Monday, July 27, 2009

MDAC008 - Monthly Discerning Audio Chart, July 2009

July has been a very busy month for me, as I am moving house so much work to be done! Yet I have still managed to find plenty of time to soak into some good music, so I shall be sharing some of the months top sounds as usual...

Straight at the top of the list is this truly excellent double disc album released on Earth Mantra by Lucette Bourdin. I enjoyed her previous work 'Silver Moon' earlier this year on the same label, but this ambient offering will completely blow any fans of the genre away. It's masterfully produced ambient music, given away for free; an absolute must is this. Earth Mantra really have been consistent in providing some of the very best netlabel ambient music in the world - it is strongly advised that any fan of the creative commons scene or ambient music in general keep close tabs on this label:

IOD on SEM Label occasionally releases short E.Ps of top quality Ambient/drone works. I often check back to the label to see whether anything new is out and fortunately this month, there is a stunning E.P of Montero/Navarro re-jigs. The Green Kingdom rework some of this project into their own lush Ambient style - delicate instrument notation arrangement, crackling field recordings and distant vocals will soothe your ears. Segue open their take with a loop repetition that builds into a wash of ambient chords. Offthesky open things with dischordant noise and field noise that gives way to those beautiful tones and intelligent sound design you come to expect. Finally, Fax provide a ticking electronic rhythm draped with warm Ambient drones and distant guitar echoes.

OFFLAND - 'The Commute'
It's been some time since I've downloaded any Offland, but I was very much drawn to the concept of this album released on the Resting Bell netlabel, since I have endured many a commute in my time. I am always intrigued by real-time recordings used to portray a scenario somewhere else in the world - it is fascinating to think that someone has actually taken the time to make these recordings and that each sound you hear actually took place in the ever moving wheel of another society. So that is what drew me to the album initially...these drones really do leave you slumped back into your chair and deeply soaked into the environment they create. Free download here:

LARRY HEARD - 'Fantasy'
Moving onto something more Housey - here is a superb Deep House track by the exceptional Larry Heard. I'm constantly re-discovering old works by him that for some reason I overlooked. I think with lots of Heard's work, the real stand out pieces are the ones with the vocals; they really are beautifully performed and that is why I have come to enjoy his work so much. Up there with Missing You, Deep Inside and DejaVu - this one will be a lifelong classic in my record collection.

JAMES MASON - 'Sweet Power (Your Embrace)'
Speaking of classsics, here is an awesome jazz/funk/disco track from James Mason's 1977 album 'Rhythm Of Life'. I first heard this piece a few years back on an old Gilles Peterson mix CD in the times when I didn't have an iPod. I'd take a bag where ever I went with a portable CD player and a load of CDs and get my late night music fix on slow, lazy walks home. This process meant that I accidentally misplaced or lent that mix CD out and have not seen it since...I'd even forgotten about this superb track and only recently have I tracked down a copy of 'Rhythm Of Life'. Much of this CD is not to my taste as it sways a little too far into cheesy disco territory for me. But 'Sweet Power (Your Embrace)' was fully worth the £10 odd that I paid for this CD. It is a superb track that is well worth tracking down!

MONODELUXE - 'Don't Ask'
Irresistably deep downtempo/IDM work here from Monodeluxe...superb deep keys, chilled beats, funky bass and subtle trumpet samples collide to make a late-night stew of electronic funk. Further into this short track, jazzy keys cut in to really round off a superb piece of music.

In my huge rack of vinyl, I have a few old Nuspirit Helsinki records and so recently, I decided to see if I could download anything for iPod listening. This track takes a much deeper turn than the Nuspirit Helsinki sound I was used to - but this is an excellent piece of music that comes with strong recommendation. It's just so unbelievably deep!!

AES DANA - 'Forest Fish'
I've some unusual tribal ambience from the likes of Tuu, Jon Hassel et al and this track by Aes Dana runs along similar lines. I always find tribal ambience like this to be so unusual; almost otherworldy. Upon listening, you are transported to the deepest, most desolate of places. To begin with, the track takes more of a classic ambient drone stance, before giving way to vocal chants, delicate strings and tribal percussion.

HELIOS - 'Eingya'
This album comes with my highest recommendation. It is what is being described these days as post rock and it is a wonderful album of delicate instrumentation and melancholy texture. Lots of classic piano, guitar (both electric and acoustic) and gentle percussion. It is all arranged into a lazy soundtrack for cold winter nights, late walks home or introspective listening. Beautiful music.

My first introduction to Chauveau is this track from a 'pop ambient' compilation on Kompakt. Given the very very dire state of the charts (don't even get me started!!!!!!), I was initially put off by the term 'pop' ambient. Since, how could a genre so deep, cultured and discerning be given a genre label associated with awful popular mass culture? I am glad I am a man who will think 'what's in a name?' from time to time...since this is far from what you would associate with the term popular! This is a short, largely classical affair that is very moody and would not sound out of place draped over an emotional scene in a movie.
I must bid you all farewell for now...I'm off to download more Sylvain Chauveau!!!!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

AGCD036 - Spheruleus "Tales From The Labyrinth"

I am very pleased to further establish the name of Spheruleus as a guise for my Ambient/Drone/Soundscape work with this second album, on Portuguese netlabel Test Tube.

Test Tube is a netlabel focussed on releasing obscure experimental albums from talented artists accross the globe and I have been fortunate enough as Spheruleus to be listed amongst these with 'Tales From The Labyrinth'.

I actually had the album finished early this year, but such is the scale of the operation at Test Tube, I've had to wait patiently for a release date as there were many others confirmed to be published first. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it was this window of time that gave me chance to arrange the front cover design. Normally, the cover artwork is not something I would enlist as a forte of it was great to have the time to arrange with Eric Lacombe (Monstror) to put something impressive together for me.

On Eric's blog you will find a wealth of highly detailed images that are simply captivating. The idea behind 'Tales From The Labyrinth' was to get a seemingly minimal cover image that with closer inspection, gives way to subtle intricacies and delicate detail. This reflects the music and the album concepts:

"A labyrinth, unlike the maze, has one clear/unambiguous/obvious routeto the centre. Whereas a maze has many complex and difficult tonegotiate pathways."

"The ancient ideas behind the labyrinth was to create a spirallingpathway to the centre where say a holy shrine or statue would be. During the walk through the labyrinth's spiralling pathway, the personon the journey would feel separated from the outside world and itwould give time for reflection and to focus the mind."

"It is this whole idea of reflection whilst in solitary confinement ora quiet space that opens up the theme to the album. Those four trackshave been created as an audio version of the labyrinth and createspace for the listener to confront any thoughts they may have orproblems they may have been posed."

"It is intricate yet minimalist 'music' and adheres to the old visionthat Brian Eno had when he first created Ambient music. It is asignorable as it is listenable, which means the listener willconstantly be fluttering between the conscious and subconscious stateof mind. It is during this state that clearer thinking can beachieved."


A): There Are More Than Four Walls
B): Escape Escapism
C): Where Does The Answer Lie?
D): It Sits On A Shelf Inside My Skull