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.

NEW MUSIC: Cederick Knox – Back In The Box

Cederick Knox hits cosmic mystery mode on this new track ‘Back In The Box’. There’s a shadowy creep to the sound he’s created. Part jazz, part avant-experimentalism, initial drum tracks were recorded with cerebral palsy drummer ​​​’Spack​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Box’, on​ ​top​ ​of​ ​which​ ​a​ ​series​ ​of​ ​players (including members of Squid and Pelican Man) ​ ​were​ ​invited​ ​to improvise. These recordings were then used as raw material for the project.

You can hear the collaborative process at work, elements feeding off each other, sometimes in harmony, sometime in contrast. The end effect is a hypnotic and transfixing one that pulls the listener in, draws the curtains and frees the mind.

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: 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.

NEW MUSIC: Wax Chattels – Cede

PHOTO CREDIT: Ebru Yildiz

The Aotearoa/New Zealand trio Wax Chattels release the final single from their new album Clot, out September 25 via Flying Nun and Captured Tracks.

The vitriolic choruses of ‘Cede’ are in Amanda Cheng’s (bass/vocals) native language — Taiwanese Hokkien — and are an indignant confrontation about Cross-Strait relations and self-determination.

Amanda Cheng on ‘Cede’ — “I am angry. Saying “you don’t know who I am” in Taiwanese Hokkien is to say “you don’t get to tell me who I am”. You don’t just scream like this to put on an album — you scream like this because it’s the only thing you can do.

This song is an affront to the near-silent cultural genocide that’s taking place — the censorship, the militant threats — and the international community’s insistence on practicing diplomacy with economics at the front of mind. If it takes a loud song that’s half in an unfamiliar language for people to ask, “what’s that about?”, then so be it.”
 

Amanda Cheng on the video for ‘Cede‘ below — “I set out to make a video that was unenjoyable to watch; unhinging a domestic, ‘safe’ setting. To contrast the blunt lyrics, the thematic statements in the video are more subtle — there’s a geopolitical narrative there, but you’ll miss it.”

The video was directed by Amanda, with the helping hands of Annabel Kean and Callum Devlin of Sports Team.

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