Onto the second month of the year and yet more irresistable music has been resonating my eardrums. I've been particularly poor this month - perhaps as a direct result of purchasing 'too much' music at the beginning of it. If there is such a thing...
Onto the reviews then - I've unearthed some big albums throughout February. Albums I am likely to enjoy for as long as I shall live...
NEST - Retold
First up, an album that's likely at the top of many people's 'February list'. Throughout the net, much has been fondly written about this album, which sees Deaf Centre's Erik Skodvin team up with Huw Roberts, the Serein label owner. The album concept was born out of an eponymously titled netlabel E.P by the duo which has likely been one of the best netlabel releases to date. Nest have reconvened to craft 'the rest of the album' some years later, and what a treat we are in for too. Anyone who isn't familiar with Nest at all will be delighted, as it will be a real treat getting acquainted with the entire project as a new album. I like many however, have been lovingly soaking into the original tracks for a couple of years now, particularly Trans Siberian and Charlotte. So with the addition of the new and equally excellent material, the album feels refreshing and complete and well worth every fraction of a penny.
This one is not to be missed...
BOHREN & DER CLUB OF GORE - Dolores
A bit of a side project of mine is slowly building a collection of jazz influenced ambient music and general lazy, late-night jazz. Here, I have discovered Bohren & Der Club Of Gore, a collective that more or less sum up the direction this side project is heading.
I have read that they have a bit of a following, and I am not suprised. The quality of this music is chillingly beautiful and my one regret is that I haven't discovered them earlier!
Jazz can at times be complexly percussive. Not a bad thing at all! But I love how this album features simple crashes of percussion, drawn out notes, fender rhodes chords and occasional trumpet moments.
Some pieces are long and drawn out, some are short and sweet. The whole album is full of mysterious, moody atmosphere. This is their first release for five years now and it really is a must purchase...
LEXITHIMIE - Leontopodium
I haven't downloaded an awful lot of netlabel music of late for some reason. I'm really not sure why this is - perhaps the release schedules are slowing for certain labels? Perhaps some labels are going into new directions which are not to my taste? Perhaps I haven't the time to keep as close a check on them as I used to? I'm not sure. There are still a few labels where I can almost guarantee quality material from top artists and Resting Bell is a good example of this.
Onto the artist, French sound designer Alexis Bechu records and releases as Lexithimie. Here, to support his recent physical release on Hibernate Recs, he has given us an immersive two tracker to soak into for free. I was hooked on this project as soon as I had heard just a few seconds of that first drone in 'Discolor'. It is so warm, mysterious and relaxing. I've played this piece of the two in particular an awful lot this month.
I shall be keeping a close eye on Lexithimie releases throughout the future if this is anything to go by...
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MATTHEW HALSALL - 'Colour Yes'
Ah, more Jazz!? Yes. This album leans more heavily towards the Jazz genre than Ambient...owed to the fact that it is actually straight Jazz. I like to have a healthy selection of jazz in my music collection and this is just the sort I like. Beautiful piano chords, intricate percussion, double bass, a smooth saxohone performance and the occasional moment of harp. The inclusion of the harp is an interesting addition and it adds diversity to the jazz sound to be heard by this group of musicians.
This album is divided into two styles: straight up, get up and go jazz and slow, gentle pieces. The two gentle pieces 'Together' and 'I've Been Here Before' are truly immersive listening experiences of which I am guaranteed to thoroughly enjoy every time. The closing piece 'Me And You' is also a favourite.
Stand by for my jazz mix...I will be sure to include some Matthew Halsall. In the meantime, be sure to get yourself acquainted with this excellent group of musicians.
HAUSCHKA - "Substantial"
Piano based Modern Classical music is readily available at the minute and although much of it is superb, it takes something really special to memorably push the boundaries without getting it horribly wrong.
I had come accross Hauschka when taking a look at the recent remix CD release of Dakota Suite's 'The Night Just Keeps Coming In' and if I am honest, it was a name I was unfamiliar with. What have I been missing? I immediately downloaded 'Substantial' and I have to say, this is one of the best albums I have ever heard. The title 'Substantial' is absolutely perfect for it. It is not just an album of piano tone littered with half-heartedly recorded field recordings. It is a full and warm musical album with a substantial narrative.
It never sounds too familiar no matter how many times you listen. The tracks always sound refreshing and little details reveal themselves to you but not enough so that you anticipate them.
This album comes with my highest recommendation.
A BROKEN CONSORT - "Crow Autumn"
As any regular reader of this blog will know, I am a big fan of Richard Skelton's works under any of his guises. Here, we are treated to another outing under his A Broken Consort pseudonym. I am led to believe that this album was originally a long piece but has since been spliced into seven sections to really bring out Skelton's carefully woven instrument drones. The album does of course flow as one if you wish to play it like that. But the fact that it can be split into seven sections without sounding samey throughout is a testament to the sheer level of depth and variation Richard Skelton has put into this album.
I have been listening to Skelton's last A Broken Consort album 'Box of Birch' regularly ever since I purchased it and I dare say there will be a long pause as I sit trying to decide between which of the two albums I should listen to as I prepare for a stroll into town...
DANNY PAUL GRODY - "Fountains"
I'm increasingly getting into Folk, Americana and guitar based electro-acoustic music. I had never heard of Danny Paul Grody until his release on Root Strata this month and despite this, I could now happily cite him as one of my favourite musicians. As you will hear upon listening to this album, he is not just a guitarist - he is a soundscaper too. But what is interesting is that he doesn't allow his ability to process and accentuate his guitar recordings to consume his ability to expertly play the guitar. His highly musical recorded guitar performances are so beautiful, it is difficult to accurately explain. They are so warm and bright - all along there are the vaguest nuances of sound-design that occasionally creep through without ever stealing the limelight of his guitar work.
TAKESHI NISHIMOTO - "Monologue"
This one's a couple of years old and Takeshi Nishimoto is an artist that is new to me. I'm not sure how on earth I stumbled accross this, but it's certainly ticking all the boxes. The album features pure guitar and it is performed beautifully by this talented Japanese musician. The album actually reminds me a lot of an album by compatriot Yuichiro Fujimoto in the way that it feels very personal. Listening to this album, it feels almost as if you're actually in the same room as the artist. Not only this, there is the gentlest of hiss picked up through the recording process that gives you a sense of being somewhere else - perhaps in the same room as Nishimoto and his guitar. This is hard to describe into words, but you'll know when you hear it. I think the hiss is more apparent, because it hasn't been drenched with additional field recordings and drones. It is just the hiss, Nishimoto and the guitar - the music has been stripped right down.
DAKOTA SUITE - "The End Of Trying"
With a recent remix CD perfectly worthy of a place in my reviews section, I decided to delve back to the original album instead. This was released almost exactly a year before and had slipped the radar as far as I was concerned. So I thought I'd best get that album first and give it some listening time before getting the remix release. The track titles and music substance are often mournful and depressing - for this is perhaps a soundtrack to whatever sorrows the artist was feeling, and it can be the soundtrack to your sorrows too. In fact, it may induce a sorrowful state, so be careful! It is a very emotional album and can be at time difficult to listen to in certain states. Nevertheless, this all aside, it is a stunningly beautiful album performed magnificently...a must for any music collection.