Tag Archives: electronica

Inga Liljeström – Black Crow Jane

June is the first, official month of winter in Australia, but it’s been damn cold at night for quite a number of weeks. While I’m not yet at the stage where I need to re-think my negative position on the Snuggie, hearing about the release of a new album by Inga Liljeström was welcome news indeed – I’ll take her smouldering ember-like voice to warm my nights over a blanket with sleeves any time.

I’m sure everyone has felt that mix of excitement and reserve when a favoured artist releases something new, particularly when – after three years of keeping record – one of their previous albums remains the most played out of my entire collection. Elk is a breathlessly good album, pretty much perfectly capturing in sound the fire and ice sensation of love, desire, intimacy and everything in between.

By comparison, it’s fair to say that Black Crow Jane is a little older, wiser and more incisive than any of its predecessors. It’s also more resolved, even if at times the subject matter is slightly less so, and perhaps surprisingly, it doesn’t have the slightest hint of becoming jaded in the process. Love is still sacred in this world; and if Elk was about moments that sear the heart, Black Crow Jane shows that those experiences can make if fierce, but don’t stop it from having the capacity to remain quietly and beautifully vulnerable at times.

Jazz and blues were always a noticable undercurrent to Inga’s unique, film noir blend of trip-hop, rock and folk; whereas before they highlighted moments of yearning, mourning and wonder, on this album it’s soulful, sultry and sharply seductive. The sheer and intimate nature of previous work made albums like Elk incredibly bold, despite their vulnerability. This album is no less intimate or bold, but there’s a definite shift in where and how such things are shown. This time around, sound-wise, the comparisons to both Björk and PJ Harvey (which is not uncommon when it comes to talking about any strong female artist, particularly if their work contains the slightest hint of electronica and/or rock) are not far off the mark; Black Crow Jane has elements akin to the brash, bluesy-rock honesty of Harvey, as well as the playful, curious and occasionally delicately blissful charm of Björk, but (of course) is unmistakably Inga Liljeström.

The entire album can be streamed online via SoundCloud, and purchased in Australia via Groovescooter. It’s also available from France’s Emergence Music, with Euro distribution.

….

S4E


Benjamin Finger – For You, Sleepsleeper

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.

For You, Sleepsleeper is available through How Is Annie Records and Tigernet.

S4E


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.


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.


February’s Swag – Free (& Legal) Music Downloads

This month's swag was too much for one bag, and thus has spawned off-spring, otherwise known as the matching coin purse

Birds of Passage – 3-Track Sampler
Minimal/Ethereal/Drone | 29MB – 320 kbps MP3s
Pre-orders for the debut album by Birds of Passage (aka Alicia Merz) have just gone up on Denovali, with three of twelve tracks from Without The World available to download for free. I highly recommend these tracks, if not the album – sounds like poetry in motion.

 

Pillars And Tongues Live “Sprout Session”
Drone/Folk | 32MB – 145 kbps MP3
If you know me or this blog, you know I love these guys, so I wasted all of about 3 seconds after finding out about this live session before grabbing it via dublab. Then the hour-plus it took for my ridiculously slow connection to download the full 32MB, with several failed attempts along the way. It would have been worth it even if it took 10x as long.

 

Clan Destine Mixtape
Witch House/Darkwave/Other | 167MB – 320 kbps MP3s
A massive 22 tracks in one neat little package. Standouts for me were the GHxST and Sealings (naturally) tracks, otherwise sure to sate fans of the witch house genre, or those with a curiosity for what it is/was all about. Visit Clan Destine to read up on the full tracklisting, or head straight to Beko to download the mixtape.

 

Do You Feel What I Feel Deer – Save My Heart
Downtempo/Folk/Jazz | 8MB – 320 kbps MP3
A nice folk track I found over on Bandcamp. Just the solitary track up by the artist so far, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for more.

 

Moby – Be The One EP
Electronic/Downtempo | 32MB – 320 kbps MP3s¹
A 3-track EP available in exchange for your email address. If you’re not a Moby fan, these tracks probably won’t turn you into a die-hard supporter, but worth the download to find out if they’re your kinda tunes. Get it at Moby.com.

 

From Daytrotter’s Stable…

Judgement Day – 26th February
String Metal/Instrumental | 12MB – 128 kbps MP3s
Coming in right at the end of February and the only session I downloaded this month. If that’s not recommendation enough…well, I can’t actually think of anything to recommend it further, but they are pretty darn awesome tracks. Download the session here.

 

Over at Stereogum…

Implodes – Marker
Drone/Psych/Shoegaze | 7MB – 192 kbps MP3
The forthcoming album, Black Earth, is now on my wish list, thanks to this track. Download here.

Bat For Lashes – Strangelove
Pop/Electronica | 3MB – 115 kbps MP3
A cover of the Depeche Mode song, and the soundtrack to the ad for a new Gucci fragrance. A fairly straightforward version, but nice all the same. Download here.

Boris – Hope
Pop/Rock/Metal | 8MB – 320 kbps MP3
I’ve been curious about this group for a while, so a free track seems a perfect way to test the waters. Definitely not what I was expecting, but I have a feeling I’d say that upon further exploration, too. Download here.

 

The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble – Patra
Dark Ambient/Jazz | 19MB – 320 kbps MP3
This seriously good track is a cover the 1989 song by Saint Vitus; and you can grab it here. TKDE have several albums currently available via Bandcamp and/or Denovali, but this – along with a couple of others – are free to download (with the exception of handing over your email address for their instrumental cover of Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse’s Dark Night of the Soul). Check ’em out – it’s unlikely you’ll regret it. (Others available for free download: Black Wing Butterfly / Goya and Kava Kon Remixes).

 

 

S4E

1. Had the same problem with this zip file as I do with with the Boomkat downloads, thus I had to downgrade to 224 kbps so that the data tags could be edited.


Gerry Loves Records – Split EP

The above vinyl EP showcases four artists on the label Gerry Loves Records. If you’re in the same position as me, then these will serve as an introduction to each respective artist – and a rather merry little introduction it is.

Unifying the four artists, aside from the label and EP itself, is location (Scotland), and a penchant for a little experimentation with the components of their respective genres. From there, things get nicely divergent for a little compliation.

The Japanese War EffortRibbit
Ambient electronic pop that has genuine sparkle, with some nice, warming and dreamy effects included for good measure – a little like a glass of champagne that tastes crisper and smoother than the energetic bubbles might lead you to believe.

Fox Gut Daata Part Of You That Meant To Go On Living
Apart from the contemplation-inducing title, this track put my imagination squarely with the tortoise in the race (you know, that one that’s supposed to tell you slow and steady wins…) Only this tortoise is strutting all kinds of ways through some nifty happy-land, winking at flowers that wink back – clearly, funky wins.

Miaoux MiaouxEmitter
Subtle glitch with lightly surging synth melody, resulting in lively, feelgood pop electronica that’s easy to sing along with. Apparently, this was a track that lay dormant for a year then became the subject of a late night dash to the studio and finished on little sleep. Rather than catch the implied latency and weariness of that anecdote, it’s exemplary of what a last minute surge of inspiration can do.

Wounded KneeTomlinson’s Rant
This is a kinda folky chant with a definite old-school, jauntily up beat veneer; which in some ways is in stark contrast to the subject matter (sung from the perspective of Ian Tomlinson, whose death during 2009’s G20 summit is surrounded by controversy), but in other ways it’s highly suitable. It isn’t an angry demand for justice, it’s a consistently humming reminder of the various aspects justice entails. Rather than smack a conscience around for a couple of minutes, Wounded Knee unobtrusively taps on it, but with a catchy enough hook to ultimately become unrelenting.

(On a very minor related note, June of last year I put a call-out for a barber shop take on a doom song, Tomlinson’s Rant has me convinced more than ever that such a thing would be awesome).

All up, t’was a bit like having four dinner guests that I’ve never met before at my table, all of which are welcome back any time.

 

You can listen to all available tracks – if you want to cue any one in particular just click the back or forward buttons to scroll through the tracklisting. Or to get your own copy and listen anytime, simply head straight here to buy the limited vinyl – which includes an immediate dowload with four remixes exclusive to the vinyl edition.

 

S4E


The Kays Lavelle – Be Still This Gentle Morning

Quite some time ago now, I attempted to explain this notion I have about music being capable of performing a similar function to that which classic fairy tales once did. I’m not going to elaborate (much) on that here and now, nor point to the article in question, mostly because I didn’t even get half-way through the thought and I don’t know if/when I’ll ever finish it. Suffice to say, when I talk about music and fairy tales I’m not talking Britney and Disney, or music and stories as entertainment, per se. I’m talking about the safety, solace, or sometimes just the subtle awareness that arises, in the vicarious experience of things we’d rather not be alone in – particulary that age old, most popular subject of fairy tales, love.

From the opening notes of the piano on the first track, The Hours, there’s a clear sense of something similarly classic at work, as traditional ballads with unabashed, heartfelt emotion become something of a rarity these days.

In a relatively subversive move, however, Be Still This Gentle Morning starts at a point where most stories commonly end; namely at a turning point tinged with resolution and a seemingly open-ended asking of where do we go from here? The answer to which is usually left up to the imagination of (in this instance) the listener. But the arc of …This Gentle Morning unfolds from that question, and becomes very much a love story. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a concept album, but its theme is rather consistent and cohesive, and so in that sense linear.

As it travels through the familar trials and tribulations of romance and relationships, the journey is – as you might expect – fraught with emotion that is sometimes powerful and occasionally fragile; and though, as the album’s title suggests, it moves through these things in a relatively gentle manner, it is never weak. The album ultimately feels like a testement to the fact that even with the breakable nature of the heart, it is strengthened by emotion rather than damaged by it.

From an objective point of view, then, I’d say you can consider The Kays Lavelle as a counterpoint to artists like The Black Heart Procession. Exploring similar themes of love and all its associated highs and lows, heartbreaks and joys – it’s weaponry, armour and sanctuary. But on Be Still This Gentle Morning, these things don’t go hand in hand with despondency, sorrow or bitterness to the point of feeling defeated by emotion. The key here is ultimately hope, rather than the loss of it. Perhaps simply from the knowledge that this powerful thing that comes from our minds and hearts can not only be composed (if you will) and felt by us, but shared with others wherein it becomes an almost magic force.

I think The Kays Lavelle want you to know that even if sometimes that force between two people gets a little broken, there’s never enough reason to stop believing in the magic of it – and if that’s not one of the things fairy tales do best then maybe I’ve been reading the wrong stories, but I doubt it.

Be Still This Gentle Morning was originally released in May of last year, but is scheduled for a re-release early 2011. You can currently buy the album from mini50 Records, or purchase a digital copy via Bandcamp.

S4E