Tag Archives: ethereal

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.

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Music Ruins Lives: Winter Releases

It should be common knowledge ’round these parts that one of my favourite artists in 2010 was Planning For Burial, with two exemplary releases – Leaving on Enemies List Home Recordings, and the subsequent Split CD with Lonesummer on own label, Music Ruins Lives.

With five¹ releases under their belt since the first back in October 2010 (Voids, a collection of Have A Nice Life tracks), most of them sold out or nearing it, MRL are shaping up to be a label you need to know about, and before the chance to lay claim on one of their limited physical releases slips through your fingers. You can keep up with the latest MRL news and events here. In the meantime, here’s a selection of current or forthcoming releases, so you can’t say you weren’t warned if you miss out.

 

Planning For Burial – Untitled

For the uninitiated, this would be the ideal place to begin, self-described as the ‘“missing link” between the lumbering doom compositions of Leaving…and the dark keyboard-driven drone pop of last year’s split…‘, so you’d get a good grounding with this. It’s also a perfect example of what I mean by missed opportunites – the CD version, which contains a 28-minute extended version of the title track from Leaving, is sold out, but you can purchase the two main tracks in digital format via Bandcamp.

 

Bad Braids – Arrow And Orb

The first thing that struck me when I listened to this was the hint of something both other and old-wordly about the psych-folk music of Bad Braids. Full review is coming soon at [sic] so keep an eye out there, in the meantime, take a listen to the first track, When My Darling Turns To Dust (Pt II & III). Or just go ahead and pre-order the cassette.

 

Tom Vourtsis – Mothhunting

Remember that whole thing about imagining your head is a fish tank? (I know it made sense to a select few out there). I’m in similar territory with this drone project, only the water is a little deeper and murkier, filled with some critters I can’t quite make out…yet. While I wait for the tide to go out – or come in, whichever happens first – take a listen and make up your own mind; I bet you can make it into something cooler than a fish tank, anyways. Pre-order the CD here.

 

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1. Not including the Negative Series, unofficial releases of bonus material with a -cat#. The first of which was a live Lonesummer set, issued on CDr along with the first 30 orders of the Planning For Burial/Lonesummer split. Lucky for you, that release has  also been made available as a free download.


Thorn1 – So Far As Fast

After learning a little of the history behind this album, it might not be surprising that it sounds a bit like an elegy – there is something of a funeral procession that moves steadily and subtly through each piece.

As Thorn1, musician Evegny Zhedya presented So Far As Fast as something of a farewell to his life in Russia before moving to Kiev, Ukraine. As a prelude to leaving,  saying goodbye to home and to friends, the album works exceptionally well to capture a bittersweet journey from one place to another.

The music presents a fairly turbulent range of emotions, yet more often than not it is subdued and sombre in effect. Through elongated, ethereal drones, blended with shades of post-rock, electronica and shoegaze, Evegny has created a dreamlike sense of separation and isolation; during which most pieces utilise either guitar, piano and accordian to elicit often searing melody, which both contrast and highlight the sense of loss.

Organiq Grostee, the opening track, is almost frightening, and probably would be had it been purely instrumental. It’s a little like the opening scene of a film, where an organ grinder is standing on the corner of an otherwise empty street –  one whose eerie presence has the capacity to inspire both  faint trepidation and a kind of comforting familiarity from the knowledge you’re not completely alone on that street.

Soon after, fourth track Safe Trip makes a rather definitive statement on the tone and perspective of the journey being related. It is a gorgous 8½ minutes of echoing guitar that rests on the cusp of the darkest moment before the dawn. As the sun rises, or in this case the rest of the album progresses, the light is cast on landscapes of various textures and temperatures.

This culminates in the final track, Welcome Home, a beautiful piano instrumental. It’s like listening to a heart simultaneously break and mend in slow motion – the triumph is tempered with tragedy, the hurt with healing, and the separation balanced with solace.

So Far As Fast is an eclectic mix, steeped in a similar sense of dreamy disorientation, the likes of which you feel when experiencing déjà vu – surreal and a little mysterious, but still…it is accompanied by the implicit knowledge that it belongs to you.

You can listen to Drone, the second track from the album, courtesy of Silber Records.

 

 

So Far As Fast is available now, as a digital only release via Silber. As with most of their downloads, it is offered for a considerably modest US$5.00.

 

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Dark & Darker

“…like a whisper taking you back to the dark part of your memory and dreams…”


That’s the self-described music of Opium Dream Estate, a musical project founded in 2006 by Sébastyén D. I recently chanced upon the EP Through the White Landscape, which was released back in August over on Bandcamp. Gentle and haunting, perhaps a little bit like Rivulets meets Boduf Songs with a decidedly French  shoegaze feel. The EP is currently available as a free download and well worth checking out if you like the sound of ambient, gothic neofolk. You can also take a listen to any or all of ODE’s  four previous releases – Estranged Memories, Anamorphosis, Spira Spiritum Noctis and Alpha/Omega.

Sébastyén D runs the label Seventh Crow Records, which has a few other releases on Bandcamp at the moment also for free download –  a various artists compilation titled The Haunted Looking Glass; a 12-track album released on 4th November by Art of Empathy called Posthuman Decadence, another Sébastyén D project called Orchid’s Children with Last Days of Decadence and Hourglass & Waterlillies – all of which are tagged with ethereal, goth, ambient, indie, industrial and neofolk.

Only The Tress Remember is the first of 6 tracks on the release.

 

 

More dark Bandcamp-ery with this fairly recent self-titled release by SIΔMESE NOIR. There seems to be pretty limited info out there at the moment in regards to this project, which could well be the point, all I can turn up is “New York based solo project”.

The symbol in the name generally seems to indicate “witch house” these days, and I suppose it’s fairly accurate. I say suppose merely because I haven’t made much of an effort to overly familiarise myself with the genre, but I will say the more I hear of it the more I become convinced it’s actually a new name rather than a new genre. Anywho, that’s beside the point, this music is of the eerily-slow-motion type – think Chinese water torture in a haunted room that has a creepy looking kid with black eyes playing trip-hop at drone-speed and in weird loops… Translate that, if you can, into sound and you’d be in the ball park. At night.

You might be a little unsettled, but you’ll be compelled to stay. You can download it for free here.

In Quiet is the first of 5 tracks on the release.

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Jesy Fortino Self-Releases 5 Tiny Vipers…

Jesy Fortino, under the Tiny Vipers moniker, has been responsible for some of my favourite music in recent times. In fact, her second album – 2009’s Life on Earth – was not only my favourite release of the year, but it also was the first time I’ve ever been able to name one without any hestitation or endless self-debate. Thus, I was quite pleased to learn there were a few tracks I haven’t heard yet available to purchase via Bandcamp.

If you’re a Tiny Vipers fan in the league of wanting to have a copy of any and every song Jesy has been vaguely associated with, you won’t need any encouragement from me to go grab them post-haste as the tracks available you’ll be unlikely to find elsewhere, and you’ll certainly not be disappointed if you do so. There are three singles to purchase individually, as well as a two track EP containing parts 1 and 2 of of a song titled Blades of Grass, which is a home recorded ambient piece that was sent out on CDr to those who pre-ordered Life on Earth via Sub Pop. It’s easy enough to let the songs speak for themselves, so I’ll do just that. Here’s three of the five available tracks:

Another Day’s Sun features Colin Roper on backing vocals (a name I’ve not heard before, but a bit of swift research consisting of google and little else suggests he may be the same Colin who is ex-Cobra High and Loving Thunder. This is conjecture based purely on the fact that both bands were based in Seattle, as is Jesy).

Fell In A Well, according to the Bandcamp page, was originally recorded for Hands Across the Void but didn’t make the cut. The track does, however, feature on her first, self-titled release, which was pre-Hands… Whether or not they are the same version I can’t say, as that remains the only CD I’m yet to purchase. Places That No Longer Exist is a demo from Life On Earth, home recorded on 4-track, and again didn’t make the final cut for the album.

Fell In A Well would have been quite at home on Hands Across the Void, though I can see why it was left off – it is rather more like a b-side. It’s fairly clear the other two are still in demo form. Places That No Longer Exist is much quieter than the other two so I recommend the use of headphones to listen to that one. They are, however, unmistakebly Tiny Vipers’ tracks, very much in the realm of the Life on Earth (i.e. delicate, ethereal melodies and sparse guitar picking accompanied by that hypnotic voice, with the occasional chant and jangle). I’ve particularly favourited Another Day’s Sun, and hope to hear a fully realised version of that on album #3.

I have to defer comment on the Blades of Grass EP for the time being, as I haven’t purchased it yet. It is streamable, but with my current data usage limits I’m not keen on essentially using the same amount of bandwidth to listen and not actually have a copy afterwards. I can tell you that the two tracks run a total of around 40 minutes (which, coupled with the Sub Pop description of ‘ambient’, leads me to suspect they might be much in the same vein as the experimental music found on Empire Prism).

I’d say the release of these new/old tracks is aimed directly at existing fans – a little taster while we eagerly await the next studio album, plus the opportunity for those that missed out to get a copy of Blades of Grass. In that sense, they should tide you over quite nicely.

For the casual listener or simply curious, it’s a little less likely you’ll get further than a quick listen, so I think it would be mutually beneficial if I also directed your attention elsewhere – such as the wonderful Daytrotter session, a free download (albeit after a little registration and download manager rigamarole) of three songs from Life on Earth performed late last year – four when you take into account the first is a medley. A very good introduction to Tiny Vipers. I also highly recommend New Dawn Fades, a cover of the Joy Division song by The Sight Below, to which Jesy lent her vocal talents and manages to do that rare thing where it’s both true to the original and given a unique spin. Check it out in the video below, or just head straight to RCRD LBL and download it for free.

S4E


Dopedrone – Contact Book

Released last year via net label ParaLucid, Contact Book is an experimental concept album that popped up on my radar a couple of months ago and caught my interest due to the “shoegaze, stoner rock, 70’s progressive rock and psychedelia” influences mentioned in the bio.

I’ve not yet taken the opportunity to hear any of the artist’s (M. Anderson, also of Norwegian post-rock/shoegaze band Yeti Island) earlier work, but Contact Book certainly contains elements of those influences, if but subtly. Primarily ambient instrumental, with some vocal sampling, the album is centred around alien themes. Maintaining that other-worldly focus throughout the album has resulted in a consistently spacey sensory experience well worth investigating.

The title track to Contact Book is a drawn out electro-industrial fusion with a bit of drone and definitely a highlight. Other faves include opening track Sun Flare, Old Galaxy and  Memory Loss, which manages to be soothing and ominous at the same time.


2 minute teaser for Contact Book

Highly recommended if the sound of a slowcore NIN having a slightly freaked-out and sometimes beautiful psychedelic alien baby with Massive Attack sounds like your cup of tea – it’s a pretty tasty cup. 😉

You can download Contact Book for free here.

S4E


Not Just in the Interest of Public Awareness

It’s fair to say that I’m rather serving my own interests, too. Like most people, I do like to wax lyrical about the things I’m passionate about. As is obvious, one of those things is music, so I’m going to talk a little about a few artists there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of, but are more than worth the time to take a listen to (in my wholly subjective opinion). In this post, I’ve featured a few artists that I believe  if you like one, there’s a good chance you’ll like the others. I issue that with a grain of salt – it’s not an absolute, obviously. If I make similar posts in the future, I’ll continue to pick artists with the same intention. Oh, and I’m not going to delve into respective biographies, either, just describe the music as best I can.

Inga Liljeström

inga-liljestrom-elk

I feel compelled to start with an Australian artist (funny, that). Occasionally compared to artists such as Portishead and Goldfrapp, it’s a comparison that is only fair in the sense that there are elements to Inga’s music that come from the same genre those artists commonly fall into. She has released four albums to date, but my pick of the bunch is the sublime album Elk. I fell in love with it on first listen, which is considerably an easy thing to do when the album itself is full to overflowing with themes of love and constant desire. Overlaying dreamy, ambient electronic, jazzy sounds with truly poetic lyrics that speak of “unspeakable” things, and delivering it all with a unique, husky voice, makes for a deeply intimate album of rare and stunning beauty. We’re taken on a journey through icy landscapes, warmed with images of skin against skin and feel helpless to the irresistable pull of a desire that is utterly tangible. It all sounds rather voyeuristic, doesn’t it? The amazing thing is, this album never makes you feel like a peeping tom, it’s so immersive that the experience becomes your own and all you want to do is share it with someone else.

 

Lightning Dust

lightning-dust-self-titled

Black Mountain members Amber Webber and Joshua Wells released this little gem in 2007. Lightning Dust takes elements of the waltz, country music and carnival-esqe themes to create something that almost defies comparison. Imagine giving Mazzy Star a few hits of a psychedelic drug, whereupon they suddenly become circus performers, and you might have some idea of the sound you’re likely to wind up with. That’s not to say Lightning Dust is ‘freaky’, or frenetic, the album maintains quite a relaxed, though haunting, atmosphere. Instrumentation is rich – even if, at times, sparse – and considerably ethereal. The expertly controlled vibrato of  Amber’s vocals match the dream-like quality of the music perfectly, and you will most likely swoon with/for her – when she sings “we’ll jump in the lava, it’ll melt us together” you’ll be ready to take that leap further into the incredible and bizarre world Lightning Dust create.

 

Niobe

niobe-white-hats1

German artist Niobe (aka Yvonne Cornelius) delivers a calm and graceful sound that is at once enchanting. Often classified as experimental electronica, her album – White Hats – contains decidedly vintage overtones (Moon River would not feel out of place here), which makes it perfectly in keeping with the ‘other-worldly’ sounds of the previous two artists. She croons her unusual lyrics in an almost 20’s jazz/blues bar style, which lends her voice, at least, to comparisons with the likes of Chan Marshall (Cat Power) and Beth Orton. Don’t be fooled, however, by all of the above – the sound is completely unique and certainly not outdated. There is, in fact, a perennial quality to albums that can successfully mix a blend of old and new sounds/techniques to create something as intriguingly beautiful as White Hats.

 

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