Archive for the ‘Ambient’ Category

Tunglid


Olafur Arnalds – Tunglid

Five years ago, had I asked you to tell me a few things you knew from Iceland, I guess you would probably have said Bjork, Sigur Ros, and then either the Sugar Cubes, Eidur Gudjohnsen or perhaps the most expensive beer in Europe. Unfortunately, the cold little island’s reputation has taken something of a hammering since then, with the collapse of Icesave robbing thousands of their savings, retail group Baugur collapse sending high street stores close administration, and then to top if off, ash from Eyjafjallajökull closing European airspace for days and ruining thousands of holidays in April.

So it might not only be known for it’s quirky musicians and their unique jangly pop anymore, but that doesn’t mean that Iceland isn’t still turning out the tunes. As well as the prolific work of Sigur Ros main man Jonsi, this week saw an announcement about a proposed collaboration between Bjork and New York’s Dirty Projectors… But away from the big names, for an island with a population less to Norwich, there is a flourishing scene of new young artists producing unique, original music, almost out of the sight of the international music scene.

Compilation series Made In Iceland is doing something about that, grouping together a pretty diverse range of artists united by their nationality. That’s where I heard Olafur Arnolds’ music for the first time; along with the afore-mentioned Jonsi and 18 of his other countrymen, he features on the 3rd installation of the series.

I knew I wanted to use something from the compilation on shotwithsound, but unfortunately, to date my adwords revenue won’t quite stretch to a ticket to Reykjavik to take some photos to accompany it, so I’ve improvised a little to use the above. It was actually shot using an infrared filter, hence the dark sky and black lake, which I think gives the photo a mysterious, ethereal nature that fits the song nicely.

You can find more info about the compilation and sample more of the songs on the Iceland Music Export site here

Tornado (Acoustic)

Jonsi – Tornado (Acoustic)

If you’ve been waiting patiently and hitting refresh every five minutes for the past month, you’ll know that updates have been very few and far between during the month of April for shotwithsound, and if you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that the reason for that was a long holiday, made even longer by being stranded follow ashmagedon, or Iceland’s Revenge as it’s otherwise known. So what better way to celebrate my return to the UK, and shotwithsound’s return to providing shots with sounds, than a track from one of Iceland’s most famous exports?

So it’s a useful coincidence that Sigur Ros’ lead singer Jonsi put out his first solo album, Go, in the first week I was away, which swiftly became the soundtrack to my holiday, not least the days spent in the amazing Halong Bay, pictured above.

There is something of the dawn about Jonsi’s voice in the best moments of Sigur Ros’ music, and also something primeval and elemental, as there is in Go. It’s this natural element to his voice, and the music that often accompanies it, that made me choose one of the most natural – in the sense of being untouched by man – photos I’ve ever taken to go with the song.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to sort and categorise all the photos I took in my moth long trip (over 4,500 believe it or not), so I am sure more of them will appear on here in the coming months. In fact, to have any chance of hitting my very loose target of four posts a month, I’ll have to do more pretty quickly!

You can by Go from Amazon here, or do what I did and download Go from Jónsi - Go You might even be able to do in one of Hanoi’s Highland Coffees like I did too, if so, well done, wish I was there.

Blood Red Moon

The XX – Blood Red Moon (Demo)

After featuring The XX high in my best of 2010 list (like every other music blogger and two bit hack), I’ve been trying to work out one of their songs to use on here for a fair while now with no luck so far.

The problem was a combination of me thinking too literally and forgetting the raisin d’etre of shotwithsound, and them writing songs that no matter how amazing they sound, are basically the musings of mooning adolescents. I was focussing too much about the lyrics (which are often sub-Twilight, although that’s not always a problem round here!) when I should have remembered that SWS is about the music – how or makes me feel, where it takes me, the mood it creates for me.

As soon as I moved away from the literal to the metaphysical (and you thought this blog could get no more pretentious?!) I worked out that what listening to XX reminds me of is late nights and dark streets, whispering greetings and flickering streetlights. And London. They remind me of London despite sounding like the perfectly chiseled love children of Serge Gainsbourg, Air, Edith Piaf and DJ Mehdi (a four way love child, eugh gross – rubbish similie ed)… Well, they sound hip, French and young anyway – but they sound like London nights and flickering lights to me.

Hence the midnight light trails in the shot above – encompassing as it does lights from the A40 and from the Metropolitan line. There is a coldness as well as a coolness in the XX’s music that I hope the image above recreates a little.

I usually do a bit of a biography of the bands I feature on here, but I doubt that anyone is unaware of their backgrounds – that school loads of people more talented than I’ll be went to; Rough Trade deal; album recorded at night in a whisper; sensation – so I shall do no more than that. The demo of Blood Red Moon featured on the b-side of the Basic Space single last summer, and is a simple, short and symptomatic of the songs that featured on the debut, all sirens, synths and smoke soaked low-key vocals.

I figured most of the people reading this will have or have heard their debut album, so I chose to use one of the b-sides to one of their earlier singles on here to keep it interesting, but if you don’t you can buy it from Amazon here or download it from The XX

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

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

7am (Inédit)

7am
7 A.M (Inédit) – The Shoes & Kelly De Martino

Celebrating the start of my holiday tomorrow with this image and the song above. The song is drawn from a compilation that Air France issued called In The Air features Nouvelle Vague, Four Tet and the Chemical Brothers in amongst a more diverse and underground selection (the likes of which I have trouble imagining bothering the playlists of anyone at BA, American Airways or Ryanair!).

Released last year, it is a compilation drawing from music played on the airline’s inflight music channel (also called In The Air) and is mostly the sort of post-Air, nu lounge music that soundtracks thousands of high-end hotel lobbies around the world – to be clear I’m in no way denigrating it for that, half my CD collection could fit the same description!

Unfortunately the image above is not France, but Spain – taken where I am flying to tomorrow in the late evening light as the moon rises over the white walled village and the sky gradually mutates from lightest blue to a black enlivened only by stars. However, as 7am explicitly mentions Spain but not France, hopefully the geographical lapse isn’t a problem.

The song is a collaboration between two Francophile American artists – long-standing power pop / indie four piece The Shoes and Kelly De Martino, an American singer-songwriter who is, as they say, big in France. Like the rest of the album, it’s gentle, low-fi, vocal led and conjures up images of flight, blue skies and discovery.

There is more info about the compilation on the Air France website here: Air France

There don’t appear to be any hard copies of the album available as far as I can tell, but as ever, you can download it from iTunes: The Shoes & Kelly De Martino - In the Air

I Don’t Know

I Don't Know

Plastikman – I Don’t Know

I don’t know…
what you’re looking at…
what you’re listening to…
what you’re thinking about…

Richie Hawtin, either under his own name or by one of his many pseudonyms (Plastikman, FUSE and Concept 1 amongst others) has been making abstract, minimal techno almost as long as I’ve been alive. From early days tripping over the river from his hometown of Windsor in Ontario to witness the first wave of Detroit techno, then being one of the fundamental parts of the second wave in the early 90s, to cementing his record label m-nus as the home of 21st century minimal techno in Berlin, he has been central to techno for many years.

For me his music has always been at its best when it’s like the soundtrack to a rave on a desolate planet somewhere on the other side of the solar system. Schizoid rhythms coupled with distorted vocals and throbbing, industrial bass became the Plastikman trademark, and while his work as FUSE and under his own name seem to come from the future, Plastikman’s best tracks are nothing less than alien.

This is taken to the extreme across the Closer album, which is less repetitive than his other work and relies more on vocals, particularly with I Don’t Know. To accompany it I wanted a similarly ambiguous image, that seem somehow unearthly, but also abstract and cold. The photo is actually originally of rocks on the beach, but to make it a little more alien, I have added various textures and played with it in photoshop a little: I was really trying to create an image that looks like a postcard found in the sands around Roswell, while I Don’t Know played on a loop via a hangar’s PA system in the background.

Strangely there is not much of Plastikman’s music on iTunes – but you can get the album itself from Amazon here:

Image of Closer

And you should also check out his website here purely for the phenomenal Flash design, particularly for both Closer and Nostalgik: www.plastikman.com

Tha

TraAphex Twin – Tha

Long exposure times after dark, and a row of slow moving cars. One of the oldest tricks in the book to convey futurism and movement in photography, but kinda neat nonetheless. I wouldn’t have made this the first shot I put up here, but I wanted something to accompany a bit of ambient / nascent IDM and this seems like the best type of image for it to me.

 You’ll notice if you notice these things the cars are on the ‘wrong’ side of the road – it is another Spanish shot, but from Barcelona this time not Madrid… On one of the huge, terrifying boulevards that track north of Las Ramblas along which Spanish drivers flash at fearful speeds.

 Tra too has a huge sense of movement, if not evolution, within its beats and it sounds to me like a direct descendent of the Kraftwerk track Autobahn, coming as it did almost before Richard D James had a hugely unique voice of his own… Leading to his genre defining (and as with so many genre defining albums, genre killing too) album Drugks.

Tra though sounds to me like a late night / early morning drive around a smooth, modern city in a fast, new car with a great sub and the stereo turned way up. So seeing as I will be doing that this evening, and taking Selected Ambient Works along for the ride, I figured I would post this today.

 Download it on Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92 - Tha

 Get the album (Selected Ambient Works Volume II) on Amazon:

Image of Selected Ambient Works 85-92

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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.