August 19, 2016

Joanna Brouk - The Space Between, 1981

My favorite release from the venerable Joann Brouk, considered one of the founders of New Age music, who studied under Terry Riley and Robert Ashley at the Mills College Center for Contemporary Music, and whose work you're already familiar with if you've listened to the worldbuilding I Am The Center compilation.

Streamlined, super minimal, classically inclined ambient that avoids a lot of the ornamentation and explicit emoting of new age. Just chimes, synth, and piano. Leave it on repeat for a few hours.

August 17, 2016

David Astri - Do It Right, 1983

Very mysterious record! The only release from Baltimore artist David Astri, and also the only release (I think) from PCM Records. Rereleased (I think) in 2014 on now-defunct Award Records, and not much information available about any of it.

This is essentially a boogie funk record, and for fans of the genre, it doesn't get much better than "Get Down To It" and "Do It Right" (RIFY George Benson, Rah Band, etc.). The song that I immediately fell in love with, and has since wound up on an embarrassing number of mixes that I've made, is "Safe and Sound," which sort of reads like a slow funk ballad, but between the inadvertently creepy lyrics delivered with saccharine little girl breathiness, the unexpected moments of warped dissonance, the impeccable percussion details, and the oddly muffled production, it's unlike anything I've ever heard. The seven minute closer, "Dancing Digits," is an ecstatic instrumental disco stomper, but with what sounds an awful lot like an acid house synth line riding on top. Oh, there's also a five minute tropical steel drum interlude that sounds like it could score a ride at Disneyland. In a good way, sort of.

I really, really wish this record were 15 minutes longer. And speaking of, apparently there are four unreleased tracks floating around from these sessions--if anyone has them, I'd really love to hear, will bake you cookies, etc.

August 12, 2016

[Mix for NTS Radio] Getting Warmer Episode 3

Listen to my third episode of Getting Warmer for NTS Radio below. Zheng, classical guitar, dilruba, harp, violin, piano, tambura, flute, vibraphone, synth, lots of tabla, a bit of drum machine. Mostly instrumental, and hopefully well-suited for background music while working. Made this while it was raining; I think you can hear it. Enjoy!

1. Forrest Fang -- Meditation
2. Luis Paniagua -- Neptuno
3. David Sylvian & Holger Czukay -- Flux (A Big, Bright, Colourful World) (Excerpt)
4. Francesco Messina -- Fine Novecento
5. Vincenzo Zitello -- Nembo Verso Nord
6. Kate Bush -- Watching You Without Me
7. Toshifumi Hinata -- Sarah's Crime
8. Satoshi Ashikawa -- Still Park Ensemble
9. Yoichiro Yoshikawa -- Nube
10. Sth. Notional -- Yawn Yawn Yawn

August 11, 2016

Peter Michael Hamel - Organum, 1986

Supremely beautiful recording from German minimalist composer and author of the 1978 book Through Music to the Self: How to Appreciate and Experience Music Anew, which I swear I was reading in my town's library growing up when I was supposed to be doing readings about the Civil War.

The album looks and feels likes something that might have made its way into my library stack as well. Recorded at the Academy of Music in München with pipe organ, conch, and Tibetan cymbals, this is a pipe organ study, exploring a range of moods as well as Hamel's impressive knowledge of eastern and western scales and motifs. Much of the music comes on crescendoing waves of arpeggiation, from calmer melodies to dense, almost unbearable chaos--only to be sliced through by a return to peace.

For anyone interested in more of Hamel's, his 1977 release Nada is also very good.

August 8, 2016

Forrest Fang - The Wolf At The Ruins, 1989

Big, big record. A Chinese-American violinist, Forrest Fang released this and a slew of other records on his own label, Ominous Thud. The Wolf At The Ruins was out of print for twenty years until it was recently remastered by Robert Rich and rereleased on Projekt Records. 

I hesitate to call this an ambient record, as it's very dense and often busy music. Fang calls it a turning point in his sound, through which he began combining sonic palettes and recording methods in novel ways. Between traditional Chinese music, Balinese gamelan, synthetic textures, violin, zheng, yangqin (Chinese hammered dulcimer), bells, Terry Riley-esque tape delay techniques, and polyrhythms, there's a lot going on here. Cosmic, ambitious, and occasionally gridlike à la Steve Reich, this reaches some incredible highs but arguably does not make for passive listening. Don't sleep on this one.

The reissue includes two bonus tracks which are very, very good and which I'm not including here in hopes that you'll buy the album directly from Projekt. Worth it.

August 4, 2016

Iury Lech - Música Para El Fin De Los Cantos, 1990

Stare down at the eternal enigma with Ukranian-born, Madrid-based transdisciplinary artist Iury Lech's stunning, deeply emotive ambient work.

August 1, 2016

Cesar Mariano & CIA - São Paolo Brasil, 1977

Guest post by Paul Bowler (Universal Music / twitter)

Cesar Mariano is best known as the producer, arranger, and one-time husband of Elis Regina, though he recorded a wealth of classic recordings as a pianist in his own right. Famed for his ability to swing, Mariano’s 1960s recordings with the Sambalanço Trio and Som Três masterfully paired jazz modes with bossa nova rhythms.

This 1977 album saw him shift towards jazz fusion, delivering an uncompromising take on the genre, full of dramatic tempo changes and neat Brazilian twists. "Metropole" begins with a hard-edged, Herbie Hancock-esque funk workout before slowing to a crawl of dreamlike synths, with the deepest of basslines and a dramatic, sprint-like finish. "Estação do Norte" switches from elegant classical piano to a Rhodes-led carnival of sunshine melodies, whistles, and manically charged percussion. Mariano’s unaccompanied, dextrous piano opens "Futebal de Bar" before a cavalcade of percussion is unleashed – cut frustratingly short. Standing toe-to-toe with the fusion greats, it’s little wonder that prices for original pressings are eye-watering. Grab a copy below.

July 29, 2016

Satoshi Ashikawa - Still Way, 1982

The only available recordings from Satoshi Ashikawa, who passed away shortly after making this record. This was the second in a three record series called Wave Notation, which also included Hiroshi Yoshimura's Music for Nine Postcards and a collection of Erik Satie songs played by Satsuki Shibano--fittingly, fans of Yoshimura and Satie will find a lot to love here. Perfectly bare bones minimalism--just harp, piano, flute, and vibraphone. Crystalline, pastoral, picnic-ready. Midori Takada on both harp and vibraphone. Long out of print.

July 27, 2016

Atmosfear - En Trance, 1981

Unbelievably tight group of British synth-funkers at the top of their game. Blazing, relentless rhythm section, heavy bass grooves, subtle floating synth lines, dynamic solos, and sultry, often warped vocals in a perfect marriage of jazz and funk.  The songs are continually surprising, and the exciting interplay between seasoned musicians will keep you guessing and engaged. Attached here is the 2005 reissue which includes both sides of two of the group's singles. "Dancing in Outer Space" made Top 50 in the UK singles chart. 

July 21, 2016

Li Garattoni - Find Out What I'm Dreaming, 1982

I've been dragging my feet on this one for two years, both because it's very dear to me and because I have no idea how to talk about it. There's also very little information available about it anywhere, but from what I can cobble together, this is the only release from Jutta Li Garattoni. She produced Find Out What I'm Dreaming herself, and it features her husband Jean-Pierre Garattoni on drums alongside a slew of other musicians. As none of the listed credits suggest otherwise, I assume both piano and vocals are Garattoni. She passed away in 2004. She was a Taurus. That's about all I know. 

The range on this thing is remarkable. It opens with "Dornröschen," a flanged-out synth lament featuring whispery, Blonde Redhead-esque vocals and a whole lot of doom. We then move through a piano jazz-rock ballad ("Lonely"), sing-songy pastoral ("Find Out What I'm Dreaming"), dusty electronic soul ("Friends," which would have been perfectly at home on the Personal Space compilation), and some loungey art pop in between, before closing with a short reprise of "Dornröschen." Garattoni's vocals are similarly diverse, ranging from little girl naïve to full-blown belting. Unabashed, capricious, sweet, a little unhinged. Even writing it out now, it doesn't sound like much--there's something quietly brilliant going on here that's hard to identify. The only thing I can think to compare this to is Kate Bush. Has Kate Bush heard this? I see all y'all UK readers on our traffic stats; can someone please ask her?

This isn't excellent quality but it's the best I could do. Four of these tracks appear on a compilation called Relax Your Soul which has some very good album art and can be purchased on Amazon (linked below)--other than that, this is long out of print and fetching triple digit prices on the rare occasion that it surfaces on Discogs. Enjoy!