Tuesday, March 23, 2010

MDAC016 - Monthly Discerning Audio Chart, March 2010

'Review' time again! That monthly blog post where I pretend to be a music journalist. There's been plenty out since the start of 2010 - March is no exception. Not all of this month's material is new however - I've been prompted to revisit memory lane a few times this month and I've also been scouring back-catalogs too, for those gems I may have missed.

JASPER TX "A Voice From Dead Radio" (Remixes)
First up and straight to the top of this month's list is Dag Rosenqvist's new release on Under The Spire. It is a collection of old works remixed by what can only be described as a selection of the biggest names in the scene. Added to this, Dag is of course a big name himself and here, this marvellous 2 x CD release has come out on one of the best labels around at the minute. Under The Spire has decided that for this one, they'd drop their usual Arigato package in favour of this fully printed CD with stunning artwork from Oscar Jacobsson. They really have gone all out with this album and most importantly, the music itself certainly hasn't been compromised. This entire package as a whole is a truly amazing piece of work. You might now struggle to get hold of it, since it's more or less sold out already...
For me personally, the highlights of this tremendous release are the remixes by Pillowdiver, Simon Scott and Steinbruchel. Seaworthy and Zelienople have turned in superb reinterpretations too, as the two longer tracks on this remix CD.
Potentially a candidate for album of the year...

ITHACA TRIO - "Tesla Versus The Night"
As many are becoming increasingly aware, Under The Spire are a label releasing consistently top-notch material as each month passes. This label is really starting to turn heads throughout the scene and upon a purchase of any release, it is easy to see why. This release by the Leeds based collective is no exception - it stands proudly in the label's catalog and is every bit the shining example of the sort of fine music we have come to expect from Under The Spire.
Opening with 'Dragon Sleeps Well', we are treated to a laidback and gentle arrangement of carefully treated electro-acoustic manipulation that is a perfect example of just how talented the Ithaca Trio are. There are many passionate ambient music enthusiasts that have never heard of them - which is difficult to grasp, as upon first listen this sounds as good as the work you'd associate with established scene heavy-weights and seasoned veterans of the genre.
Unfortunately, it looks like Under The Spire have more or less sold out of this one - but I strongly recommend keeping an eye on the Ithaca Trio. If Tesla Versus The Night's anything to go by, they have a bright future ahead of them...

NICOLA RATTI - "From The Desert Came Saltwater"
This is by no means a new piece of work, but often I find myself scouring label back-catalogs and artist's previous works to see whether I'd missed something special.
Missing this 2008 masterpiece until now is not something that I'm proud of - especially since Ratti's 'Esope' released the same year by Zymogen has been such a firm favourite for me, even to this day.
So, this aside, I now have the album and can confidently recommend this as another Nicola Ratti masterpiece and as a prominent feature in my record collection.
This record is just full of detail - it is almost song-like in tone and structure at times, although before this becomes too familiar it treads forward to take on yet another twist in a different direction. There are field recordings littered carefully underneath a bed of electro-acoustic manipulation and composition and before long you'll hear for yourself that Ratti is a genius sound-designer - carefully manipulating a host of sounds into a gentle and relaxing listening environment. I'm not sure whether he has anything new in the pipeline - but for now, if you're not already familiar with his work, then this one is not to be missed.

This short, sweet record sees the collaboration of two extremely talented sets of musicians. Swedish post-rock band Tape join forces with folk musician Bill Wells to blend a selection of relaxed acoustic/electro-acoustic compositions.
The four-track release features guitar, an organ, other instruments and some gentle appliance of electronic effects. It is difficult to tell by listening who plays what - but I think this is irrelevant. I am a fan of Tape as a band - but at times their output can be a little saccharine in places for my taste.
Here, with Bill Wells, they allow their work to adopt a more low-slung and melancholy approach - which suits me fine! All four pieces are absolutely beautiful, none more than 'Fugue 4', which serves as a crescendo piece to close this short album. I have been bowled over by this superb release and I dare say you will be too...A must, is this.

It is dificult to write anything about Rutger Zuyderveld without instinctively using the term prolific or anything vaguely synonymous with the word. I, like many interested in the experimental electronic music scene am indeed familiar with most of his consistently interesting work.
The reason I have this month chosen to highlight this older release of his is that he is performing in May at the Hole In The Wall pub in Hebden Bridge and I myself shall be in attendence. So as that exciting prospect draws nearer as each day passes, I have spent much of the month checking back over some of his releases. This little masterpiece stood out more than most - I like the way it is such a short album yet full of tiny detail. It says so much in such a short space of time, without ever feeling hurried. I like how I am able to spend a 15 minute break at work, listen to the album in full and feel completely refreshed as a result.

ELAN MEHLER QUARTET - "Scheme For Thought"
In recent weeks, my side-project search for late-night ambient jazz has been leaking into my review sections with the recent addition of Bohren & Der Club Of Gore et al to my record collection.
So, here with 'Scheme For Thought', I can present the perfect example of the sort of sounds I am collating as I near a collection large enough for me to construct a mix. This album represents exactly the style of jazz I am particularly fond of. As a record, it is certainly not new to me. I first heard it played a few years back on a Gilles Peterson radio show and I have been thoroughly enjoying it ever since.
It is a few years old and many will already know of this delightfully relaxing jazz record. My recent inspiration to craft an hour-long jazz mix ha urged me to dig this classic out again. And a real classic indeed it is...

ASHER - "Landscape Studies"
Another album I'd missed somehow - despite the fact that I am familiar with the artist. This album of mid-length minimal drone soundscapes is one of the sleepiest, most restful albums I've heard - and that's saying something! The drones are gentle, lightly atmospheric, feature gentle hiss and subtle unobtrusive field recordings. It reminds me in some ways of the sort of minimal ambient drones you'd expect to hear from recent Ryonkt output, such as his 'Window To The Room' release on Under The Spire. I strongly recommend picking up a copy of this album - especially if you're in need of a good rest! The real beauty with 'Landscape Studies' is that it is very difficult to concentrate fully on it and you're likely to fall asleep before hearing the album consciously in full. So it will take a lot of listens to really get to know the album fully. Which, given its simplicity and minimal approach is a really special thing.

FENTON - "Pup"
Under the pseudonym 'Fenton', Shuttle 358 wrote the album 'Pup' some time back with a view to focus on sound design centred around guitar. I was still thrashing out techno back in the days that this was released, so I missed it. No harm in checking back down the back-catalogs to see what I'd been missing out on...I think the main reason I've not given this album a good listen before now is because of the less than evocative track titles. The album is called 'Pup', there are tracks entitled 'Bunny' to name but two examples. But what's in a name?
'Pup' is actually an album full of exactly the kind of lazy ambient sounds I'm constantly searching for. And it has been there all along, throughout my search for fine ambient music. So I have made a resolution to try and judge less by its proverbial cover...

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