Review

A Baleia by Will Samson by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Björk Óskarsdóttir

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The British-born, Brussels-based Will Samson has just released his seventh solo work, an EP named A Baleia, on Dauw.

Samson has been known to experiment with recording techniques, focusing on old tape machines and analog equipment. He portrays some rather strong musical characteristics throughout his works, but A Baleia differs from the rest when it comes to style. As an example, his previous album Welcome Oxygen from 2017 (a treasure, by the way) seems inspired by folk elements, possibly belonging more in a category with the likes of Bon Iver, Kings of Convenience, Sufjan Stevens or even Beach House.

A Baleia, as expressed by the release label Dauw, was originally inspired by Samson's time spent in a flotation tank, where he experienced a complete, dark, silent weightlessness. He has described the experience as a first in a series of “deeply healing” events, and the result which we hear are four wordless, ambient works. The album title, as well as the tracks, are in Portuguese — A Baleia meaning “The Whale”. Samson's previous albums generally have titles in English, but this development might be a tribute to the composer's Portuguese ancestry, as well as his time spent in Portugal.

Through the four tracks, titled Faroleiro, (which translates as Lighthouse Keeper), A Baleia (The Whale), Brilhar (Shine), and the final track, Vozes Encontradas (Found Voices), the listener gets introduced to the void, an air of weightlessness. Each track is carefully woven out of different, thick and thin textures of organic sound, rays of fluid tones, sometimes carried in a forward movement and sometimes with an impression of a complete time-stop. The final track is especially soul-stirring, perhaps more intense than the previous ones, maybe depicting the end of the journey. An ongoing minor third gives the atmosphere, travels between different carriers of sound and gets answered to by the sound of an optimistic, warm violin that feels almost like a divine light, welcoming you back.

Will Samson's evolution between albums is very enjoyable to observe, but the recurring theme in all of them seem to be light, growth, rebirth and balancing of the soul. Samson manages this well and transports his personal healing experience straight to the listener. A Baleia and its meditative, fluid, luminous music are here to make your life better.

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Sleep Stations by From the Mouth of the Sun by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

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On May 18th, the brightly brilliant From the Mouth of the Sun, comprised of Aaron Martin and Dag Rosenqvist, released their latest work, Sleep Stations EP – a gorgeous continuation of their previous works, as the pieces were actualized alongside many of the tracks from both their full-length album, Hymn Binding (2017) and the soundtrack they scored for Menashe. There is nothing repetitive or derivative about their new EP, though, as the musicians managed to sum up a different theme and focus fully on it, transforming the six pieces into a work of art that stands separate from their predecessors, while still carrying many of the characteristics of the pieces that came before.

The short intro, About the Birth of Stars, with its completely innocent and intimate sound, brings us closer than I could have imagined possible – soaring strings and fluttering wings take us up and forward, through some magnified version of the universe we’re about to enter. It transcends into the warm but lonely Reaching When Nothing Is There; we hear the sorrowful, absentminded humming of someone awake while the rest of the world is asleep, deeply affecting on some new level of distress – add in a beautiful new voice and suddenly we see, we hear, twinkling stars like an answer to the void, to the empty, and maybe all is well again.

The swooping, minimalistic ambience of About the Life of Stars send images flying through my mind – I can practically see the sound waves rolling through the air, like the curves of the mountains, framing the sky, vibrating with the deep rumble of Earth’s constant movement. The title track follows then, a long, unhurried beginning where I strain to hear the rustling static, telling of the story coming more and more into focus. It grows slowly, so slowly, into a rumbling droning: the track moves like the gentlest of giants, walking through seas like they’re puddles – slow and careful but ever moving.

About the Death of Stars brings us hastily down to earth again, with a new longing for the infinite sky above us – the piece is like a eulogy of sound, with dramatic cello backed up by the safety and clarity of the piano. A second part of the track allows for a sudden growth into a grander state, the breathtaking cries of strings being soothed in their mourning by the steadfast piano, only to fade out into a delicately somber outro. Ending on A Place We Cannot See, with a shuddering melody, exposed and fragile but completely unafraid, the EP finds a hopeful sound to break through the clouds, and becomes the rebirth of all the things we once lost. Staying true to their sound, From the Mouth of the Stars has brought forth another beautiful addition to their growing collection of releases, with Sleep Stations EP proving a perfect next step for the duo.

 

P&C interview: Florian Christl by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker

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Florian Christl is a new arrival in the classical and ambient music scene, and his debut album Inspiration was released in March of this spring. Though he has been a musician all his life, this breakthrough into the professional music world has afforded him recognition from many notables including Sony Classical record label and pianist and composer Nils Frahm. We were very fortunate to catch up with Florian and learn more about his recent success while he has already been on the road, playing concerts around Europe.

Let’s start at the beginning. How did music enter your life? When did it become a central part of your life?

Music has always fascinated me and played a very important role in my life. I started piano lessons at the age of 5 – I can still remember my very first lesson. I was so excited that I immediately knew, "That's what I want to do”! I found my great passion in music and playing the piano when I was 5 years old and this passion has not diminished even today - on the contrary! From day one I have invested every free minute in the music and worked on being able to describe myself as a "professional musician" one day.

As a musician with less background in theory and formal instruction, do you feel this gives you any advantages in your composing and performing? Any disadvantages?

In fact, this question has kept me busy for years. Of course, a basic understanding of musical theory is needed. But for me, music is not a purely theoretical arrangement of tones and chords. Music is a passion for me. Music is emotion and in my opinion, it cannot be forced into a given grid or constructed according to a schema. I want to create something new, let my inspiration run free and let the music be music.

I think if I had studied music my tunes might sound different today. But I do not think it's a disadvantage for me not to have studied music – perhaps it is an advantage since I can pursue completely free my kind of composition, and thereby have a different view than a classically educated musician. I always had a clear goal in mind and knew what I wanted; I have taught myself and I am firmly convinced that this path and the years of work, self-study, and experience have made me the musician I am today.

Could you walk us through your process of composition?

What fascinates me about music is that you cannot plan or force it. Music just happens. I am sitting at the piano, improvising, and suddenly there is a melody that completely absorbs my current mood and carries it in itself: pure inspiration. From this point on, I am completely trapped in the music. I play the melody, develop it further. Meanwhile, I also hear the strings in my head. The piece actually comes out by itself. Sometimes it seems to me that the melody just waited to finally become audible.

When composing, do you envision these other instruments or does that addition come afterwards? Do you ever compose with other musicians?

I always compose alone. Composing is a very personal and emotional process for me. I shut out everything around me. In these moments, there is only me and my music. As mentioned above, a new piece builds up gradually in my thoughts. More instruments like the string parts I usually have in my ear right from the beginning. But sometimes a piece is completely finished and only at the hundredth play of the piece, I realise that something is missing. Then the creative process begins again from the beginning and the "real" piece is created. Like for example "Close Your Eyes," the second track on the album.

When did you first realize that your music was gaining significant attention (from the likes of Nils Frahm and Sony Classical)? What was your reaction?

What has happened in the last few months still feels somehow surreal. Record deal, photo shoots, video shoots, concerts, recordings in the recording studio, album release, #1 in the iTunes classic charts, upcoming Germany tour etc. My dream is about to come true... it's hard to understand! But there are always these little moments in which I really understand for a few seconds and perceive what is happening here. These are moments of absolute happiness in which tears of joy come to my eyes every time. I'm overjoyed and thankful and I'm looking forward to the coming time.

Your very recent debut album, ‘Inspiration,’ was released this spring, but it sounds like you’ve been composing and performing your own music since 2013 or earlier. Have the songs of ‘Inspiration’ simply evolved over the years into the form they are now? Or are there original compositions of yours prior to ‘Inspiration’ that do not appear on this album?

On this album, I have united my highlights and favorite pieces from my previous musical work. All pieces are original versions. C'EST LA VIE is e.g. already created in 2011, CLOSE YOUR EYES or DESIRE were created in 2017.

You have taken the music of ‘Inspiration’ on the road to perform at various concerts across Europe so far. Will you continue this tour of concerts beyond May or return to compose more music for the future? Or, have you already been creating new music while on the road?

The past few months have been such an inspiring time for me. I've already written so many new songs, I could go straight to the studio and record another album! But of course, we'll go on tour and do as many concerts as possible to present to the audience my debut album ‘Inspiration.’ We are currently planning further dates for this year.

As you have grown as a musician into the position you now occupy, is there anything you would like to change? Or anything you would have done differently up to this point?

I would do everything exactly like that again. As I said, I think that all the decisions, obstacles and events in my path have made me the musician that I am today.

The music video for the song ‘Fly’ is astonishing. How was this video made? Can we expect to see more visual art such as this music video in the future?

The video shoot was a terrific and inspiring experience. We packed an old piano in the VW bus of my buddy and we drove to Austria in the Alps. There we put the piano right in the middle of nowhere and filmed it. Sitting at the piano with a view of the mountain lake, glacier and the breath-taking alpine panorama was simply indescribable. We will definitely produce more videos of this kind in the future.

If you could choose one musician to spend a day with in the studio, composing or sharing ideas or maybe just hanging out – who would you pick?

In the studio: Daniel Hope. Composing, sharing ideas: Woodkid.

Lastly, what kind of new things can fans of yours get excited about in the near future? What new projects are in the works?

I stand right at the start of a hopefully long musical journey, full of ideas, inspiration and zest. However, at this moment I’m focused on the presentation of my latest album INSPIRATION. At the same time, I'm working on a sheets book for my album INSPIRATION, which will hopefully be released in the middle of this year.

 

See by Muriël Bostdorp by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Edward Willoughby

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Netherlands-based composer and pianist Muriël Bostdorp’s recent release See is a collection of pieces that are evocative and steeped with imagery, and a melancholy undercurrent running throughout. A series of piano solos drenched in sepia tone, this album has a gentle, lulling quality and is easy to get lost in. These songs seem to loop and undulate, patterns emerging from the circles and ellipses. Like a flip-book of flickering images, these songs speak to the imagination and bring dreams to life.

It is no surprise in hearing this music to learn that this is an artist who has been drawn to piano and other keyboard instruments from a very young age. Even as a late bloomer commencing formal lessons from age 16, there is a clear sense of musicality illuminated by the passion she pours into these compositions. Her contemporary classical style has a cinematic feel, and draws on classical influences such as Claude Debussy and Philip Glass, and from contemporary composers such as Nils Frahm and Max Richter.

Opening track ‘Intro’ sets the scene with a wistful sigh, like a sad song from an antique music box. Wavering in the breeze of a desolate landscape, the piano textures and melodies that emerge dance like shadow puppets, gentle and mellow but with an icy chill. ‘Danse des Nuages’ has a feeling of flight and flurry, with a buoyant melody that is whimsical and naïve in its playfulness. By third track ‘About A Girl’ we find ourselves in a deep introspective place as the tempo slows to an aimless wandering pace, as if searching for something unknown. This song feels a little deeper with a sombre tone, like sorrow tempered by the passage of time.

‘For Willem’ is a standout track and feels like an opening in the clouds, an outpouring expressing things that are perhaps beyond words. This song best exemplifies the bittersweet sensibility that runs through the entire album; a constant tension between the feeling of hopefulness and listlessness. Following on with ‘My Heart Crumbles,’ we are led into a pensive, reflective state with a tinge of sorrow and regret at the inevitability of fate, before the graceful melody of ‘The Comforting Words of Your Mother’ offers a moment of repose; a warm embrace.

Moving back into that introspective space, 'Lights Out’ is also another poignant moment on the album, like a rainy day alone with your thoughts. Next, with ‘Miles’ Bostdorp is a little more playful and adventurous, flipping between two contrasting ideas, with some surprising, angular chord changes. Then there is a moment in time marked with ‘Beneath Starlight,’ which is like an ephemeral glimmer of stillness, like a gentle lullaby.

‘Merry-Go-Rewind’ is a playful but sinister, like a dark dream waltzing through an old ballroom with velvet curtains and dust-frosted chandeliers. Playing with the idea of spinning in the other direction, this music is subtly disorientating. As the darkness further encroaches, ‘Abandoned’ conjures up images of haunted houses with a lurking sense of doom, as if being stalked by fate. Finally, the album closes with ‘Falling,’ conveying a feeling of speed and urgency, as if rushing towards something. Relentlessly galloping, with a sense of yearning, striving, reaching out in vain.

The individual songs on See are beautiful, though sometimes blend into each other; as an album there sometimes isn’t quite enough light and shade. The artist has done a wonderful job in creating a tracklisting that best maximises the contrast between the songs, and nonetheless covers a broad range of nuanced emotions. Using the sounds of prepared piano, she blends the mellow Una Corda style piano sonority with the delicate intricacies of hammers and the internal action of the piano with its percussive tics and creaks. A lush sound indeed, this seemed to suit some songs better than others, and lost a little impact in its blanket application. It is very expressive; adding a complex timbre that creates a very distinct feeling, but at times becomes a distraction, obscuring the playing.

Overall, this was a very pleasant album to get lost in, instantly accessible and very easy to listen to. Given full attention over several listens, these songs reveal themselves on a deeper level, as their subtleties unfold. Equally, a casual listen will surprise in the places this allows the mind to wander. This is unquestionably contemplative music, and is best listened to in solitude by the window on a rainy day.

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Purchase and stream See on Bandcamp.

 

Improvisations On An Apricot by Aqueduct Ensemble by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Edward Willoughby

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Sophomore release “Improvisations on an Apricot” from label Last Resort is the fruits of a collaboration between Ohio based artist Keith Freund and his neighbour Stu. Keith has previously released music as part of both Lejsovka & Freund and Trouble Books and Stu is a piano tuner and professional pianist and together they build this album adding to each other’s improvisations. This album is rooted in free jazz, taking flights of fancy into cosmic synths, and is joyful and playful in its summery, daydreamy quality. There is a real sense of considered inquiry and experimentation in this album, with a pleasing balance of gentle parts with more challenging moments.

There is a sense in this album that everything is part of a bigger whole, each song almost forming a different corner or focal point of the larger canvas. Indeed, there is a great sense of painterly quality to the way this music flows, and the colours and textures are layered. This ECM style jazz album comes rebooted with a few modern touches of synth licks and stylistic choices. The feeling of spontaneity from the improvised elements, combined with the deliberate consideration behind creative choices in combining ideas makes for a listening experience that feels like a Super 8 Film flashback to a childhood summer vacation.

In that vivid sense of reality that childhood daydreams have, ‘Borrowed Sax Test’ opens the album with its smoky, hazy open chords. Subtly psychedelic, subconscious and surreal, the saxophone meanders amongst liquid, trickling synths and a gentle bed of mellow texture. A triptych of songs entitled ‘Cut Grass 1,’ ‘Cut Grass 2,’ and ‘Cut Grass 3’ follows this short track. In these next few tracks, there are equal parts soothing and challenging elements, with a sense of balance despite the looseness of form.

‘Cut Grass 1’ opens with the off-kilter, stammering rhythm of piano, held in a moment of anticipation before casting off into a sprawling dream of arpeggios and bright trumpet, as the bass is swooning below. Following on with ‘Cut Grass 2,’ this track ventures into a more bold experimentation of sparseness and looseness of form. Tone clusters and staccato gestures punctuated by great spaces in between build a jittery, uneven background for wailing, droning calls, like stretched out tape samples. Finally, ‘Cut Grass 3’ returns to familiar piano murmuring and the moonlit tones of a single muted trumpet, with the texture of rapid-fire rhythms.

‘Potters View North’ hits us with a deliberate reminder of the improvised spontaneity in the studio with a snippet of studio banter left onto the start of the reel before the piano embarks on its hopeful, lilting melody. Layers of saxophone, synth and rattling textures build, while the bass chases its tail in the background, creating a wash of sound that is bright and airy, like the horizon at twilight. Then the tone of the album shifts with ‘In Perfect Air,’ with its open saxophone chords overlaid with manic, flickering synth textures and a sustained bassline.

On penultimate track ‘C. Backlit’ there is a glimpse of hummingbirds and insects fluttering in the heat of summer amongst the textures of broken piano chords. Drunken bass washes against a background of bustling synths, filtered strings and modulating tone colours. The album concludes with “To Close Without Saving,” with a reedy drone, spaced out piano and a drowsy bottom end of swirling bass. Pierced with bright rays of trumpet sunshine, the sounds become distorted, pushing to the edge of discomfort, and then abruptly stops.

In its limited use of instruments and timbres, there is a real sense of a controlled palette, and this unifies the album from start to finish. The combination and variation of these different colours and textures truly felt like listening to something visual be laid out on canvas. The sonic sensibility of the album really evoked the idea of brushstrokes, gestures, scraping and smearing, painting in a way that is somewhere between expressionism and abstract impressionism. 

 

Broken Access by Theo Alexander by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Edward Willoughby

Crystalline piano and otherworldly electronica effortlessly mingle together in UK based composer Theo Alexander’s latest release ‘Broken Access’ in which five contemplative, reverent tracks take us through a journey flickering between outer space, and the place where dreams happen. There’s a sense that one is crossing over to somewhere far from this world as this album shifts and turns, a whir of stirring time and space. It is grounded by piano motif, texture, and a familiar glimmer of melody and bass movement, calling us back home. Above this swirls more experimental sounds and textures, elevating the overall sonic experience to something much more compelling.

The opening track ‘Palliative’ glimmers in a liminal space, fluttering like a butterfly, shimmering like a dream; gentle piano like raindrops on the water’s surface. At first contemplative and optimistic, then
shifting, pivoting across timbres, the layers build and the sound mass modulates. Like a flower opening out, the soft muted sound of piano hammers ripples rhythmically and insistently, giving way to mesmerizing sounds as the electronic manipulation builds, whipping up a haze. With a sense of sinking, the sound thins out to a held tone, textured and warbling, like a static beacon of light in the distance, holding on an impossibly long time at this point of stasis, before gently dying away.

Then, like a ghostly apparition, lead single ‘Hammer Frenzy’ reveals itself in a distant flicker of soft, mellow piano, dancing in kaleidoscopic rhythms and circling persistently. This evolving motif is beguiling and mesmerizing; it sounds like a place of stillness, outside of time, with its scintillating piano textures cosmically colliding. Here, Alexander builds on the style he has developed across previous releases, combining the rhythmic drive of minimalism with unconventional techniques. He creates a seductive, enchanting swirl of splintering patterns, out of which emerges a strong melodic line of open voiced chords. The piece continues to build and evolve, subtly shifting, then concludes with an abrupt sense of waking up from a dream; a flicker of sobering reality, and the piece disappears into silence.

In the middle, we find ourselves at ‘A Matter of Balance’ in which we are plunged into a dark, cavernous space. In a gentle, disorienting moment suspended in slow orbit, music flickers like glowing neon flashes punctuating the darkness. As the whirring bass appears beneath, there is a sense of being dangerously high, looming above, before coming down to the earthly texture of twinkling piano, and suddenly we’re home. The sound descends into distortion, as the door is slammed shut behind.

Following on with ‘Fortuité,’ the album takes a turn to a more nostalgic sound, like looking back in time through a window as the sounds of piano filter through, like a prayer or a meditation. It unfolds like a minimalist collage of timbres harmonising like shards of a chandelier, spinning and whirling, before gentle bass gives shape and movement to the forms. Finally, it dissolves into a gurgling, bubbling alternate reality as a simple piano line re-emerges, giving way to a playful skipping melody as the piece winds down.

The album concludes with a sombre, lulling piece entitled ‘Aspects Withdrawn’ which leaves us in a wistful state. There is a sense of floating, falling in slow motion, like space debris, with a whirring texture, and a peppering of percussive clicks towards the end. This final piece closes off the album as a brief moment of pause, offering sense of conclusion, and a final impression of having experienced a lucid dream.

In its entirety, the album combines and overlaps acoustic piano and electronic manipulation with a deft touch that creates an evocative, and at times even moving sense of being taken on a journey to another world. In its minimalist aesthetic, rhythm and tone colour create a wonderful lattice through which the threads of filtered and manipulated sounds are woven, placing this work into a contemporary context that is of its time in an effortless way. There is a sense of the tone colour and rich harmonics of piano being lifted and augmented by the added electronic colours, and the interplay between elements lends a deeper conceptual foundation and structure.

 

Black Box Animal by Luton by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

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Recently formed Italian duo Luton, made up of Roberto P. Siguera and Attilio Novellino, spent the last few months recording several tracks on numerous locations throughout Europe, actualizing their debut release, Black Box Animals. The album is a trailblazer of unapologetic intrigue and colouring outside of the lines; the duo’s sound can only be described as the perfectly sewn together contrasts of pleasant intimacy and haunting imagery. Electro-acoustics play a big part in producing the eerie backdrop and is introduced right away, in Mount Kenya Imperial, with its deep, rough, calculated scenes of turmoil – of huge machines, lost in an abandoned world, not unsettling per se, but sobering and humbling. The ringing, sweeping sounds and the clunking and battering of old machinery are weighed up by the occasional long strokes of strings, adding a human touch to the abandoned, industrial scene.

The moderate, transient Spectres of Mark is gentle in its muddled soundscape, and seemingly a transitioning track, taking us to one of the album’s strongest additions. Södermalm Phantom Cab is made up of three parts; an immersive beginning with car doors slamming and an engine softly purring, that builds into a breathing loop of white noise, strings carefully sliding onto the timeline. Then we’re introduced to a pleasantly unhinged rhythmic, a stumbling determination, a city late at night but someone is wide awake and watching it all. It erupts into a chaotic transition and ends with a big band-vibe, jazzy and mysterious, elusive but oh so intriguing.

The innocence does not last long, as we move onto Eternal Now, allowing the piano at the forefront. It’s a melancholic and eerie piece, reminding us again of what we’re listening to, of what kind of world we’ve entered. Black Concrete hints to more of this darkness, telling of some ‘thing’, masquerading as one of us, walking around in our clothes and speaking our words. The album is a whirlwind of different emotions and sound palettes, with the rolling waves of sinister in Night Avalanche being followed by the expressively experimental Elk Talk, soothing in its carefree curiosity.

Ice Museum becomes the pinnacle of the unsettling story, as I find myself emerged in this haunted place, something otherworldly just around the corner. It slips just out of reach with every breath, the unbalanced rhythmic lending another sense of surrealism. Luton has created a dystopian world inside this beautiful album of theirs, blending the intimacy of acoustic instruments such as the piano and the zither, with the unreachable, fluttering droning – like the contrasts of two highly different but equally sentient beings, finding some middle ground; the forlorn strings like a bridge between the two. Black Box Animals is a flawlessly crafted debut, and one can only hope for many more albums to come.

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Branches of Sun by Aukai by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker

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The recent release of Aukai (Markus Sieber), Branches of Sun, is one of the most gorgeous, genuine pieces of music to be heard in 2018 so far. The music is crafted with an expert hand and conveys peaceful loneliness, childlike hopefulness, and an overwhelming calm across the 12 tracks of the album. Even without knowing the premise of how the album was created, it emits the spirit of nature in its purest form – absent of any other human influence – to an indisputable degree.

The album’s creation is worth learning, though, as it can add a new dimension to the music beyond simply listening. Sieber took a deliberate and unhurried approach to this album, building it meticulously day by day in the recording environment of a lone cabin deep in the woods of Colorado. Having himself a background in a more rustic style of living while he was a kid in Dresden, Germany, Sieber welcomed this atmosphere like an old friend and set out to record the music of Branches of Sun over a careful and deliberate period of time. Alongside him throughout the process were various musical contributions from the likes of his wife, Angelika Baumbach, and brother, Alex Nickmann, as well as Anne Müller, Jamshied Sharifi, Bogdan Djukic, and Miguel Hiroshi, all of whom have esteemed backgrounds in the music world.

The music itself embarks the listener on an immediate journey. The first two tracks, Colorado and Oars, work together to open wide a world of bitter cold, vast open skies that seem taller than normal, and pointy evergreen trees capped with snow on the horizons. Colorado specifically communicates a sense of utter alone-ness that is so immersive listeners may literally feel that they are there with Sieber in that cabin, far from civilization, in the cold mountains. This feeling can even seem frightening in a beautiful way, but Oars quickly follows to contrast this with a sunny, warm sound that is reminiscent of the beginnings of spring in a place plagued by snow and cold.

Across the entire album is a vastness and wild sense of nature in its most raw form: that which is unaltered by human hands. The music takes time to convey the intense power of nature in this form, but also its unrivalled beauty and delicacy that is visible only to those who take the time to look. Sieber has always had an eye (or rather, ear) for this element of nature, and has always captured it well within his music, but this latest release is by far the most successful album yet in this regard. Branches of Sun is an album which deserves the highest praise for these reasons and more, and if nothing else, hopefully, this review can inspire some to listen to it, that wouldn’t have otherwise.

Get Branches of Sun on vinyl or CD at Aukai's Bandcamp store

 

Rasa by August Rosenbaum by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Amanda Nordqvist

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Back in November of 2017, August Rosenbaum, a strong name in a lot of influential Danish music, released an album truly showcasing his own talents, front and center, after spending a lot of time supporting other great names of the industry. The album, Vista, was jazzy and experimental, with an undeniable core of steady, driving piano, which Rosenbaum recently decided to allow its own stage time. Rasa is an EP consisting of five of the pieces from Vista, scaled down to solo piano, as well as one new addition, making for a whole new sound and a complete new sensation.

While Vista is filled to the brim with intriguing, high intensity tracks, Rasa reeled it all in and compressed itself into a compact little world, with just a man and his piano. Recorded in one three hour long sitting, back to back with finishing recordings for Vista, gives a delicate desperation to the EP, granting it an absolutely irresistible sound – the last and perhaps the most earnest of Rosenbaum’s energy was poured into this collection, and it truly shows. Angelo with its gloriously unpredictable melody, lulls us into an eerie sense of mystery and intrigue – we’re walking around an old house, floorboards creaking, the fog of half-real dreams clouding our minds. The haze of repressed memories simmers all around us, awakening something slumbering deep inside our guts. This sober, somehow almost reproachful piece, could well be the soundtrack to those dreams that aren’t quite nightmares but still leave you with a sinking feeling in your ribcage.

There is such a considerate, thoughtful calibration to every step throughout the EP, and still it never loses its flow and movement. The tracks weave in and out of each other, a testament to their previous life, where they provided the backbone to carry the album; still, they’re always one step ahead of me, going in exactly the opposite direction I was imagining, as though Rosenbaum made a point of never falling into the old, easy traps of composing – and thus making sure he could never be accused of taking the safe route.

Then suddenly, there is something intricately homely about Milo, the last track of the EP – or perhaps I am just finally accustomed to Rosenbaum’s sound, completely embraced by the warm, serious piano. I can lean back and let the notes wash over me like waves of some gentle ocean, as the melody grows more eccentric, more elaborate, taking on yet another form, again and again, swerving between milestones and avoiding any category it could ever fall into. I would lie if I didn’t admit that I truly prefer these scaled down versions of the pieces; something about the minimalism, allowing for even grander expressions and movements, just makes my heart sing – and I sincerely hope Rosenbaum keeps following his instincts and staying true to the strong core of his compositions.  

 

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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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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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

 

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.