Posts Tagged ‘ambient’

Loscil at Usine C in Montreal

November 6, 2013

loscil

25 October 2013

Scott Morgan aka Loscil brought his soothing brand of ambient soundscapes to Montreal on Friday night, and played to an intimate crowd at Usine C, as part of the 5th annual Akousma Festival – a concert series that explores the diversity of electroacoustic music.

Usine means “factory” in English and the venue was indeed once a factory that produced strawberry jam. Morgan played in the converted theatre area, an open space lined with red brick walls and speakers strategically placed around the room. Loscil is arguably my favourite ambient artist, I’ve been listening to his music for a decade now, and this was the first time I’ve seen him play live, so I was pretty stoked to finally get the chance.

And he sounded fantastic. Manipulating the many speakers in the room to his advantage, creating swirls of sound and rhythmic bass. My only complaint, his set was too short. So often when I go to see ambient musicians play live I get antsy, restless, but that wasn’t the case here, with Loscil’s set I felt like I could have settled in for a much longer journey into his world of sound – because it was just so damn calming.

Ben Vida played afterwards and ruined that calm vibe pretty quickly with his harsh analogue attack. He sounded like a touchtone telephone malfunctioning over and over again for 45 minutes. But Loscil, he tapped into something really nice, and I wish he’d have played just a little bit more of it. Come back soon Scott!

A Winged Victory For The Sullen (Kranky)

September 26, 2011

Adam Wiltzie, one half of ambient darlings Stars of the Lid, teams up with composer Dustin O’Halloran, and crafts what is arguably the finest modern classical album of the 2011. The last time Wiltzie branched out without Brian McBride (his usual musical counterpart), was in 2004 when he released the stunning The Dead Texan album, and his new project is no different. A Winged Victory For The Sullen create richly emotive chamber music with an amazing grasp of space and atmosphere — and with the help of wunderkind Peter Broderick and cellist Hildur Gudnadottir (who’s worked with Múm, Pan Sonic, and Animal Collective), Wiltzie and O’Halloran have captured the essence of both minimal drone and melodic ambience while still working with piano and strings. “Steep Hills For Vicodin Tears” (below) is probably the best example of their moody yet buoyant sound. Available from the always fantastic Kranky Records, A Winged Victory’s debut is one for quiet mornings and chilly nights. Check it and check it again. Peace.

FRKTL – Atom

September 19, 2011

It’s rainy, grey, and unseasonably cold over here in Toronto today. And so it’s turned into a clean the house, do the laundry kind of afternoon. Of course, all that really means is listening to music way too loud. To coincide with the murk and drear out my window, I’ve been listening to FRKTL‘s dark debut album, Atom. FRKTL is the music project of the multi-talented Sarah Badr, and while her first album does have some missteps, it also has some absolutely brilliant moments. The strongest tracks on Atom are the quiet ones…when the songs veers off into glitch, noise, and Autechresque abstraction they tend to lose me, but the more ambient tracks are emotive, brooding, and amazing. I’d love a whole album of this type of thing. Regardless, FRKTL’s music is worth a listen. Great stuff happening well below the radar. Check it.

Tape – Revelationes (Hapna Records)

April 17, 2011

Swedish trio Tape have been making music since 2000, but it took them a decade to hit my radar with the release of their fifth long player, Revelationes. And indeed the album is a revelation — taking cues from post-rock, modern classical, electronica, folk, jazz and minimalism. The group is made up of brothers Andreas and Johan Berthling with Tomas Hallonsten, and although their music plays out as vaguely familiar, they have carved out a sound that is all their own.

There’s an emotional element to this album that grows in strength with each successive listen, and I find I get wistfully lost in each track. For example, I’ll be listening to “Companions” and enjoying the soft guitars and swirling synth, and think the next track cannot possibly be as enchanting . . . and then “Hotels” starts, and I’m quickly swept into that beautiful little sketch of sound, and think again that this must be the album’s perfect moment, but then “The Wild Palms” begins, and the whole process starts again.

Earlier reviews mention Tortoise and even Slint as markers of style, and what’s funny is, while those are two of my favourite and arguably most-listened to bands of the past fifteen years, while listening to Revelationes, those two groups don’t spring to mind. And while I won’t deny the reference points, Tape sound so much more part of the now — more akin to contemporaries like Helios, Emanuele Errante, Rameses III, Benoit Pioulard, and the quieter moments of Animal Hospital.

Revelationes is very song-based, each track can stand on its own, yet they all play out beautifully as a whole. The album is very economical, running at just over a half an hour, and I have found myself playing it several times in a row. So far in 2011, it is my most listened to album, and it is still offering up new sounds and emotions the more I put it on. This is definitely one to check out, and Tape is a band in need of a much larger fan base. Delightful.

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.

Jóhann Jóhannsson at The Mod Club in Toronto

May 8, 2010

4 May 2010

Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson played his long-awaited Toronto debut at The Mod Club this week to an intimate yet enraptured crowd. Joining him on stage were three violinists, a cellist, and his long-time collaborator Matthías Hemstock, who manipulated sounds and live samples, and the result was a subdued, and beautiful set of neo-classical ambience. Playing compositions from his critically acclaimed Fordlandia, and In the Endless Pause There Came The Sound Of Bees, Jóhannsson sat pretty much motionless behind his gear, allowing the roving emotions in his music to speak for themselves. The string quartet helped make the live show a much more organic experience, and Jóhannsson’s music is so very much alive, this would have been lost if it had been just him up there with his laptop and electric piano.

The set began with the title track from Fordlandia and they played much of the quieter material first. Black and white films played on the wall behind the musicians, which was odd considering there were two large projection screens set up to the left and right of the stage, which remained blank. Tables and chairs were set up for us to sit comfortably through Jóhannsson’s minimal yet swirling arrangements. The highlight of the night was “Guidelines for a Space Propulsion Device” which relies on a loop of bassy synth and patiently grows into an orchestral frenzy, the strings building to a feverish climax, as Hemstock created head-bobbing percussion through live samples.

It was a beautiful show on a warm Tuesday night in Toronto. Very nice.

Mathieu & Deupree – Transcriptions (Spekk 2009)

August 7, 2009

mathieu/deupree

Transcriptions is a collaborative work from ambient artists Stephan Mathieu and Taylor Deupree. The album contains music that is warm, decayed, and emotive. Sounding a bit like William Basinski’s “Disintegration Loops” series, “Transcriptions” is an album for reading, sleeping, writing, and meditating. Being a big fan of the genre, this comes as a welcome addition to my growing collection of ambient electronica, and sounds like one of the most pleasant and pensive releases of the year.

My initial fascination with the album had to do with how it was recorded. Stephan Mathieu began collecting mechanical gramophones, wax-cylinders, and early 78’s from the turn of the century. Once he’d gathered enough stock material he recorded the cylinders and 78’s via two portable gramophones directly into his computer, and while doing so he rendered and digitally kissed the sweeping orchestral ambience. Next Taylor Deupree added acoustic plucks and strums and vintage synthesizer to act as a perfect counterpart to Mathieu’s wash of sound.

The overall result is an enveloping 48 minute melodic surge that can only be described as gorgeous.

transcriptions gear

Check it.

Mountains – Choral

April 15, 2009

Mountains - Choral

Mountains – Choral  (Thrill Jockey Records 211)

Ambient and organic soundscapes from Brooklyn duo Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp on the constantly intriguing Thrill Jockey imprint. Think Brian Eno meets Christian Fennesz and Marsen Jules for some oolong tea and an evening staring at a campfire. Introspective and aurally pleasing. This is home listening for waking and sleeping. Also nice for early morning transit. Check it.

See them live in Toronto on Tuesday April 28th, 2009 at The Music Gallery. I’ll be there.

Edit: I was there.

Second Edit: “Choral” makes #8 on my best of 2009 list here.