Archive for the ‘Abstract’ Category

All Is Calm

Sink Or Swim

Rachel’s – All Is Calm

I come from the ocean, and sometimes, I like to go back there too. I don’t mean in an evolutionary sense, or maybe I do a little, but more than that I mean it practically: I grew up by the seaside and now that I live in a big, busy, smelly, smoggy city, I try to escape to the sea as often as I can, and in any way I can.

Clearly that’s not always easy to do when you live two hours drive from the seaside (the days when I could ride down to the beach to check the surf have passed for shame). So sometimes I try to trick myself with art – whether it’s watching No Friends and Endless Summer, or listening to The Beach Boys and The Drums, you can cheat a little bit of sun and sea into the city sometimes.

So when I discovered Rachel’s’ music (yes that second apostrophe is supposed to be there, no I’m not 100% sure it’s grammatically accurate though!) thanks to a recomendation from @Joffy23, the first album of theirs I downloaded was their concept album about the sea, the (at least 50%) aptly The Sea and the Bells.

Rachel’s’ (nope, that really doesn’t look right does it) music is modern classical, influenced by the work of composers like John Cale, Max Richter and Michael Nyman, utilising found sound and music concrete stylistic trappings but retaining the melodies and harmonies that some of the more experimental of their peers and precursors abandoned for the sake of atonality.

They were formed in the early 90s from the ashes of Rodan, the American indie band who pioneered math rock and post rock, and despite being around for nearly 20 years, Rachel’s have only released five full length albums. The Sea and the Bells, named for a poem by Neruda, came out in 1996, since when they’ve only managed two further full lengths, though when they’re as good as this, a certain amount of tardiness is probably ok!

All Is Calm is a piano led composition that exudes the air of stillness and solitude that you would expect from the title – although the image above is possibly slightly too colourful for the tone of the piece, I think it otherwise fits neatly with the melody and the context of the work.

You can buy The Sea and the Bells from Amazon, or download it from Rachel's - The Sea and the Bells

Variation of Birds

The Knife – Variation of Birds

As this blog is less than a year old, I have yet to use two original tracks by the same artist (although I came close with Trentmoller here and here), so it is not in keeping for me feature two tracks from the same album within months of one another, but I am doing, and I hope no-one minds.

There are several special pleadings I’d like to make to justify the rudeness. Firstly, when The Knife initially announced the release of Tomorrow, In A Year, the operatic soundtrack about Darwin’s life they had scored with collaborators Mt. Simm and Planningtorock, they released the eerie Colouring Of Pidgeons as a teaser for it, and although I blogged about it here, I didn’t actually allow the MP3 to be downloaded.

Secondly, despite the digital version of Tomorrow, In A Year being released last month, the exquisitely packaged CD version only hits the streets tomorrow – although if, like me, you pre-ordered, you may have your copy by now.

And my final reason for featuring the album twice is that since I first wrote about it, my admiration, my thankfulness, my wonder, at the scope, the ambition, the realisation, the beauty and the savage strangeness of the album has only increased the more I’ve listened to it. I genuinely believe that the musical world should thank whatever deity it turns toward that artists with the imagination, the bravery and the brilliance of The Knife exist to create music as wonderful and as weird as this is.

If you haven’t heard any of the opera before, I should warn that it is pretty demanding and unusual listening, making use of atonality, glitches, and static – I cannot remember another electro artists producing anything as challenging and as avant-garde as this before. It owes much more to Schoenberg, Strauss’s Salome and Mahler than it does to modern electro or electronica.

Yesterday evening, in a trip out with some friends, as something between an experiment and a test, I played the second disc of the soundtrack, to garner their views. Unsurprisingly, they  were surprised by the music, but more, they had not only not heard of the project (who apart from geeky bloggers has?!) but they hadn’t (despite the huge Heartbeats) heard of The Knife… Which I think is a shame not just for people who haven’t enjoyed their music and for their record sales, but for our musical culture more widely. In a world where Lady Gaga, The XX and La Roux top charts, there is surely a case for an act who clearly influenced each of them to be more widely known. I don’t imagine one more wordy, wondering and wandering post on one more MP3 blog will change that much, but if one more person gets to enjoy them because of this, I’d be pretty pleased.

If you remember the photo I used for the last track, you will see the similarity of the two. In keeping with the Darwinian theme of the music, I tried to use an image that is an evolution from the earlier one – reaching higher into the sky, and procreating too.

You can buy the album from The Knife’s website here or from Amazon here or download it from The Knife In Collaboration with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock - Tomorrow, In a Year

Colouring Of Pigeons

The Knife, featuring Mt Sims & Planningtorock – Colouring Of Pigeons

Two good things happened last week: it continually snowed buckets all across the UK and in particular in London and its surroundings; and the Knife announced more details of the opera they are jointly scoring and released a teaser track that is nine minutes of unadulterated electronic brilliance.

The opera is called Tomorrow, In A Year, and is based on Charles Darwin writing his Origin Of Species – The Knife worked on the score alongside Mt Sims and Planningtorock, both Berlin-based solo artists who there or thereabouts make electro. It is not due out until March, with the double album soundtrack set to be issued on the 1st. The good news is that as you can hear from the song above, it should be worth the wait.

The track is more fragile, and sparse than anything produced by the Knife in their three studio albums, and has clearly been influenced by the work that singer Karin did with her stunning solo(ish) album in the guise of Fever Ray. In fact, it is her voice that makes the track stand out here – as it did on Fever Ray and the Knife’s last album, Silent Shout. Here, her yelps and squawks sound exactly how you would expect the vocals to sound if someone told you she was signing the arias to an opera – unique, demented and brilliant.

It is track more filled with space and more delicately arranged than anything I can imagine any of their peers producing – although the more the produce, the more unsure I am that the Knife actually have any peers. The photo above was taken during my own recent experiences of space and silence, of delicate arrangement and daylight fading. It was captured in woods deep within the countryside close to my home as the sun began to set and the chill night laid claim to the land, the low wind causing occasional flurries of snow to loose themselves from the leaves and disturb the wildlife.

Unusually for shotwithsound I am not making the MP3 above available for download as it is available to download for free from www.theknife.net if you sign up to their mailing list. You can also find out more about the opera and the album here.

One final thing is that I changed the audio plugin I use on here as WP Audio stopped working – the MP3s still stream in post, but you now need to click the link to start the player.

You can hear more of the Knife’s beautiful music on The Knife

Magic Hours

Magic Hours

Explosions In The Sky – Magic Hours

Today being the fifth of November it seems like as appropriate a day as any for some Explosions In The Sky on shotwithsound. You may be worrying that lame pun is enough to justify featuring a tune from one of the best exponants of post rock this decade but given they are actually named after fireworks, today’s their day!

And given their propensity for writing music that grows and grows from the ember of a melody to the often raging inferno of wave after hypnotic wave of rushing, crashing rock I can see no reason not to feature them on Bonfire Night. And yes that last sentence did horribly mix fire and water metaphors, give me a break alright: it’s been a long day.

The image above is a long exposure shot of a low wattage light bulb (traditional as you’d imagine Daily Mail reading reactionaries) with several post production filters to bring out the colours and (over) emphasise the fiery colours. So not a firework at all, but it sure looks cool if you ask me!

Magic Hours is from Explosions’ first album How Strange, Innocence, from way back when in 2000 – which was initially stuck out in a couple of hundred CDRs to their mates, before going whatever going viral was called before things went viral.

You can hear more of Explosions on their website here: Explosions In The Sky

Or you can buy How Strange, Innocence from Amazon

Or download it from Explosions In The Sky - How Strange, Innocence

Sunless Glare

Sunless Glare
O Yuki Conjugate - Sunless Glare

In spite of sounding, in both name and output, like the work of a Japanese eccentric working from a high-rise apartment overlooking Shibuya, O Yuki Conjugate actually hail from the somewhat less exotic local of 1980s Nottingham and are a collective of ambient musicians who have been sporadically producing music to dissapointingly little aclaim for two decades.

There is something vast and ominous about much of their work, sounding snippets of dreams and half-forgotten glimpses of futures that never came to pass. The ambient textures rarely shy so far away from rhythym to lose their shape yet at times dissolve into quite alien musical landscapes.

The image above is one of a series of more abstract, conceptual shots I have been working on recently that are trying to reference the vulnerability of light and the density of darkness… In a good way!

This shot in particular reminded me for some reason of 2001: A Space Oddesey, which is what put me in mind of Sunless Glare as it seems, to me, reminiscent of the imagery produced by Kubrick in 2001.

Listening to the song (piece?) is like watching a new dawn breaking in an electric future, where the sun is plugged in and emits only dark light and ultraviolence.

It is drawn from O Yuki’s 2006 ‘comeback’ album, The Euphoria Of Disobedience, which was the first one of theirs I discovered (embarrassingly I only picked it up because the limited edition release featured a very cool glass and cardboard sleeve, which is far and away the best CD case I own!).

Unfortunately the glass case CD version of The Euphoria Of Disobedience is out if production but as ever you can still get the digital version from O Yuki Conjugate - The Euphoria of Disobedience

Akuma No Kuma

Akuma No Kuma

Sunn O))) & Boris – Akuma No Kuma

Sunn O))) make a monumental breed of drone rock that sounds like the audio of the fall of nations and the collapse of empires. Over the years their sound has evolved and they have taken drone metal in new directions with their forward thinking production, collaborations and embracing of electronics and a wide variety of instruments.

When playing live they are (in)famous for performing in the sort of robes worn by Druids and ancient shamen – it was actually the memory of seeing them live at Sonar several years ago that prompted me to pick out one of their pieces of music from that period to soundtrack this image.

Akuma no Kuma is a collaboration with Japan’s experimentalist (with the emphasis on the mentalist) metallers Boris and has vocals from Melvins and Earth man Joe Preston – simply by featuring vocals (albeit proccesed to hell) the track differs from much of their work.

The picture was taken in Spain and is of the Temple De Debod – a real Second Century BC Egyptian monument to Isis and Amon (damn maybe I should have used an Isis song?!)… It was donated by the Egyptian government to the Spanish in 1968 in gratitude for Spain’s aid and has stood in Madrid ever since.

This image is the first in a series of more experimental music and unusual pictures I have planned for the next few months – I’ll try to put some normal music up with normal photos too, but my shots have taken a turn towards the abstract recently so I figure the blog may too.

You can get the collaboration album between Sunn 0))) and Boris, Altar, from Amazon for a fairly hefty price here.

Or you can download it from Boris & Sunn 0))) - Altar

Return top

shotwithsound

shotwithsound is a blog about the music I love, with occasional forays into my photography, and other things that catch my eye.

You can see more of my photography on my website www.nicstevenson.com.