Willits/Sakamoto: “Reticent Reminiscence” (SoundCloud)




One of the keenly anticipated adventurous music releases of Summer 2012, Ancient Future, the latest collaboration of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Christopher Willits, sees its physical release via the Ghostly imprint on August 6th in the EU/UK and August 7th everywhere else.


To tide you over, our friends at RCRDLBL are sharing a premiere of the album stream here. You can also stream album track “Reticent Reminiscence” via an embed from the label’s SoundCloud page below.


Willits & Sakamoto: “Completion” (SoundCloud)

Our friends at Ghostly are releasing Ancient Future, a collaboration by Christopher Willits and Ryuichi Sakamoto on July 30. Available only through the imprint is a limited pressing (300 units) of the release on clear vinyl.

Below is an embed of “Completion,” a track from the release shared via SoundCloud.

I wrote a feature on Sakamoto for Signal to Noise Magazine’s Issue #60, Winter 2010 (order here).

Daw Nusk: “Hunter Gatherer” via Koppklys

Daw Nusk
Hunter Gatherer
Koppklys #010 (cassette run of 60)

Dynamic instrumental music replete with warm synths as a pervasive grounding, long spun drones, field recorded additions, notably cawing gulls, and finally, surging crescendos and Mellotron-like strings pushing the levels higher towards red. If the old saw about ambient music is that it is dull or, at the very least, useful only as background listening on a yoga mat, Daw Nusk proves it wrong. Luxuriating in sound need never be a static experience and, on Hunter Gatherer it is quite the contrary; a pleasing aural journey that is nevertheless filled with a number of surprises and shifts of demeanor along the way. A generous collection of six compositions: recommended.


Suzanne Ciani: “Lixiviation” (CD Review)

Lixiviation – “To wash or percolate the soluble matter from.” (Dictionary.com)

Suzanne Ciani
Lixiviation
B-Music BMS040 CD

A sampler’s paradise and a vivid musical time capsule, Lixiviation is a compilation of analog synth guru Suzanne Ciani’s commercial work, as well as studio and live excerpts, from 1969-1985. It includes numerous clips for Atari, TV commercial spots (with clients ranging from Coca-Cola to PBS), a clip from a live concert using Buchla gear in 1975, and excerpts from her contributions to film scores (including the title track, a collaboration with mercury sculptor Ronald Mallory).

The versatility of projects represented is matched by  versatility of sonic approaches. Indeed, it’s interesting to hear such a wide chronological swath of the synthesist’s work. A decade and a half, particularly in these relatively early days of the development of synthesizer technology, encompasses multiple generations of gear; as well as, for Ciani, a significant evolution of aesthetic orientation and artistic approach. The general move is from a more ambient, slowly evolving, and improvisatory approach to leaner, tauter structures (as befits working within the constraints of corporate project time frames). The CD makes apparent the debt owed to Ciani by new age, bleep, glitch, sci-fi scores, ambient electronica, and those spearheading today’s analog synth revival.

A (small) caveat: Lixiviation is not curated from a chronological vantage point: its tracks are arranged somewhat more whimsically, perhaps to demonstrate the diversity of approaches adopted by Ciani. Nor are all the tracks precisely dated in the liner notes. Those looking for more a accurate provenance for some of the music will have to do a bit of web sleuthing (in the name of pop musicology) on their own.

The Aloha Spirit: “This is Water” (Bandcamp embed)




One of the reasons why recording buffs may be leaping onto the tape bandwagon: the “scavenger hunt” factor. Let’s face it, there are fewer and fewer “brick and mortar” places to browse for music. Where’s a record head to go to experience the thrill of the chase? Instead of browsing the stacks, are we consoling ourselves with searching the internet far and wide for that elusive short-run cassette (1 of only 30 or 40!)?

In the case of the Aloha Spirit’s “This is Water,” their debut release, the music is a hefty part of the equation too: an ambient mix of analog synths, field recordings, and loops aplenty. I’m still in the hunt for a physical copy, but in the meantime, the stream on their Bandcamp page has whetted my appetite for more from this Austin-based project.


Rune Martinsen: “Snow Crystals” (Soundcloud)




Discogs describes Rune Martinsen’s Abhorrent Beauty as a “one man dark ambient/industrial/noise project from Norway.” It’s a good summary. Of the tracks below, “Snow Crystals,” tends towards the more ambient side of his output, while “Lighthouse” is a bit more experimental, bringing some lovely tolling timbres to fore.





Long Distance Poison: Gamma Graves (Cassette Review)

Long Distance Poison

Gamma Graves

Ecstatic Peace Cassette

Gamma Graves is a prime example of the kind of release that has helped to fuel the cassette resurgence on the indie/experimental music scene. Produced by a variety of sources, from bedroom DIY collectives and small tape-only labels to established imprints like Ecstatic Peace, the audio cassette format, long thought extinct, is back. Tapes have been unassumingly encroaching their way onto the shelves of connoisseur collectors and music critics (no less than Steve Smith is a devotee): even record sellers such as Insound and Other Music have made room for them again.

The Brooklyn triumvirate of synthesizer performers Nathan Cearley and Erica Bradbury and prepared guitarist Casey Block comprise Long Distance Poison. Armed with vintage gear by Moog, Arp, and Roland, they create experimental soundscapes with a sense of history, referencing everyone from David Borden and early Philip Glass to Keith Rowe, Alva Noto, Ryoji Ikeda, and Derek Bailey. Drone-based foundations are overlaid with coruscating ostinato loops and distressed with pointed interjections.

Gamma Graves is the type of music that would have been just fine to distribute digitally (or via CD). Indeed, some purists might argue that cassette is an inherently inferior audio format to hi-res digital played through good equipment (by no means do most consumers play their MP3s through good equipment). So, why do I like having it on cassette? I find the noise imparted by tape and deck to do no harm to this music: in fact, it adds another, subtle, layer of drones to the proceedings that is consonant with the musical intentions of the work.

The tape as artifact yields something important too. Limited runs of handmade cassettes are often lovingly attired with artwork more expansive and, obviously, more tangible than any JPEG can provide. They are a reminder of a bygone era in which the physical release WAS the release, in which tape-trading and digging in bins for rarities was a hobby to enthusiastically pursue: not something simulated in online forums and furtively grasped at brick and mortar outposts now few and far between. Long Distance Poison (and Ecstatic Peace) acknowledge their debt to history not only via musical reference points, but through the resonances found in a cassette as relic and artwork. Try finding all that in a computer file.