Memory Sketches by Tim Linghaus by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Björk Óskarsdóttir

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Tim Linghaus offers a rare peek at someone's private memories. As a whole, well-rounded artwork, Linghaus achieves well his aim of painting aural images of his past, the way he lived it.

Memory Sketches was released on March 30 on Schole Records and 1631 Recordings. It is the composer's first album since his EP, Vhoir, released in 2016 on Moderna Records. Tim Linghaus has been very vocal about the concept behind the album. Such detailed descriptions might be more common for visual arts exhibitions, but in this case, it's the listener who does receive a lot of information on this project. One can't help but notice how the concept is immensely important to the composer – understandably.

The tracks' titles are generally as straight-forward as the title of the album itself – there is not much ambiguity in the music's presentation. The album is divided into four chapters: disappear, before, icarius and regret, which brings out a narrative.

Growing up in East-Germany during the 1980's, Linghaus puts some specific memories into tones, but rather than pushing fragments into simple categories of unsubtle or too “literal” moods, he allows the listener to take the position of an observer. The images spring to mind naturally, we are taken along the revisit of events without being forced to a conclusion on what to make of them. Nonetheless, it's clear that we are presented with crossroads, historical oddities, death and other unavoidable subjects of human life.

The combination of instruments is one known to the genre, but the impression is that Linghaus mostly chooses his tools for sounds carefully, with the aim of creating his aural images exactly as he imagines them and making them fit his memories. The piano plays the main role, there are strings, synths, and a lot of extra noise adding up to somewhat of an ambient, dream-pop effect. A warm cello sound, recorded by Sebastian Selke for some of the tracks, adds a nice touch. Some beats and synth-arpeggios are notable as a direct reference to the 1980s scenario, while most of the tracks carry an air of tranquil or sombre simplicity.

Most artists undoubtedly draw inspiration from their memories in some form, openly or not. Linghaus, on the other hand, has chosen to make a study of them and to invite the world to tag along with him on an interesting field trip to the subjective and intangible. As Linghaus mentions himself in an accompanying video on his site, the album is therapeutic, a dialogue with the former self, and an attempt to preserve his past.

While simplicity can be tricky to manage, Linghaus carries it well through an interesting, well thought out and beautifully honest first album.

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P&C interview: Fabrizio Paterlini by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker

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Fabrizio Paterlini, a popular Italian composer and pianist, recently released the album Winter Stories, his latest addition to his collection of over a dozen records. However, this album is unlike most: the recording process was done live, in one take, while streaming on Facebook. Fans were able to tune in and get a first-hand look at the songs of “Winter Stories” as they were being recorded right in his own living room.

Paterlini, who recently started on his performing schedule for spring 2018, was kind enough to let us interview him on the one-of-a-kind album and the process of its creation.


You have quite an extensive catalog of recordings under your belt. When did music enter your life, and how has the role of music in your life changed over time?

I started playing the piano when I was six years old. My family is mostly composed of musicians, so it was quite natural for me to follow that path. Despite starting to play the piano so young, it was only when I was around 35 years old that I started composing my own music. Before that, to me music was just playing others’ music. Then… yes, you’re right, I composed a lot of music!

My journey with music cannot be seen as separate from my personal life and growth: becoming a more conscious human being has also had positive effects on the music side. At first, music was a hobby; an important one, but still a hobby. I was an accountant, to pay my bills. Slowly, something happened and I became a part-time worker, and then ten years after my first album “Viaggi in aeromobile” was released, I became a full-time musician.

What does your creative process normally look like when creating an album? Has this process evolved as you’ve created and released more music?

My process is more or less always the same: I sit at the piano and start playing. I always make sure to have something to record with, in case an idea comes – it can be the computer, the tape or the Zoom (even the iPhone), because otherwise the music gets lost. Most of my piano solo songs are improvisations that came to find me, and I had the luck to immediately record them.

Your music has a gorgeous, cinematic tone to it. Did you dream, early on, that you would one day make music for short films?

Making music for films is one of my dreams. In the past, I collaborated with several filmmakers, who used my songs for their videos or short movies. But those were songs already released. I really can’t wait to create something new alongside someone’s ideas of a movie.

Your most recent album, Winter Stories, is quite unlike any other because you recorded the tracks while live-streaming on Facebook. What a remarkable and unique way to make an album! What gave you this idea? Did you have any worries or fears specific to this album that don’t come with making a normal album?

The idea was a natural evolution of a concept I envisioned over the years... Only a few years ago, a good way to promote music was to create a track, post it on SoundCloud and let it go, free. In my Autumn Stories project (2012) I did exactly this: one song a week for the entire Autumn season. And it was a great deal because in those days Spotify wasn’t the ‘king’ yet and people still loved to download free tracks!

After the release of that album, I had been asked several times to create a sequel. I liked the idea, but I wanted to make something really different and special. So I asked my team if it was technically possible to do this “Winter Stories” album, in one single take, live from home. I have a small recording studio at home, with all the gear I’ve been collecting over these 10 years and it seemed like a good idea to me to use that equipment.

The project was exciting, to say the least: playing live and knowing that there are people watching online is not much different to playing in a hall… with all the worries that we normally have when playing live. But everything turned out for the best and I was really happy with the result!

Something noticeable about this album’s sound is how personal it is. For instance, during or at the end of many pieces listeners can hear your breath as you exhale. Personally, I enjoy this kind of vulnerability in recorded music, but some say it takes away from the experience. Did you record in such an intimate way by choice? What are your thoughts about its effects on the music itself?

Yes, it was a choice. I wanted it to feel intimate, and I was doing this in my living room so it couldn’t be different. The idea was to give the audience the feeling of being right there at home, with me. And I am happy to notice that this result was obtained.

Were there any challenges about making this album that stand out to you? Was the album rewarding in some way that other albums are not? Would you consider making another album in this way again?

The most difficult challenges were the technical ones - luckily I can rely on a small team of great people, who in the end found a perfect way to stream both audio and video in high quality.

The result was absolutely rewarding: this album is the demonstration of what I have been saying for the past ten years. What matters in music today is exclusively the relation between the artist and their audience. No middlemen, no gate-keepers. Only the music, which goes directly from the people that compose it to the people listening.

I am already working on a “secret” project in line with what I did on “Winter Stories” and soon you’ll see what it is all about.

It seems you have Autumn Stories and Winter Stories completed. Can fans of yours look forward to more full-length albums relating to the seasons? What can listeners of yours get excited about in the future?

I don’t know actually, though I have to confess that the idea of composing a “Summer Stories” is quite intriguing. I love contrasts and composing mostly melancholic music during summer days should give fantastic results!

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Stream and purchase Winter Stories on Bandcamp.

 

Recommendations #3 by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

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Time passes much too quickly, and we here at Piano & Coffee find ourselves compelled to do a little backtracking, as there are so many amazing albums being released continually, and not enough time to keep up with them. This latest recommendations article focuses on albums from a past season – albums that caught our attention but ultimately fell between the cracks, and are now, finally, getting the retribution they deserve.


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One of our all-time favourites, Bruno Sanfilippo, released his latest album Unity back in mid-February; an album that rings true to his sound – focusing on blissfully elegant and sincere neo-classical piano and strings, with just the hint of ambient electronics, Unity is yet another glorious example of Sanfilippo’s greatness. The introducing Spiral is grand in its carefully orchestrated stillness, where every minimalistic moment is equally important and calibrated just right; after the slightly ominous, outlandish beginning to the album, it takes us to a wholly different scenery, where the breathtaking strings of Lux serenade the glittering piano, familiar in its hopeful sense of renewal – an ode to spring coming back once more after this dark winter.

This theme of sudden turns is apparent throughout the album, as the tracks sway from a rather melancholic sound as in Simple and One, to the safe warm embrace of Oneness, with moaning strings like lovers in conversation, and the pure, true Cyclical leaving me speechless but utterly infatuated. Ending on its title track, Unity finds a way to connect all the things it’s explored over the previous tracks and blends them into a soft, airy piece that reminisces about things past and simultaneously soars fearlessly into tomorrow.


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All the way back in October, the French composer Angéle David-Guillou released her second album through Village Green Recordings, a collection of pieces focused on movement, as implied by its name – En Mouvement. David-Guillou has an impeccable talent for playing around with unorthodox rhythm and mobility, evident throughout the album, not least in the introducing title track. Dancing around a dark room, there is something mysterious and otherworldly about it, and the track is followed by the unstoppable force that is V for Visconti, dramatically modern and full of turbulence and urgency. An intriguing use of woodwind and saxophone helps make the album stand out even more, and create a gorgeous contrast against the softness of the strings.

The album moves into brighter light with Vraisemblance, where hope tinges the strings and the whole album moves into more minimalistic terrain. The album ends on the suggestive Too Much Violence, an antidote and a warning all in one; telling of the things we’re becoming and showing how to move in a different direction. Indeed, the album has moved in all sorts of directions and still managed to stay in one piece, as one entity, never feeling pulled apart or loosely put together – En Mouvement is a clever album, showcasing an equally clever composer.


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Another artist who had a release back in October was Canada-based Valiska, who released a highly personal album via label Trouble In Utopia, recounting several life-events that had taken place in the time before its release. On Pause is centered on synthesizer and tape looping, with several layers, levels of distortion and sound effects giving it an unmistakable sound. In every single track, there is intriguing movement and anti-movement, a measured disarray in the looping technique, making the tracks blend together smoothly like days turning into weeks turning into months. There’s something so raw about Valiska’s sound and I find myself getting chills, like the ones you get when someone whispers in your ear – there’s this unquestionable intimacy but it’s somehow terrifyingly exposed at the same time.

Mornings stands out with its cries of alarm in the early hours – though jumbled and distraught it’s still oddly synchronized, and the addition of spoken word adds a dystopian air to the album. Fake Strings for False Memories conveys the albums message most clearly, as the haunting melodies loop, more or less distorted each time, quite like the way our memories decay and take new forms with every recollection. Meditative and internalized, the album pulls your thoughts and feelings from your innermost parts; brings them out in the light, packs them up neatly, and sends them away.


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And last, but not least, we have the wonder and mystery that is Mike Lazarev – one of 1631 Recordings carefully selected musicians who, back in November, released Dislodged, an album filled with his characteristically mournful sound and heartbreaking melodies, with titles that perfectly epitomizes what the tracks stand for and the feelings they induce. The title track with its soft, safe sorrow lulls you unfalteringly into the world Lazarev has created, guiding you on your first, curious but cautious trip towards this darkness sweeping toward you. The second part of the track is like a story you heard when you were young, suddenly sounding so very different now that you’ve grown older – the contrasts between low and high notes add to the sense of ‘now versus then’; when you were once young, innocent and carefree in your naivety, could you have ever imagined yourself like this?

The album proceeds with Distant, with an ever so soft accompaniment paired wonderfully with a melody that comes off quite intense and dramatic in comparison, without any such effort. Absent follows, where the unexpected bouts of intriguing dissonance bring yet another shade of darkness to this descent into sorrow we’re inevitably onboard, but we are hastily turned the other way as the cinematically inclined Healing provokes such blissful nostalgia I feel dizzy for a moment. Later we’re introduced to Unhinged (again), seemingly the sister to Lazarev’s breathtaking track Unhinged (off the album from 2016 with the same name) – an expansion, if you will. There’s a delicate strength to the lovely, steadfast accompaniment and a melody like rainfall, suddenly backed by gentle strings, unfolding into yet another glorious, unforgettable piece.

The album ends on two slightly lighter tracks – Serenity has such impeccable nuances and it flows with such grace, I find myself lost in its very own universe. Indeed, it appears to be the perfect example of Lazarev’s talent in creating something so unique and outstanding in such a minimalistic fashion. Then, at last, comes Sunday, the perfect embodiment of this day for mourning – the weight of the world on your shoulders for no reason at all – and it wraps up the incredible album, quite as if Lazarev spilled all that was left of his sorrow into this last track. And though we end on such a dark note, struck by what I can only hope is a person who has already worked through this unreachable sadness, it brings me joy knowing I can be reminded of this ache and not be ruled by it; I can have felt (and still feel) this pain, and not be defined by it – and that is truly one of music’s many, many wonders.

 

Q3Ambientfest 2018 by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

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After an immensely successful first edition in 2017, Q3Ambientfest is back again this year, and to those of you that are in the neighborhood – grab a ticket to Potsdam, and spend the 13th to the 15th of April at Fabrik Potsdam, enjoying an expertly curated program of several highly talented and modern artists. The event is centered on the assorted architecture of Potsdam, and with musicians from all over the world and labels such as Moderna Records, 1631 Recordings and Sonic Pieces, this year’s edition is sure to be a knock-out.

Q3Ambientfest got its name from an abbreviation of “Querwandbau”, the German word for cross-wall construction, an essential part of Potsdam architecture and thus an equally essential part of the festival. The founders of Q3A, the ingenious CEEYS, Sebastian and Daniel Selke, partnered up with Dutch music initiative Fluister and Berlin-based concert series Modellbahn Music to make reality of this blend of avant-garde and pop. The brother-duo will bring their uniquely textured sound to the festival – a minimalistic conversation between Sebastian’s poignant cello and Daniel’s candid piano, a gripping exchange between two versions of the same soul, each telling their side of a million stories.

Alongside CEEYS on the line-up, we find acts such as the magnificent Lisa Morgenstern, the German/Bulgarian pianist whose emotion and fearless sincerity make for unforgettable music, with orchestral influences and an unmistakable elegance to her sound. The accomplished Hania Rani will be playing her renowned music at the festival, sharing the founders’ passion for blending styles and genres – her modern classical music has an interchangeable sense to it; it flows and grows and becomes something new with every listen, moving freely, it seems, through time and space. The phenomenal Jakob Lindhagen & Vargkvint will also be performing, showcasing their highly inventive, eerily intimate music, creating an intoxicating atmosphere with the use of unconventional instruments such as saw and accordion.

The 2018 edition of Q3Ambientfest is likely to be an even greater success than its debut, and I strongly urge all of you who have the chance, to grab a ticket at Fabrik Potsdam and get ready for an extraordinary festival.

Program / Information / Tickets 

 

Other Lines by Olivia Belli by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Aubrey Woodward

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Olivia Belli's Other Lines is her first published EP as a composer, despite composing from a young age. It stands out as a reflection of her admiration for Italian poet Eugenio Montale – she focused on his poems for a year after feeling an intense connection to his work. Belli says, 'I have always been passionate about this outstanding Italian poet: his lines, from which I chose the titles, talk about the landscape that surrounds me, the sea, the countryside, the Italian summers… I may recognize myself in his poems, especially for his particular sense and intimacy almost feminine.'

Other Lines is a poem in itself. The four tracks it includes are perfectly connected and yet somehow separate. The piano compositions are beautiful, almost transcendent with the way they make you feel. The album starts with From your garden, a quiet reflection piece. It is wistful, yet joyful. The listener is left captivated. She leads from this to the second track, The secret sting, a somewhat haunting piece. Like the first track, it is a reflection but it is not a joyful one. It is the standout track from the EP, fueling the listener's emotions but culling them as well. The composition is flawless; it leads you along but doesn't fail to surprise.

The remaining two tracks do the same thing. Belli's composition is simple, yet refined. She keeps the listener on their toes, seemingly settling down and then building her sound back up again. She does this with flawless technique and a carefully curated ear. Her work is like being a part of a poem, echoing her admiration for Eugenio Montale.

Belli has plans to present her completed album in October 2018. You can stream Other Lines on her Bandcamp and Spotify.

 

Ivory by Zinovia Arvanitidi by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

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Known both for her part in duo Pill-Oh, as well as her ambient-electronic album The Gift of Affliction, and having composed for both TV and film, Greek composer Zinovia Arvanitidi is well apt to venture into somewhat new territory with her first neo-classical album, Ivory. Released on Piano Day, March 29th, Ivory is as elegant as it is evocative, and a deep dive into the mind of the France-based composer. The album begins with the title track, honing the mature and elegant sound of Debussy – instantly, Arvanitidi’s experience in writing for film shines through, as the piece tells of stories and feelings and pictures I couldn’t have ever imagined myself. The much too short Essence follows, somehow so nostalgic and yet irrevocably in the present; Arvanitidi flirts with familiar melodies but makes them inevitably her own, breathing new life into them.

The height of cinematic sensation comes next, as the irresistible, attention-grabbing Inattendu takes my hand and pulls me along on a quick, seductive dance around the room – I feel as though I’m watching a story unfold on the screen and yet, all I am actually seeing are the seconds counting down until the track is inescapably over. Did they stop for just a moment? As the crescendo entails, are the seconds slowing down? But no, there they go, and the piece lays to rest as I lean back, exhausted, only to be swept up again by the gloriously up-tempo Fluttering, whose melody contrasts the intense accompaniment with its more laid-back aura, but is soon wrapped up in the flurry, as haunting vocals add a sense of downright divinity to the beautiful piece.

The album descends into a more personal, intimate space, as Invisible starts off, a slow track with a clear forward motion. Whispers like a soft brush against your hair, waves rolling slowly in and out, the odd crackle here and there – all led by the softly moaning strings, carrying the gentle piano. Parting Ways, adding to the sincere intimacy, is like watching your loved one get dressed in the morning, the slowly rising sun on their hair, and maybe you’re not sure if you’re still sleeping, and maybe you’re not sure if they’ll be back once they’ve gone. It’s an incredibly emotional piece, a grandeur to the expertly arranged strings – how they weave in and out of each other, calling out and answering, knowing full well that soon there will be no answer, but not willing to let go just yet.

Though I knew it was coming, I found myself haltering as the melodica took the lead halfway through Duende – Arvanitidi uses the instrument in a way I, frankly, didn’t think possible. In more ways than one it is a silly instrument, as was my previous prejudice, but in the hands of the Greek composer it suddenly shows such soul and emotion I am positively taken aback, and must humbly admit how wrong I was about this unusual instrument.

The album ends on three lovely pieces, the gentle Afterlight and the unpredictable Ebony in great contrast to each other, as the latter is so intriguingly indefinable and flexible, like a dancer moving every which way. Time proves one of the album’s strongest tracks, beginning so softly and almost hesitantly adding in an absolutely gorgeous melody, soon growing into a grander piece where, once again, the strings add depth to every emotion the piano conveys; they move together like sisters, knowing the other inside and out. Indeed, Arvanitidi has created an incredible album, moving from minimalistic to intricate and ornate in an organic and unpretentious way – a perfect addition, and homage, to Piano Day. 

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EP1 by Jamison Isaak by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Aubrey Woodward

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Listening to Jamison Isaak's EP1 is like finding out your feelings are being returned by a lover. The soft ambient atmosphere it creates around the listener is enough to settle your heart and lift your spirits. He has been creating music since 2010 under a variety of names, such as Teen Daze, Pacific Coliseum, and Two Bicycles. Through this medium he has collected a wide fanbase.

EP1 is a neoclassical album, made for piano and pedal steel guitar. The ambient album is Jamison's first release under his own name; it tugs at your heart, and then soothes it. Consisting of four tracks, this serene album keeps the listener low. That doesn't mean it’s boring – if anything, it keeps the listener involved with the music. I found myself unable to even look away from the streaming screen.

The album starts with Sharalee, a quiet track that builds and falls steadily, before ending with a beautiful ambient trail. While the feeling is somewhat somber, it doesn't let the listener down. With hopeful undertones, you're left feeling as if everything is alright. The remaining three tracks do something similar. Upstairs is next, and already this track is stronger than the first. There is no build-up – Jamison gets straight to business. This is unsurprising. At just over two minutes, Upstairs is the shortest track on the album, leaving nowhere to go but up. A simple track, it keeps the feeling of the album steady.

The third track is Wind and this is where the album slows down. It isn't a bad track, just seemingly a slower one on an already very peaceful album. It's followed by More, the longest track on the album, and the final burst of intimacy before the end. It leaves the listener somehow satisfied but, at the same time, wanting more.

EP1 is available across streaming platforms through Jamison's own label, FLORA.

 

Premiere: Carry me slowly by Jameson Nathan Jones by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

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Though he has previously released works that blend neo-classical piano with emotive strings and gently experimental electronica, Mississippi-based musician Jameson Nathan Jones is soon to be releasing an album focusing solely on the piano, where he set out to base each piece of the album around a one-take improvised idea. We here at Piano & Coffee are no strangers to Jones’ talent both in the electronic and acoustic genre, and could not be more delighted to get to premiere the first single off his coming album.

Showing clearly the simultaneous strength and dignified vulnerability of the piano, Carry Me Slowly begins gently, a deep breath perfectly initializing this slow descent into dreams, so organically fitting the sounds of waves like white noise, not even really in the background but ever present alongside the lovable clunks and clicks of the piano. Unhurried, the equally organic melody explores its way across the piano, like absentminded musings in a diary, measured and deliberate.

It’s not sadness that I’m feeling, more a solemnity, spreading like warmth across my chest as the piece takes off, grows suddenly in grandeur and then falls back again, as if having caught itself off guard. I am awakened back into bright reality with another deep breath, lending the illusion that maybe all this happened in a matter of seconds – a world unfolding in the short space between two breaths, like a dream that seemed infinite but lasted only moments. I am almost surprised to find that I am, in fact, not sitting right next to Jones and his piano, as for a few moments I truly felt I could have reached out and felt the tremors of the notes as they resonated all around me.

Pre-order Sanctuary Sessions on Bandcamp.

 

P&C interview: Lambert by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker

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Known to many across Europe and the world, Lambert is a pianist and composer from Hamburg, Germany. His unique and original style of music blurs lines between contemporary and traditional classical music, in a way one might call him a “neo-classical” artist. However, any moment that Lambert might fall into one category, his music swiftly avoids definition – while he could be classical, he has released very dance-oriented remixes of his songs by artists Anatole and Vessels; however if he is called modern, or even pop, his more complex and subdued full-length albums put this to rest, such as the brooding and beautiful Stay In The Dark from 2015.

Lambert has been on the rise for some time; however his most recent project, a collaboration with artist Stimming, is an even greater leap forward for the man behind the mask. Stimming x Lambert's new album, Exodus, is a contemplative and diverse collection of music, which is subject to cause thoughtfulness, tranquility, foot-tapping, and humming along. Despite all this, the album still seems to walk the fine line between classically-rooted music and popular, rhythm-oriented music in a way so skillful, it is characteristic of Lambert’s work.

Piano & Coffee Co. got the very fortunate chance to talk with Lambert days after the new release, and days before he and Stimming took the music on the road, touring across Europe.

Where did your journey with music begin? How have you changed as a musician over time?

I had to take lessons from the age of around 5. My parents would tell me later that I wanted to, but I can’t recall any pleasure, except when my teacher brought piano arrangements of Beatles songs that I loved. That was fun. I wanted to quit when I was 12 and start playing the drums. My parents allowed me to play the drums, while I also continued to play the piano. I started playing in bands on different instruments; played keys, drums, bass, and guitar. After a while, I decided to focus on the piano…

Your compositional approach is very amorphous and fluid, setting you apart from other musicians. For example, some melodies change from straight 32nd note runs to a swing-rhythm very suddenly, and many songs seem to change key freely compared to other music. What inspires you to make these musical decisions?

I don’t know, I spend a lot of time playing jazz, free-improv music and some classical next to that. But in a way, I see myself as an instrumental songwriter. I think my pop cultural roots are still a big part of my music. I don’t make decisions when I write, somehow it feels like there is only one way, I just have to wait sometimes until I find it.

Your rise in popularity can be partially attributed to the reworks and covers of other artists’ songs in your own unique style. Do you find these reworks to be more or less creatively rewarding? Do you think there are pros and cons to doing reworks, versus solely original material?

I only do reworks of tunes I like. I have the freedom to treat them freely. I can use the compositional material, or I can rewrite it or use it to improvise over it. It’s not so different from writing my own music, just with the little aspect of treating the original in some way. But since I developed such a free approach on that task, it feels like the creative process is almost the same.

Gaining the recognition you have, do you ever feel overwhelmed or undeserving of the spotlight you are in as a musician? Or do you relish each moment you get to perform and express yourself through your instruments in front of a crowd? Does your characteristic use of the Sardinian mask speak to your feelings on this topic?

I am aware that I am in a very lucky position since I can base my life around my own music. Of course, I just love to play and create music, and I like the feedback I get from playing live shows.  Before I became Lambert I had to deal with ten years of not getting any recognition for anything I did. Of course, the love for music kept me going, but since I now experience worldwide feedback for my music, I must admit I am enjoying myself. I am neither comfortable with admitting that, nor was I comfortable with myself when I started to be Lambert.

I guess Lambert is also a result of shame… It is complicated, but when I wear the mask, I feel I can be someone else. Don’t have the pressure to publicly represent myself. That really helps me. I am having trouble with the need of the audience for a strange thing called authenticity. I don’t want to tell anyone that this guy on stage is the same guy brushing his teeth in the morning, for me it feels more honest to admit that being in public, or on stage is always an act, a show and just partly representative of who you are. In the end, I am doing music – it should speak for itself anyway…

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What was your relationship with Stimming before this collaboration of the album Exodus began? How did the idea to collaborate come about?

He listened to my debut and wrote me a message on a social network. He invited me to his studio and before we even really talked or got to know each other, we were improvising for hours. After that, we decided to work together and became friends.

Being a drummer in your younger years, how do these recent collaborations and the presence of percussion affect you musically?

I guess my piano style has a strong rhythmical content. My left hand is often oriented on minimalistic rhythmical patterns. Because of that, I guess also Stimming, as someone who produces rhythmical music for people to dance to, got interested in my music. With Stimming I enjoy very much to let someone else take over that part, so I can focus on other aspects. I treat the piano differently when we perform together.

Can you identify some differences between your creative process for a solo project versus the creative process for this collaboration? Any similarities?

Well, with Stimming I enjoyed not being the one who takes final decisions. I threw in ideas and Stimming had to bring them in order and decide how to use them. That was great for me and totally different from my solo recordings, where I am always in charge of everything. That can be nice, but also an annoying burden you have to carry…

On the new album, specifically the two singles Edelweiss and Der Blaue Fels, there are melodic elements that have a mild distortion effect on them. It is hard to tell in both songs what the originating instrument even is for these sounds – piano, vocals, or something totally different? Can you elaborate on the use of these perplexing and unique sounds in the compositions of the collaboration, compared to all the more familiar sounds such as piano, strings, drums, etcetera?

Well, I used samples of the piano that I recorded, like strings or percussive sounds of the body or the piano strings. I also played guitar, searched for string samples and some other acoustic instruments and sounds to arrange with. Stimming did the rest. He used his electronic gear and synths to develop the material he received from me.

Were there any moments of creative difference or disagreements during the making of Exodus? Or did you two have the same ideas musically for the entirety of the album?

No fighting at all. If something didn’t work we usually agreed and just left it out.

Were there any particularly inspiring musical moments during the collaboration? Perhaps a favorite memory or something very eye-opening to you as a musician?

We didn’t spend a single day in the studio together during this process since we live in different cities. It was an eye-opener: that this way of working together actually works.

With this album going on tour, and you and Stimming bringing the new music to different theaters and venues across the continent, what can people look forward to about the live shows? Any exciting secrets or surprises you can give us hints about?

Our tunes will be the basis of our performance, but we found a great way of treating them freely. We don’t have to stick to arrangements. Actually, I enjoy that improvisation will be a big part of our show, that way it will always be something new and we avoid the autopilot.

Besides the amazing tour you and Stimming have lined up, what’s next for Lambert? What can fans look forward to from you in the future, near or distant?

I will release another collaboration album with Brookln Dekker  (Singer of the band Rue Royale) in Autumn, and we will tour with it. Also, I am working on new ideas for a new Lambert album. I want to do another album with Stimming; we already produced two new tunes that will be part of our live show. And I’m working with the Thring Theory on ideas. I am having a great creative time this year, I must admit.

Finally, and this one is not a question, but I have to say from all of us at Piano & Coffee Co. as well as from myself personally: congratulations on this incredible and captivating work of music. You should be extremely proud of your art! It is a wonderful album and one that we will be listening to for a long time to come.

Thank you!

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Somebody Walked This Path Before by Mayten by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Norqvist

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Capturing a time that was severely emotional on both ends of the spectrum, Latvian artist Mayten recently released an EP exploring and portraying the roller coaster of both becoming a father, and losing his own father to suicide. The Seattle-based artist, producer, DJ and live radio show host has self-released an album and several singles in the deep house/ambient experimental music genre, but decided to release Somebody Walked This Path Before via Straight Up!

The EP starts off with a perfect introduction to Mayten’s sound – Unraveled is an otherworldly, multi-layered dream, where the artist blends intriguing sounds and loops. I am instantly enveloped by the utterly charming electronic ambience, and follow easily along with the soft swoops of the track. There are no sudden jumps, no whiplash – just a gorgeous, gentle track to really sway you into the right mood.

Transformative provides a clever progression, bringing some subtle rhythmic from the intro track and then transforming it into a whole different track. With more intense beats and a first sense of urgent build-up, the track takes another turn and reels it back in. This intriguing (non)movement ironically keeps me on my toes – it doesn’t go where I expect it to and so it demands an attentive ear. I could so easily miss the subtle way Mayten mixes unexpected genres into the ambience, then returning back to certain loops and melodies, only to branch off again.

The EP ends with two tracks that lean more towards a house/techno sound, with Deprive Us introducing an experimentation with whimsical, unorthodox beats, while still building layer upon layer of new dimensions and sounds – and again scaling back, discovering a new path and following that for a little while. No rush, no panic – it really is like following along on an emotional journey, swinging back and forth between curious joy and frantic despair. What Matters provides a darker sound, with that same beautiful softness from before, contrasting the tough rigidity of the beats. This track too follows the same format of expanding ever so slightly only to drop back into the gentle and explorative, and then building back up to the multi-dimensionality that really has been evident throughout this whole EP.

Overall, Somebody Walked This Path Before is a beautiful, well-crafted EP where Mayten has found a perfectly balanced mixture of intrigue and ease – it can without a doubt be used as a backdrop and a mood setter, but is equally deserving of a wholehearted, attentive listen – and I strongly urge you to give it just that.

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Quarto Tempo by Roberto Cacciapaglia by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker

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The 10th Anniversary release of Quarto Tempo by Roberto Cacciapaglia is immediately massive and gripping, just as the original release of the album was. However, in this 10th anniversary release, there is a distinct sense of fullness not present in the original release.  The commanding piano which leads each piece is ever-present, and the clean, rhythmic hums of electronic pianos chatter in the background of many of the pieces just as in their original release. And indeed, the Royal Philharmonic orchestral strings soar across their tracks with just the same effervescence. However, what was originally released as a 12 track album, with some tracks repeated in different versions, has evolved into a daunting 24 piece installment. 11 of these 24 tracks are piano solos, contrasting their full arrangement versions, but even with this distinction, the growth of such a project is remarkable.

When comparing tracks side by side with their ten-year-old counterparts, variance may be shrouded and difficult to uncover. This 10th anniversary release was recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and was mastered in Abbey Road Studios, making for expectations of stark improvements in audio quality. And the recent deluxe edition does not disappoint. Particularly in the piano solo versions, the mastering efforts shine brightly as the piano arrangements take center stage. Every intricate detail of the piano itself can be felt dramatically in the solo versions, from the pumping of the sustain pedal upon each chord change, to the ephemeral harmonic frequencies that ring out as the last note is held at the end of a piece.

Cacciapaglia had accomplished an amazing work of art when he first released Quarto Tempo in 2007; now in late 2017 and well into 2018 fans can relish in the same songs which have been filled with new breath and life, as well as explore an additional track , The Boy Who Dreamed in Aeroplanes, not present on the original release. With his masterful command of the piano composition, Cacciapaglia has offered even further soundscapes into which listeners can dive and explore. Every moment of this 10th anniversary release is worth a careful ear, especially to those with an interest in music production and mastering who may find this album particularly inspiring to them. But even for those with a less technical taste for music, it is undeniable that Cacciapaglia ’s Quarto Tempo 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition can sweep them off their feet and into worlds both dreamy and invigorating.

 

Recommendations #2 by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

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Ranging from both technical and intricate to highly emotional, our second recommendations article showcases three different artists who recently released works that we here at Piano & Coffee found to be especially noteworthy.


Éna Brennan is the multi-instrumentalist and composer who, through her recent solo-project Dowry, just released her debut single In É – an intensely emotional track with intricate movement and intriguing switches between major and minor. Brennan is highly educated in several forms of music and art, and has been collaborating with an array of different performers, something that shows in the professionalism of her songwriting – even her improvised beginnings have a clear structure to them, showing how Brennan puts thought into every part of the process. 

Brennan’s music is a beautiful mix of Irish traditional and minimalist contemporary music, and In É is an absolutely glorious track – a long, downward hill, picking up pace in what seems like an infinity, building into a whirlwind of sound and intrigue. We can only agree with what others have already noted – Éna Brennan is someone to keep an eye on in the future.


Back in the beginning of December, Behind Clouds released a two-track EP called Lost In the Layers of Clouds. The title track is dreamily divine – an ode to the soft, the smooth and the kind. Sorrow lingers just beneath the surface, not hiding… but nesting. The gentle piano plays around without stress, finding new paths and rhythms. From the Ones Looking Down at Me from Above is a heavier track, yet still so soft, with gentle fluttering and repetitive melody. A new layer is added with the chugging percussion, making it an immensely pleasant background track with its mild but unwavering ambience.


We follow the theme of sorrow with our last recommendation being a funeral piece by the Canadian pianist and composer Jean-Michel Blais, released in the beginning of February. His friend’s mother passed away recently, and in that tragedy, life was brought to the hauntingly beautiful Roses. Following Blais’ previous works, the track expands through several different genres and sensations, portraying perfectly the intricacy of human life. The track opens with an immediate sense of sorrow, hesitantly progressing – grand in its minimalism. Ever moving, we are introduced to a delicate melody, tinged with hope even in the hopeless – the track moves, both without and within me, on such a poignant level.

Terrifyingly real, Roses hides a life story in its movements, as chapter after chapter unfolds, revealing new sounds and new sides; subtle strings turn dramatic in one corner of the piece, and then the track settles softly on a gentle ending coming too fast, too soon. Blais manages to pour the entirety of a life into a single piece, leaving me breathless and frankly petrified – yet hopeful to the fact that we can still find so much beauty in even the most tragic of events.

 

P&C interview: R Beny by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Norqvist

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Austin Cairns, based in California, is the musician behind the electronic ambient project R Beny, through which he has self-released two albums and just recently released a third album via Dauw. Saudade, which is a Portuguese word for a melancholic state of mind, is filled with glittering synth and airy droning, tracks with a slow-burning build up and cascades of warmth. Austin is indeed a master of modular synthesis, and the emotion and passion he feels for the music he creates resonate clearly in every track he produces.


Austin, how were you introduced to music? Did you ever study it?

Music has been a part of my life for a very long time. I grew up with musicians in my family; my grandparents were bluegrass multi-instrumentalists and my mother played the piano. Despite my close proximity to music growing up, I didn’t truly start my own journey with music until I picked up a guitar at age 13. I took lessons for a little while, but beyond that, I am self-taught with no music theory training.

When did you start creating your own music? How did you come to explore ambient modular music?

A major reason for wanting to start playing the guitar was to play with my friends. So, from the beginning, we were creating our own compositions… for better or worse! I would also dabble with ambient guitar music from time to time, using loopers and other guitar pedals. I played guitar in many bands throughout my teens and early twenties, up until a few years ago. I was struggling with depression and anxiety and hit a major creative wall. I quit the bands I was playing in and sold off most of my music gear.

After about a year of no musical output, a friend of mine showed me a synthesizer he bought and we spent an afternoon jamming on it. I was hooked! I bought a similar cheap synthesizer for fun, but quickly realized the synthesizer’s creative potential. It didn’t take long for me to accrue a small studio’s worth of electronic instruments and to start making music again. A few months into my synthesizer journey, I started seeing demo videos on YouTube of modular synths and didn’t exactly understand what I was hearing or seeing, except that it sounded beautiful and beyond this world. I wanted to be a part of that.

Getting into modular was a revelation. For the first time, I felt like I was making music that I had always wanted to make and I was working within a creative process that allowed me to express myself.

Could you describe your creating process for me? Has it changed over time?

My creative process is not exactly set in stone. It may vary from project to project, it’s constantly evolving and changing. For recording projects, the creative process from idea to recording is very much tied together.

I usually have a general idea of a direction I’d like to go in, or at least a jumping off point. For example, I will feel inspired by something – this may be an experience, a memory, a feeling, a place, a person, a song, etc., and I will start by slowly patching and searching for a sound or texture to match from one of my synthesizers, running it through different filters and effects. Once I have something I like, I usually play around with melodies until something stands out to me.

I will record that part for a lengthy period of time and that creates the skeleton of the song. From there, everything is about building up other parts around that initial part. Searching for sounds that fit. The writing and recording process happens at the same time.

What or who is your biggest inspiration when composing?

I’m inspired by nature and emotion.

What can you tell me about Saudade?

Saudade came together very quickly, but also took a while to get to. Pieter of Dauw and I started talking after I had self-released my first album Full Blossom of the Evening in 2016. I think I initially hesitated to say yes to do a release for Dauw, mostly because I had a very positive experience self-releasing and I like having creative control over every little detail. I don’t think it took long to agree to do a release. Dauw’s pedigree as a label, as well as their true love for the music and art they put out, made it an easy choice.

It took quite a while to finally get a release together. I had an extremely busy year and ended up deciding to self-release my second album Cascade Symmetry. Saudade was recorded and worked on around the same time as Cascade. As the year was coming to a close, Dauw asked if they could release something early in the year and Saudade was the result.

In a way, the two albums are sister albums. Cascade Symmetry is about looking forward and moving on. Saudade is about yearning for the past and sifting through old memories.

What were the main differences in self-releasing and releasing through Dauw? What were your thoughts and expectations throughout the whole process?

Not as much work, haha!! Okay, that’s definitely not true, it has just been distributed differently.

In self-releasing, finishing the recording of the album is just the beginning. From there, it’s contacting and communicating with the mastering engineer for the masters, contacting and setting everything up with the manufacturers of any physical product, creating and getting the artwork ready for print, selling and shipping the physical product, sending the album out for review and press, promoting the album on social media. It’s a lot for one person to do.

With Dauw, it’s been nice to have some of those responsibilities lifted. In that, I was able to focus on the music a little more, knowing I’d have some support once I finished recording.

I could not be happier with how the whole process has gone down. Dauw has been immensely supportive. Ian Hawgood did a fantastic job on the master. Femke Strijbol’s artwork fit so well with the music, I got chills the first time I saw it. Charlotte Lybaert made a lovely, hypnotic video for the title track that absolutely nailed some of the feeling I was trying to convey with the album.

Lastly, any particular moment in your history with composing/experiencing music that stands out to you the most?

I’ve been fortunate enough to experience quite a few highlights. I think the best thing to me has been getting to know the online synth and modular community and getting to meet and share the stage with other artists who continually inspire.

If I had to distill it down to one moment, it would be getting to play the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco last year. I grew up going to shows there and have seen so many of my favorite bands and artists play there. It’s long been my favorite live music venue and is a place near and dear to me. I was lucky enough to be asked to open for a band playing there and the whole experience was beyond surreal. 

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Skylight by Elskavon by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker

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Skylight by Elskavon in an immersive and captivating listen from beginning to end. Every track is bursting with character and color, and the sonic layers of detail go too deep to fully appreciate with one play through, giving the album distinct replay value. The album’s tone is set beautifully with the opening track, Harvest, which tremors from glistening high guitar notes and skips down to a lower register, giving space for a voice drenched in reverb to sing haunting vowels. Progressing in this way, the track adds more textures from piano both bright and mellow in sound, and perhaps other stringed instruments besides electric and acoustic guitar. Altogether the track forms an immaculate quilt of wandering phrases which alone would be quite plain but together illustrate the accomplished hand of Chris Bartels, the man behind Elskavon.

As Syna follows, more aggressive and booming bass frequencies are confidently explored, though only for a moment, offering a glimpse of a perhaps darker side of the compositions in Skylight. However, after a brief respite to the treble timbre, high fidelity strings and echoing vocals, the bass re-enters the song’s motif in an altogether major and bright tonal voice. Alongside picked guitar chords – a more tangible mechanic of music than we’ve heard from guitars so far in the album – Syna declares that the possibilities within Skylight are not solely passive and ambient. 

This same statement is repeated throughout the album every time a track might float too far in the direction of ambience, whether by a clear and driven piano melody, assertive orchestral strings holding a bowed note, or synthesized drums chopping out a determined rhythm. The beauty of this album lies in how delicately it skirts the line between the ambient genre and more active types of music. With an opener such as Harvest, one might be encouraged to lay back and perhaps even nap along to the tunes. But with the energetic atmospheres that lie ahead in the album, one might find this to be more of a challenge than expected.

Elskavon has been creating music for years and has in the past generated three separate albums within three years’ time. Concerning Skylight, however, Bartels chose to spend more time with the music before sending it into the world. As he himself has called it, the album is “a labor of love” whose resulting quality of detail and composition is astounding. 

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While the sonic atmospheres and purposeful drives of Skylight are noteworthy, the title track best exhibits another wonderful characteristic of the album – the power of storytelling through music. The track begins with a lighter section of the same ambience, though punctuated by clear vocals and quiet but persistent rhythmic synth chords. The song pauses midway, then blurs into a dramatic second section full of lush pianos, deep bass drum booms, and a more focal singing voice. Within the arc of this song can be felt the ache of love for family or a romantic partner, the sorrow of loved ones lost, the drive to accomplish personal goals or the striving to better ourselves for the good of those around us. The song is a gorgeous exploration of these intense emotions, all without directly implying any of them.

Skylight by Elskavon is a true work of art in the medium of sound, and Bartels’ patience and loving labor have paid off more so than he may realize. We can only hope that the next installment in Elskavon’s discography will be equally grandiose, but until then, it will be more than enough to relish every minute of Skylight as we wait.

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Purchase and stream Skylight on your prefered platform

 

Premiere: Illuminine unveils video for Dualisms #2 (Studnitzky rework) by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

Soon to be released, #2 Reworks is a collection of several artists’ reworks of the Belgian artist Illuminine’s album #2, and as true believers in collaboration, we here at Piano & Coffee Co. couldn’t be more thrilled to see the release of an album celebrating the magic that inevitably comes from helping each other out. The first single off the album, Dualisms #2, re-interpreted by Studnitzky, is accompanied by a hauntingly beautiful video made by Melina Rathjen, filmed entirely on Iceland.

The video is a compilation of clips from nature, where the ocean – just as in the video for the original track – seems to have the main role. Birds soar in slow-motion, chirping in the background, as soft techno beats blend with the gentle, ambient neo-classical of Illuminine. The chugging up-tempo lends an intriguing feel to the otherwise striking melancholy of Dualisms #2 and creates a beautiful mix of soft and rough, as mirrored in the video – the rough of sharp rocks; the softness of ocean waves rolling gently across even the most jagged of surfaces. Two sides in perfect harmony, portrayed even more clearly as industrial clips are thrown in, alongside a slightly more aggressive sound, breaking the natural surroundings without actually changing the mood.

A perfect example of how new sides to any artwork can provoke new thoughts and emotions, Dualisms #2 has our expectations high for the coming album, and we can’t wait for its release – but until then, this Studnitzky rework will be playing on repeat.

 

Light-House by Marta Cascales Alimbau by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

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Using her experience in composing music for dance, theatre and audiovisuals, Barcelona-based pianist Marta Cascales Alimbau recently released her debut EP Light-house, after gaining inspiration from her stay on board of an old houseboat in California. A mix of both new and renewed tracks, the EP holds six pieces for piano, violin and cello, beautifully influenced by Bach, Debussy and Arvo Pärt, alongside the natural sounds and senses from the environment in which she actualized her EP.

Light-house begins with Pärt, a Spartan track, with violin and cello like two voices in a conversation, and there is something so engaging about the minimalism of airy strings, two bodies in a dance, singing in a language you’re not sure when you learned. Soon after comes House, instilling instant nostalgia, as I find myself looking out the window of a moving train, melancholy keeping the outside world firmly away – I hear and feel nothing but the gentle tugging of the beautiful track, the dancing melody telling of things I’ve done and things I’ve yet to do. The warmth of the tender piano is like two hands holding mine, reassuring me that things will work out.

We waltz into madness as Pleut takes the lead – eerie, unkempt melodies that suddenly burst into bouts of clarity, only to be overtaken by the darkness creeping ever closer. Then follows the magnificent Tide, with whispering waves rolling in the background, as strings lend an unyielding elegance to the sound while gorgeously waving from sober lightness to dread and sorrow. With such a humble mix of paces and emotion, and Marta expertly braiding the transitions together, this track, on its own, seems like a whole life story compressed into five minutes of blissful immersion.

A whole new side to the pianist is introduced as the intrigue of Bachiana entails, with variations of the same melody and subtle nuances in the hints of eastern themes. The EP ends on a softer note, with the unpredictable Arvo, its grand, slow melody like something rising out of the ocean. This track rings with the sense of a slow improvisation, every note feels like hanging off a ledge, not sure where it’s taking us next. Like the unheard musings of some quiet prodigy, Arvo is a lonely voice telling of phenomenal things to the endless sea, and a beautiful ending to this stunning EP that takes me right to that old houseboat by the San Francisco Bay. 

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Purchase Light-house on Bandcamp and stream it on Spotify.

 

Left by the Sail Road by Mark Deeks by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker

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Left by the Sail Road, a recent full-length album by pianist Mark Deeks, pays homage to the English coast of Northumberland. The music quickly speaks for itself that this album was inspired by landscapes of grassy hills, rocky shores, and the constant waves of the North Sea. Within the first tracks, this imagery and more is delivered in musical form, along with a familiarity and friendliness that can only be felt towards something one considers a past home.

While Deeks has previously released the album Lightburst, which also credits inspiration from his home of Northumberland, Left by the Sail Road is distinctly more driven by the theme of setting. Approaching directly the role of water in the coastline of Northumberland, Left by the Sail Road has a clear influence of water as an element of division and of unity, and as an element of empathy and of apathy. From track to track and even within the songs themselves, musical direction can shift as swiftly as the currents of the sea, creating a characteristic unpredictability unique to oceans and seas alone.

The album floats peacefully from track to track, from progression to progression, with ease. Musically, little of the album commands the listener’s attention, and this observation is meant as praise. Many musical homages try (and often struggle) to convey specific, gripping tales of joy, heartbreak, love, and loss. All of these themes are present in Deeks’ album if the listener pays close attention,however they are there within the music to be taken or left; all the music of Left by the Sail Road asks is that you consider the setting of these stories.

Such is the particular approach for which Deeks deserves recognition most: while beckoning the listener down a narrative path, the music never insists it. Rather, the listener can explore the music at will, floating from one aspect of the auditory landscape to the next at their own pace, or if desired take the full plunge into the emotional journey offered by Left by the Sail Road. For these reasons and more, Deeks’ most recent album is an admirable addition to his growing discography.

 

 

Forgotten Fields by Forgotten Fields by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker

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Forgotten Fields’ self-titled album weaves slow, meditative notes with occasional upbeat atmospheres to form a tapestry mirroring the poetic verses that go hand in hand with the album. It explores various instrumentations but a reoccurring voice is that of gentle strings which are present in the background of most tracks. While the album’s sound is composed largely of computer-generated acoustic instruments, this element offers a sort of comfort and familiarity; rather than utilizing a soundscape of grandeur with live orchestral pieces and booming drums, the album is more approachable and less intimidating in this fact.

The themes of Forgotten Fields deal with memory as an emotional catalyst. The very namesake of the album is that of a place once important in life which is forgotten, only to be rediscovered later when life is much different. This theme is likely relatable for many listeners – I can at least confirm that for myself – as physical spaces can relate directly to periods of time and memories of the adventures, relationships, and dreams of that time. Places, in memory, often even evoke a specific emotional response subconsciously, before our conscious mind can catch up to the emotion and rationalize it.

Far away and left untrodden
Under summer skies
Lie the fields I had forgotten
Where the swallow flies!

While listening to the tracks, or “verses” of the album, as they correspond to the verses of the parallel poem, the topic of memories is one toward which the mind wanders quite naturally. Memories themselves are a distinctly double-edged sword: when you might desire more than anything to recall something specific, it often evades your grasp, yet when you least expect it you can be inexplicably struck with the most fully detailed and complete vision of a time some years ago, without reason or warning. These happenings can bring about strong yet confusing emotions which escape explanation. Fortunately, art – written, visual, or musical – volunteers to explain what tongue cannot. As such, the metered lilt of Forgotten Fields invites us to surrender our language for what is a mellow and welcoming musical experience.

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Purchase Forgotten Fields on Bandcamp and stream it on Spotify.

 

Artist spotlight: Shreya Gupta by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Sergio Díaz De Rojas

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After four years of working as an IT engineer, Shreya Gupta quit her job in India and moved to New York to pursue her dream of becoming an artist. A graduate of School of Visual Arts, she is now working with Google, The New York Times, Fast Company, and many other relevant companies. This is the fascinating story of an incredibly talented and hard-working artist.

Her illustrations contain patterns of lines and abstract elements that are always narrating a story – from how women in science are coming forward to confront sexual harassment to the tale of a magician fighting zombies while traveling dangerous lands. There are so many details in each picture that you can spend several minutes observing them without losing a spark of interest. Personally, I find captivating the usage of color in each of her works.

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Shreya says that her stylistic approach isn’t hugely affected by her Indian upbringing, and that is evident. I would even dare to say that her work is somehow influenced by Japanese art – Yuko Shimizu, for example.

She has created visual stories for books, magazines, newspapers, as well as for packagings, and has recently signed with a literary agent with plans to start working on her own children’s book. It is impossible to know what the future holds for this artist, but whatever it is, I am sure it will be as brilliant and beautiful as her work. 

I would love to finish this article by sharing the answer Shreya gave in an interview to Make - Nice when they asked her if there is a maxim that she lives and works by. 

If someone else can do it, so can I
— Inspiring words told to a very young me by my grandpa, that I always held on to.
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Find more of Shreya's work on her website and Instagram.

 

Human Values Disappear by Pepo Galán by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

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In the beginning of November of last year, Spanish composer and multi-instrumentalist Pepo Galán released a new ambient experimental album called Human Values Disappear. The album is a strong commentary on the daily struggles we find ourselves in – the loss of decency and mutual respect, leading to a society where we’re too busy focusing on our own shortcomings that we forget or neglect to see what goes on all around us: a world in chaos, painted by distrust and dishonesty. With the help of Lee Yi and David Cordero, Galán has created this album in an effort to portray the haunting road we’ve begun travelling, and it is as poignant as it is disquieting.

The title track, featuring Lee Yi, is a gripping one, sorrow painted intensely across each long note – the droning and clattering perfectly explain both inner and outer turmoil of any human being in today’s world. The wind screeches, waves are crashing and the track ventures into a melodic ringing where unpredictable smattering paints pictures of forest fires being drenched by flighty showers of rain – I hear the horns like warning signs to stay inside, close the doors and the windows, forget you were ever here.

Following this intense track is another cacophony of ringing, as We Are All Welcome Here featuring David Cordero sets off. It starts off gentle but climbs fast into a whirlwind of sound, like a thousand birds shattering through the painted glass windows of a church, and everything moves so slowly. The ringing intensifies in perpetuity it seems, and the changes are slow and fastidious, nothing is left to chance. As the ringing drifts off it is replaced by the eerie Old Testament, a low dissonance accompanied by small bursts of input – like communicating with something that’s not quite real, but utterly calming none the less; a sense of something neither good nor bad, but alive and inquisitive.

After a short intermission with the mesmerizing melody of Half Moon, another collaboration with Lee Yi follows, as Almost Alone In This Life tells of that connection with something eternally far away, the distant memory of the values we once had, trying desperately to recall and re-establish. There’s chugging like that of a train on a railroad, telling of a movement ever forward; there’s gritty, hungry noise of mayhem as constant distractions from this goal – but we have to power through, we have to reach that place where we can find each other again. Sacred Autumn comes next, with a powerful ignition of ominous and emotive strings, building steadily towards that intense ringing – the sounds move straight through you, like the wind pressing on your chest when you stand on a cliff with your arms outstretched – it’s terrifying but you feel so awake.

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Then we find a healthy familiarity in Few Dollar More, with hopeful scribbling, chirping and rustling, accompanied by the gently grand droning telling of this urgent decay of our world going under. With this track, the album comes to its conclusion, and though it is a petrifying tale, that eternal grain of hope is always on the outskirts of your mind, soothing the worst of the angst. Galán’s creation is as beautiful as it is important, and I can only hope it will be the reminder many of us need, to take a second to actually look at the lives we are living and the choices we are making.