NEW MUSIC: Warren Ellis – Purple Perilla

From Dirty Three to the Bad Seeds and now a parallel career as a composer with and without Nick Cave, Warren Ellis has certainly led a fascinating creative life. He’s just released a new project with Marianne Faithfull and in another first he’s composed the soundtrack to a book – a recently released collection of short stories by Chinese writer Can Xue.

This piece initially has a wonderfully languid and cloud-like feel and lightness to it as it drifts in multiple directions, changing form, disconnecting and re-engaging into new shapes and amorphous ebbs and flows. Then as the 42 minute piece evolves, it draws on drones and ambient tonal washes and bell-like celestial movements.

Ellis says “The day before Christmas 2020: I find myself the only person staying in an eighty-six room hotel in East London. It was originally the Old Street Magistrates’ Court and Police Station. I’m reading Can Xue’s stories and it dawns on me to use the empty swimming pool, bowling lanes, courtroom, and holding cells as rooms to create a soundscape for the text. I set up a zoom mic, playing back field recordings from before the lockdown and using the ambience of each room as reverb. The sound of rooms waiting. It can be started at any point in the track, or put on a loop. There is no beginning, middle, or end.”

NEW MUSIC: Alaskan Tapes – The Sky Sings Its Chorus (For Us Alone) [Pt. 1]

Ambient / post-rock / drone / soundtrack / soundscape

There’s a beautifully ponderous lumber and sway to this new post-rock track from the Toronto, Canada artist Alaskan Tapes (Brady Kendall). The lulls and gentle washing peaks are perfectly paced and giving a sense of movement that carries the listener through an emotionally melancholic six minutes. What I like is that the piece never gets heavy for heavy sake. Like Dirty Three, Kendall balances free-form explorations with repeating themes and motifs that foster familiarity and a cyclical swell to the music as the crashing drums and aching, soaring strings dance in unison.

“It is my attempt at creating a track that’s contrasted with the other tracks in the context of the album. When it’s compared to my other tracks it’s very heavy and I think you can hear the ‘Metal’ side of my writing coming out.”

Alaskan Tapes’ music has features in a variety of short films, including “Birth Pangs”, “Childhood Trauma” and “Mag Sein” by Director Eliot Rausch, “ABADDON” by Director Rogerio Silva, and “Harvest Season”, a new documentary by Bernardo Ruiz.

The new Alaskan Tapes album For Us Alone, will be released on April 16, 2021.

ALBUM REVIEW: Jessica – The Space Between

JESSICA

THE SPACE BETWEEN

INDEPENDENT (via Bandcamp)

One half of folk-noir duo Jep and Dep (also featuring Darren Cross of Gerling), Jessica’s debut album takes the sound forged from that musical partnership and crafts it into her own ethereal and immersive world. Cross is still on hand as producer and engineer but it’s clear from the outset that this is Jessica’s singular and personal vision.

Devoid of drums, the eleven songs drift and creep along like mist on a moor. Heavily draped in resonant reverb that creates an ambient, cathedral-like atmosphere, the billowing vapour trails hanging heavy in the air, shrouding her songs that explore the themes of death, loss and memory – formed from her experience as a survivor of a mass shooting in Strathfield, NSW when she was seven.

There’s a half-grasped memory quality to many of the songs, buried in a hypnagogic haze, while others such as ‘Womb Tomb’ are lifted skyward and ‘Has It Come To This’ has the DNA of a classic torch song.

Vocally, Beth Gibbons (Portishead), Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins) and Aldous Harding’s early work are clear influences on the way Jessica hauntingly layers her voice. By playing electric guitar, she avoids straight folk and creates more emotionally visceral textures, bringing to mind PJ Harvey and the more elegiac playing of Mick Turner (Dirty Three). Time and the listener’s full attention are essential to fully appreciating the depth and expansive beauty of The Space Between.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Darren Cross – Keeping Up?

Darren Cross returns with a new album called Keeping Up? In recent years he’s explored folk noir with Jep and Dep, his own eclectic solo albums and a pair of instrumental acoustic folk albums under the moniker D.C Cross.

Here he orbits planet Gerling closer than he has since the band split back in in the late 00s. It’s still a totally different musical creature but the synthetic/humanistic/subtly anarchic blend that band explored at times is still rippling through Cross’ DNA.

There’s a cosmic nostalgia at play. Dreamy, fragmentary and hypnagogic in the feelings it portrays and the visage it conjures up, this is Kraftwerk disconnected from their machines and cast into an interstellar dream state. Hi-brow, lo-fi – allowing the machines to wonder and reflect. There’s a sense of suspended reality, a remove from the chaos of reality, pressing pause on the VCR, cleaning the hard drive, looking for a way to process and cope with the avalanche of data we consume and are unwittingly fed with each day.

Drum machines are treated like arhythmic heartbeats, lazily loping along with a melancholic funk in their step. Synths wash and cascade like ultra slo-mo and woozy waterfalls. There’s an overwhelmingly immersive quality to the music. Drug-like, womb-like – that intrinsic memory of holding your breath underwater as a child and feeling at peace in the aquatic cocoon.

Keeping Up? is a battle for optimism in the face of decreasing digital odds. It’s a non-smoking area for mental health and a dystopian glance back at the malaise of the industrial age.

NEW MUSIC: Jessica – Pictures

Jessica (one half of Jep & Dep) has just released her brand new debut album The Space Between on Bandcamp and ‘Pictures’ is the second single from to be drawn from what is a beautifully ethereal and immersive collection of songs.

‘Pictures’ rides a hypnotic guitar line reminiscent of Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood before Jessica’s vocal takes centre-stage, unfurling and overlapping with itself as she wanders a shopping mall before taking refuge in a dreamy and futuristic karaoke bar.

We’ve got a full album review coming soon but for now, dive in for yourself over at Bandcamp.

NEW MUSIC: Pascal Schumacher – Prelude To Robert M

Pascal Schumacher is a Luxembourgan composer and vibraphone player who’s built up an impressive resume playing with quartets through to orchestras.

This new release comes from an EP Tropismes (The Mudam Session) where he performed at Mudam, the contemporary art museum in Luxembourg, and you get a real sense of how he operates at the nexus of classical and minimal electronic composition. The lightness and beauty of his playing is hypnotic, like a dreamstate transmission. Heavy-lidded yet full of life and verve, fragile yet full fully-formed. Beautiful stuff indeed.

Check out his full-length 2020 release SOL for a full and immersive deep dive into his work.

NEW MUSIC: Empasse – Ultraviolet

Let’s kick off the new week with some really nice post-rock sounds out of Kirikiriroa (Hamilton) in New Zealand. If you dig the type of music created by Mogwai and Jakob then this will be your kind of thing. ‘Ultraviolet’ is moody, dark and ominous even when it’s not heavy. It’s cinematic too, but still operates in a compositional rock format.

Empasse is the work of Nick Johnston, a local government bureaucrat by day and musician by night. Some of Nick’s previous bands include post-rock band Sora Shima, and indie pop bands The Changing Same and Dynamo Go.  

Nick describes the Ultraviolet EP as a “soundtrack to a story that is not well known in New Zealand outside the Waikato Region where I live” – the story of the town of Rotowaro, a former mining village that was entirely removed in the 1980s to make way for an opencast coal mine. The mine fuelled the Huntly Power Station, the largest thermal power station in New Zealand which has been identified as responsible for over half of New Zealand’s carbon emissions from electricity generation. 

“Ultraviolet is about the damage and wounds that we cannot see – in this case, it is the rural communities that have battered over many generations to grow and power our larger cities, as well as the carbon emissions damaging the health of our planet.” 

NEW MUSIC: body / negative – Figure 8

Figure 8 is a haunting and dream-like piece of instrumental ambient composition from 22 year old queer, nonbinary ambient artist, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Andy Schiaffino from Los Angeles.

There’s a David Lynch, otherworldly atmosphere to both the music and the video clip – like a ghostly ballroom soliloquy from a bygone era. The song is a cover of a cover — originally a children’s song on the educational cartoon ‘Schoolhouse Rock’, popularised by Elliott Smith’s cover of it on his Figure 8 LP. Here it’s given a similar treatment to artists such as The Caretaker and William Basinski.

The song appears on body / negative’s new album Fragments due October 23rd on LA label Track Number Records.