Saturday, May 31, 2014

Black Dog Blue

A true expression of the ambient genre, Hilliat Fields's EP Black Dog Blue will be released tomorrow.

I found the compositions to be steady, painting notes in a field of piano feedback. The effect is much like an organ, as the chords play out in simple pulses. Some of the compositions recall Hilliat Fields earlier work, the more extensive album Aphelion, which explored guitar tones in much the same manner.

The album has a slightly dark edge to it's chord choices, which are not quite anodyne, and lead me to  contemplative thought. A good background to writing. The pieces are simply numbered rather than named, lending the pieces the anonymity that seems to pervade the album.

These pieces are unlike much of Hilliat Fields's work, which is more of a dark pop in nature, haunting beautiful vocals. For more structured pieces, my favorite remains 2011's Heavy Metal.

You can find it on i-tunes tomorrow.  Follow @hilliatfields on twitter, and also find a wealth of other music on the website

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Leading Edges

Upon first listen of Leading Edges by Leeds progressive artists Helecopter Quartet, sit in a quiet place, with no distractions. These are soundscapes intended to be perceived, not allowed to fade into background ambience. There are things occurring in these pieces that may demand your attention.

Distortion, feedback, subtle dissonance, and sumptuous beauty all play parts in these journeys. Their effort represents a conscious move away from a typical band format to an interaction between  two imaginative sonic artists creating worlds as yet unknown. Execution of the material is as interesting and surprising as  I've ever seen. I was continually reminded of the soundscapes created by King Crimson at their best, playing off of each other and building together these new vistas.

The Way It Never Was opens the album with a sawing violin loop, as the duo weave a tapestry of fear and longing, making me recall past efforts when the artists were with Catscans. The piece swings progressively through sections resembling landscapes, exploring the small corners of an alien world, violins like bird  calls populating it.

There are two versions of Refuge on the album, and I have to say that I prefer the original mix to the remix at the end of the album. I'm not a fan of added beats in remixes, and although done well, I felt that they detracted from the sonorous original, which I found both beautiful and a little disturbing.

110 brings us a subtle drone as backdrop. It showcases the melodic  leads, providing the space in which the duo play off of each other subtle brilliance, rendered in distortion and feedback.

The first synth notes of Trailing Edge are slightly dissonant, providing a framework of nervousness, soon occupied by the soaring violins, subtly punctuated by pulsing guitar. Glistening in the end as the pair trade roles, violin providing the big backdrop, as the guitar comes to the foreground.

The last piece is an epic soundscape. This Hothouse is obviously not quite safe, and makes me wonder what grows amid its tangled branches in the entropic heat. A great journey as the piece evolves slowly over the next nine minutes or so, building to cacophonous heights of distortion to the emergence of the things which perhaps should not be.

All in all, an excellent effort. It's worth your time to sit and listen attentively to it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rothko Room

As an Art major in college, I spent a lot of time studying the Abstract Expressionist movement of the mid 20th Century. For many people, it was the last straw of Modernism, they couldn't understand Pollack's dense and detailed dribblings, nor could they understand the simple fields of colour offered by Mark RothkoI loved it, however, and even though I loved subsequent movements, I find myself drawn to these revolutionary works as they speak to me. I've spent time in front of Rothko's monumental works, allowing the feeling to seep in, considering beyond the simplicity of design, finding the landscape of plane and space within. 

When English composer Stuart Russell began creating works based on Rothko's work, I was more than intrigued. What better subject for an ambient album? Rothko's work and ambient sound would surely work well together, and as Russell posted the pieces in development on SoundCloud, I felt that he'd captured his impressions of the works very well indeed.

The album, taken as a whole for me now for the first time, is very easy to sit through. The long sonorous notes, the subtle and gradual timbre changes, the thick field of sound match the colour fields of Rothko well, I think. My only regret is that I have nothing more than a couple of small pictures of Rothko's here in my apartment. I keep thinking that I'd like to take this in front of one of Rothko's works and combine the sound with the vision. However, travelling all the way to the Tate to see the actual installation that inspired it would be prohibitively expensive for me.

This album will be released any day now on Xylem Records. If you love ambience and synthetic sound, or the work of Mark Rothko, I can recommend it highly.

You can follow Stuart Russell on Twitter at  @stuartr_comp  and check out his page Stuart Russell Composer. You can also find his works on SoundCloud.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Ephemeral (Frameworks)

Fellfoxen is a composer from the United Kingdom who produces cinematic atmospheric pieces, often imbued with drama. The pieces are usually very short, ideas put into focus and distilled to a concise vision.

This effort is no different in that respect. Ephemeral is a collection of short cinematic themes, all leading into one another in a cohesive whole.

This EP is very short, under ten minutes in length. Certainly the concept could be taken out to a full album length. But the songs are quite beautiful, and the clarity of Fellfoxen's vision is strong. Certainly released as a "name your price" EP, one has no call to complain of the length. I found the idea rather refreshing, and listening was like a journey as one piece leads very neatly into the next. The songs could be put together as a single cohesive whole.

The instrumentation is clean and clear, and I found it sylvan in nature. Natural sounds of wind  and birds are added to the mixes, reinforcing the cinematic quality of the music. Another thing I found refreshing is the tendency to only use a beat where it fit. So many try to spruce up their ambient works with needless beats, which detract from the intention of the rest of the music, and diminish it. Fellfoxen has none of that on this EP, and I enjoyed it greatly.

A good short listen.

You can find Fellfoxen on Twitter as @firstfoxen , on SoundCloud, on Tumblr and, of course on BandCamp.