Cello Prayers by Mathieu Karsenti by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker

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In the second independent release by Mathieu Karsenti, Cello Prayers, each short form track closely resembles the creative arc of an artist in the act of painting. Songs begin with singular evocative melodies, and then pause to explore other melodies or instruments, almost as a painter would begin with a few brushstrokes of one color before changing brushes to add a different texture or pallet of colors. Much the same, the pieces of Cello Prayers evolve over the course of each one in such a way that by the end, a rich and emotionally full painting is completed from the individual parts.

Cello Prayers, though offering only six tracks and seldom few longer than three minutes, accomplishes what some albums struggle to do in dozen-track albums with songs well above the five-minute mark: immerse the listener in a sense of place. The vulnerable and crisp bowings of the cello mixed with the glittering atmospheric backdrop of the accompanying instruments and electronic musical touches plunge the listener into magical landscapes, dark and intimidating conflicts, raw emotional connections, and elated victories, all without the concrete substance of a storyline itself. Paired with any substantial story form, especially cinema, Karsenti’s works clearly elevate the existing drama. However, on its own the music of Cello Prayers leaves us with only the abstractions, begging for a story to be told alongside them. This in itself creates yet another element of richness within Karsenti’s music, though one much harder to define.

As an adventure into the possibilities of music perhaps meant for film but choosing to omit it, Cello Prayers succeeds in creating a movie all on its own, and further allows the stories that lie within to be bent – even sculpted entirely – by the listener themselves. It is sure, though, that the journey taken by those who have the privilege to hear Cello Prayers is anything but idle; indeed, the gentle strings and curious melodies invite and even implore listeners to come take part.

 

Erlebnis by Unsichtbar by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

Artwork by Gertjan Decock and Lore Deuninck

Artwork by Gertjan Decock and Lore Deuninck

A project sprung from a desire to create without over-thinking, Erlebnis is the captivating debut album of Unsichtbar, released through ACR on November 20th, and it’s an album that invites you to listen deeply without searching for explanations – simply enjoy the movement, the textures, and hear it for what it is. Starting off with Ouvertüre the listener is instantly told of what to expect – the experimental, distorted screeching tells of a new, slightly twisted side to the alter ego. The track is followed shortly by Tokio, and I fall deeper into this universe of quiet, uncomplicated enjoyment, as the track reminds me of all the things that come to us absentmindedly; I’m tapped into someone else’s dream, a hauntingly ethereal new reality, and I’m watching from far away. There is such beauty in the unveiled turmoil, and the track breathes in and out so slowly, the thought of waking up is wholly unappealing.

The following track, Mensch, is a collaboration with composer and pianist Sergio Diaz De Rojas, and it shows a mesmerizing distinction between the soft and the rough – the steady, mature rhythmic of the piano is introduced early, contrasted by the sawing that seems childlike at first, curious and explorative, soon growing into a relentless eruption of disorder, taunting the innocent, untainted loyalty of the piano, and relishing in its own freedom to roam. Junges Liebespaar begins almost like the aftermath of its predecessor, slowly progressing into a forlorn outburst of emotion, turning into a poignant tale of what once was, or what could, at one point, have been.

Das Meer instills a sense of floating, telling of the sound the light would make, illuminating the thousands of particles in the air around us, if we could only hear it. The track is lightly treading, slowly fading in and out, moving like the water does. It’s followed by another collaboration, this one with ambient music producer Lee Yi, as An der Zeit ertrinken introduces us to a deeper void, with protruding nuances and quick movement, soaring in and out through different sensations, like a whirlwind of noise and grit.

As the album is starting to come to its end, it does a complete turn-around with Nach dem Sturm, a gentler track that inspires a solemn hope, and ends on the absolutely intriguing Nachspiel – a track that at first glance is playful and light-hearted, but listen closer and it starts to ooze of curious guile, fronting with youthful innocence quickly turning into something bigger, something untrustworthy, but utterly irresistible. It’s a fully memorable ending to this experience that Erlebnis truly is, to listen to something and know that whatever it makes you feel is right, as there are no wrongs – no hidden messages, no secrets or stories, just an album and yet... so much more than just an album. 

Picture by Lore Deuninck

Picture by Lore Deuninck

 

Fresh Finds #2 by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Sergio Díaz De Rojas

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On this second edition of Fresh Finds, we share with you a series of beautiful singles by both emerging and established artists from the contemporary classical music scene. 

Theo Alexander returns with Palliative, a seven minutes demonstration of what his upcoming record, Broken Access, will be. Otto Totland returns, as well, with Vates, a nostalgic and hopeful piano piece, the ideal introduction to his long-awaited record The Lost, which follows and expands on his intimate debut solo piano album Pinô from 2014. An artist that also took three years to release another record is Christ Bartels, also known as Elskavon, who has shared with us three singles (Anthos being one of them) from Skylight, an album inspired by memorable moments in his life, to be released in January 2018. To finish this series of upcoming records, we introduce you to Esja by Hania Rani, a Polish pianist and composer currently working on her first solo album after having previously collaborated with cellist Dobrawa Czocher.

To vary a little bit, we have added a rework to our SoundCloud and Spotify playlists. Daigo Hanada (Moderna Records) has recomposed Empire, taken from Matt Emery's debut album of the same name. On this version, Daigo replaces the percussive piano with soft arpeggios, and the strings with a baroque soprano recorder, perfectly combined in order to achieve a grandiose build-up. 

Last but not least, we included a very special piece by a very special artist. Forgotten Fields has returned with his self-titled album, a multidisciplinary project inspired by the remote landscapes of the Western Cape of South Africa. Each piece represents a verse of a poem written by him, which captures the idea behind the album.

Find all of these pieces below and in our Spotify playlist

 

Form by Corre by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker

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The most immediate reaction new creative duo Corre’s (“KOR-rah”) album Form arouses is a sort of auditory hug, like the warm pianos and gentle, arpeggiating synths are enveloping the listener in a bubble. The instrumentation and production are pleasantly reminiscent of earlier, mellower Bonobo tracks or perhaps something that might be heard in a collaborative work between Jon Hopkins and Hauschka. However, the true identity of Corre shines when listeners refer to the duo’s music videos.

Corre is a joining of forces between songwriter and music composer Henry Green and photographer and visual artist Hattie Ellis. Together, the pair form Corre, though as a ‘band’ more direct attention is paid to the audio elements of the duo. While perfectly enchanting and easy-going on its own, the music of Form deserves to be recognized in its true potential – that is, with the visual accompaniment. Listeners would be robbing themselves of a more profound experience to skip over the music videos of tracks A Spark, A Beginning, Proceed, Response, and the most compelling, Aeon.

While either element on its own – the audio or the video – evokes a thoughtfulness and daydream-like atmosphere, the full power of Corre is realized when they are brought together. Far more provocative are the far-away horizons, sometimes inverted or negatively colored, when accompanied by the blips and hums of a synthesizer; far more emotive are the muted strikes of hammer on the piano string when played over the misty swirling of cloud and wave. Specifically, this duet of artistic mediums reaches its climax with the song/video Aeon, which features water traveling in drips or streams across various sizes and textures of rock, and audibly a bouncing, bubbling synth contrasted with rich piano chords. Moments of the piece visually would recall, if taken out of context, a grand mess of marbles and glass spheres or even the scaled body of some curious reptile. Musically, the piece wanders and weaves through varied terrains of rhythm and distant marimbas, just as the water itself wanders through the rocky maze.

Corre, though recent and unproven in its current form, has all the makings of a great exploration of multimedia arts through music and video. The skilled musings of Green paired with the stirring creations of Ellis result in a unique experience, and we can only hope to see more great works from them in the near future.

 

Wave Recital by Correspondence by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

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An explosion of various MIDI instruments and live percussion, Wave Recital, the latest release by Correspondence (Ben Catt), is more than just an album – it’s a crazed deep dive into an experimental field of magnetic looping patterns and hypnotizing unpredictability. The UK based electronic musician resides in the musical world of Steve Reich and Arthur Russell, mixing minimalism with a constantly, innocently explorative soul. Utilizing several different processes and mixtures of sound, Wave Recital is as complex as it is fascinating, and requires one’s full attention.

Holding Cycle is a fluttery, playful dream sequence, intentionally asymmetrical and erratic, followed by the chaotic cacophony of Playing Field, which practically satirizes itself in that it’s so fully unorthodox, it’s mind blowing. The track seems to have a mind of its own, as it – without any seeming intention – throws the listener in every which way, on and on, completely unapologetically. It is followed by its antithesis, the feathery On Again, like a wild animal at the edge of the forest, watching curiously, edging closer but always on the verge of flight. The track is a welcome change of pace and completely endearing with its enticingly slow build into a playful chase.

Slow Tone certainly lives up to its name, an intriguing track with its unpredictable changes – the slight movement within each long tone urges you to listen more closely, enticing a sense of self awareness – am I imagining that particular sound, did it disappear, is it in my head? Harp Routine lends a deeper sound to the overall quite tense and sharp album – but this track, like all the rest, have the same experimental, spontaneous sense to it, and seems difficult to mimic.

The last track of the album is the one that stands out the most and appears quite like a teaser to a path Correspondence might take in the future – The North Sea is like that conversation you don’t want to have, slow and full of pain but unavoidable – it’s a stunning ode to all that’s left unsaid, with the backdrop of an ocean after sunset. Overall, Wave Recital is an album that hits you like a train at full speed, completely unabashed and unafraid, and with a lot of surprising twists and turns keeping you constantly on your toes. You can listen to Correspondence’s fascinating album at their Bandcamp

 

P&C interview: Matt Emery by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

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Already familiar with the composer scene, having released several singles and with his works featured in ads, trailers, and theatre, UK composer Matt Emery is now releasing his debut album, Empire, via Injazero Records. With an interest for music sprouting from his early years and growing steadily along with him, Emery found his particular sound early and put his heart and soul into expanding and excelling at it. The album shows clearly the hard work Emery has put into getting where he is now, and the grandiosity and emotive palette of his music is positively entrancing.

How were you introduced to music? When did you start creating your own? 

Music is something I’ve always loved as long as I can remember. I started drum lessons at the age of 6 (because at 5 sadly my legs weren’t big enough to reach the pedals) which I carried on until I was about 20, and I have spent most of my music career drumming in bands (mostly rock and metal). I also started to learn piano at 6 but gave that up after about a year as the teacher was really strict and always said; ‘well I bet you could do that if it was on a drum kit’ so I left that to one side and just focused on drums for a while.

Fast forward another 6 years to secondary school and that's where the fun really began. In music lessons we got the chance to start working on the computer and making music on Cubase, which blew my mind, I was instantly addicted. I was really lucky to get Cubase at home along with a little midi keyboard at about 13, and I would compose and write every night or at the weekends when not playing football. At this stage in my life, I was mostly writing dance and garage tunes, finding the flute setting on my midi keyboard and playing it on the lower octaves to produce the phatest Sub Bass sound I physically could. I also started playing drums in bands at this time also discovering grunge, punk, emo and nu metal, they were special times. 

Did you ever study music? 

After scoring an A in my music GCSE for imitating a rollercoaster in my improvisation exam on the drums, and feeling my low end flute led dance tunes were finally getting the recognition they deserved from the GCSE examiners, I decided to really concentrate only on music and went straight to Music College at the ACM in Guildford. I studied there for 3 years, doing 3 separate courses receiving diplomas in Production, Vocals and Drums. 

Could you describe your creating process for me?

There is no set way to be honest, but the majority of my music starts on the piano or synth if I’m writing string pieces. I always start with a riff or little idea, occasionally everything comes together and you can almost improvise or produce a whole piece in a matter of minutes, but most of the time I write riffs and ideas and record them on my phone. I have hundreds of ideas recorded down. Normally if it’s something that I still really like after 2 or 3 weeks or keep coming back to when I sit at a piano it’s something I’ll develop further until I have the full piano part written, which I’ll record down as a demo on the computer. I’ll then start writing and recording the string parts and add a little synth or sub-bass if some extra depth is ever needed.

Then the real final stage is when I write something I like enough to record properly with other musicians (I’ll normally make sure I have enough pieces for at least an EP or Album, as this part isn’t cheap). At this stage, I normally give my good friends James Kenosha (producer) and Fraser Bowles (Cellist) a ring and book some studio time as I really like just worrying about the performance at this point and not worrying about the technical side of things. Then we make a record. 

What is your biggest inspiration when composing? 

It’s all about connecting and letting yourself go, I just want people to be able to connect with the music in the same way I do, in a form of a big audio hug. Every piece of music is like a different case or cocoon that I would like people to get inside and just listen and experience, whether that’s in the form of seeing certain pictures or visuals in their head or provoking certain feelings within themselves. Music is just so much more than hearing – it’s energy, whether contained in a record or presented live, and it is trying to connect the listener to that energy which is my biggest inspiration when making or writing music.  

What can you tell me about Empire?

Empire has been a long time coming, I recorded it in its first incarnation in January 2014. It was initially a split between instrumental piano and string pieces, and upbeat tracks including drums, choirs and synths. The hardest thing was trying to find the record a home and somewhere it would fit. I had spoken to a handful of people but when Injazero Records sent me a message one day after hearing my track ‘Effervescent’ on Fat Cat Demo’s page I got really interested in what they were doing. I met up with Siné who runs Injazero and was pretty inspired by her vision and the other artists she was signing. It took a couple of years to then shape Empire into the record it is now, but we decided to go down a more instrumental and focused piano and string path. I actually wrote Empire, Louloúdia, and Orpheus just before going into the studio to complete the record on the second stage of recording and can’t imagine the record without them now.  

How does it feel to be releasing your debut album? What were your thoughts and expectations throughout the whole process?

It’s really nice to finally have it released as the last nearly 4 years I’ve been in a bit of limbo with no official releases to promote, which has also made gigging and performing very minimal too. It’s just been great to start really pushing things forward. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I always set myself high goals and targets and have certainly ticked a couple of boxes which is good. I managed to sell out my debut headline show at St Pancras Old Church and perform it with a 7 piece string ensemble which was the first time I’d heard a lot of the pieces played entirely in their full form (as in the studio I’d had 2 or 3 string players come in to record all parts to keep budgets down). It’s been amazing to have support from the likes of Huw Stephens on Radio 1 and being Song Of The Day on KEXP was a real highlight too. Also just to hold my record in my hands on Vinyl is always a special moment.

Were there any significant differences/challenges in composing your debut album as opposed to the works you’ve previously created?

It’s just been very satisfying. Previously in bands I have sat in a practice room for hours carving out a new track between us all with everyone having a thought and opinion. It’s all about compromise which is not a bad thing at all but this time around I got to see more of my own visions develop to where I wanted to take them or see them which was nice, but on the whole it’s been a great experience. I just want to keep writing, performing and pushing on now. 

Any particular moment in your history with music that stands out to you the most? 

I had my music used on an online GoPro Camera ad and it went viral very quickly, it was quite surreal watching something that I had soundtracked getting that much attention and having so many people asking about the music and track. Also again performing my tracks live with the ensemble at my album launch was a real highlight, I’m looking forward to doing that again. 

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P&C interview: Bruno Sanfilippo by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

Por Amanda Nordqvist y Sergio Díaz De Rojas

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Son pocos los artistas que logran mantenerse vigentes dentro de sus respectivas escenas musicales durante tantos años sin perder la originalidad y la calidad en sus trabajos. Tal es el caso de Bruno Sanfilippo, quien con cada nuevo lanzamiento nos regala lecciones magistrales de exquisites sonora y de recursos compositivos. No importan si las piezas fueron compuestas ayer o si son obras que llevan enterradas varios años - como las cuatro piezas de su más reciente lanzamiento, Lost & Found - sus trabajos perduran en el tiempo, traspasan cualquier barrera, y nunca, pero nunca, dejan de sorprendernos. He aquí nuestra entrevista con Bruno Sanfilippo.

Hola, Bruno. Antes que nada, cuéntanos un poco sobre ti. ¿De dónde vienes? ¿Qué haces cuando no estás componiendo? 

Nací una noche lluviosa en Buenos Aires en 1965. He crecido allí estudiando piano en el conservatorio hasta que me diplomé el año 1988. En la década de los 90’ compuse varias obras de música de cámara y obras para piano y otros instrumentos. También presenté mis primeros álbumes en CD, (algunos de ellos descatalogados actualmente) tales como Sons of the Light, The New Kingdom, Solemnis, y más tarde Suite Patagonia. He ofrecido varios conciertos en Argentina presentando estos trabajos, hasta mi partida definitiva a Barcelona, España, en el año 2000.

Cuando no compongo tal vez esté dando algunos conciertos, trabajando en mi estudio en grabaciones para terceros, o gestionando cuestiones en nuestra oficina de ad21. También me gusta viajar con mi esposa Ximena, jugar con mis perros o pasear por los alrededores de la casa en la montaña dónde vivo, cerca de Barcelona.

¿Cómo se dio tu acercamiento a la música? ¿Cuándo empezaste a componer? 

Bueno, ya había un viejo piano vertical en la casa de mis padres cuándo nací, y éste se convirtió en mi primer juguete. Cuando era niño improvisaba horas y horas sobre él, y desde entonces lo amé para siempre. Fui creciendo con él, incluso le colocaba objetos en su interior para cambiar su sonoridad, también ponía tachuelas en los macillos… Luego más tarde me sentí atraído por el sonido electrónico, y entonces comencé a estudiar programación de sintetizadores y samplers. Poco a poco fui enriqueciendo mi home-studio. Tenía un Roland Juno 106, luego un Kawai K5 de síntesis aditiva, luego conseguí unos de los primeros samplers de rack; el Mirage (que cargaban la rudimentaria librería de sonidos con un Diskette!), solía usar un portastudios a cassette, Reel to Reel Machines… muy lindos recuerdos.

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¿Podrías describir tu proceso de creación para nosotros?

Cuando inicio una composición no pienso en nada particular, no tengo una idea preconcebida consciente, intento ser desprejuiciado y atrevido, como cuando era un niño…  a veces improviso sobre el piano, y luego me detengo cuando noto que hay algo para desarrollar allí. Luego termina su desarrollo justo cuando deseo abandonarla, entonces precedo a grabarla. Sin embargo en ocasiones una idea que nace, por ejemplo, sobre el piano, es trasladada a cuerdas u otros instrumentos. Creo también que el silencio interior dispone de una poderosa fuente creativa, siempre y cuando la inercia de tener certezas no interponga su fluidez.  De todas maneras cada artista debe descubrir sus propios caminos que lo conduzcan a la creación.

¿Qué o quién es tu más grande inspiración al momento de componer?

Posiblemente parte de la música provenga de los sueños, esa fuente inagotable y desvergonzada, pero también de todo lo que he vivido y voy experimentando cada día. También grandes artistas emanan ese soplo de inspiración, su singular arte y personalidad me inspiran a mí y seguramente cualquiera.

¿Qué me puedes decir de Lost & Found? ¿Cómo así decidiste reinventar estas composiciones antiguas? ¿Cuál fue el proceso de selección?

Lots & Found es un álbum en dónde presento piezas basadas en piano que estaban dispersas en diferentes ediciones discográficas anteriores, que por diferentes razones ya no estaban expuestas. Además hay una pieza “What I Dreamed” que fue también añadida como Bonus Track en la versión CD, y que estaba abandonada en el disco rígido de mi ordenador. Simplemente pensé que podría interesar rescatar esas piezas perdidas y es por ello que lo hemos presentado como un release a través de nuestro sello personal ad21.

¿Existe algún consejo que te hayan dado que lleves siempre presente?

Sí, lo hay, recuerdo que mi maestro solía decirme; “cuando estés frente un micrófono o sobre un escenario; conecta plenamente con tu instrumento o no conectarás con tus oyentes” El arte es así, tiene ese misterio que la técnica sola no puede ofrecer, si no emociona de alguna manera, no tiene sentido alguno.

 

 

Fresh Finds #1 by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Sergio Díaz De Rojas

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Recently, I came across some beautiful ambient and neo-classical pieces composed by emerging artists that I consider worth sharing. Here at Piano & Coffee, we want to give these artists and their works the space and recognition they deserve. That's why we have decided to create monthly playlists and articles featuring our fresh finds.

Our first playlist begins with a minimalistic piano and cello piece by Leo Eltes, aka #7d7791 (hex-colour), a nineteen-year-old musician from Sweden. Berry Farm Crops follows him with his piece 'For Gabby', a tribute to a friend of him who passed away. Then, 'Surround' begins playing with the beautiful piano and pads of Nadav Cohen, a film composer from Australia, accompanied by a really nice beat. After it, Centri and Aedur portray their friendship with a captivating improvisation. Finally, 'Soulless' by Niall Michael Joseph Gahagan, aka BELORUSIA, a musician and designer living in Berlin.

We highly recommend these five pieces and can't wait to hear more of these young composers. 

 

Premiere: Taylor's Theme by Andrew James Johnson by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker

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Andrew James Johnson’s album Winter’s Heart achieves a level of emotional potency so instantaneous it’s almost jarring. Johnson’s abilities on piano have been characterized as “simple” and “uncomplicated,” but by the end of the first track of Winter’s Heart, these words are challenged.  Something in Johnson’s composition does have a purity and vulnerability to it, but I certainly hesitate to attribute it to the simplicity of his skills on the instrument.

What is at play in Winter’s Heart is a sense of distinct storytelling so self-assured the listener can even be fooled into thinking they already know the story as they are hearing it. Something magical occurs from start to finish of each of Johnson’s tracks on this album – almost like he conveys the emotions behind the songs so effectively we think those emotions are our own and are simply being brought forward, not Johnson’s that are being shared with us through the music. It’s almost frightening to realize this, as it seems Johnson finds a way to bypass the initial scrutiny of music by the listener and instead jump straight into the personal realm of the musical experience.

Some tracks on this album are less aggressive in the aforementioned sense – there are clear ebbs and flows throughout the track list, as any successful album would have. Following a dramatic, built-up, nearly chaotic number including various swirling strings and a driving theme, is a much mellower piece with relaxed and almost easy-going rhythm and a whimsical tone.

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Johnson’s second single, Taylor’s Theme, takes an even further step away from the more active parts of the album and paints a gorgeous tonal landscape across which delicate cello dances and swirls. The track takes a wonderfully slow pace similar to the walking speed of two people who are far more interested in each other’s company than the walking itself. The track is emotionally reminiscent of spending lazy days with family or reforming a friendship that previously went dark.

Winter’s Heart is a wonderful exploration of sentiments and nostalgia from beginning to end; Johnson keeps listeners feeling like they are a part of the music in a curious but captivating way. Sometimes the melody falls exactly where you predict it will in a satisfying conclusion, other times the piano dances off into unexpected territory – but always in a way that should have been obvious and that builds even greater texture into the songs. Johnson is a craftsman of the keys and the melodies, but also of our very perception as it relates to Winter’s Heart. He grips the listener so powerfully with his music that minutes can pass in a span of seeming seconds, memories long forgotten emerge bright as day, and even entire perspectives can be shifted by the impact of these songs. Winter’s Heart is a masterpiece in emotionally compelling contemporary classical music, and wise listeners should keep a close eye on Johnson as he continues to create in the future.

Winter’s Heart will be released on November 17 following a launch show on the 13th at The Crypt on the Green, St. James Clerkenwell in London

 

Premiere: Matryoshka-toska by Doug Thomas (with Muriël Bostdorp) by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Sergio Díaz De Rojas

Artwork by Jolien van der Beek

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When Doug Thomas approached Piano & Coffee with a collaborative idea in mind, I knew it was the perfect moment to demonstrate why our motto is ‘imagine, collaborate, create’. At that time, I was planning to set up an imprint for limited edition physical releases inside the ambient and neo-classical music scenes, and this project was the ideal first step into that adventure.

Doug wanted to release music through a record label but he didn’t have the time nor the resources to compose and record an album. After I offered my help, he went back to an unfinished project from 2015 called ‘Ballades’ and decided to finish it, so we could produce it and release it through piano and coffee records. With the support of Sonorospace, we came across four talented and generous musicians – Marta Cascales, Manos Milonakis, Marek Votruba, and Muriël Bostdorp – that were willing to perform and record each piece from the EP. And, with the support of three Piano & Coffee artists, we were able to take care of every visual aspect of the release – the album art, a music video, and the limited-edition CDs design.

Today, two months later, ‘Ballades’ is ready to be released, and is the perfect example of what can be achieved through well-planned collaboration, no matter the barriers.

'Matryoshka-toska' is the first single and final track of ‘Ballades’ and was recorded in Amsterdam by Muriël Bostdorp. It is, according to Doug, the icing on the cake of this project. It swings you to the rhythm of its melody, which is quite catchy, and evolves in tempo and dynamic during the second section of the piece, to finally return to the melody of the beginning but in a lower register and with a slightly softer execution, bringing images to my mind of someone going back home after an agitated journey.

The four pieces in ‘Ballades’ are an amalgam of minimalism, romanticism, and the fresh compositional style Doug Thomas has developed during these years, which has been perfectly understood by the four performers and brought to life by piano and coffee records.

The EP will be released on November 17 on limited edition CD (preorder at Bandcamp). While you wait for it, enjoy Matryoshka-toska.

 

Monthly recommendation #1 by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

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With so much enthralling art being produced and showcased every day, keeping up with each release is a full-time job, and to allow every piece of art the space it deserves is unimaginable. We still want to do our best to offer you a wide range of art to explore, and that’s why we here at Piano & Coffee Co. are launching a monthly recurring recommendation article, where we will touch on a few releases from the previous month that we feel deserve your attention. This first recommendation article focuses on ambient/electronic music, with artists from countries such as Germany to Japan, via labels like Home Normal and Ghent based Dauw.


On October 16th, Lee Yi released his haunting album An instant for a momentary desolation, via Rottenman Editions, and the four tracks seek to portray the heartbreak of watching a loved space be consumed and corrupted by nature and the unrelenting cruelty it has the power to unleash. Long, faraway echoes of dread paint a terrifying picture of a world in turmoil, and it seems almost like the faint memory of a broken cause – like the empty, troubled field of a war long since lost, it spreads out before you, invoking a curiosity just strong enough that you defy the voice in your head telling you to turn around. The album is clever and beautiful, and definitely worth a listen.

Another phenomenal album released in the middle of October is Unsung Memories, by German artist Polaroid Notes. Released via UK based label Whitelabrecs, the album moves like a film score, with grand movement and cinematic soundscapes, and is just waiting to be picked up by a filmmaker. Empty streets painted by melancholy or rough, cold desert nights – if you close your eyes you are there, for a moment, engulfed in someone else’s memories. The track that to me stands out the most is the surprisingly optimistic Take Care of What You Love, but even that is tinged by instances of corruption, an apparent theme to the mesmerizing album.

As the cold of winter steadily moves upon me, what better way to reignite the hope for warmer days, than to listen to Ghost And Tape’s new release – the astonishing album Vár (Spring), released through Home Normal. Another ambient tribute to nature, the album tells tales of new awakenings, of soft winds and melting snow – the delicate, heartfelt movements show just how much care and hard work Heine Christensen puts into his art. Vár is like a comforter, wrapping itself around me as the snow falls outside, quietly reassuring me that spring will come again.

After works that focus more heavily on electronic ambience, Himmelsrandt’s latest release brings a welcome change in nuance, with his 4 Moments & Rain, released via Unperceived Records. The piano and the strings fight for the main role, adding grandiosity to the sound, and with protruding melodies, the album is a comfortable change of pace. Just familiar enough to relax you, but never losing its intrigue, this album is a must-listen, and the breathtaking Drops, a track that could have easily been taken straight out of some dark thriller/drama, will likely be playing on repeat in my flat for the next couple of weeks.

Last on our first recommendation list, we have Norihito Suda’s gorgeously experimental album Sunshine, released via label Dauw at the end of September – a happy, youthful album with warmth trickling slowly downwards, and sounds of nature’s daily routine setting the tone. Sunshine is entirely relaxing in its minimalism and seems to portray a blissful life in the seclusion of some hidden place, far from modern life’s stressful duties. 


Be sure to check out these late autumn releases to find your new favorite, and stay tuned for next month’s recommendations!

 

 

What Dreams May Come by Jameson Nathan Jones by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker

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Jameson Nathan Jones’ new album, What Dreams May Come is a lush and atmospherically dense collection of electronic and neo-classical works. The sounds are pure and clarion from the start and recall something similar to the fantasy and sci-fi video game compositions of Jack Wall mixed with the cinematic and massive film scores of Hans Zimmer, as well as the acoustic and electronic textures of Helios and Jon Hopkins.

The album leads with the title track, What Dreams May Come, which meanders as if through planetary explorations from chord to chord with synthesized bass and breathy pad sounds accented by a sparse cello. Jones wastes no time exemplifying the electronic side of this album with this first track. However, the acoustic side of the album follows cordially with acoustic piano leading the melodic female vocals of the second track, Fallen (feat. Hannah S+umner). The album continuously bleeds in and out of either school of music – acoustic or electronic – but in a smooth and unnoticed way, suggesting that these styles are meant to be paired in the hands of Jones.

What Dreams May Come presents a beautiful and captivating collage of instrumentally intense moments with a wide range of emotional and rhythmic activity.  Every carefully crafted measure of this album supports the overarching purpose in the music, the lush and grandeur movements of each melody. In full, this album is tonally and thematically focused towards effective and nuanced storytelling, with few melodic or rhythmic tangents to provide depth to the core of the album’s presentation.

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What Dreams May Come is available at Bandcamp and Spotify

 

Plume by Luca Longobardi by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Sergio Díaz De Rojas

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When Luca Longobardi announced that he was working on a new album, I knew something good was coming, but I never expected it to be this good. And I don’t say this because I think Longobardi is a bad musician – on the contrary, I consider him a wonderful composer; a very innovative one. However, and I must be honest here, most piano-based albums tend to bore me. They bore me unless they are exceptionally good, unless they revolve every corner of my soul, which is quite challenging to achieve. Some remarkable contemporary classical albums are, in my opinion, Romantic Works by Keaton Henson, Music for the Motion Picture Victoria and Spaces by Nils Frahm, and The Chopin Project by Ólafur Arnalds & Alice Sara Ott. Today, I am glad to add Plume to said list.

Plume is perfectly balanced. It has long notes that together form some of the most beautiful melodies I have listened to this year, familiar yet unpredictable chord progressions, and fast arpeggios that will excite you to the core. During most of the album, Longobardi begins playing piano solo passages while slowly preparing the ambience for the climax, which arrives at around three quarters of each piece with a well-defined rhythmic section and synths, to finalize with the soft piano melodies from each beginning – a very common resource in Luca’s music that doesn’t seem to get boring at all. Other aspects that he manages quite well are the silences and pauses, which are very important in music, and the unexpected but never forced ways in which he moves from one section to another.

Apart from his technique, one must also congratulate this Italian composer for the deepness and beauty of the images and feelings transmitted by his work. To review this album, I listened to it every night for a week, and I always felt I was living in an independent European nostalgic film. Yes, I think nostalgic is the right adjective for this album, but with a touch of hope. And I might not be too far from the real meaning of Plume, since Luca explains that he composed it while grieving a very close person and that, at that time, he moved the upright piano he had since he was a kid from his parents’ house in the south of Italy to his apartment in Rome. These events are somehow the emotional base of Plume, which despite having a melancholic air most of the time, feels like a calm and necessary new chapter in someone’s life. Plume is opening a window and observing the first rays of sunlight while hearing a bird sing for the very first time after a heavy storm has just passed.

Heavy and light, light and heavy. Like silences, thoughts, moments, days, like spaces, signs,
memories. Heavy and light, light and heavy, like wrinkles, hours, words, like whales, like sails.
Heavy and light, light and heavy. Like me, like us.
— Luca Longobardi

This album is a complete work of art that will not give you the opportunity of finding fissures anywhere at all. The bonus tracks, remixes by Rome-based electronic musicians Decomposer, Mangrovia, and Valerio Maina, are beautiful and complement the original versions, and the artwork does justice to the music and explains the concept very well. There’s nothing left to say other than a ‘thank you’ to Luca from the bottom of my heart for bringing to life such a stupendous album. 

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Plume is available digitally on Spotify and on limited vinyl edition at Bandcamp.

 

P&C interview: Austin Johnson by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Mikhail James

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As is the case with many artists and creatives, it’s difficult to pin down a direct influence from which to attribute the work of 22-year-old filmmaker/musician Austin Johnson. Formally educated in film at the Pratt Institute, Austin’s creative journey began long before then, when he first picked up his dad’s mini point-and-shoot camera to record his friends during skateboarding sessions, and compile and edit the clips into skate videos. Though residing and attending school in Brooklyn for the past few years, the New Jersey native spent much of his childhood in London, where he lived with his family from ages 1-10.

It’s not single instances or frozen frames, but rather eclectic moments and experiences like these which make up and inspire Austin’s work. His latest short film babyteeth, released Friday 10/13, is an intimate glimpse into the life of a young boy grappling with anxiety. The 8-minute film takes viewers on a beautifully shot and emotionally charged ride, all without using a single word. As if that’s not enough, Austin also composed the soundtrack for the film under his new alias, breaking – doubling as his debut album, babyteeth o.s.t. serves as the perfect sonic accompaniment to the film, augmenting the already winsome imagery with lush and ambient tones. We spoke with Austin to learn more about the film and album.

Tell us a bit about the film and the inspiration behind it!

So initially the film was supposed to be a musical, but it was kind of hard getting people on board with that. ~laughs~ Also, writing it without making it too cliché or pastiche was really tough, so I decided to take it into more of a different... realm, I guess. More of a slice of life type film.

Basically, I just wanted to portray these feelings of anxiety and angst in a different light. It’s sort of me revisiting this anxious and angsty time of my life with this newfound sense of tranquility and calm that I haven’t found until recently. And I’m still an anxious person; I’ve just learned how to deal with it now. So it’s viewing that time of my life through the lens of understanding how to deal with those feelings.

So you would say the main character, the little boy, is kind of a caricature of your younger self?

Yeah, definitely.

Can you walk us through some of the process behind the film?

So a lot of times when I’m writing a film, I’ll write it in stills. Basically, images that I know I want to be in the film. For babyteeth, that image was of the opening running sequence, and then the match cut to the classroom. Once I had those pictures, I knew I had to make a story out of it, and kind of just started writing whatever came to mind. It was a really long process of critique, seeing what people thought, and taking that feedback to rework what I had. And eventually I had a finished script.

In terms of getting a crew, a lot of my friends are filmmakers so that helped. The DP Mark who shot the film is amazing, we’d worked together before but I just felt like he’d be right for this project. My sister produced it. My brother was also on set, he worked on stills. And we shot it at my Grandma’s house. All in all, it was a really low-budget film.

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And the music?

Yeah, during the writing process for the film, I was writing a lot of the music as well. So the soundtrack, not all of those songs are in the film, but I wrote all of those songs for a specific scene or a specific tone that may have gotten cut out or something. But basically every song on the soundtrack is inspired by the film.

Is there a story behind the name?

The name came after I finished the first draft of the script. I didn’t really know what I wanted to call it. I had the script printed out to show somebody, and it said “untitled” on it. So I just scratched that out with a pen and wrote babyteeth- but in that, like, logo style that’s in the film with the really long a. So I wrote it that way and was just like “okay, I guess this is it”. No one really questioned it or critiqued me on it, and people said they liked it when I would ask them about it. Also I think it just fits, too.  

So with the release of the film as well as the soundtrack/album, what is the reception and impact you’re hoping to have?

If one person can watch it and say that they like it, that’s enough. I was just making something that I would like, and the fact that other people have seemed to enjoy it so far is already amazing to me.

Ideally, where do you see yourself/your art taking you in x amount of years? What do you want to be doing with this type of work down the road?

Honestly, I’d want to be doing what I’m doing now. That’s kind of where I’d like to be ~laughs~. Just having the freedom to do whatever, you know? I’d like to make films and make music. And wherever I can do that is fine with me.

Visit Hush Hush Records' Bandcamp to get a copy of babyteeth o.s.t. or stream it on Spotify.

 

Autumn by Bigo & Twigetti by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

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Back in 2014, London-based record label Bigo & Twigetti launched a seasonal series that has now come to an end with its final album – Autumn. The album is a compilation of several musicians own renditions of autumn, ranging from classical to experimental, and is a fascinating exploration of the similarities – and differences – of each musicians interpretation of this colorful season. The album starts off with DEEP LEARNING’s Freedom of Things – a spacious but intimate track with a lot of movement, cold rain, and warm waves. It is immediately contrasted by the distant Faces in a Crowd, by Jim Perkins, with its experimentally erratic drops and a sense of life hurrying before it needs to take that last deep breath and sleep for the winter.

Luca Longobardi offers another new dimension with Autumna – echoes of summer bounce off the falling leaves in his airy, lightly treading track. It shifts smoothly back and forth between lighthearted and slightly troubled, but never loses the youth and innocence of this transitional season. In A Glass Island, Heinali takes the mature but eerie sound of the electronic organ and puts an experimental, modern twist on it – the contrast is fascinating, and the track ropes me in with its slow build into chaotic ringing, the summit of this rushing sensation we’ve explored previously. Then comes Falling by Yoko Komatsu, a soft hand painting in my mind the story of a cold wind moving through a forest slowly falling asleep, a forest set ablaze by the sheer agony of its dying leaves. Madeleine Cocolas introduces another layer to the album with her Autumn Sky, when she utilizes vocals to add depth to her already uncanny sound.

Then comes Seadailer by Olan Mill, where the first few seconds of the track throw me back to earlier days, reminding me of that pathway through the darkest part of the forest, being led only by the comforting clanging of the wind chimes from afar on crisp, late autumn nights. The steady build-up and imminence to nature lull me in completely, only to be awoken to the soft but protruding change in perspective halfway through the track, where the distant warmth of the autumn sun reminds me that winter need not be all darkness and cold after all. Norihito Suda has a whole other sentiment, as Lying in the Hidden Chasm introduces what seems like the noises of a river rushing towards its frozen destiny, of biting winds that leave you cold to the bone – nature seems incredibly close, and invokes an odd sense of slowing down, even in the clamor of a world in transition. The ending to the album, Breathe by Ed Carlsen, is a track that stands out from the rest with its familiar progressions and upbeat, poppy melody. It’s a phenomenal mix of elegant strings and youthful electronics, and shows just how many different ways interpretations can take form.

Musicians usually get whole albums to explore and portray their message, and here they were each given mere minutes to express the epitome of their particular interpretation – however, it makes for an album where each track is filled to the brim with energy and intent, and that in itself makes it an absolute joy to listen to. 

 

Artist spotlight: Esthaem by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Lore Deuninck

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Manuel Estheim – better known as Esthaem – is an Austria-based photographer, born in 1992. He holds a BA in Graphic-Design and Photography from the University of Art and Design Linz and is currently working on obtaining his MA in Visual Communications. The artist has been featured in numerous group exhibitions in cities like London, Berlin, and Vienna, and has won multiple online awards for his work.

Esthaem is said to be a quiet and thoughtful person, which often leads to complex knots of thought, that then need to be let out through photography. Aiming for mirror images of his analysis of the world, he tries to portray subject matters that are difficult to grasp, as aesthetically pleasing imagery full of fragility, sensuality, and symbolism.

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Topics such as identity, intimacy, (de-)construction of sexuality, gender and the ‘self’ connect with being drawn to nature, life itself and the human body – which is treated as a sculptural object – are held by strictly theoretical principles as well as photography seen as an artistical, expressive, personal media. What we get to see are nude subjects in serene, natural settings or in soft rooms with carefully positioned light. All of this creates fragile but strong work, often referred to as “visual poetry”.

The idea of going back to your roots is a well-incorporated concept in Esthaem’s work; for Manuel, the line between being human, animal, or even object in this world is very thin. He says that after all, no matter how smart we are, we’ll always be animals. Nature is our real root of existence, and we are all of the same kind. The subjects seem to easily lose all of their identity being put in these natural settings / sterile and soft rooms. Existing in a time and space of their own, Esthaem’s forms dare to explore the personal relation of the subject with the Self, their body and the discovery of the different, but very similar, other.

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Paces by Jakob Lindhagen by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

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On September 22nd this year, Jakob Lindhagen – known for composing the breathtaking film score for Skörheten, among other things – released his solo album Paces, an intriguing piece of art, centered on the piano while incorporating white noise from faltering microphones and birdsong from early morning recordings. We are already familiar with Lindhagen’s phenomenal talent in portraying and displaying emotion, and his more experimental side, only briefly explored in the expanded version of the Skörheten soundtrack, is certainly showcased in this solo release.

With no time to waste, Paces starts off with Kenopsia, establishing a sense of melancholy ringing true to the meaning of its name – the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that is usually bustling with people, now abandoned. The ringing noise, in waves of increased intensity, has an almost trance-inducing effect; the maddening sound has you trapped, with small crashes at times jolting you from the lonely room to which you’ve been condemned. All the while, the soft narration of the piano tells the story of your destiny, a welcome contrast to the harsh, torturous buzzing, locking you in place.

In Shelter, a different kind of loneliness takes form – the noises seem to be of a busy street with too many impressions, all smudged together, and you in the middle, disconnected. There’s ringing, spinning, but one steady point in the cautious piano, the only sane thought in an ocean of turmoil. The album moves towards a more blissful spirit, The Tipping Point sounding, with its gorgeous harmonies and zealous strings, like a soft-spoken person suddenly speaking with passion burning beneath every word, and I need only to sit back and listen, in awe.

In The Machinery shows the epitome of the homely sound Lindhagen has mastered. The fascinating noises of electronic buzzing and clicking create an intimacy so palpable I can practically touch it, and it engulfs me in the warmth of home and family; with the beautiful build-up of the tireless strings and inspiring piano, this track is positively exploding with eternal hope. The hope is carried further with Overcoming, starting off as a reflective, slow-burning track, suddenly transitioning into a joyous, youthful folk-melody.

Paces certainly lives up to its name – the atmosphere of the album changes yet again, as Afterwards tells a mournful, ghostly story, as haunting as it is beautiful and grand. As previously, it seems Lindhagen releases all of the energy he has left into the very last track – S, 47 is a deeply emotive, expertly told story that sticks out from the rest; like an afterthought that turned into a paradigm of its own, this track is like a whole separate entity, patiently waiting for you to reach it, and listen. It takes its time, all the while knowing you will be engulfed in its flawless rhetoric, and it proves the perfect ending to Lindhagen’s stunning album. 

 

Opacity by Jason van Wyk by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Aubrey Woodward

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Jason van Wyk’s Opacity is a strong follow-up to his previously re-released album Attachment. Like Attachment, Opacity is a post-classical album with a focus on ambient noise. Unlike his previous album, however, it is a much gentler body of work. The focus on minimalism is more apparent within it, with each track generating an influx of emotion that keeps the listener on edge.

Opening with ‘Shimmer’, the listener is drawn into a false sense of security while the intensity builds up; like boiling water, the climax approaches slowly and then all at once. It sets a solid precedent for the rest of the album. A stand out track is ‘Until Then’, which provides an odd juxtaposition between the upbeat and the melancholy. The minimalist technique stands out here, as the track is fully supported by a small, cheerful melody with an underlying haunting ambience. The evocative composition is simple without sacrificing its emotive side.

‘Weightless’, the ninth track, employs more ambient work than the other tracks. Starting slow, it begins to build up, heightening the emotional aspect of the experience and echoing a heartbeat. The intensity of this one track brings the mood of the entire album up, propelling it forward to the end.

Overall Opacity is a cohesive, enthralling body of work that connects with the listener, guiding them in and pulling them along until the very end.

 

The Double by David McCooey by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

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Apart from his job as a professor of writing and literature, Australian David McCooey is also a self-taught audio producer, composer and musician, and he recently released his second album, The Double. The album is a deep dive into other-worldly ambiences, an intriguing mix of synthetic and organic sound, balancing tensely on a thin line between soothing and unnerving. The album is in part an homage to its namesake, the fascinating short story collection by Maria Takolander, and it expertly captures what Takolander’s collection set the tone for – the horrors, and the beauty, of human loneliness.

Modern Nature sparks an immediate enchantment, thrusts you into the scenery, and smoothly acclimatizes you to the rugged rhythmic of the piece. McCooey introduces his key element during the first few seconds of the album – the usage of found samples and text-to-speech synthesis. Three Sisters suddenly throws you out of the immersion and instead invokes a sense of floating above – it’s an eerie feeling, hearing the muffled voices of a conversation you’re not a part of, witnessing a scene you’re not meant to witness. The title track comes next, a solemn piece with a gentle forward pull, perfectly accompanying the story being told.

McCooey keeps introducing a new mix of sounds throughout the album, with The Old World proving the most obvious example – a timeworn, minimalistic base, contrasted by dramatic pads, bells and horns, often distorted beyond recognition. The Obscene Bird of Night 1 is a construction site daydream, voices of train tracks and turning cranes making me a stranger in a familiar city, wandering around in my own thoughts, outside noise seeping in and coloring the images in my head. Later comes the perfect epitome of the loneliness so adamant in Takolander’s short story collection, portrayed in the mesmerizing Not to Disturb – the steady hope of having found your path, but needing to walk it alone, fighting only the voice of doubt in your head.

The Double is as interesting as it is moving – at every turn it goes from deeply emotional to eerily experimental, and every track is its own story, matching the pace of Takolander’s haunting writings. McCooey has a phenomenal ear for the unknown and seems unafraid to leap into waters that many would deem too deep; and it pays off, as he ends up with an incredibly memorable album in his hands. 

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The Double is available on Bandcamp, Spotify and iTunes.

 

Domum by Aija Alsina by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Roberto Espinoza

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A few days ago, Latvian composer Aija Alsina released her debut album, Domum, a set of 12 piano pieces that features work created over the last four years. The first release by the London based composer arrives a year after being chosen as one of the ten finalists in the prestigious Marvin Hamlisch Film Scoring Contest in 2016, where she was invited back as a judge this year and, as the title suggests (Latin for homeward) expresses her return to her childhood instrument, the piano.

Domum is filled with overall romantic, delicate compositions and a melancholic hue throughout its forty-six-minute span. Nevertheless, each piece sets a distinctive mood and suggests unalike sensations, demonstrating the multiple forms in which the theme of childhood might be revealed. Angst, nostalgia, and hope waver in Aija Alsina’s own search for a unique musical expression.

Morning Glow, the opening piece, is one the album’s most appealing and characteristic compositions, showcasing the beautiful string arrangements, the multi-layered piano, and the occasional sound-effect ambiance that make Domum mesmerizing. Pieces like Reflection and Variation on the Horse Theme demonstrate Alsina’s care for soundscapes, and pieces like French Waltz, which introduce French horn arrangements, illustrate her composing versatility. On the contrary, the intimate dwelling-nature of the piano can still be heard in pieces such as Krastini.

Although it revolves around the piano, Domum is nonetheless an evocative album filled with texture and imagery. An effort characterized both by its assembly of mixed emotions, and by its delicate play and the broad range of sounds. Aija Alsina's debut is utterly captivating.

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Stream and download the album on Bandcamp or Spotify