Nils Frahm – Screws

There is an intimacy about the work of Nils Frahm that is hard to explain.  Like with every recording he wants to let you in a bit more; to his life and his world.  Perhaps it is the recording set up, designed to capture not only the piano but the very essence of what is real and pure and true in the music.  The creaks and cracks and clicks.  The honest truth of recording if you like.  It’s something I adore.  I love when you hear the realities of movement and sound.  There’s a seagull outside – who cares, leave it in.  The chair is creaky – who cares, leave it in.  And this approach really does work with minimalist piano because you create a texture that is real and embedded in the work without the need for soundclips and field recordings.  A true ugly beauty.  And Frahm embraces this idea so wonderfully.

The story behind this record also adds to the allure of the music.  It’s really about a man having a career threatening accident then realising what is important to him.  Frustration overcome by desire and ability to create – an exquisite taste of what Nils Frahm is capable of.  This is bare, raw and beautiful.

Following on from last years brilliant ‘Felt’, ‘Screws’ approaches the piano in such simple terms.  Having seen Frahm play live I am more than aware of the technical gift he possesses but, restrained here perhaps by the lack of one thumb he again focuses on creating simple, delicate moments that shimmer bringing calm to a world where chaos often reigns.   Brilliant moments of reflection perhaps on a gift that is sometimes taken for granted.

This record highlights not just talent but a musical gift and a passion for music.  It is what it is because of what happened yes, but mostly because Frahm has the desire to create such simple and beautiful work.  And as E.F Schumacher once said “any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent.  It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

From this offering it is clear that Frahm benefits from both genius and courage.  Long may this continue.

Advertisements

December/Memorials

Back in 2010 me and the wonderfully talented Matty Ross (sleepysoul) did some filming together.  The result is this video featuring me playing 2 tracks from up coming records.  December – which will feature on the second album by The Kays Lavelle and Memorials – which will be out in early 2012 as part of the debut album by Graveyard Tapes.  Neither sound like these versions.  But I hope you enjoy them.  They have been in hiding for far too long and once again highlight Matty’s amazing ability as a film maker.  Enjoy.

Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man

I first saw Bat for Lashes supporting Radiohead at Glasgow Green a number of years ago.  I think it was in support of her debut album 2006’s ‘Fur and Gold’.  At the time I was completely sucked in by her performance – such was her stage presence – compelling and engaging, a woman lost completely in the moment.

Now, on album number three, it sounds as if the brilliant and captivating Natasha Kahn very nearly ditched the music world altogether to focus on her previous life as a teacher.  Thankfully, the decision was to continue on her musical path and the result?  A record as rewarding, engaging and enriching as Portishead’s ‘Third’ was upon its long awaited release.  This is a triumphant follow up to 2009s ‘Two Suns’ and raises questions as to why we so very nearly lost this wonderful talent from the world of music.  Skilled as I’m sure she is as a teacher, it really would have been a tragic loss.

Anyways, now is not the time or place for discussions about the whys and what ifs but to discuss the wonderful new record ‘The Haunted Man’ released so very recently, yet, due to the album art it feels like this record has been around for much, much longer.   The stark, stripped image suggests much more than just the naked form.  There is a purity and honesty to it that I imagine touches on all the reasons Kahn so nearly gave up on music and yet hammers home why she kept going.  It also relates beautifully to the less extravagant sound adopted on the record.  The music still flirts with unadulterated mainstream pop but there is enough edge and diversity to put this album firmly in the alternative bracket.  And it’s the combination of haunting beauty with out and out danceability that makes Kahn such a fascinating musician.

There is nothing simple about the music on offer (though as mentioned it is less extravagant than its predecessors).  This is, at times, dense, at times, complex, at times, challenging, but never short of creative juice.  Something that sets Kahn apart is her willingness to experiment.   To take a risk.  To be something that nobody else is.  And it’s the unforced and natural ease with which this record flows from beginning to end that puts it above her others as a stand out work.  Key tracks include single ‘All Your Gold’, ‘The Haunted Man’ and ‘Marilyn’ but it really is hard to pick proper stand outs from an album packed with quality.

Naked on the front cover.  There is nothing to hide her modesty other than a naked man draped over her shoulders and precariously positioned.  Perhaps Kahn felt that this record is equally stripped and bare, much like the stunning ‘Laura’.  Opening her soul and not hiding behind alter egos.  This is brave.  This is challenging.  And for want of something more eloquent – this is fucking great.

Six years on from her debut and Bat for Lashes continues to push the boundaries.  To challenge herself and grow.  Let’s hope the music is always this hard for her to create because it’s clear that such challenges yield fantastic results.

Endless Melancholy – Before, After

Sometimes you are sent music that is simply beautiful.  This is a recent example in the form of Ukrainian pianist Endless Melancholy.  A self-taught musician, this work completely addresses what I was talking about in my recent interview with Fluid Radio.  This is an artist who has been brave enough to understand that sometimes the most wonderful and beautiful moments are the simplest things to create.  This record is so enriching.  Essentially made up of 2 long tracks interspersed with minutes of calm ‘You are the Moonlight’ is one of the most gorgeous piano pieces I have heard in quite some time.   If it were my record, I would probably not have added the strings to the music.  The piano is so strong and enduring that the strings don’t really feel like a necessity.  It pushes the music too close to the world of Olafur Arnalds – no bad thing – and doesn’t shout this is Endless Melancholy.  But, that small quibble a side, this is a very beautiful piece of music that suggests that Endless Melancholy, or Oleksii Sakevych, could be somebody to watch very closely in the future.  Minimalist piano at its finest.  Reminiscent of Nils Frahm’s ‘Screws’ this is definitely one for the piano lover and I imagine late night wine drinking.

Check it out here.  Enjoy.

Well this was fun.  You can find a conversation piece I did with Fred Nolan for Fluid Radio here.  It’s always nice to get a bit of press for the label and our artists and for my own work, so, if you write a blog or for a music mag and are interested in mini50 records or one of our artists, please don’t be shy.  Drop me a line and we can have a chat.  Really enjoyed the format with Fred as well.  It’s something I think works well – having a proper e-mail conversation rather than just answering a bunch of pre-written questions.  Anyways, if you are interested, check it out.

mini50 Winter Sampler Now Available.

Photograph by Euan McMeeken.

Just so everyone is aware – and please spread the word – the mini50 Winter Sampler 2012 is now available to download for FREE from here.  We are delighted to share this with you as it features new and exclusive tracks from Lozninger and The Kays Lavelle, tracks by some of our new additions to the mini50 family The Good Ship, Guy Gelem and Old Earth, as well as some tracks from our previous releases.

We hope you like the music on offer and if so then please, take a moment and check out the records available to buy from our shop.  We appreciate all the support for us and our artists.

Jason Lytle – Dept. of Disappearance

I’m not sure what to say about this record if I am honest.  Part of me wants to say, ‘What’s the fucking point of releasing a solo record when it sounds EXACTLY like your old band and, given the recent reunion, would be as well being released under the Grandaddy name”……so in one sense there is massive disappointment because the record – as a solo project – fails because it is predictable, safe and a little too Grandaddy esque.   But, then there is the part of me that wants to say “Thank fuck Jason Lytle has just released some new music”…simply because this record is littered with, as always, great song writing.  So yeah, it’s safe to say I am confused!

However, I am going to fall on the positive side of the line, because no matter what you say about the music world it is far better off with the music of Jason Lytle than without it, no matter how that is rolled up, pulled together and delivered.

Slacker rock is the name of the game, as ever.  Laden with sweet melodies and harmonies it’s hard not to get sucked in by this record from the word go.  ‘Dept. of Disappearance’ and ‘Matterhorn’ are both slick, sweet pop songs setting the tone for the rest of the record and highlighting the quality of Lytle as a song writer.   ‘Get up and Go’ equally drenched in pop tones, is a smooth appeal to – get up and do it – with Lytle appealing – “everything’s going to be alright”.  It’s a sentiment that is very fitting with a record that does take you on a journey that cannot fail to leave you feeling satisfied and positive come the end.

Don’t get me wrong.  There is not much here that couldn’t be Grandaddy.  Perhaps ‘Your Final Setting Sun’ pushes in a slightly different direction but, for the most part, this is typical Lytle fare.  However the safe conclusion to come to is – thank god for Jason Lytle.  Thank god he is releasing music no matter what name he chooses to use.  Because simply put, this is one of the most enjoyable pop records I’ve heard in a long time.  It is a step forward from his first solo record and hopefully sets a benchmark for future work be that as a solo artist or with the return of Grandaddy to the recording studio.

Glissando – The World Without Us

Glissando are the reason Richard Knox and I are friends having met when I was running Trampoline and they were looking for shows around the UK to promote their debut record.  A couple of further Trampoline shows followed, the last being in 2009 the day before the birth of my son Roddy.  Live, I always found them to be a stunningly beautiful proposition.   There was something really different and evocative that captured your attention completely and let you get lost you in the moment, their ethereal world consuming you for the duration of their set.  However, their debut album, ‘With our arms wide open we walked towards the burning sea’, and I have always had a troubled relationship.  Music that translates beautifully in the live setting is not always so beautiful in the comfort of your living room.  Sometimes overly long moments of nothing that are so beautiful to see in the live setting fail to work on record.  The album was midnight music.  Wine stained.  Mood music.  Only really effective at a certain time and place.

When Rich sent me the new Glissando record, it’s been 4 years since the debut, I was a little on edge about what I was about to experience.  To my surprise, what has been created is an immediate, engaging and compelling record that sucks you in and keeps you focused and alive from beginning to end.  From the first notes of Still (I) this is a captivating listen.  Gone are the long, drawn out instrumental moments that fractured the debut release and in their place is a more focused, dense sound which highlights just how far Knox and Irving have come in the past 4 years.  And without belittling the contribution of Irving I do believe that the experience Knox has gained from working with artists such as Sleepingdog and producing albums of his own as A-Sun Amissa and The Rustle of the Stars has helped shape and focus the sound of Glissando.  Of course, Irving’s vocal makes it stand out from the rest, makes sure it is a Glissando record and set apart, but the focus and understanding of structure and sequence that, for me, was missing on the debut is here in abundance.

A wonderful listen from start to finish, Glissando save the best for last with the simply stunning finale of Still (II) – a reaction to record opener Still (I) and one of the most sublime bits of song writing this year.  The rest of the record is littered with moments of stunning beauty and unlik e its predecessor this is a record that will be on the stereo time and again at any time of day.  I cannot wait to see how it translates live.   If four years seems like a long time for fans to wait for a second record I’d argue that the time it has taken and the musical adventures Knox and Irving have had in that time have been essential to producing a brilliant record that shows a mature and focused edge pushing Glissando on and delivering on the obvious potential of the first record in sublime fashion.  This is the sound of band who really understand who they are and where they want to go.

You can and should check out Glissando here.

Enjoy