freeze/thaw: a 2012 mix

March 10, 2013

The now-traditional companion to my annual compilation, this time themed to match the endless chill this winter has brought. Click on the Mixcloud embed above to listen.

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0:00:00 / Thomas Köner: “Novaya Zemlya 3”, from the Touch album Novaya Zemlya
[eMusic]

Köner’s meditation on the eponymous Arctic archipelago marked his return to the frozen climate of his 1990s trilogy Nunatak Gongamur, Teimo and Permafrost (reviewed here). The intervening decade or so has done nothing to diminish his unexplained affinity with this landscape. Surrender to its cold embrace.

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0:02:20 / Loscil: “Collision Of The Pacific Gatherer”, from the Kranky album Sketches From New Brighton
[Boomkat]

Another track with a strong sense of place: this time New Brighton, a coastal quarter in Scott Morgan’s (Loscil’s sole member; previously on close to 94) home of Vancouver. The tidal rhythm of “The Collision Of The Pacific Gatherer” aptly reflects the aftermath of the event it seeks to evoke: in 1930 a barge named “The Pacific Gatherer” ran into the Second Narrows Bridge, causing a section of the latter to fall into the water it spanned.

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0:06:59 / Shackleton: “Music From The Quiet Hour, Part 1”, from the Woe To The Septic Heart album Music For The Quiet Hour/The Drawbar Organ EPs
[eMusic]

Dubstep grandee Sam Shackleton (previously on close to 94) continued his journey into the remoter regions of the genre with his double release Music For The Quiet Hour/The Drawbar Organ EPs. The former set is a foreboding, cinematic exercise in dub, with his now-trademark take on African drumming timbres and rhythms adding to its potency.

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0:11:00 / Kangding Ray: “South”, from the Raster-Noton EP The Pentaki Slopes
[eMusic]

After making (in this blog’s opinion) possibly the finest electronic track of the past few years in 2011’s “Or” – featured on that year’s close to 94 annual mix – it was a racing certainty that, if David Letellier released anything in 2012, it would make the cut here too. He did, so it has.

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0:18:57 / Diamond Version: “Empowering Change”, from the Mute album EP1
[eMusic]

A glitch music supergroup comprising Raster-Noton label heads Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto) and Olaf Bender (Byetone), Diamond Version sounds every bit as assured as you would expect. The sparse, driven power of “Empowering Change” comes from the first of five planned EPs on Mute.

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0:25:21 / Silent Servant: “Utopian Disaster (End)”, from the Hospital Productions album Negative Fascination
[eMusic]

I was fearful that the demise of the Sandwell District project would spell the end of key artists in residence like Function and Silent Servant. Thankfully not. The latter re-emerged on Hospital Productions with a typically solid set of industrial techno in Negative Fascination, including the concept-encapsulating and ultra-hypnotic “Utopian Disaster”.

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0:33:08 / Monolake: “Hitting The Surface”, from the Imbalance Computer Music album Ghosts
[Boomkat]

Robert Henke followed up 2009’s excellent Silence with Ghosts, a companion of sorts to the earlier album according to Henke’s own commentary. While not quite as successful as its predecessor overall, the uptempo “Hitting The Surface” bubbles along very nicely.

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0:39:22 / Valgeir Sigurðsson: “The Crumbling”, from the Bedroom Community album Architecture Of Loss
[eMusic]

The second movement (the thaw, as it were) of this mix starts with a beautifully tortured piece from Icelandic composer Sigurðsson’s third album, Architecture Of Loss. As the ice cracks, the crumbling begins.

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0:44:25 / Moon Ate The Dark: “She/Swimming”, from the Sonic Pieces album Moon Ate The Dark
[eMusic]

0:49:19 / Insa Donja Kai: “End Silence”, from the Sonic Pieces album Insomnie Joyeuse
[eMusic]

0:52:44 / Dictaphone: “The Conversation”, from the Sonic Pieces album Poems From A Rooftop
[eMusic]

This trio of acts from the consistently rewarding Sonic Pieces label (previously admired by close to 94) generate, in their individual ways, warmth and contentment in these (still) cold and harsh winter months. Moon Ate The Water pairs Welsh pianist Anna Rose Carter with Canadian producer Christopher Bailey on a flowing hymn to days by the river; Kai Angermann, Insa Schirmer and Donja Djember conjure the reverie of childhood memories; and Dictaphone (Oliver Doerell and Roger Doering) seemingly rework The Cure’s “Lullaby” as meditative improvisation.

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0:57:21 / Bersarin Quartett: “Zum Greifen Nah”, from the Denovali album II
[eMusic]

Thomas Bücker’s second album honed his reputation for rich, even epic, ambient composition. “Zum Greifen Nah” (“Within Reach”) is a typically cinematic piece, painting an aural picture of the search for a tantalising truth.

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1:02:58 / Jóhann Jóhannsson: “The Cause Of Labour Is The Hope Of The World”, from the Fat Cat album The Miners’ Hymns
[eMusic]

“The Cause Of Labour…” is taken from the score to The Miners’ Hymns, filmmaker Bill Morrison’s eulogy for the coal mining industry of north east England (watch the trailer). Jóhannsson’s stirring evocation of the tradition, dignity and pride inherent in the subject and its people shines through unequivocally.

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1:10:13 / Matthew Bourne: “Juliet”, from the Leaf album Montauk Variations
[eMusic]

On his Montauk Variations, Bourne turned his back on his hitherto mischievous, quirky take on contemporary jazz. As “Juliet” charmingly demonstrates, he has replaced it with a pastoral minimalism that provides the perfect end to a cold, cold winter.

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1:13:35 / ends

See also:

good in 2012

March 2, 2013

Ah 2012, another year of non-posting (and 2013 is shaping up nicely in the same respect). Musically, as ever, there was reason for a little more optimism: new artists continue to plough the comforting furrows of melancholic synth-pop, krautish indie, soulful folk and minimal composition to keep this blog ‘happy’.

Click on the Mixcloud embed above to listen. Or, if you’re a VIP, wait patiently for an increasingly redundant physical copy to wing its way to you.

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0:00:00 / Ryan Teague: “Shadow Play”, from the album Field Drawings
[eMusic]

Opening Teague’s exquisite album, Field Drawings, “Shadow Play” suggests a hopeful awakening. The Bristolian composer’s artful blend of pastoral and urban grows in confidence and resolve over its duration, but remains in thoughtful repose, just short of committed action.

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0:04:08 / Metric: “Artificial Nocturne”, from the album Synthetica
[eMusic]

“I’m just as f**ked up as they say” confesses Emily Haines at the beginning of this epic slice of power pop. The driving rhythm combines with cascading chords to provide a brimming articulation of the futility of 24-hour culture – an “Artificial Nocturne”.

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0:09:48 / ERAAS: “A Presence”, from the album ERAAS
[eMusic]

The new project by former members of haunt-rockists Apse, ERAAS wove a neo-gothic fantasy with its first album. “A Presence” possesses a mesmeric, halting motorik beat and calls to mind “Sea Within A Sea” by The Horrors, as featured on the 2009 edition in this compilation series.

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0:14:24 / Biosphere: “Blue Monday”, from the magazine promo Power, Corruption & Lies Covered
[Discogs]

Well, here’s a turn up for the books. Geir Jenssen, a.k.a. Biosphere, retreats from the ice caps and tundra to cover perhaps the most sacred artefact in the electronic pop canon. By rights it shouldn’t be here (it was apparently released by Mojo magazine at the end of December 2011), but it makes the cut because (a) it remains an unimpeachably good song, and (b) Jenssen didn’t mess it up.

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0:19:52 / Liars: “No. 1 Against The Rush”, from the album WIXIW
[eMusic]

The art-punk outfit’s second album for Mute show off its electronic chops more strongly than ever. Single “No. 1 Against The Rush” blends accessibility (there are hooks!) with otherness just so.

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0:25:00 / Holly Herdon: “Fade”, from the album Movement
[eMusic]

In Movement, Herndon produced a provocative work about the interplay between human and machine at an almost anatomical level. “Fade” – with its sliced vocals, chopped beats and pounded bass – provides a energising way into the darker, more visceral sounds elsewhere on the album.

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0:31:15 / Grimes: “Genesis”, from the album Visions
[Boomkat]

Whereas Holly Herndon evokes a sometimes fraught fusion between tissue and metal, in Grimes’ music (created single-handedly by Claire Boucher) music the two forces duet in ethereal harmony. Transporting.

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0:35:29 / NZCA/Lines: “Atoms & Axes”, from the album NZCA/Lines
[eMusic]

Pure nostalgia, recalling the early, innocent synth-pop of early Depeche Mode, as well as previous revivalists (as noted in several reviews) like Junior Boys. No pretensions, other than those held back in the early 1980s by Michael Lovett’s (NZCA/Lines sole band member) antecedents, trapped in amber for our benefit and enlightenment 30 years later.

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0:40:18 / Clark: “Black Stone”, from the album Iradelphic
[eMusic]

An acoustic interlude from Iradelphic, Chris Clark’s wide-ranging tableaux of an album (though unmistakably Warp with it). As a whole the release didn’t cohere for this listener, though pockets of beauty, such as “Black Stone”, made it worthy of exploration.

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0:42:17 / Bat For Lashes: “Laura”, from the album The Haunted Man
[iTunes]

The lead single from Natasha Khan’s third album, The Haunted Man. Khan is among Britain’s finest songwriters of recent years, as “Laura”’s redemptive fable (and her previous appearance in this compilation series) attests.

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0:46:36 / DIIV: “Doused”, from the album Oshin
[eMusic]

Back to krautrock, back to Brooklyn (c.f. ERAAS, above – what is it about upper case, double-vowelled band names there?). But who’s complaining?

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0:50:12 / The Liminanas: “Salvation”, from the album Crystal Anis
[eMusic]

Effortlessly cool, unabashedly retro, seductively French – think Gainsbourg meets Spector with a banjo. Magnifique.

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0:53:30 / Choir Of Young Believers: “Nye Nummer Et”, from the album Rhine Gold
[eMusic]

Jannis Noya Makrigiannis’ music hit mainstream consciousness when his (still stunning) “Hollow Talk” (from 2008’s This Is For The White In Your Eyes) was used as the theme for Danish/Swedish crime drama, The Bridge. I think “Nye Nummer Et” means “New Number One”. And it should be.

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0:58:05 / Alt-J: “Something Good”, from the album An Awesome Wave
[eMusic]

∆, to spell the band’s name correctly, won the Mercury Music Prize in 2012 with their debut An Awesome Wave. “Something Good” is a sprightly ditty whose pensive quality makes it a stand-out among its more generic brethren on the album.

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1:01:37 / Sharon Van Etten: “Give Out”, from the album Tramp
[eMusic]

Van Etten produced possibly the year’s finest Americana in Tramp, recorded with fellow neo-folk luminaries Zach Condon (from Beirut) and Julianna Barwick among others. But it’s honesty and directness, not cool collaborations, that give songs like “Give Out” their potency.

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1:05:54 / Cold Specks: “Winter Solstice”, from the album I Predict A Graceful Expulsion
[eMusic]

Al Spx (real name unknown), as the creative force behind Cold Specks, created a rare wellspring of authenticity in a world where increasingly one can look only to the past for that vital state of being. Her expansive songwriting and powerful vocals blend folk, gospel, soul and working song – music to be listened to, not written about.

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1:09:57 / Dustin O’Halloran: “Fragile N.4”, from the album Lumiere
[Boomkat]

Lumiere, from which “Fragile N.4” was taken, was released in 2011, so is here (due to administrative error) under false pretences. But no matter: O’Halloran’s rich, forgivably syrupy piece feels the right way to close.

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1:13:26 / ends

See also:

Concert date: February 24, 2012

Rammstein, "Engel", live at the O2, London, February 24th 2012

Almost two years to the day, Rammstein return to London, this time to the O2. While the key set pieces in the show were present last time around, the performance lost none of its impact, musically or in the jaw-dropping staging. Simply stunning. I refer you to my 2010 review for more details.

Video on YouTube:

Photos on Flickr