on Friday, 12 March 2010

Much like previous Resting Bell release, Herzogs "First Summer and the Running Dream" Countersparks The Halpern Experiment is a truly encapsulating listen.

Cooked up from a series of Cassettes purchased second hand Counterspark has manged to transform these pieces into a dreamy brilliance. The kind of drone that demands to be listened to with headphones, turned up loud, melting your brain into a dreamy rapture. Amazing stuff.

Counterspark - The Halpern Experiment Full Album Download

What Resting Bell Said :
Counterspark is the solo project of Johnny Utterback of Richmond, Virginia. A visual artist by trade, Johnny began experimenting in sound in 2006. From that point on, Counterspark has been a project of experimentation in the world electronic music. Rich textures and lush soundscapes with an underlying tone of optimism are all intertwined into the melancholy compositions that are Counterspark.

The sounds of The Halpern Experiment were sourced from a “healing sounds” cassette, found in a thrift store amongst the piles of one hit wonders. Not finding any value in the cassette’s listening experience, the tape was cut into loops and abstracted. With the focus on the textural elements of the tape and relationships of the melodies, the project became a healing method in itself. Providing refuge from reality in a swirling world of analog color and warmth, The Halpern Experiment was two years in the making.

With mastering by Tanner Menard, the eight movements truly come to life.
Line being a sister label to the marvelous and ever reliable 12k records to quote "has continued to publish documents of compositional and installation work by international sound artists and composers exploring the aesthetics of contemporary and digital minimalism as limited edition Compact Discs and DVDs."

To some 12k may be experimental in its own right, Line however takes it to the next level being specifically for ultra-minimal stuff and art installations. As such at times I've tended to keep a distance. For this release though nothing could be more instant to the ears of an appreciator of long swelling drones.

TU M’ are an Italian multimedia duo formed by Rossano Polidoro and Emiliano Romanelli in 1998. In their own words "Through a personal use of digital and analog instruments, the TU M' reveal a complex universe made up of present and past, closeness and distance, where seeing and listening become a meditative contemplation. " I couldn't agree more.

At times it veers towards the epic soundscapes of ambient dub master BvDub, allowing the pieces to flow and billow into an endless sea of tranquility. The only fault here would be Monochrome #04's length, straying into 29 minutes whereas twelve would quite happily have sufficed. The other three tracks however are exemplary both in length and content.

"A poet always has too many words in his vocabulary,
a painter too many colors on his palette,
a musician too many notes on his keyboard."
- Jean Cocteau

Tu' M - Monochrome # 03 - excerpt
Tu' M - Monochrome # 00 - excerpt

2008/2009 | Monochrome # 09+V06 | 20' | excerpt.mov
2008/2009 | Monochrome # 08+V03 | 30' | excerpt.mov
2008/2009 | Monochrome # 06+V05 | 20' | excerpt.mov

What Boomkat Said: This disc represents the auditory component of a mixed media project from Italian duo Tu M', who describe Monochromes as "a collection of modular audio and video compositions" which create sound and light vibrations that reverberate around the performance space, resulting in "an atmosphere to be contemplated". This being an audio-only CD, Tu M' have in a sense shifted the goalposts somewhat, and the only clue to the visual element you have is the album sleeve, which lifts a still image from the project. Having listened through the disc, it's actually pretty difficult to imagine how any sort of corresponding video might enhance the experience. These compact, finely worked pieces construct an enveloping ambience in their own right. 'Monochrome 01' immediately provokes comparisons to William Basinski with its looped, heavily enshrouded loops and ghostly piano gestures, but there's a more digital, less gritty feel to this album that sets it apart from that oft-copied sound. Next comes 'Monochrome 02' (unsurprisingly enough), which is far less concerned with constructing any explicit melodic presence, instead content to cast sonic shadows for twelve minutes or so - it's all characterised by a disconcerting intangibility, vaporous and strangely... absent in tone. More overtly musical is the shortest entry here, 'Monochrome 03', which unfurls chords that gently swell and fall away like a distant orchestra, only for the final piece to present a more solid block of sound, casting a veil of digital smudges over your ears for a hypnotic half-hour. Abstract and immersive listening from the reassuringly challenging Line stable.
Weepop! is a label that I've sadly not written enough about, be assured they are a label that I adore, a portal back to the pop world that I sometimes forget about when I let myself get so wrapped up in all the wonderful drone out there. Transmittens are a wonderful reminder of everything I love about the whole indie pop, twee scene that I grew up amongst.

Having known nothing about them before pressing play I was quite surprised and somehow excited by the squealing feedback that opens Marfa Texas, within 3 seconds though all is restored to wonderful drum machines, handclaps and moog lines to die for. Each song lulling you in with guitar or keyboard lines less than subtly imprinting the chorus melody in your mind before its even arrived, so much so that you can almost instantaneously sing along.

Hardly a breath is taken in between tracks, each one fighting for your attention, each one succeeding. This is one of the best simple "lo-fi" indie pop albums I've heard in some time, very much reminiscent of one of my old favourites, the Pipas with touches of the Icicles, such a wonderful knack for keeping it catchy and yet still being capable of writing more subdued numbers such as Something Else.

Places I'm Dreaming reminds me of Lily Allens LDN (this is meant to be a COMPLIMENT, i love that song!)given bedroom pop treatment with it's infectious repetitive hook. But no doubt it'll be the wonderful Hot Dog Suit that leaves you with the biggest smile of the day "somebody told me/ they know where Peter's at.../He in a Hot Dog Suit/ Dancing in Front of You/ Oh Yeah!" somewhere close to genius, a wonderful pop album that will be played again and again this summer.

Transmittens - Marfa Texas mp3

Transmittens - Hot Dog Suit mp3

What WeePop! Said :
Wow, it’s been a while since we last had a new cd up on our little pre-order shelves. It was good to have some time to catch up with all our previous releases, but I was really starting to miss that excitment you get when you hear a perfect collection of songs by a band you love for the first time, so I couldn’t be any happier to announce that we’re starting the year with a very welcome return by Kansas’ Transmittens.

In their new mini-album, We Disappear, Danny and Jen bring us ten catchy synth-pop songs laced with jangly guitars and some very clever lyrics. If that doesn’t give you a good enough idea of what to expect, get a little taste of it here.
on Thursday, 4 March 2010
Another hugely impressive release from the Hibernate label and perhaps my favourite on the label so far. Five tracks of drones that border on ethereal, each one lovely and slow. Listen hard enough on opener Serfdom and you can hear the faint sound of children playing against the windy drones and Ian Hawgood like crumples.

It's one of those releases that doesn't overdo it time wise, like Tom White's and Taylor Deupree's releases of last year, you don't feel that you have to take an afternoon off to listen to it, instead, instant, to the point and seemingly tireless.

Simon James French - Anthem - Stream Here

Hibernate Label

What The Domestic Soundscape Said :
I met Simon James French at Middlesex University when I was working on the Cut and Splice Domestic Soundscape podcast series. Along with several other artists he came to the informal workshops/classes I gave there about Sonic Wallpaper and contributed to the discussions on that topic which ended up in podcast #2 of the series, Rooms and Chambers.

I have kept in touch with SJF through following his blog Plundr Tumblr which I really enjoy reading, and was recently interested to read of his EP release, Anthem, which can be heard and downloaded here.

Serfdom - the first track - opens with generously rich and sonorous drones, the rustle of jeans and a distant patina of joyous voices. These drones continue over the subtly-changing soundscape beneath and there is a delicate, fragmentary quality to the snatches of environmental sound-recordings which move in your peripheral hearing as you listen. Is that a dog’s collar jingling? A tractor or other trundling, slow-engined vehicle?

Plunder is distinctly more ominous with more obscure and difficult-to-identify sounds lurking inside one another, ringed by dull, bell-like sounds. The tone darkens in the opening sections of Misery. Somewhere around here environmental sounds begin to rise out of the drone-soup and up to the fore, and there are some lovely sonic elements which remind me of my electronic cooker with its tap-tap-tapping sound, the bubbling hiss of onions frying or perhaps even the sound of rain pattering intensely on a surface. I love how the material qualities of sound are used here; how it somehow suggests wetness or dryness, scratchy or smooth, soft or hard, and how this materiality fleshes out the relative purity of the drones. The ethereal dronescape re-emerges towards the end of Misery and, surrounded by rustling sounds, there is an almost choral atmosphere to this section - like someone singing inside electronic wires - before the ponderous and slowly moving sequences of Falsehood open. Metallic, resonant and restless, this track pans about like an animal trying to get comfortable in its hole and fades to emptiness so that the last track - Shame - can round up the whole EP, which it does, in a rapturous crescendo of tremelo-rich drones, backdropped by what I think is the sound of cars passing.

At times in its gentleness I find this release to be very remeniscent of Greg Davis’s release, Somnia, but where Davis uses very pure drones and melodies which make it feel as though Somnia has been composed in a vacuum-sealed box, SJF allows his music to rub shoulders with a bit more environmental texture and I like this difference between the two. I enjoy the use of sounds throughout, and the pacing of each track, and the sense of Anthem as a complete work with discrete sections. My only criticism of this release is that the epic quality to the track titles and the release title itself - Anthem - do not necessarily, at least to my ears, reflect the delicacy and subtlety of the sounds contained throughout. There is something intimate and mellow about Anthem with its evocations of interior or familiar environs that I find more like vespers and less like an anthem, but I think this is a small point, and the overall sense of choral religiosity in the music makes those giant track titles forgiveable.

Another free download from Fortuna Pop! and this time a real blast from the past, Airport Girls, Honey I'm An Artist is one of my favourite pop albums from a very important part in my life musically, I remember discovering Airport Girl supporting Cinerama and playing alongside Solar Plexus (who became Saint Joan and now Ellen Mary McGee) at the now rarely used venue, The Boat Club in Nottingham.

The monstrously long titled track The Foolishness That We Create Through Love Is The Closest We Come To Greatness was always one of the highlights, starting off with an Idlewild esque riff before full on exploding into Dexys style pop and not sounding a second too long despite its length of just over 6 minutes.

The only sad thing is that my actual favourite Airport Girl song, and the original Bside to this single is not included, that of Striking Out On Your Own. Still it appears that the singles still available to buy on the website, it would indeed be money well spent. A welcome reminder of my indiepop past.

Airport Girl - The Foolishness That We Create Through Love Is The Closest We Come to Greatness mp3

What they said way back when :

"Like Belle & Sebastian meet Denim, which is the stuff of genius"

(Melody Maker)

"Indiepop doesn’t come up with many epics. The three-minute perfect pop song ideal still seems to be held in high regard, long after commercial producers have padded the norm out to four and a half with reprises, extra choruses, key change, instrumental parts and longer intros (or it seems to be anyway, there’s probably an interesting graph waiting to be made of song length on number one albums over time)

And rightly so! Brevity is important in music, so explaining the brilliance of The Foolishness that We Create Through Love Is The Closest We Come To Greatness is tricky, as it clocks in at just over six minutes. I suppose part of it is the spontaneity in the lyrics that seems to force you onto the dance floor. “Just when I thought the chance was missed… well that’s when we kissed” being the moment that the song is hinged around. It just demands you dance to it.

The Foolishness… is also important for other reasons. It was unashamedly indiepop at a time when the genre was scattered all over the place and hard to find. For someone in the early days of discovering the genre at the time, this song seemed to say that it wasn’t all over. Dancing to Airport Girl at Indietracks in 2008 was proof of that.
So, um, I suppose if I have to explain it using the three-minute perfect pop song ideal, this is two perfect popsongs. Back to back. In the same song.

It saves you the bother of having to get up to put the stylus back to the start every other time too."

(Sweeping The Nation)
on Wednesday, 3 March 2010
Fortuna Pop have kindly decided to periodically release a free downloadable single from the cream of their wonderful pop roster. This time it's Allo Darlin, a band that you'll have heard me rave about previously, and one that I'm absolutely kicking myself about not including in my end of year pop list. Easily my favourite gig of the year seeing them support the Lucksmiths at the Scala, previous weePop! single Henry Rollins Don't Dance was as good as it got last year popwise, certainly up their with The Loves, Fergus and Geronimo, God Help the Girl and The Magic Kids.

Polaroid Song picks up where Henry Rollins left off, wonderfully catchy pop with dreamy lyrics 'I Feel like dancing on my own / To a record that I do not know / In a place I've never seen before" speckles of flute and Camera Obscura-esque guitars. This one WILL MAKE my 2010 list for sure.

BSide Will You Please Spend New Years With Me? coincidentally picks up where Heart Beat Chilli left off, showing a more melancholy and yet still deeply romantic and cutesy lovableness, all Kimya Dawson if she had a more perfect voice and was much much cuter, "I've been trying to think positively/ about taking up new activities/ I'll do yoga and learn Chinese/ play accordion/ and eat my peas/ But will you spend/ new years eve/ with me/ we can hide in my bedroom/ and watch cartoons all night" all followed by a whistled refrain that will no doubt be compared to the Moldy Peaches Anyone Else But You, but who cares, this is the sweetest song I've heard this side of the new year.

Allo' Darlin - Polaroid Song EP

What Fortuna Pop! Said:
The Polaroid Song is the first fruit from Allo Darlin’s soon to be released debut album. A breezy, bouncy, eighties-style pop song that could have come straight from the soundtrack of a John Hughes movie, it was inspired by Polaroid’s decision to stop manufacturing the iconic film, a move that prompted Elizabeth of Allo Darlin’s photography-obsessed boyfriend to start his own stockpile. B-side Will You Please Spend New Year’s With Me? possesses a childlike naivety and emotional directness that conjures up the anti-folk lullabies of Kimya Dawson. As an added incentive to buy the record 100 of the 7” singles will contain a unique, individually-taken Polaroid which entitles the lucky finder to enter a competition to win a special Allo Darlin’ gig live in their own living room!
This already got itself an honourable mention in my end of year list but yet again i've found myself so completely enscapsulated by it that I feel the need to write again.

Despite being split into 12 sections, the truth is that in fact there are only three pieces here, two of which last around fifty minutes, split into several shorter pieces, normally exactly ten minutes in length and with no noticeable change. I normally hate the idea of super long tracks, pyscological no doubt but all the same they put me off, in this instance Mr Niblock has fooled me and drawn me in like a moth to the light.

Sometimes you just need a simple repetitious cycle of almost nothingness drone, the feeling of almost not being there, an ointment for the overused and over active brain, an equalizing fluid in the form of music, Phill Niblocks Touch Strings is every bit that remedy. Simple and repititious without ever veering towards eerie and every bit as delightful of Saito Koji's Candle on Resting Bell last year.

What Boomkat Said :
His fourth release for the label, Touch Strings is another commanding body of drone works from Phill Niblock, stretching across two discs. The first CD is occupied by the hour-long, six-movement Stosspeng, a composition for electric guitars and basses with a little e-bow intervention to sustain solid tones to avoid any 'artificial' post-processing. The piece is performed by Susan Stenger and Robert Poss who take up a stereo channel each, sounding a chord of three semi-tone intervals in various combinations over a variety of different octaves. As you'd imagine, it's the intensity of the microtones and subtly fluctuating harmonics that gives the composition shape, and it's really something that demands devoted listening to yield the best results. Over on the second CD, the twenty-three minute cello and sine wave piece 'Poure' is first up, capturing thirty-two layers of organic, sustaining tones. There's a fairly subtle dissonance to the composition, which takes its roots in the notes A and D but preserves an atonal quality via Niblock's layered, minuscule deviations from perfect pitch. The remainder of the second disc is taken up by the five-part 'One Large Rose', arguably the most remarkable of the three works compiled here. This is a forty-six minute orchestral piece recorded with the Nelly Boyd Ensemble in real time. It took four uninterrupted takes to get the desired result, but the version that made it to the final release sounds absolutely magisterial, manifesting itself in a powerfully physical way through the speakers, smashing the most clangourously incompatible micro-intervals together. Immensely powerful stuff that makes most drone records sound like kids' stuff. Highly recommended.