remote_ thoughts | contemporary electronic

Stephan Mathieu – A Static Place – 12k

Posted in Reviews: Electronic, Reviews: Minimalist by remotethoughts on February 21, 2011

Stephan Mathieu - A Static Place

An early contender for album of the year here from the marvellous Stephan Mathieu as he joins forces with 12k. It’s another gorgeous solo outing exploring the realms of the soundscape in a deliciously atmospheric way.

Created using a set of 78rpm recordings of early gothic and baroque music, Mathieu then set about manipulating and transforming these sounds into the ghostly and wistful collection of music on A Static Place.

From the off there’s a calm and almost pastoral lilt to the ambience with dusty textures and layers of hiss hiding behind some truly beautiful tones. Gliding serenely and using the innate sense of musicality from the originals this work is at once very modern, yet at the same time a glimpse into a world gone by.

Variation comes by adding differing passages within the tracks and the seemingly effortless way the luscious is blended with the haunting really is a treat for the ears. There’s a sense of unhurried charm that really comes to the fore when you allow yourself to be truly immersed, preferably with headphones in my opinion.

Each piece weaves a slightly different spell and the overall effect is of an otherworldly place that we’re being permitted to sink into for a short time. The layers are melodic, always, but with hidden depths that range from bass hum through to a light dissonance which keeps things varied.

A magical slice of work, then, and something for lovers of the purest beatless music to enjoy over and over again. Truly sublime.

Check it here: 12k

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Yann Novak – Relocation.Reconstruction – Line

Posted in Reviews: Electronic, Reviews: Minimalist by remotethoughts on November 30, 2010

Yann Novak - Relocation.Reconstruction

Artist: Yann Novak

Title: Relocation.Reconstruction

Label: Line

Cat No.: LINE_045

Format: CD – Edition of 500 copies

I don’t even really know how to describe this incredible release as it has formed a constant background to my life for the past four months – through bad times and good. It’s been there at my lowest ebb and just as much a part of things when life began to turn around for me. So I guess I’m not going to be overly objective about it. But then, that’s not why you’ve come here, is it?

The first time I experienced this work I was aware that it was something special and with each consecutive listen that feeling has grown and grown. I have absolutely no idea how many times I’ve played it but it’s been on at least once virtually every day since I got it. To me that’s a recommendation enough as it’s very rare that something affects me as profoundly as this (and, as an example, I could cite discovering Celer and Bvdub as other defining moments over the last few years).

I love Yann’s work anyway and have enjoyed everything I’ve heard thus far but this release really takes it to another level in my opinion. All the hallmarks of his keen sense for music and sound design are here, but it’s the distillation of one of his key works, ‘Relocation’, that proves to be a defining moment in his musical career for me.

Relocation.Reconstruction takes elements from the aforementioned installation and limited CDr release and forms it into a genuinely brilliant 42 minute work that has timeless written all over it, and by condensing the beautiful and the dissonant into one whole it simply accentuates exactly why this form of music can be enjoyed over and over again.

A drifting, icy ambience permeates every second and the initially discordant opening soon gives way to a more melodic and gentle tone – and yet that moves into an incredible and startlingly deep passage where all of the most intense elements of the original recordings coalesce into a magical and otherworldly soundscape. It’s as uplifting in many ways as it is subtle and the highly evolved balance of dark versus light shines strong and true. Bass rumbles delightfully underneath the core sounds, providing a balance between mid and low frequencies. The shimmering, ever evolving layers are the equivalent of an aural tonic that will soothe you and envelop you.

The way the individual parts slowly flow into each other is so perfectly executed that, by the time you’re fully immersed in the current section, you can’t seem to recall exactly how it segued from the previous passage. The change is so subtle and so expertly realised that it leaves me, frankly, breathless.

I love that this music uses implication as a way of suggesting themes. While the ‘relocation’ part of the title is reasonably well documented by the artist, it allows you the scope to concoct your own version of events, your own narrative, if you will. That’s why it works so tremendously in virtually every situation I find myself in; travelling, working, feeling blue, feeling joyous and so much more.

If you’ve got this far through my review you’ll have quite possibly noticed that I’m rather enamoured with this release. I’m more than enamoured really… I’m completely smitten. It’s a work of substance and a deep understanding of how powerful the most low-key and subtle music can really be.

After a year of wonderful releases this is, without doubt, my album of the year.

Fourm / Steinbruchel – Knot 3 – White_Line Editions

Posted in Reviews: Electronic, Reviews: Minimalist by remotethoughts on August 23, 2007

Fourm / Steinbruchel - Knot 3 - White_Line Editions

Artist: Fourm / Steinbruchel

Title: Knot 3

Label: White Line Editions

Cat No.: WLED:001

Format: 3″ CDr – Edition of 100 copies

I’m an unabashed fan of BG Nichols’ work whether it’s under his Si_Comm or Level guises and now I’m extremely pleased to have experienced his new Fourm project.

Having discovered a recording of a Ralph Steinbruchel live set entitled ‘Box’ he set about getting permission from the artist to rework the pieces from the CD in his own inimitable style. He duly received a thumbs-up from Steinbruchel and this absolutely marvellous 3″ CDr is the end result.

Packaged in a plastic wallet with a set of 4 postcards featuring some rather nice minimalist artwork, the audio content is a re-imagining of the source material using electronic processing to add layers of depth and sparse beauty to the original. Rather than completely deconstructing the work, Nichols approaches the reinterpretations with respect and cunning to provide a compelling series of pieces.

Strictly minimalist, the work is a series of beautifully cultivated layers and rhythmic elements that sits somewhere between his micro-fine high frequency work as Si_Comm and the more lush melancholy ambient sound of his Level project. The effect is strangely soothing, yet has enough edge and background layering to reward thorough listening. That said, however, there’s a real ambient overtone, particularly to the first track, ‘Knot 3′ and this gentle way of easing the listener into the CD pays dividends.

By the time you reach ‘Knot 2′ you’re greeted by an altogether more rhythmic and angular piece of work that, once again, manages to retain a calm and hypnotic feeling whilst dislocating you with off-kilter drops and stutters. The underlying drone is a thing of great beauty and accentuates the overtly a-tonal sound that plays across in tandem with the rhythms.

The final track, ‘Knot 1′, is yet another superb example of depth in drone. A pulsating and, no doubt speaker shaking, bass rumbling bottom end collides with a menacing series of foreground tones that, at times, seem to be trying to communicate with you. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there’s a hint of manipulated vocal in there somewhere. Sci-fi minimalism with attitude and the sort of oceanic depth that fans of Richard Chartier or NVO will be extremely pleased to hear.

In essence this is a project of some substance and I’ll certainly be looking forward to the next instalment in the series. Once again Nichols delivers a wonderfully thought provoking and engaging piece of work.

Mnortham – Automnal 2003 – and/OAR

Posted in Reviews: Electronic, Reviews: Minimalist by remotethoughts on October 15, 2006

Mnortham - Automnal 2003 - and/OAR

Artist: Mnortham

Title: Automnal 2003

Label: and/OAR

Cat No.: AND/23

Format: CD – Limited Edition

And/OAR continues to impress me as a label with its varied, original and extremely high quality release and it’s clear that owner Dale Lloyd takes a great deal of care over every single release. As such it’s always a pleasure to hear a new CD from such a quality imprint and this release from Mnortham is absolutely sublime.

The three tracks that make up the 55 minute CD are audio snapshots of three different locations in time and reflect the ideas and feelings the artist had whilst relocating around the globe thirteen times in the just two years, culminating in his arrival back home in Autumn 2003.

Prepare to be soothed and engaged by the work on offer here as there’s a tangible sense of difference between the pieces, even though the approach is roughly the same each time with processing of location recordings and found sounds forming the main structures.

‘Glacier Du Trient, Switzerland/France’ is a light, breezy, yet discordant piece that lifts you up with its high end drone sounds and insistent clicks in the background which force you to pay attention. It’s hard tune it out and you’ll find yourself listening to it in depth and discovering more and more resonant frequencies existing than you imagined at first.

‘Eagle Creek, Indianapolis’ has a heavier, more oppressive tone and bears a similarity at times to some of the work of Wolfgang Voigt under his Gas moniker. Combined with the sound of cicadas in the background the organic tone that drives the track forward gives you a palpable sense of a wide open space inhabited by creatures of the night.

The final piece ‘Ils Grosbois, Montreal’ is the most haunting of the works here. A mid/high-frequency drone that works with discordant layers resonates at just the right level to create a sense of dislocation, gradually adding in subtle static sounds and scratchy, gritty tones into the background. Again this give the track a real sense of movement, driving it ever forward.

And it’s this sense of moving and never settling in one place that permeates the whole CD… a feeling of transience captured for eternity on a piece of encoded plastic. That’s the magic of music and it’s certainly where the magic of this CD comes from. A delightful, beautiful and very personal piece of work.

Alva Noto – For – Line

Posted in Reviews: Minimalist by remotethoughts on July 24, 2006

Alva Noto - For

Artist: Alva Noto

Title: For

Label: Line

Cat No.: LINE_026

Format: CD

Line’s pedigree as an experimental electronic label is long and extremely impressive. With releases from the likes of Richard Chartier, Bernhard Gunter, Steve Roden, Asmus Tietchens and many more influential artists it has grown in stature over the years.

We come to the 26th release and no introduction is necessary when dealing with an artist of the calibre of Carsten Nicolai – Raster Noton original, micro-composer extraordinaire and visual artist of some distinction.

‘For’ is a surprising release in many ways as Nicolai’s work is often based on a particular theme or concept. Here, however, the only concept is the dedication of each track to a particular musician or artist. It’s refreshing to hear an album of variety, beauty and challenge that simply exists because it can – there’s no other reason to enjoy these tracks other than they’re enjoyable!

‘Counter’ is a slightly disconcerting intro track which uses a whining, high-pitched squeal to wake the listener up before dropping into some textbook sinewave tones and bass. A perfect way to set you up for the rest of the CD.

From there the tracks become more melodic, strikingly beautiful and full of a delicacy that sits happily with the semi-ambient nature of quite a few of the pieces. The 12 minute long ‘Transit’, for example, has a classic, gentle progression with all of the hallmarks of Nicolai’s sound… yet it’s a mellow sound – almost chill out music. There are still elements of high-frequency in there, but they don’t dominate and certainly aren’t the main raison d’etre of the track.

‘Gulf Night’ is the only track that really comes across as an experimental piece but it sits quite happily amongst the other gems of shining beauty.‘Flashforward’ is simply a divine piece of music that has more in common with the likes of Taylor Deupree or Minamo than the clinical sound of Raster Noton. It weaves an absolutely magical spell over the listener with a hypnotic, shimmering chord loop punctuated by subtle tones and textures.

The album finishes with ‘Alva Noto.Z1′, a track that sounds like it could form part of the Alva Noto / Sakamoto trilogy with it’s piano phrases and bass heavy rhythm. Then you learn that elements of the track date 1999, and it becomes clear that you’re listening to a liquidly beautiful prototype of that work.

Undulating, spacious, natural sounding… this CD captures a very real sense of Carsten Nicolai’s personality and musical skill. For that reason it becomes ultimately clear that this is a work of great distinction. Another wonderful and essential release from a deeply impressive label.

Sébastien Roux – Songs – 12k – CD

Posted in Reviews: Minimalist by remotethoughts on February 9, 2006

Without a shadow of doubt, 12k continues to lead the field in the world of minimalistic Electronica. With beautiful artwork, exemplary music and immaculate overall presentation, you know you’re getting the finest every time you excitedly open one of their releases.

The 36th releases comes from the mind and equipment of Sébastien Roux and a band of players including Stéphane Garry, Laurent Vaissiere and Leonzio Cherubini, who provide the original instrumentation that Roux has then manipulated and processed.

‘Songs’ is comprised of 7 tracks that each have a unique feeling. They take the form of an instrument (or in some cases two or three) that provide the basis for the work and have then been rearranged, reconstructed and generally tinkered with until they take on an entirely new guise. So, for example, ‘The Prepared Piano Song’ does, indeed, feature a piano, but this is combined with various other sound sources, both organic and electronic, to form an engaging variation on the theme. Other instruments include cello, piano, harp, Metallophone, electric guitar and drums and that’s what gives the CD such variety.

The real beauty of this album is the simplicity with which it actually works. The idea of ‘songs’ is turned upside down yet, strangely, some of the pieces do retain an almost traditional element to them and you can clearly hear Roux’s Folk, Pop, Electronica, and Musique Concrete influences throughout.

Whether you’re treated to skittering, high-frequency sounds, barely-there natural sounding recordings and chaotic rushes of white noise, or simply a lovingly played guitar or piano riff, there’s a lovely coherence to the sounds that’s at once lively, yet extremely soothing. You’ll find yourself jumping a little when he hits you with one of those moments of extreme noise but they never last for long and, as ever with this form of music, it punctuates the work beautifully and adds a clearly defined sense of form and space.

The arrangements work on a very ‘free’ level and, although it borders on abstract a fair amount of the time, there’s still a lovely flow to the work which keeps you engaged from the very beginning right to the end.

Ambient, dreamy, challenging, noisy and beguiling – these are all words that amply describe this album and as is always the case with both the label and the artist you should seek out and enjoy this wonderful piece of work.

A remarkable voyage.

Richard Chartier – Tracing – Non Visual Objects – CD

Posted in Reviews: Minimalist by remotethoughts on February 4, 2006

Non Visual Objects has something of an impressive pedigree as far as releases go. Kicking off with a CD by sound artist Steve Roden, the aim of this particular imprint became very clear early on – to provide experimental works of electronic musical art with distinctive packaging and a varied, often challenging repertoire of artists.

Following that, NVO released works by Richard Garet, Dale Lloyd, Jos Smolders, Ubeboet, Roel Meelkop and label co-owner Heribert Friedl. Now, for the 5th release we are treated to an exceptionally beautiful piece of work by Line and 3particles head Richard Chartier who, by my calculations, is on absolutely top form at the moment.

Well known for his wonderfully difficult sound-works using microtones, fractured electronics and a minimally minimal style which borders on being barely perceptible at times, Chartier is an experimentalist with an incredibly finely tuned sense of space and form.

‘Tracing’ continues his recent (and hopefully ongoing) trend for producing incredibly deep and melancholy drone-based works. For other examples see ‘Set Or Performance’ or ‘Retrieval 1-5’. In my opinion, this style really suits him and brings a truly emotional side to his sound right to the fore whilst still challenging the listener and pushing towards the edges of the genre.

The piece starts off in a typical Chartier fashion with a long, tantalizingly slow build up which, initially at least, sits so far back in the mix that it’s more of a subconscious sound – a slowly evolving, rumbling bass drone layered under a deeply resonant and very atmospheric texture which fades in and out like the ebb and flow of the sea.

The piece continues in that vein throughout using subtle filtering and resonance to amazing effect… the droning sounds almost implying the feeling of wind blowing across stark landscapes… the feeling of being stranded, alone, in space with monolithic, impossibly large spacecraft drifting past you… utter desolation, yet with a surprising amount of warmth in the actual tones he’s used. Volumes change radically from time to time and whilst one moment you’re hardly aware of anything, the next it’s a mind-filling noise which is very moving indeed.

Then, 41 minutes later, you find yourself in another space and frame of mind having been treated to one of the most hypnotic soundscapes you’re liable to hear, wondering to yourself where those 41 minutes went… how they could have passed so quickly.

That’s the beauty of it – you always want to go back to hear it again and in a similar way to John Hudak’s ‘Room With Sky’ on Spekk, you get the feeling that’s exactly what the artist wanted.

Chartier has created a pristine work here and, for me, is conceivably one of his most exquisite works to date.

Bravo to both label and artist.

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