Monday, October 30, 2006

PHONOPHANI: Phonophani (Rune Grammofon)

Rune Grammofon 2006
13 Tracks. 75mins28secs

Buy it: CD
Phonophani | Rune Grammofon

Phonophani’s Espen Sommer Eide began his solo quest with this self-titled opus back in 1998. The album originally received a very confidential airing on Geir Jenssen’s Biophon imprint in 1998, and has just been re-released by the ever-excellent Rune Grammofon with an additional three tracks. Eide has since released two further albums, Genetic Engineering (2001) and Oak Or Rock (2004), and has teamed up with Dag-Are Haugan to form Alog, with whom he has released three albums and a handful of EPs which were recently collected on the excellent Catch That Totem!

While both projects seem intricately linked and thrive from a similar ethic, Phonophani’s scope is slightly darker and relies on more openly electronic textures. Eide already demonstrates here a clear taste for intricate sonic structures and elaborate arrangements based on a surprisingly mature approach to experimentation. Right from the pulsating dub swathes of the opening I. F. A., Eide applies melodic patterns and noises onto sumptuous abstract backdrops. Relying largely on organic rhythmic elements found evolving deep within his soundscapes rather than on conventional drum/bass sequences, Eide unleashes clouds of glitches, bleeps and melodic debris onto vast landscapes and manipulates the atmospheric fabric of his compositions to ensure consistency of tone all the way through.

As the album progresses, echoes of life can be found scattered over a handful of tracks, most prominently on Duration-Happiness, on which a heavily treated human voice, possibly that of Eide, rises above a lush orchestral mist to bring the track to a slightly unnerving end, while a child’s voice illuminates the solemn Sol, and on the enigmatic C, which seems built around the skeletal remains of Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson. Elsewhere, Eide carves delicate dreamy sequences out of minimal sound sources. Pieces such as Zumas, Kaliphoni and Order Of Disappearance show a much more spiritual side to his work as he articulates bleeps and airy melodies around hypnotic noise structures. If these can appear a tad dated now, they are so tightly integrated with the rest of the album that they never actually appear out of place. This reissue features three previously unreleased tracks recorded during the same period. Fitted at the end of the original record, these compositions do not exactly bring anything more to the album but their insertion allow the listener to wander in Phonophani’s carefully devised space a few more minutes.

On this debut release, Espen Sommer Eide assembles sounds, structures and atmospheres with impressive maturity and lays down the blueprint for his work both as Phonophani and as part of Alog. While the album doesn’t go as deep into experimental territories as its successors, it is, eight years after its original release, a surprisingly fresh-sounding and relevant collection of intricate electronic music.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Múm release 2002 Peel Session

Icelandic dreamy popsters Múm will be releasing their only Peel Session on 4 December on Fat-Cat, a little over two years after John Peel passed away. The session was recorded in 2002 following the release of the band's Yesterday Was Dramatic Today Is OK album. The EP, which was recorded by the original band line up, features live reworked versions of Scratched Bicycle / Smell Memory, Awake On A Train, Now There Is That Fear Again and The Ballad Of The Broken String. Múm are set to deliver their fourth album for Fat-Cat in Spring 2007.

Review coming soon.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

MAX RICHTER: Songs From Before (130701 / Fat-Cat Records)

Songs From Before
130701 / Fat-Cat Records 2006
12 Tracks. 37mins18secs

Buy it: CD
Max Richter | Fat-Cat Records

British-born composer and musician Max Richter studied composition and piano at Edinburgh University and at the Royal Academy Of Music before pursuing his studies in Florence under the late Italian composer Luciano Berio. Richter then co-founded contemporary classical ensemble Piano Circus in 1989, and spent ten years performing works by Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Graham Fitkins, Louis Andriessen, Brian Eno and many more with them. During this time, he developed an interest for sampling and electronic instrumentation, which led him to work with The Future Sound Of London on their 1996 album Dead Cities. His first album as a composer and musician, Memoryhouse, was recorded with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and released on the BBC Radio 3's Late Junction imprint in 2002.

It is not until his sophomore effort, The Blue Notebooks, published two years later on Fat-Cat's sub-label 130701, that Richter's profile became more prominent. While Richter's debut combined classical instrumentation and discreet electronics, the process was developed further on The Blue Notebooks to add grain and texture to the music. He has since been involved in a variety of projects, including producing the long-awaited second album by folk legend Vashti Bunyan.

For Songs From Before, Richter has teamed up with the same string ensemble as on The Blue Notebooks, augmented with readings from Japanese poet Haruki Murakami by Robert Wyatt. Very much like on its predecessors, Songs From Before is haunted by rampant melancholy and swirling melodic themes, creating a dense atmospheric backdrop for more subtle ornamental elements to flourish.

Richter shares a deep sense of minimalism with the likes of Steve Reich or Arvo Pärt, but there is a more cinematic and evocative feel to his compositions, at times evoking the work of Michael Nyman, or Ennio Morricone even. This contributes greatly in Richter's music being at once superbly forward-thinking and extremely accessible. From the sparse melodies of Song or Flowers For Yulia to the crystalline lines of Fragment, Autumn Music 1 or Sunlight and the dense torpor of Ionosphere, Time Passing or Lullaby, Richter plays tricks with the mind by constantly affecting the atmospheric canvas of his compositions. Wyatt's smoky voice surfaces at regular interval, adding grain to the spellbinding aspect of the music.

Songs From Before doesn't instantly appear that different from its predecessors, and in many ways, it is not. Richter is said to view his work as a composer as a long evolutionary process, and this album reflects this in the way it feels very much in tune with both Memoryhouse and The Blue Notebooks, but each one of these records has a particular density, and Songs From Before is no exception.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Coppé's first European tour

The exquisite Coppé will be touring Europe for the very first time this autumn as part of the Cyber Tongue tour with audio-visual artist Ben Sheppee and London-based breaksters Liberation Jumpsuit. Confirmed dates are as follow:

Thu October 19th: Resonance 104.4FM Live Session (The Clearspot, 7pm)

Fri October 20th: Mavryx @ The Spitz (with Modified Toy Orchestra)

Sat November 4th: Ginglik, Club on the Green, Shepherds Bush

Sat November 4th: Digital City, Shoreditch

Tue November 7th: Head+Arm @ The Vibe Bar, East London

Sat November 11th: Optica Festival, Gijon, Spain

For those who haven't experienced Coppé's weird and wonderful pop, these gigs are probably the best opportunity to see what she is all about.

Coppé has been releasing since the late nineties on her Mango & Sweet Rice imprint, and has worked with artists as diverse as Plaid, Kris 'Thrash' Weston, DJ Vadim or The Program to name but a few. While she names Richard D James as one of her main influences (she even dedicated a song to him on her last album), her work encompasses a wide ranges of genres, from delicate ambient pop to techno and jazz-infused electronica.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

AS ONE: Planetary Folklore 2 (Archive)

Planetary Folklore 2
Archive 2006
08 Tracks. 40mins28secs

Kirk DeGiorgio

Undoubtedly one of the most influential artists of his generation, Kirk Degiorgio is responsible for partly shaping the musical landscape of the nineties with a multitude of projects reflecting the widening spectrum of the genre over the years. With one foot rooted in seventies soul and funk and the other in Detroit techno, Kirk's work as encompassed a wide variety of styles, from jazz, funk, electro and classic techno to hip-hop and ambient, to create a compelling collection of elegant electronic music.

Born in the late sixties in East London, Degiorgio spent his formative years harvesting as much music as he could, but it is when an aunt gave him all her soul and funk seven inch singles that he began building what would become the backbone of his work. Consequently, he scoured the airwaves in search of black music radio shows, recording whatever he could. The next logical step was taken when he hit the club scene in the early eighties.

His first couple of releases appeared on B12 Records in 1991, and he rapidly gained interest from other labels, including R&S, New Electronica and Planet E, leading to the release of countless EPs, and later his first full-length album, Reflections, under his As One moniker. It is around the same time that he set up his Applied Rhythmic Technology, or ART for short, imprint, soon followed with another, OPART, releasing some of his own work as well as that of friends such as B12, The Black Dog or Gescom.

Almost ten years on from the first Planetary Folklore voyage, released on the now defunct Mo'Wax, Degiorgio re-arms his gun and deliver another slice of fine classic electronica tempered with elements of jazz and soul. Very much in the tradition of previous work, Planetary Folklore 2 combines impeccable soundscapes, groovy rhythmic sections and elegant atmospheres. While reminiscent of early Warp/ART/Rephlex times, this album also feels fresh and modern thanks to Degiorgio's uncompromising approach. Melodies drip lusciously from rich organic backdrops while intricate beat sequences snake their way through dense sound clouds to serve Degiorgio's aim. The wonderful Geranium harks back to a time when bleeps were de rigeur, whilst It's All Turning Blue or Irradiant wouldn't have gone amiss on a Black Dog Productions release. Elsewhere, Degiorgio injects some discreet jazz vibes into Blueshift and To See With Your Eyes, giving each track a particular relief by rendering the grain of the drums in exquisite shades. To complete the tableau, the moody Seyfert's Sextet and I Used To Live Here (Pts. 1 & 2) give this album a slightly more melancholic turn and contribute to reveal part of its emotional scope.

This second Planetary Folklore offering is only remotely related to its predecessor. If Degiorgio applies here a vaguely similar template to that used on the 1997 album, this new opus manages to flourish all by itself and feels as a piece of work in its own right. Here, Degiorgio continues to refine his sound and feed on a wide array of influences to create yet another magnificent record.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006


Some may have been wondering why this blog has been a bit quiet in the last week. Well, I was involved in a motorcycle accident last Thursday (28/09) which resulted in a broken shoulder for which I needed an operation on Saturday.

I have been back home since Monday, and although I have mobility in both hands, and even discovered that I could type with both hands when my keyboard is on my laps, typing like this gets very tiring very quickly, so I cannot curently work on full blown reviews, but I am hoping that things will improve in the next couple of weeks... Bear with me for a little longer as I have received some interesting music lately and am dying to write about quite a good few records.