Monday, August 27, 2012

here's my stab at mixing modern classical and atmospheric house

In progress...Needs mastering, and I might add some tracks to it.
But for a while now I've tried to incorporate influences like Max Richter, the Blue Nile, Talk Talk, Lowlife, James Blackshaw, Arvo Part, and others into my attempts at melodic house.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review: James Blackshaw: Holly EP

With as little fanfare as possible, James Blackshaw has released a pair of new songs that call to mind his earlier guitar masterworks, The Cloud of Unknowing and O True Believers, while still incorporating the orchestrated grandeur of his later work. "Holly" actually sounds as if it was performed on a nylon-string classical guitar, which - as far as I know - is totally new for a published song by James. It's a uniquely beautiful piece among his works.

There are so few artists out there doing music for the sake of sheer beauty. Blackshaw demands no recognition, but deserves a great deal. He seems to tour relentlessly; it's a wonder he found time to write and record pieces this wonderful.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fathom 5: The Astoundingly Obscure

A friend recently pointed me towards an incredible track by this Swedish group. Their page reads, "Slow working and puts out about 2 songs a year. Those songs are on the other hand worth waiting for." It seems strange, given the effort put in to each track, that the band's website features a brilliant mini-album available for free download.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Review: The Tallest Man On Earth's "The Wild Hunt"

I'm normally not a big fan of singer-songwriter-type albums - the unadorned guitar-and-vocals technique can seem a bit lazy to me. Some recent artists have found great and interesting ways to work around this, such as Sam Amidon. His albums All Is Well and I See the Sign both found Sam pairing his earthy, modest singing and guitar playing with some lovely, expressive accompaniment by Nico Muhly and others.

The Tallest Man On Earth's The Wild Hunt is a nuanced folk album that defies expectations about singer-songwriters' typical songwriting and guitar playing abilities. Both are insidiously catchy, despite Kristian Matsson's reedy, rough singing style, which grates for about five seconds until you realize how brilliant it actually is. His deft strumming and occasionally startlingly intricate finger-picking encourage repeat listening. The only real misstep comes at the last track, where Kristian jumps on the piano for a more sedate number that seems less suited to his style.

The album as a whole, though, is almost relentlessly joyous (note: not saccharine), and just beckons you to sing or hum along its many memorable melodies.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Blue in Heaven: Overlooked Irish Dream Pop

Fans of quality alternative synth / dream pop will find lots to love about Blue in Heaven, an unfortunately neglected Irish group that released two albums, All the Gods Men (1985) and Explicit Material (1986).

Despite a rather scathing review in the AllMusic guide, this band did produce a handful of standout tracks that suggest they could have been destined for great things.

Some tracks veer a little too much towards abrasive, which can sadly obscure some strong melodies and interesting atmospheric ideas. It's a shame they didn't continue to develop and release more material, although I've read that they reformed as the Blue Angels and put out some good tracks...I'd be curious to hear.

Free Track: Trains Crossing

This is a track I made a while back when I was exploring long form ambient pieces.

trains crossing by Ghost Cathedrals

Monday, October 3, 2011

Review: Echospace's "The Coldest Season"

After visiting Tibet, the memories that stayed with me the longest were of incense; seemingly permanent, whitewashed stone walls; shafts of light breaking into secluded magenta cloisters; and the encompassing rawness and expansiveness of the landscape. There's something about being in that rugged, unforgiving place that made me feel more alive.

Conveying the same sensations that are conjured by visiting such remote environments is a noticeable trend in electronic music. Some artists have built their entire aesthetic on the idea. Thomas Köner, in particular, uses impossibly heavy drones that numb the mind to suggest glacial winds and vast, isolated landscapes, battering your ears in the same way that a trip to McMurdo base might batter your senses. Based more on texture and feeling than any conventional song format, this is "music" in a much more elemental sense.

Echospace's The Coldest Season is another fine entry in this category. Echospace is truly an apt name for the crackling, reverberating impulses that disturb the ubiquitous snowy haze coloring this release. Echospace take Köner's concept of ambient polar drift and add, to certain tracks, a primal kick, snare, and hiss, bringing the overall sound closer to something by Basic Channel.

I'm at a loss for words for explaining why this album works as well as it does; all I know is that it speaks to something at the core of me.

Buy on Amazon

Also see:
Thomas Köner
Basic Channel
Ben Frost