Archive for the ‘Minimal’ 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

The Sky Was Pink

Nathan Fake – The Sky Was Pink

Credit where it’s due, until reminded of its brilliance by my brother-in-law Graeme a few weeks back, I’d not listened to Nathan Fake’s stunning debut album for ages and ages, prefering to consult with Boards Of Canada, Plaid, Four Tet and even click techno maestro James Holden when I was looking for a fix of pastoral electronica.

Of course, as soon as I heard the opening bars of The Sky Was Pink, I realised the error of my ways, not least in so much as it is one of the easiest tunes to fit an image to for this site! Especially as about a fortnight ago I bought myself a Cokin filter system that included a red ‘sunset’ graduated filter. The sky might not have been pink, but it bloody well looks like it was! And yes, of all the pink hued skies I could have chosen, using the one of a lovely looking sea was conscious!

Released in 2006, Drowning In A Sea Of Love was huge at the time, and featured highly in lots of critic’s best ofs for the year, but aside from a few remixes, non of which had quite the same impact as tracks like the one above and Grandfathered, not to mention his huge remix of Isst by Tiefschwarz, Fake had a pretty low profile until at the back end of last summer he released sophomore effort Hard Islands.

Less shimmering and more shuddering than the melodic chimes of his debut, the techno factor is definitely notched up on Hard Islands, I think somewhat to the detriment of what Fake does best – the soft stuff.

Two other Fake facts – along with Stewart Price (Les Rythmes Digital) he’s my joint favourite musician from Reading – which sounds like damning with faint praise but really isn’t. He’s also I think the only person of any level of fame to have ever been in a club in which I was DJing.

You can buy both albums from Amazon or download them from Nathan Fake

Into The Trees

Into The Trees

Trentemøller – Into the Trees (Live At Roskilde 2007)

Intrepid and eagle-eyed readers of shotwithsound may remember that about a fortnight ago I posted in advance of a foolhardy scheme to scale Snowdon.

The good news is I made it the top in the midst of gale force winds, driving rain and sleet. The better news is I made it back down again with a few passable images taken in the briefest periods as the clouds broke – or half broke as in the image above.

This isn’t the first time that the work of Anders Trentemøller has featured on here (actually he wins the award for being the first repeat, although the first use was a remix not an original composition) but seeing as the last post to feature him (Go) was about speed and the city, I feel it’s justified to have one more about gradual motion and organic evolution.

I’ve long though that his music captures better than most the organic desolation present in lots of techno music since the work of Robert Hood, Richie Hawtin and Derrick May, redefined it as minimal in the early nineties… And although at times it fits the dance floor, more often – alongside artists like Nathan Fake, Plaid and Boards of Canada – his work is perfect for soundscaping a dark and dangerous countryside.

I chose Into The Trees specifically for its very gradual introduction and tendancy throughout to hint at reaching a climax with false summit after false summit of mini crescendos before finally culminating in a brutal bass and bleeps extraveganza and gently letting you back down to earth… A long slog before a brilliant denoument in other words – or just like the mountain! See what I did there?

The version above is from the Live In Roskilde 2007 EP which you can download here: Trentemøller - Live In Concert: Roskilde Festival, 2007

The original was on the Last Resort album which you can get from Amazon here.

Or again download from Trentemøller - The Last Resort

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

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:


Microcomplex| Tractile – Adorant (Marc Houle remix) |

One look at the image above will tell you two things I hope, firstly that it’s been Photoshopped to within an inch of sense and two, any music accompanying it needs to feature repetitive, futuristic beats if it is going to fit the photo.

The original image is a tower block in Islington, North London built in the brutalist style made famous by the South Bank Centre. The image above has had it’s levels played with and been tightly cropped to emphasise the repetition of the architecture. As soon as I finished the image, I knew I wanted something from M-Nus, Richie Hawtin’s (Fuse, Plastikman) Berlin based minimal label, to accompany it. It just took me a while to decide what.

M-Nus specialize in bubbling, ping-ponging minimal techno by artists like Troy Pierce, Magda and Hawtin himself, some of it a little samey to be sure, but they release far too many gems for that to matter.

Tractile has been working on M-Nus for several years but I think  Adorant is the best thing he’s done for the label and Marc Houle makes it all the better with his version, which featured on the M-Nus 2007 tour promo and is on Kontakt[2]. It’s a shimmering, playful track that adds a lot of colour and melody to the minimal techno template devised in Detroit 20 odd years ago, and shows how full and emotional a track can sound despite a paucity of elements.

Adorant is available on the M-Nus compilation Kontakt [2] which can be purchased or downloaded from their website.

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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