It’s a numbers game or in this case digits and letters as the launch of this brand new imprint bursts with a bang of energised, electronic rhythms, inviting moods and forward-thinking sounds. Beginning with the tempting Mind Tonic which plays out all of the above its charm is also down to the uncomplicated yet deeply absorbing nature of the arrangement alongside its rich atmospheres plus crisp production. Harry Will’s On The Rocks Mix adds extra punch by driving up the tempo next, complementing the edge of the original with more soulful chords. Second number, Adjust and Proceed then sees Bernard inject the beats and bass with a more urgent funkiness, breaking up the drums while punctuating moments with breathy voices. Contrasted briskly by Silverlining’s rapid attack of four on the floor of the same. By way of an introduction this is explosive.
If words like dark, smouldering and Jazz tick your box then this is most definitely for you. German producers Morgen Wurde & Tis join sensibilities alongside jazz trumpeter Tetsuroh Konishi to create an exotic experience, dripping in late-night tales of excess and intrigue. Voices drift across the horizon as do the heavy atmospheric blasts forming a series of compelling moments on Richtet. Next the excellent title track explores even moodier territory via haunting, hot-wired synth lines plus an abundance of otherworldly sounds leaving the Trumpet to flow freely across unnerving terrain. An expanded and highly recommended Deep Edit compliments the original version, likewise a beat less Synthese mix which also highlights the divergent and edgy sound treatments perfectly.
Release: September 24
It’s appropriate to term Henrik Lindstrand’s creative output as prolific completing albums, concerts, soundtracks and more over the course of recent years. Now landing at the release of this series of reworked episodes his striking music sees a number of likeminded musicians provide fresh interpretations as Reimagined. Part of what is exciting here is the sense that the Classical format has been reignited (yet again) with the pulse of electronic energy and contemporary production techniques allowing for the shock of the new to take firm hold. At times the passage of time feels dreamy, at others shades darker dancing with intensity such as on Christina Vantzou’s take of Havet or via the grainy treatments by Benoit Pioulard of Loranga. Then comes the Anne Müller version and single Søndermarken which of course takes you into the realms heavenly climbs as emotions are reached for, then dissipated into an ether of silence. At moments like these music can feel truly plugged in and very much alive, pointing forwards the future rather than too stuck in the past. The way composition should proudly be….
Before the week ends I wanted to point you in the direction of New Eden which was released at the end of last. Given the title we know precisely where the journey begins (give or take a few genes, molecules and organic process) but where does it end. I sometimes wonder whether the ambient – if that’s even the appropriate word – landscapes, which an increasing number of artists evolve around A-Z, are in fact never-ending looping throughout an eternity of existence like an omnipresent Eno. It can be hard to pull apart and separate your emotional reaction from one set piece to another given your response can be similar to each passing undulation of synthesized sound. But of course you could say exactly the same of the Blues or The Ramones both of which I almost equally love. I guess in the end it’s the depth of how you react to the music that denotes its validity and importance in comparison to every other mood-enhancing, melancholic chord on offer suggestively evoking happy/ sad. However, Andrew Heath’s journey feels more deeply personal than that and you do feel at times like you are stepping into someones dream as uncomplicated yet poignant notes float unhindered across the stereo in search of meaning. Not always a smiling experience but certainly an involving, rewarding one. And like all valuable music should do it reaches out to touch the soul.
Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Fran. Let’s start with your awe-inspiring new album: Horst & Graben. Can you tell me why you chose that title and what it means for you in 2021?
In Geology, Horst and Graben refer to regions that lie between normal faults and are either higher or lower than the area beyond the faults. These are the areas across a landscape that are rifts or river valleys (Graben) and ridges (Horst) and that you often traverse when hiking and mountaineering, especially on long distance excursions. Recent hikes during the last year had me thinking about these topographical features and their analogous qualities to our everyday lives-our ups and downs, highs and lows.
These recent hikes in concurrence with the political and natural climates of the last few years (and made more volatile by the current pandemic), started me on a sort of philosophical journey about the highs and lows of spiritual, social and economic cycles we go through as a society and how the speed of these cycles seem to be on overdrive at the moment. The album’s title refers to the current state of these cycles.
The album was partly inspired by David George Haskell’s book ‘The Songs of Trees’. How did you first encounter it and can you tell us about how his words could create a sonic landscape in your imagination?
I’m often on the lookout for books that help me widen my knowledge about the natural world and The Song of Trees was one of those online algorithm based recommendations that happened one late night in the early Fall of 2020 while browsing through my computer instead of being in bed sleeping. I remember making a mental note but it wasn’t until a month later that I remembered the book had piqued my interest. Soon after, I bought it and right away Haskell’s narrative took over my attention.
In general, books about nature are easy to visualize in my head, to the point that I can associate places I’ve travelled to the visual aesthetics the author describes. This in turn, helps me relate to the narrative with a greater sense of accuracy. Haskellâ€™s book was no exception. In fact, his prose made it all that much easier to visualize his narrative. Maybe being a hiker and mountaineer might have something to do with this visualization ability but it does help tremendously if the authorâ€™s narrative is especially captivating. In the case of Haskellâ€™s book, each element fed off each other.
Having said that, and going back to the first question and what sparked my philosophical journey, Haskellâ€™s stories helped me propel my own narrative and my own observations I was drawing. His themes helped me fill in the blanks of what I was going through in my head by giving me a deeper understanding of the connections between ourselves and the natural world around us. It gave me the confidence to draw conclusions about why weâ€™re doing a disservice to ourselves, and understand how our species is constantly doing a disservice to our own spirituality and the spirituality of the natural world.
The album was mastered by Taylor Deupree (12k). How did your relationship with the artist come about and what do you think he has lent the final sound?
I have been following Taylorâ€™s musical journey since 1994 when he released an album in collaboration with Savvas Ysatis as SETI on the now defunct Instinct Records (the label was bought out by Knitting Factory Records back in 2003) for which he also worked for as Art Director (many releases featured his art direction) and mastering engineer.
At the time, Instinct Records was a portal to discovering other great labels such as Fax +49-69/450464, em:t, and Ninja Tune. It was also a portal to discovering more of Taylorâ€™s work under different aliases, such as Human Mesh Dance, Prototype 909, Futique and Drum Komputer. For a while, it seemed there were one or two releases a year that involved him in some capacity or another. Needless to say, it was a rewarding experience following his work during the 90â€™s.
But after the 90â€™s I lost track of his musical output for a while and it wasnâ€™t until the last few years that I rediscovered him and much to the delight of my ears, he continues to be as prolific and rewarding to listen to. Not just that, but he also runs a wonderful label (12K) with lots of great releases including a few of his own.
Since the time I began composing (2004) to the time I began Forest Robots (2017), I have learned about the process of creating an album-from demo recording to mastering. However, one thing Iâ€™ve learned in particular is to sometimes let certain aspects of putting an album together be done by other people. In that way, by seeing others work their craft, you can also learn to improve yours. So with that in mind, I reached out to Taylor.
The man is a busy creator and curator though and it took sheer synchronicity for him to be available to spend time on the album and finish putting all the pieces together. I canâ€™t express enough how grateful I am to have had his assistance. He has a tremendously deep intuition and understanding of the hierarchy of each instrument within a composition and how to best manage that hierarchy to achieve the clearest sound. His stately experience benefited the sound of the album a great deal.
On a personal level, it was a rewarding experience working with him after following his work for three different decades. There is a feeling of reaching a full circle of sorts with this album and Taylorâ€™s involvement in mastering it.
Can you describe the process of how you created one of the tracks from Horst & Graben? Are there any favourite pieces of software/ hardware you like to use in making music?
Oftentimes, a composition begins outside of the studio and it doesnâ€™t begin as a musical idea either. Instead, it begins as a line of thinking. It could be philosophical, spiritual, or emotional. It can be a certain feeling of introspection, gratitude or awe, usually sparked by a view or a place Iâ€™m exploring in the outdoors. The idea then gets complimented later on by other things, like a book, a film, documentary, a television program, or current events taking place either where I live in or in other parts of the world. Once Iâ€™ve had some time to process what Iâ€™m thinking about (usually takes weeks or even months), I then ask myself, â€˜Is there anything that I can contribute to the subject?â€™. If the answer is yes, I then ask myself, â€˜How can I best say this?â€™. Thatâ€™s when the studio finally comes into play and I begin to think about what instruments I want to use, what musical direction I want to take.
Before I began recording Horst & Graben, I had purchased an Elektron Digitone and an Analog Heat. However, during the first two months these two were in the studio, I mostly played around with them in a learning capacity and didnâ€™t record anything with them.
When I finally decided what musical direction I wanted to go with Horst & Graben, I knew I wanted to have a warm, nostalgic-like, electronic sound throughout the album. Something reminiscent of electronic and ambient works from the 1970â€™s. It was then that it became obvious I would use both Elektron machines. A lot of the electronic tones from the album come from the Digitone processed through the Analog Heat. The rest of the sounds came from processed piano.
The track, This World Is Held Together By The Beauty Of Humble Places struck a particular chord with me. What can you tell us about the video which accompanies it?
The title of the track is a phrase that has stuck with me from the first time I read it. It is one of those quiet but monumental kinds of statements. We have a tendency to focus our attention on visually stunning views-especially in nature. Waterfalls, mountain tops, river gorges, grand valleys, but itâ€™s the quiet and often out-of-view places that make the outdoors thrive. It is these places where wildlife usually dwells and where it is created, nourished and renewed every day. The places we donâ€™t run into, we donâ€™t walk by, we donâ€™t get to on purpose. This is what I wanted to convey in the video-quiet moments in those quiet places.
Do you think music has more depth, resonates more with the human condition if it isnâ€™t obviously happy or uplifting? What are your thoughts on the place of nostalgia in the creative process?
Thatâ€™s a tough question to answer. However, I will say, on a personal level, the kind of music that has endured for me strikes a balance between a nebulous and direct approach in its message. At times it can spark intense emotions of positive exhilaration, other times it can make you feel a sense of nostalgia or bitter sweetness. A great test for me when it comes to music, is when a composition can do the aforementioned but also manages to grow along with you throughout different stages in your life.
Who are your most important influences both within and from outside of music (writers, painters, poets etc)?
From within music, David Bowie and Brian Eno stand out the most. Bowie because of his fearless approach at exploring genres, his drive to evolve and his valiant efforts to try to never do the same thing twice. Eno because of his willingness to operate outside of the norms and always be open to allow a multitude of influences from different disciplines to the creative process. Films have been a great source of inspiration as well. Directors like Christopher Nolan, Wes Anderson, Alfonso CuarÃ³n, Hayao Miyazaki, David Lynch, Taikia Waititi, and Stephen Chow among others have always been great conversation starters in my head. There are many writers I enjoy too, however, because my attention is very genre indifferent (If I like the subject or premise, I purchase it regardless of genre), I donâ€™t have any particular favorites. My influences in writing are more book oriented rather than author oriented.
In what ways do you think that electronic music can translate into political thought? Is it more important for Art to be political or should it just reflect personal emotions?
Another excellent question and one that Iâ€™m also not sure I have a definite answer to but, I do feel, like any other musical genre out there, political music often starts with a title, then maybe a dialogue sample (for which electronic music is very adept at lending itself for the use of samples) and ultimately the artist guiding the listener through the musicâ€™s intention via lyrics, liner notes, interviews, ect. As to the importance of art being political versus personal, I think if you were to draw a Venn diagram, weâ€™d find that oftentimes, both can be one and the same. Personal emotions can drive personal politics after all.
Horst & Graben started out from a spiritual stance and that spiritual conversation drove the emotional and social justice aspects of the conversations it is covering. So again, there is an overlap in these and itâ€™s never one or the other.
If you would like to find yourself anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Iâ€™m a fan of Google Earth and the application is a great place to find and access information for an area of the world you would otherwise have no clue about. When Iâ€™m on it I am usually drawn to far-away-from-civilization places. I find the application rather addicting but also highly educational as well. One area I would love to spend a great deal of time (if money and numerous responsibilities were no object at the moment) would be the Nunavut Territories in Canada. I find the Geological and topographical aspects of the area absolutely breath-taking. I may yet find a way to visit someday, but visiting such places requires a great deal of logistical preparation.
What are you most looking forward to in 2022?
First and foremost for the pandemic to subside but for that to happen, common sense needs to persevere over misinformation. I look forward to that happening. Meanwhile, I also look forward to continuing to hone and grow my skills as a composer. Every instrument currently in my studio comprises a musical journey and I feel Iâ€™m just under half way of that journey with most of my instruments, so there is a lot of room for growth and learning and thatâ€™s something I can always enjoy and look forward to.
Part of the reason this is all so exciting is that I have very little idea of what it actually is. Described neatly as, ‘exotica, space age bachelor pad music and the weird side of easy listening’, is quite frankly about as tempting as it can get. Transporting you to somewhere else entirely like a magical dance these sounds feel that they might have a secret to revel. Lost in the heat of a celluloid dream located sometime in the 50’s or 60’s this whirlwind of shimmering exuberance is nothing short of a joy to behold. In many ways this is simply a beautiful compilation of heart-warming music as it is occasionally, very slightly odd. Some of artists involved will may be familiar with such as Martin Denny and Henry Mancini but in ways this fusion of playful Latin, Jazz and cinema is all about experiencing the journey, crisscrossing the wonder of sight and sound, rhythm and sassy slink. Any track on here could be a personal favourite but I’m easily drawn towards Ahmed Abdul Malik’s African Bossa Nova, plus Martin Denny’s 1958 masterpiece Primitiva. Selected by The Cramps’ Lux & Ivy so you can of course expect the unexpected all wrapped up in a sea of mildly camp, technicolour hysteria. Yes Please.
Release: September 17
Starting a series celebrating the music based around the word Disco this first compilation from 1975 spreads its wings across three discs, plus sleeve notes written by Bob Fisher further highlighting the story. Of course the musicâ€™s roots can be readily traced a decade back but the sounds, styles and songs which congregate here feel like a melting pot in the making. As with all collections (they are subjective by default) it’s down to the sounds in the end and as far as Iâ€™m concerned the full length version of Harold Melvin & Bluenotes â€“ Bad Luck is worth the price of admission alone. Add to that Pick Up The Pieces and lesser known gems such as Rhythm Makers â€“ Zone and youâ€™re a third of the way there.
The second disc feels more soulful in terms of De-Lite-Ful, Chuck Jackson and Pat Lundiâ€™s sublime Party Music and you can still hear the echo of classic Motown float across the melodies, though equally the welcome evolution of Crown Heights Affair â€“ Dreaming A Dream and sheer exuberance of MFSB â€“ Sexy, Peoples Choice â€“ Do It Any Way You Wanna plus The Glitter Band â€“ Makes You Blind are still hard to beat in any decade.
The final CD again takes steps forward with its amalgamation of sounds like the James Brown referencing Jimmy James & The Vagabonds â€“ I Am Somebody, The Salsoul Orchestraâ€™s supremely funky Chicago Bus Stop, capped off by the soaring harmonies of Archie Bell & The Drells â€“ Letâ€™s Groove. Itâ€™s exciting to hear how all in one given year the record releases progressed the genre capturing influences far and wide alongside the subsequent development of invigorating rhythms as well as production values. Consequently this somehow seems more like an adventure rather than an exercise in plain nostalgia.
You could write a wealth of words to celebrate Rheji Burrellâ€™s contribution to music as part of The Burrell Brothers. Equally you could press play and listen. In ways this is exactly what I expected to hear. Maybe exactly what I wanted to hear from him. Four pieces of House Music plain and simple, just as god intended. Each highlights the rhythmic purpose of drums and bass, each excites notation with deft, soulful intent as vocals dance alongside a selection of uncomplicated yet purely focused elements. Perpetuity 1, works best for me because those organ chords ignite a series of memories not easily forgotten and a feeling that this music is important beyond a simple succession of notes.
Listening to Midori Hirano’s latest expanse of sounds and vision feels all at once sublime yet at times almost unnerving, with much to say about the movement of motion as it does about the humanity of emotions and their time and place, centred and off-centre like a series of dots…
Performed around the inescapable joy of notable piano these sketches of light and shade colour beautiful, time honoured sequences via the self-assured boast of excellence. Fuelling both imagination and memory the way moods are lifted then dissipated into contrasting thoughts is quite something to behold. It sometimes occurs to me if how you react to sonic atmospheres and how certain types of music function is to do with the light outside, the warmth inside and expectations you place upon moments as they unfold.
I wasn’t expecting to hear Soniscope today, or the Robot Koch aka Foam And Sand reworking of Patterns, but I’m quickly drawn to the conclusion that it is an exceptional release as the inspiration of classical ideas are combined with the fizz of contemporary electronics. The end result is provocative and evocative. A celebration in the end…
Artwork by Jelle Martens
More Than You Thought captures the essence of human compassion quite nicely, feeling gently musical and yet poignant to the point of being rather beautiful. Its got guitars, keys and a wealth of emotion all topped off by punctuating drums, swirling pads and a yearning voice which all feel blissfully lost after eight plus minutes. Next, Nothing Left To Say gets a touch darker journeying into more introspective territory via probing synths and an almost haunting refrain. Compelling.