Tag Archives: jazz

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.

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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.

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Pillars And Tongues Daytrotter Session (3rd March, 2011)

I had something of a full circle moment the other day when I saw Pillars And Tongues had a new Daytrotter Session available (recorded back in Spetember last year, available to download March 3rd).

I had not long discovered Daytrotter when I took a quick listen to their debut session from February, 2009. Back then I was intrigued just enough to bookmark it, promising myself I’d come back later and take a proper listen. It took me a few weeks to do so. In a odd coincidence, I chose March 3rd, posting about it the same day simply because I thought it very necessary to tell everyone about it.

That day I was instantly enamoured – the kind of enamoured where you can’t help but insist absolutely everyone must hear it too, and inbetween that insistence you spend many other moments listening yourself and finding as much else as you can – information, music, whatever is out there.

This time around I wasted no time in acquiring the session, though I have spent the better part of a week listening to it before ultimately, once more, finding it very necessary to tell everyone about it.

Most people, including myself, tend to perplex a little over describing the music of P&T, (believe me, there are good reasons I haven’t linked to my first post!), but the most common summary is folkish drone (or vice versa – droneish folk). Others tend to veer a little towards the metaphysical; I’ve seen mesmerising, spiritual and even holy used. For the time being, I’m going to continue with my original position, but tone it down somewhat and simply suggest it’s music you need to hear.

Check out both sessions here.

 

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Clara Engel – Secret Beasts

 

Ah, “categories”, how I do have a love/hate relationship with thee.

Once in a blue moon they’re totally, like, my BFF. Many other times, much like the language I just used, they’re a particularly jarring thorn in my side, begging careful attention in order to understand, but ultimately the desire to abandon completely. Especially so when something takes a step beyond the aural plane and lands a foot in the visual, such as Clara Engel‘s Secret Beasts. Then, as has been well documented, I veer towards genres generally relegated to the cinematic over the musical. Let’s try for neutral ground and simply say performance art.

I’ve been here before, trying to convey – in words – the free-form element in a recorded piece of work. That impression you sometimes get that the sound you are hearing, have heard, will suddenly, somehow, go in a different direction than it did last time. Logic dictates that the music, once recorded and in your possession, will forever maintain a single, unchangeable state. But art can, and often will, defy that logic and fluctuate somewhere between memory and sensory perception, allowing you to alter its forms and direction.

It’s interesting to note in this brief documentary that Clara mentions her work remains somewhat unfinished, referring to them as sketches rather than perfected pieces. Perhaps in the absence of that refinement, (for lack of a better word, for what is refinement other than the selective stripping away and/or re-shaping of work), in retaining a more original, unchanged state, the argument could be made that the work is more complete. Or, at the very least, with their forms generally untampered with, they are a little more free to traverse multiple lines – and you can’t  err by colouring outside the lines if the lines themselves have not been made finite.

I can, however, outline a few things myself. Secret Beasts draws on contemporary jazz, blues and folk influences, with a sound that is most succinctly delineated as avant garde when taking into account the underlying vocal work, choral arrangements and general ambience. On the straighter edges, the music is brassy, often owing more to Clara Engel’s vocals than the instrumentation, the former being a dominant but not overblown presence, the latter occasionaly deceptively more subdued that you might first realise.

Beneath those two elements lurk the less linear moments, not necessarily requiring but inspiring interpretation on behalf of the listener¹. I’ll keep it concise and defer going into detail on where I went visually when listening to these songs, but I will say that I imagine they’d lend themselves very well indeed to a variety of visual arts – they managed to set me a stage where a veritable cast of different things emerged and…I’m going to use the word behaved over performed – performed infers a more scripted presentation for rather than an action with.

This gives me the idea that had they been ‘perfected’, the songs could well have revealed, rather than inferred, the titled Secret Beasts. The real question, though, is perhaps whether or not those moments where you sense that there is something more or different about to happen, leading you to take that nuance, draw it out from the music and into your own world, comes from the music or from yourself – or more to the point, whose Secret Beasts are you really meeting?

Along with other work, you can find Clara Engel’s Secret Beasts at Bandcamp.

 

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1: I maintain this happens on some level with all music, hence why I also insist that I never talk about what a musician wrote (or played), but rather about what I heard, which are often two different creatures.


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).

 

 

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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.