remote_ thoughts | contemporary electronic

Kane Ikin – Sublunar – 12k

Posted in Reviews: Electronic by remotethoughts on October 30, 2012

Kane Ikin - Sublunar

As one part of Solo Andata, you may well be familiar with Kane Ikin’s music. What you may not be prepared for, however, is the sheer immediacy of this release and all its myriad influences.

Having enjoyed his EP release on 12k, this album proves to be an an interesting and startling counterpoint to that work. This, for the most part, is 12k doing Witch House. And I don’t use that term lightly.

For all it’s trend-driven foibles, Witch House has given the listener a lot to be excited about over the last 3 years. Balam Acab and OoOOoo (or however you spell it…) being two of the most striking examples. Where Kane Ikin trumps them, in my opinion, is the delicacy with which he introduces ghostly sounds into the mix.

This has turned out to be one of the most unusually rhythmic releases on the label in recent times, albeit with an incredibly minimal slant on things. And while the beats are there in abundance, they play second fiddle to the delicious range of tones and textures, whilst underpinning most of the tracks.

The feeling of emptiness and space is beautifully balanced with a keen sense of dense sound design that keeps each track fresh. The melodies are fragile and sparse, but tangibly ‘there’, if you see what I mean.

Imagine an act like Balam Acab, for example, being put through the reverb wringer and coming out sounding as drenched in echo, delay and drone as you can consider possible. And it doesn’t have a single pitched up vocal anywhere in sight. That alone has to mark it out for a considerable amount of bonus points.

In essence this is a 12k release first and foremost. But the references to other types of music are abundant and simply can’t be ignored. Simply, this is one of the most engaging albums of the year for the 12k imprint.

Check it here: 12k

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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

Rose & Sandy – Play Cat’s Cradle – Moving Furniture Records

Posted in Reviews: Electronic by remotethoughts on February 20, 2011

Rose & Sandy - Play Cat's Cradle

This is the first of two releases I’ve come across on the Dutch label Moving Furniture. Starting in 2008 with a series of CDr releases the time is now right for them to move into the world of manufactured high quality CDs. And my first review will concentrate on this gorgeous work from Rose & Sandy.

Far from being the female duo that the name might imply, Rose & Sandy is, in fact, Ruaridh and Dave Donnelly. The names may be familiar as Law’s work as The Village Orchestra is certainly well known and liked around these parts, whilst Donnelly’s Production Unit mixes and membership of Marcia Blaine School for Girls ensures a high pedigree for this work.

Taking a somewhat more chilled out approach than the acts in question this 40 minute slice of delicious ambience uses guitars and subtle electronics to provide a mournful and melancholic listening experience. Gentle, distant guitar strums and a distinct sense of melody offer a reverb-drenched soundscape that ebbs and flows throughout. There are clearly defined passages here with one part using a background tone that speaks volumes, without ever impinging itself on the single notes that are layered over the top. Small loops of sound play insistently while sad chords come and go, joining the mix for a short while before making way for more overt landscapes of texture that creep around the edges.

Then stillness, quiet, a brief moment for contemplation before the sounds slowly build up for the lovely finale. A spiral of looped guitar, a dash of lo-fi distortion morphing into a dreamy drone towards the end. Sumptuous.

Stripping back their collective sounds, this pair of musicians has constructed a rather beautiful and evocative journey into depth and musical narrative. As such it gets a hearty recommendation.

Check it here: Moving Furniture Records

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.

Sublamp – Wickerships – Ahora Eterno Records

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

Sublamp - Wickerships

Artist: Sublamp

Title: Wickerships

Label: Ahora Eterno Records

Cat No.: AE003

Format: CD

Another delicious cocktail of sound here from Ryan Connor under his Sublamp guise, and a superb introduction for the Ahora Eterno label from Argentina if you’re not already aware of it.

Wistful drones and melancholy drifts of sound combine to make a compelling, enchanting and deeply beautiful collection of earthy organica. Similar to his previous and outstanding work for Dragon’s Eye this has a knack of sounding imperfect, yet perfect at the same time… the occasional hint of dissonance, a clashing note here and there, but always with a melodious feel that swathes everything in a very human warmth.

Sometimes guitar-based, sometimes electronic, the music is often accompanied by natural sound recordings and, in fact, my highlight of the album is the utterly magnificent ‘The Hauntingshell I’ which features a heavy dose of field recordings. Wind and clattering metal meld together to create a mini 5-minute narrative that allows the imagination to run riot picturing exactly where the recordings were taken. I favour a desolate arctic environment, although I could equally imagine a desert-scape with windswept dunes and rocky crags.

Whatever you picture in your own mind, be sure that this album is a refined, tightly honed object lesson in expansive, yet subtle sound design.

Beautiful and at times stark, this really is a majestic piece of work.

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.

Christopher McFall – The Body As I Left It – Sourdine

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

Christopher McFall - The Body As I Left It

Artist: Christopher McFall

Title: The Body As I Left It

Label: Sourdine

Cat No.: SD-004

Format: CD – Edition of 500 copies

This is my first experience with Asher’s Sourdine label and if the rest of the catalogue is as fine as this I’ll certainly be investigating it without further ado.

I’ve heard some of Christopher McFall’s previous work and thoroughly enjoyed it, but having spent some time with The Body As I Left It I can honestly say that I’m seriously impressed.

Taking the form of a series of deeply moody electronic textural works, the main feel here is darkness, a heavy sense of depth and an overriding melancholy that seeps from every second of music.

Textures are dense and, to begin with, oppressive, yet it only takes one track and a deliciously crafted chord backed up with static sounds to find yourself pulled in for a wonderful ride. I guess it’s one of those albums that could conceivably be called drone, but I like to think of it as more of a dark ambient work and, at times, it has more in common with the likes of Hic Sunt or the beatless limited edition Silentes releases. But there’s also a heavily disguised mechanical rhythmic element in there that, more than anything, brought to mind Level’s wonderful Cycla on Spekk. That’s not to say it’s got clattering beats, of course, merely that you can hear a tangibly cyclic feel to some of the sound design that gives it a naturally hypnotic ebb and flow.

The play between intense layers and abstract grinding tones residing underneath makes for a fascinating listen and the balance between the two styles is carried off with a great deal of style. Added to that are moments of genuine melodic content that surprise you from time to time. At once beautiful yet stark, the grainy flavour of the sounds only adds to the otherworldliness and haunting appeal.

Each track weaves its own spell and everything comes together into a whole that gels quite marvellously – each track using certain motifs and themes, yet remaining individual at the same time. I won’t lie, it’s a dark album and no mistake, but if, like me, you’re fond of a little isolationist meditation then I think you’ll really enjoy this superb release.

Porzellan – The Fourth Level Of Comprehension – Hibernate Recordings

Posted in Reviews: Electronic by remotethoughts on October 4, 2009

Porzellan - The Fourth Level Of Comprehension - Hibernate CDr

Artist: Porzellan

Title: The Fourth Level Of Comprehension

Label: Hibernate Records

Cat No.: HB03

Format: CDr – Edition of 150 copies

If the name Porzellan seems familiar, you may well have come across his name on the excellent Duckbay, Slow Flow and Parvo Art compilations that have come out in the last year. I’m absolutely adoring this album I have to say and it’s one of the most low-key things I’ve heard in a while and that, of course, is high praise.

Built around 5 pieces, the album could conceivably be called drone, I suppose, but it has too much of an obvious melodic component. In fact, there’s an almost classical leaning on a couple of the pieces as they gradually, oh-so-slowly build from the ground up adding in deep single note textures and tones to create a swelling and very beautiful soundscape feel. This aspect of the work is tempered sweetly by the darker and more intense designs of the other pieces and the natural flow between them is marvellous. It drifts, for the most part, taking you with it on a subtle journey through sound that had me absolutely hooked from the outset. There are no obvious comparisons here for me (although I admit that one of the pieces sounds remarkably close to one of my own tracks which is a bit of a coincidence) and it seems to have a life all of its own.

Mournful, yet joyous, moody, yet buoyant, meandering yet tightly focused… Porzellan delivers all of these elements into a splendid package that comes with a hearty recommendation.

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.

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