Thursday, July 28, 2011

Audio Gourmet Presents... Various Artists - 'Just A Moment'

I'm delighted and excited to announce that Audio Gourmet will be releasing a special digital only compilation album to raise funds for the on-going recovery project in Japan following March's earthquake.
There has been great progress in the rebuilding project since the disaster earlier this year but still much work remains. So Bartosz Dziadosz (Pleq) and I (Harry Towell) decided that we would put together something special to be released through Audio Gourmet to raise money for the cause and donations will be sent via Ian Hawgood, who's wife is currently working directly with some of the people affected.

There have been some excellent compilations put together already that have raised hundreds of pounds for Japan, including Kanshin, For Nihon and 31 Songs For Japan to name but a few.
We wanted to try and do something too and between the two of us, we invited 60 artists to put together a short track of roughly a minute's length.
As a result, we've a global effort of short pieces spanning many of the sub-genres that make up what some might call ambient music. It fits perfectly in line with the Audio Gourmet aesthetic and is perhaps a shining example of the sorts of sounds we seek to release within our 15 minute EP section.

Conceptually, the sixty 'moments' that make up this hour-long compilation album fit together neatly with the intention of stretching out your recess periods from 15 minutes to an hour. The netlabel section of Audio Gourmet is specifically for short 'working' tea breaks, when time is of the essence. The Just A Moment compilation has been put together for when you have the time to enjoy a longer tea break and the quick changes of the many tracks should see that your listening experience remains a conscious one throughout the hour.

We are grateful to Gerry McDermott who provided the stunning cover art for this, taken whilst travelling in Luxembourg. The cafe shot perfectly captures the essence of the album and conveys a great example of a potential listening environment.

We would like to offer a huge thanks to Byron from the Felt Collective who has kindly agreed to master this album, which I'm sure given the sheer amount of tracks was no easy task!
We'd also like to thank all of the artists who have agreed to take part in this project. Without them, this project could not have taken place.

I would like to offer a personal thanks to Bartosz (Pleq) for his invaluable help and patience in organising this with me.

Alex Durlak
Alex Tiuniaev
Alvari Lume
Bartosz Dziadosz and Shintaro Aoki
Byron Felt
Danny Clay
Damian Valles
Darren Harper
David Velez
Deep Into Perspectives
Duncan รณ Ceallaigh
Felicia Atkinson
Field Rotation
The Green Kingdom
Hior Chronik
Hiroki Sasajima & Ami Yamasaki
The Inventors Of Aircraft
Julien Demoulin
Leonardo Rosado
Lights Dim
Listening Mirror
Marihiko Hara and  PolarM
Mark Harris
Monolyth and Cobalt
Nicolas Bernier
Paper Relics
Philippe Lamy
Philippe Petit
Quinn Walker
Raul Fuentes
Shota Hirama
Specta Ciera
Strom Noir
Szymon Kaliski
Tim Noble
Tone Color
Visionary Hours
Wil Bolton
Yukitomo Hamasaki

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

REVIEW: Darren Harper - Falls [Children Play Records]

An entirely non-profit label, Children Play Records came onto my radar recently with two solo releases from past Audio Gourmet netlabel contributors Darren Harper and Gimu. The pair are fresh from a stunning long distance collaboration which resulted in a physical 3" EP on Rural Colours.

Darren Harper is an artist that I have been following ever since I got into ambient music, with his early album releases on Earth Mantra. Patient and modest, Darren has quietly amassed several releases which span netlabels Earth Mantra and Audio Gourmet as well as his own self-released material via Bandcamp.
Through each of these beautiful ambient projects, Darren has displayed a gradually building arsenal of production techniques and has laid them out for all to hear. Now approaching the physical format, armed with years of fine-tuning and experimentation, he is quite the refined producer. Incorporating subtly glitching electronic tones, chimes, field recording, light noise, drones and various instrument sounds, Darren's varied palette is rich in texture.

'Falls', his latest production, delves through six perfectly weighted slices of soundscaping that should firmly place Darren Harper on your radar if you haven't already discovered his work. Opening out with 'Floating Filigree', a simple jittering of shimmering digital tones presents itself as being surprisingly organic despite its roots lying predominantly with the electronic. Minus the piano, echoes of M'Ostermeier's 'The Rules Of Another Small World' filter into thought whilst listening to this piece.
Evocatively titled 'A View FromWithin A Smaller Space' continues where the first piece left off, opening with what sounds like a digital wind chime backed by the hum of machinery. This hum gathers with intensity, unfurling slowly through an 8 minute duration. 'Reflective Shards; Filaments Of Light' return the listener to a slightly lighter state, with a lush drone bed forming the back drop for a more sparse arrangement of digital tones, all lightly affected by the sort of gentle noise application that we might hear on a Herzog or Hessien record.

Onto the second half of the record, or the flip-side if you will, this masterpiece fittingly opens with what sound like vinyl crackles. Here we find Harper spreading his sound design into a more open electro-acoustic territory, with the use of a simple and short guitar ditty accompanied by reversed samples of it. Following on is another short piece, the title track, which is a textured stormy affair littered with lots of tiny and barely discernable details. A strong sense of marvel is apparent here as I listen - it's one of those tracks that really heighten the impact of the landscape or hark the mind back to an early school science VHS.
Lots of albums tend to leave the longest track until last, to draw out those final moments and to allow the artist time and space to develop one final 'act'. This one, 'Solace and Sines; a Walk Through the Garden' opens out with the most clearly discernable natural element featured in 'Falls', some light bird chatter, presumably in the garden. The feint dischordant shrill of sine waves punctuate a truly beautiful and otherworldly texture of droning sound. This develops for the duration of the piece allowing the listener to really drift off into a dreamy state. This is an often cliched phrase for the ambient music reviewer, although rarely truly captured as perfectly as Darren does so here.

All in all, a really solid and mesmerising piece of work from Darren Harper for his first full length CD release. There were only 20 physical copies produced so get in quick to avoid disappointment. Otherwise, the label have made it available digitally through their Bandcamp account. It comes with my highest recommendation if you are feeling that there are few new and challenging ambient artists developing at the moment. Darren may be a new name for many, but as I mentioned earlier he has been gradually honing his techniques for years and is a noticeably talented artist. Never more the case than on 'Falls', which could be his finest body of work to date...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

NEW ARTIST RELEASE: Paper Relics - Over Exposure [Time Released Sound]

I'm delighted to announce that after several months spent collaborating with my brother Stuart, our debut full-length album is out now on Time Released Sound.

In January this year, we released an EP called Recovered Artefact on Audio Gourmet to test the water as we were busy recording 'Over Exposure', an album with lots of underlying detail, centered around nostalgia and loss.

The cover photograph was taken by our father back in the late seventies when he was young. To the rear of the tractor sporting a flat cap, stands our grandfather with his colleagues.
This is the centre piece to an ode to generations of family up-bringing on a farm in Rutland, the smallest county in Britain. The farm itself is set for a housing redevelopment and between Stuart and I, we have come up with a package of sound and art working closely with Colin Herrick (Time Released Sound) that serves to preserve the memories we cherish from our childhood, before the physical reference points get swiped away in favour of something new for the next generation.

The album is riddled with nostalgic references for us as we attempt to capture the fading memory of past events.

A glance at the packaging, as mentioned, the cover shot was taken by our Dad as well as the back cover. On both, illustrations captured from 100 year old botanical prints creep into focus, signifying the passing of the fading memories beneath. Inside, the credits are printed onto a scanned image of some discareded building plans I found lying in a puddle one day, which tie in with the iminent redevelopment that lies ahead. These have been stained with tea, just for extra effect. There is also some apt words of poetry written back in 1749 by Thomas Gray:

"The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me."

This short poem ties in perfectly with the references to time passing and helps further imbue the prevailing pastoral theme.
The CD itself has a print of an old map of the area we live, just a few miles away from the farm.

There was also a deluxe version, as with all Time Released Sound releases, in which Colin really went to town on as usual.
All kinds of things can be found within the package, which has been stamped and addressed with the farm itself. The disc lies inside a sleeve with another old photograph printed to it - this time of the family home which will still stand, despite the housing development plans. Separately to this, there is a hand sewn booklet that has been carefully assembled, fusing all sorts of ideas together. A kind of scrap-book, if you will.
All of these are unique, with no edition being the same.
That cover photograph is printed onto an actual piece of the hundred-year old botanical print. Inside, page one introduces the album with the catalog number and TRS logo. Next up is a print of the old local map on the back of a vintage wall-paper piece. To the rear there is obviously the retro wallpaper design lying clear for all to see. You should at this stage find a foam cut-out of some form of animal which sits opposite another old family photograph printed to more of the botanical diagram paper. Next up is Thomas Gray's poem - either written in short or full. This is alongside a section of an old map, littered with stamps and text. In the centre of the book, the references move from nature and location onto music. Part of an old manuscript and text cover the next few pages. Then we move back to nature, with anatomical diagrams of sea-creatures or flowers. On the flip is a Paper Relics cover page which lies opposite of a hand-stencilled/spray painted farmyard scene.Then next is a hand-written nature account on lined-paper which houses a 3" bonus CDr copy of our EP Recovered Artefact. Opposite is a decorated wallpaper piece and then the final page is the edition number with the credits page closing this short booklet.

The digi pack copies are still available from Time Released Sound here:

The ultra arty edition that I just described sold out within a day on Time Released although there are a couple of copies available here at Stashed Goods:

There will also be a few copies at Norman Records and other distributors over the next week or so but these will sell quick so act fast to avoid disappointment.

The music itself focusses around Stuart's guitar composition, with all kinds of instrument and field recording accents to create a blurry nostalgic soundtrack for a soon to be destroyed farm.

For more information and further reading, you may be interested in taking a look at our recent interview on Fluid Radio: