The Beautiful Nowhere is just about as delicate as an album can be, without any of the implied weakness that often accompanies the description. The Surface of Your Sin, the opening track, begins with a few notes struck from what I can only assume (from reading the press release and then researching just what on earth it was) is a kalimba. Prior to that, I thought it was a gu zheng; which I mention purely to demonstrate the subtle skill in which sound has been allowed to bend around the listener’s own ideas or concepts.
Quite often, a song will construct a fairly specific concept or story, even if at times it’s purely through mood and maybe an indication or two of emotion; neither mood or emotion is absent on The Beautiful Nowhere, yet it’s so organic that it’s almost pliable, almost reshaped as you listen to it.
As textures build and/or expand, strings, vocals and effects quietly create space that is both ethereal and earthly. I have a pre-disposition for flights of fancy as it is, so I love it when music creates an atmosphere that lets my imagination take a few liberties with what I’m hearing (and for the record, that earthy/ethereal quality translated for me to liberties that ranged from images of slow moving, yawning giants who made the ground tremble with footsteps, to tiny insects with flickering wings; and even just the lovely simplicity of feeling the warmth of the sun through a clouded sky).
The album title may reference nowhere, but I imagine it’s what you’d hear if you put your ear to the ground and listened to the hum of the earth, the natural sound underneath the structures we’ve built – which has the same capacity to be simultaneously stark and refined, ancient and newborn, warm and cold, willing to yield to hardworking hands yet remarkably uncompromising, rife with spirit, of things yet to come, and rich with old tales.
The Beautiful Nowhere is available in limited quantities through Hibernate – on CD (with packaging hand-made at order), and vinyl, with immediate digital download accompanying both.
Sometimes the title of a release eptitomises the music in a fairly overt way; other times it’s a little more subtle (or seemingly completely irrelevant, but that’s beside the point). For You, Sleepsleeper is a little of both, that is, it’s overt and subtle in being an indication of the music contained therein.
While I’m not here to explore words and the various subtleties of context → inherent implications, it’s something I can’t help noticing and appreciating; particularly when it ties so neatly in with how I have personally interpreted the tone of the music.
For You… can be both an ode and a gift – an ode to what has come to pass, and a gift for what may come; and perhaps while Sleepsleeper might suggest tranquility and a level of unawareness, on this album it’s decidely burgeoning, giving me the sense that this is the ode to what happens not when you wake, but become aware.
The core of the album lies in the ambient electronic realm, and the tracks shift from trembling energy to warm tenderness through layers of organic instrumentation and field recordings. The overall effect is that the heart of this album feels centred and at peace, but at the same time, in vision and sentiment, various thoughts, ideas and emotions are brought to the foreground.
These are often quite animated and even occasionally a little scattered, as though there is so much in the world to discover and be curious about, excited by or frightened of, but ultimately to embrace – sometimes through delicate indulgence, and other times with swift and reckless eagerness.
Drowned In Elbows has a gorgeous, understated jazz melody that is wistful and serene; though the electronic element is more pronounced and quite energetic, together it almost becomes like watching life and all its wonders flash before your eyes – stood still in that centre of calm, sights, sounds and memories rush forward and disappear, leaving behind a glimmer of nostalgia as something new begins.
I’m now at the end of my second night in the new house, with still days worth of work ahead getting everthing organised (possibly months, knowing me – once the essentials have been set up, I have a habit of thinking things can stay in boxes until ‘later’. In fact, during this last move, someone asked me how old one of the rather beat up looking boxes I had with me was. I couldn’t give a definite answer, but it’s somewhere in the realm of 20-odd years old, and still containing much of the same contents¹ as it did when I used it to move into the first place I ever lived in on my own. It’s held up well; I might throw it a 21st birthday party).
The last night at the other house was spent playing through some of the recent albums I acquired during a rare moment of quiet (save for the music), which was a nice change of pace from alternating between trying to understand someone who speaks like this guy, then wishing I hadn’t understood the things I did. Nevermind. The important thing is I have been reunited with something I missed like crazy while all my gear was in storage… My speakers.
I have no particular sentimental attachment to them, I’ll just point out, but the horrible little speaker on my laptop does (most) music a grave disservice, and the headphones…well, I just don’t like ‘em much for extended listening. There’s been a lot of really great music I’ve held off writing about simply because I didn’t often get a long enough chance to sit down and listen to it via decent equipment, so lots to catch up on there.
In the mean time, as I sit here and write this, I’m listening through Tomorrow’s Conversations, a compilation album put together by Birds Of Passage’s Alicia Merz.
As much as I found my housing situation a little trying, I also got to spend a good amount of time with family I love (and their particularly colourful housemate). Knowing that my possessions – from the trivial incendiary items to the irreplacable heirlooms and mementoes – were safe and secure, ready to be brought to a new home at any moment…well, it’s a comfort not everyone who finds themselves suddenly without a home of their own has.
I had a fair warning, and while things didn’t quite turn out the way I planned, I at least got to plan the most important things - many others in the world this year did not have the same luxury. This album has been put together to raise funds for victims of the earthquake that occurred in Christchurch, New Zealand on the 22nd of February this year. 181 people lost their lives and it has been estimated that 10 000 homes will need to be demolished, which is just a small indication of the devastation that was caused by the earthquake.
The album contains 13 tracks by 12 different artists, and even without its charitable cause I’d be recommending it to you because it truly is a stellar compilation. I’m familiar with a few names – worriedaboutsatan, Her Name Is Calla and Birds Of Passage, to be exact, so all up I’ve been introduced to nine other artists via this compilation – I haven’t heard a single track yet that didn’t make me glad for it. Ambient, classical, downtempo, electronica… It all adds up to beautiful late night listening.
You can grab this album via Bandcamp for a US$6 or more donation, which is a small price to pay for music as it is, but much needed in NZ.
1. Highly important things, I’ll just add. Like my Care Bears colouring book from when I was 9, and the picture of a ballerina that was on my wall when I was 12, and all the Mandrake comics I had when I was 13.
April's Swag - bite-sized, but very tempting (and even a bit delicious)
Once again, there’s been so much going on this month that I’ve spared little time to dig up the best bits from the nether regions of the internet. Lucky for us both, I don’t have to look very far to find something worth bringing to your attention – to recap those I already have:
After that, I suggest sinking your teeth into these:
Heinali and Matt Finney – Plainsong Shoegaze/Drone/Ambient | 15MB – 320 kbps MP3
You may have caught the recent Conjoined review over at [sic], if not, this duo blend heavy shoegaze-drone a la The Angelic Process/Nadja, with spoken word vocals. These guys have got quite a few things in store for this year, with another album set for release later this spring on Paradigms Recordings titled Ain’t No Night – keep your eyes and ears out for more info soon, as there’s some seriously good stuff going on with that. Currently available for free download on Bandcamp right now is their take on The Cure’s Plainsong and Radiohead’s Creep. To top it off, from May 1st, Dreamcatcher – a half-hour soundtrack over two movements (Lucifer 1 and Panopticon), which recently accompanied a photo exhibit – will go up as a ‘name your price’ download, with all funds raised going towards financing another album later this year; some very absorbing work all-round.
Wild Dogs In Winter – Homba* Post Rock/Ambient | 120MB – 320 kbps MP3s
Released last year but only just recently brought to my attention, this nicely done 10-track album has more than enough weight to grab – and keep – the attention of Blueneck, I Like Trains, Our Ceasing Voice and Her Name Is Calla fans. Available on Bandcamp as a digital download (or purchase the CD).
Sleepy Sun – Marina Psych/Stoner Rock | 14MB – 320 kbps MP3
If you know me, you know I can’t get enough of these guys and their particularly sparkling blend of hazy psych/stoner rock. To celebrate their upcoming US tour, Sleepy Sun have made a live version of the single Marina available for free download, which you can grab here.
Other Lives – For 12 Folk/Rock | 6MB 192 kbps MP3
It was nice to see this new track go up on RCRD LBL the other day, as I’m quite fond of Other Lives’ self-titled debut. (Not so nice to see RCRD LBL decide to go the same direction as Daytrotter and disallow direct downloads without registering for a user account – they better not introduce a poorly functioning, site-specific “download manager”). Slightly more old-school psych-folk in this track, but very nice indeed – grab it here.
NeTE – Greatest Non-Hits 1 LP Industrial/Gothic/Lo-Fi – 73MB 128 kbps MP3s
Some of you may remember my Australian music special from a while back, and briefly mentioning I couldn’t recall any Australian goth bands I was into during the 90′s. Well, while I was trying to jog my memory, I happened upon a site called Shame File Music – a label dedicated to experimental Australian music. Long story slightly shorter, I grabbed this collection of tracks, and while I can’t say I heard them back then, I can say there’s some stuff here worthy of a listen now. Grab them from Internet Archive.
*These are available as ‘name your price’ downloads. For Bandcamp releases, you are able to enter any amount, including $0. For Mamaleek’s Kurdaitcha, voluntary donations (via PayPal) to support the artists can be made through the Enemies List download page linked above. As always, though I know times are tough, I encourage sparing a few bucks where and when you can to support the artists making the music you enjoy.
According to my dashboard, I started this post six weeks ago. According to my head, I have no idea where I was going with what I had written. If S4E were a televised cooking show, bringing up a half-baked cake from six weeks back with “here’s one I prepared earlier”, pretending I knew what the contents were…once, well, it isn’t going to look all that good no matter how bright n’ shiny my smile is. (Unless it’s a fruit cake, the kind you have to boil for hours and can keep in a hessian sack until such a time as fruit cake is required. I don’t make those, though). So I’m going to have to start from scratch – seems like a decent place to start, anyway.
The main point is, I know jack about black metal. That’s not news, I’ve said as much on other occasions and – as you can see – it shows every time I try to write about it, thus I consistently realise and admit to it. Something I do know is that a good percentage of it that I’ve listened to has left me scratching my head and wondering why the hell I don’t get what’s going on – which, it’s important to note, is distinctly different from simply wondering what the hell they’re on about. That’s because there’s been a select few albums that I not only immediately grasped, but they managed to impress me beyond what I would have thought possible for music with which I usually feel I have no particular aptitude or affinity. So I’ve developed something of a perpetual curiosity about it – while admittedly it’s relatively mild, it’s also an anomaly in that I would usually neglect to actively seek out releases from a genre if I considered the vast majority of it something I don’t like and/or “get”.
Kurdaitcha, strangely enough, lies somewhere in the middle of my capacity to understand – and therefore possibly appreciate – it. That’s strange because I dig the most of it. While it contains much of the abrasiveness and dissonance I’ve started to become familiar with, there’s a rationale to it I can grasp and I’m not left thinking I haven’t understood the basics of where it’s coming from.
At this stage, I remain convinced that there’s a language to black metal that’s ultimately beyond my current level of understanding. I sometimes think it might even be the absence of certain language(s) that causes me to get the sense I need to learn something different before I can interpret and understand what I’m listening to. By language, I’m not referring to lyrics/vocals, either. When I listen to music, no matter how unfamiliar with it I am, I can detect things that I am familiar with, and either relate directly, or translate them to a slightly different sense: visual, literal, emotional…and so on. I’ve really only ever been able to do that once with a black metal album (Murmuüre’s S/T). It’s weird.
Maybe that’s the point. And why I keep gravitating towards it, as though it’s a unique dialect that I can crack if I just listen to enough of it. Perhaps eventually I’ll stop telling myself there’s a secret code to unlock, for surely music has the capacity to just speak – out of the sheer need for, or indulgence in, a different languange – and I’ll appreciate it for that.
For now, and what it’s worth (from someone who spent the opening paragraph inexplicably rambling about cake, and most of the rest talking about this music as if it’s an odd curiosity in need of deciphering), I like this album. I can’t tell you much about it other than that, but I can virtually guarantee that if you’re even moderately inclined to give it a listen, you’ll find a thing or two to like about it as well. If you pay attention to certain circles, you likely would have seen a certain amount of hype surrounding its release. I, at least, have the capacity to recognise why; it’s a prime example of the kind of music that keeps me exploring the genre instead of giving it up.
Kurdaitcha was released on vinyl and as a digital download by Enemies List Home Recordings. The download may be acquired for free, but you can show your support for the artists behind the music by donating some cash via the download page.
No matter how much time I spent listening to Ways Of Meaning before coming here and attempting to write about it, it always felt like it wasn’t enough.
If you recall, last time I used the visual artistry of director Wong Kar Wai to draw parallels between discerning nuances in the visual and musical realm, though admitting I’m more a student in the matter than an authority. If you’ll allow me to further that theme for a moment, I think I’ve graduated to the next chamber. My task to learn this lesson is to fill pails with water, then carry them back to a certain destination without letting them spill. Thus far, I’ve been arriving to a stern, disapproving glance at my empty pails and swiftly sent marching back until I’ve not only mastered the art of balance, but can extend it beyond myself to the fluid substance given temporary form and which I carry at arm’s length while I move with impetuous impatience.
To clarify things, the water is a metaphor for the thoughts I gather when I listen to Ways Of Meaning, and in the course of feeling rather confident in them, I turn on my computer, open up a blank page, only to think I don’t have nearly enough to say. That it clocks in at almost a third of the listening time as A Young Person’s Guide does little to negate the sense that there is something vast and intricate to explore, and that I have much more of it to do before I can consider writing about it.
It may appear as though I’m doing the release a disservice with diversionary tactics, or perhaps that I’m inadvertantly disregarding it by virtue of admitting my grasp feels fleeting. So I want to say that, like A Young Person’s Guide, it would have been easy to take this music at face value, but if I was ever prepared to do that I would have just strung together some nifty words. You know the ones: ambient, mourning, resonant, fluid…and if I started to run out maybe I’d reach for pretty, then a thesaurus – they’d all be relevant and true. But it’s much more honest for me to say that those are the words I was left with after I’d finished listening. They were the few drops left in my pails, the ones that looked like sad little dregs, because they’re not only somwhat superficial in their application here, they show little about what I thought – so here’s what you should know…
When you think about the kind of music that soundtracks the events in daily life, from the commonplace, everyday occurances to those that take us by surprise, the ones that leave us slightly winded and uncertain what’s going to happen next, it’s natural to make immediate connections to music that plays loud enough to get through the noise in your head.
Ways Of Meaning is like the music that was already there. It’s those natural layers of sound that hum underneath motion and thought, that drive it, and the music you hear when just for a moment you allow memory or imagination to steer your thoughts instead of the other way around and reacting to them. If provocation itself, the instigation as opposed to cause and effect, of sense memory had a sound, this is what I think it would sound like.
Each time I played this album, I had 40 minutes to simply listen to the music and think of ways to describe it, but that, perhaps unfortunately, doesn’t interest me as much as what I actually did. I spent much more of the time delving into other things – things that if I mentioned would probably look stark and unusual, because they’re mine alone and I remembered or imagined them in a context that (I insist) will only make sense to me. It isn’t the music that I have fleeting grasp on, it’s the confidence to share the secrets I found when listening to it.
Ways Of Meaning is available on the 3rd of May, on vinyl and digital download, through Desire Path Recordings.
I mentioned this a few weeks ago, briefly, and the other day decided to try something a little bit different in terms of elaboration. Despite the drawbacks, and my lack of talent, I wanted to mess round with a visual medium and had this bright idea of trying my hand at a visual interpretation of each track on the release, but I wanted it to contain a smilar, unifying thread (as does the release itself), so here’s what I did…
I made the particularly inspired choice to google for an image of a moth (yup, firing on all cylinders that day) and chose this one:
Not that it probably matters, but that’s an Emperor Gum Moth, which I chose primarily for the relatively blank canvas of the wing span and the leaf-like shape and texture of the antennae (see a full colour version of the above photo here). I basically divided the image into five segments, then re-made it using whatever I felt like while I listened to each track. So here’s my visual interpretation of Mothhunting:
In amongst the panels, along with original segments of the photo, is the following: a snake eye; bee wings, legs and body; a fish, a metal screw; blood vein; wire mesh; paper; smoke; sand; water; glass; salt and Hungarian words; with touch ups, filtering and effects using both Photofiltre and a couple of bits n’ pieces on Photobucket, like the frame once it was all re-assembled.
Each of those components represents an element in the respective songs, though as the specific components I chose were down to purely personal interpretation, I’ll leave you to do the same. What I will say is that you may note there is an underlying tone that is consistent throughout each panel, that various textures are prominent, yet generally maintain that tone in some way. Most of them have subtle backgrounds intended to indicate certain forms of movement, which are underneath the more present forms in the music and generally fluid, but occasionally fractured.
I shared the first track, Ghost Doze, last time, so take a listen to the title track Mothhunting.
Oh, and I’m not quite sure why I went for Hungarian as a language in there – I originally chose Japanese but that didn’t work. I am, however, a big fan of sweet paprika, a deep, coppery-red powdered spice that also comes in smoked and (very) hot varieties. I often cook large pots of Hungarian goulash, to which generous portions of paprika is added, and is a favoured dish to cook during winter. I suspect that, for some reason, that little cottage on the cover is entrenched in my mind as belonging to some Hungarian village somewhere.