Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones
[Denovali Records, 2011]
Stream the entire album here.
Parole de Navarre was a great record. Very forthright in their approach, Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones took the whole dark jazz/jazz noir shtick and made it their own. Songs like “Une Cellier” established the group’s ability to sustain a rich and dark atmosphere in a 10+ minute span a la Bohren & der Club of Gore. What left an impression on me the most, however, was how unashamed they were in maintaining a cryptic sound. Whether it was the vocals and samples used on “La Boudoir”, the mix of panting and screaming at the end of “Mon Bibliotheque”, or the way “Ma Couloir” made me feel like I was in some haunted factory, Parole de Navarre’s scariest moments were some of the most memorable things I heard in the whole realm of dark jazz.
Considering it’s been five whole years since the release of Parole de Navarre, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Métamanoir finds the quartet experimenting with their sound. Something that’s immediately noticeable is the use of more vocals, both sung and spoken. Zalie Bellacicco, Ronan Mac Erlaine, and Gaëlle Kerrien (who sung on a recent Yann Tiersen album) all do a wonderful job in adding to the whole David Lynch-film vibe. In fact, I would go so far as to say that most of these songs wouldn’t have the same impact if the vocals were absent. Take, for example, the 11-minute “Eux Exquis Acrostole”. It’s one of the more traditional-sounding jazz noir tracks on the album and it benefits a lot from the haunting delivery and lyrics from both male and female vocalists. On “Le Implacable Gentilhommiere”, there’s unsettling percussion patterns and a heart-beat-sounding hi-hat alongside other hair-raising sounds. And while the track is definitely great on its own, Ronan’s deep vocals are another element to make the song such a success.
When you consider how Zalie Bellacicco helped out with the previous record, and that other bands like Bohren & der Club of Gore and The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble have embraced the use of vocals on recent recordings, the idea of Dale Cooper Quartet utilizing vocals shouldn’t seem too shocking. However, something that may come off as a little confusing is how sweet and love song-ish a few tracks on Métamoire turn out to be. “Elle Agréable Rendez-Vous De Chasse” sounds like one of the poppier, i.e. not actually metal, tracks I’d hear on an atmospheric black metal album if it was coated with sprinkles of shoegaze and post-rock. The vocals follow a simple melody but carry a deep sadness that feels heavenly to soak in - something I can remember sensing when hearing songs like Have a Nice Life’s “I Don’t Love” or My Bloody Valentine’s “Sometimes”. What makes the song so brilliant, though, is its clever progression. The seemingly out-of-place strings during the first half of the track act as background noise while concentrating on the reverbed guitars and vocals. The guitars slowly crescendo and allow for a gradual way to get immersed into all the noise; it’s actually quite swoon-worthy.
The final two tracks carry similar heart-wrenching ambitions. The instrumentation in “La Terrible Palais” sounds like it could have fit in The Caretaker’s An Empty Bliss Beyond This World with its ballroom, slow dance pace and tone. Soon, Ronan’s vocals come in and he sounds like a sophisticated gentleman. The album closes with “Il Mélodieux Manoir”, a five-minute love-song mixed under sounds of rain. The lyrics are undecipherable, but all the emotion that drips from the guitar plucks, percussion, and back-and-forth vocals are genuine and clear. It’s easily the most surprising track on the album (and may come off as a little pretentious to some), but it works as a memorable and appropriate way to end such an engaging album.
Métamanoir is a wonderful record by the simple fact that it shows Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones refining an old style and mastering a new one. From the cohesiveness in the samples-filled “Ma Insaisissable Abri” to the sheer terror that makes up the 13-minute “Mon Tragique Chartreuse”, there isn’t a moment on the album where anyone should feel disappointed. Whether you’ve been a fan of the band for a while or you’re going to give them a first listen soon (possibly because of their Twin Peaks-referencing name), there should be a lot for you to enjoy.
I couldn’t help but fall completely in love with Fjordne’s Charles Rendition right away. Soaked in the sultry atmosphere of a smoke-filled lounge, the delicate piano that Fujimoto Shunichiro plays is both classy and experimental. Tracks like “Gathering” and “Awakening” showcase his clever mixture of laptop electronics-tinkering and lovely piano instrumentation. Just as satisfying are his more subtle approaches of creating texture-based jazz. On “Constellation,” the sound of a ticking clock and bells are heard throughout its gripping 3 and a half minutes. It’s an achingly beautiful and captivating world that Shunichiro creates on Charles Renditio and each track hints at a different side of his creative genius. On the standout “Hope,” strings and female vocals lay on top of these cut up drums in such an effective way that the song wouldn’t be as fascinating without the edits. Fujimoto Shunichiro is obviously an extremely skilled man, and with all the different things that are happening on this record, there ends up being a lot to discover and enjoy with each repeat listen. Simply put, Charles Rendition is brimming with intelligence, emotion, and creativity. It seems safe to say, then, that it should also be one of the most satisfying albums you’ll hear all year.
Listen to “Hope” here.
Grouper Water People / Moving Machine
[Ballroom Marfa, 2011]
Flavor: ambient, dreamscapes
Earlier this year, we were treated with Liz Harris’ amazing double album A I A. As that release was much more ambient/drone-based than the more singer-songwriter feel to Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill, it showed how Harris has really become comfortable with her voice and singing in her songs. She’s used her voice as a textural component to her pieces before, but hearing Liz actually singing lyrics is a completely different story. This 7” holds two of Liz’s most song-y songs, utilizing a more conventional song structure. Harris’ soft voice is as heart-wrenching as ever, and the way they’re shrouded in the sounds of reverberating electric guitars and field recordings creates a haunting, yet dreamy atmosphere. Elegant and addicting, this single is all the more proof that Liz Harris is an ambient superstar.
Listen to “Water People” here.
Jacques Greene Greene 01
[Unknown Label, 2011]
Flavor: UK Garage
When looking at the things that Greene has sampled, you can tell he’s quite a big fan of female R&B artists. From sampling Ashanti on “(Baby I Don’t Know) What You Want” to Brandy on “The Look,” Greene’s love for R&B has led him to sampling and cutting the best vocal melodies in recent memories. Continuing down the same round on this white label release, Greene utilizes Amerie’s “That’s What U R” and Kelly Rowland’s “Motivation” on the first and third track, respectively. But instead of dicing the vocals into various bits and pieces, Greene essentially keeps them the same and lays them on top of his own slickly produced beats. The latter track, especially, turns the original piece into a surefire banging club hit without sacrificing any of its sensual appeal. In a somewhat unexpected manner, “I Like You” hilariously features a sample of Will Ferrell from Old School and it manages to prove effective. Honestly, Greene 01 is just more proof that Greene can really whip up a great 2-step tune.
Listen to “Motivation” here.
Alec Koone’s work under Balam Acab received quite the buzz last year after his See Birds EP. And though that release was lumped with other witch house projects from last year, it definitely stood out as something more intelligent and creative than the rest. The quick categorization of See Birds made some sense though; the five tracks were drag house creations with pitchbent r&b vocal samples, dubstep influences, synths galore, and a somewhat underlying creepiness. While those elements are carried over on Wander / Wonder, something that’s quite obvious about this debut LP is Koone’s ever-increasing affinity for all things aquatic.
Wander / Wonder is essentially an exploration of the sea and “Welcome” is the initial dive into its mysterious depths. A pulsating heartbeat starts off the song alongside the sounds of bubbling waters and noisy machinery. This evolves into a slow, brooding beat as pitchbent vocals add a sense of curiosity and wonder to the expedition. More crackling and machine noises are added to the track, and it all manages to compose a steady, ethereal ambiance. And though the song would have been wonderful at just that, a loop of bright strings burst through in the final minute, giving the impression that a beautiful expanse of the ocean has just been discovered.
“Apart” is the next lush track, and it sets the tone for the rest of the album. Fuzzy static and blippy synths wind around a laid-back beat as pitched-up vocals start to be heard. They’re intelligently placed in the mix and are extremely enchanting, acting as the luring cry of a distant lover. Swirls of synths and strings twinkle throughout the following song “Motion,” provoking images of brilliant coral and colorful schools of fish. There are lower-pitched R&B vocals this time around to compliment the “female” ones and it’s what perfects the feelings of infatuation on the track. It sounds like the high-pitched vocals are saying “you still love me,” but even if they aren’t, Koone still accomplishes what he set out to do with the vocals. He obviously knows that his listeners won’t be able to discern all the lyrics, but he uses the vocals’ textures to support the emotions that each song tries to evoke. Take “Now Time,” there’s two sets of pitched vocals delicately twisting around each other over shakers, guitar plucks, a slow-mo hip-hop beat, and what sounds like birds chirping. The high-pitched vocals are consistent with the light, sensual feel of the song while the lower ones correspond with the hard bass drum hits to get the same effect. Utilizing R&B vocals isn’t anything new, but Koone’s ability to genuinely make them blend in with the instrumentation is noteworthy in itself.
Along with the vocals, the field recordings that Koone uses are always affectively applied. The sounds of, what seem to be, falling beads and fluttering wings on “Oh, Why” are the little touches of simplistic beauty that push the song to excellence. The most apparent field recordings are, unsurprisingly, those of water. And whether it’s the sounds of waves reaching the shore on “Expect,” someone jumping into a pool on “Motion,” or someone scooping up (or walking through) water on “Await,” there’s a natural bond formed between the recordings and the electronic ones used to reproduce similar sounds. This is best found on “Fragile Hope” and its use of timely water droplets. The sounds of dripping provide a melancholy backdrop to the song as the sounds of heavy breathing help to do the same. High-pitched vocals are heard far in the distance one last time as the album closes, signaling that we’re departing from the fascinating world we had discovered in “Welcome.”
When thinking about Wander / Wonder, it’s staggering to know that it’s the work of a 20-year-old Ithaca College student. The production and mixing on the album is extraordinary and really empowers listeners to get lost within the music. And on that note, it’s quite important that all eight tracks are heard with headphones and one’s full attention in a dark room. Without that setting, one will lose a lot of what’s to experience on Wander / Wonder. Koone’s created one of the most imagery-inducing records of 2011, and anyone who’ll resist listening to it because of its unfortunate label as Witch House will be missing out on a lot.
Listen to “Oh, Why” here.
5. Now Time
6. Oh, Why
8. Fragile Hope
1. Heavy Living Things
Edited 8/22 6:23 CST - added bonus disc track list; bonus disc will not be reviewed.
A Winged Victory For The Sullen is the collaborative work of masterminds Dustin O’Halloran and Stars Of The Lid member Adam Wiltzie. And as if it couldn’t get any better, cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir and violinist Peter Broderick contribute to the album as well. With such an accomplished group of musicians participating in the creation of this self-titled debut, it’s safe to say that this record is one of high expectations. And after listening to all forty-four and a half minutes on A Winged Victory, there shouldn’t be any major disappointments one should feel.
If you’ve given a listen to any of the contributors’ works, then this record shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. A Winged Victory is filled with emotionally affecting pieces of chamber music, finding much of its beauty in simplicity and minimalism. In fact, there isn’t a better example of a 2011 release thus far that proves Claude Debussy’s claim that “extreme complication is contrary to art” than this one. On every track, A Winged Victory taps into the root of emotion with something extremely unassuming, like 2-note piano chords on “We Played Some Open Chords.” This is further seen in “Requiem For the Static King Part Two” as both melancholy and peace are stirred up with single, crawling piano notes.
Don’t be mistaken though, the seven tracks that make up this LP aren’t minimal for the sake of being minimal - there are signs of brilliant songcraft everywhere. Rich instrumentation is shown in “Requiem For The Static King Part One” a piece written for Mark Linkous, by bearing some of the most heartbreaking string sections on the album in under three minutes. In “Steep Hills Of Vicodin Tears,” warm strings caress washes of synths before wrapping around dabbles of light piano. Three minutes in, everything cohesively builds into a gorgeous and noteworthy climax. From the quiet tremble that closes out “A Symphony Pathetique” to the short field recordings that are spread across “All Farewells Are Sudden,” A Winged Victory is an album that’s capable of bringing satisfaction in fairly simple, and not-so-simple ways. And though this album may not demand much of your attention, it definitely deserves all of it in order for you to soak in all it has to offer.
Listen to “Steep Hills Of Vicodin Tears” here.
1. We Played Some Open Chords And Rejoiced, For The Earth Had Circled The Sun Yet Another Year
2. Requiem For The Static King Part One
3. Requiem For The Static King Part Two
4. Minuet For A Cheap Piano Number Two
5. Steep Hills Of Vicodin Tears
6. A Symphony Pathetique
7. All Farewells Are Sudden
Living With Yourself was definitely the most accessible release from Emerald’s guitarist Mark McGuire but moreso, one of the most accessible albums within the whole guitar-loop/ambient scene. The success that the album received was rightfully deserved and the recent anthology that Editions Mego released further proved that McGuire has made a name for himself among peers. Teaming up with Akron, Ohio band Trouble Books, this self-titled debut holds up as a delightful blend of both McGuire and Trouble Books’ signature sound. The union of McGuire’s lush guitars with Trouble Books’ serene atmospheres and neo-folk tendencies is nothing short of sublime.
“Floating Through Summers” starts off with a guitar melody that pans in and out, eventually drifting into peaceful atmospheres of minimal melodies. It isn’t too difficult to discern which artist’s instrumentation is their own, and the way they layer on top of each other so naturally makes the track and the rest of the album a success. ”Hoop Earrings In The Slush” exemplifies this well by starting off noisy and dissolving into a quiet conglomerate of trickling acoustic guitar and keys over a pulsating beat. And even when tracks like the bubbly “Uploader’s Destiny” aren’t shifting themes or melodies too much, there’s a sense of euphoria within its misty textures. Keith Freund and Linda Lejsovka’s vocals are an important part of what makes the album so appealing as well. Sounding like Yo La Tengo and Owen at various times, vocals are found on almost all the tracks. Strategically present in small doses, lyrics about reflection act as another element to the blissful composure of each track their on.
Last year saw the release of excellent releases from both Trouble Books and Mark McGuire, and to see a record as great as this one come out in such a short time span is incredible. There couldn’t have been a better match, as all the songs on the LP seem like a perfect marriage of two different sounds. Take “Strelka Update” for example, McGuire’s krautrock-influenced melodies compliment the wistful ambience of Trouble Books extremely well, proving itself to be a wonderful revision of the original “Strelka.” This could be the last thing we hear from this collaboration, but Trouble Books & Mark McGuire well deserves its status as a special one-time offering if it ends up being so.
Listen to the album here.
1. Floating Through Summer
2. Song for Reinier Lucassen’s Sphinx
3. Strelka Update
4. The Golden Waste
5. Local Forecast
6. Uploader’s Destiny
7. Hoop Earrings in the Slush
8. Life in a Peaceful New World
Sun Araw’s Alex Gray has been releasing several of his recordings on cassette tapes as Deep Magic for a while now. Lucid Thought is the project’s second full-length release and it certainly deserves its place in the marvelous Preservation catalog. It seems quite appropriate too as Deep Magic does sound pretty similar to labelmates Black Eagle Child at times. More ambient and meditative than Sun Araw tends to be, Lucid Thought is characterized by its shimmery soundscapes of relaxed nature. Lush in its instrumentation, the 46 minutes of tropical psychedelia here slowly sink into you upon listening.
The first two tracks on the album are distinguished by soft, fingerpicked guitars that lace shifting drones. Hypnotic and captivating, layers of various instruments drift into one another and you feel like you’re floating on a sea of bells, chimes, vocal drones, guitars, and synths. Blankets of synth pads become the foundation of “Minds In Lucidity III” as a rain stick and shakers complement shy guitar notes that reverberate within the mix. The following track starts with a repeating guitar melody that slowly disintegrates into washes of liquefied synths, bringing to mind Mark McGuire’s earlier releases. Rounding out the album in a similar fashion, “Minds In Lucidity V and VI” are equally as alluring despite having the shortest track lengths. Though Lucid Thought is split into six tracks, it’s definitely best listened to as a whole.
Lucid Thought isn’t begging to be heard, instead, it invites prospective listeners to thoughtfully partake in its celestial atmosphere. With its krautrock influences and delicate drones, Lucid Thought is an album that’s incredibly rich in sound. And though the album doesn’t sound like anything entirely new, there’s an unexplainable freshness to it that each repeat listen rewards. We’re only a little over the halfway mark for 2011 but I think it’s safe to say that Alex Gray has made one of the most beautiful albums you’ll hear this year.
Listen to “Minds In Lucidity I” here.
1. Minds In Lucidity I
2. Minds In Lucidity II
3. Minds In Lucidity III
4. Minds In Lucidity IV
5. Minds In Lucidity V
6. Minds In Lucidity VI
There’s a ton of albums that I want people to know about. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to review every single album I would like to. As a result, Spoonfuls will allow for me to recommend albums in a quick and efficient manner. Each post will consist of five albums, eps, or singles and a shorter review/description of each release. To clarify, I will still be doing regular full-length reviews and Spoonfuls will be posted every now and then.
Black Pus Primordial Pus
As the drummer and vocalist for Lightning Bolt, Brian Chippendale’s fifth solo release under the Black Pus moniker shouldn’t be too surprising. However, there are enough notable differences between both projects to make each band distinct. The noisy, dissonant sounds aren’t gone and the production is still as scuzzy as ever but something that’s noticeably different is how Chippendale’s drumming isn’t always at breakneck speeds. In fact, a lot of the tracks employ a more humble drum beat that are seem appropriate within its context. For example, the drums on tracks like “Police Song” and “Favorite Blanket, Favorite Curse” aren’t extremely technical but they serve their purpose in ushering in a tribal atmosphere. In conjunction with harsh guitars, the persistence of all the drums on “Beneath the Wheel” creates a relentless wall of sound. In addition to the aforementioned tribal atmosphere that characterizes some of these songs, I pick up a very Liars-esque vibe from Chippendale’s vocals here, especially on “I’ll Come When I Can.” It’s an interesting track because it’s the most un-Lightning Bolt thing you’ll hear but it still manages to be a highlight on Primordial Pus. If you like Lightning Bolt, you’ll like this. If you’d like a less aggressive (but still pretty aggressive) Lightning Bolt, you’ll like this. If you don’t like Lightning Bolt, you’ll still probably find something to enjoy here.
Bullion You Drive Me To Plastic
[Young Turks, 2010]
Pretty late on this one but I thought I’d at least mention it considering how great it is. If you don’t know Bullion, he’s the guy that made Pet Sounds: In The Key Of Dee. He’s released wonderful singles and an EP since then but You Drive Me To Plastic definitely sounds like the most accomplished and mature thing the young Nathan Jenkins has done. Nine tracks and 21 minutes long, You Drive Me To Plastic seems like a nice train ride of the Jenkin’s tastes and personality. As “Wrong Door In(tro)” opens up with samples that Jenkins has previously used, it acts as a statement that he’s about to whip out a bunch of his eclectic music collection: and he isn’t lying. Throughout the 21 minutes, there’s funk and psychedelic krautrock, horns and strings, vocal and spoken word bits, you name it. You Drive Me To Plastic has me excited for whatever Jenkins has in store, and if you give it a listen I’m pretty sure you will too.
Field Rotation Acoustic Tales
[Fluid Audio, 2011]
I’ve been waiting for a great neo-classical album to come out this year and Acoustic Tales definitely exceeds what I could have hoped for in such an album. Emotional and cinematic, all 11 tracks (all simply titled Acoustic Tale #) have an affecting warmth and depth. Hopeful at times, melancholic at others, the instruments are all incredibly affecting. The violins actually sound like they’re weeping midway through “Acoustic Tale 4” alongside lonely bass drum hits. The song eventually resolves into a sudden burst of elated hopefulness thereafter, and I’m left pretty amazed how well it’s done. The anxious “Acoustic Tale 6” is underlined with a bubbling drone as recordings of children create an eerie tension throughout the track’s second half. Glitchy electronics and handclaps are used on “Acoustic Tale 9” to create a peaceful and relaxing climate while the first, drone-y half of “Acoustic Tale 8” recalls older Field Rotation projects. If you haven’t checked out either of Field Rotation’s albums this year, make sure you at least check out Acoustic Tales.
Listen to tracks and find out more information here.
Jacques Greene Lay It Down
Since Another Girl, I’ve been excited to hear anything and everything that Jacques Greene would release. And lo and behold, we already have another 12 inch. On Lay It Down, Greene showcases a couple mesmerizing acid house tracks along with two remixe of the title track. If you had a chance to hear Greene’s freely released “Sorted,” you’ll soon realize that the tracks here share a similar feel to them. Despite the lack of cut-up vocals on the title track, (though some appear in the whatever/whatever remix) it still sounds like the talent-filled and creative Jacques Greene that we’ve come to love. It’s also nice to see “What Are You Feelin,” which has been around since last year, find a home on a proper release. Lush and classy, Lay It Down is just another reminder that Jacques Greene is a name that needs to be remembered.
Listen to “Lay It Down” here.
SBTRKT’s self-titled album is an interesting one. Upon listening to the first few tracks, I immediately pigeonholed it as another post-dubstep album that I would shrug off. But despite the similarities between this album and many others of its kind, there’s a lot that’s attractive about this anonymous producer’s debut. Guesting on more than half the tracks, Sampha’s voice is one that’s appealing and easy to pinpoint. Sounding like a more natural and earthy James Blake or Jamie Woon, Sampha’s vocals complement SBTRKT’s production really well. One listen to the catchy “Something Goes Right” and you can notice that the way Sampha’s vocals follow the driving drums and synths make for a great combination. The female guest spots really personify the tracks on SBTRKT as well. Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano makes “Wildfire” sexier than you’d expect while Jessie Ware’s sultry voice augments “Right Thing To Do’s” introspective nature akin to Katy B’s softer songs. “Pharaohs” sounds like a classic disco house number and Roses Gabor’s airy vocals are the ideal fit for such a tune. Of course, SBTRKT’s production shines on the album as well. “Sanctuary” has a very smooth and elegant progression, eventually climaxing with gospel choir vocals and Sampha himself. Instrumentals “Ready Set Loop” and “Go Bang” really show his craftsmanship. The latter of the two tracks also bring to mind Fantastic Mr Fox’s “Sketches,” which SBTRKT remixed. I have to say, this is an impressive debut. I can understand why people may have the same initial reaction to SBTRKT as I did, but after repeat listens, I can’t deny how much it’s grown on me.
If you haven’t heard about Iceage yet, you’ll definitely be hearing a lot about them in the next month or so. Hailing from Copenhagen, this young quartet did their homework because they essentially take what they know about punk and have as much fun as they can with it - and I think that’s the essence of what makes New Brigade such an enjoyable listen. New Brigade, the band’s debut, is proof of how exciting musicians are when they’re fresh and untainted by fame and critics’ opinions. And when looking at their blog, anyone can probably tell that the guys in Iceage are going to continue doing what they love, regardless of whether or not they make it big.
The lo-fi production, dissonant noise, and sometimes-sloppy instrumentation all add to the appeal of New Brigade. And despite their obvious 70s/early 80s post-punk influence, the slurred vocals, bouncy basslines, raw guitar, and pounding drums sound more exhilarating than most punk bands in the last decade. On shorter tracks like “Count Me In,” the band doesn’t waste any time to show how raucous they can be. They even manage to throw in a few pop sensibilities in tracks like “Broken Bone” and “You’re Gone.” Nevertheless, there’s still a sense of anarchy surrounding New Brigade.
At only 24 minutes, New Brigade feels a whole lot longer than it is – in a good way. These short one to two minute tracks have a lot going on, and they’re stylistically different enough (ok, maybe not that much) to encourage repeat listens. New Brigade is a needed breath of fresh air in the world of punk and as long as they stay on the right track, they’ll get huge in no time, guaranteed.
Listen to “Broken Bone” here.
02. White Rune
03. New Brigade
05. Teeth Crush
06. Total Drench
07. Broken Bone
10. Count Me In
11. Never Return
12. You’re Blessed
Ekin Fil is from Istanbul and… that’s pretty much all we know about her. She released an album and an EP earlier, (which you can download for free on her website) but it’s definitely Language that deserves the spotlight. Released on the experimental & ambient dominated Root Strata, Language couldn’t have found a better home. In fact, upon listening to the album, many people will inevitably draw comparisons to Grouper, who released Cover The Windows And The Walls on the same label in 2007. However, Language unequivocally resonates the most with Grouper’s Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill. The downstroke acoustic guitar strumming and reverb-drenched vocals are all here, but they’re layered over dark, eerie drones instead of the lush, dreamy soundscapes that laced Dragging.
When first listening to Language, don’t be fooled by the opening track; the synth arpeggios that make up “Ima” don’t truly represent the sound of the next eight tracks. Instead, the hypnotic two and a half minutes find their purpose in setting a mood for the listener. For example, the sounds of harsh winds are cleverly used on a lot of the tracks here to conjure up cryptic imagery. In “Not A Self,” the spooky winds sound like the distant cries of wolves in a decaying forest. Meanwhile, “Unaware This Time” sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a city facing torrential downpour while the ominous and undecipherable singer narrates all the destruction. Strangely, the vocals also create a sense of bliss amidst the dark presentation of the album – as if I could find myself sleeping peacefully to every track here. On tracks like “Can’t” and “In Their Hearts,” calmly sung vocals manage to sound oddly beautiful despite how obscured they may be.
Ekin Fil made quite a departure in sound after We Are Hours. Ditching most of the glitchy electronics that surrounded the first full-length, Ekin Fil picked up the acoustic guitar and made the 13-minute Soon. While most of the songs on that EP seemed half-baked, her experimentation with sounds hint at what we have here on Language. Because of this, I can’t help but feel that Language is the fully-realized album that Ekin Fil has always wanted to make.
Listen and download three tracks from Language here.
4. Not A Self
5. Strange Bird
6. Waves Roar
8. Unaware This Time
9. In Their Hearts
“Remember when you first heard James Blake and Ramadanman? Well, remember this is where you first heard Koreless. Remember this: Koreless with a ‘K.’” (Gilles Peterson, of BBC Radio 1 fame)
That’s a bold statement coming from Gilles Peterson, and an even more incredible one once you realize that it’s attributed to someone who’s only 19 years old. Glasgow-native Lewis Roberts is the man behind Koreless and 4D/MTI.
Breaking things down, the songs are fairly simple. Take 4D for example, there’s a twinkly piano melody (with its core melody being C to Bb to G) that plays throughout the entire song. Soon, a cut vocal sample comes in and dances around a 2-step beat. There’s some snappy hand clap sounds and a couple blippy sounds as well but that’s pretty much the extent of the song. And despite how minimalistic it may be, it effortlessly manages to be a mesmerizing piece. MTI, the arguably better track here, employs the same tactic. What makes the song stand out though is how white noise is used. The fuzzy static starts off the song but is then cleverly juxtaposed to parts of the song that omit it, allowing the addicting vocal snippet to become a definite point of interest. All in all, what we have are two excellent tracks that I can picture seamlessly working well in a (UK) club setting or as post-party chillout music.
Jacques Greene has slowly been on the rise since last year’s The Look EP and contribution to the Night Slugs Allstars Volume 1 compilation and he’s easily been one of my favorite producers to come out within the past year. He takes the vocal track for “Another Girl” from Ciara’s Deuces (which is a reworked version of Chris Brown’s Deuces) and must’ve thought he hit the jackpot when he first heard that song; the vocals in that song are nearly begging to be mixed into some type of dancefloor hit. He uses the samples extremely well, slowly adding layers of vocals as the music slowly wraps around it. Starting with a syncopated 2-step beat, 16th note hi-hats eventually come in until they both fade out and let the vocals shine - a repeating “you got me feeling like a” ending with a melodious sigh (which is actually the word “fool”). The song follows a similar pattern until the end, slowly churning more layers in and extensively utilizing the “fool” sample. Interestingly, Greene manages to take the original break-up song’s lyrics of liberation into something breezy, feel-good, and even sensual - and I applaud him for that.
I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of remixes but the ones here are still of notice, particularly Mark Flash’s busier hardcore remix of The Look as well as Koreless’ sultry minimal take on the same track. If anything, make sure you check out Greene’s excellent single. His remix of Radiohead’s Lotus Flower drops July 4th so keep an eye out for that.
Listen to “Another Girl” here.
1. Another Girl
2. Holdin’ On (Braiden Remix)
3. The Look (Mark Flash UR Remix)
4. The Look (Machinedrum Remix)*
5. The Look (Koreless Remix)*
*only on the digital release
Originally inspired by the ballroom scenes in Kubrick’s The Shining, James Leyland Kirby’s work under The Caretaker is as fascinating as it is haunting. Kirby’s hope with An Empty Bliss Beyond This World was to continue his exploration on Alzheimer patients’ ability to recall memories. The creepier, darker drones that filled his first albums, as well as some tracks in the acclaimed Persistent Repetition of Phrases, aren’t really present here but the music is as unsettling as ever.
Adding flourishes to various ballroom recordings, the tracks on An Empty Bliss carry a somber, and even sinister, presence. Take the first two tracks, “All You’re Going to Want to Do is Get Back There,” and “Moments of Sufficient Lucidity” for example. Close your eyes and you can picture a grandiose ballroom filled with well-dressed people, enjoying an evening filled with laughter and romance. However, the crackles and pops of vinyl among the slightly muddied recordings make the whole experience equal parts depressing and disturbing. Tracks slowly conjure up a longing for better times from previous moments in life, even if they weren’t so memorable in the first place. The understanding that life won’t be as good as it was in the past, at least, in the perspective of an Alzheimer patient, is the underlying theme that lingers throughout the album.
Most tracks follow the same schtick – take an old recording, add a few touches to the sound here and there, and make sure it’s clouded behind a dreamy ambiance. However, some tracks step out of this comfort zone and it ends up working perfectly within the context of the album. The appropriately titled “Bedded Deep In Long Term Memory,” simply consists of static and a looping piano melody that constantly pans between both ears, as if it’s digging inside your brain to embed a memory. “Mental Cavers Without Sunshine,” (and Part 2 as well), bring to mind William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops as both act as calming, meditative pieces to accompany the destruction of something. In Basinski’s case, it’s the twin towers on 9/11. Here, it’s the deterioration of an Alzheimer patient’s mind.
As Brian Eno’s Neroli was created to encourage organic childbirth for the hopes of a healthy baby (and later used in maternity wards for the same reason), An Empty Bliss Beyond This World acts as an antithesis of sorts – that ambient music can be used as a bittersweet mechanism to recall memories and to also prepare for death.
Listen to “All You’re Going To Want To Do is Get Back There” here.
01. All You’re Going to Want to Do Is Get Back There
02. Moments of Sufficient Lucidity
03. The Great Hidden Sea of the Unconscious
04. Libet’s Delay
05. I Feel As If I Might Be Vanishing
06. An Empty Bliss Beyond this World
07. Bedded Deep in Long Term Memory
08. A Relationship with the Sublime
09. Mental Caverns Without Sunshine
10. Pared Back to the Minimal
11. Mental Caverns without Sunshine
12. An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
13. Tiny Gradiations of Loss
14. Camaraderie at Arms Length
15. The Sublime Is Disappointingly Elusive