remote_ thoughts | contemporary electronic

Taylor Deupree – Northern – 12k – CD

Posted in Reviews: Electronic by remotethoughts on April 26, 2006

I think it’s fair to say that Taylor Deupree is one of the most highly regarded electronic composers currently involved in the world of minimal, textural and contemporary soundscape music.

Rightly so as he has a wonderful back catalogue on labels such as Audio.nl, Raster Noton, Sub Rosa, Spekk, Noble and plenty of others.

His recent penchant for collaborative work has seen him engaging in musical companionship with artists such as Kenneth Kirschner, Eisi and Christopher Willits, and whilst these are all beautiful examples of how to work together as a unit, there’s something exceedingly special about a solo Deupree release – particularly when you consider the last thing he released on his own 12k imprint was the classic ‘Stil.’ in 2002.

The anticipation for ‘Northern’ has been nothing short of rabid, to put it mildly.

To break this piece of work down into it’s constituent tracks and sounds would be to do it a serious injustice as it seems to have been conceived as a complete work from the very outset. Whether that’s the correct assumption or not, I’m not sure, but the tracks on this 51-minute work of sheer brilliance seem to hang together in such a coherent way that it seems impossible to imagine them any other way.

Deupree’s work is concerned with the simple, beautiful way that machines can convey an atmosphere or emotion and his well-known love of minimalism is clearly a vehicle for this souful machine-style music – you will always find an element of beauty in his work regardless of whether it’s a stripped-down, rhythmic piece or a more texture based, hypnotic work. That’s part of the beauty, I always find… the deconstruction of sound and the reorganization that gives every tone its own unique nuance.

‘Northern’ takes the processed manipulations of his previous work and, in my opinion, steps it up a gear with a wonderful infusion of the synthetic with the quite overtly organic.

From the first notes of ‘Everything’s Gone Grey’ to the final notes of the stupendous ‘November’ you are treated to a lush, cleverly constructed symphony of sound that feels at once familiar, yet completely refreshing in every way.

Deep, lilting, melodic elements sit happily with drifting textures and slowly evolving digital sounds, creating a sense of timeless beauty and emotional warmth. Lone guitar strums punctuate the sense of melancholy and even the wood flute sounds seem to have a certain mysticism about them. ‘Northern’ is without doubt Deupree’s most musical work to date and, at times, has an almost traditional style to the sounds… something it shares in common with Sebastien Roux’s ‘Songs’ or Sawako’s ‘Hum’, albeit in a very different guise.

The snowy cover artwork perfectly reflects the feelings the album invokes with its heartwarming sound and evocative tones and he’s clearly been inspired by his new surroundings as you can genuinely imagine slowly meandering streams and stark forests full of depth and a fragile iciness whilst experiencing the music. It’s definitely a world away from the bustle of his old stomping ground in Brooklyn!

Ultimately you need to hear this CD for yourself to appreciate just why it’s such an essential and important release. And it merely cements the reputation of one of our most important modern musicians even further.

One of the best releases of the year without a single doubt.

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Loscil – Plume – Kranky – CD

Posted in Reviews: Electronic by remotethoughts on April 23, 2006

Scott Morgan’s Loscil project has grown in both stature and popularity since his earliest releases for Kranky. Something that he fully deserves as every album (and single, on Involve) has been of such a high standard that it’s hard to fault any of them.

From the more Basic Channel styled ‘Triplepoint’ through the varied and deeply beautiful ‘Submers’ right up to, arguably his finest work so far ‘First Narrows’ he has a small but expertly crafted catalogue of engaging, beautiful and considered work under his belt.

The fact that ‘Plume’ is superb from beginning to end is certainly no surprise then and merely reinforces the fact that Loscil is one of the treasures of the Organic / Electronica scene.

Morgan seems to keep a low profile for the most part and there’s a real sense of that within his music… understated, unwilling to be tarred with any sort of musical brush – he just writes phenomenally gorgeous music that seems to come straight from the heart.

‘Motoc’ begins the album with a simple and delicate loop that filters and slowly evolves whilst he adds a one-note bass line and layers of sample and string noise. This is classic Loscil and has an infinitely hypnotic quality that drags you in and washes over you, drenching you in its atmosphere.

There’s something reminiscent about ‘Rorschach’ and you get a pleasing feeling of familiarity as soon as the main meat of the music cuts in. Again, looped sounds and distant tones create a slight feeling of dislocation and the use of a single bass tone reinforces the simplicity of the music. A distorted guitar-style sound plays gently over the music and perfectly complements the lilting piano melodies.

From there the music just grows and grows into a textbook example of how to produce something unique without pandering to any particular style – Morgan clearly just loves writing music and it’s this that gives it so much weight.

‘Chinook’ is a chiming, rolling track with layers of warmth and a lovely bassline whilst ‘Charlie’ is more downbeat and more ambient. When the background guitar melody cuts in there’s a moment of clarity that soon gives way to a delightful sense of melancholy.

‘Mistral’ ends the album in a similar way to the beginnning with its subtle musical shimmers and an achingly deep chord loop that will leave you wanting, and probably needing, more.

‘Plume’ displays many of the qualities of classic ambient music and really reminds me of some of Air Liquide’s material from their more relaxed works as well as artists such as The Bionaut. It’s hard to quantify exactly why that should be, but he’s clearly influenced by a world of different sounds and the way the tracks bubble gently under the surface and use a mid-paced tempo is definitely from that particular school of thought.

Every track has a musical feel and they definitely feel as though they have an overall theme – in the same way that the other Loscil albums feel like complete works.

Quite simply it’s a wonderful piece of work and, judging by the success of ‘First Narrows’, promises to do huge things on the Electronica scene, and deservedly so.

Morgan and Kranky really have come up trumps yet again.

Sabi – Nebulous Sights – Cactus Island – 3" CD

Posted in Reviews: Electronic by remotethoughts on April 6, 2006

This will be the first time I’ve written about Cactus Island’s series of limited edition 3″ CDs even though they are currently on the 15th release. They’ve all been of a beautiful quality so far and yet, there’s a real feeling of progression with the last two releases from Nautilis and Sabi.

I don’t know whether they’re getting deeper or darker as time goes on, but they seem to have so much substance that I felt it really was time to issue forth my thoughts.

Sabi is a Japanese artist who runs SAAG Records in Tokyo and, amongst other things, has released tracks on Merck, Hydrogen Dukebox and net.label Sutemos and here he delivers a 5-track EP of sonic beauty and warmth with an overriding feeling of melancholy and wistfulness.

In some respects this has a classic ‘Electronica’ sound – crisp rhythms, sinewave melodies and luscious chord structures. And yet there’s a wonderfully contemporary feeling that belies its roots.

The production is, as always, immaculate and from the opening moments of ‘Plastic Stains [Hard]’ you know you’re going to be getting something that will enchant and hypnotize you.

It’s all about the musical elements with this CD and the layers of textural sound that provide the intro are simply gorgeous. They flow over a gentle click-style rhythm and there are lots of nice incidental sound recordings present in the background. A perfect way to begin.

‘After Ants’ takes things in a more structured direction with a recognisably electronic style that’s reminiscent of, but not totally similar to, Plaid or Maps + Diagrams. A downbeat rhythm rolls along with its Electro influence in place whilst the musical elements sit atop, majestically weaving a superb spell on the listener. Shimmering sounds and, once again, layers of background sound deliver an engrossing experience.

‘Uki Reflection’ is conceivably the most organic sounding track on the EP. Starting with field recordings of children and general bustle it’s a beatless track that relies completely on the lovely Rhodes piano progression of chords to get its point across… a dreamy, slightly unreal sense of reality. One of the strongest tracks on the CD.

Then we’re back to the delightful rhythmic tracks with the delicious ‘Matmilk’. This is simply a divine piece of music that anyone with a soft-spot for the likes of Expanding or Toytronic will adore. Simple, effective and well paced, the track is clearly influenced by mid ’90’s Electronica, yet there’s a distinct nod to the sounds of Detroit in the high strings.

Finally ‘Early Morning Dusts’ brings things to a gentle close. A watery sound prevails and the deft use of analogue synth tones creates an atmosphere that’s full of feeling and emotion. To be fair it’s a surprisingly low-key way to finish but, cunningly, it really leaves you wanting more.

It’s always nice to find genuinely excellent electronic music and Cactus Island once again proves that it’s a very fertile source indeed for this type of sound and although it can be hard to find them (due to the limited runs they produce) it’s absolutely worth tracking them all down.

Long may they continue to put out releases of this calibre.

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