". The albums, when release, were intended to complement each other and, in my opinion, do so very well.

"The Last Dawn" is the more accessible of the two: it is the lighter of the two and much more to-the-point. It is an electrifying listen, one that I've kept coming back to. The opening track - "The land between tides / Glory" - gives me goosebumps as only MONO can with it's growing intensity and, near the end of nearly 12 minute track, the use of piano and strings to bring me back down.

"The Last Dawn" is a stunning slice of post-rock brilliance, one that cements MONO up there with greats of the genre. Their combined use of shoegazey guitars, piano and strings throughout is an utter delight.





According to the notes on Bandcamp, "Rays of Darkness" is the first MONO album in 15 years to feature no orchestral instruments whatsoever. It is darker & heavier compared to "The Last Dawn" ... and even features the post-hardcore "voice" of Tetsu Fukagawa from the band Envy on what is my favourite track from the album: "The Hand that Holds the Truth", a track that slowly builds from a more ambient piece to a blistering face-melter that genuinely gave me a fright when I first heard it. Wow just doesn't sum it up.

I would highly recommend both albums to fans of the post-rock genre but, as I'm late to the party, I know most folks will already have them in their collection.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

029 - "The Unknown Man" by Pear Media - a documentary on Vangelis

Vangelis Documentary - The unknown man from Pear Media on Vimeo.

Vangelis is one of my favourite musicians ... playing in Aphrodite's Child alongside Demis Roussos, making great music as a solo artist AND creating one of my top three favourite albums of ALL time: The soundtrack to to the Ridley Scott film, Blade Runner.

I found this video to be utterly fascinating ... and highly recommend you take the time to watch it.

The word genius is too readily used ... but for Vangelis, it applies!

Monday, February 15, 2016

028 - "Wilderness" by Release The Longships



I recently picked up "Wilderness" by the fantastically titled Release The Longships. It was recommended by Musicformessier and was only £1 ... I figured what did I have to lose?

The answer is absolutely nothing!

"Wilderness" is a cracking listen: an album of wonderfully progressive post-rock / post-metal instrumentals that energise my soul like only frenetic double-tapping bass-drumming can do. These imaginative soundscapes feature delightful melodies and the inspired use of dynamics - soft & loud, gentle & hard, slow & fast; the variety is amazing ... "Wilderness" is a musical rollercoaster that twists and turns in the most unexpected of ways ... it is many things, dull isn't one of them.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

027 - “Sometimes” by Goldmund





I heard a track from “Sometimes” by Goldmund (aka Keith Kenniff aka Helios) on the All Songs Considered podcast and was knocked down by a wave of graceful elegance & exquisite beauty. I immediately stopped what I was doing (walking my dog Tinker in our neighbourhood) pulled out my iPhone and rewound the podcast so I could listen again.

"Sometimes" is a remarkable album: delicate melodies played on a piano that are backed by deep, engaging electronic ambience to create an absolutely stunning collection of tracks. These tracks enthral me as the listener, being both highly contemplative and gently romantic;

The title track - "Sometimes" - is exemplary: it is a cinematic masterpiece that could easily feature of the soundtrack to the latest character-drive Sundance-winner. Kenniff's use of strings is powerful, reminding me of Rhian Sheehan or earlier Sigur Rós. It was this track that inspired me to seek out the album ... I was not disappointed with the other unheard tracks.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

026 - "Winter Loops" by Darren Harper



Drones are not for everyone. Whilst I've come to appreciate the simple, minimal beauty of a deliberately sustained note, I get that others may not share my view.

I find drones, when approached with imagination and creativity, to be wonderfully escapist: I lose myself in the wall-of-sound that is prepared and then presented by the musician.

My love stems from the music of Henryk Górecki and, in particular, his third symphony which opens with long chords that build in intensity. I'll never forget the first time I heard his masterpiece: it broadened my appreciation of music and opened up new doors of inquiry.

Darren Harper is an ambient musician who approaches his soundscapes with imagination and creativity. His latest release on Bandcamp - "Winter Loops" - is a four track EP that utilises sustained sound as the foundation for further loops, electronic manipulation and guitar-based melodic experimentation.

I found "Winter Loops" to feature the kind of escapist ambience that I love: short pieces that initially capture then reward my attention with their expressiveness.

I would recommend this EP for the exquisitely  glacial grace of the fourth and final track - "In Fragile Repose" - but that would do a disservice to the other three tracks, all of which are exceptional in their own right.



Tuesday, February 9, 2016

025 - This Patch Of Sky



I recently picked up This Patch Of Sky's self-titled album. I was following their antics on Instagram (their concerts look amazing!) and wanted to hear their latest album, having an older album (Newly Risen, How Brightly You Shine) on my iPod.

Their self-titled album is a belter, it is everything great about postrock music: deep, engaging soundscapes made up of catchy melodies and expressive dynamics; the innovative use of instrumentation such as the cello, tin whistle and mouth organ (I think) to complement the guitars, keys and drums; these instruments add real breadth to the sound presented ... powerful instrumental soundscapes that allow me, as the listener, to drift away. This Patch Of Sky is all this and more, a grower that just gets better with each subsequent listen.

The only criticism I have is why it has taken me until now to pick it up!



Saturday, February 6, 2016

023 - The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble



The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble are an interesting proposition: expressive instrumental music with a strong jazzy vibe that has far more in common with downtempo electronica that it does with more contemporary jazz.

I found this album by accident. I came upon it whilst scrolling through the vast selection in Amazon's Prime Music Service ... the name caught my attention and I gave it a listen. I was so impressed with what I heard that I went and bought it on iTunes. Unfortunately the CD is out of print and was going for an extortionate amount on Amazon when I last checked.

TKDE create wonderfully deep and engaging soundscapes that place considerable emphasis on feel and atmosphere. These soundscapes have a decidedly percussive slant to them (hence my reference to current downtempo electronica) with layers of percussion and capricious polyrhythms presented for the listener to consume.

Traditional jazz instrumentation - trumpet, saxophone, stand-up bass - works with electronic manipulation to create their expressive soundscapes, soundscapes I would highly recommend.

Tx


Friday, February 5, 2016

022 - "25" by Adele



I love Adele.

There is something almost confessional about that statement, it's like I've admitted a deeply held secret for the first time. When you spend so long on the outer edges of music, it feels rather odd to be so enamoured with the music of someone so popular, so mainstream. But then I do love Coldplay so maybe it isn't so odd afterall.

I remember being told that there is only two types of music: good and bad ... and even that is relative to an individual.

You may not consider Adele to be good ... and I hope, for your sake, that you've developed this opinion by actually listening to her work ... but I do. And not for Adele's voice alone.

"25" ... Adele's third album, named after her age, is a delight. Her voice is amazing: not just technically proficient but with real feeling, Adele gets dynamics and knows how to make the most of her talent.

The musical accompaniment on 25 is first class: piano, guitar, percussion, backing vocals ... all work to complement and strengthen Adele's vocal delivery.

Adele doesn't do anything new on 25 but she does strengthen her position as one of the UK's preeminent female vocalists ... if not the world's.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

021 - "Disconnect" by Orbit Over Luna



When Shannon Penner aka Orbit Over Luna releases music ... I listen. His expressive form of ambient post-rock is my kind of expressive ambient post-rock. Penner has a way of creating and combining sounds that I love ... he is a craftsman and the craftsmanship of his output is evident for all to see.

Case in point is Penner's latest - "Disconnect" - a three-track EP that he released yesterday on Bandcamp. It delights me as only instrumental music does: it engages my attention and thrills me with each layer and every nuance. From the burst of heavy guitar on an otherwise chilled, banjo-laden opening track - "le bord de vision" - to the summery field recording that sets the scene on the second track - "sundog" - this EP has an attention to detail that doesn't disappoint.

Penner does save his best for last with "#fortheghosts" demonstrating his skill with the guitar. He has the most amazing tone when playing the guitar and this is evident on this track, especially when the percussion is removed and Penner can play ... just him and his guitar kicking back.

"Disconnect" is an exquisite EP that highlights Shannon Penner’s skill as a musician and is one I would recommend.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

020 - "Across the Oceans" by The American Dollar



The American Dollar are consistent. When they release a new album, as they did recently with "Across the Oceans", you know what you'll get: wonderfully engaging downtempo instrumental music that is informed by a wide arrange of influences from jazz, soul & hip-hop to post-rock, ambient and even neoclassical sounds.

"Across the Oceans" doesn't surprise but it does entertain ... it is further addition to their signature sound: vibrant, outgoing electronica; a collection of tracks that feel fresh and new; tracks that extend rather than seek to evolve TAD's body of work.

From the opening track - "Mosaic" - the listener is bathed in glorious sound ... sounds that inspire rather than challenge like a familiar friend rather than a new acquaintance.

The American Dollar are a familiar friend and, with all familiar friends, I am uplifted and renewed by being with them.



Tuesday, February 2, 2016

019 - "Architect" by C.Duncan



Today's post starts with an admission: I didn't know about C.Duncan's delightfully dreamy psych pop until I saw that he was nominated for the 2015 Mercury Music Prize. I read his description, had a wee listen to the opening track and hit "buy" before the sample had finished.

I fell in love with "Architect" there and then ... and we are still going strong!

I have spoken before of my love of psychedelic sounds and dreamy pop, "Architect" has bucketfuls of both ... I would goes as far as saying if Brian Wilson were to record Pet Sounds today, it would sound very similar to  C.Duncan's masterpiece.

Woozy synths, gentle guitars, layered percussion, dreamy vocal harmonies; "Architect" has it all. It is a consistently bright ray of sunshine on a dull, dreich day: a lazy summer anthem in a similar vein to Air's "Moon Safari". In 20 years, "Architect" will still sound as fresh and new as "Moon Safari" does (it is crazy to think "Moon Safari" is 20 years old!)

We call out classics too quickly these days but I think it is a justifiable term for "Architect". Its timeless, dreamy version of psychedelia will live on for many years to come.

Tx



Monday, February 1, 2016

018 - "In The Crossing" by Dextro



I have a lot of love for the music my fellow countryman, Ewan Mackenzie, creates under the name of Dextro. His bold and vibrant electronic soundscapes excite me and keep me coming back for more. You can, therefore, imagine my delight when into my InBox popped a wee promo for "In The Crossing", his latest album (thanks mate!).

The opening track, "evacuate", is a belter: an uptempo big-beat floor-filler with BOC-esque wonky synths. I thought, upon my first listen, that this would be a fine scene-setter. I was, however, wrong.

I was wrong because Dextro takes “In The Crossing” in a completely different direction for tracks 2 to 5 and 8 (inclusive) ... these tracks present the kind of expressive ambient music that simply adore and find thrilling. These soundscapes include piano and both acoustic and electric guitar; they follow the postrock school of ambience: lots of reverb and droning sounds that create wonderful walls-of-sound.

One such track, "silent", totally enthralls me with its ethereal vocals and vintage synth sounds holding a mysterious dialogue. I will feature this track on circumambient because it would fit so very well.

From track 6, "the passage", Dextro picks back up his uptempo beats and synths, creating as he does a wonderfully engaging piece that reverts back to the beatless ambience of earlier about two/thirds in.

The penultimate track, "sum poly", is a real highlight: it encapsulates the album with it’s wall-of-sound, guitar and gentle beats; it sums up where Dextro is on his musical journey.

We then come to the final track, "occupy”, a powerful, euphoric multi-layered slice of electronica; it drips with anticipation. Mackenzie kicks off with a quirky harp / stringed instrument and slowly adds layers of sound to the track, layers that add to the tension of the piece. It closes the album nicely.

All in … “In The Crossing” is a pleasure that will appeal to fans of ambient, electronic and post-rock music. Mackenzie really deserves a hit on his hands with this.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

017 - "Tramuntana" by Alex Lucas and Olan Mill



"Tramuntana" by Alex Lucas and Olan Mill is a compelling proposition: beguiling piano pieces that are complemented by a backing of haunting electronics to create the most wonderful of atmospheres, an engaging ambience that is decidedly cinematic in both nature and expression.

Coming to this release with only a working knowledge of Olan Mill's ambient music, I was blown away with the effortless elegance presented. The combination of piano and electronics works really well here.

My favourite track on the release is "Ibro", an euphoric piece that builds into something truly magnificent during its short duration, thanks to the use of synths and the driving melody of the piano. This could easily be the mainstay of the next release from Nils Frahm or one of his contemporaries on Erased Tapes.

Coming a very close second is the opening track ... which is also the title track ... "Tramuntana". Alex Lucas and Olan Mill set the bar very high with this track, a track that reminds me of Yann Tiersen's inventive jauntiness. It is a track that could easily act as the soundtrack to the opening credits of a film scheduled to appear at Sundance, something kind of quirky starring Audrey Tautou.

All in ... I found "Tramuntana" to be a remarkable release from the consistently great Hawk Moon Records, an exemplary release that broadens their already diverse body of work. The pairing of Alex Lucas and Olan Mill is one that I would struggle to tire of. I look forward to more from their partnership.

"Tramuntana" will be released on 8th February, 2016; from Hawkmoon Records.

Friday, January 29, 2016

016 - "Byzantium" by Javier Navarrete



The soundtrack for Byzantium by Javier Navarrete is as foreboding as the subject matter presented in the film: tense snippets of predominantly orchestral sound with elements of electronic manipulation and rock instrumentation that exude a deliciously dark atmosphere.

There are moments of pure elegance - "my mother", for example - where grandeur and spectacle overcome the pervasive sense of malevolence but, for the most part, this is a decidedly dark affair.

The repeated use of The Coventry Carol, both explicitly and as a motif, is a stroke of genius: using an already melancholic carol to create further tension is simply brilliant.

This is an excellent soundtrack, one that truly conveys the sense of mood that the film it backs requires. I will be investigating Javier Navarrete's back catalogue further.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

015 - "Lucy" by Eric Serra



French composer Eric Serra is new to me. I didn't know of his work until I began listening to his soundtrack from the Luc Besson film, Lucy. I have yet to see the film but I have the gist from the trailer and can hear how Serra's work will be a fitting accompaniment to the film.

Serra's music is dynamic, vivid and engaging; a heady mix of orchestral and electronic sounds, in keeping with the current trend for this fusion of worlds, think Tron Legacy For example.

This fusion works so well to convey both suspense and energetic movement: the eloquent use of percussion and found-sounds ensures the listener is in no doubt of the mood at any given moment. That is, for me, the sign of a good soundtrack - a fully expressive body of work that lets the listener in on what's going on. Serra's soundtrack ticks these boxes with ease.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

014 - "Cast in Steel" by AHA



A-HA are a band from my childhood (I was 11 when "Take On Me" was released) whose music I still enjoy today. And whilst I was gutted when they retired in 2010, I was absolutely delighted when they announced one final album and tour.

I picked up "Cast In Steel" a couple of weeks ago and I’m pleased to report A-HA are still on-point with their uniquely identifiable new wave synth pop sound. Morten Harket’s voice is instantly recognisable and doesn't appear to have diminished in any meaningful way, partly due to his continued singing as a solo artist during the band's downtime.

The use of orchestral elements in the opening two songs is inspired and demonstrates the band’s willingness to progress, a trait I have always respected in them. The second song - "under the makeup" - could easily be a Bond theme, it has the necessary assuredness.

I bought the album on CD and it has been regularly played on our home hi-fi, I've already caught my wife singing away to it while it was playing which is always a good sign.

At the end of the day A-HA craft great pop music and this album sits tall in their canon. A welcome return, one I wish was permanent.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

013 - "Cosmopolis OST" by Howard Shore and Metric



The soundtrack to the David Cronenberg film - Cosmopolis - is an interesting proposition: a collaboration between composer Howard Shore and Canadian indie band Metric.

Instead of Shore's typical orchestral score he has worked with Metric to create a haunting, electronics-infused, alt-rock soundscape. In essence, they are his orchestra and they do a fine job in conveying the ideas Shore seeks to express.

I found the few vocal tracks to have a delightful dream-pop vibe and I even enjoyed the rap track from K'naan, which is something - I'm not a rap fan. It was, however, the instrumentals that really caught my interest: deep, dark and seductive;

All in ... an inspired soundtrack from Shore and Metric.

Monday, January 25, 2016

012 - Jerry Goldsmith's soundtrack to Legend



Jerry Goldsmith's soundtrack to Legend was one of the first soundtracks that I truly listened to. It belonged to a dear friend who live across the street from me & I would borrow it for a listen. The combination of pastoral orchestration, leftfield electronic motifs, heavenly choral work & some delightful songs made for a compelling listen.

Legend still makes for an engaging & distracting listen today. Yes, the orchestration can sound a bit twee in the way all Jerry Goldsmith's music can but if you accept that and look beyond his moments of jauntiness, it is a truly remarkable piece of music, one that is in keeping with its counterpart from Tangerine Dream.

Goldsmith's soundtrack appears as backing to the European Version and Director's Cut of the film whereas Tangerine Dream's soundtrack is used on the US Version.

I love both soundtracks but, I'll be honest, Goldsmith's version holds a very special place in my heart.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

011 - "Commune" by Goat



I've spoken before of my love for the Swedish psychedelic band, Goat. Their most recent album, Commune, on Sub Pop, is a worthy follow up to their 2012 album, World Music.

Commune has all the elements that makes World Music such a total trip: out there vocals, mind-altering percussion and woozy, bluesy, psych guitars all swirling and twirl in your mind with such reckless abandon ... it makes for an truly enjoyable listening experience.

That said, this is a follow-up. No need ideas are expressed, no new direction taken ... but when they have, as a band, struck gold ... why change it?



Friday, January 22, 2016

010 - Slow Meadow



Never has a name so eloquently described asound as Slow Meadow, the project by Matt Kidd that features two meaningful contributions from Hammock.

Slow Meadow's sound, on this their self-titled debut, is slow and pastoral ... it is a graceful delight for the ears and, simply put, minimal modern classical at its very best.

The album features modern day lullabies, the kind that soothe the soul and relax the busy mind. These meditative lullabies utilise guitar, strings, piano, and a wee bit of electronic manipulation and synths; they are simple in their presentation: nothing overwrought, nothing hurried, just sounds that work so well together brought close to create the most beautiful of atmospheres.

Slow Meadow is an utter delight, an album destined to soundtrack some significant memories.



Thursday, January 21, 2016

009 - "Gestalt" by The Impending Adorations



When a musician I follow on Bandcamp recommends another artist, I always check out their recommendations. "Gestalt" by The Impending Adorations, the electronica project of Paul McLaney, an Englishman based in New Zealand, was recommended by Rhian Sheehan. I didn't quite know what to expect from this 2012 album but was very impressed when I was able to dive into it. 

Found sounds work with woozy, laid back synth melodies and skittering electronic percussion to provide the basis for McLaney's vocals. His vocals are delicate, sensual and deliciously melancholic, which is in keeping with the soundscapes he presents. Think Charles Webster (Born on the 24th July) and you’ll get a sense of McLaney's vocal delivery. 

In many ways "Gestalt" shouldn't work: it would be too easy to be overwhelmed with too much going on but somehow McLaney keeps it all together. 

I am glad I followed the link. This is a cracking release. 



Wednesday, January 20, 2016

008 - 100/100 - "Minecraft - Volume Alpha" by C418



My youngest daughter, Miriam, obsesses about Minecraft and is very good at it. Whilst the game hasn't grabbed my attention, the music has ... buoyed by a recent physical release on the exemplary Ghostly International.

The soundtrack for the game, created by C418 aka Daniel Rosenfeld, is intriguing: melodic electronica that is deeply engaging. Think Lullatone but less twee and you will get a handle on what's presented on Minecraft - Volume Alpha. The music dances in your imagination in the most wonderful way, brightening your mood and providing an exceptional soundtrack, one that works both in and out of the game.



Tuesday, January 19, 2016

007 - 099/100 - "Söhm Vaken" by Row Boat



Söhm Vaken by Row Boat is an exquisite EP, one that transports me to the desolate lands of my wildest imagination. It is an atmospheric body of work that is utterly beguiling, traits I have come to love with Mark Wardale's music.

And while it is demonstrative of the work Wardale has produced to date, there is something more evident: a willingness to progress ... the throbbing baseline that fades in then fades back out of the opening track, "Draugen", for example. Söhm Vaken is something new from Wardale, something very exciting.

I look forward to more from this talented musician.



Monday, January 18, 2016

006 - 098/100 - "James" by Lowercase Noises



Andy Othling aka Lowercase Noises continues with his tradition of releasing music to commemorate the birth of his children with the release of "James", an exceptionally bright and exuberant EP that reminds me how exceptional Othling's music is.

"James" is both vibrant and pastoral, a delight for the senses; one that feels both fresh and familiar.

To commemorate a child's birth is an inspired act but to do so in this manner, with such grace, care, and craft; conveys such love that I can only marvel. We say awesome too readily, this is awesome and I am filled with awe.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

005 - 097/100 - "The Gift" by Cousin Silas



During the Christmas break, Cousin Silas self-released a 34 minute longform piece called "the gift". It was a thank you for all the support afforded him by his friends. The piece isn't readily available - you need to ask him for it via PM.

“The gift” is a remarkable piece of ambient electronica … a deep bubblebath of sound that encompasses the listener in its warmth.

I found the piece to be easily accessible, as did my wife who isn’t known for her love of longform music. She really liked it and I can think of no greater compliment than that.

Friday, January 15, 2016

004 - 096/100 - "Hymn to the Immortal Wind" by Mono



Hymn to the Immortal Wind by Mono is a truly spectacular slice of guitar-orientated orchestral-leaning post-rock, one that takes the notion of creating powerful, epic, decidedly cinematic music with rock instrumentation at its heart.

The band’s use of electric guitars, piano, harpsichord, glockenspiel, drums, tympani, and cymbals; as well as full blown orchestration is awe inspiring and simply first class.

I get goosebumps at the end of the opening track - "ashes in the snow" - due to the bombastic percussion. There is something wonderfully transcendent about that ending: the building atmosphere culminates in the climactic ending. Exceptionally beautiful.



Thursday, January 14, 2016

003 - 095/100 - "Hyperborea" by Tangerine Dream



Note:
Before I stopped blogging back in July, 2015; I was attempting to undertake 100 posts with exactly 100 words. I want, six months on, to complete this task.

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Hyperborea by Tangerine Dream came out of nowhere recently and surprised me big time. I am more a fan of their 70's output: Rubycon, Phaedra, etc. I always thought, wrongly it would appear, that their 80's output was a bit too "Streethawk" for my tastes. I was wrong with Hyperborea.

Hyperborea is filled with my kind of adventurous yet melodic electronic expression with sounds so ahead of their time that they still feel fresh today, over thirty years later.

I now need to reevaluate Tangerine Dream's later output and not be so bound to some unfounded conservative notion.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

002 - Jeff Scott Townsend - One day I will wash upon the shore.



If you read yesterday's post you will be aware that I haven't updated my blog - headphonaught.co.uk - since July of last year. I spoke of losing my desire to write due to an external event that, in all honesty, needed more attention than I could realistically give.

The thing is, at the time, I felt overwhelmed. I was inundated with submissions and simply didn't have the time to commit to properly listening to all the music I was asked to consider.

There is way too much great music out there.

I didn't have enough left in me to give in the way of words of encouragement to musicians and artists and the like.

Recently, however, I've started writing again. I’ve started writing on the train to & from my work. I have approximately 20 minutes either way that I'm able to use productively. I am able to use this time to create, to write words that build others up regardless of whether the intended musician / artist actually reads what I have to say about their effort.

This morning I listened to a pre-mastered copy of Jeff Scott Townsend's latest album "one day I will wash upon the shore". Townsend had entrusted me with this early edit a few months ago to simply hear what I thought of his work. What an honour!?!

"One day I will wash upon the shore" is, quite simply, a modern classical masterpiece: hypnotic, pastoral, and elegant; it has a grace that I rarely hear these days ... an unhurried, self-assured beauty that is a pleasure to behold.

There is a scratchy quality to the recording that, in some strange way, adds a sense of timelessness to the piece. It's as if I've come across an old 78 while digging in the crates and struck gold.

Townsend's use of repeated vocal samples during the album has the potential to grate but it doesn't. He manages to use this technique in such a manner that it adds to the overall ambience of the piece, such is his skill and foresight.

I spoke yesterday about how I would feel in someway negligent if I didn't point to great music like this - this is an excellent album, an album that I want to champion, an album that deserves both my attention and my support. Townsend needs all the encouragement he can get, I hope my words are the first of many.

My thanks to Jeff Scott Townsend for his trust and for encouraging me, as Bowie's untimely death on Monday there, to metaphorically pick up my pen again.

Tx

Note: "One day I will wash upon the shore" is not out yet but I will endeavour to let you know when it is ... in the meantime, please check out his work including the exceptional "The Republic of Dreams":

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

001 - In remembrance of David Bowie



I stopped writing last July.

Something happened in our wider family that was beyond the control of my wife and I, and I just didn’t feel it appropriate to be writing about music and the like over on headphonaught.co.uk.

It didn’t seem important enough. Flesh and blood took precedence.

Time moved on, as it always does. The thing that caused us so much pain and heartache got resolved and began to move in the right direction once more ... but I still couldn’t bring myself to write. Maintaining a blog was one less thing for me to worry about. I could never keep up and now I no longer needed to.

Time continued to march forward and up until yesterday I had convinced myself that I no longer need to write … I no longer had the “itch”. That was until I heard the news of David Bowie’s untimely death.

I’m not a die-hard David Bowie fan and only really liked the following from him:

* The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
* Low (1977)
* Heroes (1977)
* Lodger (1979)
* Labyrinth (with Trevor Jones) (1986)
* The Next Day (2013)

I am pleased to say I can and will add Blackstar (2016) to this list after listening to it today.

What I loved about Bowie, however, was his creativity and innovation, and how he could reinvent himself so many times. That was what made him so very special and unique. We use words like "genius" and "legend" too glibly these days ... he was both a genius and a legend.

I was moved yesterday when I heard that he had died. Shaken by the transitory nature of life itself. Even though I wasn’t a big fan of his, Bowie’s work still touched me. I am particularly fond of his “Berlin Trilogy” - Low, Heroes and Lodger - they speak to me as no other of his work really does, other than his most recent albums - The Next Day and Backstar. It’s probably best to chalk up Labyrinth as a guilty pleasure and move on.

That’s when I was reminded of the power of music ... it touches a part of us that nothing else can. We are left wanting without it.

And for me not to write about it … not to point people to new sounds whether from the bleeding-edges, the grass roots, or the established mainstream would be something akin to negligence on my part.

So here’s to David Bowie … may his music touch the hearts of generations to come. I thank him for making my life richer and for rekindling my love for writing.

I now have that itch again.

Tx