Archive for November, 2010

The Green Kingdom – Prismatic

November 28, 2010

Michael Cottone has been quietly making music under The Green Kingdom moniker since 2006, and with each release he further refines his brand of introspective ambient bliss. His latest album Prismatic was released in September by Home Assembly Music and was mastered by Taylor Deupree. Cottone skillfully uses digitally enhanced acoustic guitar, strings, bells, and a myriad of samples and field recordings to create his compositions.

Within his arrangements, melody and space work in tandem in an attempt to manifest what Cottone has called an “optimistic nostalgia” for the listener — an aural experience that can provide a momentary reprieve from the frenetic, fast-paced world that surrounds us. And indeed his music is perfect for contemplative mornings and quiet evenings, where the vibe is to “slow down” and to “reflect”, and while listening this comes about quite naturally, as the familiarity of his work launches you back into memories of warm summer evenings past and gone, while at the same time, makes your heart beat ever faster for the future.

There’s a strong sense of optimism in Cottone’s music that is useless to attempt to describe in words, the expressive rhythms and melodies he creates speak for themselves. With tracks like “Wetlands” and “The Largest Creature That Has Ever Existed”, Cottone works with guitar, piano, and bells and establishes incredible mood and subjective wonder, while with “Radiance Reflected” and “Bonfire (tec)”, he adds a subtle 4/4 beat underneath it all, simulating your heart beating buoyantly for the future you envision for yourself. There is also a strong underlying sense of being connected to nature — to the woods that border our cities and towns, to the birds that fly unseen above our heads, and to the sun-drenched afternoons we take for granted until the bleak days of winter have surrounded us.

Prismatic is one of the finest ambient albums of 2010, and a prime example of electronic and organic sounds working together so effortlessly. Fans of Helios, Nest, The Boats, Kiln, and Susumu Yokota should check out The Green Kingdom immediately. The album also comes with a bonus disc of remixes from the likes of Insecto, Fieldhead, The Declining Winter, The Boats, and bvdub, and is an excellent addendum to the subtle beauty of Prismatic.

Check it.

Darkstar – North (Hyperdub)

November 19, 2010

For Juno Records

James Young and Aiden Whalley take a bold leap forward and backward with their debut album North, and help their label Hyperdub diversify in the process. Darkstar’s earlier singles like “Squeeze My Lime” and “Need You” saw the duo firmly entrenched in Kode 9 inspired dub-step and grime, so the music on North may take listeners by surprise upon first spin. Why you ask? Because the two-step beats and funky grime you’ve come to expect from Darkstar, have been replaced with cold synth lines and dark pop vocals courtesy of James Buttery.

Essentially what we have here is a synth-pop album in the style of Junior Boys, yet where Junior Boys have worn their formula ragged, hackneyed, and thin, Darkstar add new life in the genre. Early standout track “Deadness” illuminates this quite well, with smooth synth, gently processed vocals, and an amazing darkwave guitar-line coda that evokes plenty of emotion and rainy day pathos. The following track is the already revered “Aidy’s Girl is a Computer”, and it fits in snugly on the playlist even though it stands in stark contrast to the mood on the rest of the album.

“Under One Roof” brings the emotion right back, with woozy synth lines and Buttery’s voice stitched cleverly within the mix of synths and rhythm section. The overall feel of the album is one made for the cold rainy days of autumn — where it’s still not yet cold enough to snow, but starts to get dark in mid-afternoon, creating a bleak liminal state between seasons.

Penultimate track “Dear Heartbeat” is perhaps the most traditionally pop number on the album, with a twinkling piano backdrop and steady drumbeat, yet it still retains the cold autumn motif throughout. Closing track “When it’s Gone” sounds like a new, slowed down version of “Squeeze My Lime” and is a dreamy track that sort of drifts in and out and seems to hint at further transformations of Young and Whalley’s sound. Buttery closes the album singing: “I won’t forget you…” and with North, Darkstar have created a creeper of an album, one that will subtly seduce with each successive listen, and soon transform into one of the year’s most unforgettable albums for you.

Check it.