Saturday, January 30, 2016
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.