Monday, August 30, 2010

Coil - The Remote Viewer

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hymie's Basement - Hymie's Basement

2003; 15 tracks

Hymie's Basement is a collaboration between Why?'s Yoni Wolf and Fog's Andrew Broder.

I love love loooove this album. Their voices sound quite similar... but there really is nothing like this album. I love Yoni's obsession with hands. I love Broder's soft guitar playing. I love the contrast from their happy pop-like songs and minimally saddening pieces. I love their cuteness and their rawness. I love everything about this album.


Bracken - We Know About the Need

2007; 11 tracks

Wow, what a stunning album. The most beautiful thing about this album is his voice. I can't imagine anything more great.
Bracken is the indie/experimental/hip-hop project of Chris Adams. We Know About the Need is the only thing I've heard by him, but... it's gorgeousity made flesh. The track Heathens seems to be my favorite track atm.

we have our backs against the wall

Odd Nosdam - Burner

2005; 12 tracks

This album is a complete saturation of sound, of buzzing, of extra-terrestrial life, of perfection.

Odd Nosdam's Burner is a digest of field recordings, Moog synths, staticky samples, and scattershot drums, all waxing and waning around immovable slabs of buzzing bass. It splits the difference between the eschatological IDM of Boards of Canada's Geogaddi and Keith Fullerton Whitman's coruscating dronescapes.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rafael Anton Irisarri - Daydreaming

Friday, August 27, 2010

Jesu & Fog - Kissing Kin

2010; 2 tracks

Collaberation between
Jesu and Fog.

Greatest 8 minutes of my life.

I guess.



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Igor Stravinsky - Le Sacre du Printemps (Stefan Goldmann Edit)

2009; 4 tracks

FEAST YOUR EARS ON..... iclonoclasticism.

Here, the popular house/dub-step artist
Stefan Goldmann has "[used] samples from fourteen performances of Stravinsky and cut them into what the press release assures is no fewer than 147 segments, brushed them ever so lightly in his studio, and stitched them back together into an eighteen minute version all his own."

It's like walking into a different room every couple of seconds, bombarded by new sound, and the effect is truly breathtaking. This is an amazing recording (or, rather, collection of recordings). If you're thinking this sounds strange or displeasing, trust me, you will be -delightfully?- surprised.

The obvious question, then: is it any good? The answer, I think, is yes. Goldmann’s edit combines subtle layers of tone in ways that jar and frustrate, because no orchestra should be able to combine them in one sitting. Goldmann’s track is creepy. The familiar feeling of hearing an orchestra perform, subverted minute by minute by a collision of sounds that shouldn’t quite be with one another, gets under the skin. Whether it does more than this is probably a matter of interpretation. To some, Goldmann’s efforts here might pale in comparison to any one of the fourteen recordings he samples in their unmolested versions. For me, though, the wonderfully subtle feeling of standing on wobbly ground Goldmann creates here is a real treat. If you prefer the original way of doing things, he’s included two of the classic recordings he’s used. But for those that want a track made with a hint of Stravinsky and Russolo’s brave approach, it’s all about the remix.

It's a new way to listen to classical music, then. It is the ultimate superhuman recording. Every orchestra has it's own nuances and interpretations - maybe once in a while they get something right, or exactly as Stravinsky had intended. Perhaps this meshing of 14 different recordings has created the ultra-ultimate recording, precisely as Stravinsky had envisioned... or as Le Sacre du Printemps should sound.

The riot which took place at the premiere of Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre Du Printemps) in Paris, 1913, remains one of the greatest scandals in music history. While such a reception seems incomprehensible by today's jaded, world-weary audiences, the savage rhythms and violent dissonance of the composition still retain the power to awe, helping it become arguably the most important, widely performed piece of 20th century composition. It's logical that a piece so centred on rhythm should spark the interest of dance music producers, but that it has resulted in so subtle an edit, by none other than proto-progressivist Stefan Goldmann, is indeed a surprise.

The only hint of an interest in classical music I'd noticed in Goldmann was the choir which gorgeously rears up in "Lunatic Fringe," but his edit of The Rite reveals a studied, thorough understanding not just of classical music structure but, more significantly, of the classical recording industry. Taking twelve different recordings of the work, Goldmann performed 146 cuts, remaining faithful to the score throughout. As Goldmann describes it: "Every couple of seconds you find yourself in a different room, listening to a different orchestra under a different conductor. A journey through microphone positions and mixdown decisions. Each time a different world in the headphone." Goldmann, then, is in essence some sort of Perry-esque dub-engineer-prankster here, exposing the imperfection-masking "invisible edits" of which the classical recording industry is so dependent, celebrating the unique atmospheres of individual recording sessions, and, almost consequently, introducing a beloved classical icon to new audiences. A Ferry Corsten trance mix of "Adagio for Strings" this ain't.

Except that Goldmann's approach is so "minimally invasive" that his edits are often as difficult to detect as those of the industry he critiques. Actual cuts are inaudible, and the variations between performances, or rather between recording sessions, are barely discernible, even through headphones. His restraint is admirable, and it's an intriguing concept—there is some fun to be had in spotting the change in bassoons in the opening bars, or the fluctuations in tape hiss which occur throughout—but it's an alienating, academic exercise, and soon seems rather pointless.

Much better to submit and get carried away by the music, the strongest moments of which remain immune to Goldmann's scalpel. The lasting effect Goldmann's editing produces is one of dehumanisation and objectivity, the artifice of recording foregrounded, and this version, if it can be compared against "real" ones, feels uniquely cold. The contribution of individual performers, and the relative value of different performances (the basis for all classical music appreciation and criticism) become meaningless, leaving only an indifferent rendering of Stravinsky's score. This may well have been Goldmann's intention, but I'll take Pierre Monteux's untouched 1957 recording, included here, any day.

Ironically, after all these levels of detachment, it is Stravinsky whose voice remains.

Stefan Goldmann's edit:
1. L'adoration de la Terre
2. Le Sacrifice

Pierre Monteux / The Boston Symphony Orchestra:
3. L'adoration de la Terre (Live)
4. Le Sacrifice (Live)


Heimataerde - Leben Geben Leben Nehmen

2007; 12 tracks

Heimataerde is a German ebm/harsh industrial project started by DJ Ash. I listened to this album soo long ago, but I just now remembered how awesome and holy it was. It has elements of spoken literature and ancient choral music, so every song has a true meaning and isn't just another techno/dance track. I love love love this album.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bohuslav Martinů - Complete Symphonies

2005; 21 tracks
Bryden Thomson / Scottish National Orchestra

Bohuslav Martinů was a Bohemian Czech composer of neo-classical and neo-Romantic music. He wrote 6 symphonies in all, and here they are in their entirety. His music is extremely accessible and lovely - reminiscent of Hindemith, Copland, and even Bartók at times... I absolutely love the first symphony, but all of them are so admirably perfect and SO underrated.

Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959) only began composing symphonies after fleeing the Nazis into American exile in 1941. He was of a generation that saw the symphony as passé -- Bartók was born in 1881 and Stravinsky in 1882, and Martinů was born in 1890 -- while Mahler was born in 1860, and Sibelius and Nielsen in 1865. Modernism entailed new forms and styles, and while Martinu was never a modernist he did inhabit a soundworld with a lighter touch full of dance rhythms, not heavy, four-square symphonies. But he received a commission from Koussevitsky and the Boston Symphony, so he wrote a symphony. And then another, and another... He ended up composing a symphony a year every year from 1942 to 1946, No.s 1 through 5, and later a Sixth, his most popular. They are graceful, full of dancing rhythms, and of classical proportions, ranging from 23 to 36 minutes in length. Symphonies 1, 2 and 4 are in the traditional four-movement form, while No.s 3, 5 and 6 each have three movements. The First, Third and Sixth were premiered by the Boston Symphony, the Second was premiered by the Cleveland Orchestra, the Fourth was premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Fifth is unique in having been premiered by the Czech Philharmonic and Rafael Kubelik.

Symphony No. 1 demonstrated that Martinů's gifts, previously applied to the concerto grosso form, all manner of chamber music, and opera, could be applied to great effect to the symphonic form, despite his misgivings. Its success spurred him on. Symphony No. 2 is shorter and uses Czech and Moravian folk melodies in the slow movement, his most Czech symphony, and features the use of several small groups of instruments. Symphony No. 3 stands out from the others in its dark and somber hue. While parts of the First and Second had reflected the war, the Third is clearly marked by it through and through. It is Martinů's only work that reminds me of Shostakovich in its gravity and tragic cast. It is a powerful work which ends without a triumphant resolution, despite Beethoven's Eroica being an inspiration and despite the D-Day landing at Normandy taking place shortly before Martinů completed it. Though atypical, I consider this to be one of the finest jewels in this string of six. The Fourth complements the Third perfectly as it celebrates victory. The second movement Allegro vivo reminds me of nothing so much as the scherzo to Beethoven's 9th, a propulsive dancing march rhythm. It has the forward momentum of the opening of Roussel's Third Symphony, but is lighter on its feet. And the Poco allegro finale is an ecstatic celebration, the triumph that was withheld at the conclusion of the Third. The Fifth is more questing and tentative after that burst of enthusiasm. It was first heard at the inaugural Prague Spring Festival in 1947. A head injury caused by a fall from an open second-floor terrace led to several years of expensive treatment and convalesence, but Martinů returned to composing at the peak of his powers. The Sixth was finished in 1953, and is the most broadly Romantic of his symphonies, sounding like Copland in parts with lush, sweeping melodies, and using the melody "Across the Wide Missouri," though I've never seen this mentioned anywhere. Listen for yourself and see. It remains one of Martinů's most popular works.


Franz Schubert - The Symphonies

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sergei Prokofiev - Alexander Nevsky / Lieutenant Kijé Suite

1996; 12 tracks
Jean-Claude Casadesus; Lille National Orchestra

I love Prokofiev, but these two works are possibly the most intense and terrifyingly thrilling pieces of music he ever composed. They are... in a way... the most true and pure nationalistic pieces one could find in Soviet Russia, and perhaps even today. This album also features a new dimension to Prokofiev's complex array of composing styles - film music. Here:

Alexander Nevsky cantata for mezzo-soprano, chorus & orchestra, Op. 78, performed by the Latvija Choir Academy, with Ewa Podles as the mezzo-soprano.

The Lieutenant Kijé Suite suite for orchestra, Op. 60, performed by the Lille National Orchestra under the baton of Jean-Claude Casadesus.

Alexander Nevsky was a hero in the 1200's who defeated the Swedish army and later won out against a large army of Germans. A film was made by Sergei Eisenstein as propaganda for an impending conflict between Russia and Germany, and Prokofiev became the composer of the music. After Russia and Germany settled their affairs, Prokofiev wrote a cantata from the film music for the concert stage. The work begins with a slow, cold, and icy introduction leading into the Russians singing about Nevsky's win over Sweden. The scene continues to the German invaders singing/chanting in Latin as they pillage. The fourth movement is a call of arms for Russia with a cheerful and imaginative folk-like hymn. The Battle on the Ice is the crux of the work, overlapping the German's latin theme with the Russian theme. Prokofiev also graphically depicts the approaching armies musically, all of which erupts in joyous celebration at the victory. Following the battle is a heartfelt alto solo of a peasant woman looking for the man (or men) she was engaged to marry. Of course, the whole work ends in a rousing Russian chorale. The music is varied and imaginative, (very Prokofiev), and is also seemingly steeped in the Russian folk idiom when the time is right. A dramatic and historically interesting work.

The Lieutenant Kijé Suite, another film score, is generally recognized as the one of the softest, lightest, and most ebullient of Prokofiev's works. It is very lively, engaging, and... Casadesus is a master at getting around these mammoth Russian scores.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Strawberry Switchblade - Strawberry Switchblade

1985; 11 tracks

This is
Strawberry Switchlade's first album, and it is fucking glorious. The duo, consisting of the infamous Rose McDowall (Current 93, Coil, Sorrow, Spell...) and Jill Bryson, create an interesting blend of post-punk, pop, and gothic/dream-pop. Their music is cute, yet sophisticated, and I really can't imagine a more amazing pop album from the 80s than this.

The two gaudily clad ladies with straw flowers in their hair, Jill Bryson and Rose McDowall, are enlivening a pop scene, eternally geared toward the exotic, with a sunny Coup d'Esprit: colourful, breezy, funny, charming are the adjectives that flow around the heads of listeners when they play the first Strawberry Switchblade album.

Jill & Rose come from Glasgow and answer to the fairy-tale name of Strawberry Switchblade. Bright and unprejudiced, they twitter with their harmonic beat like butterflies over a meadow; and in doing so, touch not only on the fresh harmonies of the 60's (Mamas & Papas) but also on the insouciant, sparsely-instrumented music of early Velvet Underground.

The songs on
Strawberry Switchblade bloom melodically, cheekily, childishly, and rampant on the pulsating field of a complex beat instrumentation, whereby melancholy ballads in orotund pop clothing (with strings and oboes) alternate with quicker dance numbers (in the style of their hit 'Since Yesterday'). The singing stems from the tradition of the beat-girl groups (Shangri-Las), charged with a shot of pop shock à la B52s. Light pop music for a nightly stroll over fragrant asphalt.

Another day...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Faberyayo & Vic Crezée - Het Grote Gedoe

Spacekees - Meer Ruimte

2008; 26 tracks

This is a really kvlt hip-hop album from Dutch artist
Spacekees. His music sounds a bit like DJVT, but perhaps it's even more funky and stylistically genius and just fuunnn and cool. It's awesome.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

No-Man - Schoolyard Ghosts

2008; 8 tracks

This is one of my favorite albums in the universe, although I haven't heard it in a while.
No-Man is a side project of multi-instrumentalist Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree). It is very spacey and ambient, but these 8 tracks are chilling and beautiful. I recall "Truenorth" and "Pigeon Drummer" as being my favorite tracks.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Colleen - Les Ondes Silencieuses

2007; 9 tracks

This is the most recent album from French ambient/electronic artist Cécile Schott, a.k.a.
Colleen. This album is very different from her previous one that I have posted on this blog, Everyone in the World Wants Answers, but no less beautiful and atmospheric. This is a purely instrumental release, but the atmosphere she creates is, although quite minimal, luscious and incredibly beautiful. Many different instruments are used - including the harpsichord, a full strings section, various wind instruments, a harp, and many more...


Current 93 - Baalstorm, Sing Omega

2010; 9 tracks

Baalstorm, Sing Omega is my favorite album of 2010 so far. I still think Thunder Perfect Mind is my favorite C93 album but Baalstorm... is most likely my second. Aaanyways.

Here is a pretty much perfect review of the album:

"David Tibet’s latest, the third in a series that began with Black Ships Ate the Sky, dances again with the apocalypse, though this time the world’s end seems like a quieter, more personal event. Most of the abrasive, distorted elements of Tibet’s sound have been toned down, his wilder incantations reined in, so that the main tenor is one of acquiescence, acceptance and nostalgic fondness for the world going down in flames.

As always, Tibet is engaged in large themes: lust, sin, redemption and a physical, wholly non-metaphorical battle between good and evil. Aeon, a Greek word for, variously, “life,” “the life force,” “eternal life,” and Plato’s world of ideals, plays a recurring role in his intricate mythology, along with Aleph (possibly a stand-in for everyman) and Baalstorm, the violent finish to life as we know it.

And yet, despite this large, violent canvas, Baalstorm, Sing Omega has a pastoral serenity to it, a sweetness in its backward-looking observations of life, nature and memory. Many of its most striking images are of women, “the apocalypse girl, Chiara, in her hat/sits and talks to atoms and planets” in “With Flowers in the Garden” and the unnamed “she” who is “naked like the water,” in “December 1971.” A woman’s voice asks softly, “Is everything all right, love?” in opener “I Dreamt of Aeon,” a note of domesticity in its otherwise hauntingly spiritual texture. There is also a child’s voice, periodically, humming “Twinkle, twinkle little star” here, demanding “Hold my hand,” there, crescendoing in hysterical “La la las” near the end. If Black Ships Ate the Sky sought grounding and reassurance in its repeated hymn “Idumea,” Baalstorm, Sing Omega seems to find respite in ordinary human connection.

The music, too, seems more grounded than usual, drawing from simple folk traditions and instrumentations. “With Flowers in the Garden” dances over light-footed, Middle Eastern rhythms, its flood of imagery tethered to primitive caravan cadences. “Passenger Aleph in Name,” one of the disc’s prettiest moments, is adorned with the childlike purity of glockenspiel, as is “The Nudes Lift Shields for War.” “Tanks and Flies,” despite the name, is calm and lovely, its piano and guitar arrangements, reticent to the point of transparency.

Only two of the album’s nine cuts approach any sort of Gnostic fury. The first “Baalstorm! Baalstorm! Baalstorm!” pursues eschatology in a subdued sort of way, its tension expressed in nervy, staccato piano flurries and whistling high organ tones. The second, album closer “I Dance Narcoleptic,” rampages more dramatically, in a flood of nightmare imagery and mad calliope tootles. Yet even this song ends in a benediction, a two minute silence giving way to the swell of ocean surf, and then a quiet voice (not Tibet) singing “Till the storm is through / and all of god’s promises echo through.”

This song, and perhaps the album as a whole, moves through chaos to acceptance. There are endings here, both the mythological Revelations-style endings, and more personal ones. Tibet has always led his listeners through surreal, frightening spiritual landscapes, but with this one, he seems to have gotten through to a serene and unexpectedly beautiful other side."

I am the hare with the eyes of coiled rope...

If anyone objects to me posting this link, please say so! That goes for all the links in Shadow Grounds as well.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 65

Mstislav Rostropovich / London Symphony Orchestra

Although it was written at a time of great optimism in the Soviet Union with the Nazis in retreat,
Shostakovich's Eighth Symphony is imbued with a deep sense of sorrow and fear of the future. Whereas the authorities expected a victorius anthem, Shostakovich appeared too affected by the bloody cost of the war. Mstislav Rostropovich again proves that no other conductor is able to so intimately understand the feelings of his dear friend.

Shostakovich on Rostropovich:
"In general, Rostropovich is a real Russian; he knows everything and he can do anything. Anything at all. I'm not even talking about music here, I mean that Rostropovich can do almost any manual or physical work..."

So there you have it - this is most likely the ONLY accurate and real Russian recording of the symphony.


John Tavener - Piano Music + others

Piano Music

Ralph van Raat, piano

The Eastern mysticism that Tavener has made his own - he has been a member of the Russian Orthodox church and imbibed its colours into his music - is present in most of these works. He does a good job of using the instrument's more limited resources to achieve similar effects to those in his larger orchestral and choral works. Yet the earlier works tread the line between consonance and dissonance in a way I find quite irritating. Ypakoë, for example, has a simple, profoundly spiritual melody which is allowed to sing out towards the middle and end of the piece. To get there, however, we have to put up with all manner of meanderings that seemed quite purposeless to me. Palin, his first piano work, features many instances when one key is sounded frequently and continuously for about 10 seconds at a time. It's meant to evoke approaching thunder, but it just sounds tedious.

The lighter works on this disc, tracks 4 and 6, are dedicated to the memory of Tavener's cats, and they see a return to traditional, triadic harmonies. These portraits are affectionate and warm: we even have glissandi to represent the pets running over the keys. Mandoodles contains jazz rhythms and reference to a Chopin Prelude, and In Memory of Two Cats is simple, bell-like and appealing. As with Ypakoë, an austerely beautiful melody is allowed space to sound. It is at moments like these that the disc is at its best and these get their fullest flowering in Pratirūpa, the longest and most recent work here.

All this suggests a sense of development in Tavener's style, from overt modernism through to a more sophisticated use of harmonies in his later works. The disc - the only one of this music? - is a welcome step in plugging this gap and any of the composer's fans who want to experience his broader range shouldn't hesitate. Performances are highly committed and the sound is up to the usual Naxos high standard.


The Protecting Veil

Steven Isserlis, Cello; Gennady Rozhdestevensky / London Symphony Orchestra

The Protecting Veil is a musical composition for cello and strings by British composer John Tavener. Completed in 1988, the work was at first a suggestion from cellist Steven Isserlis and subsequently commissioned by the BBC for the 1989 Proms season. The inspiration of the piece comes from the Orthodox feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, which commemorates the the apparition of Mary the Theotokos in the early 10th century at the Blachernae Palace church at Vlacherni, Constantinople.

This CD also contains Tavener's Thrinos suite for string, and Benjamin Britten's Third Suite for Cello.


The Best of John Tavener

2004; 11 tracks

Here is a collection of Tavener's most beautiful music. This album solidifies my admiration for Tavener - he really is one of the most amazing contemporary classical composers I've ever heard. His idea of "holy minimalism" in music is fascinating as well.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 10

Johannes Brahms - Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

Franz Liszt - Piano Music

Franz Liszt was a Hungarian composer and virtuoso pianist. He was very skilled, and some might have even considered him to be the greatest pianist who ever lived and ever will live. When he was 20, he decided he wanted to really be the greatest pianist in the world, so he started practicing 18 hours a day for 10 years straight. At 30, he was the greatest in the entire world. He was quite vain and decided that there simply were no pieces in the standard repertoire that even nearly matched his level of skill. This being the case, he wrote pieces for himself to play that were astonishingly difficult and a marvel to behold. Liszt also was the first one to come up with the concept of a "recital," or a solo performance of one (sometimes more) people. It is said that at his performances, many ladies would faint just by watching him play the piano!

Anyways, this guy was cool. He went on to become a monk later on in life, deciding to become a recluse from society... The third volume of the Années de pèlerinage is a perfect example of this dark, troubled time in the composer's life (which ended up being near the end...)

Années de pèlerinage (Complete Recording)

Lazar Berman, pianist; 2002, 26 tracks

Liszt's three volumes of Années de pèlerinage are rarely recorded complete, largely because many pianists remain baffled by the dark-hued prophecy and romanticism of the third and final book. So it is particularly gratifying to welcome Lazar Berman's superb recordings back into the catalogue, particularly when so finely remastered on CD. Berman is hardly celebrated as the most subtle or refined of pianists, but at his greatest he combines grandeur and sensibility to a rare degree and his response to Book Three, in particular, is of the highest musical quality and poetic insight.

The Années de pèlerinage (or "Years of Pilgrimage") are set into three parts:

-First Year, Switzerland
-Second Year, Italy
-Third Year

These 3 links correspond with these 3 parts.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

The Transcendental Études

Boris Berezovsky, pianist; 2006, 12 tracks

This is the newest recording by Berezovsky of all 12 Transcendental Études.


Hungarian Rhapsodies, Complete

Michelle Campanella, pianist; 1993, 19 tracks

[The 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies] remain among the most entertaining and successful pieces that Liszt wrote. This complete set is easily the finest available, and its reissue at two discs for the price of one makes it even more desirable.

Part 1
Part 2

Friday, August 6, 2010

John Tavener - The Protecting Veil [song]

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sergei Rachmaninoff - The 4 Piano Concertos

Rudi Arapahoe - Echoes From One to Another

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Maudlin of the Well

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Jandek - Khartoum

Richard Wagner - Tristan und Isolde

Here, Karl Böhm conducts the Bayreuther Festspielorchester in a wonderful, fiery performance of Wagner's most popular opera.

Richard Wagner was a German late Romantic composer whose work was highly influential to many composers, like Mahler and Strauss. Listening to this epic musical drama (better yet, seeing the opera) is so much better than watching the lame movie.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Clint Mansell - The Fountain OST

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