remote_ thoughts | contemporary electronic

Merry Christmas from Remote_

Posted in Uncategorized by remotethoughts on December 24, 2005


Well, it’s that time again.

I’d like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a prosperous new year and say a big thanks to all the people who’ve been reading remote_ thoughts over the last few months. Your support is much appreciated.

Here’s to a happy and very musical 2006.

Peace to you all.

Mike.

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Steinbr├╝chel – Opaque (+Re) – Room40 – CD

Posted in Uncategorized by remotethoughts on December 17, 2005

Room40 is a label that has quietly ploughed away releasing high quality experimental Electronica in a variety of styles. Under the guidance of Lawrence English and considerable help from John Chantler they have formed an impressive catalogue of releases including artists such as Tujoko Noriko, Oren Ambarchi, Greg Davis, Dj Olive, David Toop and Scanner, to name but a few. This single-minded dedication to producing the finest releases in lvely packaging is beginning to pay off, and whilst it can be a struggle for small, independant labels to get a foot in the door, so to speak, they appear to be going about it in entirely the correct fashion.

Which brings us onto this latest release…

Steinbr├╝chel was comisioned to provide a piece of music for an exhibition in Berne, Switzerland during Spring 2003. The concept was for it to played in the surround listening room, so, as you can imagine it has a spacious and wide-open feel. It’s very pleasing to discover that the work translates into the stereo domain with a great deal of ease and instantly has the feel of a classic digital minimalist track of the variety released by 12k or Spekk.

Intricately woven and initially full of static, clicks and pops, it soon begins its journey into a more melodic style using pure tones, textures and waveforms. It’s subtle and beautiful and has a lot in common with the work of Taylor Deupree using, as it does, the more coherent kind of sounds to envelop the listener. You might say it has a drone feel to it, but with mid-range sounds that penetrate into ones consciousness.

On its own, this track would be superb, but Room40 commisioned five artists to reinterpret the original in a range of different and very intriguing styles.

Chris Abrahams, Ben Frost, Taylor Deupree, Oren Ambarchi and Toshiya Tsunoda were all given three soundfiles to work from and a remit that utilises the particular strengths of each artist. So, Abrahams combines the files with piano, Frost uses only feedback, Deupree works with the melody, Ambarchi works in combination with guitar and finally Tsunoda uses only the field recording aspects.

A fabulous idea and one that reaps massive dividends when listening to the final compositions.

Chris Abrahams’ work is delicate yet extremely abstract and combines a freeflowing, unsyncopated style of piano tinkling that’s much like a toybox but with an added depth. I won’t say ‘Jazzy’ because I think that’s missing the point somewhat, but there’s a free feel to it which is very pleasing. Combined with the icy texture in the back ground that works almost as a chord progression, it’s an engaging and surprisingly fun piece of music.

Ben Frost opts for a more sub-zero aspect to his version. Using a deep manpulation of the chord sound along with glitch sounds he’s created a track that is, conceptually, closer to the work of Ambarchi than the other musicians involved, but has a much lighter feel. The way the texture builds and morphs is something that will keep you coming back to it and the fractured moments of broken clicks punctuates the whole piece very nicely. At ten minutes long it’s just the right length to hypnotize you all the way through. A beautiful work.

Taylor Deupree is one of those artists that you can rely on time and again and here he puts together a trademark track that has all the hallmarks of quality from beginning to end. Melodically superb (and it’s always worth bearing in mind that ‘melody’ has a very different meaning in this form of music than the traditional idea what’s musical) and as ever just the right side of abstract it has that slightly drone-based feel that hooks you straight away coupled with incredibly subtle bacjkground percussion that’s barely there yet entirely integral to the track. Quite superb.

Oren Ambarchi’s guitar-based version occupies similar territory to his recent output and immediately delivers a strong hit of layered drone pleasure. It’s a very dense sound which combines a deep bass tone with high end frequencies and very little in between. Highly resonant and mind-fillingly potent, it’s just a shame it’s so short as I could have listened to it for a whole lot longer.

Finally Toshiya Tsunoda works some serious magic with the soundfiles in conjunction with field recordings to give us an environmental sound based piece. A persuasive collection of sounds work together to give the piece a sense of isolation and loneliness that’s at once comforting, yet slightly disturbing. At times it’s easy to forget you’ve actually got anything playing as it melds with the general background hubbub of modern life. Every now and again though you’ll notice the ultra-high frequency that sits at the very edge of the hearing range and be reminded that you are, in fact, listening to a beautifully put together piece of experimental Electronica.

This, for me, is the finest Room40 release so far and when you consider the label’s output up to this point you’ll realise that I don’t say this lightly. Essentially it’s an exemplary collection of forward thinking minimalist music and for fans of 12k, Spekk, Apestaartje, Touch and other such labels, it’s simply a must.

Remote_’s favourite releases of 2005

Posted in Uncategorized by remotethoughts on December 11, 2005

It’s been an amazing year for the sort of minimal electronic sounds that I hold dear to my heart and picking 10 (why is it always a top 10?) would have menat that I had to squeeze out a few things that I genuinely love.

So, I’ve decided to do 15 in no particular order to give you an idea of exactly what’s been floating my boat in 2005.

Various – Small Melodies – Spekk – CD

Fenton – Pup – Plop – CD

Level – Cycla – Spekk – CD

Studio Pankow – Linienbusse – City Centre Offices – LP/CD

Bretschneider + Steinbruchel – Status – 12k – CD

Filfla – Frame – Plop – CD

Loscil – First Narrows – Kranky – CD

Pub – Liltmor – Ampoule- CD

Deaf Center – Pale Ravine – Type – LP/CD

Minamo – Shining – 12k – CD

Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto – Insen – Raster Noton – LP/CD

Marsen Jules – Herbstlaub – City Centre Offices – LP/CD

Level – Shimmer – Polymorphic Music – MP3

Kyo Ichinose – Lontano – Cubic Music – CD

Rod Modell – Vibrasound (The Deepchord Years 1999-2004) – Silentes – CD


So there you have it. A list of wonderful electronic sounds that have been the soundtrack to the generally rather good year that was 2005.

Hopefully you’ll agree with me on most of these, but if not, feel free to tell me why!

Peace and a merry Christmas to you all.

Mark Clifford / Simon Kealoha – Running Taper – Polyfusia – CD

Posted in Uncategorized by remotethoughts on December 11, 2005

For those of us that appreciated the more experimental end of the shoegazing phenomenon there’s no doubt a very soft spot indeed for the work of Mark Clifford.

As the leading member of Seefeel and sometime collaborator with the Cocteau Twins, his work had, and still has, an uncanny depth and stark beauty to it that makes him pretty much unique in the world of electronic music.

After a hiatus of several years he re-emerged with the wonderful, but difficult, self-titled Disjecta EP which also came out on his own Polyfusia label.

As a statement of a new intent to be producing again it was bold, brave, engaging and surprisingly abrasive which no doubt put off some of the people who expected an exact re-run of the earlier Disjecta or later Seefeel material.

‘Running Taper’ is a collaboration, however, and the combination of the artists has brought a new depth and clarity to the sound that works on several levels – all of them appealing.

The over-arching theme is of an abstract yet warm Electronica sound – somewhere between the output of labels such as Plop and Spekk – that’s intricate and delicate but with plenty of power behind it to keep it flowing throughout.

You can hear Seefeel in there (and I’m sure that’s not going to be taken the wrong way) and you can hear the more fractured tones of Disjecta but there’s also a more digital, minimalist sound lurking as well that gives it the feel of something that might be released on 12k. I’m not sure how much music Clifford and Kealoha are listening to at the moment but I suspect that it’s entirely incidental that it sounds so current. I just can’t imagine them pandering to anyone with their sound.

A happy accident then? Quite possibly. But listening to the lovely textural sounds and fragmented , experimental tones gave me just the right feeling of being caught between the past and the present. And that’s why it works so well, in my opinion.

Then, you get halfway through the 8 tracks and suddenly you are assaulted by a massive (and I mean big) guitar chord with a huge fuzz effect on it that belts out in a steady, hypnotic way, filling your head and bringing to mind once again the shoegazing days of old. It’s a long track that stays remarkably focused all the way through with minor changes in tone, but essentially is a classic drone piece.

The latter half of the CD is a tad more experimental in tone although there are moments of classic Clifford melody and an almost Aphex-like tone to some of the sounds, but again it all sounds very contemporary and if you’re used to listening to Monolake or Shuttle358, for example, there’s plenty for you to get your teeth stuck into here.

A massive return to form, then, and an exciting release in general for fans of Clifford. Props must go to both artists, though, lest we forget that this is, in fact, a collaboration.

Available from a small number of outlets including Smallfish, Warp and Polyfusia themselves, this is one to seek out and enjoy.

Pliiant – Soothe The Wound – Ampoule – 2×3" CD

Posted in Uncategorized by remotethoughts on December 11, 2005

Ambient music can be something of a double-edged sword a lot of the time and whilst I’ve always been a fan of the chilled out sound of Electronica, you can often find yourself bogged down in obvious sounds from obvious artists on obvious labels.

So it’s always a relief to hear genuinely interesting music that’s laid-back, relaxed, yet engaging enough to not be mindless background music.

Step forward Pliiant…

Ampoule is one of those great labels that doesn’t release a great deal, but when they do… my word, you’re always in for a treat! And Pliiant is still something of a mystery to me. Is it Pub in disguise? Is it half of Lucky & Easy? I’m just not sure.

Having spent some time with this delectable release, however, I would certainly err on the side of it being Pub-related as it has all the hallmarks of depth and beauty that you would expect from that particular artist.

The release itself is the 3rd limited ‘Talent’ offering available in very small quantities from a very small number of shops (exclusivity can be a good thing I’m starting to believe, although it has the downside of encouraging a whole heap of downloading and selling for silly prices on Ebay) and, to be honest, this is probably already out of print. If you can track it down though, it’s well worth it and you can rest assured that it’s a superb quality piece of work.

There are 9 tracks spread over the the two miniature discs and, believe me, there’s not a moment wasted. From beginning to end it’s a voyage of blissful, textural sound that is probably the most chilled of the releases so far.

The tracks blend into one another thematically and sound-wise so that you’re almost never aware of any breaks between pieces.

There’s a drifting, ethereal quality here that brings to mind the deeper shoegazing bands of the ’90’s and combined with the detailed, dense soundscapes it leaves you with a sense of timelessness that’s very appealing in these days of disposable music that dates oh-so-quickly.

Rhythmically it’s minimal, to say the least. That’s not to say there are no beats, but they’re there merely as a backdrop for the all important tones and layers and they feel somehow incidental compared to the musical aspects. But, there’s a very pleasant surprise in store as Pliiant has picked up a guitar and added a mellow, almost psychedelic set of organic tracks into the mix that use vocals and, again, a slightly indie feel to give it all a human touch. Combining this with the overall Electronica sound works like an absolute dream and punctuates the music beautifully.

Essentially if you’re a fan of Pub’s work or the Pop Ambient albums, this is for you. If you like atmospheric and densely layered Electronica, this is for you. If you’re even remotely interested in just plain great sounds, this is for you.

Delightful, beautifully produced and very desirable because of its scarcity, this is a release that will easily stand the test of time.

Gorgeous.

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