04 October 2009

Remote_ Thoughts Has Moved

After a lengthy hiatus, Remote_ Thoughts is now up and running again but has moved.

You can find it here:

Remote_ Thoughts

It's in a simpler format and has easier categorisation and I think the improvement is tangible.

Look forward to much more regular updates in the future.

Hope to see you soon!

23 August 2007

Fourm / Steinbruchel - Knot 3 - White_Line Editions - 3" CDr

I'm an unabashed fan of BG Nichols' work whether it's under his Si_Comm or Level guises and now I'm extremely pleased to have experienced his new Fourm project.

Having discovered a recording of a Ralph Steinbruchel live set entitled 'Box' he set about getting permission from the artists to rework the pieces from the CD in his own inimitable style. He duly received a thumbs-up from Steinbruchel and this absolutely marvellous 3" CDr is the end result.

Packaged in a plastic wallet with a set of 4 postcards featuring some rather nice minimalist artwork, the audio content is a re-imagining of the source material using electronic processing to add layers of depth and sparse beauty to the original. Rather than completely deconstructing the work, Nichols approaches the reinterpretations with respect and cunning to provide a compelling series of pieces.

Strictly minimalist, the work is a series of beautifully cultivated layers and rhythmic elements that sits somewhere between his micro-fine high frequency work as Si_Comm and the more lush melancholy ambient sound of his Level project. The effect is strangely soothing, yet has enough edge and background layering to reward thorough listening. That said, however, there's a real ambient overtone, particularly to the first track, 'Knot 3' and this gentle way of easing the listener into the CD pays dividends.

By the time you reach 'Knot 2' you're greeted by an altogether more rhythmic and angular piece of work that, once again, manages to retain a calm and hypnotic feeling whilst dislocating you with off-kilter drops and stutters. The underlying drone is a thing of great beauty and accentuates the overtly a-tonal sound that plays across in tandem with the rhythms.

The final track, 'Knot 1', is yet another superb example of depth in drone. Pulsating and, no doubt bass rumbling bottom end collides with a menacing series of foreground tones that, at times, seem to be trying to communicate with you. I wouldn't be at all surprised if there's a hint of manipulated vocal in there somewhere. Sci-fi minimalism with attitude and the sort of oceanic depth that fans of Richard Chartier or NVO will be extremely pleased to hear.

In essence this is a project of some substance and I'll certainly be looking forward to the next instalment in the series.

Once again Nichols delivers a wonderfully thought provoking and engaging piece of work.

Available as a limited edition of 100 copies from Si_Comm's Myspace page as well as Smallfish Records

15 October 2006

Mnortham - Automnal 2003 - and/OAR - CD

And/OAR continues to impress me as a label with its varied, original and extremely high quality release and it’s clear that owner Dale Lloyd takes a great deal of care over every single release.

As such it’s always a pleasure to hear a new CD from such a quality imprint and this release from Mnortham is absolutely sublime.

The three tracks that make up the 55 minute CD are audio snapshots of three different locations in time and reflect the ideas and feelings the artist had whilst relocating around the globe thirteen times in the just two years, culminating in his arrival back home in Autumn 2003.

Prepare to be soothed and engaged by the work on offer here as there’s a tangible sense of difference between the pieces, even though the approach is roughly the same each time with processing of location recordings and found sounds forming the main structures.

‘Glacier Du Trient, Switzerland/France’ is a light, breezy, yet discordant piece that lifts you up with its high end drone sounds and insistent clicks in the background which force you to pay attention. It’s hard tune it out and you’ll find yourself listening to it in depth and discovering more and more resonant frequencies existing than you imagined at first.

‘Eagle Creek, Indianapolis’ has a heavier, more oppressive tone and bears a similarity at times to some of the work of Wolfgang Voigt under his Gas moniker. Combined with the sound of cicadas in the background the organic tone that drives the track forward gives you a palpable sense of a wide open space inhabited by creatures of the night.

The final piece ‘Ils Grosbois, Montreal’ is the most haunting of the works here. A mid/high-frequency drone that works with discordant layers resonates at just the right level to create a sense of dislocation, gradually adding in subtle static sounds and scratchy, gritty tones into the background. Again this give the track a real sense of movement, driving it ever forward.

And it’s this sense of moving and never settling in one place that permeates the whole CD… a feeling of transience captured for eternity on a piece of encoded plastic.

That’s the magic of music and it’s certainly where the magic of this CD comes from.

A delightful, beautiful and very personal piece of work.

Lucky & Easy - Hookahs - Ampoule - CD

The big question for me has always been ‘Is Lucky & Easy actually Pub in disguise?’

A question that’s never been answered to my complete satisfaction unfortunately… not that it matters a damn, of course, when the music on offer is this fine.

Lucky & Easy have generally provided a more classic ‘Electronica’ sound than Pub’s deeper, more Berlin orientated work and ‘Hookahs’ is as varied and entertaining as you could possibly imagine an album being.

Their (his?) penchant for dreamy melody is very much on show from the very first moments of the CD and is never far away from the centre of things.

Lively, crunchy beats form a cracking backbone for the sounds to weave a magical spell over the top using all the tricks of the trade that higher profile artists such as Plaid have done for years. To be fair, for me anyway, Lucky & Easy are as good as Plaid when they deliver those chord sequences and touches of traditional melody. Plus the cleverly programmed beats give it a life of its own with what seems to be off-time rhythms that soon settle into a real groove.

It doesn’t stop there though as L & E are clearly devotees of the Detroit sound and they embellish quite a few of their tracks with a Motor City lushness that speaks of pure machine funk. ‘Kiss It Better’ is a prime example of this with some seriously hectic percussion and 4/4 beat that’s got more in common with Derrick May or B12 than Black Dog, whilst ‘Night Rainbows’ could have come straight out of 1993.

And these tracks are when they show up the Pub connection (if there is one…) with clattering, beautifully ever-changing arrangements that are far more complicated than they seem. In fact it’s not unusual for the tracks to go through two or three major changes throughout their duration staring out with an ambient flavour that soon turns into rhythmic and melodic and becomes powerfully driven even further forward by the beats.

There’s even an acid track, ‘Chippoke’, that rolls along with a 4/4 beat and an almost House-style feel.

It’s this sense of depth and variety that make this wonderful album shine through and if you’re a fan of good electronic music in any way at all I seriously suggest you hunt a copy of this down without any delay.

Monostation - Alchemy 6: Phosphor - Limit Switch - 3" CD

I thought it was about time that I reviewed a Monostation station release as this is, in fact, their seventh release of 2006 and forms the sixth part of their ongoing ‘Alchemy’ series and the first release since their superb ‘Greyscale EP’ for London’s Smallfish imprint.

This London-based duo has been experimenting in the realms of processed sound for some time and the Alchemy series is a natural exploration of the resulting tracks.

Thus far the music has been predominantly based around the sounds of processed guitars, but with this release they’ve used a variety of tones to generate the incredible swathes of sound that make up this CD.

Phosphor itself is a slowly evolving and very beautiful track that ebbs and flows with an enchanting resonance that fills your mind quite beautifully.
There’s an exquisite noisiness to the background drone that drags you in whilst the flowing overlaid chord has a movement and delicacy all its own.

If you heard this on Kranky, you’d be blown away… let’s just put it that way.

The second track, ‘Firebird’, is generated using piano sounds and has a less obviously drone-based style, instead choosing to use a hypnotic chord motif that repeats and evolves throughout.

Dripping in reverb it puts me in mind of Seefeel way back in the day and you can almost tangibly hear the dub bassline that could sit underneath (good idea for a remix?).

When the searing synth strings make their way into the mix it instantly becomes a majestic piece of music that gives a nod to the Cocteau Twins but keeps it more minimal than they did and allows the sheer simplicity of the music to drift over you like a wave.

As an added bonus you can download two remix tracks based on these originals from their website – www.monostation.net

Monostation seem to be ploughing their own furrow at the moment and I, for one, am glad that they’re still single-mindedly delivering such beautiful and evocative music.

Long may it continue.

Fourcolor - Letter Of Sounds - 12k - CD

It’s fair to say, I think, that Keiichi Sugimoto is not only prolific, but something of a master of his genre of music as well. It doesn’t seem to matter which of his guises he’s working under, he always just seems to get it right. Whether he’s producing as Fonica, Filfla or as part of four-piece act Minamo, there’s a subtlety and very Japanese beauty to everything he does.

To find that the new 12k release is from his Fourcolor moniker is great news indeed as ‘Air Curtain’, his previous CD for Taylor Deupree’s label, was a delicious slice of low-key, melodic electronic lushness.

Similarly, ‘Letter Of Sounds’ is a work that seems infinitely delicate, yet more than robust enough to stand the test of time.

By opening with the sheer exuberance of ‘02’ it quickly becomes apparent that we’re dealing with a serious album. His use of organically-based sounds which are then constructed into shimmering layers of electronic music is enchanting and, once again, we find him using the sound of guitar harmonics to punctuate his tracks.

Simple, charming chord structures form the basis for a lot of the work here and they have a pleasingly old-school feel with just the right amount of Techno-style soul to keep the purists happy whilst injecting it more traditional instrument sounds.

He never saturates the tracks though, and always gives the tones enough room to weave around the crisp rhythmic elements that creep in from time to time.

In fact there’s enough room on the second track ‘Rowboat’ to allow female Japanese vocalist Piana to breathe some lyrical life into the track.

Her voice acts as a superbly fragile accompaniment and it’s great to see yet another artist who isn’t afraid to use the voice as yet another tool for creating sound, as opposed to relying on it for unnecessary and obvious emotional content.

When he picks up the tempo later into the album there’s an even greater hint of Techno that shines through. You get the sense that he’s a fan of the Motor City sound and some of the rigid structures and tight metronomic clicks definitely give a nod in that direction.

He always adds in his unique melodic chords though and that’s the true strength – there’s always beauty – even when, as in ‘Leaves’, he adds an experimental leaning to the track… in this case a resonant and insistent test tine which gradually builds throughout the track.

Sugimoto should be treasured for his consistently excellent and charming work and this release will certainly go down as one of my favourites.

Chris Herbert - Mezzotint - Kranky - CD

When I first heard this album I was completely bowled over by its sheer beauty.

Chris Herbert has provided, for me, one of the albums of the year without any question simply because he’s managed to blend Electronica, drones, organic texture and honesty into one simply marvellous CD.

Kranky’s a good label anyway… we all know that (well, I assume we do, anyway)… but the quality of their releases over the last 2 years has become so damn fine that I’m slightly worried that won’t be able to keep up this level of sheer momentum in the future.

For now though I’m revelling in the fact that they keep releasing CDs of this calibre on a regular basis.

Herbert’s sound is immediate, yet subtle. The first time I heard its fuzzy textures I knew I was in love and yet it’s since become my most listened-to album of the year (thanks Last.fm for giving me a rough idea of what I’m actually tuning in to!).

It’s rough around the edges, but I think that’s all part of it. Hints of distortion, a sound out of place here, a crunch there… that’s the charm of it. He doesn’t hide the fact that it’s not perfect and I for one would like to congratulate him for that. Too many artists are utterly obsessed with everything being exactly right and whilst that has its place I suppose, it’s good to know that people still do it the old fashioned way.

The layers of texture that he’s created are dreamy and intense and provide a scintillating ambient backdrop for the more rhythmic or melodic elements that drift into the mix.

When it gets more rhythmic (and I use that term fairly loosely) it becomes ever-so-slightly reminiscent of Loscil getting stuck in the studio with Gas… yes, it’s that good.

Short interlude pieces link the main tracks together to form an engaging narrative throughout and the fact that they sound varied is testament to Herbert’s wonderful production technique.

Essentially you could compare this to several other artists – Gas, Tim Hecker, Loscil - but it’s because it comes across as a blend of them that it works so well.

It’s an album of the year situation for me and I have to recommend you get yourself a copy of this as it’s just quite simply brilliant.

Respect to both Chris and Kranky.

24 July 2006

Alva Noto - For - Line - CD

Line's pedigree as an experimental electronic label is long and extremely impressive. With releases from the likes of Richard Chartier, Bernhard Gunter, Steve Roden, Asmus Tietchens and many more influential artists it has grown in stature over the years.

We come to the 26th release and no introduction is necessary when dealing with an artist of the calibre of Carsten Nicolai - Raster Noton original, micro-composer extraordinaire and visual artist of some distinction.

'For' is a surprising release in many ways as Nicolai's work is often based on a particular theme or concept. Here, however, the only concept is the dedication of each track to a particular musician or artist. It's refreshing to hear an album of variety, beauty and challenge that simply exists because it can - there's no other reason to enjoy these tracks other than they're enjoyable!

'Counter' is a slightly disconcerting intro track which uses a whining, high-pitched squeal to wake the listener up before dropping into some textbook sinewave tones and bass. A perfect way to set you up for the rest of the CD.

From there the tracks become more melodic, strikingly beautiful and full of a delicacy that sits happily with the semi-ambient nature of quite a few of the pieces. The 12 minute long 'Transit', for example, has a classic, gentle progression with all of the hallmarks of Nicolai's sound... yet it's a mellow sound - almost chill out music. There are still elements of high-frequency in there, but they don't dominate and certainly aren't the main raison d'etre of the track.

'Gulf Night' is the only track that really comes across as an experimental piece but it sits quite happily amongst the other gems of shining beauty.

'Flashforward' is simply a divine piece of music that has more in common with the likes of Taylor Deupree or Minamo than the clinical sound of Raster Noton. It weaves an absolutely magical spell over the listener with a hypnotic, shimmering chord loop punctuated by subtle tones and textures.

The album finishes with 'Alva Noto.Z1', a track that sounds like it could form part of the Alva Noto / Sakamoto trilogy with it's piano phrases and bass heavy rhythm. Then you learn that elements of the track date 1999, and it becomes clear that you're listening to a liquidly beautiful prototype of that work.

Undulating, spacious, natural sounding... this CD captures a very real sense of Carsten Nicolai's personality and musical skill. For that reason it becomes ultimately clear that this is a work of great distinction.

Another wonderful and essential release from a deeply impressive label.

21 May 2006

Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs - City Centre Offices - CD

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder and after a year of having to deal with no new music from Marsen Jules, I can see how that might be the case.

I'm simply in awe of this work and yet again Martin has produced an album of such consummate skill and beauty that to find any fault with it would be a massive challenge.

Simply put this is some of the finest ambient music around and you'll be hard-pushed to find anything that's this striking or this beautiful in the months to come.

Martin's blend of classical, organic and electronic music is marvellous and there's an easiness and flowing grace that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. From track to track we are treated to a divine collection of instrumental works that owe as much to composers like Satie as they to do to modern musicians such as Eno. The smallest snippet of sound is enough for Juhls to create nothing less than a symphony and it's this spare use of musical elements that, once again, stands out from the crowd.

Arrangements on all of the tracks are airy, light and remarkably mature sounding and his use of space as well as sound is the real key to the atmosphere he creates - for every note on most tracks there is a corresponding space in time that works in harmony with it. That said, there are lush textural tracks as well and they still have the power to recall Gas at his absolute finest. Swathes of sound drenched in reverb serve to hypnotise and entrance the listener and when combined with classical string swells it becomes an incredibly emotional and melancholy piece of work.

As ever with this style of music it's incredibly hard to break it down into its constituent parts as that would shatter the overall balance of the album. Instead I'll just mention 'Ceillet Sauvage' as being a particular standout track with its minimal use of marimba and vibraphone proving that less is most definitely more.

Once more, Martin Juhls has delivered a superb album and his success this year is assured. I know that this will be an album of the year for me for 2006, just as 'Herbstlaub' was for 2005. All we can do is hope that he continues this amazing run of stunning music.

Quite simply an incredible piece of work.

Orla Wren - Butterfly Wings Make - Expanding - CD

Expanding has delivered two superb albums so far this year, from Miller + Fiam and Modern Institute. Now we are treated to a third release from the little known Orla Wren with the evocative title ‘Butterfly Wings Make’.

It’s a gentle name for a thoroughly beautiful album and is clearly designed to conjure images of nature and fragility. This it does successfully and is accompanied by a series of tracks that are at once familiar sounding, yet invigorating at the same time.

The ill-named sub-genre of ‘Folktronica’ is a much maligned beast at the moment and the waters are brimming with me-too and sound-alike work by a vast number of artists. It’s heartening, then, to hear a genuinely heartfelt album that’s obviously been put together with a great deal of love and attention.

Orla’s sound is organic, yes, but the more electronic side of his sound shines through like a beacon and whilst there are sampled instruments you’re as likely to hear a synthetic tone or a static glitch as well.

‘Closure’ – a superb name for an opening track – kicks things off with a gentle, lilting piano and some delightful, light and very airy electronic percussion sounds. Add to that a hypnotic guitar and spacious strings and you have the kind of intro that gives you a good idea of what’s to follow. And right up to the final moments of ‘Sea Grass’ you’re treated to a work of manifold pleasures and hidden secrets.

It’s the sense of melody that really makes this album and Orla is clearly as at home with marimba sounds and exotic percussion as he is with more traditional sounding instruments. The blend of atmospheres is truly lovely and ranges from Folk influences right through to the work of Murcof or Digitonal. There’s clearly a classical leaning here but it’s nowhere near as overt as the aforementioned artists.

There’s also a lightly glitchy sound that recalls the work of labels such as 12k or Plop and this, combined with the more melodic elements provides a well-rounded experience with all bases covered. It never spreads itself too thinly though and manages to balance all of these influences with style and ease, even down to the inclusion of background field recordings which serve to highlight the natural feel of the album.

This is the type of music that will accompany your summer with ease. Refreshing, mellow, sunny-sounding and with just the right level of sweetness but enough bite to keep you coming back for more.

Expanding once again hit the right spot with another
wonderful release.

26 April 2006

Taylor Deupree - Northern - 12k - CD

I think it's fair to say that Taylor Deupree is one of the most highly regarded electronic composers currently involved in the world of minimal, textural and contemporary soundscape music.

Rightly so as he has a wonderful back catalogue on labels such as Audio.nl, Raster Noton, Sub Rosa, Spekk, Noble and plenty of others.

His recent penchant for collaborative work has seen him engaging in musical companionship with artists such as Kenneth Kirschner, Eisi and Christopher Willits, and whilst these are all beautiful examples of how to work together as a unit, there's something exceedingly special about a solo Deupree release - particularly when you consider the last thing he released on his own 12k imprint was the classic 'Stil.' in 2002.

The anticipation for 'Northern' has been nothing short of rabid, to put it mildly.

To break this piece of work down into it's constituent tracks and sounds would be to do it a serious injustice as it seems to have been conceived as a complete work from the very outset. Whether that's the correct assumption or not, I'm not sure, but the tracks on this 51-minute work of sheer brilliance seem to hang together in such a coherent way that it seems impossible to imagine them any other way.

Deupree's work is concerned with the simple, beautiful way that machines can convey an atmosphere or emotion and his well-known love of minimalism is clearly a vehicle for this souful machine-style music - you will always find an element of beauty in his work regardless of whether it's a stripped-down, rhythmic piece or a more texture based, hypnotic work. That's part of the beauty, I always find... the deconstruction of sound and the reorganization that gives every tone its own unique nuance.

'Northern' takes the processed manipulations of his previous work and, in my opinion, steps it up a gear with a wonderful infusion of the synthetic with the quite overtly organic.

From the first notes of 'Everything's Gone Grey' to the final notes of the stupendous 'November' you are treated to a lush, cleverly constructed symphony of sound that feels at once familiar, yet completely refreshing in every way.

Deep, lilting, melodic elements sit happily with drifting textures and slowly evolving digital sounds, creating a sense of timeless beauty and emotional warmth. Lone guitar strums punctuate the sense of melancholy and even the wood flute sounds seem to have a certain mysticism about them. 'Northern' is without doubt Deupree's most musical work to date and, at times, has an almost traditional style to the sounds... something it shares in common with Sebastien Roux's 'Songs' or Sawako's 'Hum', albeit in a very different guise.

The snowy cover artwork perfectly reflects the feelings the album invokes with its heartwarming sound and evocative tones and he's clearly been inspired by his new surroundings as you can genuinely imagine slowly meandering streams and stark forests full of depth and a fragile iciness whilst experiencing the music. It's definitely a world away from the bustle of his old stomping ground in Brooklyn!

Ultimately you need to hear this CD for yourself to appreciate just why it's such an essential and important release. And it merely cements the reputation of one of our most important modern musicians even further.

One of the best releases of the year without a single doubt.

23 April 2006

Loscil - Plume - Kranky - CD

Scott Morgan's Loscil project has grown in both stature and popularity since his earliest releases for Kranky. Something that he fully deserves as every album (and single, on Involve) has been of such a high standard that it's hard to fault any of them.

From the more Basic Channel styled 'Triplepoint' through the varied and deeply beautiful 'Submers' right up to, arguably his finest work so far 'First Narrows' he has a small but expertly crafted catalogue of engaging, beautiful and considered work under his belt.

The fact that 'Plume' is superb from beginning to end is certainly no surprise then and merely reinforces the fact that Loscil is one of the treasures of the Organic / Electronica scene.

Morgan seems to keep a low profile for the most part and there's a real sense of that within his music... understated, unwilling to be tarred with any sort of musical brush - he just writes phenomenally gorgeous music that seems to come straight from the heart.

'Motoc' begins the album with a simple and delicate loop that filters and slowly evolves whilst he adds a one-note bass line and layers of sample and string noise. This is classic Loscil and has an infinitely hypnotic quality that drags you in and washes over you, drenching you in its atmosphere.

There's something reminiscent about 'Rorschach' and you get a pleasing feeling of familiarity as soon as the main meat of the music cuts in. Again, looped sounds and distant tones create a slight feeling of dislocation and the use of a single bass tone reinforces the simplicity of the music. A distorted guitar-style sound plays gently over the music and perfectly complements the lilting piano melodies.

From there the music just grows and grows into a textbook example of how to produce something unique without pandering to any particular style - Morgan clearly just loves writing music and it's this that gives it so much weight.

'Chinook' is a chiming, rolling track with layers of warmth and a lovely bassline whilst 'Charlie' is more downbeat and more ambient. When the background guitar melody cuts in there's a moment of clarity that soon gives way to a delightful sense of melancholy.

'Mistral' ends the album in a similar way to the beginnning with its subtle musical shimmers and an achingly deep chord loop that will leave you wanting, and probably needing, more.

'Plume' displays many of the qualities of classic ambient music and really reminds me of some of Air Liquide's material from their more relaxed works as well as artists such as The Bionaut. It's hard to quantify exactly why that should be, but he's clearly influenced by a world of different sounds and the way the tracks bubble gently under the surface and use a mid-paced tempo is definitely from that particular school of thought.

Every track has a musical feel and they definitely feel as though they have an overall theme - in the same way that the other Loscil albums feel like complete works.

Quite simply it's a wonderful piece of work and, judging by the success of 'First Narrows', promises to do huge things on the Electronica scene, and deservedly so.

Morgan and Kranky really have come up trumps yet again.