remote_ thoughts | contemporary electronic

Ian Hawgood – Live Performances Japan 2009 – Under The Spire Recordings

Posted in Reviews: Electronic, Reviews: Organic by remotethoughts on June 28, 2010

Ian Hawgood - Live Performances Japan 2009

Artist: Ian Hawgood

Title: Live Performances Japan 2009

Label: Under The Spire Recordings

Cat No.: SPIRE029

Format: CDr – Edition of 150 copies

Ian Hawgood gives us two very good reasons for why he’s such a highly regarded producer and live artist. Recorded in Japan during 2009, the two tracks that make up this release are trademark examples of how his sound transfers to the live arena.

‘Piece For Shruti Box’ is a twenty minute track that’s as hypnotic as it is stirring. There’s something about the sound of this instrument that has a majestic quality, the harmonics working to add the subtle phases and shifts in the tone. From a lone note as the intro the piece soon builds up into a veritable shruti symphony never straying away from the essential fact that it simply doesn’t need any other sounds to make it better. Effects are gently added and then taken away, extra notes glide in creating a dense yet surprisingly light and airy texture. Pans from right to left then back again are all the movement you need as it reaches a gorgeous climax before fading back to one note and then drifting away. A truly magnificent work.

‘Piece For Windchimes’ is similarly focused on a single sound source but has a distinctly different feel. Whereas the shruti box creates long drawn out notes, the wind chimes are more fragmented and prone to a more random set of sonic circumstance. Of course it’s no less of a beautiful sound (one that has always appealed to me I have to say) but there will no doubt be some people that feel the windchime is an ambient staple that’s been overused over the years.

And that’s true of course. But this treatment of such a time-honoured sound breathes new life into by embracing the imperfections and inherently weird rhythmic tone. The way the piece has been processed live actually adds another dimension to it but leaving in the occasional stuttering click or obvious sample swap. It makes it much less obviously ‘new-age’ and allows the artist to play with it in numerous ways.

Whether he’s tweaking the filter or the pitch, the timbre or the effects, there’s a surprising liveliness here that carries the track onwards until the unexpected and abrupt ending. I must admit I felt quite bereft once it had ended as even though the sounds are treated in a mildly experimental way, there’s still an undeniably relaxing feel to the whole thing.

Another winner from Under The Spire and more proof (if it were needed) that Ian Hawgood is one of those artists that is consistently superb. Snap it up as there are only 150 copies.

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Taylor Deupree – Shoals – 12k

Posted in Reviews: Electronic, Reviews: Organic by remotethoughts on June 28, 2010

Taylor Deupree - Shoals

Artist: Taylor Deupree

Title: Shoals

Label: 12k

Cat No.: 12K1060

Format: CD

I remember saying in my review of Taylor’s Northern album that his key solo works don’t come along very often – well, to be fair there have actually been a fair few Deupree releases over the past few years, collaborative or otherwise. That doesn’t change the fact that a new full length on his own 12k imprint is a really special event and worthy of close attention.

Shoals gestation period has allowed it to take on a fascinating form of its own and the differences between Northern and this are tangible. Whereas Northern was part of his more accessible (if that’s the right word) period of organically-based, less overtly electronic releases Shoals takes a considerably less immediately melodic approach to the compositions.

I have to say that for me this is, along with Stil, my favourite full length album by Deupree. Sometimes you just know when something is right and here he’s combined the almost static drone feel of Stil with the layers and perfectly captured imperfections of Northern’s more earthy sound.

The four pieces that make up Shoals should be considered one journey in my opinion. They each work together to create a captivating flow which holds the attention for the duration and with an immense palette of samples, instruments and recordings it’s never anything less than enchanting

There’s still a natural sense of melody here, don’t get me wrong, but it’s blended with a background feel that seems to find a tone or texture and hold it, allowing the overlaid sounds to provide most of the movement and structure. The title track is a beautiful example of that as it remains focused for 12 minutes while providing a sparkling array of incidental tones and feelings to shine through the mix – bells, electronic drips and drops, subtle guitar strums and field recordings. This style really does form the basis for the whole album apart from the second track which has a sound that harks back much more to Northern with its light and hypnotic acoustic guitar refrain and plenty of found sounds.

It’s all about the tension between the real and the unreal as the forces of electronic processing collide with warm, human sounding textures, undeniably pretty moments and yet an undertone of barely disguised experimentalism. That’s why it’s such a surprisingly dynamic album to listen to – although you’d no doubt call it electronic minimalism in some ways, it’s actually full to brimming with exciting flavours of sound that can be enjoyed over and over with each additional listen adding new layers of understanding.

Created and produced with an incredible ear for detail, Taylor Deupree’s Shoals is a real feast for the ears and another indispensable addition to your music collection without a shadow of a doubt. Quite superb.

Sonmi451 – Ruis – Slaapwel

Posted in Reviews: Electronic by remotethoughts on June 22, 2010

Sonmi451 - Ruis

Artist: Sonmi451

Title: Ruis

Label: Slaapwel

Cat No.: UNKNOWN

Format: CD – Edition of 500 copies

I think I mentioned the other day how much I like Sonmi451. Well, blow me down if there isn’t another release out today on the lovely Slaapwel imprint. Taking the form of a limited CD with a Louis Reith print and an accompanying free download (so you can get your teeth into it straight away) or, if you prefer, a straight digital download. I know which one I prefer…

To a large degree this is a release that is perfectly capable of making its own case for why it’s so fine. Simply listening to it is liable to be more than enough persuasion for most people (and rather excellently, there’s a sizeable preview on the website) but I really feel that this one should be drawn to your attention.

Taking the approach of being a sleep enhancing or inducing piece of work (after the name of the label, one would think) this 32 minute track is an absolutely sublime slice of hypnotic ambient goodness. Dense, but never overpowering, the main sequence of tones and chords is like the best kind of lullaby – all melancholy and deep – and the tinkling sine-wave sounds that provide the melodic content really set them off beautifully. Add in some washes of grain and static in the background and you’ve got a track that seems tailor-made to appeal to the likes of me.

In some ways you could say it doesn’t develop very much, and I guess that’s true to a small degree. But that’s really the wrong way to approach it as the shifts and delicate changes in the background give it way more movement than you might imagine the first time you hear it – although to be fair it only took me one listen to be smitten and now I’m on my third run through. Repeated listening really does bring out the subtlety and loveliness and I can really see this becoming an indispensable release for those nights where I just can’t seem to get any sleep. And believe me, there are plenty of those at the moment!

Treat yourself to a slice of ambient electronic heaven and help spread the word about just how superb Sonmi451 really is. Bravo to artist and label.

Rameses III – For José María – Under The Spire Recordings

Posted in Reviews: Electronic, Reviews: Organic by remotethoughts on June 20, 2010

Rameses III - For José María

Artist: Rameses III

Title: For José María

Label: Under The Spire Recordings

Cat No.: SPIRE030

Format: CD

Under The Spire’s prolific schedule over the last year has made it hard at times to keep up with what’s coming out. But the sheer number of gems released has more than made up for that and this CD EP from Rameses III is another that I consider very much up there with the best of them.

Clocking in at 17 minutes, it’s a piece of music that’s composed with a real ear for detail and depth and their combination of piano, strings and processing lays a strong foundation for the nicely structured work that follows.

Beginning with a drop-dead lovely piano section, you’ll soon find yourself engaged and lulled by the almost classical beauty of the progression. At this point a spoken Spanish vocal is added into the mix and it really sets off the lightly melancholic feel of the intro.

From there the piece expands into a string laden, mildly drone-based (although not too heavy) mood and grows in stature and drama as it moves onwards. Again, there’s a slightly classical feeling about the sound and the added field recordings in the background are somehow haunting without being intrusive. The subtle shift of the layers is gorgeous as they wend their way between each other, never hindering or dominating and everything sits clearly and crisply in the mix due to the immaculate production.

It all comes together to provide a mellow and hypnotic voyage into the realms of organic electronic music and has a charming sense of pace and form. Beautiful all the way through, it flows with a delicious easiness and will demand you listen again straight away (I listened to it at least 3 times in succession with each subsequent experience highlighting a new moment to be savoured).

Under The Spire releases are limited in quantity and although I’m not 100% what the run is on this I’d certainly recommend getting over there and checking it before they disappear. It’s a truly lovely CD and one that definitely gets a big thumbs up from me.

Sonmi451 – Spectrum – U-Cover

Posted in Reviews: Electronic by remotethoughts on June 19, 2010

Sonmi451 - Spectrum

Artist: Sonmi451

Title: Spectrum

Label: U-Cover

Cat No.: U-COVER037

Format: CDr

Ah yes, Sonmi451. I’m really pleased to hear some new work from this artist as I’m a bit of a fan it must be said. All of his releases thus far have seen a heck of a lot of airtime on the Remote_ portable music system (otherwise known as an iPod) and this one doesn’t look as though it’s going to change that state of affairs one bit.

His work has always had a lightly ambient touch and a melodic feel – just listen to ‘A Phosphorous Spot’ for example – but has tended towards a gently rhythmic approach along the lines of some of the clicks & cuts material; intricate, yet flowing and with a nice balance between 4/4 beats and a classic electronica style. This album strips pretty much all of the percussive elements out and delivers an out and out ambient selection that works on all the right levels.

Taking the opening track as an example it features a deliciously slow and gradual build up of layers with an almost subliminal way of fading in the tones. A wash of grainy chords, a high string here and there and a feeling of free flowing, floaty depth combine to make a hypnotic and incredibly relaxing atmosphere.

From there he varies the sounds and layers to form a series of intrinsically linked experiences that seamlessly glide into each other, sharing motifs and ideas but never actually copying them.

Uplifting yet melancholic progressions and drifts maintain the low-key style and the occasional clicky sound or static tone will enter the mix, but it uses them to accentuate the purely beatless sound design rather than dominate it. Chimes, twinkling pianos and touches of glistening melody as well as some lovely natural sounds enhance an already deft palette and you end up with an album that’s as much in the ballpark of artists like Celer or Taylor Deupree as it is in the previous Jan Jelinek style mold.

A charming and beautifully put together piece of work overall and certainly something that marks an interesting development of the Sonmi sound which I’ll be very keen to hear more of in the near future.

Ambient lovers form an orderly queue as this a really good one.

Tobias Hellkvist – Evolutions – Home Normal

Posted in Reviews: Electronic, Reviews: Organic by remotethoughts on June 16, 2010

Tobias Hellkvist - Evolutions

Artist: Tobias Hellkvist

Title: Evolutions

Label: Home Normal

Cat No.: HOMEN015

Format: CD

I’ll start by saying that this isn’t just one of my favourite albums on Home Normal, it’s one of my favourite albums of the last year. Sometimes you just hear something that nails it for you and this is very much one of those releases.

Hellkvist’s sound is a lovely combination of the organic and the electronic which gels together to give you a dense, evocative and enchanting collection of ambient tracks. From the opening moments of the first track I could tell this was going to be something special with its chiming sounds and fluttering guitar licks. The simple way it grows and expands sets things up beautifully for rest of the album.

Each piece has a different feel although the overall theme is one of pastoral calm and an intimate sense of melody and texture. From ‘Patience’ with its long, drawn out sounds and shimmering guitar through to the more robust, but no less lovely drones of ‘Arms’ you can really feel the attention to detail and love in every second. You’ll find the drifting soundscapes to be absolutely packed full of life (literally in some cases due to the effortless use of natural field recordings) but never too busy. Everything has its right and proper place, be it a fluttering wind sound, a babbling stream or the sunny and warm chords that extend the pleasure for minutes at a time.

Later on it becomes more overtly drone-based but it never loses that sense of structure or compositional strength that makes it such a compelling album. The last two tracks in particular are just divine with ‘The Ladder’ using a 12 minute period to creep gently into your mind and start playing with your sense of time – did it last for an hour? Or was it 5 minutes? Who knows? All I care about is the journey it took me on for the duration and, my word, it was truly beautiful.

‘Sore’, the final track, delves into a kind of Celer style sound with a refined layer of texture resonating gently until around halfway through when it simply fades out. I thought things were over but then a reprises glides back in and you’re left with a splendid and perfectly realised ending to a tremendous album.

The aforementioned Celer reference certainly holds true and you can definitely hear a musical kinship with Ian Hawgood (appropriately enough) but there’s something else this really reminded me of at times – not necessarily in actual style, but in some of the sound design. An album by Another Fine Day on Beyond Records way back in the mid ‘90s. If you know it at all you may well hear what I’m hearing and if you don’t know it you should go and check it out anyway. Suffice to say it’s one of my favourite albums of all time.

It’s a blissful piece of work that I go back to time and time again and certainly an easy contender for my album of the year. Marvellous.

Various – Wandering – Silent Season

Posted in Reviews: Electronic by remotethoughts on June 16, 2010

Various - Wandering

Artist: Various

Title: Wandering Compilation

Label: Silent Season

Cat No.: SSCD06

Format: CD – Edition of 300 copies

Having been following Jamie McCue’s Silent Season for a while it’s great to see this compilation album coming to fruition. Taking a broad look at the deeper end of the techno and ambient spheres it’s a comprehensive collection that’s as varied as it is beautiful. Artists both known and not so well-known feature and it’s the blend of styles that makes it stand out so nicely.

Beginning with the icy ambient atmospheres and oriental leanings of No Accident In Paradise’s ICE you’ll instantly get a feel for how this is going to flow. Gorgeous field recordings of splashing water and naturalistic sounds combine with the underlying textures and long chords to give you a completely meditative feel that easily hypnotises and enchants. As the more melodic tone of the koto is brought in the track becomes full of vibrant life, complementing as it does the backing sounds.

From there we move into the more dubbed out sounds of Skyscaper / Ekelon and Mikrokristal who each deliver thoughtful takes on what it means to be deep. Skyscaper / Ekelon opt for a half-speed cut with an almost shuffle style. It’s not particularly beaty but it doesn’t need to be as the synth sounds, deep rolling bass and subtle percussion keep it moving. Mikrokristal’s track is a super slice of downbeat groove with a classic bassline and warm, friendly chord layers.

Next up we have Inanitas with a sublime ambient piece. Carved from the same stone as the work of the legendary Gas in some ways, it uses a subtly resonating chord layer with flowing drifts of muted sound shimmering across. A melodic sound and a definite nod to ‘90’s electronic and ambient make this another relaxing track.

Martin Juhls under his krill.minima moniker adds in a light and airy track with strong yet delicate melodies and a soft, breathy feel. Washes of grainy sound in the background add even more texture to what is essentially a deeply lovely and fragile sounding piece of work.

The following section of tracks take more of a classic techno approach, albeit it a low-key one. SEAS are up first with a rolling piece built around the insistent bass tone and 4/4 beat with a simple and completely effective selection of chords playing over the top. Mr. Cloudy offers up a trademark cut with echoing chord stabs, a pitched-down kick drum and a minimal bass sound. Staying relatively static throughout it’s left to the gentle filtering on the tones to deliver that hypnotic vibe I adore.

Rie Lambdoll / Relapxych.0 give us one of the highlights of the album for me with a track that’s rather unusual. Harking back to mid-‘90s techno and electronics it almost feels as if it could have come out on Rising High or Apollo back in the day. A slow 4/4 beat forms the basis for a splendid workout using vocals (yes, vocals!), layers of chords and a cool Leftfield style bassline that rumbles along very nicely. What’s so cool about it is the way it adds in different sounds to vary the tone but remains totally hypnotic. It’s an almost intangible feeling but works really well.

Martin Schulte, Shinsuke Matsumoto and Ohwert each conjure up themes based on the grooviness and movement of techno and dub sounds. Schulte’s cut is probably the most overtly funky track on the album but always holds back from being full-on. Super sounds and a chunky beat keep the momentum going in the finest of styles. Shinsuke’s track is much more sub-aquatic with a low-end kick drum, nice conga percussion and a very cool line in hypnotic chord stabs. A definite Berlin vibe pervades every second of this track. Ohrwert really is an artist of substance and here he puts together an utterly gorgeous techno track built around a luscious set of chord sounds that are melodic and joyously ambient. The beat keeps it grooving, but in a way that conjures up sunsets and Sunday afternoons.

It’s left to Mr. Zu to finish things up and this he does with a charming beatless number constructed with an electric piano melody line and a refined set of melancholy chords. It’s a fitting finale to an album that makes no bones about that fact it’s all about the depth of electronic music and provides a chilled out coda to an all round brilliant album.

If you enjoy listening to great quality electronics this album is another must-have from this absolutely superb label.

Tom White – False Ponds – My Dance The Skull

Posted in Reviews: Electronic, Reviews: Organic by remotethoughts on June 13, 2010

Tom White - False Ponds

Artist: Tom White

Title: False Ponds

Label: My Dance The Skull

Cat No.: MDTS03

Format: Cassette – Edition of 100 hand-numbered copies

A limited edition cassette release here from the My Dance The Skull label featuring a simply blissful pair of tracks from Tom White. His musical works continue to go from strength to strength and this is a lovely example of the type of feeling he excels at.

False Ponds is a two-piece work with one track on each side of the cassette and both share a common theme, yet vary the way they approach it. His penchant for loops, guitars and feedback are the main focus and there’s a beautifully gentle tone that sits throughout the tracks. A hypnotic chord strike, not unlike a chiming bell you might say, is joined by absolutely gorgeous guitar melodies that lightly play across the top. It’s a relaxing and slightly pastoral sound and reveals an intimacy and thoughtfulness in Tom’s music that’s never anything but charming.

While the tone remains light, there’s a sense of distance here as well, a depth and melancholy that conjures up images of isolated woods or forgotten gardens. That comes down to Tom’s naturalistic way of producing music with a variety of sounds sources and his improvisational skills. There’s a distinct ebb and flow to the tracks that feels unstructured yet focused.

The two pieces differ in that the A-side is pretty much 100% melodic whilst the B-side uses more found sounds and background tones to create a more earthy, but no less lovely, feel. Static crackles and washes of texture slip into the mix then fade away again leaving you with the insistent main chord as an anchoring point.

Once again this talented young producer delivers a very fine release indeed and one that you’ll no doubt be wanting to sample yourselves if you’re a fan of anything organic and electronic.

Talvihorros – Music In Four Movements – Hibernate Recordings

Posted in Reviews: Electronic, Reviews: Organic by remotethoughts on June 6, 2010

Talvihorros - Music In Four Movements

Artist: Tavihorros

Title: Music In Four Movements

Label: Hibernate Recordings

Cat No.: HB13

Format: CD – Edition of 200 copies

Hibernate Recordings once again provides a creative outlet for a relatively unknown, but extremely talented, musician. Talvihorros is Ben Chatwin, a composer from London and his brand of music is at once very listenable yet strangely abstract at times. I would hesitate to call this experimental to be honest as it’s far more fluid and melodic than that would imply. It simply features four beautifully put together compositions that form a very engaging album indeed.

Beginning with the two-part loveliness of ‘A Continual Echo Of The Sound Of Loss’, the scene is quickly set with some wonderfully evocative initial drones and soundscapes which are joined by a series of guitars textures, gradually filling out, moving onwards and adding layers of intoxicating melody – sad melody, certainly, but all the more beautiful for them. It’s a tough sound to describe as it lies somewhere between the organic electronic and a more, dare I say, progressive sound. And when I say progressive I mean that in a good way. There’s something about the hypnotic base sounds – the gentle guitar arpeggio, the swelling chords – and the way everything flows over these building blocks that really charmed me immediately and became more enchanting with each subsequent listen.

Part II adds in a more electronic style with synth sounds delivering the main meat of the chord structure and a fair amount of the melody. Again, it’s the subtle and low-key use of tone and a seemingly endless selection of layers that really brings everything together so well. After a first half that’s full of movement the second half eases into a more flowing ambient section with those sweet synths taking over pretty much completely and from there it slowly ebbs away into a looped chord and reverb-laden plectrum hits. It’s a lovely piece.

Segueing seamlessly into the third track you’re instantly struck by the subtle change in tone. It begins in an almost Celer-esque style with a luscious drone that, once again, is added to piece by piece over the course of the next 8 minutes. A mournful strum of the guitar here, an echo-drenched chord there, every note sitting in exactly the right place. Come the halfway mark the pieces start drifting away until at the end you’re left with a restless texture that fades away with the sound of footsteps on gravel accompanying it. There’s something rather haunting about this part of the album and, no surprises, it’s one of my favourite sections.

The final work is a shorter track that gives the album a nicely rounded out feeling. This is a pure slice of melancholy that, to these ears, has a lot in common with the works of Phelan and Sheppard. It features the sort of guitar playing and chord progressions that I find naturally appealing due to their rather sombre, but delicate and fragile feeling. Joined by a single tone, the rest of the music fade out and is replaced by the relaxing sound of lapping water – a fitting was to end as it mirrors the style of a very natural CD all around.

This has been played many, many times and, as mentioned before, I find it hard to do justice to it in words (which is somewhat unfortunate given that I’m writing a review of it!) but it’s an album that gets better and better with each listen in my opinion.

If you enjoy Type Records, Home Normal or Under The Spire this is definitely something you should check out forthwith and certainly has the Remote_ thumbs up of approval!

Celer – All At Once Is What Eternity Is – Taâlem

Posted in Reviews: Electronic, Reviews: Organic by remotethoughts on June 3, 2010

Celer - All At Once Is What Eternity Is

Artist: Celer

Title: All At Once Is What Eternity Is

Label: Taâlem

Cat No.: ALM64

Format: 3″ CDr

It’s always a pleasure to hear new Celer material. It has as much power as it ever has done and will always be a rare treat for these ears.

Taâlem has given us another exquisite example of why Will and Dani’s music has remained such a steadfast fixture in my life and, coming as it does on that most excellent of formats – the 3” CDr – it’s instantly something I feel completely at home with.

All At Once Is What Eternity Is sets its stall out early with a lone wind chime sound and flowing water being joined by some signature classically inclined chords – a beautifully melodic feel that is built upon in a wonderfully subtle way throughout. Although it initially seems like the chords remain static (a trademark of their sound at times) you’ll discover that they actually move gradually through a series of progressions. It’s this gentle movement and flow that gives the piece such a rich and rewarding sound. When the field recording elements creep slowly back into the mix from time to time they really accentuate the gliding, dreamlike musical content to the fullest degree.

It’s a Celer release through and through and if you have any love for ambient drones and soundscapes written from the heart then my advice is to get yourself over to the Taâlem site immediately as I believe these may well be limited.

22 minutes of gorgeous, timeless and utterly enchanting music.

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