remote_ thoughts | contemporary electronic

Haruki – Snowed In Food Shelter – Klanggold

Posted in Reviews: Organic, Uncategorized by remotethoughts on May 26, 2010

Haruki - Snowed In Food Shelter

Artist: Haruki

Title: Snowed In Food Shelter

Label: Klanggold

Cat No.: KG008

Format: CD

It’s fair to say that I rather like Haruki’s work. Having thoroughly enjoyed both of his recent releases on The Land Of and Hibernate I was excited to hear this new album on Germany’s Klanggold imprint.

Using a range of digital and acoustic sources the most immediately noticeable aspect of this work is the way it portrays a more gentle side of his character. The other releases I’ve heard definitely tended more towards a wide range of sonic elements with, dare I say it, a more playful overall style. This, however, remains tightly focused and concentrates on certain instruments as motifs, the piano and guitar for example, that recur from track to track.

It’s a deeply introspective sounding piece of work, from the tender touches of melody to the haunting and decidedly melancholic layers. It had me looking inwards whilst listening to it and I think it really is supposed to imbue the listener with a tangible feeling of sadness. Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know.

The delicacy with which the piano refrains are played and processed is beautiful and it almost reaches into William Basinski territory at times with a hypnotic flow and grainy sounds. But instead of staying static it uses the gentlest of movements to guide the tracks along.

A hint of bassoon here, a reversed chord there, acres of space for the sound to swim around you, a cunningly unstructured sounding style that I imagine is actually painstakingly put together… all of these things combine to make a very personal album that fans of the quieter side of contemporary ambient electronic music should really enjoy.

Subtle, deep, lovingly crafted. An album of substance from this excellent artist.

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Modern Institute – Excellent Swimmer – Expanding – CD

Posted in Uncategorized by remotethoughts on February 4, 2006


With this release from Modern Institute Expanding is living up to its name in a big way. The label has always provided a certain type of quality and you always know that you’re getting high class Electronica, subtly beautiful artwork and a level of production that is enviable. This album, however, sees them moving away from the pure, crunchy, melodic sound that has been their staple and into uncharted territories of sonic discovery.


Modern Institute is mainly the work of Teho Teardo along with Martina Beroni on Cello and a guest appearance from Rothko’s Mark Beazley on ‘Post.ino’ and essentially this is the most organic, live sounding album that Expanding have released. That’s not to say there are no electronics because, as you might expect, there are. Everything has been put together with love, care and attention and there’s a lovely amount of manipulation and processing going on throughout – in fact just enough to spice things up without suffocating the instrumentation.

Guitars, Rhodes piano, the aforementioned Cello and Beazley’s bass all combine to make a warm, almost traditional sounding album that utilises ambient music, Folk, classical and Electronica to convey a serene type of melancholy.

Every track has a beautiful touch that will keep you coming back for more and the sheer strength of the production is enough to keep you satisfied for a long time to come. With a selection of dreamy, downbeat and mid-paced tracks there’s not a wasted moment here with tracks such as ‘Not A Word Manni’ delivering a more acoustic hit whilst elsewhere there are more pure electronic tracks. Combine that with beatless pieces entirely composed of layers of texture and processed tones and you’ve got an amazingly varied piece of work.

Considering the popularity of labels such as Plop, Hapna and Kranky, this album is perfectly positioned to appeal to fans of all of them and I for one would applaud the label for pushing the boundaries of their sound.

The first release from Expanding for 2006 is a superb piece of work and judging by this it could well be a great year for them and their artists.

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.

Steinbrüchel – 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…

Steinbrüchel 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.

Antti Rannisto – Ääniesineitä – 12k – CD

Posted in Uncategorized by remotethoughts on November 22, 2005

Antti Rannisto is a relative newcomer to the scene but, for me, made such an impact with his superb ‘Rotate’ EP for Audio.nl that it was with a great deal of anticipation that I awaited the arrival of this new release from 12k.

As a stalwart label of the digital minimalsm scene, 12k has released some classic and pioneering music from the likes of label owner Taylor Deupree, Kenneth Kirschner, Goem, Shuttle358, Frank Bretschneider and many others. As such it’s splendid to see them, once again, going out on a limb to release music from someone on the outer edges of this potent style of music and, certainly, making a departure from their previous work.

Antti’s music is cold, icy, intense and so essentially Scandinavian that it’s hard not to reference a certain iconic label… Pansonic, Ø, Philus… Do you get where I’m going with this? Sähkö. That’s where.

This is the logical successor to the output of that staggeringly innovative imprint and barr the occasional release from Mika Vainio as ‘Ø’, this is realistically the only thing that’s sounded as real or authentic for a long, long time.

From the very beginning this CD says one thing: Depth… and lots of it.

If you’re after dense tones and mind-filling noises, this is for you. If you love absolutely strict minimalism, this is for you. If you love dark and intense mind music, this is for you.

He uses harsh, synthesized sounds to create an increasingly tense atmosphere of isolation and industry that melds effortlessly with crisp, yet subtle, 4/4 beats which act as sonic punctuation.

Resonance is another key with dissonant sounds and notes colliding together to create the kind of frequencies that stay with you long after you’ve finished listening. It’s not so much haunting… more frightening how powerful this sound is and the way he uses the simplest of elements to get into your head is devastating.

Deep sine waves, sawtooth loops and out-of-time progressions that sit uneasily over the rigid structure that underpins everything giving it an unbalanced yet perfectly, sublimely out-of sync feel.

There’s a real flow, though, and it’s essential in drawing the listener in as it can be a lonely and somewhat disconcerting experience listening to this music – you don’t neccesarily want it on as dinner music with friends, for example. Short tonal pieces are followed by lengthy and hypnotic tracks that, in a mutant and freaked out otherworld, could be dancefloor music.

A kickdrum… a sound… a manipulation… Antti proves that’s all you need to move people, and he does so with an incredible amount of style.

This certainly isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but I urge any listeners to go into it with an open mind… you may well be surprised just what you find there.

Richard Chartier Live – LMC Festival, London

Posted in Uncategorized by remotethoughts on November 9, 2005

Wednesday 2nd November 2005.

An extremely wet, windy and unpleasant evening in London.

At the best of times I’m not really that great at going out to events, but on a night like this it was a serious struggle.

God, I’m glad I made the effort.

The LMC is known for its work with and tireless promotion of experimental music in the London area and occasionally, just occasionally they cross over with the kind of minimalistic Electronica that I really love.

For the most part I find a lot of the things they do a little too conceptual for my taste but when I heard they had booked Richard Chartier to perform as part of their annual London festival at the Bridewell Theatre I rushed to get myself and some friends a set of tickets.

It was an interesting and, at times, inadvertantly funny evening, but I’m not going to go into detail about that because that’s not why we were there. We went to experience Chartier’s music at volume in a live environment.

Coming back from the bar after the interval we were greeted by a completely dark stage with only an Apple Mac logo shining in the middle along with the neon glow of an optical mouse [correction: I’m reliably informed that it actually wasn’t a mouse, in which case I’m just not sure what the light was… mysterious!]… this was to be pure Powerbook minimalism, then.

From the opening chord sounds which gently and almost imperceptibly drifted onto the (extremely powerful and amazing quality) sound system we all knew that this was going to special… and it was.

The way Chartier uses microsound samples and manipulations is subtle, inventive and strikingly beautiful. When he produces this sort of semi-melodic noise he’s at his best, in my opinion. His ultra high-frequency work is amazing, but in a much colder and more fragmented way. This was just beautiful.

The entire 45 minute set was given over to a slowly morphing and changing drone-based composition with elements of both ‘A Field For Recording’ and ‘Set Or Performance’ included as reference points for those who are familiar with some of his work. Deep, dark, resonant drones and chord sequences coupled with high-end static sounds and an insistent high-freqeuncy lurking just at the peak of the human ability to hear it formed the main frame of the piece with an ultra-low bass tone giving a solid grounding underneath. The sort of noise that you can almost feel more than hear, it reverberated through every bone in my body.

From melancholy and beautiful to haunting and moodily atmospheric, the work had elements of everything I love about this music with a wonderfully simple rhythmic passage adding yet another dimension to it – two simple clicks and two simple percussion sounds used to punctuate and accentuate the hypnotic qualities of the music.

For me, it could have gone on all night and I would have sat there entranced, but, as always happens, all good things come to an end and by the time it finished there were quite a few shellshocked and stunned looking members of the audience… myself included.

I would go so far as to say that this is one of the most powerful performances I’ve ever seen as it still haunts me now and I’ve barely listened to anything but Chartier’s music all week.

A stunning and amazing show.

Make sure you catch him the next time he’s in the country – you won’t be disappointed.

Various – Pop Ambient 2006 – Kompakt – LP/CD

Posted in Uncategorized by remotethoughts on October 28, 2005

Once a year it’s worth getting excited about a new album that includes the word ‘Ambient’ in its title… I’m talking of course about Kompakt’s (almost) legendary series of chill-out Electronica albums which have grown in stature, if not in scope, over the last 5 years.

Since day one – or Pop Ambient 2001, to give it its full title – there has been a shift towards the more ethereal, the more breathy and the more downright musical and after a slight blip with ‘2005’ and some initial reservations about this particular edition, I’m glad to say that it is, in fact, a real grower.

Some people may think of it as ‘Ambient-lite’ and I can kind of see why, but essentially, Kompakt aren’t out to challenge the listener and they certainly don’t seem to want to be overly experimental. It’s simply a great slab of listening music for easy-going afternoons and smoky-hazy evenings.

The one notable absence on this album is that of Wolfgang Voigt – discounting the fact that he did the artwork, of course – which is a bit disorientating at first. What’s the point of Pop Ambient without the Godfather of the sound being involved? Luckily there are some new pretenders to the throne as well as some old faces as well.

The Orb get strangely folky with a cute guitar riff and a surprisingly rhythmic sound that is light, airy and actually got me jiggling about in my seat! They win the prize for the most upbeat Ambient track on the album.

Mikkel Metal and Andrew Thomas both deliver gems that fill the gap left by Voigt’s absence. Taking over where Gas left off they sculpt wonderfully dense textural tracks with plenty of depth and beauty.

Uli Teichmann (father of Andi and Hannes, by all accounts) really does do a fine job of sounding classical yet utterly contempoorary with a hypnotic loop that has haunting melodic sweeps and a gentle tone.

Ulf Lohmann and Popnoname are responsible for two delightful tracks that are coherently abstract but always melodically, whilst Markus Guentner once again proves that when he’s not writing commercially inclined Techno and House he’s still perfectly brilliant at putting together lush soundscapes of the highest order.

To be honest the weakest moments for me are Klimek’s ‘Gymnopedie’, which treads familiar ground and doesn’t really do anything particularly interesting with Satie’s masterpiece, and the version of ‘Albatross’ by Kohncke & Heimermann… a pretty tune but, unfortunately, due to its blatant associations with Ambient music not terribly exciting.

That said, there’s more than enough here to keep the avid fan going and, as always, there’ll be plenty of people waiting for this with baited breath.

Will the next Pop Ambient take a slightly different direction? Who knows? Until then however you get a pleasantly horizontal album that will blissfully pass over you, through you and around you, and sometimes, let’s be honest, that’s all you really want.

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