Tag Archives: classical

Tomorrow’s Conversations

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.

S4E

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 – Free (& Legal) Music Downloads

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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S4E

*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.


Kyle Bobby Dunn – Ways Of Meaning

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.

S4E


Neil Milton – white spring, black cloud

It is a long-established custom in many cultures to bestow gifts upon a person celebrating a birthday. We do this, in part, to celebrate that those close to us are still here, to thank them for being part of our lives. To celebrate a birthday with gifts, no matter what form they take, is to perhaps recognise the gift that we all share.

Neil Milton celebrated his birthday on the 14th March, and in the quintessentially reciprocal nature of art itself, gifted his new EP – white spring, black cloud – which is currently available to download for free at Bandcamp, via Valentine Records.

You may remember the last release from Neil Milton that I spoke about here, Elements, and the journey I took with that. While there are a few familiar things at play in this four-track EP, the environment has shifted its focus a little – or rather, it has come a little closer. Instead of staring out at it through the window of a moving train, the window is open and the world has decided to get a little up close and personal.

Using field recordings, subtle electronica and other sounds, such as what has been called “pseudo-random sine waves and output from shortwave radio“, white spring, black cloud starts by opening a door. As we walk through, we hear our footsetps echo and our keys jangle, maybe we are home. With the track titled ennui, maybe we need to be.

On 314, the atmosphere feels like it’s swelling and enveloping (which is distinct from closing in), shifting around space until it almost pierces through it rather than simply encompass it. As 314 draws to a close, a light electronic melody appears, which sounds almost like fragments gathering.

biała wiosna, czarna chmura follows, and perhaps shares the most with the delicately moving, modern classical sounds on Elements. A cello and a piano duet, it feels like it has captured a moment before movement and decision. I think the best way for me to describe it is if you have ever had that moment of brief suspension, standing at the doorway to a room that was once occupied by someone else. Even though it’s no longer their room, their presence lingers and you’re still not sure if you can go in and make that room yours in some way. To me, it feels like that moment before saying to yourself, ‘no, not yet‘.

The final track, variations on ‘radio music’ by john cage, simulates the turn of a radio dial, snippets of voice and song peering through the static.

I wonder if it is perhaps an exploration of the same moment in time, from different aspects and perspectives. The shift of the dial, the quiet search, the fragments gathering, the air swelling and the door opening – these things happen over time, and in the blink of an eye.

S4E

PS S4E extends (belated – at least from here in Oz!) birthday wishes to Neil.


Dmitry Evgrafov – Lying On Your Shoulder

There’s a small moment of stasis that happens in between the different ways I listen to something when I know beforehand that I will write about it. It’s nothing particularly zen, but not so long ago I began to notice a little space  in the shift from listening to a piece of music, and when I start listening for it. I’m not listening for anything in particular, but it does warrant a different kind of attention. Which is not quite the point.

I mention it merely to highlight the space in between the shift in focus and energy; stasis in this context refers specifically to the equilibrium caused by the meeting of equal, opposing forces, rather than an implication of simple motionless. There’s quite a lot of that going on in the world at any given moment – the meeting of opposing forces, I mean – and in quite a varied manner of ways, some of which are desirable, and others which are not at all. So, too, the outcome when one ultimately prevails over the other. Again, not quite the point.

What is the point, is that the aptly named Lying On Your Shoulder seems to inhabit that moment – and one that feels decidedly the result of one of the more desirable meetings. Composed by 17 year-old Dmitry Evgrafov, the five tracks have an unusally warm and content feel to them. Why is that unusual? Perhaps it’s just my experience, but it’s considerably rare for the art of any 17 year old to carry that kind of sense with it, over the general turmoil that is part and parcel with the age.

In place of things like melancholy, antagonism and defeatism, are touches of bittersweet tenderness and something that I think is best described as the sound of slightly wistful admiration. The customarily mournful tone that is inherent in string arrangements is balanced with a reflective and intimate piano, delivered in a pace that is ultimately both settling and uplifting.

Dmitry has been referred to as prodigious, having been composing since the age of 14 it’s not without justification – there’s either an old soul at work here, or someone who learned far younger than I ever did to not just notice and appreciate the spaces in between moments, but translate them into a language that feels intrinsic. (Well, I’m still working on the latter skill).

Lying On Your Shoulder is released on February 14th, for more information and to listen to the second track – Peals of Thunder –  head over to Sonic Reverie.

 

S4E


Good Weather For An Airstrike – A Winter

The music of Good Weather For An Airstrike (Tom Honey) has a primary goal of aiding the induction of sleep – something which would generally be an unwelcome effect for most other musicians, I’d warrant. Tom suffers from tinnitus, which most often presents as a ringing noise in one or both ears, and would undoubtedly lead to difficulty when it comes to sleep. I was intrigued, however, by the foremost Wikipedia definition, as linked to above:

Tinnitus is the perception of sound within the human ear in the absence of corresponding external sound.

It’s the ‘perception of sound’ bit that caught my attention, namely, the idea that (at least inferred by the wording of that particular explanation) the mind will effectively tell itself it’s hearing something, and alter that sound in the process, or simply decide for itself what it is, resulting in the aforementioned ringing – or other sounds, including “buzzing, hissing, screaming, humming, tinging or whistling sound, tunes and songs“.

I suspect that every mind has the capacity – perhaps even the tendency – to do that on some level, though to a much smaller degree. I tried, briefly, to imagine what it might be like to hear such sounds on a continual basis; though I do have what I believe is a decent imagination, it’s likely akin to imagining what being blind is like without being able to even close your eyes.

Nevertheless, there is a certain liberty taken with the mind of the listener when this music is played – there has to be in order for its intention to be anywhere near effective. That’s ok with me, though – I’ll happily give free reign to what happens up there whenever I listen to music. So here’s what happened when I listened to this, in as much as I’m capable of showing it, anyway.

The three tracks on A Winter (the first in a two-part concept series that, along with the primary goal, is “based around a year of change in somebody’s life”) are minimalist drone compositions, and, for all intents and purposes, I’m going to call them instrumental – which here means the absence of lyrics, as there are vocals utilised on the first (Motions) and third (Broken) tracks.

Imagine now, if you will, a set of watercolour paint in varying hues of a few different colours (here, they generally come as little round disks that are dry and require water to be mixed with them). Now, imagine your mind is a fish tank filled with water. (That’s easy for me – see the little blurb next to my gravatar below – but if it sounds weird and/or crazy, please bear with me).

This set of paint is music, if it doesn’t meet your mind it’s just going to sit there all inanimate and won’t become art, so to speak. If, however, you put that paint in the water, a subtle, gentle movement starts to take place. The colours dissolve, slowly burgeoning and becoming – at first – little clouds that expand and shift form almost imperceptably, ultimately becoming something that is both abstract, but concrete in the sense that it is self-contained and ascribes to the dimensions of the tank. These watercolours are shapes that need the composition of that water, the enclosing of a mind, before their forms are revealed.

If that doesn’t make any sense, ignore me entirely and just listen.

A Winter was released on CD via Rural Colours. You can also find other Good Weather For An Airstrike releases at Bandcamp.

 

S4E


Young Person’s Guide to Kyle Bobby Dunn

I’m going to have to confess to two things straight off the bat:

  1. When I first saw the name Kyle Bobby Dunn, I made all manner of immediate assumptions about being in for some straight up country music. Which I don’t like.
  2. When I realised it was instrumental ambient drone that has a total duration of nearly two hours, I thought oh no, it’s worse!

Wrong. On both counts. It’s necessary for me to note these things because I like being surprised, and I probably wouldn’t mention at all that I expected this was going to be a challenge for me to listen to if that indeed had been the way things turned out.

Young Person’s Guide is possibly about as spacious as music can get, literally and figuritively. Spanning two discs, its twelve tracks run from anywhere between two minutes (Last Minute Jest) and 17½ (opening track, Butel), with a median of 10 minutes. Statistics aren’t necessarily important, of course, but they are relevant in so far as I often lose patience with minimalist instrumental pieces after about two minutes; yet here I didn’t. I’m going to try and figure out why (and therein lies the actual challenge).

While I do that, take the opportunity for it to be self-evident:

I’ll start by mentioning one of the key things I learned this year, via explorations of various genres that I had  previously overlooked or outright dismissed, was that at times I have difficulty appreciating  subtlety in music. But, in a connection that I’m going to have to forgo explaining in favour of succinctness, the first thing that sprung to mind when I started trying to think of how to talk about such a unique, expansive and yet self-contained, body of work,  was the visual work (films) of Wong Kar Wai.

Unsurprisingly, subtlety is a little easier to detect in visual artistry, because you’re talking about the things that accompany the obvious –  a glance, a slight gesture, a leaf falling in the background…myriad different things that are almost imperceptible but can add up to a single moment creating lasting effect, either in mood, tone, atmosphere or emotion. This album, to me, is the musical equivalent of that form of aesthetic storytelling, wherein you can’t talk about style vs substance because subtlety and style work as substance.

YPG works well enough when kept at a distance and left to act purely as an ambient album. It is, to use inadequately generic terms, soothing, pretty and atmospheric, but it was when I gave it my full and undivided attention that I began to notice something else. Quite a lot of something else that it simply won’t do to describe as complacently. So here’s my stumbling block: how do I convey, in words, the almost elusive nuances in music that work to effectively shift your perception around, albeit in small degress;  and that draw your attention to a seemingly minor sound that would have gone completely unnoticed had your attentions been – even fleetingly – elsewhere?

I really can’t, because it meant the stories I heard evolved with each listen, and I feel certain that different people will notice different things. Consider a song  to be a character unto itself, one that lets you get to know it slowly but surely, and that perhaps these characters are capable of revealing different aspects to each and every person that spends a little time with them.

Those are, I should point out, some of the reasons I made a direct link to the films of WKW. Time and space are slightly different entities in them. Often the sequence of events, while never requiring outright deciphering, aren’t entirely linear; so as a member of the audience you need to participate in the story, move forward from simply being an observer and, in particular, learn to understand the subtleties of each character to get a good idea of the whole story. The key is, though, your understanding of others is generally developed by way of how well you know yourself. Ultimately, perhaps that is why this wasn’t the challenge I expected it to be, for what is getting to know someone or something if not, in part, a little journey of self-discovery as well?

That is how I hear Young Person’s Guide.

This album can be purchased via Low Point. You can also listen to selected tracks at Low Point, or via SoundCloud.

 

S4E
(Maybe one day I’ll be infamous for being able to make almost everything about me).