Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Various Artists - My Private Space [2010]



Artist: Various
Album: My Private Space
Label: p*dis

Japan's p*dis are one of the most renown ambient labels in the world, and My Private Space is compilation documenting the music of their current roster, which includes Akira Kosemura, Aus, Haruka Nakamura and Fjordne amongst other names. All of the artists work within the confines of contemporary electronic music, but focus on making really organic sounding pieces with a heavy emphasis on warm and nostalgic atmospheres.

To start the record, Haruka Nakamura and Akira Kosemura collaborate on a track ("Azure") which mixes Kosemura's signature style of evocative, minimal piano compositions, while Nakamura spins a web of field recordings; wind chimes, reversed cymbals and light acoustic guitar chords; making a lazily beautiful ambiance that essentially sets the tone for much of the rest of the record. No.9's contributions are considerably more beat-orientated than Nakamura, utilising skittering samples and chopped-up acoustic drum sounds to similar effect, but turning the tempo up and making fast grooves with laptop-loops. Aus contributes one of my favourite tracks from the compilation, "Halo" taken from his 2006 LP Lang. Electronics and acoustic instruments collide in perfect harmony as he mixes lush acoustic guitars with swelling synths and all manners of pops and clicks in a polyrhythmic glitch-pop symphony, breaking itself down and building itself up in a constantly revolving dream-cycle. Other highlights include Akira Kosemura's "Petrarca", bringing him closer to the collective sound of the compilation and certainly residing on the more electronic side of his body of work, creating an insistent groove with vocal fragments, piano and quantised drums. Fjordne, also known for his releases on Kitchen. Records, ends it on a high with a very crackly, glitchy moment ("Wood, Cluster"), which feels more abstract than the rest of the compilation but works well to bring My Private Space to a close.

Tracklist:

1) Haruka Nakamura & Akira Kosemura - Azure
2) No.9 - Left the Wind
3) Aus - Halo
4) No.9 - Good Morning
5) Uran Okajima - An Old Story
6) No.9 - Small Promise
7) Akira Kosemura - Petrarca
8) Kadan - Distance
9) Fjordne - Will You...
10) Yna - Tangeline
11) Haruka Nakamura - Sign
12) Fjordne - Wood, Cluster

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Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Shirley Collins - False True Lovers [1959]



Artist: Shirley Collins
Album: False True Lovers
Label: A Wing & A Prayer

False True Lovers is a beautiful selection of English folk songs, performed and arranged by Shirley Collins, who may well be best known for lending her vocals to the Current 93 song "All the Pretty Little Horses". Collins', who often performs with her organist sister, Dolly, strips back the layers provided by the organ, playing the banjo and singing, while subtle guitar accompaniments are provided by a host of folk guitarists including John Hasted and Ralph Rinzler. The arrangements thus, are all pared back and sparse, allowing listeners to hear every nuance of Collins' delicately quivering voice.

False True Lovers is full of melancholic and romantic songs about courtship in days gone by and tales of seafarers and fishermen who seem, more often than not, to leave behind family and loved ones never to return. Songs like "I Drew My Ship" share the intimacies of romance; climbing in through lovers' windows, moments shared alone in bedrooms and ultimately, forgotten promises. With this particular song, the banjo plays barely enough to keep the melody afloat, while Collins' delivery feels so warm that one could almost be the boy climbing in through her bedroom window and falling asleep with her. More lively pieces like "Dennis O'Reilly" showcase Collins' deft skills on the banjo as she plucks her way through the track with considerable speed and skill, while also lightening the tone somewhat and counteracting the forlorn romance that colours the other parts of the record.

Listening to False True Lovers, and much of Collins' music for that matter, one feels that one has been dragged back into the distant past and is hearing genuine first-hand tales of life from those who died centuries ago. What I find really affecting is that the same hopes and concerns stand true regardless of the era in question. False True Lovers divulges not only the secrets of the English psychology, but also of human beings as a whole without feeling in the slightest bit dated. On the contrary, Collins' unique brand of sparse and minimal traditional music sound as fresh today as they ever will, and I can't imagine them ever losing their relevance or sheer beauty in years to come.

For those who are interested in the sources of these songs, there are great summaries of each track and its origin here.

Tracklist:

1) I Drew My Ship
2) The Irish Boy
3) The Spermwhale Fishery
4) Dennis O'Reilly
5) My Bonny Miner Lad
6) Just As the Tide Was Flowing
7) Bobby Shaftoe
8) Richie Story
9) The Unquiet Grave
10) The Swapping Song
11) Poor Old Horse
12) The False True Love
13) The Foggy Dew
14) Mowing the Barley
15) Scarborough Fair
16) The Cruel Mother
17) The Bonny Cuckoo
18) The Queen of May
19) Died for Love

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Tuesday, 18 January 2011

밀양 [2007]



Film: Secret Sunshine
Director: Lee Chang-dong
Starring: Jeon Do-yeon, Song Kang-ho

Secret Sunshine is a film released in 2007, directed by acclaimed director Lee Chang-dong, whose other works Peppermint Candy (1999) and Oasis (2002) are undeniably two of the greatest Korean films in recent memory to come out of the country's prolific film-industry. I discovered the film after searching for more films starring Song Kang-ho, one of my favourite actors, this being one of the only films he had done that I hadn't seen. It's fair to say that both crew and cast succeeded in creating an intense and imaginative experience, Chang-dong's remarkable sense of suspense and imagery really standing out amongst the film's many successes.

The story of Secret Sunshine begins with a mother and son travelling to the town of Miryang. As with all small towns, everyone soon seems to know the family's history, and the deaths and misfortune that they have come across. I don't really want to give away much more in terms of how the plot develops, because a big part of what Chang-dong does plays on the fact that the viewer has no knowledge of what will actually happen.

Religion plays a large role in the film, as protagonist Shin-ae eventually turns to Christianity as a way of dealing with the overwhelming number of problems that she is faced with. Shin-ae, in the same way the I believe many religious people do, finds solace and comfort in God, as it allows her to feel that all the strife that she's experienced in her life will be compensated for by God in the afterlife. Her faith also allows her to feel that all of the shit she's gone through is part of a bigger picture that she can't see. I personally found watching the scenes where she becomes a mild-tempered Christian pretty soul-destroying; she just seemed like turning to God was her last resort, and the only way that she could continue living without just giving up altogether. After some time walking in the light of God however, she finds some aspects of religion too hard to deal with. More specifically, she doesn't understand how God could forgive those who have dealt her such profound emotional blows without a second thought. This pushes Shin-ae to the verge of her beliefs and she eventually renounces her faith.

Like all great tragedies, Secret Sunshine had me completely emotionally drained by the time it was over to the point that I had to just sit and wait for the whole thing to wash over me for quite a while after the credits had finished. Chang-dong continually sets up situations that make your mind race all over the place in a desperate attempt to work out their conclusion, before redirecting the plot onto a totally different course. I'd find it pretty surprising if someone could predict how the film would turn out at the end from the first scene, which in honesty makes it seem like a summery feel-good film about a single mother and child who find peace and happiness in a small town amidst the countryside.

There's a lot of Chang-dong's hallmarks in Secret Sunshine; there's an existential feel to it, as the plot follows a single person on a journey through time, while he uses a clever mixture of comedy (of a sort) and tragedy to tell his tale. The ending is also very typical of his directorial style, using a seemingly mundane or insignificant action, which actually carries a lot of metaphorical and symbolic weight, to bring the film to a powerful close that suggests its continuation beyond the end credits.

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Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Earl Sweatshirt - Earl [2010]



Artist: Earl Sweatshirt
Album: Earl
Label: Odd Future

Earl Sweatshirt's eponymous debut album from one of the Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All collective's key MCs. The younger brother of Tyler, The Creator, whose album Bastard (2009) marked the beginning of a slew of solo albums from the collective's multiple, young and talented MCs and producers. Thus far, the collective have chosen to release all of their albums for free on their tumblr, meaning that a total of 11 releases are available to download.

The Earl album is produced by OFWGKTA founder and brother of Earl himself, Tyler, The Creator. Tyler's productions are smooth but with hard edges; woozy detuned synth clusters pan from ear to ear, punctuated by heavy bass and the familiar boom-bap of dirty drumkits. Alongside Tyler, OFWGKTA member Left Brain and Branden BeatBoy Martin produce two of the ten tracks. Left Brain's track 'epaR' sees Earl rapping about stabbing cops and strangling girls over deep drums, jarring piano samples and menacing synthesisers. Branden BeatBoy Martin's track 'Stapleton' is certainly a highlight of the album, his drum sounds are jittery, the synths drugged-out and strangely optimistic, leaving a lot of room a slightly more subdued-sounding Earl to bring the album to a close.

I've been listening to this album so much recently. Hearing both Bastard and Earl (which I think is slightly superior), I felt more excited about music than I have in a long time. Although the music stands on its own without any extra information, it is interesting to me that producer Tyler is the same age as me (18), while Earl is just 16 and the rest of the crews ages ranging from 16 to 21. Earl is definitely more clued-up on the way of the world than I was at his age; his rhymes are always sharp, with a close attention to how the words work as sounds in themselves, while his subject matter ranges from retellings of brutal rape to anal sex and murder. The lyrics are totally unrestrained and both he and Tyler (who features on a couple of tracks) have a unique way of capturing the erotic and grotesque, often melding the two together and really fucking with your head.

Beside being one of the youngest hip-hop crews around, OFWGKTA are also one of the finest of recent memory. With such a wide array of lyrical talent and a roster of solid producers all of whom are really breaking with tradition, Odd Future look like they truly may become one of the greats, as their current work already shows.

Tracklist:

1) Thisniggaugly
2) Earl
3) Couch (featuring Ace Creator)
4) Kill
5) Wakeupfaggot
6) Luper
7) epaR (featuring Vince Staples)
8) Moonlight (featuring Hodgy Beats)
9) Pidgeons (featuring Wolf Haley)
10) Stapleton

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Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Taylor Deupree - Landing [2007]



Artist: Taylor Deupree
Album: Landing
Label: 12k

I've posted quite a bit of 12k related stuff on here, but I've never posted anything from the label creator's solo project. He is in my opinion one of the greatest digital musicians alive right now: Taylor Deupree. Landing is an EP Taylor produced in 2007, between fan-favourite Northern and the 1AM EP. It's sound is quite different from most of his output; his sound has developed over a long time from his beginnings working within the minimal techno genre, to his movement into ambient music, so there is a huge amount of variation from his early output to his later stuff.

Landing explores a lighter side of Deupree's sound. Any echoes of techno from Deupree's early days have all but disappeared, and yet he doesn't create the same ambience that is prevalent on his other ambient full-lengths. There are a lot of acoustic guitar sounds here, and generally lighter flourishes, as opposed to some of his heavier LPs which make heavy use of sine waves and microsound. That's not to say that his signature sounds aren't here, there are still the processed field recordings, digitally manipulated instrumentation, and the swells of analogue synthesisers, but they're fused to create a lighter blend of his sound.

Maybe it's just the length of the record, but it certainly feels more easy-going. Usually, Taylor likes to invite his listeners into a very dense sound-world; releases like Shoals or Northern seem intent upon pulling the listener under the waves and into his personal sound-coral, full of gently pulsating technicolour delights. On Landing, he seems content to play his sounds on the surface, suggesting an ocean of possibilities, but revelling in the experience that can be gained floating on one's back, one's ears submerged just below the surface.

Tracklist:

1) Landing
2) Seep
3) Field

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Sunday, 2 January 2011

Various Artists - Half Dreaming [2008]



Artist: Various
Album: Half Dreaming
Label: Quince Records

Half Dreaming is a fantastic shoegaze compilation from Asian label Quince Records. Featuring a load of unknown artists (the only one I'd heard is The Evening Primrose) making some really original-sounding shoegaze and dream pop tunes. The album features only artists from Asia, the majority being from Japan, but also with entries from Korea, China, the Philippines and Indonesia. I think it must be said that for sheer volume of shoegaze bands, Asia really puts the rest of the globe to shame.

Highlights of the record include the ecstatic noise-pop opener from Korean group The Majestic High, which combines beautiful vocal harmonies and a killer melody alongside a delightfully sloppy rhythm section and jet-engine-esque guitar onslaught. Japan's Monocism take a nice angle on the shoegaze sound with their somewhat unsettling contribution that gets rid of the traditionally bubblegum melodies of the genre and replaces them with a dissonant bassline and jarring glider-guitar. Hong Kong's The Evening Primrose, a group with connections to My Little Airport, play a really gorgeous, stripped back track called Stargazer. Ambient keyboard parts float around airily alongside choral mellotron parts and toy instruments, all of which orbit around a central guitar and vocal core. The lyrics of the song are beautiful (go on the group's website to check them out) and on top of that, singer Micchy Tang may have the greatest sounding speech impediment of all-time. This is essential listening for shoegaze fans and those wanting to go a little deeper into Asia's fantastic scene.

Tracklist:

1) The Majestic High - See Her Fall
2) Burrrn - Songs Without Words
3) Perfect Angel - Cataclysmic
4) Hideka - Echoes
5) Elemental Gaze - Unperfect Sky (featuring Sigit Tigapagi)
6) Monocism - Seisou
7) Daixiaole - Satellite Boy
8) Oeil - Strawberry Cream
9) Witherspoon - Tingles and Everything
10) The Evening Primrose - Stargazer
11) Caucus - Sing (Half Dreaming)
12) Candyaudioline - Felt So Fine
13) Sharesprings - Fix Your Eyes On
14) Nanocycle - Great Little Ones
15) Everybody Loves Irene - Love Is So Strange
16) Cryv - April and You, March and I

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