Saturday, January 26, 2013

Stafrænn Hákon - Prammi [Sound In Silence]

The first label to approach this year since my intentions of increasing the posts on Audio Gourmet for 2013 is Sound In Silence. They kindly send over their two latest releases for review, by Stafrænn Hákon and J.R Alexander.

So first up, I present my thoughts about the latest Stafrænn Hákon album 'Prammi', which has already been reissued due to popular demand. Stafrænn Hákon is the pseudonym for Icelandic artist Olafur Josephsson, the work of whom I have been following for a few years now. For those new to his sound, you'd be forgiven for thinking he'd fall into a similar category as the likes of Olafur Arnalds and Johann Johannsson, since Iceland is renowned for producing quality modern classical music. However, Josephsson is perhaps most known for his post-rock sound, active since the late nineties.

Before I began to listen, I took a glance at the tracklist and noticed something familiar - the inclusion of a piece named 'Hvarf 12' and having listened, it seems to be a 2012 adaptation of a track included on Stafrænn Hákon's 'Í Ástandi Rjúpunnar' album.
Josephsson's more recent material has been increasingly veering to a purer rock sound, with the additions of upbeat drums and guitar patterns and vocals. Whereas his earlier works were perhaps more subdued instrumental post-rock. Where 'Prammi' is particularly effective is that it draws on this artist's years of experience and through all of the different sounds in his albums. It is evenly spaced using the careful placing of these different styles through each track.

Prammi opens out with what you might describe as the classic Stafrænn Hákon sound before moving towards his more recent work in the second track 'Klump', which hints at the work of Boduf Songs, which is never a bad thing! On from this, we here the re-interpretation of Hvarf which then moves onto something new to broaden the album's palette...a piece of pure droning texture.
Whilst 'A Personal Voyage To Meat Planet' is oddly titled, it does offer respite from the pleasant, largely upbeat post-rock sound that preceded. Not only this, its minimalism offers a pause in which anticipation for the rest of the album heightens. I gather that fans of pop and rock genres would skip the drone pieces but in doing this, we rid the album of its most effective part.
When I used to DJ, I would often play a couple of tracks that were largely percussion, stripped back and minimal. I would then follow this with something melodic and with a lot of atmosphere, with the impact heightened by the few minutes of minimalism that went before it.

Sure enough, the melodic post-rock returns and with impact. This is then followed by another short interlude of textured ambience aptly titled 'Passage'. I can't help thinking here, that perhaps it would be more effective to swap this with the following track 'Hoff', which would space the tracks and their differing sounds apart a little. That said, this point is of such little bearing on the overall effect of Prammi and who am I to question Josephsson's ideas. Prammi continues along with the effective formula of post-rock, both instrumental and vocal interspersed with short drones to great effect.
By the time we hit tenth track 'Lusher', a more laid-back and vibe sets in, followed by the fractured music box tones of 'Before'. For me, the album is at its most beautiful in its final quarter which is rounded off with 'Wait', the album's darkest piece. Again, its placing is apt - it makes sense to include this as the last track; a final reflective moment as this remarkable album draws to a close.

Physical copies are still available at the time of writing, hand-made and hand-numbered by this excellent emerging label. Their current roster of artists is more than enough to make their Bandcamp page a regular haunt amongst fans of quality experimental music.
I've been a long-term fan so I feel qualified to issue this bold statement: Stafrænn Hákon's 'Prammi' is perhaps his most accomplished body of work to date and rewards a listener that gives it the time to play out in full. The way that Olafur Josephsson positions the tracks whether upbeat, laid-back, instrumental, vocal or glacial is what sets everything off here. He has shown great restrain in creating this album, which will shine whatever the weather. Highly recommended {LISTEN / BUY}

Revised ambitions for 2013!!

Barely two weeks into my ridiculously ambitious idea of posting about an album every day in 2013 had failed, after I'd had a few ales the night before and no sleep. The reality had kicked in that this was going to be more an occasional thing than regular, since I just have too many commitments to sustain it.

This is not to say that I don't see posting on the Audio Gourmet blog as important, however. My intentions were at least good - helping direct people to experimental music that they might not have heard before, helping artists and labels gain new fans - even if it's only just a couple!
So, I will continue to post about albums old and new whenever I get the chance, albeit in a more irregular pattern...

Since this year I find myself rather skint and unable to plump for the preferred vinyl or lavishly packaged CDs, I am currently relying on the following to build my record collection:
(1). Buying mp3s instead
(2). Friends sending me their records
(3). Buying odd tracks on iTunes/Boomkat - selecting only my absolute favourites from an album
(4). Immediately re-investing any slither of royalties from my own albums
(5). Listening to my existing record collection
(6). Streaming albums on Bandcamp - longing for the day when I can afford to download it for my iPod!

This may sound like a bit of a public plea for promos, press advance records etc...well, maybe it is, a little! But I promise, providing I enjoy the record, I will put something back and write a few words about it - sharing the links to the release page here on the Audio Gourmet blog. My write-ups or reviews won't be as eloquently written as the likes of Fluid Radio or A Closer Listen but like them, my passion for good music will shine through and hopefully introduce people to it new things.

I was very pleased to hear personally from a few people that had bought albums featured in my end of year show last year. I said before I made the show - it might take up a great deal of my time in putting it together but if it gets just one person to check an artist out and buy their record, then it has been every bit worth the effort on my part.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Day #0008: Richard Skelton - Landings [Sustain-Release/Type]

[Sustain-Release/Type] 2009

I've made no secret of my fondness for Richard Skelton's work and I dare say that most readers of this post will already be very familiar with his excellent music. For you people, give your eyes a rest and dig out your copy of Marking Time, Verse Of Birds or Landings - sit back and enjoy the show.

For those unfamiliar to the work of Richard Skelton, I will attempt to write a few words but really, just hit play below and you'll quickly arrive at your own decision.

Despite having been a long standing fan of his work, I often find it quite difficult to describe it. I have even got the accompanying book to Landings and have read it many times whilst listening and without just copying the book, it is difficult to try and write a quick snapshot of it. Landings is an album and subject of depth, whilst being simple at the same time.

Richard Skelton produces raw, rustic and emotional music, usually inspired by the landscape around him. When he produced 'Landings', he was living near to Anglezarke in the Lancashire moors, UK. The album is a result of four years spent recording during which, Richard immersed himself in the area. He and his music almost became one with the landscape and the more you listen, you will too. This may sound a little corny but genuinely, if you listen to Landings, it is literally tied to the landscape from which it was inspired.

There are a few versions out there - with a little digging around, you should be able to get the edition on Type, in either vinyl or CD. The vinyl is absolutely wonderful, somehow adding yet more depth to this body of work. If you can get hold of a copy, it will be well worth what ever you pay.
Then of course, there is Richard's Sustain-Release platform, in which he makes special limited runs of his work, with a personal touch.
I have run a quick check and he has some copies of Landings available: {BUY}

Finally, you'll definitely be able to buy the album in mp3 format. You can go for the Type release on the likes of Boomkat and iTunes, I'm sure but the best experience would be direct from Richard Skelton's Bandcamp page. In this special edition entitled 'The Complete Landings', he includes a wealth of bonus material:

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Almost Noteworthy Adventures of Mick Stape

Today there is no album post, because instead I have spent the whole day putting together a new 2 part mix.

I decided this week to put together a playlist of all my favourite post-rockish pieces for casual iPod listening. Years ago of course, playlists were mixtapes. - so I started whittling down the 250+ tracks I’d selected to just a few favourites, as if I were creating an old-school mix tape for friends. The result is a 2 part showcase of my favourite records leaning towards the experimental rock and folk genres.
When I used to DJ, I would name my mix CDs ridiculous things to try and get people to at least listen, so along that school of thought…I arrived somehow at: 'The Almost Noteworthy Adventures of Mick Stape'. The main reason being, that these two parts almost sound like the soundtrack to a film and so I got thinking about what my film would be called. Whilst initially appearing like a real life person, Mick Stape is actually a play on words using Mixtape. Clever.
*Huge thanks to Beth for the artwork; a sketch of me slumped at the sofa watching TV!


The Late Cord – The Late Cord
Zelienople – Little Little Eye-Full
Lilium – Lily Pool
Felix – Where Is My Dragon
Midlake – Rulers, Ruling All Things
Shearwater – The Kind
Home Of The Lame – Habitat
Giraffe – The Fifth Wheel
Sam Prekop – So Shy
Tunng – People Folk
Boduf Songs – I Am Going Away And I Am Never Coming Back
Thom Yorke – Black Swan
Tarwater – 20 Miles Up
De La Mancha – Ursa Minor
Hood – L.Fading Hills
Real Estate – Green Aisles
Deerhunter – Twilight At Carbon Lake
Radiohead – Give Up The Ghost


Talons’ – Lost Ships
Finglebone – Forgotten Again
Black Eagle Child – The Bee’s Nest
Tiny Ruins – Bird In Thyme
Neil Halstead – See You On The Rooftops
Billy Mahonie – A Part Of Me Floats To The Sea
Studiocanoe – Soothe
Aerial M – Skrag Theme
Silencio – No Memories, No Ghosts
Little Phrase – Time Is Golden
The Gentleman Losers – Light Fandango
Mogwai – Kings Meadow
Kiln – Swung Rusted Open
Pullman – Narrow Canyon
Foreign Fields – So Many Foreign Homes
Chris Weisman and Greg Davis – New Americans

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Day #0007: Clem Leek - Through The Angular [Schedios]

[Schedios] 2010
Clocking in at little over eleven minutes, 'Through The Annular' was Clem Leek's first physical release, out on his own Schedios imprint in 2010. It preceded his debut album 'Holly Lane' on Hibernate, which was one of that year's best records to the ears of most who bought it. Holly Lane saw this talented young artist assemble a rich suite of modern classical material which centered around the texture of strings.

Showing his diversity, 'Through The Annular' is instead a snapshot of Clem's piano playing. The short tracks are set to the beautiful crackle of 78rpm records which is an often used technique in modern classical music. It must be pointed out, however, that his use of crackle on this record is the best I have heard. This seems like a very strange thing for someone to comment on but if you pay attention to it, you'll hear how he manages to get just the right levels, frequency and feel to it.
Immediately, new listeners will be drawn to the beautiful piano compositions for a while but after several repeated listens, the crackle just seems to become more and more noticeable. For me, I often find myself allowing it to be the focal point as I listen, which automatically pushes the piano to the background. This was probably not the artist's intention but what it does is leave the album prone to repeated play as you start to feel as if you have missed the passages of piano.

The fleeting briefness of this mini album or EP if you prefer, is what really makes it special. The four compositions do feel broadly similar and there are no stark contrasts as the tracks change but because this set is so brief, it feels like a single movement of four parts. And surely, a movement you will return to time and time again - usually in the same sitting!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Day #0006: Nicola Ratti - èsope [Zymogen]

[Zymogen] 2009
As mentioned in a previous post, I began to develop my taste in ambient, electro-acoustic, drone etc through downloading free music from netlabels. There were several labels that I'd visit regularly and there's some great free material up for grabs out there but there are some albums that I listen to regularly even now, a few years later.
èsope is quite possibly my favourite netlabel release of all-time, by Italian artist Nicola Ratti. It was released back in 2009 on Zymogen and followed his collaboration with Giuseppe Ielasi and his marvellous 'From The Desert Came Saltwater' album on Anticipate. At that time, for me this was the first I'd heard of his work and I've been a fan ever since.
èsope is a single mid to long-form piece that includes the environmental sounds of field recordings with chimes, drones, voice and Ratti's signature use of guitar. Rather than his more instant work, this piece takes time to develop from almost nothing and it becomes a real joy to listen to in a most gradual way. When the guitar comes in, you will hope that it never ends. Obviously it does, but it is this tranquil state and yearning for more that will keep you listening until the very end. Although the guitar is the main focus of the track and of course, the sounds of sheep that have influenced the cover art - there is a brassy sound that closes èsope that completely contrasts everything, that will soon be as enjoyable to your ears as the rest of this magnificent piece.
Zymogen as a label has married consistent high-quality curation with a slow release rate, which really builds your anticipation for their next release.

To download Nicola Ratti's 'èsope'
 for free, please visit the release page here: {LISTEN / BUY}

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

DAY #0005: Foreign Fields - Anywhere But Where I Am


I'm afraid I'm about to harp on some more about year end lists from 2012 but this time, not mine. End of year lists are a great way of discovering music you missed and by far the best thing I've come across so far is an album that would have done well in my list for last year, had I found it. 'Anywhere But Where I Am' is an album by the band Foreign Fields and it was featured by Helio Camacho's (Own Records) top 5 records of the year. I had already come across most but this one was completely new to me and it was love at first click.

I was looking for something new to listen to as I enjoyed some time off by myself just after Christmas whilst my family had all returned to work. I literally had it on repeat, every day and even now that I have returned to work, I am still listening - in the car there and back. What's so good about it? Well firstly, there are plenty of tracks and then secondly, there is great variety to them. Most moments are beautiful, rich and deep but the way in which each is executed varies from track to track. It has a folk feel to it one minute, a post rock feel the next and at times, the lush droning guitar textures point to ambient; some parts are even slightly poppy or electronic. As a whole, it is a very playable, pleasant listen from start to finish. Even the tracks that don't grab you the first time will win you round after a few listens. This is set to become one of my favourite records of all time... thank you Helio!

Hit play below and hear for yourself...

Here's a live video of the track 'Taller' that I found after a quick Youtube search:

Also, don't forget to check out the official video to 'The River Kings' here:

Monday, January 7, 2013

Day #0004: Caught In The Wake Forever - Against A Simple Wooden Cross [Hibernate]

[Hibernate] 2012

I've not long put down my 2012 end of year list to rest and a glaring omission that I really wrestled with was Caught In The Wake Forever's 'Against A Simple Wooden Cross', out on Hibernate. I have already noticed that it has ranked highly with various bloggers and sites across the net and whether I included it or not, it really is a year end highlight from 2012.

Opening with beautiful field recordings and gentle guitar notes before warm drones unfold over it, 'Scottish Grief' gets this emotional roller-coaster of an album off the mark. This is what really makes this record - Fraser McGowan who is behind the project really lays out all of his struggles for us to hear for ourselves, in one of the most open and honest records I've ever heard. I won't go into great detail but it documents his fight back to recovery after suffering a complete mental breakdown which resulted in him facing his struggles alone. For these six months, Fraser threw everything he had left into the production of Against A Simple Wooden Cross and although there is a sense of loneliness and despair throughout, there are also parts that tread a positive path as he finds his road to recovery.

At the above link, you can hit play and listen to the album and grab a copy for yourself. Also, at the time of posting, there are still some copies left in the Hibernate store, so here is the link:

Jonathan Lees, the man who runs Hibernate has put together a video to closing track 'Point Sands'. Click play to check it out: 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

DAY #0003: The Green Kingdom - Twig and Twine [Own]

[Own Records] 2009

I've been following The Green Kingdom since I first started getting into the modern 'ambient music' scene in the mid 2000s. It was in the 'netlabel days' of my music taste, when I first discovered internet based labels giving away free music. At around that time, impulse consumption of music for me was done in the form of vinyl orders as I was still DJing and always needed new and fresh records but discovering netlabels like EKO, Resting Bell and SEM meant that I could nurture my developing taste in ambient music for free.
I have a lot to thank the netlabel scene for as it really helped form the backbone of my thirst for ambient, experimental and electro acoustic music. I don't listen to very much netlabel music these days as my DJing days are since gone and I don't put in £100 vinyl orders. Instead, I tend to buy commissioned releases in the experimental music scene, whether digital, CD or vinyl. So I still have that same thirst for music that was developed through trawling netlabels, just I don't spend as much time keeping up to date with them.

Twig and Twine has sold out at Own Records. This link will take you directly to the digital album on Boomkat, where you can read the press release stream samples and buy: {BUY / LISTEN}

I have noticed that many of the artists from the netlabels I followed have gone on to release CD releases on bigger labels and one such is Michael Cottone who is behind The Green Kingdom. I have bought nearly all of his releases since 2008's Laminae and looking back, one of my favourites will always be Twig and Twine.
I guess downloading his work on the likes of EKO and SEM in the years prior had given me a strong background into his sound and by the time Twig and Twine was out on the fabulous Own Records label, there was no way I could miss out. Although I'd always enjoyed his music, I never forget when I first heard Twig and Twine - it felt like Michael had really developed his sound since those early netlabel releases.
In the early days of my taste for Ambient music, I looked to the likes of Brian Eno, Steve Roach and Robert Rich as my favourite artists and listening to Twig and Twine, I instantly started to prefer the more textured approach, using hiss, crackle, glitches and acoustic instruments.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

DAY #0002: Sophie Hutchings - Becalmed [Preservation]

[Preservation] 2010

For anyone that has seen my end of year list for 2012, you may have noticed that I included 'Night Sky' by Australian pianist/composer Sophie Hutchings. It was the follow up to her debut in 2010 - 'Becalmed', which is an album that I named as my number one that year.

This link will take you directly to the release page on the Preservation website, where you can read the press release, stream samples and find out where to buy: {BUY / LISTEN}

I listened to this record again and again throughout 2010 and I still return to it regularly. I think solely because I have listened to it so many times, I even prefer it to the richer Night Sky album. 'Becalmed' has a coldness to it that is difficult to put into words. Opening track Seventeen sets the scene and takes its time, as a mid-length piano only composition. It gives a magical feel to it that reminds me a little of John Cage's In A Landscape although, I told myself I wouldn't name drop comparisons here - as Sophie has a sound all of her own.
Shorter pieces follow, where Sophie is joined by friends and family, adding strings and percussion. A couple of real highlights on this wholly complete album include 'Portrait Of Haller', which is incredibly beautiful with the way the melody picks up speed towards the end along with percussion. Another is the imposing 'Toby Lee', which has a dark touch to it. It is easily my favourite track on 'Becalmed' although every track is a masterpiece in its own right.

The official video to 'Sunlight Zone' follows as well as a live performance of both Sunlight Zone and Toby Lee...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Day #0001: Mark Templeton - Standing On A Hummingbird [Anticipate]

In January I tend to get more organised in all aspects of my life and obviously, this has included my musical projects. Rather than consolidate and finish loose ends, I've done what I do best and have started another one. Following on from my end-of-year 'best of' list for 2012, I have received messages from people who have purchased records off the back of it. For some, the end of year list is a long, laborious task that you'll look back on 6 months later having changed your mind completely on selections. But for me, the whole point is sharing the great music I discover with others. If the silly little list that took me forever to put together gets someone else to buy a record, then it is every bit worth it.

Doing the end of year list also highlighted just how little I'd used the Audio Gourmet blog in 2012 and this disappoints me, since it was set up purely to share links to music to encourage others to listen. So, for my latest project, I intend to post up an album every day wherever possible with a brief commentary, links, imagery, videos etc.
To clarify for any worried artists/labels out there - there will be no free download link here of course, since I am completely against illegal sharing. Not only do I support all sorts of weird and wonderful music - I also support the purchasing of it, whatever the format.

In doing my end of year list, I realised how much of the year I had spent listening only to the latest releases. I only spent a very small proportion listening to the rest of my record collection, so the posts on here can be from any year. I will randomly select an album for using iTunes shuffle, spend some time listening and then post about it here. Sometimes I will post about new releases as they come to my attention and I may throw in the occasional post about my own work.

[Anticipate] 2007

Mark Templeton is an artist that I've collected a few records by and I have been equally impressed with each. I think the first ingredient to his success, to my mind, is that his tracks are nearly always short sketches rather than long drawn out passages which makes their effect more instant. Add to this his unique production methods and we arrive at the foundations to why this artist has been so successful with his releases.

2007's 'Standing On A Hummingbird' is not only wonderfully titled but it lives up to the stories its name evokes. Standing on a hummingbird would be wrong, sad and downright cruel but Templeton selects the title for his album on Ezekiel Honig's Anticipate label with an air of humour. If the standing on a hummingbird were to be shown in an animation, it could be executed safely and harmlessly. It could even be quite amusing as to the sounds it might throw out whilst held under foot.
Mark Templeton clearly prefers to represent his ideas in the form of music, or experimental sound and he executes his theme to perfection. 'Standing On A Hummingbird' takes a wide palette of acoustic instrument sounds from guitars, a vibraphone and cymbals and sets them alongside the jittering pressure of electronic treatment. Templeton doesn't just add electronics to acoustic composition - he painstakingly rearranges all of his sounds into glitching, stuttering songs of beauty.

Indeed, the hummingbird's song sounds just as beautiful when he is being stood upon. In fact, I prefer it this way...
This link will take you directly to the release page on the Anticipate website, where you can read the press release, stream samples and find out where to buy: {BUY / LISTEN}

Below is a music video for the track Tentative Growth from the album, created by Aron Munson