Tuesday, May 31, 2011

朝生愛 (Ai Aso) - Lavender Edition & Chamomile Pool

2004; 9 tracks


2007; 10 tracks


朝生愛 (Ai Aso) is psychedelic-y folk-ish pop music with dreamy vocals to add to it. Not much can be said about substance, ethereality being a focal point, but it's the perfect accompaniment to a night spent reading spooky Wikipedia articles (one of my favorite pastimes) and checking out the neglected books site. So many books that never get read.

So, um... AI ASO. Musique précieux.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

二階堂和美 (Nikaido Kazumi) - また おとしましたよ

2003; 13 tracks

Nikaido Kazumi is a lovely young Japanese singer of mellow pop/folk music. With just her and her guitar, these lovely waves of tracks turn simple melodies into gorgeous songs, as warm and beautiful as a day by the ocean. Nikaido's music is a precious blend of cute, heartbreaking, and ethereal. I realllllyy recommend this!

"また おとしましたよ (Mata oto shimashita yo), or You Dropped Something Again, Didn't You?, is a foray into beautiful and simplistic pop album that focuses on Kazumi Nikaido's beautiful voice as the instrument of choice. Fragmented melodies that feel so innocent and playful in the most childish manner ever. What we have here is mostly just soft acoustic strumming that manages not to sound like every other singer/songwriter who uses an acoustic guitar. It's even slightly experimental, and Nikaido uses her voice to great effect, whether it's sounding more intimate or more screechy (like in "Even Though the Time Passes"). Nikaido can make eight minute songs seem like nothing; you really do just drift along with her music."


Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Residents - Demons Dance Alone + Bonus Disc

2002; 28 tracks

everyone is a resident

2002; 16 tracks


Okay, so, it has to be said... this album seriously makes me swoon. It is utter perfection, any angle you look at it. GOD I FUCKING LOVE DEMONS DANCE ALONE EDFJDGAODFAG.

Anyway, I guess I shouldn't be too lighthearted about it, even if many of these tracks are... well... very cheerful-sounding. This is The Residents' response album to the 9/11 attacks. It is a concept album dealing various emotional effects, such as loss and denial and "three metaphors" signifying something I cannot fathom. Out of the whole of The Residents' discography, which is extensive and I haven't even gotten through it all, these 28 + 16 tracks are full of some of the most touching, comical, absolutely enthralling music. Some tracks are achingly beautiful ("Neediness," "Demons Dance Alone"), others are so hilarious you have to laugh out loud ("Mickey Macaroni," "Make Me Moo"), and then... the ones you just love with all your heart instantly ("Weatherman," "Betty's Body," "Beekeper's Daughter"). So yeah. Try to listen to this album with all of your attention focused on it - imagine the face behind that low, southern-sounding drawl of a voice, and the others dressed as giant suited-up eyeballs of the beyond. If you haven't heard The Residents before, now is a good time to start.

The bonus disc includes 13 early recordings of tracks from Demons Dance Alone, along with 3 previously unreleased tracks.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ludovico Einaudi - Eden Roc

1999; 15 tracks

Ludovico Einaudi is a modern-day Italian classical composer and pianist. I love this album partly because it's track "Fuori dal mondo" (it is seriously amazing) was featured in the extraordinary British drama film This is England. But anyway. Gentle violins and the eternally delicate playing of Ludovico Einaudi make Eden Roc a very special album of contemporary classical piano music. It is much more than just "background music," as it seizes your attention until you realize you must listen to it regularly, maybe even daily. Such music smooths out the creases in your life, I find.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Elysian Fields - Last Day on Earth

2011; 11 tracks

This is the gorgeous new album of New York-based duo
Elysian Fields. I really loved Bleed Your Cedar, but this album retains their early seductive mystery, and it has even matured in some ways. Her voice sounds a little older, more experienced... the plodding, jazzy melodies snare you in their webs in the same succulent way. "Sleepover" and the title track remain my favorite tracks by far, but please try this out.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I have been listening to this one piece of music by none other than Sergei Rachmaninoff all day long. Over and over again. It is monumentally inspiring and gorgeous (check out 6:20, holy fuck). I found the very recording I prefer, and here it is:

Sergei Rachmaninoff's Étude-tableau in C minor, No. 7, Op. 39
Nikolai Lugansky, pianist

I've been contributing a lot to my
tumblr thing lately. Feel free to check it out, although - as a warning - some of it is a little boring. I watched two episodes of Dr. Who today (just finishing up the 4th season) and am getting more and more nervous to see what will happen with ROSE TYLER. If you didn't know, I am absolutely obsessed with her. Maybe not the actress who portrays her (British pop-singer Billie Piper) ((but I do like her face)), but the character. She is so much like me, and I cried so so much at the episode "Doomsday." I have never cried before, especially that hard, over any TV show or even any movie. Anyway. I will miss Ten too.

Now reading: John Irving - A Prayer for Owen Meany. I actually just read the first paragraph today at school and didn't get a chance to finish any more of it. But that's okay, I'm pretty excited to see what happens.

Also reading Wind-Up Bird on the side, just to add a bit of -sur- to my reality (get it? surreality?). I hope I'm not suffering from something I've heard many other Murakami readers suffer from - that "murakami-tiredness" that comes with reading too much Murakami around the same time, or re-reading things too many times. It's true. I can see how that's possible.

Today I found out about this interesting British photographer from the early 20th century named David Hamilton on this page. His series 1971 Rêves de jeunes filles has some incredibly beautiful photos in it, all of young girls basically around my age, some a little younger. I have a fascination with teenage girls (is that weird?) and I wish I could stay one forever. My favorite two pictures are:

Monday, May 16, 2011


Something I made that I'm quite proud of:


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ensemble Pittoresque - For This is Past

1983; 10 tracks

Ensemble Pittoresque was a minimal/synthpop band that formed in 1977, a time when bands like Faust and Can bombarded the mainstream with completely entrancing electronic music. Ensemble Pittoresque's sound is utterly weird, full of strange samples and varying atmospheres, but the effect is the same - we are captivated by the inventiveness of this group. Sometimes we are in the world of Doctor Who, visiting the hauntology/library music of Belbury Poly, and others we glide into This Heat-era experimentalism. When the vocals appear, things become slightly more human (they sound a lot like David Bowie), but altogether this album puts forth track after track of brilliant synthpop.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers - Teenage and Torture

2011; 10 tracks

This is the spine-tingling second album from
Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers, a bluesy/garage rock band from New York. Teenage and Torture is an abrasive listen, but fully worth it. In the words of one reviewer, it is a "brainy and brawny hybrid, unleashing barbed commentary on consumer culture." Thunderous and exciting, this is yet another 2011 you shouldn't miss. Shilpa has an incredible voice, also.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Cult of Youth - Cult of Youth

2011; 11 tracks

"With a sound that is simultaneously murky and pastoral,
Cult of Youth is neo-folk as seen through a post-punk lens, combining effervescent, acoustic arrangements with a dark and moody atmosphere to create a sound that's natural and ominous. Acoustic guitars play off of the twang of the electric bass, almost swapping roles with the bass cutting through the layers of guitar and violin to sometimes lead the rhythm rather than support it. The whole package is tied together neatly by singer/guitarist vocalist Sean Ragon, whose dramatic baritone splits the difference between Ian Curtis' somberness and Nick Cave's flair for the theatrical. This combination works wonderfully on songs like 'The Dead Sea,' adding a sense of foreboding to the maritime thump of the backing track. As the band's first album as a fully realized band rather than a bedroom recording project, Cult of Youth is a terrific entry into the neo-folk landscape, keeping many of the traditional elements of Irish and British folk while expanding the sound into deeper, darker waters."

This is an incredibly lovely album, smacking of Death in June and even The Chameleons (but much more folky, of course).


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

C.C.C.C. - Love & Noise

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Treepeople - Something Vicious for Tomorrow / Time Whore

1992; 13 tracks

Treepeople was an American-based indie/grunge/undefinable band from the 90s. Here is their 1992 full-length album, which includes the 1990 EP Time Whore.

This is one of the most amazing things I have ever heard. In my life. Once you listen, you will know why.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lucy - Wordplay for Working Bees

2011; 11 tracks

This is the debut full-length album of Luca Mortellaro, a very talented young artist of electronic and techno music. His first EP, Open House, was released in 2007, and he has since been featured on numerous mixes and a prominent member of the underground techno scene.

Wordplay for Working Bees is a cerebral album, to be sure, but it is penetrating in its darkness. I've never called the genre of "techno" a favorite, but this particular brand of techno, sometimes edging on idm, is beautiful. This is definitely one of my favorite new albums of 2011, and I'm excited to see what else
Lucy creates.

"The album often swings wildly from gorgeous interludes to foreboding atmospheres, where low frequencies bud and spore spontaneously. The beats are rarely predictable, sometimes not even danceable... That's not to say that Wordplay is all downcast weather and ruminative rumblings: The album's pumping midsection can be just as suffocating as it is warmly embracing, particularly the hissing field of locusts that surrounds the floating breakbeat in 'Bein' or the aural cement mixer that grounds 'Lav.'

Wordplay's defining feature is its immense and overwhelming sound design. Texture dominates over structure and rhythm. While definitely not an ambient album, it's easy enough to get lost in what's happening in or around the beats. It's something that anyone who loves electronic music, sound and sound manipulation, can fall in love with; when those microscopic fireworks burst blazing out of the percussion on 'Gas,' no one's going to care about time signatures or genre conventions. As techno continues to suffer through a bipolar identity crisis, fractured down the middle between minimal and, well, not minimal, it's producers like Lucy that prove just how far beyond those arbitrary boundaries the medium can be extended."


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Franz Liszt - Piano Concerto No. 1 & No. 2

Kyrill Kondrashin / Sviatoslov Richter
2000; 7 tracks

Here are the two Piano Concertos of Hungarian piano virtuoso Franz Liszt - not the "Hungarian Fantasia" or Chopin pieces (sorry).

These are the go-to recordings for both concertos, due mostly to their pristine recordings and Richter's incredibly lively and beautiful interpretations of the pieces. Franz Liszt took almost 20 years to finalize the First Concerto (which is amazing and you should recognize it as soon as you hear it). The Second was begun shortly afterward, but not finished for nearly another 20 years. The First Concerto is typically considered a soloist's showpiece, which is certainly not uncommon among the many showy Liszt pieces, and is therefore very popular among non-classical music fans. According to an eternally unknown source, the "Second [concerto] shows Liszt attempting to confirm his compositional talent while distancing himself from his virtuoso performance origins."

Franz Liszt was a very interesting character, in terms of music and real life, much like Johannes Brahms (to me). If you have the time, I highly recommend reading about his eventful
life, one full of immense glory, sadness, and personal enlightenment. I posted some of his other piano music a while back, and they can be found here.

Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat
Piano Concerto No 2 in A

Oh, one last thing - I have just begun to learn this piece (below). It is "Un Sospiro" from Liszt's Trois études de concert. I wouldn't call it my favorite Liszt piece, but it does look fun to play. And very challenging. The only other Liszt piece I learned was his "Au bord d'une source," probably the most difficult piece for me to keep under control. I need to train my fingers a little better to play things this rapid and still sound as lightweight and gorgeous as this pianist, Marc-André Hamelin, does. Maybe someday...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Les Troubadours Du Roi Bedouin - Missa Luba

1969(?); 16 tracks

Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin is a choir, with a percussion section, consisting of about 45 Congolese boys from 9 to 14 years old formed by Father Guido Haazen in the early 1950s. He arranged the composition.

Missa Luba is a version of the Latin Mass based on traditional Congolese songs. It is completely void of any modern, western musical influences. None of it is written, so certain rhythms, harmonies and embellishments are spontaneous improvisations.

This is the re-issue of the original mass, including the 3 bonus children's songs from Baluba. It's pretty awesome.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sergei Prokofiev - Complete Piano Sonatas

Boris Berman, pianist
1998; 30 tracks (3 discs)

Sergei Prokofiev was a highly influential Russian composer from the early 20th century. He was a sort of contemporary to young Dmitri Shostakovich, and a very respected composer, pianist, and conductor. He is different from many other "Soviet" composers in that he traveled abroad to both America and Europe, where he was greeted with both success and disdain (experimentalism was still... experimental). He composed 9 complete piano sonatas, the 10th being unfinished. This recording includes 1-9, with both the original and revised versions of the 5th, and the fragment of the 10th which was actually composed.

Piano Sonatas 6-8 are often called the composer's "War Sonatas," composed in the later 1930s soon after his return to the Soviet Union. It is said that, after composing so much music in the vein of Stalin's make-believed paradise of a Socialist Russia, these 3 Sonatas contain the composer's "true feelings" (whatever those may be). In any case, I think the 8th is my favorite in terms of power and beauty.

Boris Berman is a Russian pianist who has recorded the entire piano works of Prokofiev. He played the first Russian performances of works by composers such as Stockhausen and Ligeti, and has also worked with Alfred Schnittke (I love you).

"In these works we find all the peculiarities of Prokofiev: the percussive and barbaric rudeness of the first period, the synthesis of virtuosity, choreographic spirit and neoclassicism of the intermediary period and the tragic expressiveness of the last sonatas, sometimes transfigured in episodes of intense lyricism; everything is built always with a recognizable style, offering a complete synthesis of the art of Prokofiev. The interpretation of Boris Berman is very valid, idiomatic, and it respects the spirit of the composer adequately."

Interesting information on the 9th Sonata:

"The Ninth Sonata was completed in 1947 when the dark clouds of official displeasure were looming. The Sonata was dedicated to Sviatoslav Richter and although frequently performed by its dedicatee it has never been a popular work. The music is immediately appealing with a lyrical melody that becomes playful. The charming aspect of the sonata is maintained throughout the sonata, particularly in the short Allegro movement, which is followed by tranquil slow movement punctuated with playful phrases; the sonata closes with a charming finale. What Prokofiev was able to complete of the Tenth Sonata, just two pages of music, is interesting for what might have been. This is a very rewarding set that anyone who loves Prokofiev's music will not want to be without."

The first disc includes Piano Sonatas 1-4; the second is Piano Sonatas 5-7, and the third includes Piano Sonatas 8-10.

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Henry's Dress - Henry's Dress

1995; 8 tracks

"San Francisco’s
Henry’s Dress debuted on Slumberland Records with this self-titled, eight-song disc. The songs were recorded at Supersonic Studios in 1993 and 1994. The band’s distortion and heavy use of fuzz pedals are immediately prominent, along with Amy Linton’s relaxed vocals. The haunting and chaotic instrumentation on 'Title Forthcoming' combines with Linton’s distant vocals to create a surreal and dreamy aura."

This is quite the debut. Indulgent yet engaging. Dreamy vocals reminiscent of Lovesliescrushing + pure, noisey fuzziness. "Feathers" is a personal favorite, but Henry's Dress is just a great listen.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pale Cocoon - 繭

1984; 12 tracks

The echoes of a dream, lost in a nebulous emptiness deep inside your head. (Cocoon) was released as a cassete in 1984 by Japanese duo
Pale Cocoon, and it is unreal.

This music seems to have spawned from a disconnected TV program from a far away universe, broadcasted over time that is not time to finally echo inside our heads while we dream. I have never experienced an album so illusory, but the sensation is incredible. There is no structure, no direction - just as in a dream... Enigmas raining from the sky in unpredictable patterns. Distant hums of an unimaginable instrument accompany dreamlike and utterly surreal vocals. From time to time the mirrored sounds from a remote childhood make themselves heard (as on "Toy Box") alongside the sheer strangeness of Pale Cocoon, a band as mysterious as their music. Some aspects of this could be called shoegaze, or dreampop, but it is more experimental than anything else, and incapable of fitting into any one genre. I am so glad I got this, though it was purely on a whim. It seems as though whenever I find something completely randomly it always ends up being infinitely more enjoyable than something on one of my many "music to listen to" lists.

a very private sonic universe

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ef - Give Me Beauty... Or Give Me Death!

2006; 6 tracks

This is the debut album of Swedish post-rock band
Ef, and it is a perfect May album. Each track resonates with a shimmering energy that seems to embody the entire genre of "post-rock." Vocals are scarce, but lovely and powerful when heard (see "Hello Scotland"). I just can't find enough words to explain the beauty of Give Me Beauty... Or Give Me Death!. The best experience I had listening to this album was last year on a day that I didn't have school. My mom took me and my sister and brother to a park right on the edge of a huge forest. Me and my sister ran through the forest and found a lake that we had visited when we were younger, and we just laid out on the rock staring at the clouds for hours. Time doesn't even exist in moments like this, when the most beautiful music and the most perfect sky calmly hold you still above the world.

City streets, in late spring...
Where smoke covers everyone, and everything.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I just finished watching Micmacs, or Micmacs à tire-larigot. It took me like 3 days to finish as I had to go on a meaningless trip with my school this weekend and never had a chance. I posted the soundtrack a little while back (link
here), but that's beside the point. This film is just incredible! It was directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, whose previous films (of this style) include La cité des enfants perdus, Delicatessen (both with the art direction of Marc Caro) and Amélie. Already you should realize this a film that stands apart from many others. Jeunet exposes so magnificently both the absurdities and weaknesses of his characters. Each character has a story that follows them through the film (I was pleased to see Dominique Pinon make his appearance once more! he is so great), and they all work together so well with their quirks, uncommon abilities, and fascinating personalities. Among these characters there is the Elastic Girl, a highly flexible woman who can hide in the smallest of spaces, including a fridge and/or briefcase; Remington, a Congolese ethnographer obsessed with idioms; Tiny Pete, a small man who has an uncanny ability to create peculiar machines out of practically anything; and then there's Mama Chow, Slammer, Calculator, Buster, etc. I haven't watched a movie with such great characters in forever. The plot revolves around Bazil(the main character)'s revenge on two powerful companies who both created the mine by which Bazil's father died while attempting to disarm it, and were responsible for the bullet that quite randomly entered Bazil's head. The movie is touching and strong in both characters and absurdist humour. Jeunet's childlike view of an everyday world enchants the viewer and makes Micmacs a very beautiful, fun film. So, the point of this post... you should watch it. I suck at film reviews or whatever, but who doesn't?

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