Mario Domjan aka Collective Machine elicits a deliciously tempting slice of sleaze that is at once all-consuming. Fizzy, electro drums ignite the production accompanied by the sheer delight of electronic syncopation that recalls a dangerous Soft Cell amongst others. The vocals from Syssy are likewise a highlight adding urgent passion to the already heightened tension. All of which dances outside of the sound of convienient convention. Mihai Popoviciu provides the remix.
Its telling the power revealed in the succession of notes that drift endlessly across the spaces in-between woofers and tweeters like a magical force employed by the artists suggesting a hidden knowledge of experience. The piano has always held those qualities dear escaping the clutches of time and clique as is so eloquently demonstrated here. This new collection of works from Hans-Joachim Roedelius (Cluster/Harmonia) and American composer Tim Story provide a simple intensity that strikes at the heart, sequencing the emotional roller-coaster of the human story. The response to which may be a case of close your eyes, turn off your mind and float downstream but equally its polar opposite is true providing pure engagement and opening your eyes to the dazzling sight of daylight. The music also suggests the comfort of warmth, yet is contrasted by a pulse of winter alongside the inevitable change to come.
Where to begin. Like forever calling this collection of exemplarily works celebrates all that was worthwhile of the twentieth century, denoting times, evoking memory, lives lived and lost. Spanning four discs of undeniable pleasure living in the moment is cast aside as history is rewound spelling out the story of humanities rites of passage tuning into a panoramic view of Art, sound and all that that was radically exciting in its wake. If the needle got stuck on Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) from 1894 who would complain. Breathing life. Igor Stravinsky’s challenging intensity follows suite featuring a collections of bombastic light and shade making you feel lost in a Hitchcock or expressionistic drama of dark celluloid. Contrasts are always informative and no less so than the sonic collages from Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Schaeffer who proceed to delve into unimaginable depths of the soul pulling out incendiary fragments. Then complimented by John Coltrane’s superlative live version of My Favourite Things performed in 1961.
Listening to Edgard Varèse’s incredible 1954 World Premiere of Déserts must have seemed like aliens landing less than a mere ten years after the Second World War. However, music of a different passion is also featured providing that all important light relief in the shape of Vicente Alvarez and his Tropical Orchestra – Tango Argentino. A number of these lighter, seemingly more conventional tracks intersperse the playlist working well as distractions that make the impact of the revolutionary all the more potent. Compositions and interpretations by Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman are also present, while mere words can’t really do justice to hearing Allen Ginsburg recite Howl in all its brutal, shining glory. The wonderful Daphne Oram is here too.
The third disc is primarily given over to the poems by Edith Sitwell accompanied by the music of William Walton, a step too far perhaps but then again. Or the delicate sound of melting hearts care of Bill Evans, My Foolish Heart featuring the eloquent bass playing of Scott LaFaro sounding just like the cinema of life never changes. By the fourth CD energetic heartstrings are played Gustav Mahler’s incredibility poignant Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor IV. Adagietto, getting lost in a please don’t ever end moment this must be one of the finest ever compositions. Then, John Cage happens. From 1951. And you think radical music just happened. Out of nowhere. On the music travels.
There are a whole host of other artists not mentioned so far but isn’t that the pleasure of discovery. If you find music a serious exploit then do try this for yourself. You might get a little shocked or even surprised in the process but not dulled by disappointment. Music of genius can be said to be timeless and with release the point is correct.
Release: January 21
Words don’t really serve this experience well. It’s like letters hitting a wall and failing in disarray as the music is so all encompassing, to an almost frightening degree, that it almost proves difficult to formulate the meaning contained within the airwaves. Captured from a live performance at Ground Works last year these five tracks created by Andrew Heath, Simon McCorry and Phonsonic feature a range of instruments and synthesizers alongside treatments plugged into an electrical free-flow of improvisational thought. It is both deeply personal/ deeply intense like closing your eyes and letting go: ‘Taking inspiration from our activity within and our imposition on the landscape and nature around us’. It is also about light and shade and the colours in-between linking to your emotional response and is at times quietly reassuring as it is at others lost and wonderfully melancholic.
Release: January 21
Three things about this new collection of music from Columbo are short and sweet. It Just Happened which provides the title track captures a timely, atmospheric series of moments as beats break and throb across an introspective set of keys and undulating pads. Uncomplicated yet beautifully to the point at almost three and a half minutes in duration. The following, Hope Battle gets even more under the skin via its gentle shuffle of drums accompanied by compelling, shimmering repetitions, leaving the excellent Let Me Dance Alone to contrast it all as the elevation of more strident beats combine with teasing synth lines amid a tempting blur of stranger, filtered atmospheres.
Release: January 14
Beginning the happier New Year by revisiting a record released almost a decade ago (now available digitally) doesn’t necessarily make sense as Magazine Sixty strives to highlight what is new within particular fields of music and their emotional consequence. But then again we are talking about the production ethics that fuel, Thomas Melchior’s label which if nothing else are very much about the expansion of forward-thinking. In this instance alongside Bruno Maman and Tim Hutton under the acronym Twin TM, Keeper of the threshold boasts a lesson in bold bass, insistent drums plus an unnerving energy that pulls together various influences from nineties garage to twisted electronica , yet feels feels defiantly contemporary. That sentiment continues in Let’s get the party on which starts with a funky flair and ends up blending Acid into the mix. The excellent The fall of the house of shadows then ends the release with darker rhythms coloured by emotive synthesizers alongside a rush of grainy percussion plus a brutal rumble of low-end.
This begins a journey into the spaces occupying the margins between music and emotion. Advanced Public Listening Records has been conceived by industry stalwart Miho Mepo while eloquently redefining good taste in sound and the lost art of musical exploration. Spanning four discs of vinyl the compilation is a tastefully realised concept celebrating the power of sound in all its diverse, sincerest forms. What I also love here is that the tracks range from the contemplative to the more dancefloor driven each retaining a pure, deep intensity that replenishes the electrical impulses of nature. Moments of solitude such as Hans Joachim Roedelius – Immer or Roger Doering + Takeshi Nishimoto’s Jazz infused – Dream are then complimented by Ricardo Villalobos’s quietly explosive – Zeda Funk or Matthew Herbert’s propulsive – Peahen, and there’s more. So much more.
Beginning with an evocative splash of delayed reverberation time rapidly expands into the New Year as hopes, dreams along with a selection of desires tempt the mind. Once again Afterlife finely tune organic strains of music into likeminded thinking, this time round enveloping you in life reassuring instrumentation by replacing the clouds outside with a positive vibration of sunshine. This in ways feels lighter than previous releases and yet is so very beautifully uplifting until the very end
Let’s cut straight to the chase and Radio Slave’s sprawling epic Dub version which sends out reverberations that tease and tangle. Lou Hayter’s vocal makes its statement in the intro but from then on in only brushes sentiment across the deep, throbbing pulse of funky instrumentation running quite rightly to some ten minutes of excellence. If you would like to hear the full voice accompanying the grooves then try the Radio Slave Remix.
Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Eric. Tell us about how your love of music and the piano came about, where you first remember hearing it being played and how you feel it expresses what you want to articulate through music?
I have loved music since I can remember. Some of my earliest memories of music are from a walkman my dad had and I would listen to tapes of Billy Joel, Van Halen, Foreigner, etc. I started playing piano when I was 7 or 8 years old and that led to a lifetime of music discovery for me. We always had a piano in our house and I remember my uncle would play it on Christmas day when he would visit. Those were always special moments that live eternal in my memory. When I was 14, I wrote my first song on the piano and it clicked with me how the lessons and time spent could help me write my own music. For me, this opened doors to express my feelings about everything through music, whether it is ambient music now or the thrash metal band that I played for in high school. Today, as a father, music is often a way for me to express my own feelings of growing up and watching my children grow into their own personalities and lives.
Your breath-taking new album: Post Mortal sees a series of themes explored each lending a piece of music its title. How would you seek to guide the listener through the experience? What should they prepare themselves for?
I think the wonderful thing about music, especially instrumental music, is that it can take on a lot of different shapes and meanings. For me, this album was written to explore the idea of the afterlife. More specifically, my thoughts around being a father of 3 small children and recognizing my own impermanence in their world. I think this album is best listened to from front-to-back as it is a story and a journey. Each song is a chapter and it all connects together as a whole.
Can you talk us through the process of conceiving and then creating a piece of music by describing how one of the tracks was made?
For this album, I actually wrote most of the song titles out before I started the music and that informed how I wanted to go about creating the pieces. Remembering, for instance, starts with a simple piano riff that is a little bit off kilter, much like you would feel when remembering someone who is gone. It is pretty, but there’s an unease and unsteadiness to it because we never remember things as clearly as we think we do. The song eventually disintegrates into a wash of sound where the piano is barely audible. Most of the sound design here was made in Vital or Pigments and really the entire song is based around that one, simple phrase on the piano. Everything else is ornamental.
How important are electronics in your music? Which effects do you value most? And can you tell us a little of how you create the sound of the keyboards/ piano you play so evocatively?
For me, the electronic elements are important in how they marry with the acoustic elements. I love straddling that line between a piano and purely synthetic noise, because in the end it’s all just sound waves, but how they hit our ears and how they feel is important. Some of my favorite VSTs include Noire (piano by Nils Frahm), Stratus (Olafur Arnald), Arturia Pigments (sound design, synth sounds), Vital (Matt Tytell’s beautiful wavetable synth for sound design), Newfangled Audio’s Generate (synth with attitude), and Baltic Shimmers (sound design). As far as effects, a little reverb can go a long way. I use reverb and delay on almost all of my songs, but I think the real magic happens in incorporating noise and field recordings into the song and playing with saturation. I try to give my music an element of humanness because working in the box can sometimes produce a very clean and artificial sound, which is the opposite of what I’m trying to create.
Can music that is not obviously happy say more about the experience of being human?
I think William Faulkner said it best: “The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.” Conflict isn’t necessarily happy or sad, but it certainly drives much of what we do or say and how we act. I’m a somewhat optimistic person and, even if my music sounds a bit somber, it is really rooted in hope. There is a lot to be grateful for, even when the human experience can be trying and difficult. I don’t think that sad music has a monopoly on the human experience, but it is certainly easier to dig into because that is often where the conflict is.
More broadly speaking, is creativity/ moving forwards hindered by the concentration of too much nostalgia both culturally and musically?
I don’t know! It could be in some instances, but it can also bring forward a power in music. We love and hate the past, but we can’t necessarily escape it or pretend that it doesn’t impact how we act and create today. I think where it can get in the way is by focusing too much on how other people have created music and been successful and thinking that you can replicate that and unlock the secrets of success. Some of it, maybe, but I think that can lock artists into a cycle of not wanting to change and leads to stale music.
How do you feel about the future in terms of how artists will survive making music?
I think artists are survivors by their very nature. I believe the pandemic has opened up possibilities for artists that weren’t necessarily seen as viable before, such as live streaming or online music festivals. I believe the pandemic has forced us to connect more with each other and use social media in a social way and not just as a billboard. I think the future is bright, especially as artists that treat this as their sole income can return to touring and playing shows. I don’t think the streaming giants will change anytime soon, so those are really just tools for sharing your music and hopefully connecting with fans (unless you’re on one of the major labels with a billion streams).
And finally. Do you think music ever has the power to effect change?
Someone wrote a note to me the other day that said my album had really helped him melt away some anxiety that comes with seasonal depression. It was the first time someone had vocalized that my music had helped them in a way that I never really thought about and it was the best thing I could hear about my music. I believe that music has the power to connect us rather than divide us. I think most musicians, especially indie artists, are creating because they love to create and there is this hope in each one of us that our music will connect with that one person. That is change and it is powerful.