Things That I Love Today No.104

“I could make a lot of analogies to writing, but I don’t know if they’d make any sense.  Personally, I feel better when I’m making raw material – sketching stuff musically, writing things in notebooks, just accumulating.  That’s the pure stuff, the essence of everything, the stuff that comes from somewhere that you can identify as being other than you.  You let it come out the way it’s supposed to come out, and look back later and maybe not remember anything about why it was written.  The best stuff is smarter than you are, and it just doesn’t smell like you.” – Jeff Tweedy.

Jeff Tweedy interview and new Wilco song.

Sleepingdog – With Our Heads In The Clouds And Our Hearts In The Fields

“ With Our Heads in the Clouds and our Hearts in the Fields”.  What a lovely title for a record.  If I didn’t already know the music of Chantal Acda, then I would be very much drawn to this record by the title and the album art work.  It really is lovely.  People who know me will know that I’m a sucker for good names and art.  But, as with all records, good art does not a good album make and it’s the whole package that really matters.  Well, I guess it’s the music that really matters, but you know what I mean.

I fell in love with Chantal Acda’s voice when I was introduced to her music by Richard Knox of Gizeh Records.  Previous record ‘Polar Life’ was a lovely piece of dreamlike song writing with Acda’s soothing and calming voice and something really new and fresh to me.  I absolutely adored the way her vocal was recorded and produced and the fact that the majority of her work is on piano only added to the beauty of the record for me.   But let me just say this.  Where ‘Polar Life’ was a good album,  ‘With our Hearts…’ is simply brilliant.  It’s a massive step forward in quality and maturity and should surely propel Acda to bigger and better things musically.  With Polar Life she made herself one to watch.  With this record she must surely turn heads and grab her musical career by the horns.  For this record deserves to be heard and loved.  And I mean no disrespect to Rich when I say this but if he can hold on to her for another record and fend off the larger labels then he will be doing very, very well.  Make no mistake, for me, this record lays down a marker of how good Sleepingdog are, can be and will be in the future.

Sleepingdog is not only Chantal though.  Adam Wiltzie (Stars of the Lid) is her writing partner.  It’s a very good partnership because whilst Acda brings the quality songs, Wiltzie brings the sonic landscapes that surround and encapsulate the music, taking them from being simple folk songs to something bigger and more complete.  It reminds me very much of the partnership of King Creosote and Jon Hopkins actually.  One a stunning song writer, the other a brilliant arranger and composer who helps bring the songs of the other to life, providing them with the perfect backdrop.  Their very different approaches to song writing and music come together so, so beautifully on this record.

There is a sadness, a melancholy in much of Acda’s work.  The music is without doubt steeped in darkness but it’s a beautiful sadness, if there is such a thing.  It’s like she lets out all her pain in her music and because of this there is a real and genuine emotional connection between her and the listener.  This is real and raw and gorgeous.  ‘Polish Love Song’ is such a heart wrenching piece of music that you can almost feel the tears running down her face as she sings.  The sparse piano and gorgeous backdrops created by Wiltzie are the perfect compliment.  I mean, I could go through each and every song on this record but I’d be saying the same things over and over again.  Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.  ‘He Loved The World Through His Camera’ being a stand out for sure.  But only just.  Every track is special.

Make no mistake, this is a great record.  It’s a record that deserves to be sold in vast quantities.  That deserves to be heard by as many people as possible.  It is released on 25th April by Gizeh Records and you can stream it now and buy it on Monday from their website.  Another fine release from a fine label.

Sleepingdog take to the road in May to support Low on their European Tour.  They will be playing Classic Grand inGlasgowon 17 May, which is my birthday.  I plan to be there and it will not be to see Low.  There is only one act playing that night that I really want to see.  Please do check out Sleepingdog.  And enjoy.

Bvdub – The Art Of Dying Alone

I guess with ambient music there is more than a slight nod to the principles of techno or house music in that, more often than not, the music created is repetitive in nature.  There is a common element in each tune which sustains the momentum and drives the tune forward, propelling it towards its climax.  I think that ‘doof doof doof’ sound in a techno tune – you know the one I mean?  The one that sounds like a cat being sick?  Well, that constant beat is there in ambient music too, it’s just created in a different way and is perhaps just much more subtle.  As it should be.  Now please, call me out if you are a fan of techno/house and think I’m talking crap – but it seems to be that there is a link between those genres and ambient music.

In this case Brock Van Wey, aka Bvdub, has produced a stunning piece of ambient techno.  Is that a new genre?  I don’t know.  However, there really is something in each of these tracks that propels them forward and sustains momentum.  Bit by bit layers are added in to tunes adding texture and voice.  And indeed, the introduction of floaty inaudible vocals later on the record is a master stroke in creating beautiful sound scapes that soar above the minimalist tracks below.   The closing tune and title track ‘The Art of Dying Alone’ climaxes in a wonderful cacophony of voices and loops and noise.  It’s just simply a wonderful end to a wonderful record.  This is indeed a brilliant record.  It’s hypnotic.  It really is.  There is something dream like about the tone of this record.  It’s funny, because a friend once told me that he got into ambient music through relaxation tapes that helped him sleep and upon listening to this piece of music I can completely understand what he was talking about and why he became hooked.

There is a melancholic under tone to this album, without a shadow of a doubt.  But droplets of beauty are scattered throughout each track and give a real touch of warmth and beauty to the music.  You cannot help but drift off into another world.  Seriously, try listening to ‘Nothing form No One’ or ‘To Finally Forget it All’ without losing yourself and forgetting that anything exists outside the music in your ears and the world in your head.  A world where everything is calm and beautiful.

With this record, Bvdub has not only created something stunningly serene and perfectly formed but he’s also set himself apart from other ambient musicians by using elements that are both unusual and interesting.  The use of vocals in particular, as nothing more than another instrument, is a master stroke.  This really is a brilliant piece of ambient music and one that I highly recommend that you investigate for yourself.

You can check out the work of Bvdub here and I’d highly recommend that you do.  Enjoy

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Jamie Mills

So, it’s been a while since I wrote about art but I think this young guy deserves to be written about and promoted because his work is awesome.  I have already bougth 3 of Jamie Mill’s pieces and when I showed his work to my mum on Saturday evening she immediately ordered one of his pencil sketches, so impressed was she.

Also, rather awesomely, he has asked me to work with him on an animation that he is working on, about humans impact on the natural world.  What I have seen of this is stunning and I am totally honoured that he’s asked me to do the music to accompany this short piece.  I have no idea when this will be finished, but it’s something I’ve been looking to do more of – work with film makers – so it’s really awesome that somebody who I respect so much as an artist would ask me to get involved in his work.

I won’t prattle on about why I love his work, or what it is that makes him special in my opinon.  Instead, I’ll just direct you to his homepage and let you decide for yourselves.  If you do like what you see, make sure you get in there and support him by buying some of his work.  Before I buy it all up myself!  Enjoy.

M.Ostermeier – The Rules Of Another Small World

Music is essentially just a series of moments.  Phrases and ideas strung together to create something tangible.  And it doesn’t just have to be musical instruments that generate these moments.  Field recordings are used time and again by ambient musicians as backdrops to their tunes.  These can range from the sound of animals, to cars, to white noise, to static.  In fact, just about anything can be taken, manipulated and turned into a piece of music.

Not all that long ago I watched a performance by an artist who used only a cardboard box, a cello bow and an array of effects pedals.  The result was actually something quite special (if a little hard going at times) and it made me wonder.  Just like everything is mathematical, is there anything that cannot be considered to be musical.

Ultimately, a record is made up of musical fragments, pieced together to create something coherent.  Or at least, for the most part, that is the aim.  Sure, sometimes it doesn’t work but it definitely is the aim.

Well, M. Ostermeier does things like no other.  ‘The Rules of Another Small World’, bizarrely, actually feels other worldly. The art is odd and on first listening there is definitely something different going on here, like the artist deliberately set out with music from another world in mind.  Like I’ve been transported to another dimension.  The elements are varied in style and tone combining a wide spectrum of styles ranging from modern classical to drone to ambient to jazz to drone and back to modern classical.  Yet, this remains a cohesive piece of work.  It is tied together beautifully by the coherence of all the pieces.

The concept seems to be that these pieces are made up of fragments.  In turn, the pieces are fragments of something bigger.  And yet, whilst this whole thing possibly shouldn’t all come together to create something coherent, M. Ostermeier not only achieves this, but has produced a record which is as engaging as it is fascinatingly creative.  For make no mistake, creativity is the key to this brilliant record.  It is stunning and with this release M Ostermeier once again shows off his undeniable talent for shaping moments and fragments and creating something more than simply ordinary.  For this record, like the name suggests, is quite extraordinary and like other worlds deserves further exploration.  It is released on Tench Records on 10 May 2o11.

You can check out M. Ostermeier here.  Enjoy.

A Tune A Day For 2011 #68

Well now, today has been a very boring day indeed at work so my headphones have been working overtime to keep my brain going.  I did start to dwell on music and place again – something I’ve been thinking about a lot of late.  Anyways, mainly been listening to Tim Hecker this morning so the tune for today is taken from his record ‘Ravedeath, 1972’and is entitled ‘The Piano Drop’.